U.N. ‘joins’ Geneva Conventions after 50 years

U.N. ‘joins’ Geneva Conventions after 50 years

NEW YORK, Aug. 11 Kyodo

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on Tuesday approved the stipulation in writing of rules for U.N. peacekeepers, marking the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Geneva Conventions.

The document, the first to stipulate activity rules for U.N. peacekeepers in writing, will take effect Thursday, 50 years since the four Geneva Conventions were signed Aug. 12, 1949.

The United Nations cannot sign the conventions as it is not an independent state, but can be regarded as having “joined” them by incorporating their contents into its document.

The document prohibits attacks on civilians or civilian property. U.N. forces are also prohibited from using weapons and means that cause unnecessary damage, as well as toxic gas, biological weapons and antipersonnel land mines.

The document also forbids attacks on cultural, historic or archaeological sites or places of worship that are part of the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples and urges that dams and nuclear power plants also not be damaged.

If U.N. military personnel should violate international humanitarian laws, such personnel will be subject to prosecution in their own countries’ courts.

The Geneva Conventions have been adhered to by U.N. troop commanders and the activities of peacekeepers will not greatly change with the stipulation of the rules in writing.

U.N. authorities, however, said that north European countries, which emphasize neutrality of peacekeeping operations, objected to the stipulation of rules in writing.

The principles in the document will continue to be discussed at a special commission on peacekeeping operations and could possibly be amended.

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