UN SECRETARY-GENERAL'S BULLETIN ON
OBSERVANCE BY UNITED NATIONS FORCES OF
INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW
Promulgated by the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 6 August 1999
INTRODUCTORY NOTE: Since the establishment of the first peacekeeping operations of the United Nations in the 1950s, the International Committee of the Red Cross has consistently drawn the Secretary-General's attention to the necessity of assuring the application of international humanitarian law by UN forces. In response to these requests, provisions on humanitarian law were inserted into regulations for UN forces and into agreements concluded with states furnishing contingents. These provisions generally state that the forces shall observe “the principles and spirit” of the international conventions applicable to the conduct of military personnel. When, in the early 1990's, UN forces became increasingly involved in situations occasioning the use of force, it was considered necessary to establish more precise rules. The ICRC, in 1994, organized a symposium on humanitarian action and peacekeeping operations which, in 1995, was followed by two meetings of experts. In the same year, the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations requested the SecretaryGeneral to “complete the elaboration of a code of conduct for United Nations peacekeeping personnel, consistent witii applicable international humanitarian law”. At the end of the two expert meetings, organized by the ICRC, in 1995, the ICRC submitted to the UN Secretary-General a document recapitulating the essential rules of humanitarian law. After consultations on this text between the ICRC and the UN Secretariat, a revised text was submitted to the SecretaryGeneral on 10 May 1996, entitled “Guidelines for UN forces regarding respect for international humanitarian law”. The term “Guidelines” was later replaced by “Directives”. The document was the subject of extensive deliberations within the UN and was again partly revised. On 6 August 1999, the SecretaryGeneral issued the present Bulletin which entered into force on 12 August 1999, the day of the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (No. 49–52). A Secretary-General's bulletin is an administrative issuance of the Secretary-General as the chief administrative officer of the UN, binding on UN personnel and, in the present case, on members of UN forces.
ENTRY INTO FORCE: 12 August 1999.
AUTHENTIC TEXTS: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish.
TEXT PUBLISHED IN: United Nations Document ST/SGB/1999/13 (Arabic, Chinese, Engl., French, Russ., Span.); IRRC, Vol. 81, 1999; No. 836, pp. 806–817 (Engl., French); ILM, Vol. 38, 1999, pp. 1656–1659 (Engl.); International Peacekeeping (Kluwer), Vol. 5, 1999, pp. 160–161 (Engl.); Roberts and Guelff, pp. 721–730 (Engl.).