Pakistan: targeting civilians is the ultimate denial of humanitarian law
30-10-2009 News Release 219/09
Islamabad/Geneva (ICRC) – In the wake of Wednesday's bombing in Peshawar – the latest and bloodiest in a string of attacks targeting civilians – the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is alarmed at the severe and intensifying impact of violence on Pakistan's civilian population.
" Targeting civilians is the ultimate denial of humanity, " said Jacques de Maio, the ICRC's head of operations for South Asia. " Its only conceivable aim can be to spread terror among the population. It violates the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law. "
International humanitarian law stipulates that people taking no active part in hostilities must be protected from attack at all times. They must not, under any circumstances, be targeted. Moreover, all feasible precautions must be taken to avoid, or at least minimize, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian property. Finally, in order to ensure that civilians affected by fighting have access to humanitarian assistance, all concerned must authorize and facilitate health care, other basic necessities and the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief consignments and personnel.
Armed violence in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) has killed thousands of civilians, injured many more and displaced millions. Important civilian infrastructure has been destroyed, including schools, water pumps and power stations, as have countless homes. The livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people have been shattered as farmers have been unable to cultivate their land or harvest their crops, and many people have exhausted their savings. Landmines, improvised explosive devices and unexploded ordnance pose a lasting threat to civilians in parts of the region.
Operating in an often dangerous environment, the ICRC has worked in cooperation with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society to assist over a million people affected by the fighting in NWFP and FATA since May 2009. The ICRC requests better access to the areas directly affected by fighting, the areas into which civilians have fled and the facilities where those detained in connection with the violence are held.
For further information, please contact:
Sébastien Brack, ICRC Islamabad, tel: +92 300 850 81 3
Simon Schorno, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 2519302 or +41 22 730 24 26