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

Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada

  
In This Issue:
Interviews: ICRC Washington and the Promotion of International Humanitarian Law
Strengthening Legal Protection for Victims of Armed Conflict
ICRC Policy on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment Inflicted on Persons Deprived of their Liberty
Photo Gallery - 2011 Humanitarian Law Moot Court Competition in China
ICRC News from
Around the Globe

  




  


  


  
Sudan   
  

In 2010, ICRC water, sanitation and construction activities helped some 10 million people, and food was distributed to nearly 5 million - among many other activties that are part of the organization's mandate to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and to promote respect for international humanitarian law. 

For more information on the ICRC's activities in 2010, take a look at the 2010 Annual Report (click below).

 

Annual Report 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, in 2011, with new crises in Libya and Côte d'Ivoire as well as decade-old conflicts, humanitarian needs have reached unprecedented levels. For a deeper look at the year to come, click below to watch an interview with Pierre Krähenbühl, ICRC Director of Operations.

ICRC Annual Report: Reflections on 2010 --Challenges of 2011
Reflections on 2010, Challenges of 2011

 

Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine: Out of the shadows, challenging sexual violence

RCRC Gender-Based Violence
The latest Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine focuses on the issue of gender-based violence. Gender-based violance can occur at any time, anywhere. But its prevalence is magnified during emergencies because of the absence of law and order, the lack of support services and the breakdown of community networks. 

 

Also in this issue: Volunteers through time; Natural disaster, a society's greatest test; and Humanitarianism, does relief prolong war? 



The city of Ajdabiya has been the scene of heavy fighting between rebels and pro-Gaddafi forces. While the battle lines have moved on, many people are not returning home because of the threat posed by unexploded munitions such as rockets, shells and mortars. The ICRC is the first to start clearing these abandoned weapons of war in Libya


NEW ICRC Publication: 

Physiotherapy
The "Physiotherapy" leaflet is a concise introduction to the work of the ICRC's physiotherapists. It explains the role these professionals play in physical rehabilitation and hospital projects, together with the ICRC's approach in this field. 

 

Upcoming Events

 

Senior Workshop on International Rules Governing Military Operations 

June 26 - July 2

Concentrates on three central legal themes: deprivation of liberty in military operations; the conduct of hostilities in armed conflict; and law enforcement operations. Held in Saldanha, South Africa.

 

29th Course on International Humanitarian Law

June 27 - July 7

Organized by the ICRC and the Polish Red Cross. Held in Warsaw, Poland.

 

Health Emergencies in Large Populations (H.E.L.P) Courses

A multicultural and multidisciplinary learning experience created to enhance professionalism in humanitarian assistance programmes conducted in emergency situations.

July 11-29

Baltimore/USA

July 11-22

Hawaii/USA

 

Call for applications: 16th course in IHL for humanitarian professionals and policy-makers

September 19-24

The ICRC regional delegation calls for applications for its 16th course in international humanitarian law (IHL) for humanitarian professionals and policy-makers. Held in Naivasha, Kenya.

 

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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
June 2011 

 

Greetings!

This edition of the newsletter, distributed today in honor of International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (June 26), focuses on international humanitarian law (IHL).

 

First, Jamie Williamson, Legal Adviser in ICRC Washington from 2008-2011, and Paul Kong, Programme Officer in ICRC Washington from 2009-2011, share their experiences in promoting IHL in the US.

 

Moving from the local to the global, we highlight the  ICRC's study on strengthening legal protection for victims of armed conflict. Here we include key excerpts from ICRC President Kellenberger recent remarks on this subject.

 

One of the key areas recommended to be addressed in the ICRC study is detention. In recognition of this, and again to honor yesterday's International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we bring you a summary of ICRC's recently released Policy on Torture

 

Finally, you will find a photo gallery from a recent Humanitarian Law Moot Court Competition held in China. While our work in Washington focuses on North America, we want to highlight that the ICRC's work on promoting IHL is global, and highlight this recent example of our colleagues' work in Asia.  

 

As always, please write us with your thoughts and feedback.

 

Kind regards,
The ICRC Washington Delegation
Interviews: ICRC Washington and the Promotion of International Humanitarian Law

 

As part of the ICRC's mandate, the Regional Delegation of the United States and Canada works to promote an understanding and awareness of IHL with current and future policymakers. It does this through bilateral meetings, panels and events with external hosts. The delegation also holds IHL workshops for students, faculty, and influential actors in DC's policy arena. This month we take a moment to discuss this important aspect of our work with two former colleagues, Jamie Williamson, Legal Adviser, and Paul Kong, Programme Officer. 

 

Jamie Allen Williamson, Legal Adviser

 

As Legal Adviser, Jamie Williamson headed a team of lawyers that offers its expertise and practical experience of conflicts to help  the U.S. and Canadian governments to fulfill their responsibilities to promote and implement statutory and customary IHL. He further provided legal support during the detention visits we undertake in Guantanamo. In addition, Jamie served as a guest speaker on numerous panels and in conferences.

 

Why did you want to work for the ICRC in Washington?

