Home Posts tagged "Geneva Conventions"

Was there the Third World in Geneva in 1949?

Published on September 26, 2019        Author: 

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. The importance that has been attached to the four Geneva Conventions (GCs) in the last seven decades is discernible from their universal acceptance. Since their adoption hardly there has been an armed conflict situation where the discussions have not involved the issues related to the Geneva Conventions. Development of the law of armed conflicts did not stop with the adoption of the GCs as later on Additional Protocols of 1977 (AP I and AP II), and 2005 (AP III) were adopted. Despite the fairly comprehensive nature of the GCs, the Additional Protocols were found to be necessary. One of the important reasons for the adoption of the APs, particularly AP I and AP II, was the coming into existence of the newly independent third world States and the need for accommodating their concerns. It is true that newly independent third world States were more in number in 1977 and made a significant difference to the APs, like the recognition of national liberation movements as international armed conflicts in AP I. It is also true that there were not many States from the third world at the time of negotiations on GCs. However, a plain assertion of these facts ignores a critical and historically contingent role of the third world States who participated in the negotiations on GCs in 1949.

Historical accounts of the GCs often state that the GCs were largely negotiated by the European States as less number of States participated from the third world (Giovanni Mantilla, The Origins and Evolution of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Additional Protocols, p. 39). This situation is often compared with the AP I and AP II negotiations in the 1970s where there was more number of newly independent third world States, and therefore their influence was manifest on the outcome of the diplomatic conference. This narrative presents the absence of the third world States as an important reason for the prominent role gained by the European States in 1949. This narrative further demonstrates that the presence of more number of third world States in 1977 made a significant impact on AP I and AP II, like in the form of inclusion of national liberation movements and the modification of combatant status. This plain equivalence, while attempting to present the apparent facts, tends to ignore the unsuccessful attempts of the third world States in bringing to the fore their concerns during the negotiation process in 1949. Problematized from a third world perspective, this equivalence also has the potential to present the ideological divide between the third world and the first world as a question of mere presence and absence and formal participation.

Hence, while assuming that the number of States that participated from the third world was less, however, their participation and interventions during the negotiations convey emerging solidarity among the third world States(though African, Asian and Latin American States constituted almost half of the 59 participating States at the diplomatic conference). Their interventions provided a critique of the developed or the first world on several issues and underlined the similarities between the third world States. This pointed towards emerging third world solidarity which was carried forward to the later years and decades at the multilateral fora. This emerging dualism of first world critique and third world solidarity in the international law making process was evidently witnessed on some of the crucial issues of the Geneva Conventions. Two issues are analyzed here to substantiate the above arguments: These are common article 3 and the red cross emblem. Read the rest of this entry…


Compliance with IHL by Non-State Armed Groups: Some Practical Reflections at the 70th Anniversary of the 1949 Geneva Conventions

Published on August 21, 2019        Author: 

That non-State armed groups (NSAGs) engage in hostilities on a frequent basis is not news. Indeed, NSAGs are active in the majority of contemporary armed conflicts (at 19). What seems to have changed in the last few years is the increasing attention that the international community is paying to their behavior, largely due to the impact that they have on civilians. While it is undisputed that international humanitarian law (IHL) binds NSAGs (para 505), finding effective strategies to enhance their level of compliance remains challenging, especially considering that the baseline expectation is generally low (at 69).

Interestingly, while some NSAGs have been responsible for IHL violations, others have also shown a degree of compliance for certain rules during non-international armed conflicts (NIACs). As this year marks the 70th anniversary of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, some reflections related to how parties to armed conflicts – in this case, NSAGs – actually behave are in order.

Describing NSAGs’ Variations

Generally, compliance has been defined as “behavioral conformity with existing norms and regulations” (at 65). For NSAGs, this implies the observed match between their behavior and their international obligations.

As parties to armed conflicts, NSAGs should not be seen as entities that either violate or respect international law without exception. Instead, they may follow certain rules while disregarding others. For instance, a NSAG may respect the prohibition of using and recruiting children in hostilities, but may summarily execute detainees or take hostages. Similarly, a group may deliberately attack health care facilities and transports in breach of IHL, while prohibiting the forcible displacement of civilians. At the same time, these non-State entities often modify their behaviors throughout the hostilities, reflecting and increase or decrease in their level of compliance with humanitarian norms. Wood has identified that civilian victimization is “anticipated during moments in which the viability of the groups is threatened or when it faces significant military setbacks” (at 15). Variation is particularly evident during peace processes (here, for an example). When a NSAG looks for political recognition, it might adopt a different attitude than a group whose main purpose is to show its strength or to terrorize the civilian population living in the territory it controls.

Accordingly, compliance with IHL should be conceived as a spectrum, rather than an on/off switch. Read the rest of this entry…

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India’s Strange Position on the Additional Protocols of 1977

Published on February 5, 2019        Author: 

After four decades of their adoption, India continues to have an ambivalent position on the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977, and the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), 8 June 1977. India has not yet become a party to the two Additional Protocols (APs). While it has not explained anywhere its position for not becoming a party, its recent clarification in the form of an answer in the Indian parliament does not provide any reasons for not becoming a party to the APs. This clarification came in the way of a response by the Minister of State for External Affairs to a question posed in the lower house of the Indian Parliament on 02 January 2019. The question posed by a Member of the Parliament sought clarification as to whether steps have been taken to ratify the APs and if not, what are the reasons for not becoming a party, if necessary, with reservations. The question posed by a Member of the Indian Parliament is as follows:

(a) whether steps have been taken to ratify the Additional Protocol I and II to the Geneva Conventions;

(b) if so, the details thereof and the steps taken to bring domestic laws in compliance with the Protocols; and  

(c) if not, the reasons for abstaining in spite of the availability of the option of ”ratification with reservations”?

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40th Anniversary of the Additional Protocols of 1977 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949

Published on June 8, 2017        Author: 

On 8 June 1977, at the invitation of Switzerland, plenipotentiaries of more than one hundred States gathered at the “Diplomatic Conference on the Reaffirmation and Development of International Humanitarian Law Applicable in Armed Conflicts” to finalize and adopt Additional Protocols I and II (APs I and II) to the 1949 Geneva Conventions (GCs). Together with the GCs, APs I and II form the core of international humanitarian law.

Their adoption forty years ago marks a milestone in the regulation of armed conflicts. By developing and supplementing the GCs, AP I and II significantly improved the legal protection of victims of armed conflicts. A key achievement of the APs I and II was codifying and developing rules on the conduct of hostilities and those related to the protection of civilians from the effect of hostilities. In treaty law, these rules had remained untouched since the Hague Conventions of 1907. Another crucial enhancement lies in the extension of the protection granted under the GCs to all medical personnel, units and means of transport, whether civilian or military. Read the rest of this entry…