On 21 April 2016, the ICRC hosted a livestreamed panel at the Humanitarium to discuss whether international humanitarian law (IHL) is under threat today; and if so – what are the ways forward to rebuild respect for it. The panel also provided an opportunity to reflect on the role of actors such as the ICRC in upholding IHL. The event was part of the Conference Cycle on “Generating Respect for the Law” and accompanied the meeting of the Editorial Board of the International Review of the Red Cross.
It is often alleged today that widespread violations of IHL contribute to its "erosion". Indeed, we are often made aware of violations of IHL and tremendous human suffering. Against this background, it is tempting to conclude that IHL is less relevant or no longer relevant at all.
And yet, in substance, IHL has grown stronger, not weaker, over the past years. A range of new international treaties have been ratified by States, international courts and tribunals produce judgments on the basis of IHL, States and non-State armed actors have been trained in this body of law, and IHL is integrated into States' domestic legal orders more than ever before.
So what is happening? Is the "erosion of respect for IHL" real or perceived? How can we better bridge the gap between the development of IHL and the situation on the ground? Beyond the law, what is the role of the international community in addressing the causes and consequences of armed conflicts? These were some of the key questions the panelists tried to address and discuss.
- Vincent Bernard, Head of Law and Policy Forum, Editor in Chief of the International Review of the Red Cross, ICRC
- Helen Durham, Director of International Law and Policy Department, ICRC
Marco Sassòli, Professor of International Law and Director of the Department of International Law and International Organization of the University of Geneva
Adama Dieng, UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide
- Michael N. Schmitt, US Naval War College, University of Exeter
- Fiona Terry, Research Advisor, ICRC