Christopher Harland, ICRC Advisory Service on IHL, Geneva, Switzerland

The Domestic Implementation and Application of International Humanitarian Law Norms

International Humanitarian Law, or IHL, is also known as the law of armed conflict. IHL regulates the methods and means of armed conflict through both international treaties and customary international law. The International Committee of the Red Cross, having a

mandate to promote the understanding and application of IHL, welcomes the opportunity provided by this important event, to do so.

As this panel covers both human rights law and Humanitarian Law, it is perhaps appropriate to say a few words about the difference between the two. IHL applies principally in times of armed conflict, both international and non-international, while human rights norms apply primarily in times of peace. Human rights norms provide individuals with fundamental rights, many of which are also included in instruments such as national constitutions, including, through the articles in Part II of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. IHL, on the other hand, seeks primarily to place restrictions on the actions of combatants in times of armed conflict, in order to ensure protection for the rights of non-combatants, which include soldiers no longer taking part in hostilities. Human rights norms also apply in times of armed conflict, but countries may derogate from some of these norms in such times. IHL norms, on the other hand, may never be derogated from.

Treaty law The ICRC seeks the domestic implementation of 27 principal treaties. These treaties include the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Protocols of 1977 and 2005:

Geneva Conventions I and II (covering armed forces in the field and at sea, elements of which include treating the wounded and sick in armed conflict, protection for medical establishments, emblems) Geneva Convention III (prisoners of war) Geneva Convention IV (civilians, including in times of occupation) Additional Protocol I (1977)– (update of GCs, including conduct of hostilities, targeting, prisoners of war, emblems) Additional Protocol II (1977) – (Non-international armed conflict) Additional Protocol III (2005) – (Establishing a new emblem)
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In addition, weapons treaties, covering matters such as biological, chemical, conventional weapons as well as landmines and environmental modification techniques are either restricted or prohibited, depending on the class of weapon. These restrictions and

prohibitions need internal regulation through law, as do treaties covering cultural property in armed conflict and child soldiers, as well as the International Criminal Court Statute.

Customary Law In 2005, the ICRC published a nine-year study into the state of customary International Humanitarian Law. The 5000-page study identifies opinio juris (state practice evidencing an intention to be bound) for 161 rules of customary International Humanitarian Law. In

addition, 148 of these rules are applicable in non-international armed conflicts as well as international armed conflicts. However, in order to be applied domestically, these rules of custom will normally require national incorporation. As custom generally reflect the rules found in treaty law, the ICRC seeks greater accession to treaties and domestic incorporation as the primary means of ensuring respect for IHL.

Pakistan IHL Implementation To date, Pakistan has fully implemented one International Humanitarian Law treaty, that being the Chemical Weapons Convention. In addition, the Geneva Conventions have been partially implemented by virtue of legislation in 1936 and 1963. However, it appears that one of the most important sections of the Geneva Conventions, that dealing with grave breaches, has not yet been incorporated. As there is a direct obligation to do so in Article 49,

paragraph 1 of the First Geneva Convention, it is recommended to consider the domestic incorporation of these grave breaches as crimes:

Art. 49. The High Contracting Parties undertake to enact any legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for persons committing, or ordering to be committed, any of the grave breaches of the present Convention defined in the following Article.

In addition, work could be undertaken to incorporate the provisions of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, as well as the Hague Cultural Property Convention. The ICRC has model legislation for most of these treaties as well as sample legislation from many other countries, available on our website, at

Other IHL treaties to which Pakistan could consider acceding include the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions (I through III), the Ottawa Anti-personnel landmines Convention,

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the Geneva Conventions. among others. knowledge and respect. but work remains to be done on other Conventions. Some states have expressly provided for the application of customary international law before domestic courts. National IHL Committee Seventy-five States have established a National Inter-ministerial IHL Committee. Other states have generic "violations of international treaties" laws which allow for their automatic incorporation into the criminal code following accession. An additional question is whether IHL provisions. as well as the future establishment of a National IHL Committee. including the application of criminal sanctions. as well as the fifth protocol to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons dealing with explosive remnants of war. The ICRC works with such committees and provides publications including those offering guidelines and practical advice for the running of National IHL Committees. Summary In summary. such as the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions. law and justice. and defence. many other countries are now considering the establishment of such a committee. Pakistan may wish to also consider accession to other treaties. The ICRC stands ready to assist in this process. including the core treaties of IHL. In order to assist in the process of IHL development. Page 3 .the International Criminal Court Statute. While the use of custom to prosecute crimes may serve the cause of IHL implementation. may be applied in the absence of legislation incorporating these as crimes. Pakistan has begun the task of domestic IHL implementation through the adoption of the Chemical Weapons Convention Act in 2000. Such committees normally include representatives of ministries such as foreign affairs. in order to increase national IHL implementation. many states find it most useful to have express criminal provisions in legislation prohibiting conduct amounting to serious violations of IHL. Still others prosecute for international customary law offences through general common law crimes.

