Tag: <span>international humanitarian law</span>

International Humanitarian Law Appeals

Stronger Respect for International Humanitarian Law Needed: NGO Action…

Featured Image: Foto de Pavel Danilyuk: https://www.pexels.com/es-es/foto/estatuilla-burocracia-ley-firma-8112193/

The carnage in the Ukraine conflict and the continued actions by ethnic militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo has highlighted the fact that the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are not bedside reading for many people, even those engaged in war.  There are too many warlords whose only claim to the charisma of leadership is the ruthlessness with which they wield the gun.

Geneva Convention.

Since the adoption of the first Geneva Convention in 1864, international humanitarian law has evolved in stages resulting from the evolution of methods of warfare and the changing nature of armed conflicts.  Since the adoption of the four Geneva Conventions for the protection of war victims in 1949, the nature of armed conflicts has changed considerably, especially by the increased number of armed conflicts within a State.  It is currently estimated that there are 120 ethnic militias active in the eastern area of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  There are many cases  in the country  of cruel and degrading treatment of persons, enforced disappearances and arbitrary executions.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Image: Movement militiamen M23 and Type 85 heavy machine gun. By Al Jazeera English, CC BY-SA 2.0 &lt;https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Increasing Tensions and Danger of Violence.

Men were killed and women divided among the victors.

I had participated in an International Committee of the Red Cross study group during the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970). The aim of the study group was to see if there were traditional African values and practices which could be relied upon for better treatment of war prisoners and civilians.  There were no such practices. Traditionally, men were killed and women divided among the victors.  The only exceptions were conflicts within a clan. In chronic conflicts, there were techniques of symbolic or material restitution and ceremonies of reconciliation. Thus our study group had recommended the need for clear universal standards which can be applied in all cultures and in all types of conflicts.

Soldiers have a tendency to shoot first and read later.

Nevertheless, there have always been problems of the application of international humanitarian law.  Soldiers have a tendency to shoot first and read later.  Many people do not know that international humanitarian law exists and that they are bound by its norms.  Thus, there is a need for greater dissemination  of information through education and training to create a climate conducive to the observation of internationally recognized norms.  Such educational and training activities can be usefully undertaken by non-governmental organizations – an urgent need.

International Humanitarian Law

 Image: Ukrainian diaspora in Brussels protests the Russian invasion, Processed with VSCO with acg preset. By Bartosz Brzezinski from Chicago, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Upholding International Humanitarian Law in Times of Armed Conflict: A World Citizen Appeal.

 

René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

 

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

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Rape Appeals

U.N. Highlights Rape as a War Weapon in Ukraine.

Image Featured: Photo by Melanie Wasser,  Unsplash 

Pramila Patten, the United Nations Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on sexual violence in times of conflict reported mid-October 2022 that rape is increasingly used in the armed conflict in Ukraine as a weapon to humiliate and discourage the populations.  Therefore, there had been an earlier 27 September report to the High Commissioner for Human Rights setting out many of the same facts and calling for international action.

Patterns of systematic rape become part of International Humanitarian Law.

In the past, sexual violence had often been dismissed as acts of individual soldiers, rape being one of the spoils of war for whom rape of women was an entitlement.  However, with the 2001 trials of war crimes in former Yugoslavia by the International  Criminal Tribunal for ex-Yugoslavia, the first convictions of rape as a crime against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war were handed down against Bosnian Serb soldiers.  Bosnian Serb fighters were charged with mass rape and forced prostitution involving dozens of Muslim women and girls some only 12 years old.  The case had taken five years of investigations and more than 30 witnesses for the prosecution.  The three soldiers being tried were given a sentence of 12 years imprisonment.

Since then, we have seen patterns of systematic rape become part of International Humanitarian Law, and since 2002 one of the crimes that can be prosecuted within the International Criminal Court.  (1)

Pramila Patten
Pramila Patten. Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Film Festival: Fighting Stigma Through Film in London, 23 November 2018. By Foreign and Commonwealth Office, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Rape as a war weapon.

There have been reports of systematic rape in Ukraine since 2014 with the creation of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Louhansk by both Ukrainian and separatist soldiers.  However, little international attention was given to these reports.  It is only with the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops on 24 February 2022 that international attention has focused on reports of rape especially in areas that were for a time under the control of the Russian military or the militias of the two People’s Republics. (2)

Unfortunately, it would seem that the armed conflict in Ukraine will drag on.  There are few signs of a willingness for a negotiated settlement.  International Humanitarian Law moves slowly.  Rape as a war weapon is used in other armed conflicts, such as those in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur, Sudan, and Syria. Strong non-governmental pressure is needed to keep governmental and United Nations efforts going.

