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International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) in International Humanitarian Law

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International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) in International Humanitarian Law


  • The International Committee of Red Cross is a humanitarian organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, and a three time nobel prize laureate.
  • Established in 1863, the ICRC operates worldwide, helping people affected by conflict and armed violence and promoting the laws that protect victims of war.
  • The state parties, the signatories to the Geneva convention of 1949 and its additional protocols of 1977 (Protocol 1 & 2) and of 2005 have given ICRC a mandate to protect victims of International and Internal armed conflicts, such victims include war wounded, prisoners, refugees, civilians and other non-combatants.
  • ICRC is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement along with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC) and 192 National Societies. It is the oldest and the most honoured organization.
  • It has won three nobel prizes in 1917, 1944 and 1963.
  • The ICRC is an independent and non-political organisation with a large scope of activities which it undertakes through its presence in most countries.
  • ICRC operates worldwide helping people affected by conflict and armed violence and promoting the law that protects the victims of war.
  • It is an independent and neutral organisation whose vision stems from the four Geneva Conventions of 1949.
  • ICRC is based in Geneva, Switzerland and it has employed around 20,000 people who are working in more than 100 countries.
The International Committee of Red Cross


Henry Dunant suggested creating national relief societies, recognizable by their common emblem, and an international treaty to protect the wounded on the battlefield.

A Red Cross on a white ground was chosen as the emblem and the committee went on to adopt the name of the International Committee of Red Cross.


  • to monitor compliance of warring parties with the Geneva Conventions.
  • to organize nursing and care for those who are wounded on the battlefield.
  • to supervise the treatment of prisoners of war and make confidential interventions with detaining authority.
  • to help with the search for missing persons in an armed conflict (tracing service).
  • to organize protection and care for civil populations.
  • to act as a neutral intermediary between warring parties.
  • The ICRC drew up seven fundamental principles in 1965 that were adopted by the entire Red Cross Movement.
  • They are humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, volunteerism, unity, and universality.
  • It also conducts and coordinates international relief and works to promote and strengthen international humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles.

The ICRC is the only institution explicitly named in international humanitarian law as a controlling authority. The legal mandate of the ICRC stems from the four Geneva COnventions of 1949, as well as its own Statutes. The ICRC also undertakes tasks that are not specifically mandated by law, such as visiting political prisoners outside of conflict and providing relief in natural disasters.


It is a private swiss association that has enjoyed various degrees of special privileges and legal immunities within the territory of Switzerland for many years on 19th March, 1993. A legal foundation for this special treatment was created by a formal agreement between Swiss Government and ICRC. This protects the full sanity of all ICRC property in Switzerland including its headquarters and archive, grants members and staff legal community, exempts the ICRC from all taxes and fees, guarantees protected and duty free transfer of goods, services and money. This provides the ICRC with secure communication privileges at the same level as foreign embassies and simplifies community travels in and out of Switzerland.


International Committee of Red Cross has its headquarters in Switzerland city in Geneva and has its external affairs called delegations in about 80 countries. Each delegation is under the responsibility of a head of delegation as the official representative of ICRC in the country. The total staff under the authority of International Committee of Red Cross is around 15,000. 800 work in Geneva headquarters and about 1200 work in the field. The International staff are assisted by some 13,000 national employees. The assembly and presidency are two long-standing institutions but the assembly council and directorate were created only in the later part of the 20th Century.

Today the leading organs are the directorates and assemblies.

An Assembly

it is also called a committee convenience on a regular basis and is responsible for defining aims,guidelines and strategies and/or supervising the financial matters of the committee. The assembly has the membership of a maximum of 25 swiss citizens. Members must speak the house language of French but many also speak English and German.

The term is for 4 years of assembly members. A three quarter majority vote from all the members is required for re-election after the third term which acts as a motivation for members to remain active and productive.

An Assembly Council (a subsidiary body with certain delegated powers)

The assembly elects a 5 member assembly council that constitutes an especially active core of the assembly. The council meets at least ten times per year and has the authority to decide on behalf of the full assembly in some matters.

The council is also responsible for organising the assembly meeting and for facilitating communication between the assembly and directorate.

The assembly council normally includes the President, two Vice-President and two elected members. While one of the vice presidents is elected for a term of 4 years and the other has a permanent appointment. His tenure ends by retirement from the vice presidency or from the committee. Currently Olivier Vodoz and Gilles Carbonnier are serving as vice presidents.

A Directorate (the executive body)

The directorate is the executive body of International Committee of Red Cross. It attends to daily management of ICRC whereas the assembly sets policy. The directorate consists of a director general and five directors in the area of operations, human resources, final resources and logistics, communication, information management and international law.

The members of the directorate serve for a term of four years.


The ICRC is funded by voluntary contributions from the States party to the Geneva Conventions, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, supranational organizations (such as the European Commission) and public and private donors.

Each year the ICRC launches appeals to cover its projected costs in the field and at headquarters, plus additional appeals if needs in the field increase. We account for our work and expenditure in our Annual Report.


In addition to supporting frail health systems which may be vulnerable to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) works in close coordination with authorities to understand what kind of protective measures they put in place in the detention facilities to prevent the spread of coronavirus there and also to remind them to include the detainees in the national plans on coronavirus.

The International Committee of Red Cross works together with relevant authorities in many places of detention around the world to strengthen standard practices such as the medical screening of new arrivals and the setting up of prevention measures – such as hand washing stations – for detainees, visitors, guards and delivery personnel.

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