Practice Relating to Rule 55. Access for Humanitarian Relief to Civilians in Need
Section A. Access for humanitarian relief
Mexico’s Army and Air Force Manual (2009) states:
213. The [1949 Geneva] Convention [I] guarantees the free passage of all consignments of medical supplies, medical equipment and objects necessary for religious worship intended only for the civilians of another Contracting Party, even those of an enemy.
214. It also permits the free passage of foodstuffs, clothing and tonics intended for children under fifteen, expectant mothers and women in labour.
The manual also states:
The occupying power must permit relief operations necessary to aid the population and facilitate them by all the means at its disposal, particularly by authorizing the charitable work of the Protecting Powers, neutral States, the ICRC and any other impartial humanitarian organizations.
In 2007, during a debate in the UN General Assembly on the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the UN, the permanent representative of Mexico stated:
Unfortunately, civilians are recurrent targets of warfare. The violence they suffer takes the form of terrible phenomena such as kidnappings, child exploitation and violence and sexual abuse against women and girls. Hence, we have the moral obligation to implement concrete measures to enable the Organization to alleviate these sufferings. Mexico is therefore concerned by the fact that the issue of access to civilians in armed conflicts is being interpreted as a question of interference without considering that this is … an obligation, under international law, of all parties.
In 2009, during a debate in the UN Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, the permanent representative of Mexico stated:
My delegation is concerned by the fact that humanitarian work continues to be hindered, in particular in terms of access for humanitarian assistance and materials for rebuilding Gaza. In some cases, we see actions that are clear violations of international humanitarian law.
In 2009, during a debate in the UN Security Council on children and armed conflict, the permanent representative of Mexico stated: “Mexico calls on the international community to strengthen its efforts to protect children, in particular, … to guarantee humanitarian access in every situation.”
In 2009, during a debate in the UN Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the permanent representative of Mexico stated: “We once again call on the Members of the Organization [i.e. the UN] to take every necessary measure to facilitate and guarantee the safe, unobstructed and timely delivery of humanitarian assistance to people affected by conflict.”
In 2009, during a debate in the UN Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the permanent representative of Mexico stated:
International humanitarian law must be complied with, regardless of the type of armed conflict in question. The four Geneva Conventions of 1949, their Additional Protocols and other instruments of international humanitarian law, as well as customary international law, form a solid foundation of principles and norms that protect the life and dignity of all those who no longer participate in hostilities or who never have. …
It is clear that denying or blocking humanitarian assistance exacerbates the situation of populations in armed conflict. When humanitarian assistance is inadequate, given the cross-cutting nature of this topic, peacekeeping missions and the specialized agencies of the United Nations in conflict areas carry out the essential task of protecting civilians, and this should be acknowledged.
We also acknowledge the work carried out by humanitarian institutions, in particular the International Committee of the Red Cross, and by civil society, especially with respect to the delivery of humanitarian assistance and the importance of guaranteeing safe, timely and unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance in conflict and complex emergency situations.
Access of humanitarian assistance to civilians in armed conflict is a topic to which we attach particular importance, as it is a sine qua non for protection. As Mexico indicated during the debate in January (see S/PV.6066), my delegation would like to reiterate our disagreement with interpretations that can restrict or exclude human dignity in complex situations and that favour positions that set this humanitarian principle against the principle of sovereignty.
In 2010, during a debate in the UN Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the permanent representative of Mexico stated:
Parties in armed conflicts barely comply with the obligation to permit and facilitate access of civilian populations to humanitarian assistance, subjecting them to greater risk. … The instruments of international humanitarian law are very clear about the obligations of States and parties in conflict to allow safe, timely and unhindered access to humanitarian assistance.