‘Indifference to humanitarian laws impossible’


The international humanitarian laws are not of recent origin but primarily rooted in human history, values and norms, said University of Karachi (KU) International Relations Department Chairperson Prof Dr Shaista Tabassum.
She was presenting the inaugural speech at a seminar on “International Humanitarian Law” organised by the KU International Relations Department in collaboration with International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Wednesday.
Tabassum stressed the fact that there is a need for a general realisation to assess the significance of international humanitarian law (IHL). “The number of conflict in the world is such that indifference to IHL is almost impossible,” she added.
Former KU pro-vice chancellor Prof Dr Shahana Urooj Kazmi presided over the event.
She said the violations of human rights have become almost endemic and conflicts of several types have literally made the lives of people miserable.
While expressing her appreciation for the programme, she mentioned that the International Relations Department is one of the most vibrant departments of the KU, which regularly organises national and international level seminars and conferences.
These activities, she said, provide an opportunity to the students to learn and grow intellectually.
In his opening remarks, ICRC Sub-Delegation Karachi Head Peter Lick said that ICRC has been making efforts to promote humanity and dignity of human lives.
“Students and common people should know about the significance of the ICRC because we, as human beings, cannot remain indifferent to human sufferings,” he added.
ICRC Head of Communications Anastasia Isyuk spoke in detail on “ICRC and Academic Circles”.
She highlighted the relation that exists between ICRC and academic environment in the world. “There is a quintessential link between ICRC and IHL,” she said. “Education happens to be an invaluable means for disseminating information about the importance and activities of ICRC.”
ICRC Karachi Communications Officer Farhan Ahmed Khan discussed the mandate and activities of ICRC in Pakistan.
He threw light upon the historical evolution of ICRC. “ICRC was born in the battlefield,” he said.
Elaborating on the mandate of ICRC, Khan said it has two major components: protection of human lives in armed conflicts; and to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles. He further said that ICRC is an independent and impartial organisation; it remains neutral while helping and assisting victims of armed conflicts and natural disasters.
The ICRC is permanently present in 80 countries of the world. ICRC Operational Communication Manager Najmul Saqib said that IHL is something of a legal code that aims at regulating behaviour of states during wars. It is alternatively called Law of Armed Conflict and protects those that have not, or are no longer, taking a direct part in hostilities.
“The civilians, in general, should be protected from warring parties,” he added.
KU International Relations Department faculty member Mohammad Salman presented a paper on “Difference between IHL and International Human Rights Law” emphasising on the fact that both of these are based on common principles of integrity and dignity of individuals, but in terms of scope they differ.
He illuminated the fact that IHRL is more theoretical whereas IHL has more of a practical connotation and application.
Human Rights debates, he continued, provide necessary intellectual and academic backbone to IHL but in reality both laws carry shortcomings in terms of proper enforcement.
The programme also had intermittent question and answer sessions and students were given certificates of participation at the end of the event.


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