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Red Cross calls for respect and recognition of the Geneva Conventions

Saturday August 12, 2006

On the anniversary of the Geneva Conventions (12 August) the Red Cross says support for their underlying principles has never been more important.

'The Geneva Conventions form the basis of International Humanitarian Law' said Robert Tickner, CEO of Australian Red Cross.

'Since they were developed, there have been many changes in the way wars are fought, such as the increased involvement of non-State actors and an increase in acts of terror and this has led some to question their relevance' he said.

'However, there are a number of examples - recent and striking - that show the importance of International Humanitarian Law in shaping key military and legal decisions.'

The recent conflict in Lebanon, for example has highlighted their importance and the International Committee of the Red Cross has repeatedly reminded the warring parties of one of the most important rules of International Humanitarian Law, the obligation not to attack civilians.

Each year, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement also provide services to assist those affected by conflict - vital services that are enshrined in International Humanitarian law.

Last year the International Committee of the Red Cross alone:

  • conducted approximately 500,000 visits to places of detention,
  • collected and distributed almost 1 million Red Cross messages, enabling members of families separated by conflicts to reconnect
  • undertook water, sanitation and construction projects in 37 countries catering for the needs of some 11.2 million people
  • supported hospitals in 18 countries where more than 76,800 surgical interventions were performed.

These examples show that whether in military planning, enforcement or the provision of aid, International Humanitarian Law continues to provide strong humanitarian principles to regulate military conduct in times of war.

'We of course share the global humanitarian aspiration that all wars may one day be eliminated,' said Mr Tickner. 'But as an international community, we must not allow that noble ideal to diminish our strong conviction that in the meantime the Geneva Conventions are crucial.'