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Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs I. Amanatidis’ welcome speech at the Conference marking the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the Additional Protocols of the Geneva Conventions of 1949
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour and pleasure to welcome the Anniversary Conference, which is being co-hosted by the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Panteion University’s European Centre for Research and Training in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the adoption of Additional Protocols I and II to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 on International Humanitarian Law.
Respect for the rule of law and full compliance with the rules of international law, including international humanitarian law, are fundamental pillars of Greek foreign policy.
What is more, as a member of the United Nations, Greece participates actively in and supports all of the UN’s activities, as well as other international initiatives, aimed at promoting and strengthening international humanitarian law. Moreover, as a member of the European Union, Greece shares the principles of liberty, democracy, and respect for humanitarian rights and the rule of law, and in the context of these principles it works jointly with the other member states for the dissemination and more effective implementation of international humanitarian law, particularly through optimal utilisation of all tools of action the European Union has at its disposal in this direction.
Through the institutionalisation of rules for the protection of victims during armed conflicts and the imposition of limits on the use of military means and methods, international humanitarian law aims to mitigate the dramatic repercussions of today’s international and civil conflicts and relieve human pain. In this sense, faithful compliance with the rules of international humanitarian law is intrinsic to the values of humanism and respect for human dignity.
Fully sharing this highest of goals, Greece has accepted all of the overarching documents of international humanitarian law, including the four Geneva Conventions and the three Additional Protocols to those Conventions.
Our country’s firm commitment to the principles and values of international humanitarian law manifest itself as early as 1974, with Greece’s participation in the Diplomatic Conference that convened in Geneva, on the initiative of the International Committee of the Red Cross and at the invitation of the Swiss Government, as the guardian of the four Geneva Conventions. The agenda of this Conference was the reaffirmation and development of international humanitarian law implemented in armed conflicts.
The nearly thirty years of experience between the adoption of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the two Additional Protocols of 1977 laid bare the gaps in and difficulties with the implementation of these Conventions and pointed up the need for more effective protection of the civilian population in all armed conflicts, whether international or civil.
The adoption of the Additional Protocols of 1977 was a true benchmark in the international community’s efforts to codify and develop international humanitarian law.
Today, forty years after the adoption of the Additional Protocols of 1977, international developments are demonstrating, in the most dramatic manner, the fact that international humanitarian law remains extremely relevant in our day. The serious violations of this law in our day, the intensity and complexity of today’s armed conflicts, and the alarming increase in the number of victims in the civilian population, including in the most vulnerable population groups – women and children – render imperative the need for faithful compliance with the principles and rules of international humanitarian law by all warring parties.
I want to take this opportunity to express the hope that the Conference marking the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 will be fertile ground for a productive discussion of the challenges international humanitarian law is facing today and of the prospects opening up for the future of this law.
I would like to express my warm thanks to the co-hosts of this Conference, and in particular Mrs. Nissi, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross mission in Athens; Mrs. Perraki and Mrs. Marouda, the Director and Assistant Director, respectively, of Panteion University’s European Centre for Research and Training in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action. Warm thanks also go to the Head of the Special Legal Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Maria Telalian, for her decisive assistance in organizing this Conference.
Finally, I take this opportunity to express the Greek government’s full support for the mission and work of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is the promotion and safeguarding of international humanitarian law, and to stress that the Greek government fully shares the humanitarian ideals and principles that extend throughout the actions of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.