Enforcing the Battlefield Code: The Geneva Conventions and the ICC’s Role in Prosecuting War Crimes

  • Neha Goyal
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  • Neha Goyal

    LL.M. student at Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar, India

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“The Geneva Conventions” play a foundational role in international criminal law, particularly regarding war crimes. The importance of the “Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols” was reflected in the establishment of war-crimes “tribunals for Yugoslavia (1993) and Rwanda (1994) and by the Rome Statute (1998)”, which created an International Criminal Court. DEFINING WAR CRIMES: The Geneva Conventions, specifically the four adopted in 1949 and their additional protocols, don't provide a single, exhaustive list of war crimes. However, they establish the core principles of how armed conflicts should be conducted and how civilians and prisoners of war must be treated. SERIOUS BREACHES: The Conventions define specific violations as "grave breaches" which are considered war crimes. These include : • “Wilful killing • Torture or inhuman treatment • Wilfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health • Extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly [UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect]” INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTABILITY: The Geneva Conventions lay the groundwork for holding individuals accountable for these war crimes. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) incorporates these grave breaches as war crimes within its jurisdiction. COMPLEMENTARY SYSTEM: The ICC and the Geneva Conventions work together. The Conventions set the standards for wartime conduct, while the ICC provides a mechanism for investigation and prosecution of violations. In essence, the Geneva Conventions define the boundaries of acceptable conduct in armed conflict. When these boundaries are crossed and grave breaches occur, the framework is established for pursuing international criminal justice. This paper sets out to explore the core of this intricacy by examining Geneva Convention within the framework of international criminal law. This paper aims to highlight the complex interactions between legal concepts and the realities of tackling intersectional crimes on a global scale by diligent scrutiny and critical analysis. Theoretical analyses delve into diverse philosophical perspectives, including legal positivism, natural law, utilitarianism, and retributivism, offering insights into the moral and ethical justifications underpinning international criminalization. Through a synthesis of theoretical frameworks and empirical case studies from international tribunals and courts, the project examines the practical challenges and successes in applying to perpetrators of international crimes accountable. This research project seeks to contribute to a nuanced understanding of the Geneva Convention in international criminal law, illuminating their role in fostering accountability, upholding human dignity, and preventing mass atrocities on a global scale.


Research Paper


International Journal of Law Management and Humanities, Volume 7, Issue 2, Page 1447 - 1470

DOI: https://doij.org/10.10000/IJLMH.117203

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