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October 26, 1999



Secretary General César Gaviria of the Organization of American States (OAS) on Monday launched an all-out condemnation of war, saying that the creation of an International Criminal Court was "a fundament step towards the goal of attacking and eliminating the impunity still being enjoyed by many perpetrators of truly horrendous crimes against humanity."

Opening a High-Level Seminar to Commemorate the Fiftieth Anniversary of Geneva Conventions of 1949, the Secretary General said it was his fervent desire to see progress in instilling a culture of peace, tolerance and peaceful solution of conflicts, at both the local and international levels. The seminar brought together renowned experts in international humanitarian law.

Continuing, Mr. Gaviria said the current trend in the hemisphere was now towards mechanisms for dialogue and settling conflicts peacefully, coming up with new and more effective ways of fostering confidence and consolidating cooperation around security issues. He went on to declare that "The quest for peace in the Americas was closely related to strict adherence to the principles enshrined in the OAS Charter."

Among others to address the gathering at the OAS headquarters was International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Vice President Jacques Forster, who said the 1949 Geneva Conventions was a major step forward for mankind. "As I understand it," he said, "they are part of [his] heritage." He said the rules set forth in those conventions have been universally-accepted, with 188 states now party to them. Forster stressed that the ICRC was the organization charged with seeing to it that international humanitarian law is complied with, even though states are the ones with that primary responsibility.

"Besides East Timor and The Balkans, the International Committee of the Red Cross has been providing assistance in 30 armed conflicts—from Afghanistan to Colombia, Sri Lanka and Angola—with some 8,000 collaborators on the ground and a budget estimated this year at $600 million," he added.

Jointly sponsored by the OAS and the ICRC, the High-Level Seminar brought together experts who looked at the topic "Assessment of and Perspectives on International Humanitarian Law in the Americas." Jorge García González, Director of the OAS Department of Legal Cooperation and Information, moderated those discussions, after which the experts got down to discussing the topic "The International Criminal Court," which was moderated by Mexico’s Alternate Representative to the OAS, Juan Manuel Gómez Robledo.