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Mexico: Regional meeting on harmonizing national law with international humanitarian law

13-12-2004 News Release 04/145

Over 50 specialists from 23 countries met on 8 and 9 December at the Mexican foreign ministry in Mexico City to assess the extent to which criminal legislation in the Americas was matching up to the requirements of international humanitarian law (IHL).

The two-day regional meeting was organized by the ICRC, the Organization of American States and the Mexican foreign ministry.

Maria Teresa Dutli, head of the ICRC’s Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law, said that while much had already been achieved, many draft laws to transpose IHL into national legislation had not been passed. “Meetings like this are a means of bringing all these hopes closer to fruition.”

“It was especially important to have all these people sitting around one table, with their wide range of professional experience. They are all actively involved in national or international jurisdictions and can compare theory with practice. More important still is that they share with the ICRC a desire to protect the victims of armed conflict.”

William M. Berenson, director of the OAS Department of Legal Services, felt the meeting highlighted “the will in the region to fight impunity regarding war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law.” He went on, “Sooner or later, those who break these laws will be tried in our States, and if they are guilty they will be found guilty. Of that I am sure. There will be no place to hide in the Americas.”

He added that domestic courts form the first line of defence for the victims of such crimes. “We must work to strengthen those courts by passing national legislation that protects the victims. The second line of defence consists of the international ad hoc tribunals and the International Criminal Court, which we must also strengthen.” 

The organizers all mentioned the atmosphere of cooperation between the participants. That atmosphere en abled them to share experiences, which will doubtless further the transposition of international law into the domestic legislation of the countries represented.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Adolfo Beteta, ICRC Mexico, tel.: ++52 55 52 55 43 55  

 Annick Bouvier, ICRC Geneva, tel.: ++ 41 22 730 24 58