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International Humanitarian Law

Introduction

The PRCS Information and Dissemination unit was established in 1995 with the support of the international committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Its overall goal is to disseminate humanitarian values and improve the PRCS profile on both local and international levels. The unit works continuously with PRCS departments and branches in order to effectively spread the International Movement’s fundamental principles and the PRCS mission and services. Many tools and activities have been developed to help in the dissemination process such as 8th of May activities, public awareness campaigns, various publications and the PRCS website (www.palestinercs.org).

Later in 2002, the information and dissemination unit was integrated into a newly created Information, Dissemination and IHL Department with the continuous support of the ICRC and the Danish RC for the IHL programme. After a joint DRC & ICRC assessment in November 2006, the DRC funding to the ICRCPRCS through a delegated project mechanism terminated at the end of 2006. Since then, the ICRC has been supporting this programme under the vision of contributing to the development of the activities, tools, capacities and methodology of PRCS in this sector.

In 2009, a joint internal audit of PRCS dissemination sector began with the aim of analyzing the current dissemination activities. At the same time and after the Israeli War on the Gaza Strip, a joint lessons learned exercise was conducted to evaluate many areas including the PRCS public communication. As a result, recommendations have been identified in the area of Dissemination and Public Communication that are taken into consideration by the PRCS in its planning for the next year.

 

 

Objective and Goals

The Overall objective:

To continue generating understanding of the PRCS and its mission, and humanitarian role, as well as the RCRC Movement and its components, and promoting the respect of the Movement’s principles and the IHL among internal and external audiences. 

Goals:

In order to achieve its overall objective, the PRCS focuses on the following four specific objectives:

  • To reinforce the understanding of the PRCS, and the RCRC Movement and the principles and humanitarian values that underline their activities among PRCS's staff and volunteers, and the local community mainly the PNA ministries
  • To raise awareness in the IHL provisions among PRCS's staff and volunteers, Police security and the civil society
  • To reinforce the respect and protection of the emblem among PRCS's staff and volunteers and the medical mission
  • To build capacities of PRCS's staff and volunteers to enable them to promote PRCS profile

 

Activites and Services

  • The unit organizes workshops and training courses on a regular basis, targeting PRCS staff,volunteers and civil society organizations, whether governmental or not, to introduce PRCS’s mission and goals, the basic principles of the International Movement (Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality,Voluntary Service, Unity,Universality), IHL, Movement components (IFRC, ICRC and national societies) and their relations with PRCS.

  • The unit organizes ad hoc workshops targeting staff of governmental institutions, especially the officers and staff of security police and military apparatuses, introducing them to IHL. It holds seminars focusing on the emblem in order to avoid its misuse, and to secure the respect and protection of medical missions.

  • The unit documents violations of IHL by occupation authorities against PRCS teams and facilities.
  • The unit develops capacities by training PRCS staff and volunteers as well as program coordinators, especially young ones, in the dissemination and circulation of information on PRCS and InternationalMovement principlesand services, as well as IHL, by organizing specialized training sessions in the fields ofcommunication, public relations and information, in order to improve their competences and upgrade their community-based performance.

 

What is International Humanitarian Law (IHL)

What is the purpose of IHL?

IHL does not aim to prevent wars. Its purpose is to limit the human suffering caused by war. It sets out rules on the ways in which war may be waged, restricts the methods and means of warfare, ensures proportionality in the use of force and prevents unnecessary suffering and hardship.

Who is bound and protected by IHL?

IHL applies to all parties to International armed conflicts and non –International armed conflicts. It protects all persons who are not, or who are no longer, taking part in hostilities, including:

  •  Wounded and sick members of land forces and armed forces at sea;
  •  Prisoners of War;
  •  Civil and military medical services;
  •  War correspondents;
  •  Civil Defense staff;
  •  Civilians.

How are civilians defined and how they are protected?

A civilian is any person who does not belong to the armed forces of a Party to a conflict (Geneva Convention (Article 4), First Additional Protocol (Article 50)).

  • The civilian population comprises all persons who are civilians. The presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the population of its civilian character.
  •  In case of doubt about whether a person is a civilian, that person shall be considered to be a civilian.

A. The civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against dangers arising from military operations:

  •  They shall not be the object of attack;
  •  Attacks against civilians by way of reprisals are prohibited;
  •  Indiscriminate attacks which are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction are prohibited ;
  •  Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited
  •  Theft and pillage are prohibited.

B. In times of occupation:

  • Occupying power shall respect the civilians basic human rights including the prohibition of willful killing, torture or inhumane treatment, medical experiments, as well as respect for their dignity and honor and respect of religious convictions and freedoms.
  • Occupying power shall also respect economic, social and cultural rights such as respect for property, prohibition of theft and pillage and respect for private property, provision of relief, right of pregnant women and children to receive medical care and preferential treatment, the right to work and the right to education.

How is IHL implemented?

IHL stipulates that a state is responsible for the actions of individuals who belong to it. Every internationally wrongful act of a State entails the international responsibility of that State. Even the injurious consequences of a conduct which is not prohibited and does not constitute a breach of international obligations or IHL rules entails international responsibility. States cannot escape their international responsibility.

The Hague Convention (1907) on the Laws and Customs of War on Land states that “A Party to the conflict which violates the provisions of the Conventions or of this Protocol shall, if the case demands, be liable to pay compensation. It shall be responsible for all acts committed by persons forming part of its armed forces”. This Convention is considered as an embodying rule of Customary International Law.


The four Geneva Convention of 1949 and their two additional protocols of 1977 also refer to this issue of international responsibility.

Civil responsibility

Covers all measures that IHL violators have to take to cease their unlawful conduct and to put an end to its effects, such as ceasing the unlawful act, restitution and reparation for the injury caused, which includes both material and moral damage.

Criminal responsibility

A person who planned, instigated, ordered, committed or otherwise aided and abetted in the planning, preparation or execution of a crime referred to in IHL provisions or international law shall be individually responsible for the crime. States must bring those responsible of war crimes to trial before local courts. If this is not possible they should be brought before the international judiciary system.

How to disseminate IHL?

The Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 stipulate that States must disseminate information about IHL provisions and rules to the armed forces. The Statutes of the International Movement stipulate that National Red Cross/Crescent Societies should disseminate IM principles as well as IHL provisions to their staff and volunteers. Dissemination in times of peace would ensure the respect of these rules in times of war. 

In line with the above, PRCS disseminates the provisions and rules of IHL to its staff and volunteers in all areas where the Society operates. Moreover, PRCS created its own IHL Unit in 2002 which is responsible for the dissemination of IHL rules and provisions and the documentation of violations committed against its medical teams.