Similarities and Differences 3. 4. to limit the effects of armed conflict. greater detail in these matters is included in this Annexure: 1 2. at Where did International Humanitarian Law originate? International Humanitarian Law is rooted in the rules of ancient civilizations and religions – warfare has always been subject to certain principles and customs. However. International Humanitarian Law is part of international law. International law is contained in agreements between States – treaties or conventions – in customary rules. or by contacting the ICRC delegation in Islamabad. It protects persons who are not or are no longer participating in the hostilities and restricts the means and methods of warfare. Page 4 . part of international law set out in the United Nations Charter. and in general principles. Implementing International Humanitarian Law: from Law to Action Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 National Committees for the Implementation of International Humanitarian Law Further information may be found through the ICRC website. 5. It does not regulate whether a State may actually use force. What is International Humanitarian Law? International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law. but distinct. which consist of State practice considered by them as legally binding.icrc. International Humanitarian Law is also known as the law of war or the law of armed conflict. for humanitarian reasons. International Humanitarian Law applies to armed conflicts.Annexure The paper presented outlined possible future action to be undertaken by Pakistan in its implementation of IHL. which is the body of rules governing relations between States. this is governed by an important. 1 What is International Humanitarian Law? International Humanitarian Law is a set of rules which seeks.

an increasing number of States have contributed to the development of those rules. the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. plus its two protocols. as general rules by which all States are bound. Where is International Humanitarian Law to be found? A major part of International Humanitarian Law is contained in the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. Since then. the 1997 Ottawa Convention on anti-personnel mines. These agreements include: the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. International Humanitarian Law forms today a universal body of law. based on the bitter experience of modern warfare. the 2000 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. The Conventions have been developed and supplemented by two further agreements: the Additional Protocols of 1977 relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts. the 1980 Conventional Weapons Convention and its five protocols. Page 5 . Other agreements prohibit the use of certain weapons and military tactics and protect certain categories of people and goods. As the international community has grown. the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. Nearly every State in the world has agreed to be bound by them. States have agreed to a series of practical rules. These rules strike a careful balance between humanitarian concerns and the military requirements of States.Universal codification of International Humanitarian Law began in the nineteenth century. Many provisions of International Humanitarian Law are now accepted as customary law – that is.

or armed groups fighting each other. International Humanitarian Law distinguishes between international and non-international armed conflict. It is important to differentiate between International Humanitarian Law and human rights law. including those set out in the four Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I. these two bodies of law have developed separately and are contained in different treaties. They are subject to a wide range of rules. such as civilians and medical and religious military personnel. What is “protection”? International Humanitarian Law protects those who do not take part in the fighting. shipwrecked and sick combatants. The law applies only once a conflict has begun. In particular. Page 6 . it does not cover internal tensions or disturbances such as isolated acts of violence. such as wounded. involving either regular armed forces fighting groups of armed dissidents. What does International Humanitarian Law cover? International Humanitarian Law covers two areas: the protection of those who are not. International armed conflicts are those in which at least two States are involved. such as military tactics. While some of their rules are similar. It also protects those who have ceased to take part. taking part in fighting. and prisoners of war. A more limited range of rules apply to internal armed conflicts and are laid down in Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions as well as in Additional Protocol II. and many of its provisions may be suspended during an armed conflict. Non-international armed conflicts are those restricted to the territory of a single State. human rights law – unlike International Humanitarian Law – applies in peacetime. restrictions on the means of warfare – in particular weapons – and the methods of warfare. and then equally to all sides regardless of who started the fighting. or no longer.When does International Humanitarian Law apply? International Humanitarian Law applies only to armed conflict.

