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Remarks by Ambassador Betty King to the International Institute of Humanitarian Law Round Table on Global Viol
September 10, 2010

Ambassador Betty E. King, Permanent Representative of the United States of American to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva

International Institute of Humanitarian Law Round Table on Global Violence: Consequences and Responses
San Remo, Italy
Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thank you Ambassador Moreno.

Your Highness, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be a part of this anniversary roundtable. The United States has been a supporter of IIHL and a participant in its events for many years and on the occasion of this anniversary, I’d like to take a moment to honor IIHL’s legacy. There are thousands of government and military officials, international organization and civil society representatives who have learned about International Humanitarian Law and Refugee Law here. They have exchanged ideas on the application of these principles and the future of humanitarian affairs. And most importantly, they have gone on to practice what they learned, to build on their experience here and, I would venture, to better their humanitarian practices and the lives of vulnerable people around the world. This is no small achievement for which we are all grateful to IIHL.

As a representative of the current U.S. Administration, I am particularly pleased to be associated with this event. President Obama has made clear from his very first days in office his commitment to renewed engagement and to ensuring that the United States complies with all applicable international law, including the Geneva Conventions. Let me be clear, we are fully engaged, we are back at the table, and we want to be part of discussions such as these about the application and the effectiveness of the laws of war.

Because, let us not forget, the United States is a country engaged in conflict. In his remarks accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama spoke of war and of the changing nature of war and its combatants. He said, “There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.” But he also recognized that while “…the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace…this truth must coexist with another – that no matter how justified, war promises human tragedy.”

Our job, it seems to me, is to focus on reducing that human tragedy while accepting that violent conflict will not end during our lifetimes and understanding the current realities of conflict. This is particularly true as we look at the laws of war. To be effective, the law must adapt to address evolving realities – the world as we know it and not the world as it was or the world as we would like it to be. This is why the themes chosen for this round table are so important in our current times. Contemporary Forms of Armed Conflict, Deprivations of Liberty in Armed Conflict, and Individual Guarantees in Detention. These are complex issues that merit serious reflection and discussion to help us move toward a common understanding of the application of existing rules in the context of current conflict.

I look forward to hearing all of your views and know that I will benefit from my time here. Thank you very much.