In a first for the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), the Mission in Romania participated in a roundtable, organised annually by the Centre for International Humanitarian Law of the National Defence “Carol I”, in commemoration of Romania’s National IHL Day.
This year’s edition was the 8th session of the Roundtable, focused on the importance of IHL in the current international security environment. On this occasion, the ICRC Head of Mission, Youness Rahoui, presented the ICRC’s role and key priorities in Romania and the sub-region, and conveyed the joint Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement response since the first displaced persons arrived in Romania as a result of the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
In addition to highlighting the active engagement with Romania’s National IHL Commission, the HoM presented two examples showcasing the ICRC’s role in promoting International Humanitarian Law in Romania. Concretely, the high-level audience was briefed on the misuse of the Emblem in Romania, which has been a matter of concern for the Romanian Red Cross (RRC) for many years. Upgrading the Codes of Justice in post-Communist Romania led to dropping measures against Emblem misuse during peacetime. The concern grew even further as the misuse became more flagrant with the escalation of the conflict in early 2022. This was particularly the case at the 649 km-long border Romania shares with Ukraine.
To address Emblem misuse, the ICRC and the RRC have been actively engaged in an Emblem protection campaign in the country and in supporting an update for the Emblem legislation. The bill update, setting out protection of the Emblem including in peacetime, has now been adopted by the Romanian Senate and is awaiting final approval in the Romanian Chamber of Deputies before being signed into law by the President.
In addition to the Emblem protection efforts, the ICRC took the opportunity to emphasise the importance of promoting International Humanitarian Law within academic circles. In 2022-2023, in addition to high-level diplomatic and academic engagements, the ICRC is fulfilling this through supporting the National IHL Competition, taking place annually in December, and by supporting the winning team to participate to the All-European IHL Competition which will be held in Ljubljana in November.
The IHL Roundtable, an important yearly event attended by Secretaries of State from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs and Defence, members of the armed forces at general and colonel ranks, military prosecutors specialised in IHL, military priests and academics, represented an important opportunity for the ICRC to disseminate its message and to establish closer connections to stakeholders in Romania. The ICRC’s presence in the Roundtable was warmly welcomed and the participants expressed their strong support for the ICRC’s mission in Romania. The Mission was invited to further share its IHL expertise and experience in future collaborations, including among NATO armed forces present in Romania.
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