lesson in IHL
The final round of the Jean-Pictet competition took
place at the Federation in September 2002. The Jean-Pictet
competition, established in 1989, enables teams comprising
three students in law, political science or military academies
to take part in role-playing and simulations in international
The participants are put in imaginary situations where they
must decide how to react as Red Cross delegates, military
personnel, politicians or other. The general objective is
to enable the participants to simulate conflict and note how
individual decisions affect the situation of victims of armed
conflicts. This exercise provides highly specialized legal
training, but is also emotionally very demanding.
In February 2002, the teams from Louvain (Belgium) and Utrecht
(Netherlands) were selected from among 26 teams from five
continents at the English-speaking session held in Portugal.
The following month, the teams from Fribourg (Switzerland)
and Rouen (France) came out champions of the French-speaking
During the finals, the participants played the representatives
of Equatorial Faramine - an imaginary mixture of Afghanistan,
Cyprus and Taiwan - where war has raged for months. A jury
composed of experienced people from the Federation, ICRC and
UNHCR, foreign and Swiss officials, representatives of humanitarian
organizations and academics served as judges and awarded the
Jean-Pictet Prize 2002 to the team from the University of
Friboug in Switzerland.
The Nepalese track
Humanitarian needs keep growing in Nepal, where government
forces are fighting an armed rebel group, the Communist Party
of Nepal-Maoist. In this rather chaotic situation, the ICRC
focuses its activities on protecting civilians from the effects
of the violence, visiting people detained in connection with
the clashes and, in cooperation with the Nepal
Red Cross Society (NRCS), promoting international humanitarian
The ICRC and the NRCS have jointly set up a Red Cross message
network to facilitate the exchange of news between detainees
and their relatives in places where family visits are unfeasible
and normal postal services are unavailable. These messages
are the only communication the detainees have with their families.
The distribution of Red Cross messages in the often-remote
villages of Nepal is ensured by the volunteers of the NRCS,
which has branches in all of the country's 75 districts.
For 21-year-old Souheir and her fiancé, 28-year-old
Wissam, Thursday, 4 July 2002 was a golden day, their wedding
day. The old adage "true love never runs smooth"
has a deep resonance when it comes to couples living on either
side of the demarcation line dividing Syria and the Golan
plateau, which Israel has occupied since 1967. Wissam and
Souheir knew that it might be years before the wedding could
take place, and that the logistics of the event would be difficult.
It would also mean the bride leaving her family, perhaps forever,
for having once crossed the demarcation line and joined her
husband-to-be on the Israeli-occupied side, it would be nearly
impossible to go back again.
Once official permission to marry from the Israeli and Syrian
authorities had been obtained, they turned to the ICRC for
help with the practical details of their wedding. Indeed ICRC
delegations in Damascus and Tel Aviv often assist prospective
couples living on opposite sides of the demarcation line.
With the help of the UN Truce Supervision Organization and
the UN Disengagement Observer Force, who monitor the area
of separation up on the windy Golan Heights, the ICRC arranges
for both families to meet on the narrow, parched strip of
land that lies between the Israeli and Syrian checkpoints
for a moment of blessings, tears and joy.
The first ICRC-facilitated wedding for couples from opposite
sides of the line of separation took place in 1983. During
the 1990s, there were 54 such marriages. Four ICRC-assisted
weddings have taken place on the Golan Heights so far this
for International Humanitarian Law
The University Centre for International Humanitarian Law
(UCIHL) was opened in Geneva earlier this year. The centre
will be a leading authority and educational institute for
the study of international humanitarian law (IHL). Course
work will concentrate on the legal dimension of IHL in the
widest sense, taking in relevant aspects of international
criminal law, human rights and refugee law.
The centre will run regular research and teaching programmes
with a postgraduate diploma course starting at the end of
2002. It will also run ad hoc programmes for particular groups,
such as university lecturers and workers from humanitarian
The ICRC played an important role in setting up the centre
and will be closely involved in its management and work. Antoine
Bouvier, the ICRC's specialist on links with the academic
world, sees the founding of the UCIHL as an important event.
"The centre will be one of the leaders in its field and
will attract top researchers and students, not least because
Geneva is home to the main humanitarian organizations."
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