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Niger: African conference pledges greater protection for civilians

21-02-2002 News Release 02/15

Geneva (ICRC) – The African Parliamentary Union's first Conference on International Humanitarian Law for the Protection of Civilians during Armed Conflict in Africa came to a close on 20 February with the adoption of a Final Declaration.*

The Conference, held in Niamey, Niger, was attended by delegations of parliamentarians from the following countries: Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan and Tunisia.

During the Conference, participants exchanged views on the protection of vulnerable people during armed conflicts and discussed possible parliamentary action to ease their plight.

The Final Declaration highlights the concern of parliamentarians over the proliferation of armed conflicts and other forms of violence in Africa, which have caused immense suffering among civilians and violated the norms of international humanitarian law. It also stresses that there could be no better prevention than good governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) urges parliamentarians to fulfil their pledges, in particular by playing an important role in bringing about accession by States to humanitarian law treaties and ensuring that those treaties are reflected in national legislation and fully implemented. The participants also committed themselves to paying particular attention to the plight of refugees and displaced persons and to preventing the recruitment for military purpose of children under 18 years of age.

One of the Conference's aims was to encourage parliamentarians to use all the means at their disposal to facilitate parliamentary discussions on humanitarian law treaties and to ensure that States and all parties to armed conflict honoured their obligations, in particular to respect the rights of the victims of armed conflict and the dignity of all individuals.

The participants also undertook to provide independent humanitarian organizations, in particular the ICRC, the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and their International Federation, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with unimpeded access in times of armed conflict to civilians in need and to facilitate the free flow of humanitarian supplies.

In order to keep up the momentum created by the Conference, the first of its kind, and to generate further debate on humanitarian law and related issues, the parliamentarians requested the African Parliamentary Union to set up a coordinating committee in charge of follow-up activities.