International Community of Red Cross – custodian of international humanitarian law


Muratbek Makulbekov

International Community of Red Cross - custodian of international humanitarian lawIn 1859 the troops of France and the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia fought against the Austrian Empire. The largest battle of this war took place near the villages of Solferino, Lombardia, Italy.

The battle resulted in the victory of the allied French and Sardinian Armies. Over nine thousand wounded remained on the battlefield. That time Swiss businessmen and public figure Henri Dunant arrived on Solferino. Shocked, Dunant himself took the initiative to organize the civilian population to provide assistance to the injured and sick soldiers.

In 1863 Dunant proposed to convene a conference in Geneva. The proposal led to the establishment of the International Community of the Red Cross. In 1864 Geneva held the enlarged conference with participation of diplomats, which resulted in drafting and signing of the Geneva Convention.

The XX century became the time of bloody wars which killed millions of soldiers and civilians. In 1949, four years after the end of the World War II four Geneva Conventions were adopted: the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field; the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea; the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War; the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

Since then Additional Protocols to the Geneva Convention, regulating different issues, including those that regulate the activity of departments of the International Committee of the Red Cross in different conditions were adopted.

Kazakhstan ratified the Geneva Conventions of 1949 as early as during the first years of independence; two Additional Protocols to them were adopted by 1995 as well. Recently, in February this year the Kazakh Parliament ratified Additional Protocol, concerning the adoption of the additional distinctive emblem – Red Cristal.

At the press conference, devoted to the 60 anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, held in Astana this week, Head of the department of preventive and information programs of the IFRC in Central Asia Raul Forster told about the work of the Organization in modern conditions.

R.Foster, who worked in many hot spots of the world, including Chechnya during the anti-terroristic operations, noted that one of the main problems faced by the IFRC is antagonism of the activity of the Organization by some of countervailing groups. Attacks against the members of the Red Cross, terroristic acts in their working areas challenge the work of the Mission.    

The International Community of the Red Cross works not only in the conflict areas where the victims need assistance. Those countries which ratified the Geneva agreements (their number is 194 today) entrusted the ICRC to monitor observance of international humanitarian law. Being the custodian of this right, the ICRC stands for respect for international humanitarian law, development of its norms, dissemination of knowledge and information about it and clarification of the provisions of this law.

The main peculiarity of the International Community of the Red Cross is its membership in the Movement founded by it. National communities of the Read Cross and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies joined  this movement.

Over the last years the ICRC has done huge work on implementation of the rules of the Geneva Conventions to the national legislation of the Central Asian countries. Besides, the organization’s activity is directed to implementation of the norms of international humanitarian law to the curriculums of the secondary schools, vocational schools and colleges including military educational institutions.

Regional representation of the ICRC is located in Tashkent. In Kazakhstan this organization is represented by an office in the city of Almaty.  At present the issue on awarding diplomatic status to the ICRC affiliate in Kazakhstan is being negotiated.

As R. Forster explained, gaining this status will allow the affiliate enjoying all benefits provided to the diplomatic representations including in taxation sphere and customs payments which will significantly simplify the representation’s work.

The ICRC affiliate in Kazakhstan holds consultations for state bodies on the issues regarding legislation and regulatory acts, conducts work in places of detention; as well as implements judicial and educational programs. The affiliate also established close cooperation with the Eurasian National Gumilyov University and Kazakh State University of Law.