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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Ukraine, damaged bicycle and car in front of a destroyed building Short Course

Protection of Persons and Property in International Armed Conflict

15 November - December 2019

This short course examines the conduct of hostilities in situations of international armed conflict, also known as the Law of The Hague.

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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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Peru, Ayacucho, Forensic Institut. With the help of the prosecutor's office staff, families try to identify the clothes of their missing relatives. Project

Standards of Proof in Fact Finding

Completed in January 2013

Several ad hoc fact-finding and inquiry commissions have been established to assess some of the most serious situations of human rights and humanitarian law violations across the world. With such mechanisms gaining influence, the question arises of whether a minimum formal standard of proof (or degree of certainty) exists or is required when such bodies adjudicate on such serious matters.

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A computer graphic simulation of a Future Protected Vehicle Project

Autonomous Weapon Systems under International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law

Completed in January 2015

This project examined the legal requirements that the use of autonomous weapon systems would need to comply with in a number of scenarios envisaged by proponents of increasing autonomy in weapon systems.

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