The Art of Facts

A LEGAL BLOG about Fact-finding and Armed ConflicTS

Is Fact-Finding on IHL Violations Unique?

With the ever-growing number of fact-finding mechanisms operating within the international legal system, one is inclined to consider how to distinguish one another and how specific some are. This debate is a recurring one. When I participated in the drafting of the International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict a key issue was whether fact-finding on allegations of crimes of sexual violence was so specific that it would warrant a brand new manual. Unsurprisingly this exercise of singling out particular features also gained traction in the field of IHL.

As a method of establishing facts with a degree of certainty fact-finding unquestionably includes core common modalities. In that sense, IHL related fact-finding is not entirely unique. However, by definition, fact-finding on alleged violations of certain types of norms raises particular issues that require adapting existing methods. In the same vein, some specific challenges and issues related to the context of application of IHL – armed conflict, the nature or type of facts to be established or the content of IHL norms do impact on some on those common standards and methodological principles.

In 2015, I was fortunate enough to take part in an Experts meeting on “Fact-finding mechanisms and International Humanitarian Law” in Brussels organized by the Belgian Interministerial Commission for Humanitarian Law and the UK Foreign Office addressing a wide range of issues related to fact-finding in the field of IHL. You can find the proceedings of the meeting here.


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