office of the Summit Follow-up - OAS




The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) thanks the Organization of American States for having taken the initiative to invitenon-governmental organizations to take part in this debate on Democracy and Human Rights.

The ICRC does not define itself as a "human rights" organization.The ICRC's actions are based on International Humanitarian Law (IHL), and it operates in conflict situations. Nevertheless, IHL and Human Rights are closely linked by core values relating to to the dignity of man and the right to life.

For several decades, the ICRC has been active in Latin America where it currently maintains six operational and regional Delegations. In collaboration with National Societies of the Red Cross, representatives of civil society, and the authorities, it has been able to carry out its activities in favor of victims of conflict and to promote the knowledge of International Humanitarian Law.

Such activities include :

Dissemination of IHL at every level of society;

Promotion of IHL during training sessions for the Armed Forces and related bodies;

Advisory assistance to governments for the creation of national commissions to implement international humanitarian law, and to adapt their existing legislation to the requirements of IHL;

Providing assistance and protection for populations and individuals affected by armed conflict situations. Particularly in Colombia, ICRC assists IDP's, provides protection and assistance to detained persons, and disseminate IHL at all levels.

The ICRC is not only active in Latin America, it operates also in many countries engulfed in conflicts in Africa, in Europe and the Caucasus, and in Asia.

In the light of recent tragedies which led to many violations of IHL and Human Rights, the question is asked whether existing IHL is still adequate to deal with these situations.

Expanding the existing codification of IHL is not the best way to respond to this question since the basic problem is not the law itself but its non-application. The difficulties encountered arise chiefly from the fact that the will to implement these instrument is lacking. The problem is therefore more political than legal, and it is pointless to seek the wrong remedies for real ills.

Imposing respect for IHL calls for action by political and humanitarian players in three priority directions :

1) developing and implementing a preventive strategy via education (IHL being too little known);

2) enhancing the protection of victims during the active phase of conflict, that is to better define interaction between political and humanitarian players;

3) establishing accountability mechanisms to end impunity for those responsible for grave violations of humanitarian and human rights law. The ICRC follows with interest the discussion on ICC, and has taken note of the large support this has received from the coutries of the OAS.

The ICRC highly appreciates today's debate on Democracy and Human rights, and the commitment of OAS countries to consolidate this democratic processes and to further promote respect of IHL and Human Rights.

We are grateful to be associated to this meeting and thank all countries of the OAS for their interest in such important matters.


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