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2020 | ICRC - Commentary of 2020: Article 3 Conflicts not of an international character

Common Article 3 governs all non-international armed conflicts, in which at least one of the parties is not a State. Following the establishment of a new Afghan government in June 2002, the ICRC has re-classified the situation in Afghanistan as non-international armed conflict. The parties of the conflict are, on the one hand, the Afghan government, supported by the coalition of international forces, and, on the other, the Taliban and other armed groups. 

It is now accepted that common Article 3 is part of customary international law and is binding on all parties to a non-international armed conflict, including non-State armed groups. This is relevant to the question concerning the duties and responsibilities of the parties to the Afghanistan conflict. 

The ICRC also notes that the principle of individual criminal responsibility for violations of common Article 3 has acquired the status of customary international law. The ICC, in particular, qualifies serious violations of Article 3 as war crimes. Thus, States Parties are under the obligation to investigate alleged violations committed by their nationals or on their territory and, if appropriate, prosecute the suspects.