Practice Relating to Rule 31. Humanitarian Relief Personnel
Canada’s LOAC Manual (1999) provides:
Humanitarian aid societies, such as the Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies, who on their own initiative, collect and care for the wounded, sick and shipwrecked, even in invaded or occupied areas, shall not be made the object of attack.
Personnel participating in relief actions shall not be made the object of attack.
Canada’s Code of Conduct (2001) provides: “Members of the ICRC wearing the distinctive emblem must be protected at all times.”
The Code of Conduct further states:
NGOs such as CARE and Médecins Sans Frontières
might wear other recognizable symbols. The symbols used by CARE, MSF and other NGOs do not benefit from international legal protection, although their work in favour of the victims of armed conflict must be respected. Upon recognition that they are providing care to the sick and wounded, NGOs are also to be respected.
Canada’s LOAC Manual (2001) states in its chapter on targeting:
438. Humanitarian aid societies
1. Humanitarian aid societies, such as the Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies, who on their own initiative, collect and care for the wounded, sick and shipwrecked, even in invaded or occupied areas, shall not be made the object of attack.
439. Personnel participating in relief actions
1. Personnel participating in relief actions shall not be made the object of attack.
In its glossary, the manual defines “relief action” as follows:
A relief action for the benefit of the civilian population affected by an armed conflict means the provision of food, water, medical supplies, clothing, bedding, means of shelter, other supplies essential to the survival of the civilian population, and objects necessary for religious worship.
Rule 10 of Canada’s Code of Conduct (2005) states:
7. … Members of the ICRC wear the distinctive emblem. As such, they must be protected at all times.
9. … The symbols used by CARE, MSF [Médecins Sans Frontières] and other NGOs do not benefit from international legal protection, although their work in favour of the victims of armed conflict must be respected. Upon recognition that they are providing care to the sick and wounded, NGOs are also to be respected.
Canada’s Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act (2000) provides that the war crimes defined in Article 8(2) of the 1998 ICC Statute are “crimes according to customary international law” and, as such, indictable offences under the Act.
In 2013, in the Sapkota case
, Canada’s Federal Court dismissed a request for review of a decision denying refugee protection to the applicant on grounds of complicity in crimes against humanity in Nepal between 1991 and 2009. While reviewing the submissions of the respondent, Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Court stated: “The Respondent notes that the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
… is endorsed in Canada as a source of customary law.”
In 2005, in a statement before the UN Commission on Human Rights on the human rights situation in Sudan, made on behalf of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the representative of Canada stated:
Australia, Canada and New Zealand condemn the ongoing grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Darfur, Sudan which are having a huge impact on the civilian population in that part of the country.
Armed groups are also carrying out attacks against humanitarian workers, impeding their ability to help an increasingly vulnerable population.
In 2011, in a statement before the UN Security Council during a meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the deputy permanent representative of Canada stated:
The Secretary General in his November 2010 report – has identified a number of key recommendations with respect to enhancing accountability to better protect civilians. I would like to draw attention to a number of issues and country specific contexts that we see being of particular importance.
Second, Mr. President, it is also important that those who commit violent and deadly attacks against aid workers be brought to justice. The attack against UNHCR in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on October 31st , serves as a reminder of the great risks for those who work tirelessly to deliver humanitarian assistance. Three UNHCR staff tragically lost their lives in this attack. … These attacks underscore the importance of continued and sustained cooperation between the international and Afghan security forces to ensure civilians are protected from indiscriminate acts of violence.
In 2012, in a statement before the UN Security Council during an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the permanent representative of Canada stated:
The Secretary General and the International Committee of the Red Cross highlight the fact that health care providers and facilities continue to come under attack in situations of conflict and violence. … Humanitarian workers, including medical volunteers, have lost their lives in the performance of their duties.
In 2013, Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development issued a press release entitled “Statement from Minister Paradis: Canada Stands with International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement as they Call for Safe Passage for Humanitarian Workers”, which stated:
Canada stands with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, as they call on all parties in Syria to respect the work of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, and to guarantee the safety of aid workers, who seek to help those in greatest need across Syria.
… It is deplorable that 22 Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers have been killed and many more injured, kidnapped or detained while seeking to help those in need.
Canada … calls upon all parties to this conflict to protect Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers, personnel affiliated with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and all other humanitarian personnel as they provide life-saving assistance to millions of people in dire need.