Limiting civilian casualities in internal conflicts
By Iftikhar Gilani
The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Asian African Legal Consultative Organisation have launched Customary International Humanitarian Law, which according to the organisers, will be binding on all parties engaged in internal conflicts
NEW DELHI: Increasing civilian casualties in conflicts has led international experts to set a code for warfare, conflicts and internal disturbances both for the states and the non-state actors. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Asian African Legal Consultative Organisation (AALCO), which according to the organisers will be binding on all parties engaged in internal conflicts, launched the three-volume ‘Customary International Humanitarian Law’ on Thursday.
The organisers believed there was need to protect civilian population during conflicts as their causalities had increased manifold since World War I. During World War I, the civilian casualties were just five per cent, which increased to 50 per cent in World War II. But, these causalities have now grown to geometric proportions, above 90 per cent in the recent conflicts plaguing the world.
Vincent Nicod, head of ICRC Regional Delegation, said treaties such as Geneva Convention came into force only during wars. He said these treaties were written agreements between the states and were not legally binding on non-signatories and also on individuals. “On the other hand, customary laws though unwritten are there for centuries and all civilisations have developed rules to limit violence during wars. Therefore, it is necessary to address present conflicts reminding them of traditions and customs dated back to the beginning of human history,” said the ICRC official.
He said the present treatise was result of an intense study conducted by over 12 experts engaged by the ICRC in 50 countries for over 10 years.
The study has formulated 161 rules, categorised in six parts. First volume of the 621-page treatise is a comprehensive analysis of the customary rules of international humanitarian law applicable in international and non-international armed conflicts. Its second volume contains a summary of relevant treaty law and an exhaustive analysis of state practices based on military manuals, legislation, case-law, official statements, reservations and reports on military operations covering almost each aspect of international humanitarian law and finally the third volume contains the legal opinion related to customary laws.
Dr Wafik Z Kamil, secretary-general of Asian African Legal Consultative Organisation (AALCO), called for political will from the governments and effective legislative and judicial measures to ensure implementations of such codes.
The Indian junior minister for external affairs, E Ahmed, who delivered inaugural speech at the launch of the ICRC code, enumerated limitations of customary laws. He said their acceptance might be limited as they were followed by different groups of different regions and there might be lack of agreement on matters of details.