The Independent Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission: Has the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ Awoken?

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This article, written by Cristina Azzarello & Matthieu Niederhauser, was originally published on the Humanitarian Law & Policy Blog.


In 2015, the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (the Commission) received a great deal of attention after Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) called for an independent investigation following the destruction of its trauma centre in Kunduz by U.S. airstrikes. The BBC and The New York Times mentioned the possibility of an enquiry by the Commission. In a blog post at the time, Catherine Harwood wondered whether the ‘Sleeping Beauty’—an expression first coined by Professor Frits Kalshoven to describe Commission’s lack of activity since its creation—would awake soon.

Despite this attention, there was no investigation carried out by the Commission. Indeed, it offered its services to the concerned parties, but was unable to act due to a lack of consent.

Two years later, in May 2017, it was announced on the Commission’s website that it would, for the first time, lead an independent forensic investigation in Ukraine, following the explosion of an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) vehicle. The Executive Summary of the report of the investigation was published last September. So, has the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ awoken? And why has this first investigation received so little attention?

To answer this, we will, after briefly introducing the Commission, review the facts of the case that led to the 2017 investigation, discuss the legal basis for the investigation and consider the role that the Commission can play in implementing IHL.

To read the full article, go here.