Kyiv (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) today presented a handbook for parliamentarians in Ukraine, Promoting Respect for International Humanitarian Law, jointly prepared with the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament. The publication is intended to serve as a reference for Ukrainian legislators on issues related to International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and to help ensure that these international norms are incorporated into the country’s legislation.

“IHL is one of the most powerful tools that the international community has at its disposal to ensure the safety and dignity of people in times of armed conflict,” said Alain Aeschlimann, head of the ICRC’s delegation in Ukraine. “IHL restricts the methods and means of warfare and seeks to protect those who are not or are no longer taking part in hostilities. With this book, we hope to enhance parliamentarians’ understanding of the nature and importance of humanitarian law, and encourage them to more effectively promote compliance with this increasingly relevant area of international law.”

The process of drafting the book started in 2015 after a need was identified to have a publication on IHL exclusively for Ukraine. The drafting work was carried out by a working group including the ICRC and representatives of various parliamentary committees of the Verkhovna Rada.  All parliamentarians have now received a copy of the final product.

“The handbook is the result of months of fruitful cooperation and partnership between the Verkhovna Rada and the ICRC. It is specially designed to familiarize parliamentarians with the principles of IHL and guide us in the process of implementing this body of law in Ukraine, which is extremely needed for our society. I want to thank the ICRC and express my admiration for the devotion of the ICRC employees, who provide life-saving support to children, the elderly, and men and women on the both sides of the conflict line,” said Hryhoriy Nemyria, chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the Verkhovna Rada.

The handbook addresses questions and concerns raised by members of parliament and is structured into four main sections:

  1. Introduction to IHL and its relationship with other branches of international law.
  2. Explaining the competencies of the parliament which enable its members to play a pivotal role in finding solutions to the humanitarian problems in Ukraine, in particular by implementing IHL in domestic law, and adjusting national legislation to the requirements of international law.
  3. Selected IHL issues which are of crucial importance in the Ukrainian context. These include people missing in connection with armed conflict; detention in connection with armed conflict; use of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions; unexploded ordnance; protection of critical civilian infrastructure; protection of ambulances, hospitals and medical staff; situation of internally displaced persons, etc.
  4. Clarifying the status and roles of the relationship between the various components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

“The parliament has a crucial role in enacting legislation that ensures the relevant IHL rules are legally binding in Ukraine and sufficiently specific that they can be enforced. Members of parliament have the unique capacity to raise matters of concern and educate the general public on important international legal principles. IHL must be known, understood and complied with, if its purposes are to be fulfilled,” stressed Mr Aeschlimann.