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International Humanitarian Law: A global responsibility, a moral duty

By Jason B. Neola

Even in war, there are some basic principles of humanity that must be respected.

That is the message that the Philippine Red Cross in Camarines Sur wishes to communicate to the public, especially to the warring groups, as it celebrated on Saturday, August 12, this year, the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

According to the local chapter here of the non-government organization that provides humanitarian services, killing or wounding an enemy who has surrendered or has no means of defense is a war crime, a serious violation and a prosecutable offense under the IHL.

The celebration was conducted at the activity center of the SM City Naga and participated in by PNP and BFP personnel, along with scores of criminology students from the Naga College Foundation. The International Committee of the Red Cross, known as the guardian of the IHL, wishes to inculcate to the future law enforcers the advocacy.

THE young blood at the PRC Camarines Sur chapter who are entrusted to conduct volunteer works along with PRC personnel. Photo also shows Dir. Ana-Liza Macatangay (second line, 8th from left) board secretary, and Dir. Mely De Guzman (secondline, rightmost). Photo courtesy of LSM

A participant in poster-making contest draws her piece during the conduct of the celebration of the International Humanitarian Law. Photo courtesy of LSM

San Fernando Mayor Fermin Mabulo who is also the chairman of the board of directors of PRC Camarines Sur chapter said that the IHL helps to maintain some humanity or compassion in armed conflicts.

“When the situation is chaotic, it is not unusual that the rule of law will break down, which should not be the case or must not happen, especially in armed conflicts, where everyone must be treated humanely,” he said.

One of the basic principles of the IHL is humanity. The principle of humanity requires that human suffering must be minimized as much as possible during armed conflict.

Romulo Cordez, Safety Department head of the Philippine Red Cross in Camarines Sur, said that shooting or killing a combatant who is not capable to fight or defend himself is a violation of the Law.

“Such a combatant is considered to be hors de combat, meaning out of combat, and must not be attacked. That includes combatants who are wounded, sick, captured, or surrendering,” he said.

Hors de combat troopers must be treated humanely and protected from violence, torture, or reprisals. It is a war crime under the international law to shoot or kill them, he said.

Other basic principles of IHL are:

The principle of distinction which requires those who wage war to distinguish between people who take part in the hostilities and those who do not or no longer take part in them.

The principle of prohibition of attacks against those hors de combat which forbids attacks against those who are wounded, sick, captured, or surrendering.

The principle of prohibition on the infliction of unnecessary suffering which prohibits the use of weapons or methods of warfare that cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering to combatants.

The principle of proportionality which requires that the expected harm to civilians and civilian objects must not be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage from an attack, and the principle of necessity that limits the use of force to what is necessary to achieve a legitimate military objective.


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