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Common Article 1 to the Geneva Conventions and the obligation to prevent international humanitarian law violations


Common Article 1 to the four Geneva Conventions lays down an obligation to respect and ensure respect for the Conventions in all circumstances. This paper focuses on the second part of this obligation, in particular on the responsibility of third States not involved in a given armed conflict to take action in order to safeguard compliance with the Geneva Conventions by the parties to the conflict. It concludes that third States have an international legal obligation not only to avoid encouraging international humanitarian law violations committed by others, but also to take measures to put an end to on-going violations and to actively prevent their occurrence.

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Carlo Focarelli , “Common Article 1 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions: A Soap Bubble?”, European Journal of International Law, Vol. 21, No. 1, 2010, p. 127

David P. Forsythe , “Who Guards the Guardians: Third Parties and the Law of Armed Conflict”, American Journal of International Law, Vol. 70, No. 1, 1976, p. 43

Toni Pfanner , “Various Mechanisms and Approaches for Implementing International Humanitarian Law and Protecting and Assisting War Victims”, International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 91, No. 874, 2009, pp. 305306 and 314–323

Lindsay Moir , The Law of Internal Armed Conflict, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York, 2002, p. 245

Robert P. Barnidge , “The Due Diligence Principle under International Law”, International Community Law Review, Vol. 8, 2006, p. 118

Maya Brehm , “The Arms Trade and States’ Duty to Ensure Respect for Humanitarian and Human Rights Law”, Journal of Conflict and Security Law, Vol. 12, No. 3, 2008, pp. 375377

Cordula Droege , “Transfer of Detainees: Legal Framework, Non-Refoulement and Contemporary Challenges”, International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 90, No. 871, 2008, p. 687

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International Review of the Red Cross
  • ISSN: 1816-3831
  • EISSN: 1607-5889
  • URL: /core/journals/international-review-of-the-red-cross
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