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17th Annual Regional Seminar on International Humanitarian Law

14 September 2017

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) co-hosted a successful 17th edition of the Annual Regional Seminar on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) from 05-08 September 2017 at the OR-Tambo Building, Pretoria.

The Annual Regional Seminar which took place under the theme “the 1977 Additional Protocols: 40 years after” was attended by 21 countries from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Region and the Indian Ocean Islands, namely: Angola, Botswana, Mauritius, Mozambique, Comoros, Seychelles, Namibia, Lesotho, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Swaziland, and Zambia. Nigeria, Ethiopian and Tanzania also attended as special guest countries. The Pan African Parliament, SADC Parliamentary Forum, the African Union Commission were also represented.

Deputy Minister of DIRCO, Mr L Landers, delivered a keynote address wherein he stated that “modern warfare has presented new challenges to IHL with the involvement of non-state actors with similar military power as States. That is, the rise in the involvement of the Private Military Security Companies (PMCs) in armed conflict situations, as well as the use of armed drones and other remotely piloted aircraft”. Most importantly, the Deputy Minister highlighted that “these challenges touch on the vital elements of accountability, compliance, and protection of victims and ex-combatants." He further said that continued attacks on healthcare facilities and personnel that are rendering essential services are tantamount to grave breaches of IHL.

The Deputy Minister concluded his address by commending and applauding the role played by African States in the recent historic adoption of the UN Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons by the United Nations General Assembly because of their catastrophic humanitarian consequences. He also acknowledged that this milestone development will set an international norm against nuclear weapons and will complement other relevant instruments such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (NPT), the various nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaties, such as the Pelindaba Treaty, and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The Annual Regional Seminar which was very instructive produced an outcome document based on the following:
•    Reaffirmed the role of National Committees on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and national IHL focal points, in the implementation and promotion of International Humanitarian Law;
•    Continued commitment to and respect for the 1977 Protocols Additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions;
•    Accession/ratification and domestication of the 2009 African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (“Kampala Convention”);
•    Accession/ratification and domestication of the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty;
•    Strengthened collaboration between National IHL Committees and national IHL focal points with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, particularly in the area of dissemination of IHL;
•    Full utilization of relevant stakeholders, in particular the media, academic circles, religious and traditional leaders, to promote humanitarian law and customs of war;
•    Strengthened engagement with Parliamentarians throughout the process of implementation of IHL treaties, including regional parliamentary bodies, as well as with other new and relevant stakeholders including Judiciaries and lawyers’ associations;
•    Continued engagement on mechanisms to strengthen compliance with IHL through ongoing global processes (Resolution 2 of the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross Red Crescent), including through promotion and enhancing of regional fora such as the annual Regional IHL Seminar;
•    Continued use of reporting as a means of sharing progress and innovations, including through country reporting at the annual Regional IHL Seminar;
•    Submission of reports as required under various IHL-related instruments and
•    Placing emphasis on sharing of experiences within SADC as well as across regions on the Continent, including with ECOWAS.




November/December 2019











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