Dhaka, June 20 (UNB) - Academicians, journalists and humanitarian professionals on Thursday discussed the challenges and relevance of international humanitarian law (IHL) and customary law amid increasing humanitarian crises around the world, including the Rakhine one.
A daylong seminar held in the city helped shape the debate and discussions around the Geneva Conventions which celebrate their 70th anniversary on August 12 next.
The event was jointly organised by the Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) and the ICRC in Dhaka.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen attended the seminar titled "70th Anniversary of Geneva Conventions” as the chief guest.
"On this day, may I remind all of you the lofty ideas and values that Chandi Das in 1408 and many of the saints from the soil of Bangladesh, including our National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, said - humanity is above all be the guiding light for a better world for all," Dr Momen mentioned.
The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are international treaties that contain the most important rules limiting the barbarity of war.
They protect people who do not take part in the fighting (civilians, medics, aid workers) and those who can no longer fight (wounded, sick and shipwrecked troops, prisoners of war).
Questions and comments from the audience, including students from law and international relations faculties and representatives of national and international humanitarian organisations, enriched the debate.
Today, the four Geneva Conventions are among the very few international treaties that have been universally ratified, not least because they reflect more than just law - universal values of ethical behavior and have existed to protect people for seven decades.
However, contemporary challenges to the Geneva Conventions respect and implementation are at the core of the ICRC’s preoccupations as the guardian of IHL, and other stakeholders worldwide, including DCAB, as illustrated by the discussions.
Ikhtiyar Aslanov, head of the ICRC delegation in Bangladesh, said: “For me, it is not about anniversaries or debates on legal phrasing; it is about protecting people from the worst of the wars which rage today."
He said it is about the laws that assert that as long as conflict remains a reality, there also must be a limit to suffering. "And this is the message the ICRC has been carrying forward, including in Bangladesh since 1971.”
"The relationship between journalists and humanitarian agencies is important to jointly help promote the voice of the voiceless. Such collaborative efforts and deliberations, especially on IHL and its relevance, certainly can lead to a better understanding of humanitarian emergencies and crises to help ensure greater respect of IHL within the changing dynamics of conflict," said Raheed Ejaz, president of DCAB.
Speakers at the seminar have agreed upon the unremitting questions on the relevance of IHL in today’s world, with civilians bearing the brunt of many protracted conflicts.
But, the rules of IHL remain as relevant as ever as their effect can be seen every day: when a wounded person is allowed through a checkpoint, when a child receives food and other humanitarian aid, when the living conditions of detainees are improved or when they can have contact with their families.
When IHL is respected, harm to civilians is drastically reduced.