Conflict

HPCR. 10/2007. IHL and Civilian Participation in Hostilities.Abstract

This policy brief reviews the legal questions associated with the participation of civilians in hostilities. This issue represents a critical challenge to the protection of civilians in current conflicts, particularly when hostilities are conducted in the midst of civilian populations and assets, and when non-state armed groups are engaged as central actors. This issue is also of particular relevance when the hostilities occur under occupation. While international law recognizes a basic right of selfdetermination for populations under occupation, it provides immunity against violence only to those not participating in hostilities. This apparent contradiction is at the core of the debate on the protection of civilians and raises a number of questions about the roles and rights of civilians in armed conflict, as well as the concept of participation in the war effort and the nature of hostilities. Is a member of a militant group necessarily a “combatant”? Can he or she be targeted according to the rules of international humanitarian law (IHL)? Is membership the key criterion, or are the actual acts of the individual the deciding factors of his or her status under the law? How can a civilian maintain or restore his or her protected status? Practitioners face these and related questions when developing policies for civilian protection in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT). As with all briefs in this series, this paper focuses on providing practitioners with a clear understanding of the legal framework available for protecting Palestinian civilians living in the OPT, as well as the legal regime applicable to both the Israeli military and Palestinian militants when they engage in military operations. This framework is based on IHL (and, in a broader sense, on international human rights law). This note explores the spectrum of opinion (amongst both scholars and practitioners) on the question of the legal implications of civilian participation in hostilities, in particular the legality of targeting civilians who engage in hostilities. It highlights debates ongoing in the field of IHL without attempting to present “correct” answers, with an eye to enhancing practitioners’ understanding of the types of legal rationale used both to limit and allow targeting of civilians who engage in hostilities. Ultimately, the aim of this brief is to strengthen the capacity of professionals to utilize and negotiate with the law while developing strategies to enhance the protection of civilians.

HPCR. 5/2007. From Legal Theory to Policy Tools: IHL and International Human Rights Law.Abstract
This briefing note aims to assess the interplay between International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL) in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), particularly as international agencies are engaged in the protection of Palestinian civilians living under occupation. In so doing, the paper will present a range of legal arguments on the applicability of IHRL considering the current situation in the OPT.
Bruno Demeyere. 6/2007. The Role and Responsibilities of Civil Society in International Humanitarian Law Formulation and Application.Abstract

This paper examines the relationship between the legal framework of international humanitarian law (IHL) and civil society actors operating in conflict situations. Attention is paid to assessing the manner in which the latter can play a role in strengthening the humanitarian dimension of the former. Brief introductory comments are warranted so as to situate the debate, in which non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in a conflict zone are adopted as the primary unit of analysis. IHL is the field of public international law which regulates the conduct of hostilities, namely restricting the means and methods of warfare available to parties to the conflict, and laying out protections afforded civilians and those no longer taking part in hostilities (hors de combat). State-centric in its development, the central tenets of IHL are found in the Hague Regulations of 1907, the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the two Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1977. It is the right of sovereign states to decide which treaty-based international legal obligations they adopt regarding the legal regulation of the conduct of armed conflicts, however a number of legal provisions of IHL have attained the status of customary international law, and are thus binding on all parties to the conflict. This raises questions in regards to the status of non-state actors under international humanitarian law. The legal position of such actors, which for the purpose of this paper will focus on international organizations and non-governmental organizations, warrants close examination. 

Phuong Pham, Patrick Vinck, Eric Stover, Andrew Moss, Marieke Wierda, and Richard Bailey. 12/2007. When the War Ends: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes about Peace, Justice, and Social Reconstruction in Northern Uganda.Abstract

Ravaged by 21 years of war and destruction, Northern Uganda faces serious obstacles in achieving reconciliation and accountability for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. While security in the region has improved since the migration of the Lord’s Resistance Army to the Congo, Ugandans continue to struggle with the aftereffects of an era of violence. This study relays Ugandans’ views on peace, mechanisms for justice, and reintegration, and consequently recommends that the Ugandan government and international community act in concert to develop a strategy for peace-building, justice, socioeconomic development, and poverty reduction in the North.

