International law must protect civilians from war

23 Nov 2011

By The Record

To protect innocent civilians from the harmful effects of weapons of war, “international humanitarian law remains an essential safety measure not to be weakened,” a Vatican official has said.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Vatican representative to UN agencies in Geneva, focused on the responsibility to protect civilian populations from harmful weapons in an address to a conference reviewing the international Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

“The responsibility of the CCW to protect civilian populations rests on its ability to comply with the provisions of international humanitarian law and even in strengthening them,” he said.

“The CCW has an important place and role in the international system that seeks to reduce the impact of indiscriminate weapons on civilian populations, on the development and implementation of the conditions that allow an exit from war situations.”

Archbishop Tomasi specifically expressed concern over the lack of consensus on protocols addressing certain types of mines and cluster munitions, which are being used in several conflicts.

The work of the Vatican and several nations to formulate the separate Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008 was an important step toward protecting civilians since it was “no longer acceptable to see the number of victims increase” after a war and to see land “polluted” by the weapons unable to be used after a conflict had ended, he said.

The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, adopted in 1981, has both general provisions and five separate protocols that define restrictions and bans on certain weapons, including mines, incendiary weapons, explosive remnants from war and blinding laser weapons “that are considered to cause unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering.”