Increasingly. and the right to exchange messages with their families. chemical and biological weapons. the purpose being to protect the civilian population. there are important cases where Page 7 . the red crescent and the symbols identifying cultural property and civil defence facilities. supplies. who are not. blinding laser weapons and anti-personnel mines. the sick and wounded must be collected and cared for by the party in whose power they find themselves. This includes the provision of food. there are countless examples of violation of International Humanitarian Law. What restrictions are there on weapons and tactics? International Humanitarian Law prohibits all means and methods of warfare which: fail to discriminate between those taking part in the fighting and those. the victims of war are civilians. shelter and medical care. with no adverse distinction. cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering. Medical personnel. Humanitarian law has therefore banned the use of many weapons. There are also detailed rules governing the conditions of detention for prisoners of war and the way in which civilians are to be treated when under the authority of an enemy power. places and objects. such as civilians. The main emblems are the red cross. More specifically: it is forbidden to kill or wound an enemy who surrenders or is unable to fight. hospitals and ambulances must all be protected. individual civilians and civilian property. cause severe or long-term damage to the environment. including exploding bullets. However. They must be protected and treated humanely in all circumstances. They also enjoy legal guarantees.These categories of person are entitled to respect for their lives and for their physical and mental integrity. Is International Humanitarian Law actually complied with? Sadly. The law sets out a number of clearly recognizable symbols which can be used to identify protected people.

International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law Similarities and differences Both International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) strive to protect the lives. An international criminal court. striving for effective compliance remains as urgent as ever. the sick and the wounded. with the responsibility of repressing inter alia war crimes. In particular. the two bodies of law aim to protect human life. That said. What should be done to implement the law? Measures must be taken to ensure respect for International Humanitarian Law. if not identical. comprise provisions for the protection of women and children. Page 8 . Measures have also been taken at an international level: tribunals have been created to punish acts committed in two recent conflicts (the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda).International Humanitarian Law has made a difference in protecting civilians. rules of IHL deal with many issues that are outside the purview of IHRL. prescribe basic rights for persons subject to a criminal justice process. They must prevent violations or punish them if these nevertheless occur. and regulate aspects of the right to food and health. prohibit torture or cruel treatment. the essence of some of the rules is similar. States have an obligation to teach its rules to their armed forces and the general public. prohibit discrimination. they must enact laws to punish the most serious violations of the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols. we can all make an important contribution to compliance with International Humanitarian Law. It is therefore not surprising that. such as the conduct of hostilities. while very different in formulation. and in restricting the use of barbaric weapons. health and dignity of individuals. The States must also pass laws protecting the red cross and red crescent emblems. implementing the law will always be a matter of great difficulty. 2. prisoners. Whether as individuals or through governments and various organizations. which are regarded as war crimes. On the other hand. albeit from a different angle. Given that this body of law applies during times of extreme violence. was created by the 1998 Rome Statute. For example.

combatant and prisoner of war status and the protection of the red cross and red crescent emblems. to vote and to strike. Examples are the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Human rights are inherent entitlements which belong to every person as a consequence of being human. IHRL main treaty sources are the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic. Discrimination Against Women (1979). as well as Conventions on Genocide (1948). While IHL and IHRL have historically had a separate development. established by treaty or custom. Page 9 . IHRL deals with aspects of life in peacetime that are not regulated by IHL. the right to assembly. which are specifically intended to solve humanitarian problems directly arising from international or noninternational armed conflicts. What is International Humanitarian Law? IHL is a set of international rules. and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (1981). the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (1948) and Convention on Human Rights (1969). Racial Discrimination (1965). Similarly. It protects persons and property that are. recent treaties include provisions from both bodies of law. The main regional instruments are the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950). affected by an armed conflict and limits the rights of the parties to a conflict to use methods and means of warfare of their choice. or may be. The main treaty sources applicable in non-international armed conflict are article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II of 1977. Torture (1984) and Rights of the Child (1989). Numerous non-treaty based principles and guidelines ("soft law") also belong to the body of international human rights standards. and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. such as freedom of the press. . on the basis of which individuals and groups can expect and/or claim certain behavior or benefits from governments. established by treaty or custom..and what is international human rights law? IHRL is a set of international rules. its Optional Protocol on the Participation of Children in Armed Conflict. Social and Cultural Rights (1966).. IHL main treaty sources applicable in international armed conflict are the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocol I of 1977..

