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The ICRC Advisory services on international humanitarian law

29-10-2010 Overview

Promoting and implementing international humanitarian law is primarily the responsibility of States. The 1949 Geneva Conventions in particular, and their subsequent Additional Protocols, make this abundantly clear. The ICRC has always pressed for effective implementation and an Advisory Service on IHL exists to assist States to fulfil their obligations.

Since the signing of the first Geneva Convention over 140 years ago, States have adopted many measures to limit the impact of war on combatants and civilians, and uphold certain basic humanitarian principles. Today the 1949 Geneva Conventions enjoy universal support. They have been ratified by every State.

The ICRC came into being as a result of the first Convention, and since then has played a major role in the development of the extensive body of international humanitarian law (IHL) that exists today. It has also been a constant advocate of effective implementation of both statutory and customary IHL.

Implementation through national legislation and other administrative measures is a must. This has been recognized in many forums, in particular the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which brings together States and the worldwide Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement every four years.

It was following the 1993 Conference that a group of experts was set up to make practical recommendations to improve respect for and compliance with IHL.  One of those recommendations led to the creation in 1995 of the ICRC Advisory Service on IHL. It became fully operational in early 1996.

The Service focuses on specialized legal advice to governments and sharing information between them. It aims to supplement and support national resources and its services can be requested by any State. The ICRC can also take the initiative and offer its services.