The Human Rights to Food, Medicine and Medical Supplies, and Freedom from Arbitrary and Inhumane Detention and Controls in Sri Lanka
Jordan J. Paust
ABSTRACT:This Essay identifies the denial of adequate and available food and the denials of adequate medicine and medical supplies in Sri Lanka as serious human rights violations. Additionally, the Author cites customary international law and international agreements to support his conclusion that the government's denial of these necessities in Sri Lanka constitute war crimes. The Author discusses the human rights violations with respect to: (1) the right to adequate food; (2) the right to adequate medicine and medical supplies; and (3) the right to freedom from arbitrary and inhumane detention and controls. The Author concludes by urging that the U.S. State Department Country Reports, and the international community generally, expose the denials of food, medicine, and medical supplies as serious violations of humanitarian law, and that countries treat food as neutral property during armed conflicts.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE DENIAL OF ADEQUATE FOOD
THE DENIAL OF
MEDICINE AND MEDICAL SUPPLIES
DENIAL OF FREEDOM FROM ARBITRARY AND INHUMANE DETENTION AND CONTROLS
In a given context, denials of these types also violate related prohibitions under the laws of war termed "human rights in times of armed conflict" and constitute serious war crimes. It has long been recognized that there is a "civil war" occurring in Sri Lanka that has reached at least the level of an insurgency-thus implicating common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Convention (common Article 3) and Additional Protocol II (Protocol 11) thereto.
Common Article 3 reflects customary international law and several tenets of customary international law are mirrored in Protocol 11.15 Human rights norms are also mirrored in the Geneva Conventions. For example, common Article 3 requires that the government treat "humanely" all those "taking no active part in the hostilities."6 Moreover, common Article 3 expressly provides that it shall be prohibited "at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons" to engage in "cruel treatment" of such persons as well as "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment. " The protections found in common Article 3 and in Protocol II reach a state's own nationals.
Articles 4 and 13 of the Geneva Civilian Convention limit additional direct protections to those protections covered in Articles 13 through 26. As explained below, there are several allegations and recognitions with respect to the denial of food, the denial of medicine and medical supplies, and the denial of freedom from arbitrary and inhumane detention and controls, implicating common Article 3 and Articles 16, 23, and 24, as well as various articles in Protocol II. Moreover, if specific intent to commit these types of denials is shown, the denials can even constitute international crimes of genocide. These international crimes implicate not merely individual responsibility, but also the duty of the government to seek out, arrest, and initiate prosecution or extradition of those reasonably accused of such crimes.
Are arbitrary and inhumane detention and controls of individuals or groups of persons human rights violations? They are, although legal standards are related to terms such as "arbitrary," "unnecessary," and "strictly required." Additionally, there are human rights protecting the freedom to leave one's country and to seek asylum in foreign lands. Liberty and freedom of movement are not absolute, but there are significant limitations to what restrictions government can impose, even in the case of civil war. Moreover, those detained or controlled are entitled to certain rights specified in human rights instruments, including the Geneva Conventions. As noted, violations of the Geneva Conventions are also crimes implicating individual criminal and governmental responsibilities.
