2010 – Michael Siegrist

Michael Siegrist
Michael Siegrist

The Prix Henry Dunant Foundation, in partnership with the Academy of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law in Geneva, awarded on April 29 the 2010 Henry Dunant Prize to Mr. Michael Siegrist for his master’s thesis entitled “The functional beginning of military occupation”.

The Prize award ceremony will take place on April 29th, 2010 at 18:00 in the privileged setting of the board room of the Villa Moynier, which houses the offices of the Academy since September 2009. On this occasion, Mrs Corinne Chaponnière, author of the biography “Henry Dunant, the cross of one man”, will pronounce a speech.
The Henry Dunant Prize Foundation awards its price to persons who work in a remarkable way to deepen, spread and renew the ideas and commitments of Henry Dunant. The Prize amount is Chf 5,000.

Created by the Faculty of law of the University of Geneva and the Institute of high international studies and development, the Academy’s mandate is to provide studies of high academic quality and to lead and promote scientific research in the fields of international humanitarian law and other branches of international law relating to situations of armed conflict and states of emergency.

The Jury was impressed by the originality of the developed argument and the scientific rigour displayed by Mr. Siegrist, whose works demonstrates perfect command of international humanitarian law. His thesis analyses an important gap of the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949 insofar as it does not provide any legal definition of military occupation. Therefore, a question arises as to the entry into force of the provisions contained in the Convention. There are two ways of dealing with this question. First, to resort to the last major codification of military occupation provided by the Hague Regulations of 1907: occupation only begins when the criteria set in the Regulations are met. Second, the solution provided by the Commentary to the Conventions established by the ICRC, which determines a functional criterion for the beginning of military occupation: the moment in which a protected person falls into the hands of the enemy. Displaying an original approach, Mr. Siegrist argues that the second solution must be favoured. In his opinion, it renders any distinction between invasion and occupation itself irrelevant, thereby permitting to avoid intolerable protection gaps during the invasion phase. Mr. Siegrist further analyzes the norms contained in the 4th Convention and qualifies them as “realistic”. He points out the fact that they do not contain any obligation that would be too heavy or impossible to implement for troops already submitted to very constraining norms. According to Mr. Siegrist, the norms of the 4th Convention relating to the rights and obligations of an occupying power are flexible enough to allow taking into account the necessities inherent to the invasion phase while ensuring maximal protection for the local populations.

A Swiss national, Michael Siegrist comes from the Canton of Bern. He holds a Master’s in Law from the University of Fribourg and the advanced LL.M. (Master of Advanced Studies, MAS) in international humanitarian law from the Academy (2008 2009 academic year).

Read the full thesis here and the article on the Graduate Institute’s web site