by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) Dec 10, 2015
More than 100 nations attending a global meeting of the Red Cross in Geneva on Thursday failed to approve a new system for monitoring compliance with the rules of war.
The measure had been sought by the government of Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) but it fell in the face of stiff resistance, a statement said.
"It is disappointing that states could not agree on the original proposal," ICRC president Peter Maurer said.
Though not legally binding, resolutions adopted at the Red Cross's quadrennial meet can have significant impact, given the ICRC's status as the protector of the Geneva Conventions, which form the backbone of international humanitarian law.
The Swiss-ICRC plan called for annual meetings among countries to review both successes and failures in adhering to the rules of war, as laid out in the Geneva Conventions.
There was fierce resistance from a faction of states led by Russia who were concerned that this annual review would be similar to those conducted by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Some countries say the UN council has become excessively politicised and some governments have voiced resentment over the public reviews of their rights records.
Despite these concerns, ICRC sources told AFP their proposed review would not have functioned like another rights council and was not intended to publish details of country-specific transgressions.
"By failing to support this initiative, states missed an opportunity to help to protect millions of people," Maurer said in the statement.
But states did agree on a resolution to find ways to better protect those detained in non-international armed conflicts.
The rights of such detainees have grown increasingly prominent in recent years, including through arrests related to extremist Islamist violence.
The Red Cross resolution on detainees could theoretically have implications for those detained during the current state of emergency in France, for instance.
It would certainly have consequences for the hundreds of alleged Boko Haram suspects detained by Nigeria's military in the country's northeast, who have been held for protracted periods, outside the criminal justice system.
The ICRC said it was striving to "ensure that all people detained in relation to conflicts have equal status, closing a legal loophole."
The Geneva Conventions, ratified by 196 states, have been repeatedly updated by additional protocols since they were comprehensively revised in 1949 in the aftermath of World War II.
The Conventions are meant to protect civilians, combatants and ensure humane behaviour in conflicts, including in the treatment of prisoners.
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