Q What are War Crime?
- War crimes are defined as serious violations of humanitarian laws during a conflict.
- There are specific international standards for war crimes, which are not to be confused with crimes against humanity.
- The definition is established by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
- It is derived from the 1949 Geneva Conventions and is based on the idea that individuals can be held liable for the actions of a state or its military.
- There is a long list of acts that can be considered war crimes.
- The taking of hostages, willful killings, torture or inhuman treatment of prisoners of war, and forcing children to fight are some of the more obvious examples.
Q How to identify war crimes?
To decide whether an individual or a military has committed a war crime, international humanitarian law lays down three principles:
- Distinction: This principle says that you have to be constantly trying to distinguish between civilian and belligerent populations and objects.
- Proportionality: It prohibits armies from responding to an attack with excessive violence. If a soldier is killed, for example, you cannot bomb an entire city in retaliation.
- Precaution: It requires parties to a conflict to avoid or minimize the harm done to the civilian population. For example, attacking a barrack where there are people who have said they no longer participate in the conflict can be a war crime.
Q Do war crimes constitute to genocides?
- The UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect separates war crimes from genocide and crimes against humanity.
- War crimes are defined as occurring in a domestic conflict or a war between two states.
- However, genocide and crimes against humanity can happen in peacetime or during the unilateral aggression of a military towards a group of unarmed people.
Q Why is there discrepancy in defining war crimes ?
- In practice, there is a lot of gray area within that list.
- The laws of war do not always protect civilians from death. Not every civilian death is necessarily illegal.
- Raids on a cities or villages, bombing residential buildings or schools, and even the killing of groups of civilians do not necessarily amount to war crimes — not if their military necessity is justified.
- The same act can become a war crime if it results in unnecessary destruction, suffering and casualties that exceed the military gain from the attack.
- Also civilian and military populations have become increasingly hard to distinguish