THE VOTE ON SWITZERLAND’S STARVATION AMENDMENT TO BE HELD THIS WEEK AT THE 18TH SESSION OF THE ASSEMBLY OF STATE PARTIES TO THE ROME STATUTE
This Saturday the 7th of December at the 18th Session of the Assembly of State Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute, there will be a historic vote on the amendment of the Rome Statute tabled by Switzerland, to include the crime of starvation as a war crime in non-international armed conflicts. This amendment has now been formally and unanimously recommended by the Working Group on Amendments.
The importance of this amendment cannot be overstated given the renewed use of starvation as a method of war across a number of conflicts. Its adoption would:
- ensure the protection of civilians in both international and non-international armed conflicts;
- align the Rome Statute with the position in International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and Customary International Law which prohibits starvation in both types of conflict designation; and
- push the accountability envelope, encouraging the States to mirror these legal provisions in their domestic laws.
Global Rights Compliance (GRC) are co-sponsoring with the Swiss and the Netherlands, the only official high-level side event during ASP 18 which focusses on the starvation amendment. The side-event taking place on 4 December will offer a unique overview of the amendment and the crime, hearing from Emmy and Pulitzer Award winning front-line journalist Jane Ferguson who has covered extensively the use of starvation in Yemen and South Sudan.
GRC has engaged with the Swiss government during the passage of the amendment. Since GRC’s starvation side-event at ASP 17 in 2018, which highlighted the Swiss proposal, we have delivered multi-lateral stakeholder outreach, in order to disseminate the importance of the amendment. It has underpinned a number of GRC events, including a high-level panel event with the Swiss on the amendment during International Law Week; policy papers, advocacy and analysis. GRC launched three policy papers to support the amendment sequentially in May, June and July 2019 to mirror the dates when the Working Group on Amendments of the Assembly of State Parties (ASP) to the International Criminal Court (ICC) met to discuss the proposed amendment.
Leading up to 18th Session of the ASP, GRC has produced articles and interviews linked to the proposed amendment, including a story-in focus with Matthias Lanz-Pedretti, Deputy Head of the IHL and International Criminal Justice Section of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland.
GRC in partnership with The World Peace Foundation (WPF) have been working to identify how international law may be used to advance the prevention, prohibition and accountability for starvation as part of its project: ‘Mass Starvation: Testing the Limits of the Law (generously supported by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
The Project’s high-level objective was to contribute to rendering starvation morally toxic. A unanimous passing of the Rome Statute amendment would signal a fundamental step towards achieving that objective.
As GRC prepares to launch the Phase II of the Starvation Project, which would see the further implementation of the landmark resolution UNSC 2417 and the roll-out of The Starvation Training Manual to various delegates (amongst other deliverables), our hope is that the momentum carrying the Rome Statute amendment on starvation will engender further action towards rendering starvation morally toxic and enhancing the protection of civilians in whatever type of conflict they find themselves embroiled in.
For more information on GRC’s starvation project, please see www.starvationaccountability.org