Fact-Finding in the Law of Armed Conflict

In view of serious violations of the law of armed conflict the international community has established a growing number of ad-hoc commissions of inquiry with a view to investigate potential breaches of the law in specified armed conflicts. It is noteworthy that most of these commissions have not been established by security-related organs of the United Nations (such as the Security Council) but rather by human rights bodies, especially the UN Human Rights Council. In practice, this has more often than not meant that security considerations were not included, and there has sometimes been a remarkable absence of expertise in the law of armed conflict among the members of such commission of inquiry. Besides, many of theses ad-hoc commissions have primarily focused on “accountability” and aimed at avoiding “impunity” but failed to address the confidence-building character of fact-finding as between the parties to an armed conflict.

The project is part of a broader research agenda on fact-finding in international relations. It aims at identifying the overall characteristics of fact-finding in international law, while paying tribute to the specifics of armed conflict situations. It will take into account recent developments within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and it hopes to benefit from an analysis of the work of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, which the head of the Research Group is a member of.