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Counter-Terrorism Law and Practice: An International Handbook

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International humanitarian law and the challenges of contemporary armed conflicts Document prepared by the International Committee of the Red Cross for the 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Geneva, Switzerland, 26–30 November 2007 I. Introduction This is the second report on ‘‘International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and the Challenges of Contemporary Armed Conflicts’’ that has been prepared by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for an International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. In the years that have elapsed since the first report was presented to the 28th International Conference in Geneva, in December 2003, the daily reality of armed conflict has, unsurprisingly, not changed. While a factual description of the various conflicts that are being waged around the world today is beyond the scope of this report, suffice it to say that war has continued, inexorably, to bring death, destruction, suffering and loss in their wake. Today, civilians still bear the brunt of armed conflicts. Civilians have remained the primary victims of violations of IHL committed by both State parties and non-State armed groups. Deliberate attacks against civilians, forced displacement of civilian populations, the destruction of infrastructure vital to the civilian population and of civilian property are just some examples of Volume 89 Number 867 September 2007 REPORTS AND DOCUMENTS 719
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prohibited acts that have been perpetrated on a regular basis. Individual civilians have also been the victims of violations of the law such as murder, forced disappearance, torture, cruel treatment and outrages upon personal dignity, and rape and other forms of sexual violence. They have been used as human shields. Persons detained in relation to armed conflicts have been deprived of their basic rights, including adequate conditions and treatment while in detention, procedural safeguards aimed at preventing arbitrary detention and the right to a fair trial. Medical personnel and humanitarian workers have also been the targets of IHL violations. In many instances, humanitarian organizations have been prevented from carrying out their activities or hampered in their efforts to do so effectively. This has further aggravated the plight of those whom they are meant to assist and protect. Attacks on journalists and other members of the media are a source of increasing concern as well. While the suffering inflicted in war has not changed, the past four years have been characterized by growing public awareness of IHL and its basic rules – and therefore of acts that constitute violations of those rules. IHL principles and standards have been the focus not only of the usual expert debates but also, increasingly, of intense and wide-ranging governmental, academic and media scrutiny. Heightened interest in and awareness of IHL must be welcomed and encouraged, bearing in mind the fact that knowledge of any body of rules is a prerequisite to better implementation. Moreover, the 1949 Geneva Conventions
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irrc-867-IHL-Challenges - Volume 89 Number 867 September...

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