International Committee of the Red Cross
International Committee of the Red Cross

Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada

In This Issue:
Democratic Republic of the Congo: ICRC Staff Held by Armed Group in South Kivu
Amid War and Crime: Humanitarian Aid in High-risk Environments
Nuclear Weapons and International Humanitarian Law
ICRC Sponsors IHL Workshops with the University of California Berkeley School of Law and with University of Texas Strauss Center for International Security and Law
Response to Reader's IHL Question on Non-international Armed Conflict
ICRC Databases on International Humanitarian Law
Democratic Republic of the Congo: ICRC staff held by armed group in South Kivu
An ICRC-installed water point in DRC
A Swiss delegate and seven Congolese ICRC staff members have been held since April 9 in the vicinity of Fizi by Mai Mai Yakutumba, an armed group operating in the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The staff were seized around 2 p.m. local time after completing an assessment of the needs of displaced people in the area.

"We demand that the group holding our personnel release them as quickly as possible," said Franz Rauchenstein, head of the ICRC delegation in the country. "We are in contact with our colleagues, and their families have been briefed on the situation."

The ICRC maintains a permanent presence in South Kivu province in Bukavu, Uvira, Marungu and Fizi. Access is difficult owing to the remoteness of the region, logistical challenges, and security conditions.

The latest ICRC news from around the globe
Our World At War: On the Move Out West
DRC - Ron Haviv, Our World at War
Our World At War opens tomorrow, April 18, at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California. It will be on display through June 2 and is sponsored by the American Red Cross Monterey Bay Area Chapter. Exhibit hours are 10 am to 5 pm 7 days a week. The Center is located at One Main Street in Salinas, CA.


From June 26 through August 15, the show will be on display at the Seattle Center in Seattle, Washington, in cooperation with the American Red Cross Serving King and Kitsap Counties.


Stay tuned for more dates and locations throughout the spring and summer.


Customary International Humanitarian Law - Now Available in Electronic Form!
Customary International Humanitarian Law Study
Download Volume Two: Practice 
This out-of-print publication is one of the most frequently requested resources on international humanitarian law. The ICRC is pleased to annouce that is is now available in electronic form.
This publication is the result of a major international study into current state practice in international humanitarian law in order to identify customary law in this area. Presented in two volumes, it analyzes the customary rules of IHL and contains a detailed summary of relevant state practice throughout the world. 
An update of Volume II is underway and will be launched online this summer as an ICRC database. Stay tuned for the annoucement.
New Publication:
Technical Review - Borehole Drilling and Rehabilitation under Field Conditions
Borehole Drilling and Rehabilitation under Field Conditions
Click to download this technical review, which presents and synthesizes an impressive amount of practical experience in the field of borehole drilling and rehabilitation. 
Upcoming News
A large Red Cross and Red Crescent flag is unfurled in Solferino.
Check our website for the latest news, as ICRC commemorates the upcoming dates with special features, photos, and more:

May 8: World Red Cross/Red Crescent Day

June 24: Anniversary of the Battle of Solferino

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The ICRC is an impartial, neutral, and independent organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internal violence and to provide them with assistance. 
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News and Notes
April 2010 

The ICRC Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada is again troubled to share news that eight of our colleagues are being held by an armed group, this time in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Read the latest update.
This latest incident illustrates some of the realities of working in high-risk environments. In the interview below, ICRC's Deputy Director of Operations, Dominik Stillhart, explains just how difficult it is for the ICRC to operate in some areas. 
Next, we delve into the subject of international humanitarian law (IHL). As promised, due to our readers' expressed interest in IHL in the feedback survey, we reserve the remaining sections of the newsletter for IHL matters. Given the timeliness of the subject, we share the ICRC's position on nuclear weapons. We then offer short summaries of two ICRC-sponsored IHL workshops held recently, one in California, one in Texas. Next, we tackle a reader's question about non-international armed conflict. To cap it all off, we look at the IHL databases that the ICRC maintains online and announce that the out-of-print yet hotly sought-after Customary IHL Study is now available in digital form.
Keep sending in your IHL questions, and in future issues, we will endeavor to provide explanations and additional resources. 
Kind regards,
The ICRC Washington Delegation
Amid War and Crime: Humanitarian Aid in High-risk Environments
Dominik Stillhart, the ICRC's deputy director of operationsIn some conflict areas, the ICRC has only limited access due to insecurity. This is the case, for example, in parts of Somalia, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Despite these difficulties it is still possible to help victims of armed conflict. The ICRC's deputy director of operations, Dominik Stillhart, explains how.

