Even in war, there are rules about how people should be treated. Those rules are being violated in Syria, where civil war has raged for 2 ½ years between forces loyal to the Ba’ath government and the rebels seeking to oust it.
To help the public understand the rules and why they’re important, the Central New York Region of the American Red Cross is hosting a public forum called “Humanity in the Midst of War: The Protection of Civilians in Syria” from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18, at First Presbyterian Church, 315 N. Cayuga St., Ithaca.
Three expert panelists will discuss the rules that place limits on how war is waged, known as International Humanitarian Law (IHL), and analyze how IHL can mitigate some of the suffering and devastation caused by the war in Syria. A question-and-answer session with the audience will follow the panel discussion.
The forum is free and open to the public, and light refreshments will be served.
One of the panelists is Mukesh Kapila, former Under Secretary General at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the world’s largest humanitarian and development network. Kapila also served the United Nations in different roles as Special Advisor to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.
IHL seeks to protect life and human dignity during armed conflict, and to prevent or reduce the suffering and destruction caused by war. One of the American Red Cross’ most important responsibilities, as mandated by the Geneva Conventions and Congressional Charter, is to educate the public about IHL.
In Syria, dozens of civilians and humanitarian volunteers have been killed or detained by rebel forces. On Monday, the International Committee of the American Red Cross reported that six of its aid workers and a member of the Syrian Red Crescent Society had been kidnapped by gunmen in Syria.
“With the help of our expert panelists, we’ll be able to learn about the Syrian conflict through the lens of International Humanitarian Law, the set of laws that were created to protect humanity in the midst of war,” said Jessica Lane, Regional Youth Services Manager for the Central New York Region of the American Red Cross. “We hope this panel discussion will raise community awareness that even wars have limits.”
The forum panelists include:
Rafif Jouejati Director of FREE-Syria (Foundation to Restore Equality and Education in Syria) and a spokesperson for Syrian Local Coordinating Committees, will provide background on Syria and insight into the current civil war.
Mukesh Kapila Professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs at the University of Manchester, Special Representative of the Aegis Trust for the prevention of crimes against humanity, and Chair of Minority Rights Group International, will talk about IHL and how it applies to Syria. Kapila has extensive experience in the policy and practice of international development, humanitarian affairs, human rights and diplomacy, with particular expertise in tackling crimes against humanity, disaster and conflict management.
Christie Edwards Director of the IHL program at the American Red Cross, will discuss the roles of the American Red Cross, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Syrian Red Crescent Society in the Syrian conflict and explain why the public should know and care about IHL.
The forum will also include local guest John Hubbel Weiss, a history professor at Cornell University whose courses and research have dealt with aspects of modern European history, international relations, humanitarianism and human rights.
The forum is part of the American Red Cross Central New York Region’s Collegiate Leadership Institute from Oct. 18-20 in Ithaca. About 75 students from Red Cross Clubs at 18 colleges throughout Central New York are scheduled to attend the CLI to receive training in Red Cross services, leadership development and International Humanitarian Law.