IRRC No. 261

Legal obstacles to prosecution of breaches of humanitarian law

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It is common knowledge that by signing and ratifying the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 the High Contracting Parties have undertaken to seek out and prosecute all persons, whatever their nationality, committing or ordering to be committed any of the grave breaches defined in the said Conventions. As I have stated elsewhere, this express undertaking is so far removed from present custom, and from the traditional immunities enjoyed by nationals in this respect, as to justify asking how States intend to put it into effect and make its implications thoroughly understood and accepted by their politicians, armed forces and legal authorities.

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