What makes the ICRC withdraw all or part of its staff from a particular area?

These decisions are almost always linked to the dangers faced by our colleagues in the field. As we don't generally work with armed protection, our security in conflict areas depends on everyone, especially those who carry arms, accepting our presence. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case, above all in places where crime is rampant and the authorities can't control it. 

But pulling out staff remains the exception rather than the rule. The ICRC always tries to stay as close as possible to the people worst affected by war. We are among the very few organizations permanently present on the ground in some of the most dangerous places, for example in Kandahar in Afghanistan or Baghdad.

West of Dusamareb, Somalia. Women fetch water from a point set up by the ICRCSo how do you manage to work in the most dangerous situations?

Basically we have to adapt our way of operating. In the most dangerous situations our international staff may at times face additional risks to those confronted by our local colleagues because as foreigners they attract more attention - including from criminals. To deal with this we have had to reduce field movements by international staff in some situations and to decrease the amount of time they spend in the most dangerous areas. In extreme cases we have even had to temporarily withdraw international staff, for example, following the bomb attack on our Baghdad office in 2003 or in Northern Yemen last year. 

In situations where international staff presence is limited such as much of Somalia and parts of southern Afghanistan our national staff assume more responsibility. It is our responsibility to strike the appropriate balance between relying on their knowledge of the context and doing everything possible to minimize the risks they face in the course of their duties. 

What else can you do?

A Yemeni man carries food from an ICRC/Yemen Red Crescent distribution In these situations the close partnerships we have with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is particularly vital. Their volunteers and staff often have strong roots in these areas. In places like Northern Yemen, for example, working with our local staff and the national Red Crescent has allowed us to help thousands of displaced people over recent months - in the absence of ICRC international staff . By now, ICRC delegates have returned to Sa'ada in Northern Yemen, continuing and supporting the work of our national colleagues and the Yemeni Red Crescent. 

For Somalia, even though widespread insecurity forces the ICRC to have its delegation in Nairobi rather than Mogadishu we have been able to assist an average of one million people annually over the past few years, largely thanks to the work of our Somali colleagues and to our excellent cooperation with the Somali Red Crescent on the ground. 

To read the full interview, please click here.

Nuclear Weapons and International Humanitarian Law
As the Nuclear Security Summit recently concluded in Washington, DC, we take a moment to reflect on the destructive power of nuclear weapons, which puts them in a category of their own. While there is no comprehensive or universal ban on their use under international law, in July 1996 the International Court of Justice concluded that international humanitarian law (IHL) did apply to the use of nuclear weapons and that their use would generally be contrary to the principles and rules of IHL.

ICRC's Marcel Junod was the first foreign doctor to reach Hiroshima. To read his account, please click the photo above.