some IHRL treaties permit governments to derogate from certain rights in situations of public emergency threatening the life of the nation.When are they applicable? IHL is applicable in times of armed conflict. Are individuals also bound? IHL imposes obligations on individuals and also provides that persons may be held individually criminally responsible for "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol I. inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. International conflicts are wars involving two or more states. both in peacetime and in situations of armed conflict. Non-international armed conflicts are those in which government forces are fighting against armed insurgents. however. the issue remains unsettled. While there is a growing body of opinion according to which non-state actors – particularly if they exercise government-like functions – must also be expected to respect human rights norms. prohibition of slavery and servitude and the prohibition of retroactive criminal laws. IHRL applies at all times. or rebel groups are fighting among themselves. and for other serious violations of the laws and customs of war (war crimes). and wars of liberation. Because IHL deals with an exceptional situation – armed conflict – no derogations whatsoever from its provisions are permitted. IHRL lays down rules binding governments in their relations with individuals. Among them are the right to life. regardless of whether a declaration of war has been made or whether the parties involved recognize that there is a state of war. In principle. prohibition of torture or cruel. be proportional to the crisis at hand. whether international or non-international. Thus. Who is bound by these bodies of law? IHL binds all actors to an armed conflict: in international conflicts it must be observed by the states involved. as well the groups fighting against it or among themselves. IHL lays down rules that are applicable to both state and non-state actors. whereas in internal conflict it binds the government. Derogations must. IHL establishes universal jurisdiction over persons suspected of having committed Page 10 . must not be introduced on a discriminatory basis and must not contravene other rules of international law – including rules of IHL. However.e. Certain human rights are never derogable. i.

These crimes are also subject to universal jurisdiction. IHRL also provides for individual criminal responsibility for violations that may constitute international crimes. Who is protected? IHL aims to protect persons who do not. IHL also protects civilians through rules on the conduct of hostilities. parties to a conflict must at all times distinguish between combatants and non-combatants and between military and non military targets. refugees. . Neither the civilian population as a whole nor individual civilians may be the object of attack. What is the system of implementation. part in the hostilities. or are no longer taking part in hostilities. children. including : Page 11 . applies to all persons. such as genocide. prisoners of war (Convention III) and civilian persons (Convention IV). It is also prohibited to attack military objectives if that would cause disproportionate harm to civilians or civilian objects.. sick and shipwrecked members of the armed forces at sea (Convention II). Applicable in international armed conflicts. Similarly. wounded. States have a duty to take a number of legal and practical measures – both in peacetime and in armed conflict situations – aimed at ensuring full compliance with IHL. women. With the entry into force of the International Criminal Court.all such acts. as well as the International Criminal Court. being tailored primarily for peacetime. stateless persons. crimes against humanity and torture. the Geneva Conventions deal with the treatment of the wounded and sick in the armed forces in the field (Convention I). journalists and other categories of individuals (Convention IV and Protocol I). IHRL. the rules applicable in non-international armed conflict (article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and Protocol II) deal with the treatment of persons not taking. have jurisdiction over violations of both IHL and IHRL. or no longer taking. The ad hoc International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. For example. individuals will also be accountable for war crimes committed in non-international armed conflict. While individuals do not have specific duties under IHRL treaties... Civilian persons include internally displaced the national level? The duty to implement both IHL and IHRL lies first and foremost with states.

disseminating IHL. encourages states to implement their IHL obligations and promotes and develops IHL. whether immediately or progressively.. thematic or country-specific special rapporteurs. The supervisory system also comprises the Protecting Power mechanism. It ensures protection and assistance to victims of war. "Special procedures" have also been developed by the Commission over the last two decades. the enquiry procedure and the International Fact-Finding Commission envisaged in Article 90 of Protocol I. ICRC's right of initiative allows it to offer its services or to undertake any action which it deems necessary to ensure the faithful application of IHL. and working groups entrusted with monitoring and reporting on the human rights situations within their mandates. their Additional Protocols and the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The ICRC is a key component of the system. Page 12 . They must adopt a variety of legislative. administrative. through the enactment of penal legislation. training personnel qualified in IHL and appointing legal advisers to the armed forces. or providing for a remedy before domestic courts for violations of specific rights and ensuring that the remedy is effective. applying fundamental and judicial guarantees. States parties to Protocol I also undertake to act in cooperation with the United Nations in situations of serious violations of Protocol I or of the Geneva Conventions. This may include enacting criminal legislation to outlaw and repress acts prohibited under IHRL treaties. by virtue of the mandate entrusted to it under the Geneva Conventions. protecting the red cross and red crescent emblems. preventing and punishing war crimes.e. The principal UN Charter-based organ is the UN Commission on Human Rights and its Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. judicial and other measures that may be necessary to give effect to the rights provided for in the treaties. i. The IHRL supervisory system consists of bodies established either by the United Nations Charter or by the main IHRL the international level? As regards international implementation..translating IHL treaties. . IHRL also contains provisions obliging states to implement its rules. states have a collective responsibility under article 1 common to the Geneva Conventions to respect and to ensure respect for the Conventions in all circumstances.

