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.

TEAM

Picture of Noam Lubell

Noam Lubell

Swiss Chair of International Humanitarian Law at the Geneva Academy and Professor of Public International Law and Head of the School of 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

Executive Manager

Kamelia Kemileva is Executive Manager of the Geneva Academy and Co-Coordinator of the Treaty Body Review 2020. She is also a visiting programme director at Wilton Park.

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.

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