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close this bookLaw in Humanitarian Crises Volume I : How Can International Humanitarian Law Be Made Effective in Armed Conflicts? (European Commission Humanitarian Office)
close this folderThe Laws of War: Problems of Implementation in Contemporary Conflicts
close this folderV. Summary and Conclusions
View the document(introduction...)
View the document1. Realist and Idealist Images of the Laws of War
View the document2. Still a World of States
View the document3. Humanitarianism as a Substitute for Policy
View the document4. Application to Non-International Conflicts
View the document5. Mines
View the document6. Limits of Compliance Provisions
View the document7. Trials
View the document8. International Criminal Court
View the document9. Reparations
View the document10. The United Nations
View the document11. Barbarians?
View the document12. A Set of Professional Military Standards?
View the document13. Need to Keep Our Own Houses in Order
View the document14. The Relation between Ius in Bello and Ius ad Bellum
View the document15. Taking Implementation Seriously

10. The United Nations

Different parts of the UN system have long had an active role in shaping and interpreting laws of war agreements and relating them to particular issues. The General Assembly has in the past been particularly active in this sphere, sometimes producing a particularly heady mix of law and political opinion. Since the mid-1980s, starting in the Iran-Iraq War, the UN Security Council has acquired a role in the implementation of the laws of war which was only dimly foreseen in the conventions, and hardly at all in the UN Charter. It has investigated violations (Iran-Iraq War), imposed reparations (against Iraq over Kuwait), authorized an intervention one of whose purposes was to restore respect for humanitarian law (Somalia), authorized a major use of force to stop attacks on a "safe area" (Bosnia-Herzegovina), and set up international tribunals (former Yugoslavia and Rwanda). Most of these roles have not, so far, been conspicuously effective. They have involved the UN in upholding standards in circumstances in which it is exceptionally difficult to ensure their application, in which its involvement could be counter-productive, or in which the Security Council itself may be the subject of accusations of violations. While the UN's role has certainly contributed much to international awareness of the laws of war, there is a need to temper the optimistic arguments about implementation which were made, for example, at the time of the establishment of the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal and the more or less simultaneous proclamation of the "safe areas" in Bosnia-Herzegovina.