23 October 2008


23 October 2008
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

Sixth Committee

13th Meeting (AM)




Debate Begins on Protection of Victims of Armed

Conflict, Status of Additional Protocols to Geneva Conventions

International humanitarian law was as relevant as ever and important responses had been formulated to challenges such as terrorism and the legal qualification of the fight against it, Switzerland’s representative told the Sixth Committee (Legal) today as debate concluded on the report to the Special Committee on the United Nations Charter and began on the status of protocols additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, related to protection of victims in armed conflicts.

The use of cluster munitions and the increasing role of non-State actors in armed conflict were cited as further challenges to humanitarian law.  Responses included the rapid entry into force of a Convention on Cluster Munitions, adopted only in May, and the release of the Montreux Document on the role of non-State actors in armed conflict, which recalled legal obligations of States regarding human rights.  The International Criminal Court was said to be central to promoting respect for international humanitarian law and ending impunity.

Addressing the role of non-State actors in armed conflicts today, Tunisia’s representative said the inherent problem in “outsourcing” to private military and armed forces was the lack of clarity about status; not being able to distinguish whether contractors were civilians or combatants led to questions about the modality of international humanitarian law, effective controls and regulatory frameworks.

Several speakers emphasized the important role of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in alleviating the suffering of victims of armed conflict, as well as in promoting awareness of international law.  A number voiced support for the “Red Crystal” humanitarian logo (comparable with Red Cross and Red Crescent), the subject of the third protocol, to indicate the neutrality of humanitarian workers and organizations.

The representative of Algeria spoke of the International Humanitarian Law Commission, installed on 7 September as a permanent, consultative body.  He said the Commission could assist with studies, and also propose means to adapt national law in accordance with international humanitarian law.

Qatar’s representative called for publicity campaigns to make people more aware of victims in armed conflicts, especially as recently where violations of international humanitarian law were of a magnitude that was downright “anti-civilian”.  Current laws did not protect civilians in such cases.

The representative of the United Kingdom said the Geneva Conventions were as relevant today as they were in 1949, but the implementation was not yet complete.  A new facet of the Conventions was related to journalists.  They were civilians and must be protected as such, but journalists should also respect the human dignity of those captured in armed conflict by not making them an object of “public curiosity”.

A number of delegates, called for training in human rights and humanitarian law for armed forces and other State officials.

Also speaking on issues related to the protocols today were the representatives of Australia (speaking also for Canada and New Zealand), Mexico, (speaking for the Rio Group), France, (speaking for the European Union), Sweden, (speaking for Nordic countries), and Kenya (speaking for the African Group).

Also taking part in the discussion:  the delegates of Sudan, the Russian Federation, Cuba, Japan, Venezuela and Syria.

The representatives of Israel and Syria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

Making statements on the report of the Special Committee on the Charter were the representatives of South Africa, Afghanistan, Cameroon, Algeria and Malaysia.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Friday, 24 October, to conclude its consideration of the protocols additional to the 1949 Geneva conventions, and then take up the question of effective measures to enhance the security of diplomatic and consular missions and persons.


The Sixth Committee (Legal) met today to conclude its debate on the report of the Charter Committee.  (For background information, please see Press Release No. GA/L/3348 of 22 October).  The Committee was also to take up two further subjects, one concerning the protection of diplomatic and consular persons and holdings, the other on the Geneva protocols related to the protection of civilian persons.

The Committee has before it a report on the status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflict (document A/63/118), containing information from 19 Member States and the International Red Cross about measures they have taken to protect victims of armed conflict, as directed in the Additional Protocols of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions.  Those States are Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Qatar, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Turkmenistan.

The report notes that the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 achieved universal acceptance in 2006.  The two Protocols of 1977 entered into force in 1979, the first relating to the protection of victims involved in international armed conflicts and the second relating to protection during non-international armed conflicts.  An Annex to the report contains a list of the States parties to the Additional Protocols as of 11 July 2008.

The Secretary-General’s report on consideration of effective measures to enhance the protection, security and safety of diplomatic and consular missions and representatives (document A/63/121) provides an overview of reports by 21 States detailing instances when the safety or security of diplomatic or consular missions and representatives was threatened.  The report also records steps taken by Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Finland to improve the security of such buildings and persons.  Finally, the report says that nine States reported on steps taken to enhance the security of international governmental organizations with status at the diplomatic level.

The report further indicates that in the two-year reporting period, 19 additional States became participants to the relevant conventions.

