Inside the Ring

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But, he said, “if you insist on proceeding with the publication of the present text, I must withdraw my name from the project.” He ultimately was among those who did.

A Dutch specialist on international criminal and humanitarian law closely involved in organizing the experts stated that his institute “has decided to take under review the question of whether [it] wishes to have its name associated in any way with the final document.”

A German professor also opposed the final ICRC report dropping references to voluntary civilian human shields and asked the ICRC to “delete my name from the list of participants.”

ICRC spokesman Florian Westphal said in an e-mail that the experts’ views “widely informed” the report, titled “Interpretive Guidance on the Notion of Direct Participation in Hostilities under International Humanitarian Law (IHL).”

However, “the aim of the Interpretive Guidance is not to reflect a unanimous view or majority opinion of the experts, but to provide the ICRC’s own recommendations as to how IHL relating to the notion of ‘direct participation in hostilities’ should be interpreted in contemporary armed conflict,” Mr. Westphal said.

The expert meetings were held under rules that prohibit identifying the members publicly, he said.

“The use of human shields constitutes a violation of IHL,” he stated. “The ICRC has condemned this practice in past and recent conflicts and will continue to do so in the future.”

The report came to a “nuanced conclusion” on what circumstances under which voluntary human shields lose protection from attack, he said.

“There was no ‘betrayal’ [of the experts],” Mr. Westphal said.

“While the Interpretive Guidance is not legally binding, the ICRC hopes that it will be persuasive to states, nonstate actors, practitioners and academics alike and that, ultimately, it will help better protect the civilian population from the dangers of warfare,” he said.

About the Author


Bill Gertz is geopolitics editor and a national security and investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. Gertz also writes a weekly column ...

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