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Indonesian academics compare IHL provisions with relevant rules of Islam

07-02-2011 Standard

At the end of 2010, the ICRC regional delegation in Jakarta organized a basic course on international humanitarian law (IHL) for around 30 academics from various Indonesian universities. The ICRC’s Ameur Zemmali participated in this important event, held at the Universitas Muhammadiyah in North Sumatra, Indonesia.

A holder of law degrees from Tunis and Geneva universities, Dr. Ameur Zemmali has been working with the ICRC for more than twenty years, both at headquarters and in the field. He has lectured at numerous conferences, seminars and courses on IHL, including topics on the relationship between the latter and the relevant provisions of the Islamic jurisprudence. He is currently the advisor for Islamic world affairs at the ICRC delegation in Amman, Jordan.

Q: Could you explain the main subjects of the conference?

AZ: The specialized course on IHL for lecturers of Islamic studies, a first of its kind in the country, was very rich and aimed at covering the main aspects of IHL. It comprised the general and the specific protection of persons and property in time of armed conflict; the basic principles relating to the means and methods of warfare; the mechanisms for the implementation of IHL, including the national and international jurisdictions; and the relationship between IHL and human rights law. These topics were dealt with in comparison with the relevant rules of Islam.

Q: Why do you think this four-day course has been so important for the participants?

AZ: We saw the participants’ eagerness for accurate information on IHL and welcomed the due attention paid by the ICRC to Islamic humanitarian precepts. The course was the outcome of the ICRC’ initiatives undertaken in cooperation with Islamic academic institutions over the last few years in several regions of Indonesia. It is a concrete example of the continuity of the cooperation process.

Q: What does the ICRC expect after this event, both from the participants and the academic institutions they represented?

AZ: For a country as big and diverse as Indonesia, widening and boosting the process of cooperation will be a must in the coming years. The participants expressed the desire to integrate IHL in their programmes and study it further. In future, we might organize specialized sessions devoted to specific topics. We will also make special efforts to enhance the scholars’ expertise, taking into account their scientific background.

Q: Is the ICRC planning to organize similar courses for lecturers of Islamic studies or other events either in Indonesia or in the region?

AZ: The participants strongly expressed the need for such courses and we think it is important to follow them up within their respective institutions. It is worth remembering that the ICRC had involved Indonesian scholars in the first international conference on 'Islam and IHL' held in Islamabad in October 2004. In one way or another, participation in these courses will benefit Indonesia’s representation in IHL forums and meetings abroad.

Q: Can you explain your personal contribution in this regard to develop its cooperation with Islamic circles?

AZ: The lessons learned from years of cooperation with the academic circles – including Islamic scholars – in the Muslim world confirm that scientific knowledge of IHL and of Islamic law is crucial for the continuity and the promotion of such cooperation. We deepened and widened our dialogue with Islamic academics and scholars, in full respect for their identity, position, and science. While highlighting similarities between the relevant provisions of Islam and IHL, we encouraged Islamic researchers and teachers, by providing advice and documentation, to study and teach IHL, and publish articles on it. The list goes on, but maintaining, widening, and developing dialogue and contact with Islamic academic circles, in particular, requires a clear vision based on retrospective and prospective analysis. Above all, it requires the ability to listen.


Indonesian academics and IHL: 15 years of partnerships

The ICRC in Indonesia fosters the promotion of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) among academic circles since 1997, in partnerships with leading Indonesian private and state-owned Institutions. This effort aims at reaching out tomorrow's decision-makers and opinion-leaders.

The regional delegation regularly organises advanced IHL training, briefing sessions and academic meetings for scholars and students in law, social and political sciences, as well as Islamic sciences and the Institute of State Administration. It also facilitates their participations to national and international workshops, seminars and conferences. As a result, many universities has integrated IHL into their curriculum, either offering it as a separate and independent subject or inserted it into other relevant subjects.

To generate interest in IHL and to assess the level of its understanding among students, the ICRC organizes annual events such as a moot court Competition on IHL in cooperation with the Indonesian Society of International Law (ISIL), as well as a national IHL debate. The number of participating universities to those events keeps increasing every year.

In addition, the ICRC is regularly invited as guest lecturer to the Command & Staff College, Army Staff College, Air Force and Navy Colleges of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI), whose interest and understanding on IHL is growing steadily.


Sumatra, Indonesia, Dr Ameur Zemali (left) lectures on IHL and Islam at a workshop for academics representing Indonesian universities 

Sumatra, Indonesia, Dr Ameur Zemali (left) lectures on IHL and Islam at a workshop for academics representing Indonesian universities
© ICRC / Usnu