The instruments covered in the report and the status of States having signed or ratified the instrument, respectively, include:  the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (60 signed; 186 ratified) and two related 1961 Optional Protocols, one concerning Acquisition of Nationality (18;52) and the other concerning Compulsory Settlement of Disputes (29;68); the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (48;172) and the two associated 1963 Optional Protocols, one again concerning Acquisition of Nationality (19;40) and the other Compulsory Settlement of Disputes (38;48); and finally, the 1973 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents (25;168).

Statements on Charter Committee Report

SABELO SIVUYILE MAQUNGO (South Africa), aligning himself with the statements made to the Committee on behalf of the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said sanctions were a vital tool under the Charter, in the efforts to maintain international peace and security without recourse to the use of armed forces.  However, the power of the Security Council to impose sanctions should be exercised in conformity with international law and the Charter.  Sanctions should be used as a last resort and should provide for clear objectives, conditions and time frames for introducing and lifting them.  In that regard, he supported the idea of annexing the Russian Federation’s working paper on the implementation of sanctions to a General Assembly resolution.  Furthermore, he went on, targeted sanctions were the best available mechanism for limiting the impact of sanctions on third States and civilians.  He was especially concerned about the imposition of unilateral sanctions by some powerful States, and urged against that trend.

He spoke of the election of members to the Security Council, noting that during the recently held elections if Japan and Iran had both received a higher number of votes than Uganda, both of them would have ended up being duly elected, thus thwarting the “gentlemen’s agreement” between the African and Asian regional groups on the number of non-permanent seats the regions should have respectively.  Because this agreement was not recorded in any resolution, unintended consequences could occur.  Although such consequences had, thus far, been averted through the President’s oral instructions, in a heavily contested election, the President’s intervention might not suffice.

MOHAMMAD ERFANI AYOOB (Afghanistan) said consideration of the proposals on help to those third States affected by the application of sanctions, peacekeeping operations, the peaceful settlement of disputes and other important proposals deserved more time and further improvement before being finalized.  He said he believed that after all other means had been exhausted, sanctions remained an important tool in the restoration and maintenance of international peace and security without recourse to the use of force.  However, they should be carefully targeted, supported by clear objectives, effectively implemented, periodically reviewed and applied in a way that had minimal impact on civilian populations and third States.

During the last six years, he said, no sanctions committee was approached by any member States concerning special economic problems arising from the implementation of sanctions.  Although this was good news, he supported the establishment of a mechanism to assist third States negatively affected.  He said he welcomed the progress made by the Security Council in establishing new listing and de-listing procedures, and also the adoption of a “focal point”.  In that regard, he called on the sanctions committees to carefully study each case and consider requests of States of these processes.

Finally, he said he supported the efforts undertaken by the secretariat to clear the delay in publication of the Repertory of Practice on United Nations Organs and the Repertoire of Practice of the Security Council.

VICTIR TCHATCHOUWO ( Cameroon) said the debates on the activities of the Charter Committee bore witness to concerns about strengthening the role of the Organization.  Over the years, the United Nations had not evolved much from a structural and functional standpoint.  Created in 1975, the Special Committee was developed as the permanent mechanism for strengthening the United Nations.  The report of the Special Committee established a link between international peace and security and the Charter.

Taking up particular issues addressed in the report, he said that over the past decades, the proliferation of conflicts had led the United Nations to resort frequently to sanctions, which had different consequences, sometimes having adverse impacts on third States and populations.  In that regard, the proposals of Member States, which were included in the Special Committee’s report, all had merit.  In particular, he awaited a review to assess the economic upheaval caused by targeted sanctions.

Turning to the peaceful settlement of disputes, he said this was an imperative norm reconfirmed by the United Nations Charter, which asked Member States to “engage in negotiations rather than cannons”.  In Cameroon, he said the historic progress made in the peaceful settlement of the Bakasi Peninsula dispute with Nigeria, was one of the best examples of the positive results which could be achieved if there was a will for peace between two parties and the support from the international community.  In that regard, there was no conflict that could not be resolved through peaceful settlement.

ELHADJ LAMINE ( Algeria) said it was important that the Security Council not impose sanctions except as a last resort, and in full compliance of the Charter and international law.  The politicization of applying sanctions and unilateral actions were unacceptable.  The paper by the Russian Federation should continue to be considered in the hope of its adoption during the current session.  The recommendation by the Russian Federation and Belarus with regard to seeking an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the use of force should be considered.  On the Repertory and Repertoire reports, he said work on the basis of cooperative arrangements should continue on these valuable instruments that safeguarded institutional memory.

