Geneva Conventions are obscure or ineffective-poll

Source: Reuters

By Olesya Dmitracova LONDON, Aug 6 (Reuters) – Sixty years after the Geneva Conventions laid down laws to protect civilians during war, most people in violent countries either do not know they exist or say they do not work. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) published its poll on Thursday ahead of next week’s 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions which bind 194 countries to basic humanitarian principles during armed conflict. The four conventions deal with the treatment of wounded members of armed forces in the field and at sea, the treatment of prisoners of war and the protection of civilians. “People in war-affected countries want to see better respect for and implementation of the law,” the ICRC’s director for international law, Philip Spoerri, said in a statement. Less than half of 4,000 respondents — in Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia, Haiti, Lebanon, Liberia and the Philippines — knew such rules existed. Half of those people who had heard of the Geneva Conventions believed they did limit civilian suffering in war. Jakob Kellenberger, President of the Geneva-based ICRC, said earlier the conventions remain relevant, preventing humanitarian disasters from Darfur to Sri Lanka from turning out even worse, but they need to be updated to reflect the fact that most conflicts now take place inside states rather than between them. [ID:nL5558524] Around 75 percent of the respondents said there should be limits to what combatants are allowed to do, with 10 percent saying there should be no such limits and the rest undecided. The vast majority disapproved of attacks on enemy fighters in densely populated villages or towns where many civilians would likely be killed, and as many said attacks on health workers and ambulances are never acceptable. Virtually everyone agreed that all wounded or sick should have the right to health care during an armed conflict. (For more news on humanitarian issues please visit http://www.alertnet.org; email Alertnetnewsdesk@reuters.com)

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