Red Cross declares Syria in a state of civil war; calls on combatants to observe humanitarian law

AFP , Monday 16 Jul 2012

The International Committee of the Red Cross declares Syria in a state of "non-international armed conflict," or civil war; says all combatants should be subject to international humanitarian law

Members of the Free Syrian Army walk on a street in Homs, (Photo: Reuters).

Syria is in a state of all-out civil war and all sides must respect international humanitarian law or risk facing war crimes prosecutions, the Red Cross said on Monday.

The International Committee of the Red Cross had previously regarded only the areas around Idlib, Homs and Hama as zones of non-international armed conflict -- the diplomatic term for civil war.

"This is not a new development; we already notified those involved (in the fighting) and in April we said that this situation of non-international armed conflict applied to three specific areas," spokesman Alexis Heeb told AFP.

"Now each time there is fighting we can see conditions that can be defined as a non-international armed conflict," he said, adding that "international humanitarian law applies" to such circumstances.

The Geneva Conventions define how civilians should be protected during conflict and also the conditions for "people who are no longer fighting, for example those who are injured, and also the conditions in which they can be detained", added the spokesman.

This change in status means combatants could now be subject to the Geneva Conventions, leaving them more exposed to war crimes prosecutions.

The ICRC has regularly asked the Syrian authorities to respect the rights of injured people in medical centres and to provide access to prisoners in various detention centres.

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