Research Handbook on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
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Research Handbook on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law

Edited by Robert Kolb and Gloria Gaggioli

This fascinating Handbook explores the interplay between international human rights law and international humanitarian law, offering expert analysis on the increasingly complex issues surrounding their application in conflict areas across the world.
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Chapter 27: The International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission and the law of human rights

Eric David


The International Humanitarian Fact-finding Commission (IHFFC) established by the 1977 first Protocol Additional (AP 1) to the 1949 Geneva Conventions (GC) became a legal reality on 20 November 1990 when Canada was the 20th State to recognize the jurisdiction of the Commission, pursuant to Art. 90, § 1, b, of the 1st AP, which subordinated its inception to 20 declarations of acceptance of its jurisdiction. At the end of 2010, 72 States among the 168 States parties to the Protocol had recognized its jurisdiction, but after some 20 years of existence, the IHFFC has never received any request for investigation. This ‘technical unemployment’ of IHFFC is surprising because, if among the 72 States that have recognized the competence of the Commission, few are, or were confronted with armed conflicts, such conflicts have not disappeared since 1991, and nothing precludes a third State or an international organization to request a fact-finding mission from the Commission. The object of this short note is not to describe the fact-finding procedure established by the AP but rather whether the Commission could deal with human rights violations. Given the lack of practice of the Commission, the following developments will remain purely theoretical. The question of the jurisdiction of the Commission with respect to human rights may arise for two reasons: as part of an agreement between two parties to lodge a request with the Commission for an investigation outside the context of an armed conflict (section 1 below);

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