The 24th South Asia Teaching Session on International Humanitarian Law (IHL), organised by the ICRC, with the support of the Ministry of External Affairs Sri Lanka, is currently underway in Colombo. The event, which started on 26 May and will continue till 31 May, has around 50 nominated individuals from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan participating. The participants include government officials, members of the armed forces, police services, academics and civil society organisations.


Participants listen to Palitha Fernando, Attorney General of Sri Lanka, speak about modern-day challenges to IHL ©ICRC

Sri Lanka is represented by 17 participants from the University of Colombo, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of External Affairs, the Attorney General’s Department, the Legal Draftsman’s Department, Sir John Kotelawala Defence University and the Armed Forces.


Attorney General (AG) of Sri Lanka, Palitha Fernando, delivered the key note address at the event. He said: “Today, wars have changed their complexion beyond recognition because modern warfare is different from traditional means and methods. The weapons of mass destruction these days do not recognise friend or foe. Under these circumstances, IHL cannot be confined to only combatants but has gone beyond that to protect civilians.”

Academics and experts on IHL are delivering lectures on topics such as the role of women in peace-building, the relationship between IHL and International Human Rights Law, and provisions of IHL relating to missing persons.

Many participants said that attending this conference was an enriching and rewarding experience for them. Mr AMJ Sadiq, Director General, Office of Secretary of External Affairs, Ministry of External Affairs, Sri Lanka, said, “Even though I have been in the foreign service for well over two-and-a-half decades, some of the concepts and course content are new to me. It has given me a better insight into the very sensitive work the ICRC does, in both international and non- international theatres of conflict.”

Another participant, Ms Akali Varengam Konghay, a legal officer with the Ministry of Law and Justice, India, said: “Attending this conference has been very useful to me in that I now have an idea where the policy decisions of the government comes from in respect of certain legislation. This knowledge will definitely help me with my work at the Ministry.”

Ms Nyla Qureshi, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights, Pakistan, said, “I am not an IHL expert except that which I know through common sense. So, this training is an opportunity to understand the legal basis of what I believe in through common sense.”

Cherine Pollini, Head of the ICRC Delegation in Sri Lanka described the event as a vibrant forum for discussion of present-day challenges to IHL and of the relevance of IHL post-conflict situations.

To read the news release on the 24th South Asia Teaching Session on IHL, click here.

To view an album of snapshots from the event, visit the ‘IHL in Asian Academic Circles’ page on Facebook.

ICRC New Delhi