More than seven decades following an international pledge to stop the suffering borne out of conflict, we commemorate the anniversary of the landmark Geneva Conventions that make up the core of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). This year’s theme for IHL Day is “Upholding the Law of Armed Conflict Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic: Protecting Humanity for Healing and Recovery.”

International humanitarian law was established in hopes of mitigating the effects of armed conflict around the world, as it limits and restricts the means and methods of warfare. It also protects those who are affected by war and conflict, including those who are sick and wounded among civilians and combatants alike.

The Bangsamoro has a deep history of war and conflict and, as we work towards transitional justice and reconciliation, it is important to take note of the experiences of the Bangsamoro people in conflict in terms of human rights violations committed in violation of IHL and basic human rights principles. The IHL framework provides a strong basis for establishing TJR mechanisms and institutions that will aid the Bangsamoro people in healing the past, thrive in the present, and build a future where our rights and freedoms are upheld and protected.

IHL may be international in nature, but its essence is anchored in the needs and concerns of local communities that bear the brunt of both conflict and the Covid-19 pandemic. As we confront the challenges of the political transition, alongside dealing with the difficulties of the pandemic, it is all the more urgent that we let the humanitarian principles behind IHL guide every program and policy that we implement in the Bangsamoro as we aim to protect the safety and welfare of the people.