A regional workshop on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and the protection of civilians was held in Jakarta on 8-9 November 2010, co-hosted by the Foreign Ministries of Indonesia and Norway. The workshop was well attended, with participants from 12 countries in the region, the International Commitee of the Redd Cross (ICRC), military, academics, NGOs and national human rights institutions.
The workshop was formally opened by the Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marty M. Natalegawa and the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre. Foreign Minister Støre emphasized Norway’s strong commitment to reclaim the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and underlined the value of IHL as a global achievement and shared responsibility. Foreign Minister Natalegawa emphasised education and training to strengthen the capacity of the military, observance of the notions of human rights and a strong political will as central for enhancing protection of civilians in time of armed conflict, and reiterated Indonesia’s commitment to comply with IHL.
Panels of academics, officers and representatives of the international community deliberated on such topics as main causes of civilian harm during hostilities, qualification of armed conflict, the applicable legal framework and how to achieve compliance with the rules of proportionality and precautions to avoid or minimize civilian harm. Discussions with active participation from the floor followed suit. Strong commitment to comply with IHL principles was demonstrated throughout the conference.
The two-day conference is part of an international process seeking to reclaim the protection of civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law. The idea of organising the workshop as the first in a series of regional events was first conceived at the Trygve Lie Symposium in New York in September last year, and the next two workshops will take place in Africa and Latin-America. “International humanitarian law sets out rules designed to give the greatest possible degree of protection for civilians in situations of armed conflict. However, in today’s conflicts, we see all too often that these rules are violated, and that civilians are harmed. It is therefore positive that Indonesia, as a regional power, is involved in these efforts to enhance the protection of civilians. Providing greater protection of civilians is vital in a number of ongoing conflicts in the region,” Mr Støre commented.