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The ICRC and its principle of neutrality in conflict situations

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The ICRC and its principle of neutrality in conflict situations

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Samenvatting

Established out of the desire to bring humanitarian relief in man-made human disasters, such as war and other armed conflicts, international humanitarian law (IHL) prescribes the legal obligation of the conflict parties and armed forces to permit ICRC's humanitarian operations. All over the world the ICRC conducts such operations in order to alleviate the suffering of the people affected by war and conflict. However, it is not easy for the ICRC to gain humanitarian access, for the organisation is being confronted with many different dilemmas while negotiating its way in into the war-affected territories. In order to reach the most vulnerable victims of war, the ICRC upholds its principle of neutrality so to safeguard their human rights, but this raises the question whether or not such principle is only further prolonging the disaster situation of the victims it seeks to protect. Apart from the ICRC, the whole humanitarian community is confronted with a moral issue: whether it is more important to neutrally assist the people in need, or to address their situation and call for more intervention.
Conflicts from the past as well as several current conflicts depict such dilemmas, wherein neutrality is often being (mis)conceived as something that is naïve or passive, since one cannot speak out about the committed atrocities. Since the ICRC has the legal authority to monitor the adherence to IHL, it is criticised the more for its practice of confidentiality, where such atrocities are kept publicly silent. This draws a line between the humanitarian charity work and justice. Neutrality is, according to the greatest part of the humanitarian community, not a part of the latter, nor is the ICRC perceived to be participating in the process of calling the guilty ones to justice. The ICRC is aware of the fact that one cannot defend both charity work and justice, but argues, that it is not concerned with passing judgements on who is 'good' or 'bad', 'guilty' or 'innocent' in a war or conflict. Its main purpose is to gain access to the most vulnerable war-affected populations, in order to bring them the necessary supplies for survival. So the neutrality is indeed solely based on humanitarian grounds, it, however, brings no end to the conflict. Therefore, argued by others is, what is the point of the humanitarian action then?
The humanitarian crisis in the former Yugoslavia as the current one in Darfur, Sudan, both show the divergence of the humanitarian world on such issues. Anyway, throughout the history, as well as today, the ICRC persists to act according to its principle of neutrality, safeguarding the human rights of detainees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) as a first. It will preserve its principle in order to gain access, perhaps because it is essential to have at least one organisation in the humanitarian community, which can get to the worst places of armed conflict (Moorehead, C.; 2005, Crisis of confidence, par. 30). Jean Pictet, therefore, correctly implied that the ICRC has chosen long before to be the defender of charity instead of justice (Chandler, D.; 2001, p.12), while the discussions of the rightfulness of the use of the principle of neutrality goes on.

Toon meer
OrganisatieDe Haagse Hogeschool
AfdelingESC Europese Studies / European Studies
Jaar2010
TypeBachelor
TaalEngels

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