Common Article 1 to the Geneva Conventions and the obligation to prevent international humanitarian law violations

Common Article 1 to the four Geneva Conventions lays down an obligation to respect and ensure respect for the Conventions in all circumstances. This paper focuses on the second part of this obligation, in particular on the responsibility of third States not involved in a given armed conflict to take action in order to safeguard compliance with the Geneva Conventions by the parties to the conflict. It concludes that third States have an international legal obligation not only to avoid encouraging international humanitarian law violations committed by others, but also to take measures to put an end to on-going violations and to actively prevent their occurrence.

The article is available for download here, and will be published in an upcoming issue of the International Review of the Red Cross focused on the theme Generating respect for the law.

About the authors

Knut Dörmann
Head of the Legal Division at the ICRC

Dr Knut Dörmann is Head of the Legal Division at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Jose Serralvo
Legal adviser in the Legal Division at the ICRC

Jose Serralvo is legal adviser in the Legal Division at the ICRC.