As demonstrated in this Essay, there are serious allegations and significant recognitions of human rights violations in Sri Lanka relating to the right to adequate food, the right to adequate medicine and medical supplies, and the right to freedom from arbitrary and inhumane detention and controls. Such denials are sustained by governmental censorship, denials of access to certain areas for investigative purposes, and intimidation of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), which in turn involve violations of the human right to transnational freedom of speech. Moreover, these denials are sustained by the lack of adequate governmental investigations, arrests, and prosecutions of alleged perpetrators-patterns that facilitate an air of impunity. Country Reports certainly should address deprivations of these human rights. To some extent, the Country Reports do address arbitrary and inhumane detention and controls, censorship, and denials of access to certain areas. For example, a section in the 1997 Country Report on Sri Lanka addressing very limited 'Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts," demonstrates the interface between general human rights law and human rights in times of armed conflict as well as the propriety of U.S. State Department reporting of such violations. 12 The most egregious violations include denials of food and medicine or medical supplies, especially for children. These violations should at least be addressed in portions of a Country Report otherwise addressing -the rights of children 13 and practices of discrimination. 14 It would be most appropriate, however, to address violations of the right to food and to medicine and medical supplies in separate sections. Further, under Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions, the United States, as do all signatories, has an obligation "to respect and to ensure respect" for the Conventions "in all circumstances."'.' One very limited, but necessary, means of ensuring respect is to disclose known and suspected violations of the Geneva Conventions in Country Reports. The 1998 Country Report on Sri Lanka 16 actually focuses on the misuse of food and medicine in a section titled "Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts 17
A. The Problem
Some of the allegations and impacts are demonstrated in a 1997 report published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR). For example, the report states: "Many groups and individuals involved with the displaced say that government ministries and the military deliberately withhold or delay supplies for the displaced. That should end The 1997 USCR report also recognizes that many people live in fear ... [there] is little employment; most are dependent on food aid and that the government's ban on fishing . . . reduces the availability of fish, usually an important source of nutrition ." The USCR further states: "The overall situation for people in the Vanni ... is worrisome. [There is] inadequate nutrition, water, health care, and shelter, all [of which] place the population at risk."
In a section on USCR Findings, it is recognized that there is some malnutrition and that "a large number of people ... did not have regular access to food and were increasingly vulnerable." Moreover, this section points out that actual transport of food into the region was inadequate and often significantly below government promises and demonstrated needs. The USCR reports that several humanitarian organizations say the government manipulates assistance as part of a political strategy to keep displaced people in need; relief workers say that food is much less than that needed and that the government does not send what it promises. The USCR's formal recommendations state that "[t]ens of thousands of people are at risk because the government will not provide them food aid, allegedly because it views them as sympathetic" to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an insurgent group of Tamil people, which has been fighting for self-determination for more than thirteen years. "If the government will not assist these people, it should allow the international community to do So." Denials of food are exacerbated in governmental detention centers. The 1998 Country Report on Sri Lanka notes that government organized convoys of food in 1997 were significant, but "the food situation in the Vanni was serious," adding:
B. Legal Requirements
Whatever the full contours and permeations of the right to food might be, it is clear that it constitutes a violation of human rights law to deny adequate food to a given population. Moreover, it would be especially unlawful and egregious to deny the right to adequate food as a government tactic to control certain persons or as a weapon of war Limitations are permitted under the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights only if "determined by law" and "only in so far as this may be compatible with the nature of these rights and solely for the purpose of promoting the general welfare in a democratic society." The limitations provision in the Universal Declaration sets a higher threshold, allowing relevant derogations only to the extent needed to meet "the just requirements of ... public order and the general welfare in a democratic society." Starvation and malnutrition, if intentional or foreseeable consequences of governmental action and a policy of denial, are not compatible with the right to adequate food-nor would they promote the general welfare within the meaning of human rights treaty law. In no way, is intentional or foreseeable starvation or malnutrition allowable as a `Just requirement" for public order or general welfare.
A strategy, or policy of denial and neglect would also violate Article 5 of the Universal Declaration, mirrored in Article 7 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." Such a human right is fundamental because it is recognized in every relevant human rights instrument, including the 1949 Geneva Conventions and Protocols thereto. Clearly, the tactic of starvation or a policy of denial and neglect in the face of starvation and malnutrition is "cruel" and "inhuman," if not also "degrading" treatment of those affected. The use of such a tactic as a measure of reprisal might run afoul of the "punishment" aspects of the covered prohibition, but it would also constitute an impermissible "treatment" of a population.
