Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Human Rights: Improving people's protection in war

Source: International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

News Release 11/72

Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is adding a selection of national practice of 30 countries to its database on customary international humanitarian law on 30 March. This is the first of a series of updates of national practice that will be made available on the database in the coming years.

"We were able to draw on a wide range of documents in local languages that have never been collected before to provide updates of State practice on customary international humanitarian law," said Philip Spoerri, the organization's director for international law and cooperation. "Customary law is a dynamic process. Through the update of State and international practice, we can monitor the development of this body of law and assess how it further enhances protection for people affected by armed conflict."

Practice of countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America has been ascertained by studying military manuals, national legislation, case law and official statements and reports, all of which have been translated into English, analysed and now made available in one single online source on customary international humanitarian law.

Updates of State practice from about 100 countries will be available by mid-2012 on the database which the ICRC developed with the British Red Cross. The practice relates to current armed conflicts and issues of humanitarian concern such as the distinction between combatants and civilians, the use of certain weapons, recruitment of child soldiers, and war crimes.

Customary international humanitarian law is a set of unwritten rules derived from a general or common State practice generating a custom which is regarded as legally binding. It lays down the basic standard of conduct in armed conflict demanded by the world community and is universally applicable. Under customary law it is not necessary for a State to formally accept a rule to be bound by it, provided that the overall State practice on which the rule is based is widespread, representative and virtually uniform. Customary law is especially important in non-international armed conflicts, for which treaty law is less well developed.