Seminar Addresses Challenges to International Humanitarian Law

The Birzeit University Faculty of Law and Public Administration held on November 29, 2014 a seminar entitled "International Humanitarian Law and Contemporary Challenges," in which Marco Sassoli, expert and head of International Law and International Organizations at Geneva University, participated. The event was supported by the Swiss Representative Office in Ramallah and the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC.

In his opening address, Vice President for Academic Affairs Henry Giacaman said that this seminar seeks to find ways to activate mechanisms that ensure respect for international humanitarian and human rights law, thus reducing the gap between what is stipulated and what is implemented on the ground.

Faculty dean Asem Khalil pointed out that this seminar was carried out in conjunction with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. He also said that the organization of this seminar jointly with the Swiss Representative Office in Ramallah and the ICRC is a form of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Sassoli said that international law is not merely theory, and that a problem exists in the extent to which these laws are respected. Remarkably, he said, the protection provided by international humanitarian law treaties is developing. There are several challenges facing this law, however, most importantly the difficulty in classifying “terrorism,” in addition to the fact that international humanitarian law applied in non-international armed conflicts is less advanced than the same when applied in international armed conflicts. He added that the most important challenge facing international humanitarian law is manifested in the need to respect it.

ICRC legal adviser Larry Maybee focused on the challenges facing the ICRC in cities, especially the recent war on the Gaza Strip in which it was difficult to distinguish between combatants and civilians.