INVESTIGATING IN SITUATIONS OF ARMED CONFLICT: Law, Policy and Good Practice

A Geneva Academy-ICRC Project

Started in January 2014

The investigation of death and harm during situations of armed conflict is a key area of humanitarian concern with profound implications for the application of international humanitarian law (IHL). Proper investigation by militaries involved in armed conflict and other domestic authorities is necessary to establish:

  • Whether the relevant IHL rules were applied, and respected
  • Whether appropriate measures, and of what kind, should be implemented in case of alleged violations
  • Whether possible failings in IHL application were individual or systemic in nature
  • What procedures should be put in place to prevent or minimize unlawful deaths and destruction in future military operations

A LACK OF INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS

The duty to investigate in situations of armed conflict is implied, but not mentioned directly in international law sources. States tend to rely on their domestic legal frameworks when it is deemed that an investigation is necessary, yet there is little uniformity of practice across states and no agreed international standards by which to assess these domestic procedures. Clearer guidance would appear to be of use in several areas, including: the circumstances that should trigger an investigation, who should carry it out, what its nature should be, the principles that should underpin it, and what an appropriate outcome would be.

IDENTIFYING A SET OF GUIDELINES

This project, initiated in 2014 by the Geneva Academy and joined in 2017 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), intends to identify, via expert meetings and research, a set of guidelines based on law, policy and good practice that states should apply when they investigate alleged violations of IHL in situations of armed conflict.

The guidelines will aim to provide a reference document for states, their militaries and other domestic bodies on investigations in armed conflict, and will be of use to other relevant national and international actors.

RESEARCHERS

Picture of Noam Lubell

Noam Lubell

Swiss Chair of International Humanitarian Law at the Geneva Academy and Professor of Public International Law at the University of Essex

Noam Lubell has taught, researched and published on a variety of topics related to international human rights law and the law of armed conflict, and is recognized as a leading expert in these fields.

Picture of Claire Simmons

Claire Simmons

Researcher

Claire Simmons conducts research on investigations in situations of armed conflict under the directorship of Professor Noam Lubell, Swiss Chair of International Humanitarian Law at the Geneva Academy.

Picture of Kamelia Kemileva

Kamelia Kemileva

Senior Consultant

Kamelia Kemileva is an external consultant on selected mandates related to the Geneva Human Rights Platform.

Portrait of Jelena Pejic

Jelena Pejic

SENIOR LEGAL ADVISER, INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS, LEGAL DIVISION, GENEVA

Jelena Pejic is a practitioner and scholar of international humanitarian law (IHL). Her work and publications cover a range of IHL issues and include the interface between IHL and human rights law. She is recognized as a leading authority in her fields.

Publications

Cover page of the guidelines

Guidelines on Investigating Violations of IHL: Law, Policy, and Good Practice

September 2019

Noam Lubell, Claire Simmons, Jelena Pejic

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights and International Committee of the Red Cross

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NEWS AND EVENTS

Conference room full of delegates for the presentation in Nw York of the Guidelines on Investigating violations of IHL News

Launch in New York: Guidelines on Investigating Violations of IHL

October 2019

In an event co-organized with the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the 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.

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Cover page of the Guidelines News

Guidelines on Investigating Violations of IHL: Law, Policy, and Good Practice

September 2019

These Guidelines aim to bring much needed clarity and support for the conduct of effective investigations into violations of international humanitarian law. They are the result of a five-year project initiated in 2014 by the Geneva Academy and joined in 2017 by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

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