New guidelines set benchmark for investigations in armed conflict

  • Date

    Mon 16 Sep 19

When a violation occurs during an armed conflict, how should a State respond? An Essex academic has today published comprehensive guidelines for States, in a project partnering the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.

Professor Noam Lubell, from our School of Law, has co-authored new Guidelines for States on how to investigate allegations in armed conflict, completing a five-year research programme which engaged with governments, militaries, the United Nations and human rights organisations.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is the primary organisation responsible for protecting victims of war and promoting respect for international humanitarian law (IHL). It has a mandate provided by international law to engage directly with all parties to armed conflicts. These new Guidelines, having been co-authored with and promoted by the ICRC, are set to become the international benchmark for investigations of all war crimes and violations in all conflicts around the globe.

Professor Lubell said: “Investigations into alleged violations of IHL by the parties to an armed conflict are not only crucial to securing respect for the laws concerned, but to preventing future violations and enabling redress for victims of past violations. Despite the unquestionable importance of investigations, there is a lack of detail with regard to the international law, principles and standards relevant to investigations in armed conflicts. This is further reflected in the disparate practice across States in the way investigations are carried out. These Guidelines aim to bring much needed clarity and support for the conduct of effective investigations into violations of IHL.”

The sixteen Guidelines are each accompanied by a detailed commentary and provide guidance on the different aspects of investigations into violations of IHL, from the early stages of recording information and identifying the incidents that require investigation, through to the structural and procedural aspects of investigative bodies. The text presents a basis for the conduct of effective investigations, while taking into account the diverse legal and military systems that exist, as well as the legal and practical challenges that can arise.

Professor Lubell’s co-authors were Jelena Pejic, Senior Legal Adviser at the ICRC, and Claire Simmons, a Researcher at Essex Human Rights Centre and PhD candidate in the School of Law.

The Guidelines will be launched in a series of events, including on 10 October in New York during the upcoming United Nations General Assembly.