People's Republics of Donetsk and Louhansk
Image: Return of released citizens to the territory controlled by Ukraine, December 29, 2019. By President.gov.ua, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Vital Autonomy for the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk. The Way Ahead.

 

Notes:

1) For a good overview of both specific armed conflicts and the slow but steady international response see Carol Rittner and John K. Roth (Eds) “Rape: Weapon of War and Genocide” (St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2012)
2) See Amnesty International “Ukraine 2021”     www. amnesty.org Secretaru General’s Report, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.   www.osce.org

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

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Sexual Violence in Conflict Appeals

The Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict: Greater Awareness…

Featured Image: Photo by Kat J on Unsplash.

International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.

The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 19 June of each year to be the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict;  in order to raise awareness of the need to put an end to conflict-related sexual violence; and to honor the victims and the survivers of sexual violence around the world.  The date was chosen to commemorate the adoption on 19 June 2008 of Security Council Resolution 1820; in which the Council condemned sexual violence as a tactic of war and as an impediment to peacebuilding.
 

Conflict-Related Sexual Violence.

 
    For the U.N; “conflict-related sexual violence” refers to rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced abortion, and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men, girls and boys; linked to a conflict.  The term also encompasses trackficking in persons when committed in situations of conflict for purposes of sexual violence or exploitation.
 
There has been a slow growth of awareness-building trying to push U.N. Agencies to provide non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services; including sexual and reproductive health services; taking into account the special needs of persons with disabilities.  A big step forward was the creation of the U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
 
The post is currently held since April 2017 by Under-Secretary-General Pramila Patten.  She recently said:
 

“We see it too often in all corners of the globe from Ukraine to Tigray in northern Etheopia to Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Every new wave of warfare brings with it a rising tide of human tragedy including new waves of war’s oldest, most silenced and least-condemned crime.”

Sexual Violence in Conflict

Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Film Festival: Fighting Stigma Through Film in London, 23 November 2018. Under-Secretary-General Pramila Patten. By Foreign and Commonwealth Office, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
   
The Association of World Citizens first raised the issue in the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in March 2001; citing the judgement of the International Court for Former Yugoslavia; which maintained that there can be no time limitations on bringing the accused to trial. 
The tribunal also reinforced the possibility of universal jurisdiction; that a person can be tried not only by his national court; but by any court claiming univesal jurisdiction and where the accused is present.
    The Association of World Citizens again stressed the use of rape as a weapon of war in the Special Session of the Commission on Human Rights on the Democratic Republic of Congo; citing the findings of Meredeth Turslen and Clotilde Twagiramariya in their book:
 

What Women Do in Wartime: Gender and Conflict in Africa. (London: Zed Press, 1998).

 
 
There are numerous types of rape.  Rape is committed to boast the soldiers’ morale, to feed soldiers’ hatred of the enemy, their sense of superiority, and to keep them fighting: rape is one kind of war booty; women are raped because war intensifies men’s sense of entitlement, superiority, avidity, and social licence to rape: rape is a weapon of war used to spread political terror; rape can destabilize a society and break its resistance; rape is a form of torture; gang rapes in public terrorize and silence women because they keep the civilian population functioning and are essential to its social and physical continuity; rape is used in ethnic cleansing; it is designed to drive women from their homes or destroy their possibility of reproduction within or “for” their community; genocidal rape treats women as “reproductive vessels”; to make them bear babies of the rapists’ nationality, ethnicity, race or religion, and genocidal rape aggravates women’s terror and future stigma, producing a class of outcast mothers and children – this is rape committed with consciousness of how unacceptable a raped woman is to the patriarchal community and to herself.  
This list combines individual and group motives with obedience to military command; in doing so, it gives a political context to violence against women, and it is this political context that needs to be incorporated in the social response to rape.”
 

 
   

The prohibition of sexual violence in times of conflict is now part of international humanitarian law. 

 
However; there are two major weaknesses in the effectiveness of international humanitarian law. 
The first is that many people do not know that it exists and that they are bound by its norms.  Thus; there is a role for greater promotional activities through education and training to create a climate conducive to the observance of internationally recognized norms. 
The second weakness is enforcement. We are still at the awareness-building stage.  Strong awareness-building is needed.
 
    René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

1 2 12