Updated Commentaries of Geneva Conventions detail how to record casualties of conflict; Every Casualty hosts side-event at the 32nd Red Cross Quadrennial

First published 31st Mar 2016

On March 22nd the updated commentaries of 2016 of the First Geneva Convention was launched at the ICRC in Geneva as well as online on the ICRC’s website.

Since their adoption in 1949, the Geneva Conventions have been put to the test and there have been significant developments in how they are applied and interpreted in practice. In order to expose these developments and provide up-to-date interpretations, the ICRC and a team of experts embarked on a major project to update the Commentaries on the Conventions. Every Casualty is proud to have provided input into this process relating to the commentary on Article 17 “Prescriptions Regarding the Dead and Graves Registration Service.”

The updated Commentary for Article 17 clearly states that deaths caused by the parties to the convention should be recorded. In addition it notes that the identity of the person who died should be established and, if possible, the date and time of death, the cause of death and the location of death, or where a body was found, should also be established as accurately as possible. In line with Every Casualty's research, the commentary notes that this will help to prevent misidentification of the person in question as well as, at the domestic level, allow for more detail to be issued in a death certificate. The relevant part of the full commentary on Article 17 can be found here.

The launch of the updated commentaries was preceded by the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement which took place in Geneva in December 2015. Every Casualty and the Government of Colombia co-hosted a side-event on casualty recording (pictured) that marked the very first time that casualty recording was discussed at  one of these Conferences, which are held every four years. The side-event, which was well attended by states representatives and Red Cross/Red Crescent societies alike, featured Jesus Tecu Osorio, a well-known activist and advocate for the Achi Maya people in Guatemala. Jesus, who explained the humanising impact of casualty recording on victims of the Guatemalan Civil war, was one of the few contributors to the conference able to speak directly from the voice of the victims. 

Mr Osorio was joined on the panel by Fredy Peccerelli, Executive Director of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG), and member of the Casualty Recorders Network (CRN), as well as Hamit Dardagan, Co-Director of Every Casualty and Co-Founder of Iraq Body Count (IBC), who are also members of the CRN and were co-sponsors with Every Casualty of the side-event. The panel was co-hosted by the Mission of Colombia to the UN, and included a powerful contribution from Ambassador Beatriz Londoño Soto who highlighted the importance of the casualty recording done by the state in Colombia in relation to the recent peace agreements.