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A Fine Line Between Protection and Humanisation: The Interplay Between the Scope of Application of International Humanitarian Law and Jurisdiction over Alleged War Crimes Under International Criminal Law

  • Rogier BartelsEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law book series (YIHL, volume 20)

Abstract

International humanitarian law (IHL) provides limits to the conduct of warring parties during armed conflicts. If these limits are crossed, international criminal law (ICL) can address alleged violations of IHL. When certain conduct falls outside the scope of jurisdiction over war crimes it may result in impunity. International courts and tribunals have therefore taken a very broad approach to their jurisdiction, including with regards to the concept of non-international armed conflict, which has been expanded well beyond the initial intention of States. While an expansive approach to the application of IHL may be desirable after the fact, in order to ensure that atrocities can be prosecuted as war crimes, applying IHL too broadly to situations on the ground may not result in better protection of those affected by violence. Although the protective function of IHL remains of paramount importance, States nowadays also extensively rely on the permissive aspect of IHL that allows targeting of military objectives, combatants and other persons taking a direct part in hostilities. The present chapter addresses the tension between the desire to expand the jurisdiction over war crimes and the consequential impact on IHL. It does so by specifically looking at the manner in which international courts and tribunals have pronounced on the material scope of IHL.

Keywords

International criminal law Scope of application Jurisdiction ICTY ICC War crimes Temporal scope Threshold of non-international armed conflict Grave breaches regime 

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Treaties

  1. Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, opened for signature 10 October 1980, 1342 UNTS 137 (entered into force 2 December 1983) (as amended on 21 December 2001)Google Scholar
  2. Geneva Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, opened for signature 12 August 1949, 75 UNTS 31 (entered into force 21 October 1950)Google Scholar
  3. Geneva Convention (II) for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea, opened for signature 12 August 1949, 75 UNTS 85 (entered into force 21 October 1950)Google Scholar
  4. Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, opened for signature 12 December 1977, 1125 UNTS 3 (entered into force 7 December 1979)Google Scholar
  5. Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts, opened for signature 8 June 1977, 1125 UNTS 609 (entered into force 7 December 1978)Google Scholar
  6. Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, opened for signature 17 July 1998, 2187 UNTS 90 (entered into force 1 July 2002)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser press and the authors 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Criminal CourtThe HagueThe Netherlands

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