Red Cross vows not to prosecute video gamers for war crimes

But it wants you to know it is very disappointed in some of the choices you've made.

It turns out the story that the Red Cross wants to prosecute people who play violent video games as war criminals is only kind of true, not completely true.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC) does take seriously its responsibility to monitor conditions in war zones, educate warring sides on the rules of war and international laws of humanity, including the Geneva Convention on how to treat prisoners of war and the potential for globally witnessed trial and prosecution by the War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague.

It also gets into related issues, trying to bring its moral weight to bear on things it believes could lead to less respect for or wider violation of the international laws of war.

Its leaders want to reassure the estimated 600 million gamers worldwide that it will not pursue or prosecute them for war crimes committed within a video game

The need for reassurance follows a story by the gaming site Kotaku on committee sessions and serious discussions of policy at the ICRC's International Conference in Geneva, Switzerland this week.

The topic that interested Kotaku was one in which members discussed whether and by how great a margin typical behavior in first-person-shooters violate the International Humanitarian Laws of war.

Delegates "discussed our role and responsibility to take action against violations of IHL in video games," reported the conference's Daily Bulletin, TheRegister reported.

Members of the committee said the Movement (note the capital M) is concerned about humanitarian law and how it should apply to video games, but is primarily concerned about how violent video games affect individuals and whether the International Red Cross/Red Crescent should pressure video-game makers to tone things down.

"Unfortunately it is too early in the discussion to share our views publicly," the head of the subcommittee involved told games-publication Kotaku, which broke the story. "We will be posting some information on the ICRC's website in the weeks to come, with a view to stating and explaining our interest in the topic."

Now spokespeople for the Red Cross are up in arms about the report, saying the media took the discussion out of the context – imagining some kind of ridiculous campaign against video violence rather than of a discussion about whether the existence of video war games is offensive enough to get the Red Cross to pressure game developers to stop making them.

"Serious violations of the laws of war can only be committed in real-life situation," a spokesperson for the Red Cross told BusinessWeek yesterday.

The group does want to "work" with video-game developers to teach them about international humanitarian law, however, because some of the same companies that make war games for consumers also make them as training aids for the armies of various countries, including the United States.

Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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