BAIZURA KAMAL ( Malaysia) said the paper by the Russian Federation regarding the legal basis of peacekeeping operations should be brought to the attention of the Special Committee.  She said the revised paper on sanctions listed the legitimate concerns with regard to the impact of their application.  The emphasis on “targeted” sanctions, with adequate safeguards on humanitarian concerns, reflected the general consensus.  All international law must be respected with regard to the application of sanctions.  The right to fair hearing before imposition of any sanctions must also be respected.

She said it was important for the Council to observe the “trigger” requirement in its actions with regard to threats against international peace and security.  The Russian paper on sanctions contained the elements for applying sanctions in compliance with the Charter and with international law.  The focus must be on minimizing negative effects and avoiding violations of human rights.  As to establishing a working group to study the effects of sanctions on third States, she noted that a Council committee was already involved in that, and there should be no duplication of work.

She said cooperative efforts on the Repertory and Repertoire should be expanded, and voluntary contributions should be made to the trust funds.

Statements on Status of Protocols

ANDREW ROSE (Australia), speaking also for Canada and New Zealand (CANZ), said universal recognition of the Additional Protocols was a vital step in ensuring compliance and equal protection of all victims of armed conflict, and all States should become parties.  The entry into force of the Third Additional Protocol in January 2007 was welcome in establishing the “Red Crystal” as an additional protective emblem for humanitarian workers, free from any religious or political connotations.  It contributed to the universality of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement by providing more flexibility in choice of emblems by national societies and also enhanced the capacity of national societies to deliver humanitarian aid freely, safely and efficiently.  More than 54 States had signed the Protocol and 33 had ratified it.  He said the CANZ countries were parties in undertaking relevant domestic treaty processes to ensure that national law reflected the new emblem and protected against its misuse.

Continuing, he said he applauded the September acclamation of the “Montreux Document” on private military and security companies in armed conflict.  The document strengthened respect for international humanitarian law and human rights law by outlining existing international legal obligations and good practices for States to adopt in dealings with such companies.  The adoption in May of the Convention on cluster munitions was welcome as a significant humanitarian achievement.  It not only prohibited that form of armament that indiscriminately “scattered large numbers of bomblets", but it also called for clearance of such arms and for the provision of assistance for victims and communities.

ALEJANDRO ALDAY (Mexico), speaking for the Rio Group and reiterating a strong commitment to the respect and promotion of international humanitarian law, said it was imperative that States implement the suitable juridical tools to criminally sanction the perpetrators of war crimes.  Those States that had not done so should provide the Secretary-General with information on the progress achieved in their domestic legislation in the field of international humanitarian law.

He said armed conflict today posed numerous challenges, which, if not addressed in a timely manner, might result in serious consequences to civilians, particularly the most vulnerable groups.  He therefore called on the Committee to reflect on the need to explain, and even to complete, the codified law in the light of contemporary armed conflicts.  He also expressed gratitude to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for its report on the matter and invited the Sixth Committee to promote a debate and analysis on the topics raised therein.  Because reaching justice and ending impunity was far off, as it related to war criminals, the largest possible adherence of States to the Additional Protocols was essential.

BENJAMIN CABOUAT (France), speaking for the European Union, said respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as for the rule of law were key principles upon which the European Union was founded.  The Union was committed to promoting compliance with international humanitarian law in a visible and consistent manner.  He also urged States that had not yet done so to accede to both additional protocols of the 1977 Geneva Conventions and to consider accepting the competence of the International Fact-Finding Commission, pursuant to Article 90 of the first additional protocol.  He also welcomed the additional protocol on establishing the Red Crystal as an additional emblem.

Noting that the Geneva Conventions and most of their provisions and the additional protocols were recognized as customary law, he said it was important to continue the full implementation and dissemination of international humanitarian law.  Drawing attention to the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross on the matter, he said he noted with interest the discussion and update of the comprehensive study on customary international humanitarian law, which deserved a careful study by Member States.

He said the European Union recalled with satisfaction the adoption of the basic principles and guidelines on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law.  He referred to the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and also the Dublin Convention on Cluster Munitions.  He spoke of the roles played by the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda and the International Criminal Court, as deterrents for those who were tempted to commit appalling acts.  The Rome Statute also allowed, for the first time at the international level, victims to take part in the proceedings before the Court and to receive compensation.

