Sanctity, Safety of Civilians should be Top Priority even in War, Says ICRC

Michael Olugbode, in Maiduguri

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said the sanctity and safety of civilians should be a top priority at all times, even during war.

Speaking in Abuja at the closing of a four-day meeting organised by ICRC at the National Defence College on how international humanitarian law and human rights law applies to the operations of members of Nigeria’s security and defence agencies, Eloi Fillion, ICRC Head of Delegation in Nigeria said: “At all times, the sanctity and safety of civilians should be a priority in any security situation.

He said: “The knowledge of fundamental human rights such as the right to life, to dignity, to freedom, to legal representation and to a fair trial is all the more powerful when such rights are respected and enforced in the heat of action. It is my hope that this meeting expounded such knowledge.”

The ICRC in a statement, said the meeting was the first of its kind, and was organised in partnership with the National Defence College and brought together 25 people from various security and defence agencies from across Nigeria as well as civil society organisations and members of the academic community.

The statement said the meeting sought to strengthen the participants’ understanding and application of laws guiding armed conflict and internal security situations as well as the protection of vulnerable people during such times.

It reminded that the “ICRC advocates the respect of the rights of people affected by armed conflict and violence by reminding authorities and security agencies about their legal obligations under international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL).”

It added that: “Since the beginning of this year, nearly 3,000 officers of the armed forces, police and security forces have been trained on such principles with the ICRC’s support.”

The statement further said that: “Protecting the lives and dignity of people affected by armed conflicts and other situations of armed violence is at the core of the ICRC’s neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian action.

“The ICRC provides humanitarian assistance that offers access to health care, food, water and shelter for the most affected populations. It also visits places of detention and supports the authorities in incorporating humanitarian and human rights principles into the trainings and operations of armed and security forces.”

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