In the third installment of episode 1 in this multi-blog series on the updated Geneva Conventions Commentaries, Professor Kevin Jon Heller responds to Professor Sean Murphy’s post on “The role of the ICRC Commentaries in understanding international humanitarian law,” and to Jean-Marie Henckaerts on “Locating the Commentaries in the international legal landscape.” Expect the next episode of the series in Fall 2016, and subscribe to the Law & Policy newsletter to stay informed.
It is a great pleasure to contribute to this multi-blog series on the ICRC’s newly-released Commentary on the First Geneva Convention (GC I). Sean Murphy is right that GC I might seem “of lesser significance” than the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions (GC III and GC IV) – and there is no question that IHL scholars everywhere will eagerly await the ICRC’s Commentaries on those Conventions. But that does not detract from the importance of this first Commentary, which represents a remarkable achievement in its own right. As the Introduction notes, the authors of this new Commentary had to analyze nearly seven decades of state practice, a massive and unenviable task. Moreover, they had to address some of the most contentious issues in IHL, such as the scope of application of Common Article 3 (CA 3). Indeed, I have little doubt that the Commentary’s overall Common Article 3 discussion – which runs to 907 paragraphs, approximately 800 more than its 1952 predecessor! – will attract considerable scholarly attention (and cause considerable academic controversy) in the coming years…
Other posts in this series
- Episode I, Part I (Humanitarian Law & Policy): “Locating the Geneva Conventions Commentaries in the international legal landscape,” Jean Marie Henckaerts, head of the Commentaries Update project at ICRC.
- Episode I, Part II (Intercross): “The role of the ICRC Commentaries in understanding international humanitarian law“, Sean D. Murphy, Professor of Law at the George Washington University.
J.-M. Henckaerts (2012). “Bringing the Commentaries on the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols into the twenty-first century,” International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 94, No. 888.