Civil Liability for Violations of International Humanitarian Law: The Jurisprudence of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission in the Hague
65 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2008
Date Written: August, 18 2008
Violations of international humanitarian law are compensable by a state causing the violations. The roots of this obligation can be traced to Article 3 of Hague Convention IV, which states that a party to the conflict which violates the provisions of [international humanitarian law] shall . . . be liable to pay compensation. It shall be responsible for all acts committed by persons forming part of its armed forces. A similar rule is also contained in Protocol I Additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
In practice, the enforcement of this important provision of international humanitarian law has remained a matter of rarity, particularly in terms of civil - rather than criminal - liability. However, a recent exception is the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission in The Hague (the Claims Commission or the Commission). The Claims Commission was established pursuant to a peace agreement signed by Eritrea and Ethiopia in Algiers, Algeria, on December 12, 2000, ending a devastating war fought between the two countries from May 1998 to December 2000.
The Commission was charged with the duty of deciding, through binding arbitration, all claims by one party or citizens of that party against the other party for loss, damage, or injury resulting from violations of international law (mainly violations of international humanitarian law that occurred during the war). The Commission commenced its work in March 2001 and decided to consider the claims of the parties in two different phases of the proceedings: a liability phase and a damages phase. The Commissions rendered the final decisions of the liability phase on December 19, 2005. The damages phase is still being conducted, although no decisions have been rendered by the Commission to date as part of that phase. Thus, this Article exclusively focuses on the Commission's work as it relates to the completed liability phase.
Keywords: International Humanitarian law, International Dispute Resolution, Civil Liability for Violations of humanitarian law, law of armed conflict, Eritrea-Ethiopia, East Africa War, Claims Commission
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation