There is no supranational police force that can interfere to ensure that violators of international law are punished.
A state involved in an armed conflict is responsible for the conduct of the members of its armed forces. An officer is responsible for the orders s/he gives to subordinate soldiers, and should see to it that they follow the laws of war. A soldier is also responsible for the action s/he takes under the rules on individual criminal responsibility. There is no justification for war crimes at any level of the armed forces.
Of course the opposite party can observe how the law is upheld. Media is present in most conflicts of the world today where access of others such as observers and human rights groups or officials on monitoring duty is limited; by revealing violations and making them known and public, the media has a vital role to play in the observance of IHL.
According to the Geneva Conventions, a so-called Protecting Power can be appointed by the parties. A Protecting Power is a third neutral state given the task to monitor observance of IHL. Protecting Powers have not been used often due to the difficulty on the parties to the conflict to agree on the identity of the two neutral states that will observe the situation on behalf of each party.
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
The ICRC has a specific mandate to act in armed conflicts. It has the mandate to visit prisoners of war (POW) and other detained persons as well as provide medical care and protection for civilians caught in armed conflict.
Fact-finding Commission and other commissions
As stipulated in article 90 of the First Additional Protocol (IAP), a fact-finding commission can be appointed to enquire into any allegation to a violation of IHL. The UN, EU, or Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) can also send different kinds of fact-finding commissions of their own. For example, in February 2005 an OSCE Minsk Group Fact-Finding Mission visited the seven occupied regions of
Demonstration in Bil'in monitored by EAPPI, an accompaniment program, January 2006. Photo: Matilda Svensson, EAPPI