Red Cross clarifies stance on video game war crimes

Why it cares, and what it intends to do about it.

Last week the International Committee of the Red Cross announced it had held discussions looking into whether video game developers should better reflect international humanitarian law in their output.

Some commentators duly called into question whether doing so fell outside of the organisation's remit, prompting the Red Cross today to clarify exactly what its intentions were.

In a new FAQ post on its website titled "Is there a place for the laws of armed conflict in video games?", it explained its mission is "to promote respect" for international humanitarian law. Seeing as some video games deal with realistic armed conflict, the Red Cross argued that it had every right to take an interest in the medium.

"The ICRC is interested in issues relating to video games of this type, i.e. games simulating warfare where players face choices just like on a real battlefield," read the post.

"In real life, armed forces are subject to the laws of armed conflict. Video games simulating the experience of armed forces therefore have the potential to raise awareness of the rules that those forces must comply with whenever they engage in armed conflict - this is one of the things that interests the ICRC.

"Part of the ICRC's mandate, conferred on it by States, is to promote respect for international humanitarian law - also known as the law of armed conflict - and universal humanitarian principles," it continued.

"Given this mandate and the ICRC's long history and expertise in matters relating to armed conflict, the development of these games is clearly of interest to the organisation."

It went on to agree with the notion the Red Cross should focus its attention on actual war crime violations rather than mere video games, insisting "real-life armed conflict and its humanitarian consequences are in fact its primary concern."

The FAQ also clarified that discussions held at last month's 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent constituted "an informal discussion" and "no resolution or plan of action was adopted."

However, it added that it had "expressed its readiness to engage in a dialogue with the video gaming industry in order to explore the place of humanitarian rules in games."

"The ICRC welcomes the fact that certain video games on war-related themes already take the law of armed conflict into account."

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