Global Policy Forum

Timeline of International Humanitarian Law

Crimes of War
July, 2001

April 16, 1856: Declaration Respecting Maritime Law, Paris.

April 24, 1863: The Lieber Code, a field manual instructing the US Army how to behave in war is introduced.

October 26-29, 1863: International conference is held in Geneva to discuss the laws of war.

August 22, 1864: Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field adopted, Geneva. This is the First Geneva Convention.

December 11, 1868: A declaration renouncing the use of certain explosives projectiles is adopted, St Petersburg.

July 29, 1899: An International Peace Conference is held at The Hague which gives birth to: - Regulation concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land - The Adaptation to Maritime Warfare of the Principles of the Geneva Convention of 1864. - The Prohibition for five years of launching projectiles and explosives from balloons. - Limits on the use of asphyxiating gases. - Limits on the use of expanding bullets. October 18, 1907: A Second International Peace Conference at The Hague is convened, which establishes several other conventions: - Convention III relative to the Opening of Hostilities - Convention IV respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land - Convention V respecting the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers and Persons in Case of war on Land. - Convention VI relating to the Status of enemy Merchant ships at the Outbreak of Hostilities. - Convention VII relating to the Conversion of Merchant Ships into War-Ships. - Convention VIII relative to the Laying of Automatic Submarine Contact Mines - Convention IX concerning Bombardment by Naval Forces in Time of War. - Convention X for the Adaptation to Maritime warfare of the Principles of the Geneva Convention. - Convention XI relative to certain Restriction with regard to the exercise of the Right of Capture of Naval war. - Convention XII relative to the Creation of an International Prize Court - Convention XIII concerning the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers in Naval War. - Convention XIV Prohibiting the Discharge of Projectiles and Explosives from Balloons. February 26, 1909: A Conference is convened in London, which establishes the Laws of Naval War.

June 17, 1925: Another conference in Geneva establishes the Protocol for the prohibition of the use of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare.

July 27, 1929: A major diplomatic conference is held in Geneva, which establishes the Convention relative to the treatment of Prisoners of War.

1934: An International Convention on the Condition and Protection of Civilians of enemy nationality who are on territory belonging to or occupied by a belligerent is adopted in Tokyo.

April 15, 1935: A Treaty on the protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments called the Roerich Pact is adopted in Washington.

1938: A Draft Convention for the Protection of Civilian Populations Against New Engines of War is introduced in Amsterdam.

August 8, 1945: The Allied powers of World War II create an International Military Tribunal to prosecute Nazi war criminals in Nuremberg, London.

November 21, 1945 — October 1, 1946: Some 21 Nazi leaders are prosecuted for crimes of aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Nuremberg. Eleven are sentenced to death, 3 are acquitted and the rest are imprisoned.

October 1946: In the wake of the precedent set by Nuremberg, an international congress is convened in Paris calling for the adoption of an international criminal code prohibiting crimes against humanity and the prompt establishment of an International Criminal Court (ICC).

January 19, 1946: The Allied Powers of World War II announce the establishment of a second war crimes court, the Military Tribunal for the Far East, to prosecute Japanese war criminals.

December 11, 1946: UN General assembly affirms the Principles of International Law recognized by the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal.

April 29, 1946 — November 12, 1948: The International Military Tribunal for the Far East prosecutes Japanese soldiers for war crimes, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. Seven are sentenced to death.

December 9, 1948: - UN General Assembly adopts the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. - An International Law Commission is asked to study the possibility of establishing an International Criminal Court. December 10, 1948: The UN General Assembly adopts the Universal declaration of Human Rights detailing human rights and fundamental freedoms.

1949-1954: The International Law Commission drafts statues for an International Criminal Court but opposition stymies the effort and the General Assembly effectively abandons the effort pending agreement on a definition of the crime of aggression and an international Code of Crimes.

August 12, 1949: Another diplomatic conference is held in Geneva, establishing: - Convention I for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in armed forces in the field. - Convention II for the Amelioration and the Condition of wounded, Sick and shipwrecked Members of armed Forces at Sea. - Convention III relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. - Convention IV relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in time of War. May 14, 1954: Meeting at The Hague establishes: - Protocol for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. - Resolutions of the Intergovernmental Conference on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. 1956: The International Committee of the Red Cross drafts rules for the Limitation of the Dangers incurred by the Civilian Population in Time of War.

May 12, 1968: An International Conference adopts a Resolution on the Human Rights in armed Conflicts in Teheran.

November 26, 1968: The UN General Assembly decides that there is no statute of limitations to war Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.

June 8, 1977: Additional Protocols of the Geneva Conventions are adopted: - I relation to the Protection of Victims of International armed Conflicts. - II, relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts. October 10, 1980: A UN Conference in Geneva establishes: - Prohibitions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects. - Protocol on Non-Detectable Fragments. - Protocol on Prohibitions or restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices - Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons. December 10, 1984: UN General Assembly adopts the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

June 1989: Trinidad and Tobago resurrect the proposal for an International Criminal Court and the UN General Assembly asks the International Law Commission to prepare a draft statues.

December 4, 1989: UN General Assembly adopts an International Convention against the Recruitment, Use Financing and Training of Mercenaries.

May 25, 1993: the UN Security Council establishes an International Criminal Tribunal to prosecute war crimes in the former Yugoslavia.

1993: The International Law Commission submits a draft Statues for an International Criminal Court to the General Assembly.

November 8, 1994: The UN General Assembly establishes a second International Criminal Tribunal to prosecute war crimes in Rwanda.

December 9, 1994: The International Law Commission presents a final draft Statue on the International Criminal court to the UN General assembly and an ad hoc committee is appointed to work on establishing the court.

December 11, 1995: UN General Assembly establishes Preparatory Committee for the Establishment of a permanent International Criminal Court.

May 7, 1997: The UN Tribunal for Yugoslavia hands down its first conviction, sentencing a Bosnian Serb concentration camp guard to 20 years in prison for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war.

September 18, 1997: Convention on the prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction.

March 26, 1998: US Senator Jesse Helms, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, declares any International Criminal Court "dead on arrival" in the United States Senate unless the United States is given control over the court.

June 17, 1998: Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court is finalized and adopted.

September 2, 1998: The UN Tribunal for Rwanda ands down its first conviction finding a Rwandan Hutu leader guilty of genocide.

October 16, 1998: British authorities arrest former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet on an extradition request from a Spanish judge who brought charges of genocide, torture, and other crimes during his rule in the 1970s-80s.

January 31, 2000: A UN Commission recommends that the Security Council establish a tribunal to prosecute war crimes in East Timor, but member nations ignore the recommendation and instead ask the Indonesian government to mete out justice.

August 14, 2000: UN Security Council calls for the establishment of a "Special Court" to prosecute war crimes in Sierra Leone.

January 3, 2001: Cambodian National assembly passes legislation to establish a tribunal in conjunction with the United Nations to prosecute "senior leaders" of the Khmer Rouge for atrocities from 1975-1979.

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