States at the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (RC), held in Geneva between 8 and 10 December 2015, failed to agree on a new mechanism proposed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Swiss government to strengthen compliance with International Humanitarian Law (IHL).
Between 2012 and 2015, the ICRC undertook extensive negotiations regarding strengthening legal protection for victims of armed conflict. These consultations were undertaken following the adoption of a resolution in 2011 at the 31st International Conference of the RC. The resolution acknowledges that respect for IHL is lacking and that, as it currently exists, IHL does not provide effective mechanisms to stop violations when they occur.
The consultation process focused on two distinct areas of work. One area focused on options for enhancing IHL in regard to detention in non-international armed conflict (NIAC) (detention track). The other area looked at strengthening general compliance with IHL by states and non-state armed groups (compliance track).
Based on the consultations, the ICRC prepared concluding reports on the compliance track and the detention track. The reports set out the discussions undertaken as part of the consultations, as well as the recommendations of the ICRC based on the consultations. The draft elements of the resolutions put forward by the ICRC on the compliance and detention tracks of work were circulated for feedback by States taking part in the International Conference, and, on the basis of the feedback received, the ICRC prepared and circulated official drafts to be considered at the Conference.
The resolution in regard to the compliance track of work involved setting up an annual meeting of States party to the Geneva Conventions to discuss best practices and share expertise. The official draft also provided for the periodic review of the work, functions and tasks of the annual meeting by participating States to ensure compliance with the guiding principles of the resolution. However, States at the 32nd International Conference failed to reach agreement on the terms of the resolution, and instead adopted a resolution that involves launching an inter-governmental process to explore ways to strengthen compliance with IHL. The outcome of the process is to be presented at the 33rd International Conference.
States succeeded in agreeing on a resolution regarding the detention track of work. The resolution encourages States to pursue further work in collaboration with the ICRC with the goal of producing a document of a non-binding nature that ensures IHL remains practical and relevant to protecting persons deprived of liberty in non-international armed conflicts.