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Leaders mark Geneva Conventions’ anniversary with call for peace

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other international leaders on Thursday marked the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions by condemning the horrors of war, and urging the world community to show respect for human life and dignity.

This content was published on August 12, 1999 - 18:08

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other international leaders on Thursday marked the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions by condemning the horrors of war, and urging the world community to show respect for human life and dignity.

The ceremony in Geneva -- where the four conventions were signed on August 12, 1949 – was co-hosted by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the city of Geneva and the Swiss government.

The Geneva Conventions are meant to protect civilians, the injured and prisoners of war, and they also define weapons of war that should not be used. The conventions have been adopted by 188 nations.

Annan and the other leaders signed a declaration appealing for combatants to respect the treaties.

“We are convinced that disregard for these principles sets the stage for war and that respecting them during wartime facilitates the restoration of peace,” the new declaration says.

Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss said Switzerland, as the depository nation of the Geneva Conventions, would redouble its efforts to win international respect for humanitarian law.

The prevention of conflicts, emergency and reconstruction efforts in areas of war as well as a crackdown on human rights violations were key elements of Swiss foreign policy, Dreifuss said.

Annan expressed his concern that civilians have increasingly become targets during warfare.

“These flagrant violations of international humanitarian law – the wholesale expulsion of an entire people from their native land, summary and arbitrary executions, mutilation, rape…have taken place not as the effect of war but as the essence of warfare,” he said.

But Annan added that the Geneva Conventions were being given more life and relevance by the creation of the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

On Wednesday, the U.N. appointed Swiss lawyer Carla Del Ponte the new chief prosecutor at the war crimes tribunal. She will take over from Canadian judge Louise Arbour next month.


From staff and wire reports.

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