Dieter Pfaff: ICC and human rights law will further limit culture of impunity for perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide
Syria-Regional, Politics, 12/11/2003
A major activity of the ICRC in Syria is the promotion and dissemination of The International Humanitarian Law ( IHL), which protects people in times of conflict and internal violence, and those who are not or no longer active part in hostilities ( the civilian population, the wounded, sick, shipwrecked, and captured combatants), and which limits as well the means by which warfare is conducted and by which combatants behave.
"Based on the value of humanity, the finality of IHL is to protect human dignity, and to prevent and alleviate human suffering in armed conflicts," said the International Commitee of the Red Cross, ICRC, chief of delegation, Dieter Pfaff in a statement to Arabicnews.Com (Arabic News).
He added that to materialize this noble objective, a symposium entitled "the ICC and enlarging the scope of IHL" will take place on 13 and 14 December in the Damascus University, under the patronage of the Minister of Higher Education. He said that the event is organized by the ICRC in cooperation with Professor Aziz Shukri, and sponsored by the embassies of Canada, France, Netherlands and Switzerland in Damascus.
Pfaff outlined that the symposium will bring together Syrian and international experts, university teachers specialized in IHL, judges of the International Criminal Court, ICC and of the international criminal courts of Rwanda and Yugoslavia, and officials of the Ministries concerned by questions related to IHL in Syria.
Focus is on the ICC, who came into being in 2002 based on the Rome Statute of July 1998, and that can be considered as a mile stone in the development of IHL.
He added that as an institution, ICC represents a permanent implementing tool of jurisdiction, an instrument to sanction war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. In other words, it will further limit what has been called the "culture of impunity" for perpetrators of such crimes.
Highlighting the importance of the upcoming ICC Damascus symposium, Pfaff said "We are honored that the President of the ICC, Judge Philip Kirsch, will attend the symposium and deliver the key note." During the two-day five sessions workshops, presentations under the following themes will be read "Distinction between combatants and Non- Combatants," by Bashar al-Jaafari, head of international organizations department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;" International Armed Conflict and Non- International armed conflict," by Said al-Bunni, head of the delegation to the preparatory meeting of the Rome Statute; " Responsibility of states and individuals " by Munib al-Rifai, Counselors committee, ministry of foreign affairs; " Genocide and crimes against Humanity" by Sam Dilleh, dean, faculty of law, Aleppo University; and " National implementation of the Rome Statute by Muhammad Aziz Shukri, Dean of the International Relations Faculty, Kalamoun university.
Then a roundtable discussion will be followed under the theme "What can be expected of the International Criminal Court "Reality and ambitions." He outlined that the present symposium is the fourth in a series the ICRC has been organizing in Syria since 2000, to raise awareness of IHL in Syria. As for activities conducted by the ICRC in Syria, Pfaff said that the ICRC has been present in Syria since 1967, following the occupation of part of the Golan.
He explained that ICRC acts as a neutral intermediary in humanitarian matters for the 19,000 Syrian inhabitants of the part of the Golan occupied by Israel, who are protected by the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. In particular, it facilitates the passage of Syrian nationals, mainly students and pilgrims, who complete their studies in Syrian Universities, or perform their religious obligations in holy places in Syria proper.
He said that in 2003, 384 Syrian students from the occupied Golan came to study in Syrian universities or went back to the occupied Golan after completing their studies. The first students crossing was in 1978. As for weddings, he said that 9 women got married to men from the occupied Golan and went with their husbands to the occupied Golan (families from both sides of the separation line meet shortly in the separation zone).
He mentioned another activity to that in the first months of 2003, against the background of the Iraq crisis the ICRC, they established a presence near the 4 border crossing points of Syria and Iraq, and allowed those who had taken refuge in Syria to communicate with their families abroad by satellite phones and by Red Cross family messages for the sake of reestablishing family contacts. By the end of May 2003, most families had returned to Iraq or found resettlement in third countries.
Pfaff also said that refugees living in Syria, who have been accepted in third countries, are issued with ICRC travel documents so that they can immigrate to the respective countries which has accepted them for resettlement. In 2003, a 762 refugees left Syria with ICRC IDs.
ICRC contributes to the promotion of the rules of IHL, with the intention to make them better known to the society, and selected audience concerned with implementation of provisions of IHL treaties in national legislation.
To this end ICRC is in contact with the following sides:the law faculties of Damascus and Aleppo University which equips their libraries with publications, hand eld so far 3 symposia to shed light on particular aspects of IHL, and sends IHL lecturers to international courses abroad, such as to Cairo, Tunis, Strasbourg. They are also working on a project to include a program of Exploring Humanitarian Law into primary and secondary education. The ministry is presently examining the incorporation of IHL training into the secondary school curriculum.
He went on saying that the ICRC is also in contact with the competent ministries of Syria with regard to the question of implementation of the provisions of IHL into national legislation. He also indicated educational campaigns, for the public at large, that will be active in the children in war campaign (2004), to underline the plight of children and their specific needs in situations of war and to raise awareness of the instruments of IHL which protect them. A similar campaign was launched in 2001 to raise awareness for the plight of women during times of war. By doing so, it complements the ongoing efforts of the Syrian authorities to disseminate the rules of IHL, to make them known and to ensure respect for these rules.
On the other hand the ICRC contributes to the development of IHL and is active in the dissemination of knowledge of humanitarian law as a preventive measure which is primarily the responsibility of the signatory states.
Citing examples on that Pfaff said that this role was assigned to the ICRC by States through the various instruments.
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