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Geneva Conventions

Question for Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UIN HL17605, tabled on 3 September 2019

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of how violations of the Geneva Convention should be addressed; and whether any such assessment includes provision for the handling of erring Parties.

Answered on

9 September 2019

This answer is a correction from the original answer.

Under the Geneva Conventions, States Parties must enact legislation to provide effective penal sanctions for those that commit, or order to be committed, grave breaches of the Conventions. States Parties must also search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, grave breaches of the Conventions, and ensure that they may be prosecuted before their courts, regardless of their nationality, or extradited, as appropriate. For the UK, the domestic criminal framework has been in place since the Geneva Conventions Act 1957. The UK works closely with the International Committee of the Red Cross and in particular with the British Red Cross to promote compliance with the Geneva Conventions and International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

When there are allegations of violations of the Geneva Conventions around the world, we have actively influenced decisions in the international arena to take action against perpetrators and to hold them to account. Our leading role in establishing and supporting the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia are examples where grave breaches of the Conventions were proven and persons held accountable. The UK also supports the work of the International Criminal Court, which investigates and prosecutes individuals within its jurisdiction alleged to have committed the gravest crimes of concern to the international community.

More recently The UK has repeatedly called on the Syrian regime to abide by the Conventions and has taken a leading role to hold Syria to account. Since 2016, we have committed almost £1 million to the UN International Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) to support the preparation of legal cases for serious crimes committed in the Syrian conflict. Following UK-led lobbying, on 1 August the UN Secretary General announced a new Board of Inquiry to investigate attacks on civilian infrastructure during the recent violence in Northwest Syria.

The Geneva Conventions are cornerstones of IHL but contemporary conflict brings challenges for IHL in a number of areas, such as new technologies and the classification of conflicts. To examine these challenges and to mark 70 years of the Conventions, the UK with the strong support of the British Red Cross, will hold an expert conference in October 2019.

Original answer

It has not proved possible to respond to this question in the time available before Prorogation. Ministers will correspond directly with the Member.