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Syria: a new series of training courses for 145 combatants and members of the Free Syrian Army, the Islam Army and Kurdish forces
 

In July 2015, both inside and outside Syria, Geneva Call’s local partner trained more than 80 military officers, combatants and selected members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Islam Army on international humanitarian norms. Most were former civilians who had taken up arms, and many had only a very basic knowledge of the laws applicable in situations of armed conflict.

Prior to their training, when asked the question, Can a person who delivers food to the enemy be considered a military target? most participants had wrongly answered Yes. Using a series of questions like this, trainers presented the main rules related to the protection of civilians and broadly discussed their practical implementation with the participants.

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Geneva Conventions and armed movements: an unprecedented move 



The Polisario Front—an armed movement struggling for the independence of Western Sahara—is now formally bound by the Geneva Conventions and its Additional Protocol I (API).
                                                                                                                     
On 23 June 2015, the Polisario Front deposited a unilateral declaration by which it undertook to apply the Geneva Conventions and the API in its armed conflict with Morocco. Switzerland has been the depository state of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols since their creation.
 
Switzerland has notified the declaration to the States Parties, thereby confirming that the Conventions and the API are applicable to this situation. This constitutes the first time that an armed movement’s declaration under Article 96 has been accepted by the depositary state.

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Turkey: monitoring the prohibition of child soldiers by HPG/PKK

Geneva Call recently visited the People’s Defense Centre/People’s Defense Forces (HPG), also known as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), in order to monitor their commitment to prohibiting the use of children under 18 years old in hostilities.
 
In October 2013, HPG/PKK, represented by HPG commander Ms. Delal Amed, signed the Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict. Since April 2014, due to allegations of non-compliance made in various media—such as the recruitment of children under 16 years old—Geneva Call has been raising this issue with high-level military commanders.
 
During Geneva Call’s most recent visit, Ms. Amed highlighted the efforts being made, stating, we are sending back all children under 16, and we don’t do it publicly in order to protect them from the legal persecution once they are back home. Following last year’s allegations, there is nobody under 18 fighting in our ranks. Last year, HPG/PKK admitted that some mistakes had been made by local units, even though they were all aware of their obligations under the Deed of Commitment.

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Democratic Republic of Congo: first workshops with high-level officers of two major armed movements
 

After hours of travel by jeep and long walks into the forest, Geneva Call met with high-level officers, legal advisers and military instructors from two of the main armed movements operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
 
Over three days, Geneva Call encouraged discussions on themes around the protection of civilians. There was a particular focus on the prohibition of sexual violence, child protection and the protection of education in the specific context of the North-Kivu conflict. This workshop followed a meeting with these armed movements earlier this year.
 
Geneva Call presented the rules and obligations facing armed movements under international humanitarian law (IHL), and the participants detailed their organizations’ policies and practices: We don’t set military positions in schools and we never target schools, stated one of the officers.
 
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