Discrepancies Between International Humanitarian Law on the Battlefield and in the Courtroom: The Challenges of Applying International Humanitarian Law During International Criminal Trials

  • Rogier BartelsEmail author


International humanitarian law and international criminal law are distinct but related fields. The application of international humanitarian law to concrete facts by international tribunals and courts has contributed to the development and clarification of this body of law. However, using a law in the courtroom that was created instead, to be applied on the battlefield poses significant challenges. In the process of such use, the law may have been distorted to fit facts that it was not envisioned to cover. Its use is as a means to punish unwanted behaviour during armed conflicts and to combat impunity risks contorting the balance on which international humanitarian law is based: military necessity and humanity. This chapter highlights some findings by international criminal tribunals and courts that do not sit easily with international humanitarian law as applied by armed forces, and discusses the consequences that applying the laws of armed conflict during criminal trials may have for this branch of international law.


Supra Note Armed Conflict Appeal Chamber Rome Statute Trial Chamber 
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Copyright information

© T.M.C. ASSER PRESS, The Hague, The Netherlands, and the author(s) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Netherlands Defence AcademyBredaThe Netherlands

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