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ICRC Empowers UB Journalism, Law Students On International Humanitarian Law

by Atlantic Chronicles

The International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC, has stressed the relevance of the International Humanitarian Law, IHL, in protecting civilians during armed conflicts. This was during two workshops held recently with students of the University of Buea, UB.

The sessions, held on April 3 and April 4, 2024, targeted postgraduate students of Law and Journalism and Mass Communication, aiming to raise awareness about IHL and the crucial work carried out by the ICRC to uphold human rights.

Nathalie Cass, the Field Team Leader for ICRC Buea, emphasised the relevance of international humanitarian law in protecting civilians during armed conflicts.

This was especially crucial for civilians living in Cameroon’s two English-speaking Regions, where a secessionist armed conflict has persisted since 2017, and the Far North Region which is facing attacks from the Boko Haram militant group.

Nathalie Cass indicated that the workshops were particularly significant at this time because this year marks the 75th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions of August 4, 1949, which forms the basis for international humanitarian law.

“What this body of law brings is protection for a number of people in these situations,” Cass said.

“And it also sets a framework for the way the parties to a conflict can engage. What this does is, hopefully, it reduces the suffering that happens because of conflicts and this is always relevant. Where we see conflict we know there’ll be suffering and these bodies of law help to reduce that,” she added.

At the session with journalism students on April 4, the focus was on: the mandate and mission of ICRC; Protection in the ICRC and International Humanitarian Law and the protection of journalists covering armed conflicts.


Dr. Timothee Fomegang, ICRC Legal Advisor, who spoke on the IHL and the protection of journalists, highlighted a set of duties and responsibilities of journalists covering armed conflicts.

Journalists, he said, “must not directly participate in hostilities,” or engage in any communication that incites hate or violence against civilians or any party to the conflict.

He, however, remarked that IHL does not grant journalists any form of protection or guarantee freedom of speech, so they must tread cautiously, respecting the laws of states in which they work.

He also cautioned against embedded journalism, whereby some journalists dress in the attire of belligerents in order to gain access to information or gain protection.

“Journalists are protected only as long as they do not take a direct part in the hostilities. News agencies, even when used for propaganda purposes, enjoy immunity from attacks, except when they are used for military purposes or to incite war crimes, genocide or acts of violence,” Dr Fomegang said in his presentation.

Cass also elaborated on protection in the ICRC and the mission of the organisation.

She said protection involves taking measures to prevent or stop war actors from violating the principles of international humanitarian law or other laws.

One of the ways the ICRC protects is by sensitising stakeholders, including conflict belligerents on their duties and responsibilities as per the IHL.

The organisation also provides help and support to civilians who are victims of violations to help them overcome the consequence of such violations.

In Cameroon, humanitarian groups have recorded gross rights violations against civilians in the Anglophone and the Far North Regions.

The persistence of these violations, despite the existence of the IHL, has caused some stakeholders to question the relevance of humanitarian law, if it cannot be respected by warring parties the world over.

The ICRC says the IHL remains relevant wherever there is armed conflict and violence but many of the conflicting parties usually lapse from lack of knowledge. This is why the ICRC’s mandate remains relevant.

“In every context where we see armed conflict and we see violence, there’s a relevance for the International Committee of the Red Cross to be present. And part of our work here is to make sure that these different bodies of law are understood by key constituents who take part in our civil society in dealing with these issues,” said Nathalie Cass.

By Hope Nda

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