War crimes

These are particularly serious violations of IHL, endangering protected persons and/or objects, or breaching important international values, for which the individual criminal responsibility of perpetrators may be engaged. War crimes can be committed in both international and non-international armed conflicts, although the list of possible war crimes is not identical for both types of conflicts.

The Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I establish that certain violations of IHL are to be considered “grave breaches”, and they must be prosecuted by High Contracting Parties on the basis of the principle of universal jurisdiction. Other serious violations of IHL are established by customary international law and by international criminal law treaties. Such serious violations of IHL, together with grave breaches, constitute war crimes.

War crimes constitute one category of “international crimes”, the others being genocide and crimes against humanity.

See Breach, Violations; Individual criminal responsibility; Genocide; Crimes Against Humanity; International Criminal Court; ICTY; ICTR; International criminal law; Individual criminal responsibility;

 OUTLINE

 LEGAL SOURCE

Penal sanctions required for

    GCI, 50 (see ICRC updated Commentary)

    GCII, 51 (see ICRC updated Commentary)

    GCIII, 130

    GCIV, 147

    PI, 11/4 and 85

Fundamental guarantees for persons accused of war crimes

    GCI, 49/4 (see ICRC updated Commentary)

    GCII, 50/4 (see ICRC updated Commentary)

    GCIII, 82-88 and 105-108 and 129/4

    GCIV, 146/4

    PI, 75/7

 CASES

The International Criminal Court (Part A., Art. 8)

Germany, International Criminal Code (Paras. 8-12)

Canada, Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act (Section 4)

Ghana, National Legislation Concerning the Emblem

Belgium, Law on Universal Jurisdiction. (A., Art. 136 (c).)

United States, War Crimes Act

Hungary, War Crimes Resolution

United States Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, United States v. Alfried Krupp et al.

Netherlands, In re Pilz

Israel, Human Rights Committee’s Report on Beit Hanoun (Paras. 49, 68 and 75)

Case Study, Armed Conflicts in the former Yugoslavia (17, 27 and 32)

UN, Statute of the ICTY (Part B. and Part C., Arts 2 and 3)

ICTY, The Prosecutor v. Tadic (Part A., Paras. 79-84)

ICTY, The Prosecutor v. Rajic (Part A., Para. 8)

ICTY, The Prosecutor v. Blaskic (Part A., Paras. 151-158)

Colombia, Constitutionality of IHL Implementing Legislation

United States, Military Commissions

Mali, Destruction of World Cultural Heritage

Iran, Victim of Cyber warfare

South Sudan: Medical Care Under Fire

Health Care in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas

Switzerland, The Immunity of General Nezzar

Democratic Republic of Congo, Fighting with the M 23 Group

Central African Republic, Coup d’Etat

Somalia, the fate of Children in the conflict

The armed conflict in Syria

European Court of Human Rights, Kononov v. Latvia

Israel/Palestine, Operation Protective Edge (Gaza, 13 June - 26 August 2014)

ICTY, The Prosecutor v. Radovan Karadzic

Libya, Report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (2014/15)

Mali, Accountability for the Destruction of Cultural Heritage

Sweden/Syria, Can Armed Groups Issue Judgments?

UN, Security Council Resolution 2286 on Attacks on Hospitals

Iraq, Forced displacement and deliberate destruction

El Salvador, Supreme Court Judgment on the Unconstitutionality of the Amnesty Law

USA, Al-Shimari v. CACI Premier Technology, Inc.

Syria, Report by UN Commission of Inquiry (March 2017)

Afghanistan, Bombing of a Civilian Truck

Italy, Use of force against ambulances in Iraq

Syria, the Battle for Aleppo

Switzerland: Gold Looting Case

Israel/Palestine, Accountability for the Use of Lethal Force

ICC, Confirmation of Charges against LRA Leader

Colombia Peace Agreement

Spain, Universal Jurisdiction over Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions

UN/Colombia, Human Rights Committee Clarifications and Concluding Observations (2016)

International Criminal Court, Trial Judgment in the Case of the Prosecutor V. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo

Iraq, The Battle for Mosul

Germany, Aerial Drone Attack in Mir Ali/Pakistan

Eastern Ukraine, Attacks Against and Military Use of Schools

Eastern Ukraine, OHCHR Report on the Situation: November 2016 - February 2017

Central African Republic/Democratic Republic of Congo/Uganda, LRA attacks

Central African Republic, Coup d'Etat

Iraq, Crimes by Militia Groups

Georgia: Attacks against peacekeepers

32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Sexual and gender-based violence: joint action on prevention and response

 BIBLIOGRAPHIC RESOURCES

Suggested readings:
 
BOTHE Michael, “War Crimes in Non-International Armed Conflicts”, in IYHR, Vol. 24, 1994, pp. 241-252.
 
