Saturday March 15th, I spent in a cell. I was detained for a few hours. It was cold, it was cramped, it was odd and most important of all: it was part of a role play.
My studies have some very practical components. Last Saturday we visited the International Committee of the Red Cross
for a workshop. Most people associate the Red Cross with medication, doctors and relief work in places of disaster. However, it is first and foremost a legal organization, which deals with International Humanitarian Law. By using this law it tries to alleviate the suffering of people in regions struck by disaster, albeit it international or non-international armed conflicts (what we used to call 'war' and civil war') or natural disasters, like the tsunami.
My academy has close ties with the ICRC, and a lot of my class mates would like to work one way or another with the ICRC
, preferably as a delegate. Delegates are the ones who are in the field, in the frontlines of wars, negotiating with war lords, military strongmen, politicians and soldiers of the warring parties about the way they are fighting their war, about how they can stop the suffering of civilians, and about how prisoners of war
ought to be treated. Delegates are the guys in the mud, the men and women who on a personal and direct level make sure that those effected by war have at least a minimum of protection.
In order to be able to do this, they get a thorough training, those delegates. Saturday we had such a training- a one day training though, whereas the real delegates get a training of a few weeks. We did a role play: in the basement of the ICRC headquarters they built a fake prison, where some of us were locked in. Staff played prison guards, and wardens. My class mates had to make sure that I would receive a fair treatment, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions
. Not an easy task in a role play, let alone in a real armed conflict.
Before I went to Bosnia, I always thought that diplomats where the ones who were though, and made the difference in a war. In Bosnia I started to realize it were the people from NGO's and aid organizations who make a difference on a personal level, for real people and individuals. Relief is often the work of individuals, not of governments. The ICRC realizes that, and works with this in mind, to keep the memory of Solferino