Since the beginning of the conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2015, more than 3000 civilians have been killed, over 750 schools damaged, and the country heads the list of the most mine-contaminated territories. To protect civilians and prevent new violations, Geneva Call launched a public campaign entitled “War Has Rules Too” in December of 2018. To date, over 400,000 people have seen our specially developed videos promoting humanitarian norms.
Subsequently, in February 2019, Geneva Call launched its “War Has Rules Too” mobile application in Ukraine. The free-of-charge mobile application, available in the Russian and Ukrainian languages, helps fighters, civilians living in conflict zones and anyone else who may be interested, to learn about the norms of war. The objective of this application was to extract the principles of international humanitarian law (IHL) from the books and to teach combatants how to use the law in practice. It is an especially effective way to disseminate international humanitarian law standards in hard to reach areas. In the first two months since the launch alone, over 15,000 people downloaded the app, in both the government and non-government-controlled areas of Ukraine.
Geneva Call has received very positive feedback from combatants, civilians, the expert community and academic society following the launch of the app. A leading Ukrainian expert on international humanitarian law and the Chairman of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, Professor Mykola Hnatovsky said about the app:
“The mobile application is a modern response to the well-known call to extract IHL from books and learn how to use it in practice. It also helps to contradict the myth of the excessive complexity or unrealistic nature of international humanitarian law: in fact, its basic rules come from the requirements of common sense and humanism. Acting under international humanitarian law is not difficult, but knowledge of at least the basic requirements must be shared by all involved in one way or another in hostilities or dealing with their consequences. With the mobile application “War Has Rules Too” it becomes much easier for everyone to master this knowledge.”
Combatants fighting in the Donbass frontline region also shared their positive impressions:
“The app attracted my attention with its interesting design and the quiz format. This is a fairly fresh approach. I believe that in most of the scenarios, people can answer correctly just from a moral point of view (for example, why it is unacceptable to use violence against prisoners of war, women and children). But in many cases, I could feel the lack of knowledge from my side. I answered randomly and, unfortunately, often chose the wrong answers. I recommend all combatants to install the app “War Has Rules Too”, go through all levels and test your knowledge of international humanitarian law.” – said a female fighter.
“I believe this the best way to learn and test yourself on the rules of war. Great that it uses real-life scenarios. Very useful app.” – said the commander of a military unit.
Civilians residing in the conflict zone have also downloaded the app. For some, it helped to open their eyes to existing problems and prompted others to talk about the rules of war and their rights. A journalist from Donbass, Marina Kuraptseva, who is also an internally displaced person, shares her impressions:
“Unfortunately, even the combatants do not always know about the rules of war, and civilians even less. Going through this app, I learned a lot of details and started thinking about what I can do to promote IHL. I started a journalistic project to inform the public about the rules of war. I would like to thank Geneva Call and the application developers for providing this useful information that is easily understood and, importantly, is always at hand. The application makes it possible to obtain non-traumatic, structured information about the basic principles, standards and norms of international humanitarian law. This is very important for a country that has been living in a state of armed conflict for more than five years now.”
The mobile application “War Has Rules Too” is an important tool to ensure the protection of civilians during armed conflicts. At the moment, there are no other similar tools in Ukraine. Geneva Call implements its activities in Ukraine with support of the European Union Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), and the Australian and Norwegian ministries of foreign affairs.