International humanitarian law (IHL), also known as the laws of war or the law of armed conflict, is the legal framework applicable to situations of armed conflict and occupation. As a set of rules and principles it aims, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict.

Fundamental to IHL are the following two principles:

  1. Persons who are not, or are no longer, participating in hostilities must be protected; and
  2. The right of parties to an armed conflict to choose methods and means of warfare is not unlimited.

IHL is a part of public international law.  Public international law is a broad set of treaties, customary law, principles and norms.  The framework traditionally regulated relationships only between States. It has evolved, however, to cover a broad range of actors. IHL is notable in this regard, as it recognizes obligations for both States and non-State armed groups that are parties to an armed conflict.

IHL regulates activity during armed conflict and situations of occupation. It is distinct from, and applies irrespective of, the body of law that regulates the recourse to armed force. This framework is known as the jus ad bellum, and is enshrined in the UN Charter. It regulates the conditions under which force may be used, namely in self-defense and pursuant to UN Security Council authorization. Once there is an armed conflict IHL applies to all the parties, whether or not a party was legally justified in using force under jus ad bellum principles.

After independence Bangladesh adopted its new constitution on 4th November 1972 and it came to enforce in the same year. The question of human rights was the vital point in the time of liberation war.  The proclamation of independence on 10th April, 1971 declared the importance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Proclamation of Independence provides that We further resolve that we undertake to observe and effect to all duties and obligation that devolve upon us as a member of the family of nations and to abide by the Charter of the United Nations.

Duties of Bangladesh:

To implement the international humanitarian law, the duties of Bangladesh are followings:

  1. To enact national law for the prevention of the violation of international law:

International Humanitarian Law states the principle of personal penal responsibility. If any act committed by any person punishable under the national law then the state can take penal sanction against that person. Bangladesh is responsible to take criminal proceeding against the person who commits gross violation of international humanitarian law. In this case nationality or place of occurrence shall not came under consideration. As a state party of the convention Bangladesh has duties to  enact some laws with penal sanctions to prevent the violation of international humanitarian law. But, still Bangladesh did not enact any specific law for this purpose.

  1. Communication of the translation of the convention and protocols and laws of application:

Bangladesh has the duty to translate the conventions and protocols for the application as a member state to the states which are engaging into the  conflict so that they can be applied by their populations and be disseminated.

  1. To protect the emblems of Red Cross and Red Crescent:

Bangladesh should have to enact legislation to prevent and suppress at all times misuse of the protective emblems.

  1. Dissemination of the conventions and Protocols :

Bangladesh has an obligation to undertake in time of peace as in time of war to disseminate the text of the present convention as early as possible.

  1. To take necessary measures for the implementation of International Humanitarian Law:

There are some provisions to prevent the protected person and property in the present convention. For example:

  • Medical establishment shall be situated in such a manner that attacks against a military objectives can not imperil their safety (Convention I, 19).
  • Optional light, radio and electric signal should be provided to make medical establishment units and transport more effectively (Ap-I, Annex-1 Art. 5-8).
  • Steps shall be taken to safeguard cultural property (1954, Hague Con.).
  1. Recognition of the International Fact-Finding Commission :

Some mechanism to implement the international procedures in time of war, the recognition of International Fact Finding Commission is one of them. Which depends on the expressed declaration of the member state concerned. Bangladesh has not yet proclaimed such Declaration.

There are some articles related to the International Humanitarian Law in the constitution of Bangladesh. They are-

  1. i) Preamble Provides:

“It shall be a fundamental aim of the state to realise through the democratic process a socialis society, free from exploitation-a society in which the rule of law, fundamental human rights and freedom, equality and justice, political, economic and social, will be secured for all citizens”.

  1. ii) Article 11 Provides:

“The Republic shall be a democracy in which fundamental human rights and freedoms and respect for the dignity and worth of the human person shall be guaranteed”.

iii) Article 25 Provides:

“The State shall base its international relations on the principles of respect for national sovereignty and equality, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, peaceful settlement of international disputes, and respect for international law and the principles enunciated in the United Nations Charter”.

  1. iv) Article 145A Provides:

“All treaties with foreign countries shall be submitted to the President, who shall cause them to be laid before parliament”.

*    The reflection of International Humanitarian Law with the other national laws:

The first step in Bangladesh to implement the Geneva Convention is the Geneva Convention Implementing Act. 1936. The main aim in this Act is to implement the Article 28 of 1929 Convention. This article deal with the protection of Red Cross and Red-Crescent emblem.

Another Act is Bangladesh Red Crescent Society Order, 1973. Article 5 of this Order and schedule 1 deals with the aim and objects of the Red-Crescent Society. Such as-

  • To maintain the provisions of Geneva Convention and to help the wounded and sick persons in time war.
  • To reduce the sufferings for all in neutrally as to race, colour, sex, religion belief, political status etc.

International crimes (Tribunal) Act, 1973 also deals with the International Humanitarian Law.

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