there remain significant humanitarian consequences as a result of the violence.
office in Belfast after its assessments demonstrated a need for intervention.
While a two-year ‘dirty protest’ in Northern Ireland’s main prison has been recently resolved, paramilitary structures execute punishments, from beatings to forced exile and even death, outside of the legal process and in violation of the criminal code.
the vestiges of this era remain worrying and carry significant humanitarian problems.
ongoing detention of persons for ‘terrorist’-type offences and their separation in segregated prison wings, and street violence of a sectarian nature and against security force
Throughout the cycle of violence2 in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s, responses to humanitarian consequences of this violence were addressed by the state authorities, local communities and their leaders, and the paramilitary groupings engaged in the use of violence. The international humanitarian community was not present, or monitoring the context, and the absence of a label such as ‘humanitarian crisis’
reinforced state responsibility over a voluntary internationally led response
And yet, the targeting of civilians sometimes by virtue of their religious-ethnic background, the use of lethal force, and the deployment of a security apparatus which included up to 26,000 troops on the ground4 would, with hindsight in most observers’ eyes, raise questions about the humanitarian consequences of the situation. Northern Ireland today remains, in part, a deeply sectarian community where divisions run deep;
existing need and the ICRC’s responses. This will include examining some of the challenges and dilemmas faced by humanitarian actors, and a discussion of the added value that the ICRC can bring.
1960s, led to four decades of violence and human tragedy on a scale not seen before in Northern Ireland. The period saw several thousand fatalities, bombings
bomb alerts, a highly visible military presence, and the temporary introduction of powers to detain without trial,10 as daily life came to be viewed through a security prism
he presence of diverse paramilitary organisations and the security forces of the state (police, army, reservists) on the streets, and the concomitant levels of violence, came to symbolise this part of the United Kingdom (UK).
The ICRC’s historical operational familiarity with Northern Ireland has been limited to episodic prison visits, in particular during the 1970s and 1980s.
Violence is meted out in the name of politics, criminality, and community justice (where communities call in para- militaries to execute summary justice), and while humanitarian consequences flow as a result of each of these processes, appropriate responses from state, civil society, and international organisations need to be established in transparency and consistent with agency principles, values, and doctrine. Thus, states need to balance national security, foreign policy, and other priorities, whereas the ICRC focuses exclusively on the humanitarian situation
It rests its interventions on a universal set of international treaties – the Geneva Conventions, which mandate impartial humanitarian organisations such as the ICRC to offer their services30 – and on a set of principles which underpin large parts of humanitarian action. Notable amongst these are the principles of humanity, independence, neutrality, and impartiality
dialogue with all parties to a conflict for reasons both of staff security and the impartiality of its support, it generally works with what could be termed as ‘hard-to- reach communities’.
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