BYRON Christine, War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2009, 285 pp.
 
DUGARD John, “War Crimes in Internal Conflicts”, in IYHR, Vol. 28, 1996, pp. 91-96.
 
LA HAYE Eve, War Crimes in Internal Armed Conflicts, Cambridge, CUP, 2008, 424 pp.
 
STEWART James G., Corporate War Crimes, Prosecuting Pillage of Natural Resources, New York, Open Society Foundations, October 2010, 157 pp.
 
Further readings:
 
ANCELLE Juliette, “Les crimes de guerre dans les conflits armés non-internationaux”, in Droit pénal humanitaire, Basel, Helbing Lichtenhaln, 2009, pp. 117-143.
 
ARNOLD Roberta, “The Development of the Notion of War Crimes in Non-International Conflicts through the Jurisprudence of the UN Ad Hoc Tribunals”, in Humanitäres Völkerrecht, Vol. 3, 2002, pp. 134-142.
 
DEHN John C., “The Hamdan Case and the Application of a Municipal Offence: the Common Law Origins of ‘Murder in Violation of the Law of War’”, in Journal of International Criminal Justice, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2009, pp. 63-82.
 
FLORES ACUNA Tathiana, “The Rome Statute’s Sexual Related Crimes: an Appraisal under the Light of International Humanitarian Law”, in Humanitäres Völkerrecht, Vol. 19, No. 1, 2006, pp. 39-51.
 
GRADITZKY Thomas, “Individual Criminal Responsibility for Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in Non-International Conflicts”, in IRRC, No. 322, March 1998, pp. 29-56.
 
KRESS Claus, “War Crimes Committed in Non-International Armed Conflict and the Emerging System of International Criminal Justice”, in IYHR, Vol. 30, 2000, pp. 103-177.
 
LAWRENCE Jessica C. & HELLER Kevin Jon, “The First Ecocentric Environmental War Crime: the Limits of Article 8(2)(b)(iv) of the Rome Statute”, in Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, Vol. 20, No. 1, 2007, pp. 61-95.
 
MEINDERSMA Christa, “Violations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions as Violations of the Laws or Customs of War under Article 3 of the Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia”,
in NetherlandsInternational Law Review, Vol. 42/3, 1995, pp. 375-397.
 
MERON Theodor, “War Crimes in Yugoslavia and the Development of International Law”, in AJIL, Vol. 88/1, 1994, pp. 78-87.
 
MERON Theodor, “International Criminalization of Internal Atrocities”, in AJIL, Vol. 89/3, 1995, pp. 554-577.
 
MOMTAZ Djamchid, “War Crimes in Non-International Armed Conflicts under the Statute of the International Criminal Court”, in YIHL, Vol. 2, 1999, pp. 177-192.
 
MERON Theodor, “War Crimes Law for the Twenty-First Century”, in International Law Studies, US Naval War College, Vol. 71, 1998, pp. 325-335.
 
ÖBERG Marko Divac, “The Absorption of Grave Breaches into War Crimes Law”, in IRRC, Vol. 91, No. 873, March 2009, pp. 163-183.
 
PETERSON Ines, “The Natural Environment in Times of Armed Conflict: a Concern for International War Crimes Law?”, in LeidenJournal of International Law, Vol. 22, Issue 2, 2009, pp. 325-343.
 
ROWE Peter, “Liability for ‘War Crimes’ During a Non-International Armed Conflict”, in RDMDG, Vol. 34, 1995,
pp. 149-168.
 
SALAHI Reem, “Israel’s War Crimes: a First Hand Account of Israel’s Attacks on Palestinian Civilians and Civilian Infrastructure”, in Rutgers Law Record, Vol. 36, 2009, pp. 201-223.
 
SPIEKER Heike, “The International Criminal Court and Non-International Armed Conflicts”, in LeidenJournal of International Law, Vol. 13/2, 2000, pp. 395-425.