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 Kamelia Kemileva

Kamelia Kemileva

Senior Consultant

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

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.

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

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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MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Portrait of Lindsey Cameron Event

The importance and the Limits of International Law for Resolving Humanitarian Issues in Situations of Armed Conflict and Transitional Justice

September 2019, 18:00-20:00

In the face of a rapidly changing world, this opening lecture of the academic year by Lindsey Cameron will explore some of the current challenges for IHL and transitional justice.

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Short Course

The Law of Non-International Armed Conflicts

2 April - May 2020

This short course discusses the protection offered by international humanitarian law (IHL) in non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) and addresses some problems and controversies specific to IHL of NIACs, including the difficulty to ensure the respect of IHL by armed non-state actors.

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A wide view of the UN Security Council Short Course

Sanctions in Public International Law

13 February - March 2020

This short course provides an introduction to the regime of sanctions under international law and their effectiveness in addressing contemporary forms of conflict. It addresses the questions related to state responsibility, the pacific settlement of international disputes and the role of the International Court of Justice.

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Colombia, Mountains in the Valle del Cauca region, between Santander de Quilichao et Popayan. FARC-EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) combattants. Project

Rules of Engagement

Completed in January 2009

This project looked at how to enhance compliance by armed non-state actors with international norms, taking into account the views both of the actors themselves and the experiences of those engaged in dialogue with them.

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Central African Republic, Ouham province, village of Ouogo. International Humanitarian Law dissemination session to members of the Peoples' Army for the Restoration of Democracy. Project

From Words to Deeds: A Study of Armed Non-State Actors’ Practice and Interpretation of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Norms

Started in January 2017

This project aims at compiling and analysing the practice and interpretation of selected international humanitarian law and human rights norms by armed non-state actors (ANSAs). It has a pragmatic double objective: first, to offer a comparative analysis of IHL and human rights norms from the perspective of ANSAs, and second, to inform strategies of humanitarian engagement with ANSAs, in particular the content of a possible ‘Model Code of Conduct’.

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