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Political "Disappearances" - a Challenge for Humanitarian Law

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image of Nordic Journal of International Law

In November 1981 the International Conference of the Red Cross, meeting in Manila, adopted a strong resolution against the practise of political "disappearances" (see Annex 1). This is the first humanitarian standard specifically adressing this relatively new pattern of human rights violations within the wider framework of the humanitarian law in armed conflict and internal strife. Contrary to our pessimism when we started to prepare for this initiative in the Norwegian Red Cross and at the Institut Henry Dunant in Geneva, the draft resolution was strengthened at the Conference and carried with an overwhelming majority (111 States parties in favour - only Argentina and Syria abstained). The humanitarian law has mistakenly been considered as a set of rules with little or no importance for circumstances below the threshold of international armed conflicts. In this article we will therefore argue that a human rights problem like political "disappearances" is not an exclusive concern of UN human rights treaties and non-governmental organisations like Amnesty International. On the contrary it represents a great challenge for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the humanitarian law in general.

Affiliations: 1: International Peace Research Institute of Oslo


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