Associate Fellow, International Law

It is not the absence of law that is causing casualties, destruction and unprecedented displacement in armed conflict, but flagrant breaches of the most fundamental rules of international humanitarian law.

Members of the Iraqi police forces stand next to their vehicle in front of damaged buildings in Fallujah on 28 June 2016. Photo: HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI/AFP/Getty Images.Members of the Iraqi police forces stand next to their vehicle in front of damaged buildings in Fallujah on 28 June 2016. Photo: Getty Images.

Summary

  • It is not the absence of law that is causing casualties, destruction and unprecedented displacement in armed conflict, but flagrant breaches of the most fundamental rules of international humanitarian law. Ways must be found to strengthen compliance with the law.
  • For this purpose, Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross conducted consultations, between 2011 and 2015, and then proposed the establishment of a regular meeting of states parties to the Geneva Conventions.
  • This proposal was not accepted. Negotiations under a new process continue. These merit support.
  • Additional options must also be explored. Of these, an approach that focuses on violations of specific fundamental rules is most likely to succeed. One possible such topic is the protection of the wounded and sick, medical personnel and facilities.
  • New avenues also need to be considered for strengthening compliance with international humanitarian law by non-state armed groups. Possible approaches include those linked with motivating factors: ‘ownership’ of the law, incentives, monitoring, and technical assistance.