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Participation in international humanitarian law treaties and their national implementation: achievements and activities in the Americas

31-01-2007 Report

This report outlines the main developments concerning the national implementation of international humanitarian law in the Americas during 2006.


The work of the ICRC is based on the 1949 Geneva Conventions for the protection of war victims and their Additional Protocols of 1977, the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the resolutions of International Conferences of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent.

At the prompting of the ICRC, governments adopted the initial Geneva Convention in 1864. In the years since, the ICRC, with the support of the entire Movement, has persistently urged the governments to adapt international humanitarian law to changing circumstances, particularly as regards developments in means and methods of warfare, with a view to providing more effective protection and assistance for the victims of armed conflict.

Today, all States are bound by the four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 which, in times of armed conflict, protect wounded, sick and shipwrecked members of the armed forces, prisoners of war and civilians.

Two Protocols additional to the Geneva Conventions were adopted in June 1977: Protocol I protects the victims of international armed conflicts, while Protocol II protects those of non-international armed conflicts. These Additional Protocols codify the rules that protect the civilian population against the effects of hostilities. Currently, around two-thirds of all States are bound by these Protocols.

The legal bases of any action undertaken by the ICRC can be summarized as follows:

In the four 1949 Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I, the international community gives the ICRC a mandate in the event of international armed conflict. In particular, the ICRC has the right to visit prisoners of war and civilian internees. The Con ventions and Additional Protocol I also confer on the ICRC a broad right of initiative.

In situations of non-international armed conflict the ICRC also has a right of initiative recognized by the States and enshrined in the four Geneva Conventions. In the event of internal disturbances and tensions and in any other situation that warrants humanitarian action, the ICRC has a right of humanitarian initiative, which is recognized in the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and allows it to offer its services to Governments, without that offer constituting an interference in the internal affairs of the State concerned.

The role of the ICRC is to “(...) work for the faithful enforcement of international humanitarian law applicable to armed conflicts (…)”.

This report, which was prepared by the ICRC for submission to OAS Member States, is not exhaustive. It only includes the information submitted to the ICRC as at December 31st.