HILDING LUNDKVIST (Sweden), speaking for the Nordic countries, said that although the Geneva Conventions were the first in our time to achieve universal acceptance, much needed to be done to achieve universal compliance with their provisions.  Noting that adherence to, and acceptance of, the two additional protocols of 1977 continued to increase, he said recent developments, such as the entry into force of the third additional protocol and the adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, showed that international humanitarian law continued to be extended and refined.

To promote continued respect for international humanitarian law, he said he supported comprehensively addressing the issue of cluster munitions in the framework of the convention on the matter, and welcomed the Montreux Document on pertinent international legal obligations and good practices for States related to operations of private military and security companies during armed conflict; efforts conducted in the “Copenhagen Process” to tackle the challenges related to the handling of detainees in international military operations were also to be welcomed, as was the study by the International Committee of the Red Cross on the question of all States complying with international humanitarian law.  Although the development of such law was shown in the increasing willingness among States, United Nations organs and bodies to discuss and promote it, the obligation and key challenge remained to translate any supporting resolutions into concrete action on the ground so as to protect civilians.  He said the International Criminal Court was of paramount importance in the quest for compliance with international humanitarian law and to end impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

STELLA ORINA (Kenya), speaking for the African Group, said the additional protocols were major international legal instruments containing mostly international customary rules, which made them applicable to all armed conflicts and to all parties.  As irreplaceable instruments for protection of human dignity during armed conflicts, the additional protocols fulfilled a highly important function with regard to the conduct of hostilities and the behaviour of protagonists.  Universal adherence to the Geneva Conventions and the continued strengthening of international humanitarian law through the increasing ratifications of additional protocols was gratifying.  Such progress was a significant sign of the international community’s increasing interest in protecting victims during armed conflicts.

Further, she said she commended the role of ICRC in promoting and disseminating humanitarian law; those efforts should be continued.  Member States, however, remained crucial players and they were invited to intensify awareness-raising and training efforts to promote the additional protocols.  The 2007 Geneva Conference of ICRC had adopted important resolutions and had provided a proper framework for reviewing the development of international humanitarian law.  That was a basis for discussions on ways to overcome difficulties faced at national levels.

EMMANUEL BICHET ( Switzerland) said international humanitarian law was as relevant as ever, at the same time as it was confronted by challenges such as terrorism and the legal qualification of the fight against it, the use of cluster munitions and the increasing role of non-State actors in armed conflict.  Fortunately, the international community had made progress in formulating responses in a number of key areas.

In the adoption in May this year of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, more than 100 countries had underscored the need for action; the rapid entry into force and rapid implementation was notable.  He said Switzerland would sign in December in Oslo.  Parties engaged in negotiations on the conventional weapons convention should compromise and settle remaining differences in a constructive and pragmatic manner.  Progress had also been made on the role and impact of non-State actors in armed conflict.  Switzerland had launched an initiative on the matter with the ICRC in 2006, and last month the Montreux Document had been released by 17 States.  The document was not intended to confer legitimacy on private military and security companies; rather, it recalled pertinent legal obligations and identified good practices as a way of promoting rights and human rights law.

A third tool for addressing current challenges to international humanitarian law, he said, was the outcome of the international fact-finding commission in accordance with the first additional protocol related to protection during armed conflict, he said.

And finally, the International Criminal Court had a key role in ensuring that international humanitarian law was respected and that impunity came to an end.

YASIR ABDELSALAM ( Sudan) said his country respected human rights and acted in accordance with international law.  A national commission and programme had been established to ensure that international law was upheld and that appropriate legislative amendments were instituted, so as to come into agreement with newly assumed responsibilities at the international level.

In Sudan, he said, a peace agreement had been signed in 2006 and efforts were under way to engage parties who had not entered into the agreements.  As a party to the Protocols, Sudan was particularly mindful of the Second Protocol with regard to non-State actors.  Such persons in his country committed inhumane acts and yet they found support for their positions.  The citizens must be protected from such rogue elements in societies.

ELHADJ LAMINE ( Algeria) said that in a world increasingly beset by “myriad crises and conflicts”, it was important for international humanitarian law to become evident.  He urged States to become parties to the Geneva Conventions and the additional protocols, and to ensure the authority of the international fact-finding mission.  He said multiplying conflicts across the globe would put States not party to the Convention and its additional protocols at a disadvantage, since the rules of those instruments reflected customary law.