to increase UN system-wide implementation and coordination of human rights. or no longer. taking part in the fighting. Page 13 . Its main treaties have been accepted by nearly every State in the world. A key role is played by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights which has primary responsibility for the overall protection and promotion of human rights. becoming party to these agreements is only a first step. In particular. Regional human rights mechanisms are. the Americas and Africa is a distinct feature of IHRL. increasingly examining violations of IHL. The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights is the supervisory body established under the 1981 African Charter. however. The European Court of Human Rights is the centrepiece of the European system of human rights protection under the 1950 European the regional level? The work of regional human rights courts and commissions established under the main regional human rights treaties in Europe..Six of the main IHRL treaties also provide for the establishment of committees of independent experts charged with monitoring their implementation. The Office aims to enhance the effectiveness of the UN's human rights machinery. . 3. Implementing International Humanitarian Law: from Law to Action International Humanitarian Law – also called the law of war – sets out detailed rules that seek to limit the effects of armed conflict. However. regional and international capacity to promote and protect human rights and to disseminate human rights texts and information. Humanitarian law is a universal set of rules.. to build national. with no equivalent in IHL. A treaty establishing an African human rights court has not yet come into force. The main regional supervisory bodies in the Americas are the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights. Efforts must be made to implement humanitarian law – to turn the rules into action. and sets limits on the means and methods of warfare. it protects those who are not.

An International Fact-Finding Commission has been set up and States are encouraged to use its services. or other State bodies. the courts. Measures have also been taken at an international level to deal with violations of humanitarian law. Such measures are essential to ensure that the law is truly respected. However. These measures are necessary to ensure that: both civilians and the military personnel are familiar with the rules of humanitarian law. There may also be a role for professional and educational bodies.What is implementation? The term implementation covers all measures that must be taken to ensure that the rules of International Humanitarian Law are fully respected. the National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society or other voluntary organizations. Who should implement? All States have a clear obligation to adopt and carry out measures implementing humanitarian law. and punished when they do occur. There are also measures that must be taken in both wartime and peacetime. it is the States which continue to bear primary responsibility for effectively implementing the law. These measures may need to be taken by one or more government ministries. However. administrative arrangements and personnel required for compliance with the law are in place. violations of humanitarian law are prevented. An international criminal court was created by the 1998 Rome Statute. the armed forces. the structures. Page 14 . Tribunals have been set up to deal with violations committed during the recent conflicts in Rwanda and in the former Yugoslavia. the legislature. it is not sufficient merely to apply these rules once fighting has begun. and which must adopt measures at a national level.

3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8) 9) 10) The treaty provisions that could or do require such measures are set out in the table below. in particular. the setting up of special structures. the 1949 Geneva Conventions. their Additional Protocols of 1977 relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts. to appoint and train persons qualified in International Humanitarian Law. Others will require the development of educational programmes. to adopt measures to prevent the misuse of the red cross. the red crescent and other symbols and emblems provided for in the Conventions and Protocols. to repress all violations listed as such in the above-mentioned instruments and. marked and protected. National Information Bureaux. the recruitment and/or training of personnel. The main ones are: 1) 2) to have the Conventions and Protocols translated into the national language(s). to provide for the establishment of hospital zones. to spread knowledge of their provisions as widely as possible both within the armed forces and the general population. to provide for the establishment and/or regulation of: National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and other voluntary aid societies. the production of identity cards and other documents. to take account of International Humanitarian Law when selecting military sites and in developing and adopting weapons and military tactics. in particular legal advisers within the armed forces. the 1954 Hague Convention on Cultural Property and the latter's Second Protocol of 1999 – a range of measures must be taken. Some of these measures will require the adoption of legislation or regulations. neutralized zones. and the introduction of planning and administrative procedures. Page 15 . All these measures are essential to ensuring effective implementation of Humanitarian Law. to ensure that persons. to adopt criminal legislation that punishes war crimes. security zones and demilitarized zones.What needs to be done? Under International Humanitarian Law – that is. to ensure that protected persons enjoy judicial and other fundamental guarantees during armed conflict. civil defence organizations. property and places protected by the law are properly identified.

