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After 70 years of the Geneva Conventions, civilians and the wounded in warfare ‘more at risk than ever’

"Seventy years ago today, the four Geneva Conventions were opened for signature, with the aim of protecting all human beings during wars and armed conflicts, especially civilians and the wounded,” said Liliane Maury Pasquier, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

“Their importance should not be under-estimated, for today the civilians and the wounded who are victims of modern wars and conflicts are more at risk than ever. This 70th anniversary reminds us that the Council of Europe must do more to protect the human rights and humanitarian rights of these victims, in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Geneva Conventions.

In 2016, the Parliamentary Assembly awarded the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize to Nadia Murad, who had survived terrorism and sexual violence in Iraq. Her fate is symptomatic of the intentional targeting of civilians, and women in particular, in armed conflicts by terrorist groups and militias.

Unfortunately, the protection which should be guaranteed by the emblems of the United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent is no longer always respected during conflicts; this makes it increasingly difficult to deliver humanitarian aid to those in danger.

In this context, the role of the Council of Europe is two-fold: on the one hand, we must resolutely defend the values promoted by the Organisation, in particular the peace and dignity of human beings; on the other hand, our duty is to ensure that our human rights protection standards evolve – on both sea and land – to take account of new threats, in particular during armed conflicts or situations of humanitarian crisis or political instability. The Parliamentary Assembly will continue to play its full role in this area.”