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Advisory services and technical cooperation in the field of human rights

19-04-2000 Statement

56th Annual Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Agenda item 19 - 28 April 2000. Statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross

Mr. Chairperson,

The years following the establishment of the ICRC's Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) have witnessed great advances in the promotion and implementation of humanitarian law. Particular success has been achieved in the area of ratification of humanitarian law treaties by States. Today, there are 156 States Party to Protocol I Additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions applicable in international armed conflicts and 149 States to Protocol II, applicable in non-international armed conflicts. The almost universal participation by States in these treaties demonstrates the importance attached to these instruments by the international community. To this end, the ICRC would like to take this opportunity to call upon the small number of States who are not yet Parties to these treaties to take the necessary steps towards their ratification.

The progress that has been made in the number of ratifications of international humanitarian law instruments is significant, not only for the fact that increased participation in these treaties will result in the universal application of humanitarian law, but also because ratification entails a responsibility for States to implement these instruments at the national level.

Many States have already adopted comprehensive implementing legislation in order to give effect to their obligations under international humanitarian law. In particular, States have modified national legislation to include the penal repression of war crimes, and to prevent the misuse of the name and of the emblem of the red cross and red crescent. The ICRC's Advisory Service has provided technical assistance with the drafti ng, adoption and amendment of such legislation in many countries during recent years. Guidelines and model laws on national implementation have been produced with the assistance of external experts, and placed at the disposal of national authorities as tools to be considered in the process of the national implementation of humanitarian law obligations.

The significant increase that has occurred in the number of national commissions for the implementation of international humanitarian law is also an important development. Over 55 national commissions are active today in different regions world wide. With the assistance of the ICRC's Advisory Service, regional meetings of national IHL commissions have been organised. To date, meetings have been held in Abidjan (1997), Panama (1998), Brussels (1999) and earlier this year in Moscow and Bamako. These meetings are intended to strengthen the cooperation among different commissions and to facilitate an exchange of experiences. Many of these national humanitarian law commissions form component parts of larger national human rights and humanitarian law bodies.

For several years, the ICRC has cooperated with the Center for Human Rights and, more recently, with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the dissemination of international humanitarian law. The ICRC wishes to expand this cooperation by providing  technical assistance to national human rights and humanitarian law committees and to national authorities working on the implementation of humanitarian law, as well as by acting as a focal point for the collection and exchange of information on national implementation. The ICRC's database on international humanitarian law now incorporates material related to national implementation, including the decisions of national courts, and a general commentary on the legal system of each country. Thus far, data has been collected for 25 States from both civil law and common law systems. The data is regularly updated and other States are to be added when the necessary documentation and analysis are received from our network of contributing correspondents.

It is our hope that in combining our efforts, a better implementation of both international human rights and humanitarian law can be achieved.

Thank you, Mr. Chairperson

Ref. LG 2000-53-ENG