Seychelles, other Indian Ocean countries discuss implementation of international humanitarian law
The two-day meeting taking place in the capital, Victoria, is being facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and includes representatives from Mauritius, Madagascar and the Comoros. (Joena Bonnelame, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - There are no military conflicts in the region, but Seychelles and three other Indian Ocean island nations are still working to advance the use of international humanitarian law.
The two-day meeting taking place in the capital, Victoria, is being facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and includes representatives from Mauritius, Madagascar and the Comoros.
Ralph Agrippine, Director General of Protocol, Treaties and Consular Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said although there is no armed conflict in Seychelles and the Indian Ocean region, the island nations form part of international mechanisms, such as standby force, sometimes deployed during conflicts on peacekeeping missions.
Agrippine said it is therefore important that everybody knows the different laws that protect civilians and properties.
For the Indian Ocean countries, the meeting on international humanitarian law, or IHL, will pave the way for the establishment of a platform that will discuss issues of mutual interests.
“There are a number of issues that we can discuss and agree on as a sub-region so that we can have a common position when we attend the Universal Conferences of IHL committees, one of which is scheduled for the end of November,” said Agrippine.
International humanitarian law, also known as the law of war or law of armed conflict, is a set of rules which seek for humanitarian reasons,to limit the effects of armed conflict. It protects persons who are not or are no longer participating in the hostilities and restricts the means and methods of warfare.
Agrippine said Seychelles would like to push the IHL agenda to include other issues which are important for the island nation and its neighbours in the region like redefining the protection of cultural property so that it can include natural sites instead of buildings only.
“We also want to relook at the definition of conflict, which is now described as between states, to bring the maritime security dimension into it as well since the region was plagued by piracy in recent years,” said Agrippine.
The meeting is being facilitated by Charles Sabga, the Legal Advisor of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland.
Sagba said during the two days representatives will also discuss the relevance of the Arms Trades Treaty to the region, ways to further promote the IHL in the Indian Ocean and follow up on resolutions made at the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent last December.
“Essentially these resolutions all call on states to respect and ensure respect for IHL and so this meeting will serve as a general platform for government representatives to share opportunities, challenges and best practices in promoting IHL at the national level,” said Sabga.
He added that one issue which is of particular interest to the region is the regulation of small conventional weapons and the Arms Trades Treaty, and he invited participants to share their experiences in the ratification and the implementation of this instrument.
Sagba said although the countries participating do not experience armed conflict, they are “important global players, and enjoy the same legal personality as perhaps bigger states.”
“The commitment that states have taken by the ratification or accession to the Geneva Convention and principles of the humanitarian law instruments still oblige parties to fulfil their commitment to respect and ensure respect for IHL,” Sagba added.