On the third webinar of the series, dedicated to transitional justice on transition of Ukraine from war to sustainable peace, the issues of implementation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) were discussed, in particular the concept of armed conflicts and their classification.
Anton Korynevych explained the difference between the international and non-international armed conflict, as well as on relationship between the modern conflict classifications (“hybrid”, “informational”, “economic” wars) including categories, provided by the IHL. He also characterized the situation in Crimea and Donbas with respect to international law.
The International Humanitarian Law (IHL) or as it is called the law of international conflicts, law of war, applies only to the situations of armed conflicts. It is the set of international rules and principles, which regulates the protection of war victims as well as restricts the methods and means of warfare
The classic definition of armed conflict today is contained in para. 70 of the judgement of the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the case of Dusko Tadic of 2 October 1995:
“…we find that an armed conflict exists whenever there is a resort to armed force between States or protracted armed violence between governmental authorities and organized armed groups or between such groups within a State. International humanitarian law applies from the initiation of such armed conflicts and extends beyond the cessation of hostilities until a general conclusion of peace is reached; or, in the case of internal conflicts, a peaceful settlement is achieved. Until that moment, international humanitarian law continues to apply in the whole territory of the warring States or, in the case of internal conflicts, the whole territory under the control of a party, whether or not actual combat takes place there”.
For more than 6 years, international humanitarian law has been relevant to millions of citizens of Ukraine, the victims of Russian armed aggression and that is why it is very important to understand the application of IHL. The characterization of armed conflict is of particular importance.
“The international armed conflict is at Donbass. At the beginning of the events at Donbass, the Russian Federation exercised overall control over the organized armed groups of the so-called “LPR/DPR”. And today, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court concluded that it had a double qualification, particularly there was non international armed conflict at Donbass since 30 April 2014 which was joined by the international armed conflict not later 14 July 2014”, the Permanent Representative of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea Anton Korynevych noted during the lecture.
Qualification determines the moment of occurrence of conditions under which «the law of war» begins to work. It also identifies the specific rules of IHL to be applied, as the scope of the rules will depend on whether an armed conflict is characterized as international or not.
Occupation is always an international armed conflict, because only a sovereign subject of international law – a State – can be an occupier. Article 2 common to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 states that the Conventions also apply in all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party, even if no armed resistance to such occupation has been shown. Therefore, the situation in Crimea is a 100 per cent occupation. There are simply no other points of view”, the Permanent Representative of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea Anton Korynevych pointed out.