For a nation that is a members of the UN, these provisions of the Charter, if implemented, may qualify that
member nation's right to remain neutral in a particular conflict. For example, if a member nation is called on by the
Security Council, pursuant to Articles 42 and 43 of the Charter, to join in collective military action against an aggressor
state, that member nation loses its right to remain neutral. However, the member nation would actually lose its neutral
status only if it complied with the Security Council mandate and took hostile action against the aggressor.
COMPLIANCE WITH THE LAW OF WAR
The Role of Protecting Powers and the ICRC
The System of Protecting Powers. Common Articles 8 - 11 of the Geneva Conventions of 19494 provide for
application of the Conventions in time of international armed conflict "with the cooperation and under the scrutiny of the
Protecting Powers whose duty it is to safeguard the interests of the Parties to the conflict." The diplomatic institution of
protecting powers, which developed over the centuries independent of the Law of War, enables a neutral sovereign state,
through its designated diplomatic representatives, to safeguard the interests of a second state in the territory of a third
state. Such activities in wartime were first given formal recognition in the Geneva Prisoner of War Convention of 1929.
Such protecting power activities are especially valued when the second and third state do not have effective
diplomatic relations, which is traditionally the case in time of war between them. In particular, the protecting power
attends to the humanitarian interests of those citizens of the second state who are within the territory and under the control
of the third state, such as prisoners of war and civilian detainees.
Protecting power activities reached their zenith during World War II, as the limited number of neutral states acting as
protecting powers assumed a role as representatives not merely of particular belligerents, but rather as representatives of
the humanitarian interests of the world community. Article 5 of GP I seeks to supplement (not supplant) the protecting
power system embodied in the Geneva Conventions by imposing on the parties to the conflict the duty to implement that
system from the beginning of the conflict.
The Contributions and Role of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Originally formed in
1863, the ICRC is an organization of Swiss citizens that has played a seminal role in the development of humanitarian
law applicable in armed conflict. In addition, during World War II, the ICRC supplemented the efforts of the protecting
powers, and undertook prodigious efforts on behalf of prisoners of war. Those efforts included the establishment of a
Central Prisoner of War Agency with 40 million index cards, the conduct of 11,000 visits to POW camps, and the
distribution of 450,000 tons of relief items.
The role of the ICRC as an impartial humanitarian organization is formally recognized in both common articles 9 -
11 of the Geneva Conventions5 and in the Protocols. Since World War II, the protecting power system has not been
widely used, and the ICRC has stepped into the breach as a substitute for protecting powers in international conflicts,
under the auspices of common articles 9 and 10 of the Geneva Conventions6 and Articles 5 and 6 of Protocol I.
With respect to non-international conflicts, common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions recognizes the prerogative
of the ICRC or other impartial humanitarian organizations to offer its services to the parties to the conflict.
GP II, however, fails to reaffirm this ICRC prerogative and recognizes, in Article 18, only the offer of services by
"relief societies located in the territory" of a party to the conflict.
Articles 9 - 12 of the GC.
Articles 10 - 12 of the GC.
Articles 10 and 11 of the GC.
Law of War