Civilians Under Fire: Restore Respect for International Humanitarian Law

New InterAction policy brief calls on President Obama to help restore respect for rules to protect civilians in Syria and Yemen

01 Feb, 2016, 12:05 ET from InterAction

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A policy brief released today by InterAction—the largest U.S. alliance of international NGOs—calls for a new White House-led initiative to restore global respect for civilians in armed conflict. With a special focus on violence in Syria and Yemen, the brief ("Civilians Under Fire: Restore Respect for International Humanitarian Law") builds on previous reports and studies documenting attacks on civilians and humanitarian workers. The brief was released in advance of the London donor conference on Syria (Feb 3-4) and upcoming UN-sponsored World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey in May.

"The shocking images of starving civilians in Madaya is just the latest in an ever-growing list of atrocities seen since the civil war started in Syria," InterAction CEO Sam Worthington said. "At the same time, there is indiscriminate violence happening in Yemen—taking countless civilians lives, destroying scores of homes and crippling vital public infrastructure almost daily."  

"InterAction has found clear patterns of disregard for the basic rules intended to protect people during armed conflict. Average people just trying to survive in war zones cannot afford continued military recklessness and political indifference to these rules," Worthington added.

The U.S. should not only minimize civilian harm in its own operations, the new InterAction brief argues, it also should call on others to respond in kind. Specifically, the brief calls on President Barack Obama to:

  • Issue a presidential statement affirming respect for the protections to which civilians and civilian objects are entitled, including humanitarian and medical facilities and personnel;
  • Adopt and implement, including through training, a standing operational policy on civilian protection and harm mitigation applicable to all branches of the armed services;
  • Condition U.S. support for and cooperation with foreign forces (both state and non-state actors) on compliance with international humanitarian law; and
  • Set clear benchmarks for enhanced measures by all parties to mitigate civilian harm in Syria and Yemen.

Since March 2011, the Syrian civil war has claimed between 200,000 and 250,000 lives, with siege-like conditions across the county cutting cut off more than 400,000 people from critical fuel resources, food and medical assistance (Sources: NYT and SOHR reports). In Yemen, where explosive weapons are actively used in populated areas, civilians comprised 95% of reported deaths and injuries (Source: AOV report). And medical facilities have repeatedly been hit by airstrikes in both Syria and Yemen, leaving millions without urgent medical care (Sources: PHR and OCHA reports).

"Even war has rules," Worthington said. "We're calling on President Obama to launch a deliberate and concerted effort to restore respect for civilians in armed conflict."

"Civilians Under Fire: Restore Respect for International Humanitarian Law" - Full Text, Summary & Related InterAction Reports

Additional Online Resources
For more on international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict please see:

For more on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas please see:

For more on medical care during armed conflict please see:

For more on tracking civilian harm in military operations please see:

About InterAction
InterAction is the largest alliance of international NGOs and partners in the U.S. Our 190+ members work in every country, partnering to eliminate extreme poverty and vulnerability, strengthen human rights and citizen participation, safeguard a sustainable planet, promote peace, and ensure dignity for all people. For more visit: www.interaction.org.

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