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New ICRC Database on Customary IHL – Happy Birthday, Geneva Conventions!

To mark the 61st anniversary of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 – a truly momentous event – the ICRC has released a new database on customary IHL. The database is a particularly exciting new source of information which offers new useful materials and resources for eager international law practitioners and scholars.

The ICRC’s press release notes that this database is, in essence, the online version of the Study on customary international humanitarian law, conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and published by Cambridge University Press in 2005.

The new database features 50 per cent more content than the original study – a printed version would run to more than 8,000 pages. It also gives the opportunity to investigate underlying practice by means of three search parameters: subject matter, type of practice and country.

It further explains that it is divided in two parts :

  • Part 1. Rules offers a comprehensive analysis of the customary rules of international humanitarian law identified by the Study and considered to be applicable in international and non-international armed conflicts. Nevertheless, the Study does not purport to offer an exhaustive assessment of all customary rules in this field.
  • Part 2. Practice contains the underlying practice. For each aspect of international humanitarian law covered, it provides a summary of relevant state practice including military manuals, legislation, case-law and official statements, as well as practice of international organizations, conferences and judicial and quasi-judicial bodies. This part of the database will be updated on a regular basis by the ICRC, in cooperation with the British Red Cross. The materials of this update are gathered by a network of ICRC delegations and of National Red Cross and National Red Crescent Societies around the world and incorporated by a research team based at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, University of Cambridge. To date Part 2. Practice has been updated with practice from the United Nations and international and mixed judicial and quasi-judicial bodies up until the end of 2007. Subsequent updates will include material from national sources of practice. The text of updated practice is marked in green.

Interestingly, and also usefully, the Sources that were used in the Study are listed separately. These sources are organized in 12 categories of information, such as military manuals, national legislation and national case-law.

The database can be accessed from here. Enjoy!

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