The right to adequate food or medicine and medical supplies also finds expression in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 27 of this treaty recognizes "the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental ... development" as well as the duty "in case of need [to] provide material assistance and support programmes, particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing." Starvation or a policy of denial and neglect violates such rights and duties and it would not be an excuse that the "need" of children was created by actions or inactions of a state. The Convention on the Rights of the Child also prohibits "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
With respect to common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, starvation or a policy of denial and neglect involving starvation and malnutrition would violate the prohibition of "cruel treatment and the duty to treat civilians "humancly." Further, the actions would constitute "humiliating and degrading treatment" of civilians forced to starve or to suffer near starvation or malnutrition while also watching family members and friends fall victim to the same denial of rights A violation of common Article 3 is not merely a violation of customary human rights in times of armed conflict, but also constitutes a war crime
In the case of an armed conflict of an international character (e.g., upon recognition of a "belligerency") additional protections relating to the right to food, are recognizable. For example, Article .38 of the Geneva Civilian Convention recognizes the right of protected persons "to receive the individual or collective relief that may be sent to them. Article 23 of the Geneva Convention adds the duty of every signatory to "permit the free passage of all consignments of essential foodstuffs . . . intended for children under fifteen, expectant mothers and maternity cases. Only food destined to enemy combatants can be withheld and in such a case there must be "serious reasons for fearing" such an outcome. In fact, if food is likely to be used by both the general population and enemy combatants, the destruction or denial of food in circumstances where one can reasonably foresee that the general population will suffer (including children under fifteen, expectant mothers, and maternity cases) will necessarily involve the indiscriminate use of food as a weapon.
More generally, Article 16 of the Geneva Convention assures that the wounded and sick, as well as the infirm, and expectant mothers, shall be the object of particular protection and respect . . [and that] other persons exposed to grave danger" shall be protected. Article 24 adds: "Children under fifteen, who are orphaned or are separated from their families . . . are not [to be] left to their own resources . . . ." In occupied territory, as recognized in Article 55 of the Geneva Convention, there is a "duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population" and, "in particular, [to] bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate.
Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions provides more specific standards. Article 54 of Protocol 1 expressly recognizes that "starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited. This prohibition is part of customary international law. The "deliberate starvation of civilians" has already been recognized as a war crime in the List of War Crimes prepared by the Responsibilities Commission of the Paris Peace Conference in 19 19.60 Article 54 of Protocol 1 also declares:
Two exceptions to this prohibition, which do not seem to apply to the situation in Sri Lanka, concern: (1) food used as sustenance solely by members of enemy armed forces, and (2) food used "in direct support of military action, provided however, that in no event shall actions against these objects be taken which may be expected to leave the civilian population with such inadequate food or water as to cause its starvation or force its movement." Thus, Article 54 of Protocol. I recognizes that food going to both civilians and enemy combatants must not be attacked. Further, if food is destined for the general population as well as enemy combatants, the use of food as a weapon in such circumstances would seem unavoidably to involve use of an indiscriminate weapon or tactic. Article 5 1, paragraph 4 of Protocol 1 affirms the customary rule that indiscriminate attacks are prohibited" and that such attacks include:
In Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions, applicable in cases ,of armed conflicts not of an international character (e.g., an insurgency), one also finds certain aspects of the human right to adequate food. Article 13 of Protocol II recognizes the more general duty of "general protection" of the civilian population and individual civilians "against the dangers arising from military operations," and the customary rule that "the civilian population, as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be .the object of attack. Article 14 is more specific. Paragraph 1 of Article 14 affirms: "Starvation of civilians as a method of combat is prohibited. It is therefore prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless, for that purpose, objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population such as food-stuffs . . . ."
Clearly, the prohibition of the use of food as a weapon pertains both in armed conflicts of an international and noninternational character The use of starvation as a strategy or policy of denial of food certainly involves criminal responsibility when starvation is intentional or deliberate. A policy, of denial and neglect involving starvation can also constitute a violation of humanitarian law when used wantonly or in reckless disregard of consequences, including the indiscriminate use of food as a weapon. In the future, food, like medicine and medical supplies, should always be treated as neutral property during an armed conflict. Starvation, even of enemy combatants, seems necessarily inhumane because it involves unnecessary and lingering death and suffering.
