Jean-Marie Henckaerts

International Committee of the Red Cross

Jean-Marie Henckaerts is Legal Adviser in the Legal Division of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Head of the project to update the Commentaries on the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols of 1977.


  • The updated ICRC Commentary on the Second Geneva Convention: Demystifying the law of armed conflict at sea

    Since their publication in the 1950s and 1980s respectively, the Commentaries on the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 have become a major reference for the application and interpretation of those treaties. The International Committee of the Red Cross, together with a team of renowned experts, is currently updating these Commentaries in order to document developments and provide up-to-date interpretations of the treaty texts. Following a brief overview of the methodology and process of the update as well as a historical background to the Second Geneva Convention, this article addresses the scope of applicability of the Convention, the type of vessels it protects (in particular hospital ships and coastal rescue craft), and its relationship with other sources of international humanitarian law and international law conferring protection to persons in distress at sea. It also outlines differences and commonalities between the First and the Second Conventions, including how these have been reflected in the updated Commentary on the Second Convention. Finally, the article highlights certain substantive obligations under the Convention and how the updated Commentary addresses some of the interpretive questions they raise.

  • The updated Commentary on the First Geneva Convention – a new tool for generating respect for international humanitarian law

    Since their publication in 1950s and 1980s, respectively, the Commentaries on the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 have become a major reference for the application and interpretation of these treaties. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), together with a team of renowned experts, is currently updating these Commentaries in order to document developments and provide up-to-date interpretations.

  • Bringing the Commentaries on the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols into the twenty-first century

    The ICRC Commentaries on the 1949 Geneva Conventions date back to the 1950s, and those on the 1977 Additional Protocols were written in the 1980s. Since the original Commentaries were published, the Conventions and Protocols have been put to the test, and practice with respect to their application and interpretation has developed significantly. In order to capture these new developments a major ICRC project to update the Commentaries on these six treaties is now well underway. Its goal is to contribute to a better understanding of, and respect for, international humanitarian law. Ultimately, the project seeks to enhance protection for the victims of armed conflicts.

  • Customary International Humanitarian Law: a response to US comments

    The views in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ICRC. This response is based, in part, on Jean-Marie Henckaerts, ‘‘Customary international humanitarian law: a rejoinder to Judge Aldrich’’, British Year Book of International Law, 2005, Vol. 76 (2006), pp. 525–32; Jean-Marie Henckaerts, ‘‘The ICRC Customary International Humanitarian Law Study: A rejoinder to Professor Dinstein’’, Israel Yearbook on Human Rights, Vol. 37 (2007, pp. 259–270); and ‘‘ICRC’s Jean-Marie Henckaerts responds to my comments on ICRC Customary Law Study’’, Kenneth Anderson’s Law of War and Just War Theory Blog, 24 January 2006.

  • Study on customary international humanitarian law: A contribution to the understanding and respect for the rule of law in armed conflict

    In the light of the achievements to date and the work that remains to be done, the study should not be seen as the end but rather as the beginning of a new process aimed at improving understanding of and agreement on the principles and rules of international humanitarian law.