He commended ICRC for its role in promoting international humanitarian law and human rights, particularly in conflict zones.  The relationship between Algeria and the ICRC was one of “harmonious cooperation”.  Algeria was party to the Geneva Conventions and the protocols, and it was engaged in the work of the International Humanitarian Law Commission, which was installed on 7 September 2008 as a permanent, consultative body.  That Commission, he said, could assist with studies related to international humanitarian law and propose means to adapt national law in accordance with international humanitarian law, among other things.  Lastly, he stressed the importance of occupying powers complying with international humanitarian law; the international community bore responsibility for this.

ANDREY KALININ ( Russian Federation) said that although the authority of the additional protocols was being strengthened, more States needed to accede to them.  Gaps still existed in the protocols, particularly with regard to the fact-finding mission, which he believed could prove useful in a number of armed conflicts.  Ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law was the responsibility of States.  In that regard, he said, the Russian Federation was pursuing a consistent effort to implement and increase awareness of international humanitarian law, noting that his delegation had prepared information for inclusion in the report of the Secretary-General on the matter, but for some technical reason it was not included in the report.

At the national level, he said, the Russian Federation had worked out and had begun to apply combat training, under the norms of international humanitarian law.  In addition, it had held a training course to enhance the knowledge of officers involved in the area of law relating to armed conflict.  More than 350 officers had gone through this training in the last year.  He said the Dublin Convention on Cluster Munitions was a visible achievement in developing international humanitarian law.  He said the discussion of the Convention should involve the greatest number of interested parties.

ISMARA VARGAS WALTER ( Cuba) said armed conflicts led to abuses and the armed forces directly involved were not the only ones exposed; civilians had become a direct target of such conflicts.  She said the current situation in the Palestinian territories was an example of this, and the international legal regime to deal with the victims of armed conflict needed to be strengthened.  The international community and United Nations must provide the strictest respect for rules protecting these victims.  Only a renunciation of expansionist war and the commitment of all States to multilateralism, and also the United Nations and its Charter, could have a positive impact on international humanitarian law, and the protection of victims of armed conflicts.

She said Cuba was a party to the Geneva Conventions and the two protocols, and its national legislation had been in strict compliance with those international norms.  Cuba also had a wealth of experience in the teaching of international humanitarian law, in particular, through its Centre on International Humanitarian Law, operated with the Cuban Red Cross.  She said this training had made a big difference with the Cuban armed forces and other State officials.

NAOBUMI YOKOTA ( Japan) said his country had reported to the Secretary-General in July on recent initiatives with regard to persons reported missing in connection with armed conflict.  Japan’s basic policy on protection of citizens in time of emergency had been formulated in 2005.  Based on a guideline, every ministry and governmental agency in all 47 prefectures and nearly all municipalities had set forth respective plans to implement civil protection measures.  With the ICRC in 2007, Japan had also organized a seminar on tracing missing persons in Kuala Lumpur.

He said a computerized information system had been put into operation in April for use in armed attack situations.  Under the system, information about the safety of those affected, foreigners as well as citizens, would be gathered by authorities.  The information would be made available to the Japanese Red Cross and to local governments for use in responding to those seeking information about missing persons.  Also, the significance of international humanitarian law could not be overemphasized.  Japan would strengthen cooperative relations with the ICRC when an ICRC regional office opened in Tokyo in the near future.

JESSICA GLADSTONE ( United Kingdom) said the question of the status of protocols was of considerable importance.  There was a plethora of mechanisms by which States reported on compliance with obligations in the field of human rights, but only a few by which they reported on those obligations in the field of humanitarian law.  States should heed the call of the Secretary-General to report in that regard.  The role of national societies was also to be considered.  The ICRC at its 2007 Conference had considered the role of national societies as auxiliaries to public authorities in the humanitarian field, and a resolution had set out an appropriate framework.

She said the ICRC Customary International Law Study was important in cases where customary international law supplemented the extensive range of treaties in the field.  However, there were problems with the first volume just published, in relation to the proper attribution of “State practice”.  Therefore, the conclusions should be viewed with caution even as the debate generated by the study was welcome.  The second volume was a valuable research tool.  On other matters, she said the Montreux Document released in September concerning private military and security companies would be useful as a recapitulation of the legal obligations of States in the matter.

She said the Geneva Conventions themselves, nearly 60 years old, were as relevant today as at their adoption in 1949; quite possibly, they were the only four treaties to which all States were parties.  However, duties were not fulfilled simply by becoming party; the Conventions had still to be fully implemented.  The United Kingdom was a party to all treaties in the field of international humanitarian law, or had committed itself to becoming one.  It intended to ratify the third protocol on the “Red Crystal” humanitarian logo.

