Final report



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FINAL REPORT:

SPECIAL SESSION OF THE COMMITTEE ON JURIDICAL AND POLITICAL AFFAIRS
ON CURRENT ISSUES IN INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW

[AG/RES. 2226 (XXXVI-O/06)]


Washington, D.C.

Salon Libertador Simon Bolivar

February 1, 2007

[Document Prepared by the Office of International Law]

FINAL REPORT:

SPECIAL SESSION OF THE COMMITTEE ON JURIDICAL AND POLITICAL AFFAIRS
ON CURRENT ISSUES IN INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW

[AG/RES. 2226 (XXXVI-O/06)]

-- Table of Contents --


I. BACKGROUND 3

II. OPENING SESSION 3

III. IMPLEMENTATION OF RESOLUTIONS ON IHL 4

IV. CURRENT ISSUES IN INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW 7

A. Protection of Persons Deprived of their Liberty 8

B. Protection of Disappeared Persons 8

C. Protection of Displaced Persons 9

D. Grave Breaches of International Humanitarian Law 9

V. HUMANITARIAN CHALLENGES AND THE ACTIVITIES OF THE ICRC 10

VI. DIALOGUE WITH THE MEMBER STATES 10

VII. CLOSING SESSION 12

ANEXO I 14

ANEXO II 17

Philip Spoerri 18

John M. Wilson 21

Eugenia María Gutierrez Ruiz 24

Antón Camen 30

Elizabeth Anderson 35

Laura Olson 36

Eduardo Vega Luna 41

Ana María Arango 42

Dr. Oscar López Goldaracena 55

Philip Spoerri 73


FINAL REPORT:

SPECIAL SESSION OF THE COMMITTEE ON JURIDICAL AND POLITICAL AFFAIRS


ON CURRENT ISSUES IN INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW

[AG/RES. 2226 (XXXVI-O/06)]


February 1, 2007


I. BACKGROUND

The General Assembly of the Organization of American States, via resolution AG/RES. 2226 (XXXVI-O/06) on the Promotion and Respect for International Humanitarian Law, adopted on June 6, 2006, instructed the Permanent Council to organize, with support from the Office of International Law and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), a special meeting on topical issues in the area of international humanitarian law. This special session was held within the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the Permanent Council on February 1, 2007.



II. OPENING SESSION

The inaugural session provided senior OAS and ICRC officials the opportunity to make opening remarks and to describe the background to the special meeting on current issues in international humanitarian law (IHL).


During this opening session, the Chair of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs (CJPA), Ambassador Osmar Chohfi, welcomed all participants and thanked panelists, delegations and high-functionaries present from the member states, the ICRC, and the Office of International Law. Chairman Chohfi then gave an overview of IHL and the importance it plays in the Inter-American system as well as in the work of the Organization of American States.
Following his remarks, Ambassador Chohfi introduced Mr. Philip Spoerri, Director of International Law and Cooperation with the ICRC, to provide introductory words on behalf of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Mr. Spoerri thanked the Chair of the CJPA, and welcomed the Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives from the Member States. Mr. Spoerri then placed special emphasis on the important cooperation work between the ICRC and the OAS, not only in the organization of special sessions on IHL, but in other political, legal and educational areas as well. He reported that the most recent ratifications of the Geneva Conventions – a final group of states that complete formal ratification by all 194 nations in the World – highlight the importance that all countries place on respecting the international IHL framework of conventions, protocols and customary rules. He then explained the intricacies of IHL as the most effective framework for governing the conduct of any hostilities among nations and, in order to insure better compliance with these universal obligations, mentioned that states need to dedicate further efforts in the implementation of international rules in their local legislation. In this regard, he highlighted the work the ICRC does in assisting States to meet their obligations on this particular point. Mr. Spoerri also provided pointed remarks on the importance of penal sanctions against war crimes, highlighting the complementary role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in this process, and made a call to member states to reinvigorate their efforts to make international criminal law more effective. Mr. Spoerri concluded his remarks by reminding those present that there are a great many civilians and non-combatants that continue to suffer violations of their rights under IHL and made a call to all states to increase their efforts and reduce impunity. Finally, he mentioned that ICRC collaboration with other international organizations provides an important platform from which to advance this work, and thanked the members once again for their participation in the special session as a good example of the type of efforts needed.
To close the introductory session, Mr. John Wilson of the Office of International Law provided an overview of the background and history of the special sessions on IHL, as well as the specific conclusions of the special session held in January of last year and the objectives of the present special session. To this effect, Mr. Wilson provided an overview of the topics proposed for political discussion during the present session, as well as a summary of the topics eventually selected for this purpose by the member states. In addition, Mr. Wilson provided a detailed overview of the conclusions derived from the special session held in January 2006, as well as the actions taken by the OAS and its member states in direct response to that conclusion. In the first place, it was concluded that IHL is a topic that is of great concern and importance for all member states. To this effect, the Permanent Counsel, member states, the ICRC and the General Secretariat have increased their commitment and activities on IHL within the framework of the OAS. Second, it was concluded that it is of the utmost importance to continue and increase cooperation and collaboration between the OAS and the ICRC. To this effect, Mr. Wilson mentioned that the ICRC as well as the Office of International Law, the Office of the Secretary General and the Assistant Secretary General and other organs of the OAS have been collaborating with the ICRC and several fronts related to the respect and promotion of IHL in the Americas. Mr. Wilson also reported several measures that the ICRC had taken to increase cooperation with the OAS, chief among them the designation of a Principal Advisor of Inter-American Affairs in the Washington Delegation of the ICRC whose main functions are to act as liaison and coordinate between the ICRC and the OAS – an coordination action that should be followed by the OAS in order to create better efficiency in joint activities between the two organizations. Third, it was concluded that OAS Secretary General Insulza and ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger should meet to discuss increased cooperation between the organizations as well as pressing issues of IHL in the Americas. On this recommendation, Mr. Wilson mentioned that the two leaders met on October 13, 2006, to discuss IHL issues and situations in Haiti and Colombia, as well as the manners in which to increase cooperation between ICRC and OAS. It was further concluded in 2006 that the Office of International Law and the ICRC should design and present a course on IHL for the Permanent Missions of the Member States, the staff of the General Secretariat and the general public. Mr. Wilson mentioned that the course was held on January 31, 2007, covering the introductory aspects of IHL instruments and rules, and with an overwhelming participation from the member states and offices of the OAS. Mr. Wilson then mentioned the special session of 2006 recommended that member states continue their commitment to guarantee proper implementation of their obligations under International Humanitarian Law. In conclusion, and to close this inaugural session, Mr. Wilson mentioned the objectives of the special session, reminding participants to set goals that are clear in direction to the member states and to set measures that are transparent in gauging success in the implementation of these directives.

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