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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Red Cross decides Syrian uprising an 'internal armed conflict'

I'm amazed it took them this long to figure it out. The International Committee of the Red Cross has decided that the Syrian uprising is an 'internal armed conflict' - a civil war in layman's terms. What that does is to open the possibility of charging those who order attacks on civilians with war crimes. If you can ever catch them.
The independent humanitarian agency had previously classed the violence in Syria as localized civil wars between government forces and armed opposition groups in three flashpoints – Homs, Hama and Idlib.

But hostilities have spread to other areas, leading the Swiss-based agency to conclude the fighting meets its threshold for an internal armed conflict and to inform the warring parties of its analysis and their obligations under law.

"There is a non-international armed conflict in Syria. Not every place is affected, but it is not only limited to those three areas, it has spread to several other areas," ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan told Reuters in response to a query.

"That does not mean that all areas throughout the country are affected by hostilities," he said.

The qualification means that people who order or commit attacks on civilians including murder, torture and rape, or use disproportionate force against civilian areas, can be charged with war crimes in violation of international humanitarian law.

For most of the 17-month-old conflict, the ICRC has been the only international agency to deploy aid workers in Syria who deliver food, medical and other assistance across frontlines.

All fighters caught up in an internal armed conflict are obliged to respect international humanitarian law, also known as the law of armed conflict, according to the ICRC. This includes specific sections of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

"What matters is that international humanitarian law applies wherever hostilities between government forces and opposition groups are taking place across the country (Syria)," Hassan said. "This includes, but is not necessarily limited to Homs, Idlib and Hama."
Sorry, but this doesn't appear so significant to me. Given how the Arab world protects its favored dictators, my sense is that this is a fight to the finish. Especially given the minority status of Assad's Alawite tribe, I would say that it's 'kill or be killed.'

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