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The rule of law at the national and international levels

14-10-2010 Statement

United Nations, General Assembly, 65th session, Sixth Committee, items 85 of the agenda, statement by the ICRC, New York, 14 October 2010

Mr. Chairman,

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) welcomes the importance placed by the Sixth Committee and the Secretary-General on the promotion of the rule of law, and in particular the increased attention to international criminal law and the accountability of perpetrators of the most serious international crimes.

From our daily work in armed conflicts around the globe, the ICRC is acutely aware of the need for States to have effective national rule of law.  This enables them to fulfill their obligations under international conventions, specifically those related to international humanitarian law (IHL). Only a strong legal framework with appropriate sanctions can ensure that those who breach international humanitarian law will be held accountable.  This can only help deter the commission of further offences.

Through its Advisory Service on IHL, the ICRC is active in promoting the rule of law at both the national and international levels. The ICRC's Advisory Service provides direct technical assistance to States in the drafting of domestic legislation, and assists in the creation of National (inter-ministerial) Committees on IHL, supporting them in their work. The ICRC organizes regional and international meetings, creating fora for exchanges between States on the latest developments in international humanitarian law.

The ICRC has developed a number of tools to support States in their task of national implementation of IHL treaties, thus reinforcing the rule of law. These include a database of national legislation, on the ICRC website, which facilitates the exchange of information between States. This database provides the texts of national laws from over 150 countries on topics such as war crimes and weapons.

This year, the ICRC launched two new publications that can strengthen the rule of law at the national level. The 'Manual on the Domestic Implementation of International Humanitarian Law' is available in hard copy and on CD-ROM.   The new guiding principles on the protection of children in armed conflict can help States build their capacities in this important field. Both of these new tools are intended to provide guidance to States in implementing IHL nationally.  

Later this month, the ICRC will host in Geneva the third Universal Meeting of National Committees on International Humanitarian Law. Officials from more than 100 States will discuss the important role of domestic law in preventing and responding to serious violations of international humanitarian law.  

At the regional and international level, the ICRC works with organizations such as the African Union, the Arab League, the Organization of American States, and the Commonwealth Secretariat to encourage comprehensive implementation of IHL.  The ICRC was an active observer at the Review Conference of the Statute of the International Criminal Court in Kampala and will be similarly active in the upcoming first meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Vientiane.  All these activities seek to enhance the protection of those affected by armed conflict through greater adherence to the rule of law.

The ICRC will continue to follow with interest the discussion on this topic at the Sixth Committee and stands ready to contribute to future work here and to further reports of the Secretary-General on the matter.

Thank you.