 

Following 9/11, questions were raised about the adequacy of IHL, in particular in the context of modern day asymmetric warfare. A mission with the ICRC in Washington provided a fabulous opportunity to be in an environment where international humanitarian law was continuously being debated and tested in the context of various conflicts. Being able to work on the many complex legal issues was certainly going to be rewarding and never a dull experience. Who could not want such a challenge?

 

Could you describe your work these past few years with the ICRC Regional Delegation for the U.S. and Canada? What does the legal team in ICRC Washington do? What were some key high points?

 

From advising on the many issues arising out of Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq with the US Government and the military, to debating the merits of the ICRC's direct participation in hostilities guidance with JAGs and academia, and meeting with internees in Guantanamo, every day brought something new to the table. For the legal team, working closely with the other departments, at times we had to concede that the law does not necessarily provide all of the answers. That is no bad thing. Indeed, to be looking beyond pure law to find ways to alleviate suffering in armed conflicts, and instead to turn to moral obligations and humanitarian policy is an all the more interesting dimension of the work as ICRC legal adviser.

One of the high points of the mission formed the Executive Orders, signed by President Obama in January 2009, which importantly reaffirmed the relevance of the US' commitment to the Geneva Conventions, and reiterated that the ICRC was to be given full access to DoD facilities. Also the invitee turnout at the delegation's event for the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions at the Newseum in August 2009 testified to the special place given to IHL and to humanitarian values. 

 

What do you see as the major upcoming hot topics in international humanitarian law in the United States and Canada?

New technologies, such as cyberwarfare, the expansion of the traditional battlefield, and detention in non-international armed conflicts, will certainly all be areas of particular relevance as the face of modern armed conflict evolves. The challenge with these new trends is to ensure that IHL is not simply dismissed as an antiquated body of law, but rather, as has been shown over the past few years, that it is as relevant and necessary today as it was at the turn of last century. 

 

Before the ICRC, you served for several years with different UN Tribunals. Can you share how your career has developed within the field of international law? Do you have any advice for those considering a career in international law?

I have been very fortunate in being able to work in the field of international law since the early 1990's. Working with the UN Tribunals during their formative years and then with the ICRC in Southern Africa and in the US, I have witnessed both the best and the worst that conflict can bring out of individuals. I can only encourage those seeking to start a career in this field, especially as international law is now more than ever making headline news.  

 

 

Paul Kong, Programme Officer

 

As Programme Officer in our Public and Congressional Affairs Department, Paul Kong oversaw outreach to academic institutions. For the ICRC, partnerships with universities are vital in its efforts to foster respect for IHL. In his position, Mr. Kong organized workshops for law students and faculty, as well as select government representatives, on IHL and its application to the conflicts in which the US is involved today. He also encouraged law schools to offer more courses on that subject and provided them with guidance and resources.

 

Describe your experience working with the ICRC? What were some key high and low points?

 

After a decade of conflict, interlocutors in the U.S. and Canada now know of the ICRC's unique role, either having worked or interacted with ICRC delegates.  It is gratifying that the ICRC is a known entity in North America, at least in certain circles. It also is a sad reality that it takes a conflict to really understand the organization.

 

How does the ICRC Washington delegation approach its outreach to U.S. and Canadian universities?

 

The focus the past two years has been on training faculty to teach IHL, a tall endeavor since there are approximately 220 law schools in the U.S. and Canada, and even more graduate schools and college programs focusing on international relations.

 

The ICRC is fortunate to collaborate with numerous respected and influential institutions in its efforts to promote IHL. What partnerships stand out in your memory for having developed or grown during your time at ICRC?

 

I particularly enjoyed my relationships with the law schools and faculty at Santa Clara University, the University of California at Berkeley and Emory University.  Lecturing at the service academies (West Point and the U.S. Air Force Academy) was definitely a highlight and memory I will cherish.

 

What recent successes stand out in your memory with regard to the promotion of IHL in the U.S. or Canada?

 

The delegation benefited from lecturing to and training U.S. and Canadian professionals in IHL. For example, lawyers from the Justice ministries, policy staffers from Congress, the intelligence services and the Judge Advocate General's Corps.  

 

After 2 years with the ICRC, what do you take from this experience?

 

The ICRC fulfills a unique role as a neutral and independent actor in situations of armed conflict.Whether you agree or disagree with its methods, it has been truly eye-opening to see that those inside and outside of government who come into regular contact with the ICRC respect its mandate, enjoy the working relationship and truly appreciate the advice and expertise the institution provides.  

 

The Strengthening Legal Protection for Victims of Armed Conflict

 

With the nature, causes, and consequences of armed conflict evolving over the years, the victims of today's situations of violence experience different protection needs than those fifty years ago. Consequently, the ICRC undertook a two-year study on strengthening legal protection for victims of armed conflict. More than thirty issues of concern were analyzed. In each case, the ICRC first assessed the actual humanitarian needs, drawing on its own experience and that of other organizations. Then it evaluated the responses provided by humanitarian law to these issues, with a view to identifying gaps or weaknesses in the law.

