Panel Discussion in Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the 1977 Additional Protocols

On Thursday, 8 June 2017, the Kalshoven-Gieskes Forum on International Humanitarian Law, in cooperation with the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies and the Netherlands Red Cross, hosted a panel discussion in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the 1977 Additional Protocols.

Ms. Mirjam de Bruin (Netherlands Red Cross) and Dr. Robert Heinsch (Kalshoven-Gieskes Forum, Leiden University) provided a short introduction on the history and relevance of the Additional Protocols.

Prof. Horst Fischer (Leiden University) emphasized the importance of international humanitarian law (IHL), but also the persisting lack of compliance with IHL’s most basic rules in many parts of the world. This is why during the panel discussion, Prof. Fischer called for the ‘Hour of Humanity’ during the G20 in July of this year, as a platform for those in power to discuss, for example, the current humanitarian crisis in Syria, and put IHL at the top of the agenda.

Dr. Hans Boddens Hosang (NL Ministry of Defence) gave the audience a short overview of the framework the Dutch government applies when preparing and deploying military missions, in which Additional Protocol I plays a major role.

Ms. Mireille Hector (NL Ministry of Foreign Affairs) discussed the Additional Protocols from a state perspective, including the extensive use of the Additional Protocols by both state and non-state actors; but also the persisting compliance issues that still surround them (and IHL as a whole). Ms. Hector also emphasized the important role of states in convincing other states to comply with IHL – and possibly ratify the Additional Protocols.

Finally, Judge Alphons Orie (ICTY) gave a judicial view on the Additional Protocols, explaining that the Additional Protocols are not a basis for criminal liability as such. However, the Additional Protocols do, in many instances, represent customary IHL, making them a basis for reference. Judge Orie also emphasized the importance of states taking the responsibility to investigate and prosecute violations of IHL, as this responsibility is not being properly executed at the moment.

Following the presentations, the panel had a short discussion on several topics including universal jurisdiction, impunity and the need for increased attention for compliance and enforcement of IHL.

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