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 Program Resume - Preventive Action in Azerbaijan (ICRC)

 Duration: 01.01.1998 - present
 Location: Baku
 Sectors: Education

+ International Humanitarian Law and Military Instruction
+ International Humanitarian Law and the Academic World
+ Programmes for Young People
+ Communication
+ ICRC Contribution to the Development of the Azeri Red Crescent Society

By becoming party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the body of what is called International Humanitarian Law (IHL), Azerbaijan has undertaken to respect and to ensure respect for IHL and to spread knowledge of its provisions.

People must know about humanitarian law if they are to respect it, and they must understand Red Cross and Red Crescent activities if they are to accept and support them. Civilians are frequently unaware of their rights and obligations under humanitarian law. When they benefit from the protection and assistance of the Movement, they should be better informed as to the mandate, role and ethical considerations which govern the work of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. Today's combatants are all too often ignorant of the rules of international humanitarian law (IHL) or law of armed conflict (LOAC). By the same token, journalists and the public tend to become aware of IHL and its applications only in the wake of tragedy.


Each state should include IHL norms or articles concerning prevention of violations of IHL in its national legislation.

The new Criminal Code of the Azerbaijan Republic, adopted in December 1999, includes a part called "War crimes" where most of the grave breaches of IHL have been included.

The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols have been translated into Azeri and have been published with the support of the ICRC. Other IHL treaties, such as the Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, that Azerbaijan has signed and ratified, and the Rome Statutes of the International Criminal Court have been translated this year.

Seminars covering different aspects of the inclusion of IHL into national legislation are regularly given on the level of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), with the participation of state legal experts. One expert working in the legislative and administrative legislation department of the Milli Medjlis of the Azerbaijan Republic took part in the seminar in Moscow, on 31st of January - 1st of February 2000. The Head of the Department of International Law of the Constitutional Court of the Azerbaijan Republic took part in the regional conference "Repression of War Crimes on the National and International Level" held on the 29th-31st of May, 2000 in Moscow.

The ICRC firmly hopes that Azerbaijan will sign the Additional Protocols of 1977, which provide increased protection for war victims in both international and non-international armed conflicts.


Humanitarian law and military instruction

The ICRC pursues its endeavour to foster co-operation with the armed forces in the area of military instruction and to have humanitarian law incorporated in operational planning.

When the conflict was at its height, many dissemination sessions took place among the arms carriers from the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Interior.

Today efforts focus on making the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) or IHL an integral part of the curricula in military schools, as well as in different structures of the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Interior. Such a positive step has already been made with the latter in November 1999, with a written consent of the Commander of the Internal Troops of the Minister of Interior. In April 2000, a two-day session on LOAC was held at the headquarters of the troops of Ministry of Interior for the commanders of battalions, their chiefs of staff and the officers of the department of preparation of operations. Then, in June 2000, the ICRC gave a lecture for 48 command and staff officers of the Main Department (HQ) of the Interior Troops.

At the end of June an introductory session was given for the vice-commanders of all the military units under the Ministry of Defence. This has hopefully been a first step towards strengthened co-operation with the Ministry of Defence.

Humanitarian law and the academic world

In order to raise awareness of the importance of this body of law among the future economic, political, media and military elite and to train experts who will have the task of contributing to development of the law, IHL must be taught at universities.

Several IHL courses have been established in the faculties of International Law, International Relations, Journalism, Political Science, Social Administration, Conflict Resolution, in both public and private institutes in Baku. At present, seven main Universities (Baku State University, Academy of Public Administration, Azerbaijan University, the Western University, Khazar University, Azerbaijan International University and Higher Diplomatic College) have included IHL in their curricula.

The ICRC in many countries promotes teaching of IHL in the national language of the country. With this aim in mind, the books "Development and .principles of International Humanitarian Law" by Jean Pictet and "International Humanitarian Law. An Introduction" by Hans-Peter Gasser have been translated into Azeri.

