On 17 February at 11 Annika Talmar will defend her doctoral thesis “Ensuring respect for International Humanitarian Law 70 years after the adoption of the Geneva Conventions of 1949”.
Prof. Raul Narits (University of Tartu)
Assoc. Prof. René Värk (University of Tartu)
Prof. Dr. Maria Daniella Marouda (Panteion University)
International humanitarian law is a field of law aimed at alleviating the suffering caused by war, limiting the cruelty of the warring parties, and ensuring protection for those affected by the conflict. On one hand, the development of humanitarian law has been a remarkable success. Its norms are highly detailed and its principal sources, the Geneva Conventions, are accepted by almost every existing country. On the other hand, violations of humanitarian law are still common everywhere in the world. Therefore, it can be concluded that implementation of and compliance with the rules, not the lack of adequate norms, is the biggest challenge for today’s humanitarian law.
There are over 600 articles in the Geneva Conventions. Which of these require further work from the States, and what are the measures to be taken on national level? In this thesis three categories of measures are distinguished: preventive, supervision and repressive measures. Preventive measures include, for example, the obligation to teach and disseminate the content of the conventions, both among the armed forces and the civilian population. Measures of supervision include reporting and monitoring measures, fact-finding and Protective Powers. Enforcement measures are mainly punishments for violations. The aim of the doctoral thesis is to show that it is precisely the national implementation that can help guarantee compliance at international level. Existing legislation provides sufficient tools to prevent most violations when implemented in good faith.
Some of the questions that the author seeks to answer are: how can States’ obligations to respect humanitarian law be transposed into national law and which mechanisms could be better used. Which measures can lawfully be taken by States outside their jurisdiction to ensure respect for the law and whether the Geneva Conventions need to be updated or can be adapted to modern conflicts. In conclusion, it is stated that a more interdisciplinary approach to prevention should be taken. For example, States should review national curricula, rules and manuals of warfare and consider humanitarian needs in urban planning. Dialogue with non-state armed groups is also inevitable and must be at the centre of prevention activities. A mandatory reporting system for assessing the state of implementation could be introduced in the future. In same vain, the Fact-Finding and the Protecting Powers institutes could be enhanced and used as often as necessary in today’s conflicts.