Violations of international humanitarian law

 Violations of international humanitarian law



international law
 Violations of international humanitarian law


Since the Second World War, the international community has been increasingly oriented towards an international judicial system that complements the national court system in order to prosecute persons accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. This system is based mainly on a dual approach: on the one hand, it relies on the establishment of special courts and other courts of an international nature established in the wake of conflicts; on the other hand, it relies on the newly established International Criminal Court


The victorious forces in the aftermath of World War II established criminal courts in Germany and Japan to hear war crimes cases committed against allied civilians and combatants during hostilities. Despite reservations about the adoption of this initiative by the victorious States, the appalling nature of the crimes committed, particularly the mass killings of Jews and other minorities, has brought public public support for these trials.


Unlike previous wars, civilians made up almost half of the victims of the Second World War.  The refore, in August 1949, the international community also actively supported the expansion of international humanitarian law, particularly through treaty law, to provide more effective protection for civilians.


The ICRC welcomed the development of international humanitarian law by adopting the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and defining a commitment to a global jurisdiction to prosecute serious violations of those conventions as a means of meeting the challenge of impunity for war crimes.


Nearly five decades later, with the end of the cold war and new conflicts in Europe and Africa that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, the United Nations Security Council is convinced to consider the need to re-establish special international criminal courts.


The armed conflict in the Balkans prompted the United Nations to establish an international criminal court in The Hague, the Netherlands, to prosecute persons accused of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The former President of Yugoslavia, Mr. Slobodan Milosevic, was one of the most famous accused.


The United Nations immediately then established a tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania, to punish violations of international humanitarian law and other international crimes committed in Rwanda in the early 1990s.


Since then, special courts have also been established to prosecute perpetrators at the national and international levels. Examples of these mixed courts can be found in Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, East Timor, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and, more recently, Lebanon.


These international (and mixed) criminal courts may contribute to the development and clarification of international humanitarian law and human rights law. It can also promote respect for international humanitarian law by administering justice for victims, act as a deterrent in future armed conflicts and contribute to reconciliation and reconstruction by establishing the truth of what happened during conflicts.


The decision by the international community to establish an International Criminal Court in 1998 was another attempt to address those concerns, through which a tool could be provided to prosecute cases on which States were unable or unwilling to act.