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Sixty-third session

Status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts (agenda item 76)

Background (source: A/63/100)

This item was included in the agenda of the thirty-seventh session of the General
Assembly, in 1982, at the request of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden (A/37/142).

The General Assembly considered the question biennially at its thirty-seventh to
fifty-ninth sessions (resolutions 37/116, 39/77, 41/72, 43/161, 45/38, 47/30, 49/48,
51/155, 53/96, 55/148, 57/14 and 59/36).

At its sixty-first session, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to
submit to the Assembly at its sixty-third session a report on the status of the
Additional Protocols relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts, as well
as on measures taken to strengthen the existing body of international humanitarian
law, inter alia, with respect to its dissemination and full implementation at the
national level, based on information received from Member States and the
International Committee of the Red Cross (resolution 61/30).

Consideration at the sixty-third session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 13th, 14th and 26th meetings, on 23 and 24 October and 14 November 2008.

Statements were made by the representatives of Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group), France (on behalf of the European Union; the Candidate Country the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; the Countries of the Stabilization and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Montenegro, the EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area; as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Armenia which aligned themselves with the declaration), Sweden (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Kenya (on behalf of the African Group),  Switzerland, the Sudan, Algeria, the Russian Federation, Cuba, Japan, the United Kingdom, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), the Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Qatar, Colombia and Viet Nam.  The representatives of Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic spoke in exercise of the right of reply. Statements were also made by the observers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Delegations recalled the importance of the Geneva Conventions and the Protocols Additional thereto and stressed the need for those States that have not already done so to ratify the Protocols as well as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and other relevant instruments. Some delegations encouraged States to accept the competence of the International Fact-Finding Commission, pursuant to Article 90 of the First Additional Protocol. Some speakers welcomed the adoption of the Third Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions, relating to the Adoption of an Additional Emblem.  The adoption in 2008 of the Convention on cluster munitions was noted by some delegations. Concern was expressed over the increasing numbers of civilians being targeted in armed conflicts and the need to apply international humanitarian law was stressed.

Delegations commended the ICRC on its role in the promotion of international humanitarian law and monitoring compliance with it.  While some delegations noted with interest the ICRC’s study on customary international humanitarian law, a view stressing concern about its methodology, and in particular, its conclusion that certain rules contained in the Additional Protocols have become customary international law for all States, was also expressed. Some delegations welcomed the 2008 Montreux Document elaborated under the leadership of Switzerland and the ICRC to clarify legal obligations and to define good practices relevant to private military and security companies operating in an armed conflict.

Delegations referred to national activities designed to implement and disseminate international humanitarian law and welcomed the Secretary-General’s report containing information in this regard (A/63/118 and Corr.1). Some delegations encouraged States to contribute relevant information to the report.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 26th meeting, on 14 November 2008, the representative of Sweden, also on behalf of Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji,  Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) and Zambia, introduced a draft resolution entitled “Status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts” (A/C.6/63/L.15*). At the same meeting, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/63/L.15* without a vote. Before the adoption of the draft resolution, the representative of Egypt made a statement in explanation of position; after the adoption of the draft resolution, the representative of Israel made a statement in explanation of position. Under this draft resolution, the General Assembly would request the Secretary-General to submit to the Assembly at its sixty-fifth session a report on the status of the Additional Protocols relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts, as well as on measures taken to strengthen the existing body of international humanitarian law, inter alia, with respect to its dissemination and full implementation at the national level, based on information received from Member States and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-fifth session (2010)

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A/63/118 - Full texts of replies
                 -     Austria (English)
                 -     Belarus (Original: Russian) (English)
                 -     Belgium (Original: French) (English)
                 -     Bulgaria (English)
                 -     China (Original: Chinese) (English)
                 -     Colombia (Original: Spanish) (English)
                 -     Ecuador (Original: Spanish) (English)
                 -     Egypt (English)
                 -     Estonia (English)
                 -     Finland (English)
                 -     Hungary (English)
                 -     Mexico (Original: Spanish) (English)
                 -     Norway (English)
                 -     Poland (English)
                 -     Qatar (Orignal: Arabic) (English)
                 -     Sweden (English)
                 -     Switzerland (English)
                 -     Turkey (English)
                 -     Turkmenistan (English)
                 -     ICRC (English)
A/63/118/Add.1 - Full texts of replies
                 -     Costa Rica (Original: Spanish) (English)
                 -     Denmark (English)
                 -     France (Original: French) (English)
                 -     Lao People's (English)
                           Democratic Rep.  
                 -     Lebanon (Orignal: Arabic) (English)
                 -     Lithuania (English)
                 -     Paraguay (Original: Spanish) (English)
                 -     Russian Federation (Original: Russian) (English)
                 -     Serbia (English)
                 -     Slovenia (English)
                 -     United Kingdom (English)
                 -     ICRC (English)