Extending the applicability of the Geneva Conventions- Moving towards a uniform law of all armed conflicts?
Abstract: The aim of this study is to examine a possible fusion of the different legal regimes applicable to international and non-international armed conflicts. The thesis points at different means of rendering the provisions of the Geneva Conventions applicable to conflicts which appear to be non-international. The Conventions are interpreted according to the provisions on interpretation of treaties in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Subsequent State practice and the object and purpose of the Conventions play a vital role in this process, as well as international court decisions. The field of application of the Geneva Conventions is found to be broader than the traditional Inter-State war. Firstly, parties to a non-international armed conflict could conclude an agreement or make a unilateral declaration with the effect that the provisions of the Geneva Conventions should be applicable, notwithstanding the character of the conflict. Secondly, some prima facie internal conflicts should be classified as international armed conflicts. This is the case if the conflict can be classified as being&semic (i) a war of national liberation, (ii) although more dubious, a war between other State-like entities and a State. Finally (iii) foreign interventions amounting to a certain level of control over national forces can also render the provisions of the Conventions applicable. Such an intervention either directed at the governmental forces or at the insurgents will render the initial conflict between the government and the insurgents international. If the conflict could not be classified as international a third possibility of extending the field of application exists. The thesis elaborates on the question whether common art. 3, the single provision explicitly applicable to non-international armed conflicts, in fact has the same content as the other provisions of the Geneva Conventions. Not all the provisions of the Conventions seem to be applicable, but some of them, especially those referring to human treatment of detainees, could be referred to when interpreting common art. 3. Therefore I conclude that we are actually moving towards a uniform law applicable to all armed conflicts. This development is beneficial to the victims of armed conflicts, since the law of international armed conflicts provides for a better protection.
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