There are different kinds of measures that can be taken if international humanitarian law (IHL) is violated. Measures can be taken both against the state violating IHL, and, in parallel, against the individual perpetrator.
The basic principle of state responsibility in international law provides that any state who violates its international obligations must be held accountable for its acts. More concretely, the notion of state responsibility means that states, which do not respect their international duties, are responsible to immediately stop their illegal actions, offer appropriate guarantees that it will not repeat the illegal actions in the future, and make reparations to the injured. This is a fundamental principle, which forms part of international customary law, and is binding upon all states.
The general principle of state responsibility does not only refer to what the violating state has to do, but also includes rules on the responsibility of third states - the international community - not assist a violating state and to react against its violations. The international community can react to a state's violations of its IHL obligations by imposing sanctions in accordance with the UN charter.Read more abut third state responsibility
Individual criminal responsibility
Grave breaches of the four Geneva Conventions are called war crimes. War crimes incur individual criminal responsibility, meaning that the individual violator can be held responsible in parallel to the state.
All grave breaches of IHL should be included in each state party’s national legislation. Persons can therefore be tried for alleged violations in national courts. Grave breaches can be found in article 50 IGC, 130 IIIGC, and 147 IVGC.
Jurisdiction refers to the power exercised by a state over persons, property or events through its legal instruments. Jurisdiction is also the power of a court to hear and decide a case before it. In international law, the term refers to the right of a state’s national courts to exercise powers in matters not exclusively under domestic concern.
A state is entitled to use jurisdiction over persons and events within its territory, so-called territorial jurisdiction. It can also be allowed to apply its jurisdiction to its own nationals outside its territory, the so-called principle of active personality.
The principle of passive personality means that states have jurisdiction over act committed against one of its nationals, even if the act occurred abroad.
Universal jurisdiction means that any national court has the right to hear cases of international crimes, even if there are no links to its territory or its nationals. It does not matter if the perpetrator allegedly committed the crime on foreign soil, or if he is not a national or resident of the state that wishes to prosecute him. International crimes are such heinous crimes that they threaten the international community as a whole. Examples of such crimes are piracy, theft of nuclear materials, hostage taking, hijacking, as well as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
The Geneva Conventions give not only a right to states to exercise jurisdiction, but even puts an obligation on its state parties to search for and punish persons guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. An example is Art 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention , which establishes that each state “shall bring such persons [who committed grave breaches of the convention], regardless of their nationality, before its own courts”. The state is also allowed to extradite the suspect to any High Contracting Party willing to take him or her to court, or surrender him or her to an international criminal court which has jurisdiction.
After World war II, the Nuremberg Tribunal was set up to try crimes against international law committed by the Nazi regime. In