IRRC No. 287

Respect for fundamental judicial guarantees in time of armed conflict — The part played by ICRC delegates

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Article 75 of Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions lays down with admirable clarity and concision that even in time of war, or rather especially in time of war, justice must be dispassionate. How does international humanitarian law promote this end? What can the International Committee of the Red Cross, an independent humanitarian institution, do in the harsh reality of an armed conflict towards maintaining respect for the fundamental judicial guarantees protecting persons accused of crimes, some of them particularly abhorrent?This article will first consider the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols in relation to judicial procedure in time of armed conflicts. Thereafter it will examine the legal bases legitimizing international scrutiny of penal proceedings instituted against persons protected by humanitarian law. The next and principal part of the article will indicate how ICRC delegates appointed to monitor trials as observers do their job. In conclusion the article will try to evaluate this little-known aspect of the ICRC's work of protection.

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