If such a strategy or policy of denial and neglect with respect to food occurs "with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such," it would amount to a crime of genocide if committed through acts of killing members of the relevant group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, or imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.
A. The Problem
Some of the allegations and impacts are demonstrated in the 1997 USCR Report. For example, the Report stated that displaced persons in the Wanni require more medicines and medical supplies" and that "many groups and individuals involved with the displaced say that government ministries and the military deliberately withhold or delay supplies . . . ." In Jaffna, it is stated that "the hospital and its patients suffer ... from a shortage of medical . . . equipment, and shortages and delays in receiving medicines. Some patients have died as a result. The report also states: "the government's irregular provision of medicines . . . has contributed to health problems and deaths in the Wanni. Not only has the government delayed shipments of medicines, but it has also blocked NGOs from providing medicines from their own stocks." Among the USCR's formal recommendations, it is stated that "persons in the Wanni require more medicines and medical supplies" and that "many groups and individuals involved with the displaced say that government minorities and the military deliberately withhold or delay supplies."
Denials of medicine and medical supplies are exacerbated in government detention centers. In its findings, the USCR states:
This is in sharp contrast to the 1997 Country Report, which states that in some regions "the Government continued to supply [displaced persons] with food, medicine, and other essential supplies." Within the 1997 Country Report, however, one finds a shocking confirmation of war crime policies and activities with respect to medicine and medical supplies:
War crime policies and activities are further documented in the 1998 Country Report:
More shocking is the recognition that "the Government refused to permit relief organizations to provide medical attention to wounded LTTE fighters. ."
B. Legal Requirements
Unquestionably, it would be a violation of human rights law to deny adequate medicine and medical supplies and treatment to a given population, groups of persons or individuals, and it would be especially unlawful and egregious to deny such rights as a governmental tactic to control certain persons or as a weapon of war. Such a strategy or policy of denial and neglect would also violate of Article 5 of the Universal Declaration, mirrored in Article 7 of the 1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
These human rights also find expression in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 24 of this treaty, like the 1966 Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, recognizes "the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health," adding "[the] States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or h er right of access to such health care services." Other duties mentioned in the article include the duty to "pursue full implementation of this right ... [and to] take appropriate measures ... to ensure the provision of necessary medical assistance and health care to all children. Another duty, related to the right to adequate food, expresses the obligation to take appropriate measures "to combat disease and malnutrition . . . through the provision of adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking-water."
Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, in addition to its general duty of humane treatment and prohibition of "cruel treatment" noted above, contains the specific requirement that "the wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for." The government's refusal of medical treatment of wounded insurgents is a violation of common Article 3. Moreover, the intentional failure to provide adequate medicine, other medical supplies and medical treatment or a policy of denial and neglect involving similar and foreseeable consequences would violate the prohibition of "cruel treatment" and the duty to treat civilians humanely Further, these government actions would constitute "humiliating and degrading treatment" of those forced to suffer the lack of adequate health care, and they would
constitute a clear violation of the duty to collect and care for those who are wounded or sick. As the authoritative commentary by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) adds, the duty to respect and protect the wounded and sick is "a categorical " imperative which cannot be restricted. Therefore, the intentional withholding of medicine and medical supplies from LTTE-controlled areas, as recognized by the State Department, is a clear violation of common Article 3 and a war crime. This is true whether or not medicine and medical supplies were foreseeably destined solely for use by enemy combatants or enemy wounded and sick. Medicine and medical supplies are neutral and protected property in time of armed conflict, and may not be withheld.
In the case of an armed conflict of an international character, additional protections relating to medicine, medical supplies, and medical treatment and facilities are recognizable. For example, Article 38 of the Geneva Civilian Convention recognizes the right of protected persons "if their state of health so requires, [to] receive medical attention and hospital treatment." Article 23 adds the general duty of signatories to the Geneva Convention to "allow the free passage of all consignments of medical and hospital stores. In occupied territory, as recognized in Article 55, there is a "duty, of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population" and, "in particular, [to] bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate. Article 56 adds: "To the fullest extent of the means available to it . . . [there is a] duty of ensuring and maintaining . . . the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory.~ Again, medicine and medical supplies are considered neutral property and may not be diverted even from enemy hands.
