60 Years of the Geneva Conventions: The Role of International Law in Protecting Civilians
August 12, 2009 - 9:30am - 11:00am
On the 60th Anniversary of the Geneva Conventions this HPCR Live Web Seminar invited discussion and reflection on the role of international law in the protection of civilians. For sixty years international treaties and norms have served as the foundation for a regime of protection for civilians in armed conflict. Though developed primarily for situations of international armed conflict (conflicts occurring between states), the application of international humanitarian law is required now more often in situations of non-international conflicts (involving non-state armed groups) as their number and scope continue to increase around the globe.
Such expansion of the field of application has raised a number of challenges in terms of status of belligerents, notions of reciprocity, and application of human rights law. Yet, the character of international law may not be amenable to rapid adjustment in an effort to apply more seamlessly to non-international conflicts. The making of treaty law is a long and difficult process, in particular when such laws might limit the autonomy of states to ensure internal security while providing rights and obligations to non-state groups.
The future of international humanitarian law lies in its capacity to evolve despite the state-centric and inherently political character of such transformation. The Live Seminar will endeavor to review current avenues for these advancements and look forward to what the next sixty years may reveal in terms of the continual development of IHL.
Naz Modirzadeh, Senior Associate at the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research at Harvard University, and Claude Bruderlein, Director of the Program, hosted the discussion.
Marco Sassòli, University of Geneva
Beth Van Schaack, Santa Clara University School of Law
Sylvain Vité, International Committee of the Red Cross
Additional materials pertaining to this Live Seminar are available on the International Humanitarian Law Research Initiative Portal Discuss Your Thoughts Join the discussion on 60 Years of the Geneva Conventions on the Humanitarian Law and Policy Forum