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US officials urge Senate ratification of treaties protecting civilians in wartime

[JURIST] Officials from the US Department of State and the Department of Defense testified Tuesday in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [official websites], calling for the Senate to ratify five long-postponed treaties that would provide increased protection for civilians during wartime. State Department Legal Adviser John Bellinger III [official profile] and Pentagon Deputy General Counsel Charles A. Allen testified [Bellinger text, PDF; Allen text, PDF] that ratification of the treaties would not harm US national security, and would induce other nations to follow suit while giving the US more leverage to negotiate future treaties.

The five texts include the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and three protocols to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (CCW): Protocol III on Incendiary Weapons; Protocol IV on Blinding Laser Weapons; and Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War, and an amendment to the CCW.

According to Bellinger:

United States ratification of the treaties before you today is in our military and security interest and would promote the rule of law and the development of international law. These treaties are widely supported and are not contentious in our view. This Administration, including the State and Defense Departments, strongly supports these treaties. They promote our cultural and humanitarian values while not interfering with legitimate military operations, as you will shortly hear from my colleagues from the Defense Department. The United States has traditionally been at the forefront of efforts to improve the legal regime dealing with the conduct of armed conflict, in order to protect our own forces, to reduce the suffering caused by armed conflicts and to provide protection to the victims of war, in a manner consistent with legitimate military requirements. Our ratification of these instruments will therefore serve our interests in these areas.
Brig. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson [official profile], a deputy director at the Pentagon, also testified [PDF text] Tuesday, supporting Bellinger's contention that the treaties would not have an adverse effect on US military missions. AP has more.

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