Among the fundamental guarantees listed in Article 75 of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions is the prohibition of "violence to . . . health, or physical or mental well-being of persons. Among the fundamental guarantees listed in Article 4 of Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions, applicable in case of an armed conflict not of an international character, one also finds the prohibition of "violence to ... health and physical or mental well-being of persons." The use of medicine and medical supplies as a weapon of war would certainly thwart the policies that lie behind the prohibition of violence to health and wellbeing.
A. The Problem
There are also allegations of related violations by members of the LTTE. Allegations concerning members of the LTTE include alleged attacks on those suspected of having "collaborated with the Sri Lankan military or government," and "threats of reprisals against those involved in reconstruction programs."
The 1997 Sri Lanka Country Report contains numerous statements and recognitions of related violations of human rights, including: political and other extrajudicial killings and reprisals; disappearances; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile; and denials of freedom of movement, travel, and emigration, mostly at the hands of government officials, officers, and agents."' The 1997 Sri Lanka Country Report is noticeably silent and inadequate, however, with regard to the impact of these violations on children, violations concerning the rights of children to food and medicine and medical supplies, and violations of the opulations right to freedom from exposure to grave danger.
The 1997 Country Report also affirms recognitions of censorship and "lack of access" to certain areas by various private and government investigative groups; the egregious lack of adequate investigations, arrests, and prosecution of alleged governmental perpetrators; 114 routine failures to follow "crucial safeguards" concerning arrested or detained persons; and refusals to allow the statutorily created Human Rights Task Force HRTF) access to areas and to various persons. The pattern of ehavior established by the government's refusal to allow nongovernmental and HRTF investigations, as well as the refusal to adequately investigate denials of human rights, coupled with evidence of government impunity, constitute circumstantial evidence of the policy of denial of rights noted in all three sections of this Essay. The 1997 Country Report also contains a section on "Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts," but it is far too limited in its focus and coverage. The 1998 Country Report is replete with similar concerns and incidents despite efforts of a new Human Rights Commission, which was created in March 1997, began work "mid-year," and opened an office "officially on January 8, 1998, in Jaffna."
B. Legal Requirements
The same rights are recognized in the 1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 9 of this covenant states: "Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as are established by law." Relevant derogations are permitted only "to the extent strictly required ... provided that such measures are not inconsistent with [countries'] other obligations under international law and do not involve discrimination solely on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion, or social origin." Article 12 also recognizes "liberty of movement and freedom to choose [one'sl residence," as well as the freedom "to leave any country, including his own." Article 14 contains a special derogation clause that permits restrictions of these rights only if they are "necessary to protect national security, public order (ordre public), public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others." The test, not unlike that concerning derogations with respect to Article 9, is based on contextual "necessity" (i.e., necessary, strictly required). Additionally, the "disappearance" of persons is also a recognized violation of customary human rights law addressing arbitrary detention and murder.
In a time of armed conflict of an international character, parties to the conflict "may take such measures of control and security in regard to protected persons as may be necessary as a result of the war." The phrase "as may be necessary" demonstrates, however, that, like more general human rights law, unnecessary detention and controls are impermissible. Arbitrary detention clearly would be unnecessary detention. Moreover, Article 42 of the Geneva Civilian Convention declares: "[the internment or placing in assigned residence of protected persons may be ordered only if the security of the Detaining Power makes it absolutely necessary." There are serious allegations and significant recognitions noted above that arbitrary and unnecessary detention, internment, and controls of various civilian persons in Sri Lanka occurs. This would be a violation of Geneva law in a time of a recognized "belligerency" or other armed conflict of an international character.