She said it should be kept in mind that journalists were civilians, and must be protected as such, but journalists should also respect the human dignity of those captured in armed conflict by not making them the object of “public curiosity”.  Guidelines drawn up by the British Red Cross and the British Government would be posted on the website of the United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations.

ALEJANDRO MORENO ( Venezuela) said his country was a party to the main international instruments related to the protection of human rights under situations of armed conflict, including the protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child relating to child soldiers, and the Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property During Times of War.  It would soon be in position to become party to the third protocol relating to the “Red Crystal” humanitarian symbol.  A national authority had been created to implement programmes related to prohibitions of activities with respect to arms and chemical weapons.

MAZEN ADI ( Syria) said the Geneva Conventions had been become an integral part of customary international humanitarian law and he welcomed the accession of all States to the conventions, which would affirm their validity.  Without these conventions, scourges would befall the world and the environment when wars broke out.  Humanitarian law in Islam, for the first time in history, prevented the targeting of women, children and the elderly; it also prevented trees from being cut down, people from being displaced and places of worship from being destroyed, and it espoused the good treatment of the wounded and prisoners.

Despite universality and codification of international humanitarian law, Israel, since its inception, had systematically targeted civilians, murdered children and the elderly, caused destruction to the environment and brought settlers from all over the world to displace the people living there.  In its “wars of aggression,” he said, it had tortured prisoners, and killed wounded soldiers and buried them alive.  Israel had violated the rudimentary principles of international law, but could no longer be absolved of its legal obligations under the Fourth Convention.

A failure to stand up to these practices, he continued, had resulted in the continued targeting of Palestinian civilians.  Israel built illegal settlements which had brought in immigrants from all over the world, despite the fact that the General Assembly and Security Council declared these actions illegal and illegitimate.  In that regard, he said, he wished to reiterate a people’s right to self-discrimination, and to free themselves from occupation, as relayed by international humanitarian law.

HABIB MANSOUR ( Tunisia) said his country’s commitment to international humanitarian law had led to the ratification of all the conventions and covenants related to it.  Once ratified, those instruments had become a source of binding national law.  In particular, in 2006, a national Tunisian commission had been established to “disseminate the culture” of this law nationally.  In that regard, Tunisia had carried out studies and held “awareness-raising” activities on international humanitarian law.

At the international level, he said, the recently-established international commission on international humanitarian law was playing a leading role.  However, the accession by all States to the Geneva Conventions, while important and meaningful, should not overshadow the fact that the universal acceptance of international humanitarian law had not been reached.  In that connection, he called on the international community to stand up to violations whenever they took place.  The work of the International Committee of the Red Cross on non-international armed conflict was also key to protecting victims.  The challenges of the non-international conflicts were largely due to non-compliance with international humanitarian law.

On the issue of “outsourcing” to private military and armed forces companies, he said the indefinite status of those serving these companies was a problem.  Not being able to distinguish whether these contractors were civilians or combatants led to many questions about the modality of international humanitarian law and how to have effective international controls on the companies and a regulatory framework governing them.

NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar) said he was grateful for the efforts of ICRC to alleviate the suffering of victims of armed conflict and prisoners of war, and he supported publicity campaigns to make people more aware of this suffering.  The right to life and protection of human dignity were vital and reaffirmed by the Geneva Conventions of 1949.  However, armed conflicts that had occurred in recent years showed the magnitude of the violations of international humanitarian law.  Calling these recent conflicts “anti-civilian”, he said most victims were civilians who had no involvement in, or responsibility for, the conflict.  Therefore, the United Nations needed to develop further laws to protect these civilians.

Calling on States not yet parties to the Conventions and two additional protocols to accede to them, he said this accession was the first step that had to be followed by other concrete steps.  In addition, he urged States to implement the fact-finding commission, which would encourage the dissemination of information on international humanitarian law.  In Qatar, he said the aforementioned instruments were incorporated into domestic law.

Statements in Right of Reply

The representative of Israel said it was a shame that the current discussion had been abused by a Member State who was currently under investigation for its actions.  It wasted the Committee’s time to listen to a repetition of accusations.

Syria’s representative said the Organization was the forum for States to exercise their right to protest violations of human rights.  It was regrettable to hear a State justify and accuse when it was the violator of conventions and rights.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.