Draft Principles on Military Attacks on Refugee Camps and Settlements for Consideration by the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection
1. As indicated in document EC/SCP/31, the Working Group on Military Attacks on Refugee Camps and Settlements in southern Africa and Elsewhere met on several occasions under the Chairmanship of Ambassador Kharma, Chairman of the Executive Committee, to consider a set of draft principles on the matter for submission to the forthcoming session of the Sub-Committee. The Working Group field a final meeting of Heads of Mission on 27 September 1983.
2. The attached draft principles on the question of military attacks on refugee camps and settlements were discussed in depth at this meeting. A consensus was reached on the text as a whole with the exception of paragraphs one and six which have been annotated accordingly.
MILITARY ATTACKS ON REFUGEE CAMPS AND SETTLEMENTS Draft Principles for consideration by the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection.
1. (Military attacks on refugee camps and settlements are in grave violation of existing instruments and fundamental principles of international humanitarian law. Given that such attacks constitute generally an act of international aggression and given the exclusively civilian and humanitarian character of these refugee camps and settlements, these attacks shall be condemned expressly by the international community when they occur and all appropriate action should be taken in the relevant bodies of the United Nations and other organizations to protect the lives and physical safety of the refugees by preventing such attacks or their recurrence.)1
2. In their mutual international relations, States are obliged to respect the fundamental principles governing such relations contained in the Charter of the United Nations and in such instruments as the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (Resolution 2625 (XXV)) and the Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes (Resolution 37/10).
3. Military attacks on refugee camps and settlements across international borders constitute a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of asylum countries. States must refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of other States, and must seek to settle their international disputes by peaceful means.
4. States and other parties to armed conflicts of an international or internal character shall continue to respect the applicable principles of international humanitarian law and, in particular, shall respect those principles relating to the treatment of civilian populations.
5. The grant of asylum or refuge shall be regarded as a peaceful and humanitarian act, and as such shall not be regarded as unfriendly by another State.
6. (Refugee camps and settlements shall not be used otherwise than for their fundamental humanitarian purpose, the use of refugee camps for military purposes in particular should be prevented.) (Refugee camps and settlements shall be uses, exclusively for civilian and humanitarian purposes; the use of refugee camps and settlements for any other purposes shall be prevented.) (Refugee camps -and settlements are for the exclusive use of civilian populations and are intended for strictly humanitarian purposes. Accordingly., no consideration whatever could justify military attacks against these camps or settlements.)2
7. (Military attacks on refugee camps or settlements should be expressly condemned by the international community and all possible action should be taken in the relevant bodies of the United Nations and other organisations to prevent such attacks or their recurrence.)3
8. In accordance with the principle of international solidarity and in order to alleviate the burden on the country of refuge, States and competent international organisations shall provide, according to their mean's all necessary assistance to relieve the plight of the victims of military attacks on refugee camps or settlements.
9. States in whose to territory refugee camps and settlements ire located, shall do all within their capacity to ensure that the exclusively civilian and humanitarian character of such camps and settlements is maintained and that they are protected against military attacks.
10. For reasons of security, refugee camps and settlements shall, whenever possible, be located at a reasonable and safe distance from the frontiers of the territory from which the inhabitants of such camps and settlements have fled, or from other areas where they may be exposed to danger of military attack.
11. States should grant UNHCR and other competent international bodies such as the ICRC access to such camps or settlements in order to allow those bodies to carry out their respective humanitarian functions of international protection and the promotion of the welfare of refugees in camps and settlements.
12. Refugees in camps and settlements should enjoy basic rights and should be treated without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin. In view of their tragic plight such persons require special understanding and sympathy .
13. Refugees in camps or settlements have duties deriving from the refuge and protection granted or afforded to them by the country of refuge or the country of asylum. In particular, they shall conform to the laws and regulations of the State of refuge or of asylum, including lawful measures taken for the maintenance of public order. Moreover, they shall refrain from any activity likely to endanger the exclusively civilian and humanitarian character of the camp or settlement.
14. Consistent with its fundamentally non-political character, UNHCR (and other international humanitarian organisations)4 has an important role to play in exercising its function of international protection of refugees in camps or settlements which have been the target of military attacks.
15. UNHCR and other concerned organs of the United Nations shall make every effort, within their respective terms of reference and the principles of the United Nations Charter to promote conditions which ensure that refugees in camps and settlements are not exposed to the danger of or suffer from military attacks, as well as to ensure that such camps and settlements maintain their exclusively civilian and humanitarian character.
16. Apart from the exercise of their international protection function and the provision of humanitarian assistance to the victims of military attacks who fall within their respective competence, such organisations should also seek to identify means commensurate with their terms of reference whereby they may participate in the prevention of such attacks or their repetition. This may include maintaining close contact with the Secretary-General of the United Nations or liaising as appropriate with the parties to the armed conflict and states of refuge on methods of protecting refugee camps or settlements including their relocation.
17. As an armed attack on a refugee camp or settlement is generally a symptom of more basic problems giving rise to situations of movements of peoples, a solution to such underlying problems should be sought as soon as possible for humanitarian reasons in accordance with the purpose and principles of the UN Charter.
1 No consensus could be reached on the text of this paragraph
2 As no consensus could be reached on the text of this paragraph, it was decided to submit three versions to the Sub-Committee.
3 This paragraph may be deleted in light of the language to be adopted in paragraph 1.
4 Deleted by the Chairman of the Working Group after review of the text because of inconsistency.