BUJUMBURA May 10th (ABP) – According to Professor and Lawyer at the Bar of Bujumbura, Jacques Bitababaje who quotes P Verry, International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is the set of standards of law of conventional or customary origin, specifically to address issues that arise in times of international armed conflict (IAC) or non-international armed conflict.
These standards limit, among other things, the choice of parties to the conflict as to the methods, means and objectives of fight in a given operational situation. Those provisions apply in particular to hostilities, the conduct of fighting by the armed forces, the behavior of fighters and the protection of persons affected by the conflict (civilians, medical and religious personnel, civil protection personnel, journalists, and so on).
According to Mr. Bitababaje, IHL can also be defined as a branch of international law that limits the use of violence in armed conflict to save those who do not participate or more directly in hostilities, limit violence to the level required to achieve the aim of the conflict which, independently of the causes on whose behalf one fights, can only aim at weakening the enemy’s military potential. ICRC considers IHL to be a set of international rules of conventional or customary origin, which are specifically designed to address humanitarian problems arising directly from international or non-international armed conflicts, and which restrict, for humanitarian reasons, the right of the parties to conflict to use means and methods of warfare of their choice or to protect people and their property affected or potentially affected by conflict.
This ICRC definition is the synthesis of the definitions proposed by many authors and has the merit of highlighting not only its purpose, but also its sources and its field of application, namely the protection of persons who do not participate in the fighting, as well as restrictions on the means of war, mainly weapons and methods of warfare.
Indeed, according to Professor Jacques Bitababaje, IHL prohibits, among other things, means and methods of warfare that do not distinguish between fighters and civilians, and so on. The main subjects of IHL are States, international organizations and individuals.
IHL must be respected by everyone, and above all by fighters, but also by the entire population. Non-compliance may, in some cases, incur the criminal responsibility of the individual, as it has been recognized by many national and international courts. Individuals are indeed subjects of IHL as a State body. However, according to Bitababaje, IHL binding States, obviously links the State bodies, including the individuals that make up those bodies.
IHL can also bind individuals as a private person. As IHL is an evolving subject, other international legal tools have emerged, but the most important basis remains the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the two additional Protocols of 1977.
Comparing IHL and human rights law, Professor Bitababaje indicates that the two are complementary.
Indeed, he explains, both aim to protect the life, health and dignity of the human person, but from a different angle. IHL applies in situations of armed conflict, while human rights, at least some of them, protect the human person at all times, whether there is war or peace.
However, according to Jacques Bitababaje, some human rights treaties give governments the possibility of derogating from certain rights in the event of an exceptional public emergency. No derogation is permitted under international humanitarian law because it was designed specifically for emergency situations, i.e., armed conflict. International humanitarian law aims to protect those who do not participate in hostilities.
Recall that the ICRC and the Burundi Red Cross (BRC) jointly organized on April 30 an exchange workshop with journalists on the activities of those organizations and on IHL.