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Geneva: France issues major declaration of intent

18-03-1998 News Release 98/11

In the course of an official visit on 17 March to ICRC headquarters in Geneva, where he was received by ICRC President Cornelio Sommaruga, Mr Lionel Jospin, Prime Minister of the French Republic, announced France's intention to ratify Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions. He went on to confirm that his country would by mid-year ratify the Ottawa treaty banning anti-personnel landmines. France has already taken measures to destroy its entire stock of such devices.

The ICRC welcomes this declaration of intent by the French government.  To date, Protocol I – applicable to international armed conflicts – has been adhered to by 150 States. In 1984 France ratified Additional Protocol II (applicable to non-international armed conflicts), to which 142 States are today party. If France ratifies Protocol I, all NATO member States, with the exception of the United States and Turkey, will be bound by this key instrument of international humanitarian law.

Protocol I confirms and extends the scope of the protection that the parties to an international conflict are required to afford the victims, in particular civilians. It also contains provisions relating to " methods and means of warfare " deemed unacceptable. Article 35 states that " ...  the right of the Parties to the conflict to choose methods or means of warfare is not unlimited. (...) It is prohibited to employ weapons, projectiles and material and methods of warfare of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering. (...) It is prohibited to employ methods or means of warfare which are intended, or may be expected, to cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment. "

To date, 188 countries are bound by the four Geneva Conventions of 1949.