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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

The ANC Signs the Geneva Protocols

On November 28th, 1980, the African National Congress, at a ceremony at the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross, declared its adherence to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Protocol I of 1977 on the humanitarian conduct of war. This is the first occasion on which such a Declaration by a liberation movement has been formally made before the ICRC. President Oliver Tambo signed the Declaration on behalf of the National Executive Committee of the ANC and on behalf of Umkhonto we Sizwe.

In a statement at the ceremony, President Tambo said that the United Nations and the ICRC were to be congratulated. They had helped to develop the law so as to extend the concept of an international armed conflict to cover wars of national liberation in which, to use the language of Protocol I, 'peoples are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination'.

'We undertake to treat members of the regular armed forces of the South African regime, captured by Umkhonto we Sizwe, as prisoners of war. We undertake to be bound by the other relevant provisions of the Conventions. In consequence, we demand that the South African regime make a similar commitment in accordance with the present-day rule of war, to treat the combatants of Umkhonto we Sizwe as protected combatants ... As we solemnly affirm our adherence to the Geneva Conventions and to the Protocol, we do so in the consciousness that we do not take our standards from those of the enemy, who have shown such shameless and ruthless disregard for all the norms of humanity. Ours is a liberation struggle, and we are imbued with the morality of liberation', said President Tambo.

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