protect the wounded. It can be contacted through the nearest ICRC delegation. to be an effective means of promoting national In some countries. medical personnel. medical units and facilities. Such bodies have generally proved implementation. Many States have established National Humanitarian Law committees or similar bodies for this purpose. two Protocols were adopted in 1977. the Geneva Conventions of 1949. taking an active part in hostilities. but do not replace. protect those who are not. the Conventions leave gaps in important areas. the shipwrecked. or at the address below. the International Committee of the Red Cross provides advice and documentation to governments on national implementation. They supplement. which are universally accepted. and limit the choice of methods and means of warfare. and the means of medical transport. the sick. However. To remedy these shortcomings. such as the conduct of combatants and protection of civilians from the effects of hostilities. Through its Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law.How can this be done? Careful planning and regular consultation are the key to effective implementation. They bring together government ministries. national organizations. Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 International Humanitarian Law is the set of rules which. They are: Page 16 . 4. They also protect medical duties. or no longer. in time of war. the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies may also be able to offer assistance with implementation. These treaties. It applies both in situations of international and non-international armed conflict. professional bodies and others with responsibilities or expertise in the field of implementation. The main instruments of International Humanitarian Law are the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 for the protection of war victims. prisoners of war and civilians who find themselves in enemy hands.

works and installations containing dangerous forces (Art. cultural objects and places of worship (Art.• Protocol additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949. The obligations laid down in this instrument do not impose an intolerable burden on those in charge of military operations since they do not affect the right of each State to defend itself by any legitimate means. 48 and 52). and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II). the natural environment (Art. 53). civilian objects (Art. Protocol I provides a reminder that the right of the parties to conflict to choose methods and means of warfare is not unlimited and that it is prohibited to employ weapons. and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I). 56). projectiles. 48 and 51). Page 17 . Civilians are now entitled to protection from the effects of war. Protocol I: a) prohibits indiscriminate attacks and attacks or reprisals directed against: the civilian population and individual civilians (Art. 1) and specifies what constitutes a legitimate target of military attack. 55). objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population (Art. • Protocol additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949. What new provisions does Protocol I contain? Protocol I extends the Geneva Conventions' definition of international armed conflict to include wars of national liberation (Art. imposing constraints on the way in which military operations may be conducted. 35). 54). This treaty came into being because new methods of combat had been developed and the rules applicable to the conduct of hostilities had become outdated. material or tactics of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering (Art. What is the purpose of Protocol I? Protocol I applies to international armed conflicts. Specifically.

c) lays down an obligation to search for missing persons (Art.b) extends the protection accorded under the Geneva Conventions to all medical personnel. 8-31). imply recognition of any particular status for armed rebels. 61-67). What is the purpose of Protocol II? Most conflicts since the Second World War have been non-international. excluding such low-intensity conflicts as internal tensions and rioting. Compliance with the provisions of Protocol II does not. The purpose of Protocol II is hence to ensure the application to internal conflicts of the main rules of the law of war. What new provisions does Protocol II contain? Unlike Article 3 common to the four Conventions. 3 of Protocol II). It nevertheless in no way restricts the rights of the States or the means available to them to maintain or restore law and order. Protocol II describes its own field of application in considerable detail. both civilian and military (Art. subject to certain provisos. which fails to set criteria for the definition of internal conflict to which it applies. d) strengthens the provisions concerning relief for the civilian population (Art. units and means of transport. The only provision in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 which is applicable in this type of conflict is Article 3 common to all four Conventions. 33). therefore. considered grave breaches of humanitarian law and classified as war crimes. All States Parties to Protocol I may accept the competence of this Commission. nor can it be used to justify foreign intervention (Art. Article 3 is not enough to solve the serious problems of humanitarian concern that arise in internal conflicts. f) specifies measures that must be taken by the States to facilitate the implementation of Humanitarian Law (Art 80-91). e) protects the activities of civil defence organizations (Art. Most attacks or other acts carried out in violation of point a) above are. 68-71). Article 90 of Protocol I provides for the establishment of an International Fact-Finding Commission to investigate alleged grave breaches or other serious violations of the Conventions and of Protocol I. Although it sets out basic principles for protecting people in wartime. Page 18 .

