Laws of War: Conference to address humanitarian protection

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The conference will be attended by personnel and organisations directly or indirectly engaged in the provision of humanitarian assistance in situations of armed conflict.

Speakers will present observations and challenges on existing legal provisions, and the respect for such provisions, and will include Len Blazeby, Legal Adviser of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Dr. Ray Murphy of the Irish Centre of Human Rights, NUI Galway, Lt. Colonel Jerry Lane of the Irish Defence Forces, and award-winning journalist Sam Kiley, recently returned from Libya.

International Humanitarian Law, often referred to as the ‘laws of war’ are a set of rules which strive, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict and to protect civilians or those no longer taking part in conflict as well as, medical personnel, civil defence staff and humanitarian workers.

Colm Byrne, Head of the International Department of Irish Red Cross (IRC) said “Deliberate attacks on humanitarian personnel and aid supplies violate international law. The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols set out the right of the wounded and the sick, whether they are civilians or fighters, to receive assistance during times of armed conflict and it is essential that the staff and facilities of aid agencies, and those they seek to assist are protected accordingly.”

In recent weeks air strikes in Somalia prevented vital food supplies being distributed to over 6,000 displaced people; in September a Syrian Red Crescent volunteer was killed whilst evacuating an injured person to hospital. These are just two of many examples of the difficulties faced by humanitarian personnel working in countries affected by armed conflict.

The legal provisions against such attacks under international law protecting humanitarian agencies in providing essential relief in situations of armed conflict will be the focus of the conference.   The IRC works in Ireland and overseas providing humanitarian assistance in disaster and conflict situations and is committed to increasing awareness and understanding of International Humanitarian Law.