14 October 2019
Investigations into alleged violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) by the parties to an armed conflict are not only crucial to securing respect for IHL, but also to preventing future violations and enabling redress for victims of past violations. Despite the unquestionable importance of investigations, there is a lack of detail with regard to the international law, principles and standards relevant to investigations in armed conflicts. This is further reflected in the disparate practice across states in the way investigations are carried out.
The new Guidelines on Investigating Violations of IHL: Law, Policy, and Good Practice – the outcome of a five-year project initiated in 2014 by the Geneva Academy and joined in 2017 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) – aim to bring much needed clarity and support for the conduct of effective investigations into violations of IHL.
In an event co-organized with the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations (UN) in New York, two of the authors – Noam Lubell and Jelena Pejic – presented the 16 guidelines before a full room of delegates from the UN General Assembly First and Sixth Commissions, UN agencies, and experts.
Jelena Pejic, Senior Legal Adviser at the ICRC introduced the process and made a general introduction to the Guidelines. Noam Lubell, Swiss IHL Chair at the Geneva Academy and Professor of International Law at the University of Essex, discussed some challenging issues encountered in the drafting process and the choices made to resolve them. He also addressed the interplay between IHL and international human rights law (IHRL), matters such as recording operations, how to define incidents, what are administrative investigations, and how to catch systemic problems. Professor Sarah Cleveland, a former member of the UN Human Rights Committee, explained where the Guidelines fit in the gap between IHRL and IHL with respect to investigations, including in relation to the right to life.
‘This event forms part of the Guidelines’ promotion and dissemination and aimed at presenting and discussing them with states. As a key resource and practical guide for military lawyers and persons in charge of investigations, our ultimate goal is that states start using these guidelines when conducting investigations into violations of IHL’ explains Marco Sassòli, Director of the Geneva Academy.
Two students enrolled in our LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights – Marishet Mohammed Hamza from Ethiopia and Virginia Raffaeli from Italy – developed for the ICRC online casebook How does Law Protect in War? 26 practical cases that show how IHL applies in contemporary armed conflicts.
Sandra Pointet/Geneva Academy
The 78 students of our LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights and MAS in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law are starting their classes this week, both in Geneva and online.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet will discuss, along with other panelists, children’s rights in the context of the environment, international efforts and youth engagement
US Army/SSGT JACOB N. BAILEY
The speaker, Lt. Col. John Cherry,will focus in particular on how high-level strategic decisions are ‘op erationalized’ at the tactical level.
This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, focuses on the specific issues that arise in times of armed conflict regarding the respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights. It addresses key issues like the applicability of human rights in times of armed conflict; the possibilities of restricting human rights under systems of limitations and derogations; and the extraterritorial application of human rights law.
Olivier Chamard / Geneva Academy
The Treaty Body Members’ Platform connects experts in UN treaty bodies with each other as well as with Geneva-based practitioners, academics and diplomats to share expertise, exchange views on topical questions and develop synergies.
Resulting from traditional legal research and informal interviews with experts, the project aims at examining how – if at all possible – IHL could be more systematically, appropriately and correctly dealt with by the human rights mechanisms emanating from the Charter of the United Nations, as well from universal and regional treaties.