Article 32 of the Geneva Convention further specifies that states are "prohibited from taking any measure of such a character as to cause the physical suffering or extermination of protected persons in their hands." Serious allegations and significant recognitions exist that various actions to cause physical suffering have occurred, including the denials of adequate food and medicine and medical supplies noted above. Similarly, Article 16, which applies to a state's own nationals, creates a duty to assist all persons "exposed to grave danger." It would be a violation of this article for government personnel to expose civilians to grave danger by forcing the civilians to live in dangerous areas or to be exposed in other ways.
In Sri Lanka, Article 5 1, paragraph 7 of Protocol 1 is relevant to allegations with respect to both the government and LTTE. On the one hand, the presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favour or impede military operations." On the other hand, "the Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations."
Reprisals, collective punishments; and "all measures of intimidation or of terrorism" are expressly prohibited by the Geneva Civilian Conventions. Collective penalties and systematic terrorism are also among the customary prohibitions in the 1919 List of War Crimes.'" To generalize, reprisals are retaliatory acts against persons for what they did in the past and collective punishments involve the punishment of persons, not for what they have done, but for what others have done. This form of punishment is inconsistent with the human rights precepts of individual dignity and worth, that guilt must be personal, that no one should be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention, and that no one should be subjected to cruel or inhumane treatment or punishment. There are serious allegations and significant recognitions that both reprisals against and collective punishments of civilian persons have occurred in Sri Lanka. Of course, the prohibition of intimidation or terrorism prevents the government from using these measures to control a population, groups of civilians, or individuals by various means-including forced relocation to dangerous areas, arbitrary detention, refusal to disclose names of victims, facilitation of the "disappearance" of individuals, and the related use of food and medicine and medical supplies as a political weapon.
Internment, as such, creates other responsibilities under the Geneva Civilian Convention, including the need for adequate food and water "sufficient in quantity, quality and variety to keep internees in a good state of health and prevent the development of nutritional deficiencies," as well as medical care. 140 There are serious claims and significant recognitions that the government of Sri Lanka does not comply with these norms. In the case of occupied territory, Article 49 prohibits the "individual or mass forcible transfer, as well as deportations of protected persons." Evacuations are permissible "if the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand," but then the occupying power "shall ensure, to the greatest practicable extent, that proper accommodation is provided, that removals are effected in satisfactory conditions of hygiene, health, safety and nutrition, and that members of the same family are not separated." Additionally, protected persons shall not be detained "in an area particularly exposed to the dangers of war unless the security of the population or imperative reasons so demand."
Several of these rights and prohibitions are mirrored in Articles 5 ("Persons Whose Liberty Has Been Restricted") and 17 ("Prohibition of Forced Movement of Civilians") of Protocol 11 to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which is applicable in an armed conflict not of an international character and reaches one's own nationals. In all cases, persons protected by Geneva law are to be treated humanely. 145 in no case is murder permitted. 146
V. CONCLUSION CONCLUSION
Arbitrary and inhumane detention and controls of persons also occur in Sri Lanka, mostly at the hands of government officials, officers, or agents. These are partially reported, but greater effort should be made to report all suspected violations of human rights and humanitarian law relevant to non-arbitrary and humane treatment of persons as well as their impact on children and others exposed to grave danger.
Under Article 56 of the U.N. Charter, members have a legal obligation to respect and to ensure respect for human rights such as the rights to food and basic medical care. Similarly, under common Article 1 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, signatories have an obligation to respect and to ensure respect for Convention precepts "in all circumstances." It is time for the international community to recognize that, in addition to medicine and medical supplies, food should always be treated as neutral property during an armed conflict. Because of highly predictable consequences, both short-term and long-term, food should never be used as a weapon of war. Moreover, the international community should strive to assure that corridors for the free passage of food and medicine and medical supplies are negotiated or imposed during any armed conflict. For the children and others who suffer, criminal and civil sanctions are inadequate and come too late, if at all.
|Source: Vanderbilt Journal Of Transnational Law [Vol. 32:617]