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Strenghtening international humanitarian law

The ICRC is currently undertaking a major consultation process on how to strengthen legal protection for victims of armed conflict. This involves two tracks of work, one regarding detention in non-international armed conflict, and the other on strengthening compliance with international humanitarian law generally.

 

   

For international humanitarian law (IHL) to effectively regulate the behaviour of warring parties, there is a need for both adequate rules and actual compliance with those rules. 

In most scenarios, IHL sufficiently addresses the humanitarian impact of armed conflict. It is respect for the law that is lacking. Contemporary armed conflicts repeatedly demonstrate that the most fundamental and universally acknowledged laws of war are often disregarded, and existing IHL does not provide effective mechanisms to stop violations when they occur. 

But in certain areas, the rules themselves need strengthening. Deprivation of liberty in relation to non-international armed conflict (NIAC) is one such area. 

To address some of these challenges, the ICRC is currently undertaking a major project on "Strengthening legal protection for victims of armed conflict". 

The project focuses on two priority areas: 

 

1. Detention track: The protection of persons deprived of their liberty in relation to non-international armed conflict (NIAC)

The detention track seeks to identify options for strengthening IHL regarding the deprivation of liberty of persons in relation to NIAC. Compared to the detailed body of treaty law regarding detention in relation to international armed conflict (IAC), the treaty law regarding detention in relation to NIAC is very limited.  

2. Compliance track: Mechanisms for strengthening compliance with IHL

The compliance track seeks to identify options for improving overall compliance with IHL, by both States and non-State armed groups. Many rules of IHL continue to be violated daily. IHL lacks strong and effective mechanisms for monitoring and promoting compliance. Together, the ICRC and Swiss Government are consulting with States and other relevant actors on how to address this weakness.  

Consultations:

From 2012-2015, the ICRC is consulting States and other relevant actors on how to address these two areas and to create stronger legal protection for victims of armed conflict. These consultations are taking place within the framework of Resolution 1, adopted by consensus in 2011, at the31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, following an ICRC Report. Based on the consultations, the ICRC will propose options and recommendations for strengthening the law, for consideration by the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, in late 2015. 

Analysis