The truth needs allies: the importance and problems of international fact-finding commissions

Available in Russian

Author: Aleksey Kudinov

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2018-2-90-104

Keywords: enquiry; enquiry procedure; fact-finding; International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission; international investigation; United Nations


This article reveals the significance and presents the theoretical and legal grounds of international enquiries, and assesses the role of the Russian Federation in the genesis and development of the concept of international fact-finding commissions. In the author’s opinion, despite its considerable potential, the enquiry procedure is not used by the international community to the full extent. States do not use it even in cases where an international dispute is a disagreement on a point of fact. Single cases, where states used enquiry in order to settle their disputes, were typical for the first half of the 20th century. Fact-finding missions are actively used within the UN, however, the lack of a database and a uniform methodology for investigations is influencing the effectiveness of these missions. In the author’s opinion, this is the result of a “fragmentation” of the missions. As a solution, the author proposes to gradually phase out fact-finding commissions that are established ad hoc in favor of a standing committee. The author notes the ineffectiveness of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission established in accordance with Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions. Established in 1991, it was practically inactive until 2017. At the same time, the first investigation conducted by the Commission in 2017 on the initiative of the OSCE was illegal since international organizations are not authorized to initiate investigations by the Commission. As a solution to the problem of the Commission’s inefficiency, the author proposes to integrate it into the UN system. Another problem inherent in international fact-finding commissions is their quasi-judicial nature. As a rule, fact-finding commissions are not limited to establishing facts, but are empowered with a broad competence, including the formulation of legal conclusions. As a result, the initial purpose of the fact-finding commissions is being eroded, and the outcome of the investigations is assessed ambiguously by the international community. In the author’s opinion, this problem can be solved by legally fixing the right of commissions to formulate legal assessments of established facts exclusively as an expert opinion and as an annex to the main part of the report, which should include only information on established facts.

About the author: Aleksey Kudinov – Post-graduate student, Department of International Law, Moscow State Institute (University) of International Relations, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Kudinov A. (2018) Pravda nuzhdaetsya v soyuznikakh: znachenie i problemy mezhdunarodnykh komissiy po ustanovleniyu faktov [The truth needs allies: the importance and problems of international fact-finding commissions]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol.8, no.2, pp.90–104. (In Russian).


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