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Australian Guidelines for the Protection of Civilians

Abstract The Australian Guidelines for the Protection of Civilians (the Guidelines) provide a whole-of-government perspective on the Protection of Civilians (POC) in international situations of armed conflict and other situations of violence. The Guidelines are the product of extensive consultation, facilitated by the Australian Civil-Military Centre, and includes broad representation of Australian government and non-government organisations. In contemporary conflicts civilians are increasingly the targets of systematic and opportunistic violence, including indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks, sexual and gender-based violence and other violations of international law. This situation continues despite the existing protections provided by international humanitarian and human rights law. Clearly, more needs to be done. These Guidelines help identify who has responsibility and what needs to be done when protection of civilians is an issue. They place support for the rule of law at the centre of Australian operational responses. While focusing on operations involving the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP), they also build a shared understanding of POC across the full range of government departments and agencies that will contribute to an offshore operation. The Guidelines provide guidance on how to implement Australia’s POC focus areas: Protection through dialogue and engagement Provision of physical…

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Perceptions about Protection of Civilians

Abstract Historically, international humanitarian law (IHL) through the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 has required the protection of civilian populations in armed conflict. The Geneva Conventions provide guidance with regard to the obligations of states and parties to a conflict to apply the principle of distinction and to ensure precaution in attack as they pursue their military objectives. This was the first international legal framework to provide for the protection of civilians and forms the foundation of the ‘Protection of Civilians’ concept. Throughout the 1990s, devastating failures to protect civilians from violence and atrocities shaped thinking at the United Nations (UN) and gave rise to a more expansive concept of Protection of Civilians, incorporating international human rights law, international refugee law, and including best practices in peacekeeping operations and humanitarian response. This is reflected in the adoption of Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict as a thematic concern of the UN Security Council, and the development of policy and guidance relating to civilian protection since 1999, at the United Nations and elsewhere. The term ‘Protection of Civilians’ has expanded from a set of legal obligations in IHL to a conceptual and operational framework used by…

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