Postgraduate students and professors of International Law participate regularly in IHL seminars organised at CIS level. Two IHL teachers from Baku State University and the Academy of Public Administration took part in the recent course, held in Moscow during February 2000. An IHL professor took part in the academic conference in St.Peterbourg, the goal of which was to give the participants an opportunity to exchange their opinions and discuss problems related to the development of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and its implementation. A Professor of Journalism from Baku State University participated in the Seminar for Journalism faculties on the level of the CIS held from 19 to 23.09.00.

In order to stimulate the interest among the students in the study of IHL and research on the subject, the ICRC organised on the 23-24 of March 2000 an IHL competition between students of four Universities in Baku. Since 1998 teams from Baku Universities have an opportunity to participate in the De Martens moot court competition organised by the ICRC at CIS level in Moscow. In 2000, the team from Baku State University won the first prize among all CIS competitors.

Programmes for young people

The general purpose of ICRC programmes for young people is to provide them with basic standards of reference that enable them to form an opinion on humanitarian and social problems, based on the principle of human dignity.

To this end, a literature textbook was created in 1997. The book comprises Azeri tales and stories and aims to raise awareness among the children about the importance to limit violence.

After approval by the Ministry of Education, more than 150.000 copies of the textbook were printed and distributed to all fifth form pupils throughout Azerbaijan and 6.000 pedagogical guide books were distributed to the teachers.

A new literature textbook destined for sixth form pupils is currently being compiled. The draft has been approved by the competent Commission of the Ministry of Education. The book based essentially on Azerbaijani literature intends to sensitise pupils to humanitarian values, such as respect of the others' dignity, compassion, mutual assistance. It introduces the basic rules of IHL.

Mine-awareness programme

The ICRC from October 1996 up to March 2000 implemented a Mine-awareness programme in Azerbaijan. During the programme two main groups were targeted. The first phase aimed to make the population living close to the front line and in front-line districts as well as in internally displaced persons (IDPs) settlements in the central and southern districts aware of the danger of Anti-personnel mines and Unexploded ordnance (UXO).

In the second phase more precise and complete information was provided to the IDP community. Seminars were organised for teachers in IDP schools situated close to the front line and those scattered all over the country, for NGO staff who worked in the front line zone. Pupils were taught about the reality of the danger of mines as well as on the correct behaviour to adopt in dangerous areas.

Towards the end of the programme, about 600,000 people had received information about the danger of mines among them 162'224 students and more than 38'000 teachers.

On March 2000, the Mine Awareness Programme under the umbrella of the ICRC came to an end. The two ICRC Mine Awareness Officers were recruited by ANAMA (Azerbaijan National Agency For Mine Actions), where they develop a new approach to Mine Awareness activities. The ICRC maintains close contact with the Mine Awareness Department of ANAMA.


Relations with media

Contacts with media are regular through press releases and interviews given to local and international journalists. A bulletin focusing on ICRC local and world wide activities is sent to the press on a regular basis.

"Protection of journalists during their professional missions" by Gasser was translated into Azeri.

A two days seminar was held in May 2000 for mass media representatives to improve their knowledge on IHL and ICRC activities.

Information for the general public

The ICRC's web site is updated regularly to keep cybernauts abreast of developments and issues related to conflict victims and humanitarian action in war zones. Updated information on ICRC activities in Azerbaijan is also available on the Azerweb web-site (

Some ICRC audio-visual productions have been translated and are ready to be broadcast on national channels.


It is essential that all members of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement be capable of providing assistance in an effective and efficient manner. Recognising the importance of maintaining a functional National Society in every country with the capacity to respond rapidly to armed conflicts and other disasters, the ICRC helps strengthen and supports the National Societies through co-operation in various fields.

1997 saw the start of a co-operation programme in the field of the dissemination of IHL and of the rules of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Movement. One co-ordinator and seven regional responsibles are in charge of promoting the activities of the Azeri Red Crescent and the principles of the Red Cross Movement.

The ICRC delegation in Azerbaijan provides also support to the Tracing Service of the Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society which aims to re-establish family links for families who have lost contact with their loved ones, owing to the breakdown of postal services.

These cases are however not linked to the Nagorny-Karabakh conflict.

October 2000

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