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News, 12/12/2017

Foreign Minister Soini's statement on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions

Laws of war have retained their relevance, says Foreign Minister Timo Soini.

"Wars cause great suffering and distress. International humanitarian law, also known as the law of war, safeguards human dignity in armed conflicts by restricting the methods and means of warfare and by protecting people who are not taking part in the hostilities.

The Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 are at the core of international humanitarian law. Finland signed the Additional Protocols on 12 December 1977, exactly 40 years ago, and they entered into force for Finland on 7 February 1981. Although drawn up decades ago, the Protocols continue to be highly topical. The First Additional Protocol applies to international armed conflicts and the Second Additional Protocol to civil wars. They require a distinction between civilian objects and military objects. Losses of lives and damages to civilian objects must be prevented or minimised. These fundamental rules are also an integral part of the customary international law binding on all states. These rules always apply.

It is an unfortunate but well-known fact that the law of war is repeatedly and often blatantly breached. This is what is happening for example in Syria. Systematic sexual violence, blocking the entry of humanitarian aid, systematic destruction of civilian objects – especially hospitals and schools – and the complete failure to protect civilians are against the law of war. The Syrian government, which should be protecting the people within its territory, bears the greatest responsibility for all this.

The States Parties should raise awareness of the Protocols and strive to uphold the law of war. Those who have committed war crimes must be brought to justice. In my opinion, it is of utmost importance that Finland continues to carry out its consistent work to support the humanitarian law and to end impunity."

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Updated 12/12/2017

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