Practice Relating to Rule 31. Humanitarian Relief Personnel
Germany’s Law Introducing the International Crimes Code (2002) provides:
Anyone who, in connection with an international or non-international armed conflict, carries out an attack against personnel … involved in a humanitarian assistance … mission … as long as they are entitled to the protection given to civilians or civilian objects under international humanitarian law, shall be liable to imprisonment for not less than three years. In less serious cases, particularly where the attack is not carried out with military means, the period of imprisonment shall be for not less than one year.
In 1991, during a debate in the German Parliament, a member of parliament strongly protested about threats to relief personnel in southern Sudan. His protest was shared by all parties in the Parliament.
In 1997, during a debate in the UN General Assembly, Germany called upon all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan to ensure the safety of UN and other international humanitarian personnel.
In 1998, during a debate in the UN General Assembly, Germany deeply deplored “the hostility, particularly among the Taliban, towards the community of international aid workers in Afghanistan” and emphasized that “safety and security [of humanitarian relief personnel] is a non-negotiable issue and a prerequisite for the delivery of humanitarian assistance”.
In 2004, during a debate in the UN Security Council, the representative of Germany stated:
Combatants violating the principles of humanitarian law – be it by acts directed against civilians or by acts against humanitarian personnel – need to know that they are acting against fundamental principles of humanity and that their acts will eventually come under the judicial scrutiny of the International Criminal Court or of a regional tribunal. What is needed is to move even further towards universal acceptance of its jurisdiction, not to create new pockets of impunity, like those proposed by Security Council resolutions 1422 (2002) and 1487 (2003).
On the basis of the new report of the Secretary-General that we are considering today, I would like to share with the Council a catalogue of three areas for measures to move our protection agenda forward.
The first area is the protection of women and children …
The second area is humanitarian access and the security of humanitarian personnel. Various crises and emergency situations in recent years have shown that humanitarian access and the security of humanitarian personnel are linked. A lack of security for humanitarian personnel results in the prevention of access to vulnerable populations in need. The consequences of the horrendous attack on the United Nations office in Baghdad in August 2003 showed that quite plainly. The Security Council reacted without delay through the adoption of resolution 1502 (2003). Germany supports efforts aimed at enlarging the scope of protection of the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel. Measures taken to ensure adequate security for humanitarian personnel will lead to better humanitarian access and thus to the better protection of civilians. In addition, the role that neighbouring States and regional organizations have in helping to establish humanitarian access may be further explored.
Thirdly, regarding refugees and internally displaced persons, in general, their situation must be improved …
Germany thus proposes the following measures.
The first is a new resolution on the protection of civilians; the most recent resolution that the Security Council adopted on the protection of civilians in armed conflict (resolution 1296 (2000)) dates from 2000. That resolution, as well as the preceding relevant resolution (resolution 1265 (1999)), were regarded as a starting point. After four years we feel the need for an update of the most recent resolution, to take into account recent developments and the changing character of conflicts. Germany would support efforts aimed at adopting a new resolution.
A second measure would be more frequent reporting by the Emergency Relief Coordinator …
A third measure would be the promotion of the responsibility of new actors. There are new actors in the area of the protection of civilians in armed conflict whom we have to deal with. More than ever before, we need constructive engagement with non-State armed groups. They not only have the potential to deny humanitarian actors humanitarian access; they actually do it. They are also a potential source of harm to the civilian populations where they operate. Without legitimizing them and their actions, we must explore innovative ways to engage them in a constructive dialogue and, where necessary, to pressure them to make them abide by international humanitarian law and human rights norms.