While the Executive is, generally speaking, primarily responsible for matters relating to International Humanitarian Law (IHL), IHL is nonetheless relevant to Legislatures and to Parliamentarians. Although the roles of the Executive and Parliament differ across jurisdictions, Parliamentarians at all levels can perform a number of important roles that can contribute to strengthening IHL. Notably, Parliaments and Parliamentarians can use parliamentary procedures to encourage their state to become a party to IHL treaties and then introduce, support and review legislation and related regulations and instruments, to ensure that national laws enable the state to meet their obligations under IHL.
It was with the above in mind that the CPA worked together with the British Red Cross (BRC), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the University of New South Wales to develop a resource for Commonwealth Parliamentarians – ‘International Humanitarian Law: A Handbook for Commonwealth Parliamentarians’. The main aim behind the handbook was to take a complex area of international law – the laws that apply during armed conflicts or international humanitarian law – and to simplify it into an accessible format that parliamentarians and their assistants, many of whom are non-lawyers, could understand and use as an initial reference point. It is proposed that this session will follow a similar approach in providing an open and engaging discussion on the importance and applicability of IHL to the role of parliamentarians, through the involvement of international experts and parliamentarians themselves.