Sixth Committee (Legal) — 69th session
Status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts (Agenda item 79)
- Authority: resolution 67/93
Summary of work
Background (source: A/69/100)
This item was included in the agenda of the thirty-seventh session of the General Assembly, in 1982, at the request of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden (A/37/142).
The General Assembly considered the question biennially at its thirty-seventh to sixty-fifth sessions (resolutions 37/116, 39/77, 41/72, 43/161, 45/38, 47/30, 49/48, 51/155, 53/96, 55/148, 57/14, 59/36, 61/30, 63/125 and 65/29).
At its sixty-seventh session, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to submit to the Assembly at its sixty-ninth session a report on the status of the Additional Protocols relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts, as well as on measures taken to strengthen the existing body of international humanitarian law, including with respect to its dissemination and full implementation at the national level, based on information received from Member States and the International Committee of the Red Cross (resolution 67/93).
Consideration at the sixty-ninth session
Statements were made by the representatives of South Africa (on behalf of the African Group), the European Union (also on behalf of its Member States. The candidate countries Montenegro and Serbia and the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina aligned themselves with the statement), Sweden (on behalf of the Nordic Countries), Costa Rica (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)), the Russian Federation, Cuba, Switzerland, Egypt, Argentina, Peru, Australia, Qatar, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Israel, Monaco, Bahrain, Belarus, the United States of America, China, Algeria, El Salvador, the Syrian Arab Republic and Sierra Leone. The observer of the State of Palestine also made a statement. Statements were also made by the observers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC). The representatives of Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic made statements in the exercise of the right of reply.
Delegations voiced their support for the full implementation of international humanitarian law (IHL) and recalled the importance of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts, stressing the need for those States that have not already done so to ratify the Protocols as well as accede to other relevant instruments and to comply with their norms.
Several delegations expressed the view that the United Nations should play a more significant role with respect to implementation of IHL, specifically with assisting Member States in their dissemination and implementation of IHL instruments during times of peace and in monitoring adherence to and persecution of IHL violations during periods of armed conflict. Other delegations called for a more regular dialogue for enhancing compliance with IHL, and suggested that this could take the form of a regular meeting that provided a forum for discussions. In this regard, an initiative to identify concrete ways to strengthen the application of IHL was referenced. Several delegations also expressed their anticipation for the fourth Meeting of States on compliance with IHL, whose findings will be reported to the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 2015.
The need to ensure that the law of armed conflict is capable of meeting the challenges of asymmetric warfare was emphasized. The concern was stressed that certain States are redefining international norms in order to escape their international responsibilities as well as to create a pretext for acting in their own interests. Caution against double standards in the implementation of IHL was advised and the accountability of State-sponsors of terrorism was also called for in this regard.
Discussions pertaining to weapons review at the informal expert meeting on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) under the auspices of the 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 (CCW) were welcomed, and it was stressed that such reviews are important to determine States’ compliance with their international obligations. Hope was also expressed that the CCW would serve as a useful vehicle for broader exchange of good practices in the area of the rules of armed conflict while recognizing that States’ need to protect certain national security and proprietary information. Some delegations also noted the impact of the Arms Trade Treaty on human rights and IHL, and encouraged those States that had not yet ratified the treaty to do so. The importance of complementing IHL with international human rights law was also stressed.
Some delegations requested the Government of Switzerland, acting in its capacity as the Depositary of the Geneva Conventions, to convene a meeting of High Contracting Parties as soon as possible to consider measures to enforce the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.
Some delegations voiced specific support for the joint initiative of Switzerland and the ICRC aimed at strengthening compliance with IHL. It was maintained that any new measures recommended by the initiative should be based on the consensus of all countries. While welcoming the efforts of the initiative, it was also maintained that more should be done and the establishment of a dedicated forum on matters relating to IHL implementation was supported. In this regard, it was noted that a regular meeting of States seemed likely to emerge as the central pillar of a new IHL compliance system that was the focus of the joint initiative.
Concern was expressed over the increasing numbers of civilians being targeted in armed conflicts and the need to apply international humanitarian law (IHL) was stressed. Concern was expressed about the recent spate of attacks on humanitarian workers and medical workers, and all parties were urged to protect people, vehicles and buildings bearing one of the protective emblems of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
A number of delegations encouraged States to accept the competence of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC), pursuant to Article 90 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. States were appealed to fully utilize the IHFFC’s potential in investigating IHL violations and attention was also drawn to the possibility that the IHFFC could be complementary to other fact-finding missions established by human rights bodies and UN organs. It was also stated that the IHFFC needed a specific mandate by the parties to a conflict in order to be able to operate.
Several delegations also stressed the important role played by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and international criminal tribunals in promoting respect for IHL. The recently-concluded work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone was also highlighted, and States were called upon to lend financial assistance to the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Some delegations recalled the extension of the ICC jurisdiction over certain war crimes achieved at the ICC Rome Statute Review Conference in Kampala in 2010 and stressed the need to ratify the corresponding amendments to the Statute.
Delegations commended the ICRC on its role in the promotion of IHL and monitoring and enhancing its mechanisms of compliance. The ICRC’s updated database of the study on customary IHL was also welcomed by some delegations. States’ attention was also drawn to the ICRC’s newly-updated IHL National Implementation Database. Modern training programs that make use of information technology to help disseminate IHL were also called for.
Some delegations also highlighted discussions that took place at the International Conference on the Montreux Document that related to the legal obligations and good practices of private military and security companies during times of armed conflict, and noted that an upcoming Montreux Document Forum would be taking place to continue dialogue on the subject. States that had not yet voiced their support for the Document were encouraged to do so.
Action taken by the Sixth Committee
At the 29th meeting, on 14 November 2014, the representative of Sweden, on behalf of Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Chad, Costa Rica, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Nigeria, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the Republic of Moldova, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland introduced a draft resolution entitled “Status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts” (A/C.6/69/L.12).
At the same meeting, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/69/L.12 without a vote.
The representatives of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Egypt and the Syrian Arab Republic made statements in explanation of positions after the adoption of the draft resolution.
Under this draft resolution, the General Assembly would request the Secretary-General to submit to the Assembly at its seventy-first session a report on the status of the Additional Protocols relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts, as well as on measures taken to strengthen the existing body of IHL, inter alia, with respect to its dissemination and full implementation at the national level, based on information received from Member States and the ICRC. The General Assembly would, inter alia, call upon Member States to actively participate in the thirty-second International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent to be held in Geneva in 2015; encourage Member States and the ICRC to focus their information to the Secretary-General on new developments and activities during the reporting period; further encourage Member States to explore ways of facilitating the submission of information to future reports of the Secretary-General, and in this context, to consider the convenience of using a questionnaire as drafted by Member States, with the assistance of the ICRC, and, as appropriate, in consultation with the Secretariat, for submission to the seventy-first session of the General Assembly.
A/69/184 - Full texts of replies
A/69/184/Add.1 - Full texts of replies