International humanitarian law

International humanitarian law (IHL) is a branch of public international law that applies in armed conflicts to limit the means and methods of warfare.

This branch of law aims to protect civilians from the effects of armed conflict and those who have ceased to participate in hostilities. IHL aims to limit the consequences of conflicts based on considerations of humanity.

The principle of humanity is the most general principle in international humanitarian law, it unites all provisions into a logically constructed system of norms that apply during armed conflicts and are closely related to related branches of international law.

Sources of international humanitarian law

  • International treaties
  • Geneva Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field
  • Geneva Convention (II) for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea
  • Geneva Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War
  • Geneva Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War
  • Additional Protocol I, related to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts; Additional Protocol II, related to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts; Additional Protocol III, introducing an additional distinctive emblem
  • The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Additional Protocols
  • Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects
  • Convention on Prohibitions on the Use of Cluster Munitions

Customary IHL

Customary international law – in the case of universality, it is binding on all states, all subjects, including non-state organizations, that are parties to an armed conflict. Customary rules of international law do not exist in a clearly expressed form, they are not recorded in writing.

Customary international law consists of rules that are based on “general practice accepted as law” and exist independently of treaty law. Customary international humanitarian law is crucial in modern armed conflicts because it fills in the gaps left by treaty law and thus strengthens the protection provided to victims.

Activities of the Ministry of Reintegration in the field of IHL

One of the main tasks of the Ministry of Reintegration is to ensure the formation and implementation of the state policy on compliance with international humanitarian law throughout Ukraine.

To this end, the Ministry of Reintegration collects, analyzes and summarizes information on the observance of international humanitarian law in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and adjacent territories and makes proposals for responding to violations.

In addition, in order to ensure the proper implementation of international humanitarian law on the territory of Ukraine, in particular the implementation of Ukraine’s international legal obligations arising from the Geneva Conventions for the Protection of War Victims of August 12, 1949, the Additional Protocols thereto and other international treaties on international humanitarian law, taking into account the challenges posed by the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine established an Interagency Commission on the Application and Implementation of International Humanitarian Law by Resolution No. 329 of April 26, 2017.

The Interagency Commission is headed by a chairman, who is the Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine – Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories. It consists of permanent members of the commission, members of the commission who participate by agreement, and representatives of international humanitarian organizations, NGOs, and scientific/research and educational institutions.

The Interdepartmental Commission is an advisory body operating under the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine in the field of promoting the implementation of Ukraine’s international legal obligations in the field of international humanitarian law and is a platform for:

  • identification of the main practical problems in the field of humanitarian law;
  • identification of short-term and long-term priorities;
  • their further implementation by all responsible parties;
  • monitoring the solution of the problems and evaluating its effectiveness.