Practice Relating to Rule 55. Access for Humanitarian Relief to Civilians in Need
Section B. Impediment of humanitarian relief
France’s Penal Code (1992), as amended in 2010, states in its section on war crimes related to international armed conflict:
Using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare by depriving them of objects indispensable for their survival, including intentionally impeding relief supplies as provided for under the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Additional Protocols is punishable by life imprisonment.
In 2009, in a statement calling for the respect of international humanitarian law, which provided examples of serious violations that had recently occurred in several armed conflicts around the world, namely in Sri Lanka, Darfur, Somalia ad Iraq, the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of France noted: “Access is impeded to humanitarian aid and aid workers, plunging civilians into total destitution and depriving them of the most basic medical treatment.”
In 2009, the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of France stated:
Violations of humanitarian law are ever increasing, as the current crises are unfortunately there to remind us, whether we are looking at Darfur, Somalia, Gaza, Sri Lanka or the Kivus. … Worse still, access to victims is often not guaranteed and those who come to their aid are regularly targeted, obstructed or harassed.
We must react!
In 2009, the President of the French Republic stated:
There have never been as many humanitarian personnel deployed in the field but the barriers imposed on their action have never been so many …
The NGOs expelled from Darfur must be able to return. The humanitarian actors must have access to the civilians imprisoned at the combat zone in Sri Lanka. They must be able to accomplish their mission in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Somalia, without becoming targets or hostages of the forces present [in the field] …
… [E]very time a country prevents humanitarian personnel from assisting the civilian population, France will act at the international level in order to condemn the action of such country.
… No country has the right to take its people hostage … [I]t is unspeakable that an established power obstructs the entry of humanitarian assistance.