The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law

« Calling things by the wrong name adds to the affliction of the world. » Albert Camus.

High Contracting Parties

The Geneva Conventions employ this term to refer to the States that are party to the Conventions. High Contracting Parties is generally preferred to State or government , which could cause problems of legal recognition in the case of certain armed conflicts, since international humanitarian law remains applicable even in situations in which one or more parties to a conflict may not be represented among the States party to the Conventions. This is the case namely when one of the parties represents a non-state entity or an authority that the other party does not recognize.

The implementation of international humanitarian law does not affect the legal status of the parties to the conflict (GCI–IV Common Art. 3; API Art. 4). In fact, it encourages the signing of special agreements between the adversaries or with relief agencies, the aim of which is to ensure that its application is not limited to individual States party to the Conventions.

International conventionsInternational humanitarian lawLegal status of the parties to the conflictRespect for international humanitarian lawSpecial agreementWar

The duty to enforce international humanitarian law is not tied to obligations of reciprocity. A High Contracting Party is held to its humanitarian obligations even if the other party to the conflict is not bound by the Geneva Conventions or is not respecting them (GCI–GCIV Common Arts. 1, 2; API Art. 1.1; GCI Art. 63; GCII Art. 62; GCIII Art. 142; GCIV Art. 158; API Art. 99).

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