Applicability through unilateral declarations

Notion(s) Filing Case
Appeal Judgement - 05.05.2009 MRKŠIĆ & ŠLJIVANČANIN

69. The Appeals Chamber notes that the Trial Chamber did not make a finding as to whether the armed conflict in the municipality of Vukovar at the material time was of an international or non-international nature.[1] However, even in the context of an internal armed conflict, Geneva Convention III applies where the parties to the conflict have agreed that the Convention shall apply.[2] In this respect, the Appeals Chamber recalls the ECMM instructions to its monitors on the implementation of the Zagreb Agreement which indicated that the Geneva Conventions were to be applied to the prisoners of war.[3] In an order issued on 18 November 1991, Lt. General Života Panić directed that JNA units in the Vukovar area, including OG South, were to observe all aspects of Geneva Convention III.[4] Furthermore, Colonel Nebojša Pavković advised the ECMM monitors of instructions from General Rašeta that Croat forces would not be evacuated with the rest of the humanitarian convoy but remain as prisoners of war and the Geneva Conventions would apply.[5] The Appeals Chamber considers that, while the Zagreb Agreement makes no mention of the application of Geneva Convention III to the Croat forces at the Vukovar hospital,[6] these documents provide sufficient evidence to conclude that the JNA had agreed that the Croat forces were to be considered prisoners of war and that Geneva Convention III was to apply.[7]

[1] Trial Judgement, paras 422, 457.

[2] Geneva Convention III, Article 2: “Although one of the Powers in conflict may not be a party to the present Convention, the Powers who are parties thereto shall remain bound by it in their mutual relations. They shall furthermore be bound by the Convention in relation to the said Power, if the latter accepts and applies the provisions thereof”. See also Article 3: “The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention”.

[3] Trial Judgement, para. 144, citing Exhibit P315, “ECMM fax to tasking cell regarding Zagreb Agreement, 19 November 1991”.

[4] Trial Judgement, para. 581, citing Exhibit P415, “Order from 1 MD, 18 November 1991”.

[5] Trial Judgement, para. 582, citing Exhibit D333, “ECMM Report of Evacuation of Vukovar, 19 November 1991”.

[6] Exhibit P40, “Zagreb Agreement, 18 November 1991”.

[7] See also Trial Judgement, paras 139, 189.

Download full document
Other instruments Geneva Convention III: Article 2