Page 19 . c) prohibits attacks on: the civilian population and individual civilians (Art. f) protects religious personnel and all medical personnel. Specifically. works and installations containing dangerous forces (Art. 4).The situations covered by Protocol II are non-international conflicts that take place on the territory of a State between the armed forces of that State and rebel armed forces that are under responsible command and control part of the national territory. 15). Common Article 3 planted the seed of humanitarian considerations in law relating to civil war. or no longer. 9-11). b) lays down rights for persons deprived of their freedom and provides judicial guarantees for those prosecuted in connection with an armed conflict (Art. 7). d) regulates the forced movement of civilians (Art. sick and shipwrecked (Art. Protocol II takes this modest beginning much further. e) protects the wounded. units and means of transport (Art. 16). Protocol II: a) strengthens the fundamental guarantees enjoyed by all persons not. taking part in the hostilities (Art. objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population (Art. g) limits the use of the red cross and red crescent emblems to those persons and objects duly authorized to display it. 5-6). 14). 17). cultural objects and places of worship (Art. 13).

It is essential that they attain universal recognition. Page 20 . Through its Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law. the ICRC stands ready to provide States interested in ratifying the Additional Protocols with any assistance and information. Only when all States have pledged compliance with all the instruments that make up International Humanitarian Law will it be possible to ensure equal protection for all victims of armed conflict. but not all. In particular. the Advisory Service can supply a Protocol Ratification Kit to facilitate the process.Why adhere to the Additional Protocols? Additional Protocols I and II of 1977 are binding on a large number of States. as this is a vital step toward fulfilment by all parties to conflict of the obligations laid down in the Protocols.

25 26 122-124 112.Table: Key articles requiring the adoption of IHL national implementation measures 1949 Geneva Conventions First 48 47 49-54 49-50 Second 49 48 50-53 50-51 Third 41. 15 36 57-58 59-60. 13-17 3. 64-78. Annex IV 20 106. Annexes I&II 10. 12 3 3 3. 82-90. 36. Annex I 14. 41. 18. 10. 144 146-149 146-147 1977 Protocols I 84 80. 2123 53 56 18. 66-67. 41 19. 4243 42 22. 12. 12 18. rights of prisoners and detainees Medical and religious personnel Medical transports and facilities 3. Annex II 42. 5. 25 28 37 30 15-21 1954 Hague Conv. Annex III Capture and internment cards Use/misuse of emblems and symbols Experts and advisers Qualified persons Legal advisers Organizations National Societies Civil defence Information bureaux Mixed medical commissions Military planning Weapons/tactics Military sites Protected zones and localities 44. 10. 2427. 129 3. 78-79. 75 4-5. Annex II 63 63 136-141 81 61-67 18 23. 66. 37-38. 87 85-91 11. 43 15-16. 12 Cultural property Dangerous forces Identity cards 16 15 5 27. 43. Annex I 8 Page 21 . Annex 17. Annex I 6 82 12 6. 18 12. 145 99. 117126 20 40. 31-35. 128 41. 6. 1999 Protoc ol Translation Dissemination & training Violations General provisions War crimes Compensation Protection Fundamental guarantees Judicial and disciplinary guarantees. 39. 75-77 44-45. 40.7 6 II 26 19 7. 41. 17 7. 127 129-132 129-130 Fourth 99. 85-90 91 11. 82-83. 5. 99-100. Annex IV 70. 17. 21-22 12 3. 85. 95-108. 5354 44-45 18. 3839. 27-34 3.

