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Friday, July 17, 2009

50th Anniversary Of The Geneva Conventions. (1999-6)

International humanitarian law has a long history. The modern form of this law goes back to the Baffle of Solferino and the work of Henry Dunant. As a result of his endeavours, the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies of the Field, the very first “Geneva Convention”, was adopted in 1864.
This pioneering convention was followed by several key developments in what has come to be known as “Geneva law”. The most important dates are 1907 (protection of combatants wounded at sea), 1929 (Protection of prisoners of war).
Finally, on August 12, 1949, the four Geneva Conventions were adopted for the protection of the wounded, sick and ship wrecked in armed forces in the field and at sea, of prisoners of war and of civilians.
Lastly, in 1977, two Protocols were added to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Additional Protocols today form the core of international humanitarian law.
The fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Geneva Conventions is of special importance, since these treaties are a great step forward for humanity. Nonetheless, it should not be forgotten that it is far more important to review and determine what still merits improvement than to celebrate a body of law regulating the least human activity of all: war.
To this end, the ICRC has launched a major consultation-campaign entitled “People on War”: its aim is to allow the victims of armed conflict to speak for themselves.
Fifty years after the signing of the Geneva Conventions, the first observation in any preliminary review is that these norms are universally accepted.
To date they have been ratified by 188 States Parties, in other words almost the entire planet. As for the Additional Protocols, they are well on the way towards universal acceptance; respectively 153 and 145 States are now bound by them.
Pakistan is party to the four Geneva Conventions and has signed but not yet ratified the Additional Protocols. ICRC Activities in Pakistan since 1947.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) officially recognized the Pakistan Red Cross Society on the 21st of July 1948. The Geneva based institution could not imagine the course of dramatic events and exceptional situations which would require the efficient involvement of the young Red Cross Society as early as the very first year of its creation.
As we all know, at its very inception Pakistan was faced with the problem of receiving and housing hundreds of thousands of refugees, among them sick and wounded. The Pakistan Red Cross Society (PRCS) rendered all possible help to relieve their distress.
From 1947 until today, 50 years of solidarity between the ICRC and the PROS have passed, years of both happiness and tragedy.
Following is chronology of important events during the 50 years.
1947 An ICRC delegate is sent to Karachi and New Delhi to act as neutral intermediary for facilitating repatriations of civilians and to visit refugee camps in both Pakistan and India.
1948 Recognition of the Pakistan Red Cross Society by the ICRC (21.07). Under the auspices of the ICRC an agreement is reached between Pakistan and India on the tracing and repatriation of civilians lost during the two-way migration.
1949 ICRC supervises a general exchange of prisoners in April. Medical relief is sent to the PRCS to cope with the high number of refugees.
1954 Severe flooding causes extensive damage in the country. The ICRC helps the PROS to initiate emergency assistance.
1965 An ICRC delegate is sent to Rawalpindi. On an urgent request from the PRCS, plasma and transfusion material is provided to military hospitals. The Central Tracing Agency at ICRC headquarters in Geneva receives and transmits lists of prisoners of war (POW.) to both Pakistani and Indian authorities and facilitates the exchange of thousands of messages between POW. and their relatives. In December, the ICRC organizes on the cease-fire line and exchange of family parcels prepared by both national societies for prisoners. Syed Wajid Ali Shah, chairman PRCS, meets his Indian counterpart during this exchange. More than 700 parcels are exchanged that day.
1966 The ICRC launches an emergency appeal to the Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies to help the Pakistan and Indian Red Cross in their relief operation for more than 500,000 refugees on both sides. Two mobile medical unit vehicles are sent by the ICRC to the PROS, thanks to a grant from the British Red Cross.
1973 More than 10 million family messages are exchanged between POW. and their families. The ICRC transmits them to the PROS for distribution to the addresses in Pakistan. 180,000 family parcels prepared by the PRCS are transmitted by the ICRC to Pakistani P.O.W. detained in India.
1974 The ICRC helps the PRCS to settle problems related to the repatriation of ten of thousands of stranded persons to Pakistan Among them 90,000 Pakistani POW. who are repatriated to Pakistan by ICRC.
1979 The PROS NWFP branch assists Afghan refugees located close to the border with ICRC’s help.
1980 Two first aid posts managed by the PROS and financed by the ICRC are opened on the Pakistan-Afghan border. Five other posts are opened during the year.
1984 A paraplegic rehabilitation center is inaugurated by the ICRC in Peshawar and its management handed over to the PRCS in 1986.
1996 The Sindh branch of the PROS receives two ambulances from the ICRC especially for the areas of Karachi struck by violence. PROS mobile eye clinics in Northern Areas and parts of Kashmir are being supported by IORO.
1998 Launch by ICRC of an extensive training programme on the Law of Armed Conflicts with Staff Colleges and Combat Schools of the Pakistan Army, Navy and Air Force.
1998 Launch by ICRC of a relief programme to assist thousands of displaced Persons In Azad Kashmir (districts of Muzaffarabad and Bagh).
1999 PROS starts providing first aid training to Police officers in the Punjab. Two fully equipped ambulances are offered by IORO of PROS Punjab branch for a medical evacuation project in Lahore.
1999 IORC starts an instruction programme on Human Rights and Law Enforcement matters with the two Police Training Centres in the Punjab.
Courtesy: International Committee of the Red Cross-Delegation in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
To commemorate the occasion Pakistan Post Officer is issuing a stamp of Rs 5 denomination on August 12, 1999.