by Jessica Poarch
The following excerpt/quote is from an article that appeared in the TheGuardian.com on July 15, 2012 titled: Bashar al-Assad cold face prosecution as Red Cross rules Syria is in civil war – Declaration signals that Geneva-based organisation regards all civilians and detainees as protected under international law
“The ICRC ruling marks a significant moment in the Syrian uprising, which during the past year has changed from a series of anti-regime protests into a full-blown insurrection. It had previously said that localised states of civil war existed in Homs, Hama and Idlib. The ICRC is considered to be a guardian of the Geneva convention, which prescribes the rules of warfare. The declaration signals that the Geneva-based organisation regards all civilians and detainees as protected under international law.
Alexis Heeb, an ICRC spokesman in Geneva, said: “Now there are many places in Syria that fulfil requirements to be a called a non-international armed conflict, and the situation is fluid and constantly evolving.
‘What matters is that humanitarian law applies across the country, and that means civilians and those no longer taking part in the conflict are protected.’
Read the full story HERE [http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/15/syria-civil-war-red-cross?cid=nlc-dailybrief-daily_news_brief-link4-20120716]
The ICRC’s statement (seen above) about the type of conflict that is occurring in Syria brings to the surface two major consequences arising out of the conflict: one of protection, the other punishment. Civil war or non-international armed conflicts are governed by the Law of War through Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions. Although initially non-international armed conflicts were only brought under the LOAC through the limited scope of Additional Protocol II, “today the distinction is forgotten and common Article 3, rather than Additional Protocol II, has become the protection invoked in non-international armed conflicts of every variety.”*As the article quoted above states, this means that broad protections apply to anyone not involved in the conflict; also that the tenant principle of the LOAC – distinction, necessity and proportionality – apply. In addition to the common Article 3 protections, Additional Protocol II also adds protection for “objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population” as well as provisions requiring the the care and education of children.* The LOAC is a shield, protecting civilian and people who are out of the fight but it can also be a sword, punishing those who break the rules. Although a few scholars disagree, it is widely accepted that prosecution for war crimes can arise out of both international and non-international armed conflict.* This means that labeling the ongoing conflict in Syria a civil war – as opposed to armed terrorist attacking the government – opens the door to the possibility of war crimes trials for those who refuse to abide by the LOAC.
*Information taken from: Gary D. Solis, The Law of Armed Conflict: International Humanitarian Law in War, Cambridge University Press, 2010, pp. 99, 130-31.