Protection of persons and objects
As part of a peace agreement with the Free Aceh Movement (‘GAM’) signed on 15 August 2005, the Government of Indonesia released thousands of people detained during the conflict. This act of compliance with IHL is said to have been motivated by the consequences of the Indian ocean tsunami of 2004 and has paved the way towards a successful peace process.
At the end of the 1990–1991 Gulf War, a tripartite commission was set up and mandated to ascertain the fate of people who had gone missing during the war. Iraq and Kuwait collaborated under the auspices of this commission and succeeded in locating, exhuming, and repatriating numerous sets of human remains. These reciprocal actions of compliance with IHL were enabled by such means as the mediation and support of external actors and the use of advanced technology.
In compliance with the first agreement between them since the beginning of the conflict in Yemen, the Hadi government and the Houthis have released hundreds of detainees. These acts of compliance with IHL may have been a result of diplomatic efforts and international pressure; they may also have been influenced by both parties' interest in gaining credibility and improving their public image.
During the 1982 conflict in the Falklands/Malvinas, British military medical personnel provided comprehensive medical treatment for wounded enemy combatants – based on medical need alone and regardless of allegiance, as required by IHL. Training for medical personnel before going into combat, and the close proximity of medical support units to the site of hostilities, played an important role in influencing these acts of compliance with IHL.
During Operation Unified Protector in 2011, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, in cooperation with the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield and the International Military Cultural Resources Work Group, distributed a list of cultural sites in Libya that were not to be targeted by the armed forces: all the military forces involved followed this recommendation during the conduct of hostilities. Their behaviour seems to have been influenced by the multidisciplinary expert support they were given during military activities and by the involvement of other states and of actors such as UNESCO and various non-governmental organizations.
In 2008 the governments of Iraq and Iran signed with the ICRC a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) establishing a clear framework for collecting and sharing information about missing persons and the returning of mortal remains. Accordingly, a series of measures aimed at improving searches, protect mass graves and establish a proper treatment of the dead in the armed conflict were launched.
The Netherlands adopted new legislation implementing the First Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention in 2007 and subsequently restored four icons to Cyprus in 2013. External political pressure and judicial action by Cyprus – and, possibly, also the Netherland’s own experience of the looting of its cultural property during past armed conflicts – seem to have influenced this act of compliance with IHL.
Various measures have been put in place in Croatia to search for people who went missing during the armed conflict of 1991–1995 in the former Yugoslavia. These yielded concrete results in a number of cases: numerous dead bodies were recovered and identified. The families of missing people, and civil society, played an important role in resolving missing-persons cases. All these actions – which demonstrated respect for IHL – might have contributed to healing some of the trauma caused by war.
In 2009, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a non-state armed group, signed an action plan with the United Nations to end the recruitment of children under the age of 18, and to release and reintegrate child soldiers into their communities. By the end of 2017, the MILF had released all the child soldiers in its ranks, and consequently, had been removed from the United Nations's list of parties to armed conflict that recruited and used child soldiers. Local support for this step and a desire for legitimacy influenced the MILF to act in accordance with IHL. Its actions seemed to have led the Philippines, two years later, to adopt a law protecting children involved in armed conflict.
Assisted by the International Commission on Missing Persons and other organizations, Bosnia-Herzegovina has, since the late 1990s, been developing means to tackle the issue of missing persons: this has resulted in the identification of over 27,000 people who went missing during the Bosnian War. Internal pressure from the population to find and identify their loved ones, and a willingness to bring about reconciliation in the region, are among the factors that seem to have contributed to compliance with IHL.