Protecting civilians in armed conflict
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“Armed conflicts have rules too”: press conference in Kiev

14th January 2019 |

Geneva Call organized a press conference in Ukraine on December 13, 2018 to launch its first ever programme in Ukraine. The main speaker, Marie Lequin, Head of the Eurasia region at Geneva Call, focused on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts. Lequin emphasized that it is precisely in those countries enduring armed conflict that the rights of the civilian population and of those no longer participating in hostilities, are blatantly breached. She stressed that, while acknowledging violations and assisting victims is a step in the right direction, it is not enough. To remedy human suffering in times of war it is necessary to prevent harmful behaviour from happening in the first place.

She recalled article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as one of utmost importance for humanity: “Everyone has the right to life, freedom and security”. But very often these rights are not respected during war. That is why Geneva Call engages armed actors, even non-States ones, on humanitarian norms, endeavouring to convince them of the importance of abiding by International Humanitarian Law. “Compliance with the law of armed conflict is a matter of honour, pride and professionalism. It does not render an entity weaker or lead to them losing a battle” — Lequin stressed.

Geneva Call engages in a humanitarian dialogue with commanders and combatants to understand their motives and pin down the challenges they encounter in obeying the law. Military practices, a lack of clarity in the applicable law and insufficient capacity are amongst some of the obstacles faced by armed actors.

To convince armed actors to comply with humanitarian norms, Geneva Call has adopted an innovative and unique approach: It works with them to ensure they design their own rules, enforcement plans and accountability mechanisms, taking into consideration local realities and in compliance with humanitarian standards. Lequin mentioned that, for this purpose, legal consultations, technical counselling sessions, training courses, and awareness-raising campaigns are provided to commanders so that they can, in turn, disseminate the information, through their own internal rules and sanctions.

Geneva Call is convinced that such work can be carried out and is needed in Ukraine, where civilians continue to suffer. For example, Ukraine ranks in third place globally when it comes to the number of registered victims of landmines and explosive devices in 2017. About 2 million civilians, including 220,000 children, live in close proximity to land contaminated with unexploded ordnance and anti-personal mines;[1] 131 health facilities were attacked in 2017[2] and more than 700 schools were damaged as a result of hostilities, affecting 600,000 pupils and teachers.[3]

Geneva Call emphasized the important mission of protecting the civilian population in the ongoing armed conflict, and is ready to work with all armed actors involved in the conflict.

About the organization:

Geneva Call is a neutral and impartial non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting respect by armed actors for international humanitarian norms in armed conflict and other situations of violence, in particular those related to the protection of civilians.

The organization has representation in Ukraine since 2018.

Contact information:

Tel: 38097 41 41 785

Mail: office-ukraine@genevacall.org

Facebook: genevacallua

Twitter: genevacallua

[1] Elena Ostanina, ‘Landmines in the Donbass conflict zone: threats for the population and the necessity of mine clearance’ Heinrich Böll Stiftung Foundation (17 July 2018) <https://www.boell.de/en/2018/07/17/landmines-donbass-conflict-zone-threats-population-and-necessity-mine-clearance> accessed 25 November 2018.

[2] ‘Violence on the Front line: Attacks on health care in 2017’ (Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition 2018) 8.

[3] ‘Education Cluster Incident Report’ (UNICEF, 18 May 2018)