Gurgaon, 27 November: Civilians continue to be primary victims of violations during armed conflicts around the world, committed by both state and non-state actors. Protecting civilians in such situations is a critical challenge, mainly due to the fact that the distinction between civilians and combatants are often blurred.
School of Law, ITM University, Gurgaon organized a two-day ‘International Conference on Protection of Civilians during Armed Conflicts and other Violent Situations’ from 26–27 February 2015 to discuss an array of issues related to civilian rights that are rudimentary in the context of war and international humanitarian law. The inaugural session of the Conference was presided over by Hon’ble Justice K G Balakrishnan, Former Chief Justice of India and Chairman, National Human Rights Commission as the Chief Guest and Dr Can Akdogan, the Regional Delegate to Armed and Security forces, International Council of Red Cross (ICRC), Ms Shamila Batohi, Director of Prosecution, International Criminal Court, The Hague, Netherlands and Mr Manoj Sachdeva, Trial Lawyer, International Criminal Court, The Hague, Netherlands as the special guests.
In his opening address, Justice Balakrishnan said, “The protection of civilian rights is the cornerstone of humanitarian law. In a country where the life and dignity of women and children are affected even during peace time, the condition worsens during the times of war. Sometimes civilians are targeted for mere political reasons”. While deliberating on the significance of civilian rights in an era when wars have moved away from the clearly defined boundaries of battlefields, he said that by the time wars become extinct, human race would be wiped off the face of the Earth.
“There is a connection between peace, accountability and justice”, said Ms Batohi who spoke on behalf of the International Criminal Court. She said that due to its lack of universal jurisdiction, the International Criminal Court would only intervene if the country by itself does nothing about the atrocities. “It’s high time that courts realize that crimes like rape are not consequences of war but are tools of war. It is extremely important that countries take up the responsibility to stop such crimes”, she said.
Dr Can Akdogan noted that the streams of International Humanitarian Law and Law of Human Rights should be used concurrently in order to achieve peace. Today, the nature of war has changed. Cities have become the battlefield where majority of victims are the civilians. Essential and inalienable human rights should not be lost sight of, even in times of war. In such cases, the International Council for Red Cross stands as a neutral and impartial body. “We don’t take sides but we only render our support and assistance for the ultimate achievement of peace across national borders”, he said, speaking on behalf of the ICRC.
The conference was also graced by the presentation of research papers of various scholars from all over the country on this important topic. The conference witnessed technical sessions where experts, scholars, academicians and students deliberated on the theme of the conference in detail.