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China: Study published on customary humanitarian law

30-10-2007 News Release 07/38

The Chinese-language version of a worldwide study conducted by the ICRC of the practices of States in the event of armed conflict was published in Beijing this October.

The book, which identifies customary rules of international humanitarian law, was presented jointly by the ICRC and the Chinese Society of International Law during a ceremony held at the China Foreign Affairs University.

This landmark study is the product of over eight years of research and legal consultation across the world. The work was guided by the ICRC and carried out by six international and some fifty national research teams. The teams collected and analysed records of State practice as expressed in texts such as military manuals, national legislation and government statements. For its part, the ICRC focused on State practice as revealed by its archives, looking at some 30 recent armed conflicts.

Commissioned by both the States party to the Geneva Conventions and the National Societies attending the 26th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 1995, the original study was published in English in 2005. On the basis of over 5,000 pages of material, the text isolates 161 rules that are widely and consistently applied by States during wars. These rules are thus considered part of customary international law and therefore binding on all States, independently of treaty commitments. The recognition of the customary nature of these obligations should further strengthen the legal protection of people affected by war.

The Chinese version of the 600-page volume is the work of a team of legal experts from Tsinghua University, the China University of Political Science and Law, Renmin University, the Chinese Academy of Social Science and the Xi'an Political Academy of the People's Liberation Army.

Profes sor Zhou Zhonghai, vice-president of the Chinese Society of International Law, and Denis Allistone, head of the ICRC delegation for East Asia, conducted the ceremony. It was attended by about 50 persons representing the government, armed forces, diplomatic missions and academic circles. The study's co-editor, Professor Louise Doswald-Beck, one of the directors of the University Centre for Humanitarian Law and Human Rights at the University of Geneva, provided an overview of the study's content, while Professor Ling Yan of the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing addressed the gathering about Chinese perspectives on the study.

For further information, please contact:
  Hu Xiangqun, ICRC Beijing, tel. +86 1391 172 0733