National Committees for the Implementation of International Humanitarian Law The Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 are the principal treaties governing aid to and protection of the victims of armed conflict. Protocols. In addition. the committee should have the following characteristics: It should be able to evaluate existing national law in the light of the obligations created by the Conventions. and other instruments of IHL. Their purpose is to advise and assist the government in implementing and spreading knowledge of IHL. They must. In order to secure the guarantees provided by these instruments. Implementation requires the States to adopt a number of internal laws and regulations. The purpose of National Humanitarian Law committees To facilitate this process. and has been advocated by the International Committee of the Red Cross. some States have created either national inter-ministerial working groups. for example. 1995). establish rules on the punishment of violations. since its purpose is to further the implementation and promote knowledge of IHL at the national level. However. Page 22 . Owing to the broad range of issues associated with these responsibilities.5. the use and protection of the red cross and red crescent emblems and the fundamental rights for protected persons. comprehensive implementation of the rules of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) requires coordination and support from all the government departments and other entities concerned. Setting up such committees is recognized as an important step in ensuring the effective application of IHL. it is essential that the States implement their provisions to the fullest possible extent. the States are obliged to spread knowledge of the Conventions and Protocols as widely as possible. the Intergovernmental Group of Experts for the Protection of War Victims and the 26th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (Geneva. often called committees for the implementation of IHL or National Humanitarian Law committees. The functions of a National Humanitarian Law committee The organization and objectives of a national committee must be determined by the State at the time of the committee's formation.

In some States where such committees exist. or providing guidance on the interpretation and application of humanitarian rules. to monitor the law and ensure it is applied. The committee should therefore be involved in instructing the armed forces in this domain. and assist in making IHL more widely known. communications or other expertise. which can help achieve the committee's objectives. a National Humanitarian Law committee requires a wide range of expertise. Justice. In many States. coordinating the adoption and content of administrative regulations. educational.It should be in a position to make recommendations for further implementation. It may also be useful to have representatives of legislative committees. The committee should play an important role in promoting activities to spread knowledge of IHL. Education and Culture. It should have the authority to conduct studies. Page 23 . These may be individuals not associated with government ministries but who are appointed for their legal. but they are likely to include Defence. The Role of the National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society It is likely that the National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society will already be involved in some of the activities and functions mentioned above. Foreign Affairs. The committee should therefore consider inviting IHL specialists from universities (especially law faculties). Precisely which ministries are relevant will depend on the committee’s mandate. The composition of the Committee Given its functions. members of the judiciary and personnel from the headquarters of the armed forces. it was the National Society that requested its setting up and hence was instrumental in its formation. humanitarian organizations and possibly the electronic and print media. the National Society provides the committee’s secretariat. teaching it at various levels of the public education system and promoting the basic principles of IHL amongst the general population. Finance. Internal Affairs. It is important that such a committee include other qualified persons. This may involve proposing new legislation or amendments to existing law. The National Society often possesses valuable knowledge and experience. propose activities. The committee must include representatives of the government ministries concerned with implementing IHL.

The process by which it is set up will depend on the structure and procedures of the State concerned. Some of the most important features have been outlined above. the executive power will have authority to establish such a body. It represents a commitment to securing the essential guarantees laid down for the victims of armed conflict. how it functions. It is also recommended that. Representatives of the national committees should meet regularly and share information concerning current activities and past experiences. Generally. there is considerable flexibility as to the role and characteristics of such committees. It is therefore entirely up to the State concerned to determine how it is created. the committee establish relations with other national committees and the International Committee of the Red Cross. it is important that a national committee include representatives of the Society. Neither the Geneva Conventions nor their Additional Protocols require such a committee to be set up. but any State is free to add others. It is important to emphasize that the full implementation of IHL is an ongoing process and is not completed solely by passing laws and issuing regulations. It is therefore recommended that a National Humanitarian Law committee be a permanent and not an ad hoc body. Page 24 . once created. As a result. and who are its members. as well as keeping informed of and contributing to its development. Comprehensive implementation involves monitoring the application and promotion of the law. Setting up a National Humanitarian Law Committee A national committee for the implementation of IHL need not have a specific structure.Considering the position and experience of a National Society. Implementing International Humanitarian Law Creating a national committee can be a useful and indeed decisive step in ensuring the comprehensive implementation of International Humanitarian Law. This is particularly important among States within the same geographic region or with similar political or legal systems. demonstrating that the State is taking steps towards fulfilling its fundamental obligation to respect and ensure respect for IHL.

It also stands ready to assist and provide further information to States interested in forming committees.Through its Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law. Page 25 . the International Committee of the Red Cross works on a regular basis with national committees for the implementation of IHL.