The original Geneva Convention

Making Casualty Recording a Legal Requirement

This project involved a comprehensive investigation into the law as it applies to all aspects of casualty recording, which aimed to demonstrate to the satisfaction of key legislative authorities, at the state and interstate level, that the recording of casualties is consistent with the range of norms, laws and agreements to which the international community has already subscribed or committed itself.






Photo credit: Kevin T Quinn

The Geneva Convention of 1949 places on parties in international armed conflict a strict legal obligation to record details of the captured, dead, wounded and missing in conflict. However, these obligations are only defined comprehensively and in binding fashion for individuals who are members of the official military forces of the parties involved.

Given that the majority of casualties in contemporary conflict are non-combatants, and that so many conflicts are exacerbated and made more problematic by uncertainties about the nature and extent of casualties suffered, there is an urgent need to better understand how international normative and regulatory provisions may be applied to ALL casualties, military, paramilitary, and civilian, and make recommendations to states and inter-state organisations based on a proper understanding of all relevant law, whether international (including humanitarian and human rights law), or national.

Under the leadership of Professor Susan Breau, in 2010-11 ORG undertook a comprehensive investigation into the law as it applies to all aspects of casualty recording. The study also sought to identify where the capacity and expertise to undertake and further develop the necessary tasks and frameworks is already embedded in key institutions and organisations that work on or in conflict.

Key publications

This project had two major outputs:

Working Paper: The Legal Obligation to Record Civilian Casualties of Armed Conflict

Discussion Paper: Drone Attacks, International Law, and the Recording of Civilian Casualties of Armed Conflict

The findings of the project were launched at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy in June 2011, attracting media coverage

This project was funded for two years (2010-11) by The Funding Network.

For more information about this project, please contact Rachel Joyce, Legal Consultant and Researcher,