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World - Europe

Annan issues rules of conduct for U.N. peacekeepers

graphic

August 10, 1999
Web posted at: 7:28 p.m. EDT (2328 GMT)

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a bulletin Tuesday instructing U.N. peacekeepers to adhere to humanitarian rules spelled out in the Geneva Conventions.

The unprecedented move covers a wide range of areas, including general treatment of civilians and detainees and protection of the sick and wounded. Examples of more specific rules include restrictions on the types of weapons that can be used by U.N. troops and the protection of women against rape and enforced prostitution.

The Geneva Conventions apply to combatants, and the U.N. troops traditionally have served as peacekeepers interposed between opposing forces. But in recent years, the "blue helmets" as the peacekeepers are called, have been drawn into actual combat situations in places such as Bosnia and Somalia.

"Military operations shall be directed only against combatants and military objectives," one section of the new U.N. document says. "Attacks on civilians or civilian objects are prohibited,"

Peacekeepers are also prohibited from certain methods of combat, including asphyxiation and the use of poison gas and biological weapons. Sites of religious, historical or archeological value are prohibited from attack.

The bulletin also addresses increased reports of serious misconduct by the peacekeepers, including murder, rape, torture and black marketeering.

Women are to be guarded from rape and forced prostitution and "children shall be protected against any form of indecent attack," the U.N. bulletin says.

50th anniversary of Geneva Conventions

The bulletin takes effect on Thursday, when Annan will visit Geneva for ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the four Geneva Conventions on August 12, 1949.

The new rules are based on the principles of those four conventions, although the U.N. does not have the authority to prosecute peacekeepers.

In accordance with existing practice, U.N. peacekeepers who violate the directives will be subject to punishment by courts in their own countries.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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      • Preventive Action and Peacemaking
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