Status of additional protocols relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts: ICRC statement to the United Nations, 2012
United Nations General Assembly, 67th session, Sixth Committee, item 80 of the agenda, statement by the ICRC, New York, 22 October 2012
The Protocols additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions are among the core treaties dealing with the protection of victims of armed conflict. The universal acceptance of these Protocols would contribute to fortifying the international framework of fundamental rights and help to strengthen protection for those who are most vulnerable during armed conflicts. Therefore, the ICRC welcomes the recent ratification by the Philippines of Additional Protocol I and by Morocco of Additional Protocols I and II; it also welcomes the recent ratification of Additional Protocol III by Argentina, Armenia, Belarus, Cook Islands, Panama, Republic of Serbia, Spain and Timor-Leste. The ICRC encourages all States which have not yet done so to ratify the Additional Protocols.
The world's largest humanitarian conference - the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent - took place in Geneva last year from 28th November to 1st December 2011. It brought together 164 States, 183 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies as well as the ICRC and the International Federation. The Conference adopted various resolutions but two are of particular importance in relation to international humanitarian law (IHL) and are worth mentioning here.
The first one is Resolution 1 entitled "strengthening legal protection for victims of armed conflicts". In this resolution, based on a report prepared by the ICRC, the members of the Conference reiterated that IHL remains relevant to ensure the protection of people affected by armed conflict and stressed that greater compliance with its provisions is an indispensable prerequisite for improving their situation. .
However, the members of the Conference also acknowledged the serious humanitarian concerns and legal challenges identified in the ICRC report - in particular those related to the protection of persons deprived of their liberty in relation to armed conflict and to the compliance with IHL. Therefore, they invited the ICRC to pursue further research, consultation and discussion in cooperation with States and other relevant actors and to submit a report on options and recommendations for strengthening the law on these two areas to the 32nd International Conference in 2015.
First steps have been initiated for the implementation of this resolution. In particular, as already mentioned by the representative of Switzerland, a joint initiative was launched by Switzerland and the ICRC on strengthening compliance with IHL. A first informal meeting was organized in July 2012, which gathered representatives from 70 States, and a second meeting will be organized in 2013.
As for the protection of persons deprived of their liberty, four regional consultations of governmental experts will be held at the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 in Africa, Latin America, Europe and Asia. These regional consultations will aim at deepening the debate on the humanitarian and legal challenges related to detention in non-international armed conflict, bringing out regional perspectives when relevant. They will provide a forum for governmental experts to share their views and to discuss possible options on how to strengthen the law. However, these meetings will not result in a final decision on substantive aspects or on the outcome of the process. They are just a first step in a process that will lead to the next International Conference at the end of 2015.
The second one is Resolution 2 which contains a Four-Year Plan of Action and urges all members of the International Conference to take specific actions to enhance implementation of IHL in five areas: access by civilian populations to humanitarian assistance in armed conflicts; protection of children, women, and persons with disabilities; protection of journalists; incorporation into domestic law of States obligations related to repression of serious IHL violations; and the control of arms transfers. The ICRC encourages all States to undertake concrete efforts to implement the Action Plan that they have adopted and to ensure follow-up to any pledges submitted in relation to it.
Over the last two years, the ICRC undertook different activities to contribute to a better understanding and dissemination of IHL. In particular, it is continuing to regularly update its online database on customary IHL, thus ensuring that it is available to all. It is today the most comprehensive database on IHL and is widely used as a legal reference tool by a wide variety of actors involved or concerned with armed conflicts around the world.
The ICRC is also actively working to provide national authorities with technical assistance for the adoption of legislative, regulatory and administrative measures needed to ensure compliance with IHL at the national level and its implementation in domestic law. For instance, with the aim of clarifying existing obligations of States with respect to the recruitment of children into armed forces or armed groups and to facilitate their implementation, the ICRC launched the "Guiding Principles for the Domestic Implementation of a Comprehensive System of Protection of Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups" in 2011.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, the ICRC wishes to express its appreciation to the Member States that submit national reports in accordance with resolution A/65/29, and to the Office of the Legal Affairs which prepared the Secretary-General's report. The ICRC deems this reporting highly important and, in order to increase the number of States submitting reports and to assist them in this respect, the ICRC invites Member States to draw up guidelines or a questionnaire and stands ready to assist them at their request and, as appropriate, in consultation with the Secretariat.