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Governmental Expert's Meeting on
"The Implementation of International Humanitarian Law and Related Inter-American Conventions"

San José, Costa Rica from March 6-8, 2001
Hotel Radisson Europa Zurquí

Background:

With the 1949 Geneva Conventions -ratified by 189 States- and its Additional Protocols of 1977, the States have agreed to restrain the use of violence, be it during the conduct of hostilities or when it concerns the protection of those not or no longer involved in the armed conflict.

However, despite being the principal beneficiary of such rights, the civil population is increasingly directly affected by the consequences of the numerous regional and local armed conflicts and situations of internal tensions and riots that continue to arise in different parts of the world. Among the countless victims are those who are forced to abandon their towns, houses, families, regions and lands. Whether or not they have crossed a border, their destiny is generally tragic.

At the regional level, various inter-American Conventions attempt to grant the best possible protection to the human being in all circumstances, including in situations of tensions or armed conflicts.

The States are committed to keep vigil because they know each other and respect the 1949 Geneva Conventions and its Additional Protocols of 1977, as well as other pertinent treaties on this theme that have complemented those instruments and, at the regional level, the pertinent inter-American Conventions.

However, the mere adherence to these international instruments is not enough to trigger their entry into force. Governments, in addition to adopting and ratifying them, have to approve the legislation, and the related regulatory and/or administrative measures, in order for these norms to be effectively implemented into the domestic legal order. In the particular case of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), these measures refer to a wide variety of aspects, for instance repression of war crimes and the imposition of penal sanctions for the illegal use of the symbols protected by the norms of this type of law.

In repeated opportunities, the competent authorities of the Organization of American States (OAS) have underlined the necessity to strengthen the norms that protect the life and dignity of the human being, particularly those of international humanitarian law, by means of its universal acceptance, its wider diffusion and its national implementation.

Since 1994, the OAS General Assembly has reiterated its commitment towards IHL and has urged the Member States to promote the respect of these rights, as manifested by its ultimate Resolution AG/RES. 1706 (XXX O/00) adopted in Windsor, Canada, on June, 5th 2000 (see attached copy). More particularly, it mandates to consider the ratification of IHL instruments, promote its most extended popularization possible, adopt measures of national implementation so that the norms it contains are executed and their violation is prevented, and establish national advising structures in order to facilitate and coordinate those tasks. The OAS is also involved in the promotion of adherence to the inter-American conventions and their entry into force at the domestic level.

Scope of the Project:

International humanitarian law and inter-American human rights law have evolved into a complex body of standards on a wide variety of issues. There is no question of the difficulty involved in implementing the instruments that comprise this body as well as its dense web of customary norms.

We hope that this inter-American Meeting will provide support towards the implementation in the domestic sphere, of both humanitarian law treaties and inter-American human rights conventions. Likewise, we hope that participants will become familiar with modern techniques and methods that can help them incorporate into their domestic legislation the principles and norms that those instruments contain, as well as recent developments in the areas of international human rights law and humanitarian law.

Specific Objectives:

Organizers:

The Conference is a regional initiative organized by the OAS Department of Legal Cooperation and Information, the National Commission for the Improvement of the Administration of Justice of the Republic of Costa Rica and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

It is hosted by the Government of Canada and the Government of Costa Rica, through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship.

Place, Dates and Participants:

The Meeting will be held in San José, Costa Rica, from March 6-8, 2001, for a duration of two days and a half. This Meeting is intended for the governmental authorities of the OAS Member States. The participating experts will be coming from the ministries of Justice, Interior, Foreign Affairs, Culture and Education, as well as from other governmental departments having jurisdiction over the themes discussed at the conference. Where possible, governments may be represented by members of the National Inter-institutional Commissions and Committees for the implementation of International Humanitarian Law. In addition, representatives of regional academic institutions such as the Inter-American Institute for Human Rights will also be attending, as well as observers from international and regional inter-governmental organizations.

Draft Agenda

The Meeting will be constituted of presentations made by experts followed by sessions of discussion, and of roundtables. Based upon a preliminary determination of the measures adopted by the Member States made by the OAS General Secretariat and the ICRC, the following themes will be discussed:

- PART I : National Implementation of IHL and of Related Inter-American Conventions

- PART II: Specific Issues:

- National Mechanisms for the Implementation of International Humanitarian Law and the Inter-American Conventions: Functions and Role of the IHL National Commissions.

- The Protection of Children in Situations of Violence.

- Preventing and Repressing IHL and Human Rights Violations

- The Repercussions caused by the Proliferation and Availability of Weapons, particularly Small Arms and Light Weapons, upon Human Security and Civilian Population.

- PART III: International Criminal Justice: Towards the Ratification and Implementation of the 1998 Statute of Rome for the International Criminal Court.

Meeting's Follow-up:

The preliminary considerations realized by the organizing institutions and the experts during this Meeting, as well as the achieved conclusions and recommendations, will be included in a report that will be widely diffused within the ICRC and the OAS Web sites.

Also, the institutions and experts participating in this Meeting will be invited to join a Virtual Network whose objectives will be the exchange of information and cooperation and the provision of an adequate follow-up mechanism to support the States' efforts in their implementing or adapting internal legislation to apply the Conventions related with the themes discussed during this event and to which they have adhered.

Financial and Administrative Aspects:

The Meeting will be held in the Hotel Radisson Europa Zurquí, Calle Central y Tercera, Avenida 15. Edificio Central San José, Costa Rica (Tel.: 506 257-3257). The organizing institutions will provide fellowships to the participants that will cover their airfare and taxes, and will cover the cost of meals and local transport during the Meeting. Requests for fellowships have to be submitted prior to February 2nd, 2001 by means of completing the attached form.

The participants will be responsible for the costs of their accommodation (daily estimated cost of 85USD including tax).

The Inscription Form has to be returned no later than February 15th, 2001 to the following address:

ICRC Office
Apartment 2151 - 2050
San Pedro, San José
Tel.: (506) 234-6476 Fax: (506) 283-2489
Email: cicrsj@racsa.co.cr

You may require additional information from the following persons and organizations:

Magaly McLean, Legal Officer
Departament of Legal Information and Cooperation
OAS General Secretariat
Washington D.C. 20006, USA
TEL. (202) 458 3420; FAX: (202) 458 3598
Email: MMclean@oas.org

Cristina Pellandini, Legal Adviser
IHL Advising Services Latin America
ICRC Regional Delegation for Central America and the Caribbean
Guatemala City, Guatemala
TEL. (502) 333 - 5237; FAX: (502) 334-762;
Email: cpellandini.gua@icrc.org

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