Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Wars must not break law of humanity

By Didier Burkhalter and Peter Maurer (China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-22 07:41

This is why Switzerland and the ICRC have been holding talks since 2012 with all states on the best way to improve compliance with international law. Their work is based on a mandate given by the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent. They are convinced that states need a forum where they can decide jointly on the measures that are needed to bring better compliance with international humanitarian law. They should have regular and systematic discussions on how they are meeting their obligations. The forum would help the states to gradually establish an overall picture of how these obligations are being fulfilled, and how the associated challenges are being met.

On this basis, the states could finally take steps to reinforce the application of the law, for example, by assisting each other to develop the skills and capacities required to meet their obligations. They could also keep each other up-to-date and exchange views on the most effective measures to tackle this often complex task.

A forum of states would also create the conditions required to ensure that the law dictates future developments in warfare (such as new weapons technology) and not vice-versa. This requires a regular dialogue on current issues of international humanitarian law. It is also important that the states have an appropriate instrument to respond to serious violations of international humanitarian law, to prevent such crimes in the future and to protect civilian populations from further suffering. A mechanism for investigating the causes of such violations would be expedient.

In accordance with their mandate, Switzerland and the ICRC will submit specific recommendations on the establishment of such a forum at the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which will be held in Geneva in late 2015. At that conference the states will decide what action to take.

Since the adoption of the first Geneva Convention 150 years ago, international humanitarian law has become a central pillar of the international legal order. Ultimately its provisions serve to protect our key characteristic as human beings: our humanity. This is an irrevocable right. It is based on the belief, forged over the centuries and in all our cultures, according to which it is essential to lay down rules if we want to prevent wars from degenerating into barbarism.

It is up to our generation to consolidate these achievements and to create an institutional framework to ensure these rules are respected. If it is to be fully effective, the law needs suitable instruments. Never in the history of humankind have we been closer to a solution than we are today. It is up to us to seize this opportunity.

Didier Burkhalter is president of the Swiss Confederation, and Peter Maurer is the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Previous Page 1 2 Next Page

Most Viewed Today's Top News