Who monitors that international humanitarian law is respected? What happens if international humanitarian law is violated? What are the obligations of the international community in this respect?
There are rules in international law that define certain acts and behavior as illegal (primary norms), for example the prohibition against torture or targeting civilians in armed conflict. Moreover, there are rules on how to enforce these prohibitions (secondary norms). What happens if a state violates its obligations under international law? How to make sure that violations do not occur?
Enforcement of international humanitarian law can be divided into what the violating state must do itself (make reparations etc), and what others – states, individuals and organizations, can do to enforce the law.
Below you will read about what other actors and institutions can do to to enforce international humanitarian law.
Who monitors that international humanitarian law is respected?
There is no supranational police force to interfere and make sure violators of international law are punished.
If international humanitarian law is violated, what happens?
There are different kinds of measures that can be taken if international humanitarian law (IHL) is violated. In general, the opposite party can respond to a violation by returning it – a reprisal. Reprisals against protected persons or property is however always prohibited. The international community can respond by imposing sanctions in accordance with the UN charter. Sanctions can be diplomatic, economic, and as a last resort, military.
What is the obligation of the international community?
Article 1 common to the four Geneva Conventions places an obligation on any state that is part of an armed conflict and also on third states who are not involved in the conflict. Third states should not do anything to encourage a party to a conflict to violate IHL. States should also not take action that would assist in such violations such as arms-transfer and sale of weapons.
Event monitored by EAPPI, an accompaniment program – Palestinian children stopped by settlers, Tel Rumeida, Hebron, December 2005. Photo: Matilda Svensson, EAPPI