 In the words of ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger:

Dr. Jacob Kellenberger
"In a nutshell, the study concluded that international humanitarian law remains, on the whole, an appropriate framework for regulating the conduct of parties to armed conflicts - whether international or non-international. Therefore, what is required in most cases in order to improve the situation of persons affected by armed conflict is a greater compliance with the existing legal framework. However, the ICRC study also showed that ensuring better protection for these persons involves addressing normative weaknesses through a reinforcement of the law in four specific areas, namely: (a) the protection for persons deprived of liberty; (b) implementation of international humanitarian law and reparations for victims of violations; (c) the protection of the natural environment; (d) the protection of internally displaced persons."

 

The ICRC decided to engage in a dialogue with States from all over the world about these findings to discuss possible follow-up. A round of consultations recently ended and to present these results, President Kellenberger delivered a statement to the permanent missions in Geneva. He explained that:  

 

"States engaged in the consultation confirmed the ICRC's overall conclusion that international humanitarian law remains as relevant today as ever before to ensure protection to all victims of armed conflict. They agreed that in most cases greater compliance with the existing legal framework is the best way to address the needs of these victims. This reaffirmation of the adequacy of existing rules of international humanitarian law is an appeal to States and parties to armed conflicts to renew efforts to respect and ensure respect for humanitarian law. It is also a source of great encouragement for the ICRC to uphold its activities for the promotion of this legal framework."

"States also shared our assessment of the humanitarian problems in contemporary armed conflicts as described in the study. Views regarding how to address these concerns in legal terms varied, however, and therefore remain open for discussion. In particular, some States expressed reservations to the idea that new treaty rules should be developed in each of these areas. Consequently, the ICRC considers that all options must be carefully studied, including the elaboration of soft law instruments, the identification of best practices and the facilitation of expert processes aimed at clarifying existing rules. These are indeed different ways of strengthening international law. In addition, States participating in the consultation made clear that it would not be realistic to work on these four areas simultaneously."

 

This consultative process has led to the ICRC deciding to concentrate on detention and implementation of IHL:  

"The protection of persons deprived of liberty was clearly identified by most States as an area where further work is urgently needed. In particular, they recognized the necessity to ensure better legal protection for persons detained for security reasons during non-international armed conflicts. Clear legal guidance is needed to prevent arbitrary detention.

A significant number of States also indicated that they consider better implementation of international humanitarian law a priority [and] they concurred that discussions on improving compliance with international humanitarian law is a priority in order to give further credibility to this legal framework."

 

The ICRC will report on the entire study and seek a resolution to be adopted by the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, held in Geneva in November. 

 
ICRC Policy on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment Inflicted on Persons Deprived of their Liberty

 

What does the law say about torture? 

To mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the ICRC is reaffirming its strong commitment to the fight against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. To this end, it is unveiling a new operational policy on this all too widespread practice. Below, please find a summary of this policy

 


Action against torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is a key focus in the ICRC's work on behalf of persons deprived of their liberty.

On the basis of its profound conviction that such practices are absolutely unacceptable, the ICRC implements a global response the primary objective of which is to ensure protection and assistance for victims and contribute to their rehabilitation, and help to establish and/or strengthen a normative, institutional and ethical environment conducive to the prevention of this phenomenon.

Accordingly, the ICRC relies on its own experience, on its in-depth knowledge of this practice, on its privileged access to victims and on its confidential bilateral dialogue with the authorities and other actors. It also knows that it can rely on the normative, institutional and ethical developments that have taken place in recent years with regard to these issues.

Aware of the immense challenge that action against torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment represents and of its importance for present and future victims and for their families, communities and societies, the ICRC seeks to reaffirm clearly and publicly the scope and depth of its commitment to its work in this sphere.


To read the full text of the ICRC policy on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment inflicted on persons deprived of their liberty, please click here.

 

Please click here for an interview with Edouard Delaplace, an advisor on detained persons at ICRC headquarters in Geneva and a main author of the policy. Mr. Delepace explains what the institution approach aims to achieve. 

 

For a closer look at the ICRC's work relating to detention persons, we also encourage you to have a look at the short film "In Detention - The Humane Way:"

 

In Detention - The Humane Way
In Detention - The Humane Way
Photo Gallery - 2011 Humanitarian Law Moot Court Competition in China
  

Just as we do here in North America, our colleagues in Beijing work with Chinese academic institutions to promote IHL. We share a few photos from the 2011 Humanitarian Law Court Competition, held in Hong Kong in March 2011. This event was co-hosted by the Hong Kong Red Cross, the ICRC, and the faculties of law of the University of Hong Kong, City University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The competition brought together nearly 60 students from Australia, BangladeshCambodia, ChinaSingapore and Sri Lanka.   

 

Student arguing in front of the court.

In this photo, Law student Luo Min from China University of Political Science and Law argues her case before the judges.

 

At the award ceremony, Geoffrey Ma, Honourable Chief Justice of Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal, said: "The event highlights justice and what a fair trial entails. However serious the charge, however atrocious the activity, a fair trial is an absolute necessity for those who are accused."

 

To see the complete photo gallery of the 2011 Humanitarian Law Moot Court Competition, please click here.