Only one more day until the Irish Red Cross IHL Conference ‘Reporters Lives on the Line’ …time to address the all important question… Who exactly is protected by IHL?
People who are protected by IHL include wounded and sick combatants who have essentially been removed from the fight, Prisoners of War, and civilians. As already mentioned civilians are protected from being the target of attack. They are also protected from forced displacement however an important caveat here is that civilians may be forced to move if they are in danger OR it is militarily imperative. Therefore it is likely that even if an armed group is respecting IHL, they could lawfully displace a population on the basis that it was either for their own safety or essential for military reasons. The length of this displacement should be kept as short as possible and the return of people displaced in such a manner should be facilitated under IHL. As we all know, population displacement is a major problem around the world and even if an armed group doesn’t force people from a village, the people may feel they have no choice but to flee if they know that opposing armed groups are fighting close by.
The torture or inhumane treatment of civilians and combatants alike is prohibited under IHL. Civilians are also protected from discrimination, coercion, collective punishment or reprisals. In occupied territory, civilians are protected from being conscripted into the armed forces of the occupying power.
Detention is however not prohibited in certain circumstances. For example during occupation, criminal detention may continue so long as judicial procedures are fair and obviously prisons must reach certain minimum levels. In the case of internment for military reasons, there are various rules which govern how internees must be treated.
Aside from the general protection as civilians a number of provisions are specifically applicable to female civilians and children. Hospitals, medical transports, humanitarian relief and personnel and journalists are all also mentioned specifically as having protection.
If you are interested in finding our more about IHL why not join our IHL mailing list or come along to our conference Reporters Lives on the Line taking place in Dublin next week.
Follow the Irish Red Cross IHL Conference ‘Reporters Lives on the Line live on Twitter ‘#IHL2012‘ – Thursday Octiber 25th from 10am
By Louise Sarsfield Collins, International Humanitarian Law Dissemination Officer with the Irish Red Cross.
Tweet Louise @Louise_Scollins
Read more about International Humanitarian Law on the Irish Red Cross Blog