The Hiroshima Disaster - A Doctor's Account by Marcel Junod
The ICRC welcomed the Court's unequivocal reaffirmation of the principles and rules of IHL as applied to the use of nuclear weapons. In 2002 it refined its own position in the light of the Court's opinion. It reaffirms that "the principles of distinction and proportionality and the prohibition on causing superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering, apply to the use of nuclear weapons." In view of the unique characteristics of nuclear weapons, the ICRC further calls on all States not to use nuclear weapons, irrespective of whether they consider them legal or not, to take measures to limit the risk of proliferation and to pursue negotiations on a complete ban on nuclear weapons and their elimination.
President of the ICRC Jakob Kellenberger will give an address on the subject of nuclear weapons in Geneva, Switzerland, on April 20. Check our website in a few days for more information.
ICRC Sponsors IHL Workshops with the University of California Berkeley School of Law  and with the University of Texas Strauss Center for International Security and Law
Teaching IHL Workshop at Berkeley Law
On April 9 and 10, the ICRC co-hosted the biannual teaching international humanitarian law (IHL) workshop with University of California, Berkeley School of Law at Boalt Hall.  Open to faculty interested in teaching IHL for the first time or incorporating IHL into an existing course, the workshop brought together approximately 20 law professors representing institutions such as the University of Washington, University of Iowa, and Columbia University.
The workshop held sessions on basic design and various teaching techniques involved, as well as examining topics such as the intersection of IHL with human rights and international criminal law, direct participation in hostilities, and incorporating IHL into courses such as Constitutional and Criminal Law. 
The first of its kind to be hosted on the West Coast, this workshop was organized to continue addressing the needs highlighted in a 2007 ICRC/WCL study, Teaching International Humanitarian Law in US Law Schools, which concluded that student demand for IHL courses was high but American faculty needed better resources, materials, and support to expand the teaching of IHL in U.S. law schools.
Third Annual National Security Law Junior Faculty WorkshopOn April 1 and 2, the ICRC co-sponsored the third annual National Security Law Junior Faculty Workshop held at the University of Texas Strauss Center for International Security and Law. This workshop intersperses presentation and discussion of works-in-progress by scholars on a range of national security law topics with sessions to discuss cutting edge IHL issues with instructors provided by the ICRC and the U.S. Army JAG Legal Center and School.
The workshop brought together approximately 20 law professors and professionals representing institutions such as Georgetown University, University of Michigan, and the U.S. Department of State. 
Response to Reader's IHL Question on Non-International Armed Conflict
Barbacoas, Nariņo department, Colombia.A newsletter reader in  Cincinnati, OH, wrote asking what parts of IHL pertain to non-international armed conflicts.
Dear IHL aficionado in Cincinnati,
Non-international armed conflicts are by far the most prevalent type of armed conflict today, causing the greatest suffering. While it is true that fewer treaties apply during situations of non-international armed conflict, one can not forget the importance of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, considered a mini-convention in itself, as it appears in all four of the universally ratified treaties. In addition, one can look to Additional Protocol II for guidance on protections in situations of non-international armed conflict. It is important to note, however, that while Common Article 3 has been universally ratified by states, Additional Protocol II has not.
Non-international armed conflicts are not only governed by treaty law, however. The substantial number of rules identified in the ICRC's 2005 Study on Customary International Humanitarian Law provides additional legally binding norms in these situations.
Lanao del Norte, Mindanao, the Philippines.While customary IHL can fill some gaps, there are still humanitarian problems arising in these types of conflicts that are not fully addressed under the current applicable legal regime. As outlined in ICRC President Kellenberger's speech on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the 
ICRC has been intensively engaged for the past two years in a comprehensive internal research study to address these humanitarian and legal challenges. Based on a comprehensive assessment of the conclusions of this research, a case will be made for the clarification or further development of specific aspects of the law. The research will be followed by proposals on how to move forward, both substantively and procedurally. 
Stay tuned for more details as these efforts proceed over the coming months and years.
Thanks for your question! If you have a question, please write to us.

ICRC Databases on International Humanitarian Law 
The Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 
Don't forget that the ICRC maintains an online treaty database, with the texts of approximately 100 IHL treaties! 
You can read the Geneva Conventions, their Additional Protocols, their commentaries, and many more treaties. Up-to-date lists of states that have signed and ratified these instruments, complete with the full text of any reservations, are available. That's where you will find that the answer to the second question above is 169 state parties and another 5 state signatories.