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Red Cross street campaign: Even Wars Have Laws!

Monday February 15, 2010

Australians will today dodge landmines on their way to work, see bloodied torture victims strapped to poles, and be confronted by school children armed with AK-47 assault rifles.

These life-size images appeared overnight in all capital cities as part of a Red Cross street campaign to highlight the plight of civilians, prisoners of war and child soldiers in conflicts around the world, and remind Australians that 'even wars have laws'.

Volunteers will be on hand during the five-day campaign to speak with passers-by and provide further information about the laws of war, including the Geneva Conventions.

The campaign is designed to get Australians to stop and think about what is happening to people in conflicts around the world, said Helen Durham, Red Cross Strategic Adviser on International Law. The aim is to remind those of us living in the comparative safety of Australian cities why the Geneva Conventions are so important.

The 'Even Wars Have Laws' campaign is in response to a national survey conducted by Red Cross last year. The survey of 1,030 people found Australians are more cynical about the effectiveness of the laws of war than people from war-torn countries, with nearly half believing the Geneva Conventions make no difference during war.

In contrast, in a global poll of war-torn countries such as Afghanistan and Liberia, up to 85 per cent of people believe the Geneva Conventions limit the suffering of civilians in wartime.
'Cynicism and complacency are luxuries for people who aren't living in a conflict zone and who haven't experienced the horrors of war', Dr Durham said. 'Those people living in conflict-ravaged countries are more likely to understand that the laws of war can make a real difference.'

Somewhere in the world, someone's child is being forced to take part in atrocities that no child should have to witness, much less participate in; a farmer in a field is one step away from a long-forgotten landmine. A prisoner is facing torture. These people are why 'even wars have laws'. 'The laws of war, like all laws, do not revolutionise human behaviour, but when they work, lives are improved and suffering is diminished,' Dr Durham said.


  • It is illegal to torture prisoners of war (indeed anyone!) under any circumstances
  • It is a crime to use children to fight a war
  • Landmines are banned because they do not discriminate between soldiers and civilians

For media enquiries or to arrange an interview contact media adviser Joe Cropp on 0400 942 861.

To show your support for the laws of war and to make a donation, visit

Even Wars Have Laws: What they say

The aid worker:
'The laws of war are always the basis for our Red Cross work but it's not usually about quoting the law, it's about humanity and standing by the side of people who demonstrate great resilience in times of despair.'
Rebecca Dodd, Red Cross IHL Manager

The POW:
'I have a debt to pay the Red Cross. The difference the Red Cross made to our lives in that situation was simply enormous.'
Frank Cox, WWII prisoner of war

The medic:
'You know, no matter where I have been, the Geneva Conventions have always had the versatility to meet any cultural gap, to bridge the concerns of all sides to gain access to all those vulnerable.' Nicholas Prince, Red Cross medic

Photo opportunities
As part of Australian Red Cross 'Even Wars Have Laws' campaign, displays including
life-size images of Australian child soldiers, torture chairs, and blindfolded POWs will be set up in the following locations from February 15 to 19.

Volunteers will be at the displays 7am-9.30am, 11.30am-1.30pm and 4.30pm-6.30pm:

  • Sydney, Wynard Park
  • Melbourne, Southern Cross Station
  • Brisbane, Reddacliff Place
  • Perth, Murray Street Mall
  • Adelaide, Adelaide train station
  • Darwin, Smith Street Mall
  • Hobart, Franklin Square

For media enquiries or to arrange an interview contact media adviser Joe Cropp on 0400 942 861.

To watch African child soldier Abraham tell his personal story visit