Phuong Pham, Patrick Vinck, Mychelle Balthazard, Sokhom Hean, and Eric Stover. 1/2009. So We Will Never Forget: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes About Social Reconstruction and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.Abstract

30 years after the end of the Khmer Rouge Regime in Cambodia, citizens of the country continue to see themselves as victims of the regime and desire some form of reparations. Nonetheless, citizens wish that the country prioritize problems that Cambodians face in their everyday lives rather than concentrate on punishing crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge. This study presents the views and experiences of Cambodians regarding exposure to violence, overall priorities, and the national criminal justice system. Additionally, the study reveals that citizens desire more knowledge of the regime, feel hatred toward the Khmer Rouge, and demand accountability. Furthermore, the study calls for changes in the structure and governance of the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) so that Cambodians’ faith in their criminal justice system may be restored.

HPCR. 3/2008. Private Security Companies In The Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT): An International Humanitarian Law Perspective.Abstract

Recent incidents involving private security companies (PSCs) in Iraq have raised questions among governments and international agencies regarding the appropriate legal framework to regulate these organizations as well as to determine both company and employer liability under international humanitarian law (IHL). While the use of PSCs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) has remained more limited than in Iraq, the growing presence of PSCs, especially at military checkpoints and crossings, has raised concerns among humanitarian practitioners. The purpose of this policy brief is to assess current uncertainties concerning the legal status of PSCs as they relate to the work of humanitarian agencies, the integrity of military chain of command, and the protection of civilian populations. A central issue lies in determining the extent to which PSC employees are to be considered agents of the Occupying Power and therefore no different, in legal terms, from any member of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), or whether they represent a new and separate legal entity whose behavior cannot be directly attributable to the Occupation Power under IHL. For example, what are the legal duties and responsibilities of PSC employees in terms of facilitating humanitarian workers’ access to the occupied population? In the event that PSC employees are involved in military engagements in occupied territory, or if they detain, injure, or kill civilians, what accountability structure applies to their actions? In interviews with humanitarian practitioners in both the UN and the NGO communities, HPCR researchers found that these questions are beginning to trouble those responsible for the coordination and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian population. 

Diane Coyle and Patrick Meier. 1/2009. New Technologies in Emergencies and Conflicts: The Role of Information and Social Networks.Abstract

This paper explores communication technology advances as an opportunity for humanitarian organizations to harness modern technology to communicate more effectively with communities affected by disasters and to allow members of those communities to communicate with each other and with the outside world. People in affected communities can recover faster if they can access and use information. A look at the use of communications technology during disasters in recent years shows that while communication advances have played a positive role, their full potential has not yet been realized.

Geoffrey S. Corn. 5/2009. Multi-National Operations, Unity of Effort, And the Law of Armed Conflict.Abstract

The debates over the applicability and interpretation of the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) are vital to unity of effort as well as clarity of rules in coalition operations.  This paper has addressed the key sources of uncertainty underlying how LOAC is and should be applied in coalition operations, focusing first on understanding which legal frameworks apply in particular context of armed conflict. After addressing key current debates over the qualification of conflicts, the paper explores a number of contemporary contexts in which this question of applicability is most salient: intervention in failed state situations and transnational armed conflicts. The paper suggests that resolving this first uncertainty is critical to unity of effort in this increasingly common realm of operations. It then suggests that a number of ongoing questions in the arena of LOAC applicability and interpretation exist where conflicts may be bifurcated and in determining the end of armed conflict. The paper explores the common practice of imposing policy‐based LOAC requirements in coalition situations, and how such practices are relevant to detention policies, command responsibility in situations where multi‐national forces are acting in concert, debates over direct participation of civilians in armed conflict, and the involvement of civilian support personnel in contemporary conflicts.

Patrick Vinck, Phuong Pham, Suliman Baldo, and Rachel Shigekane. 8/2008. Living With Fear: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes About Peace, Justice, and Social Reconstruction in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.Abstract

After years of armed conflict, instability, and human rights violations, in 2006 the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) held its first elections since independence. Despite this success, eastern DRC grapples with major challenges in achieving security, social reconstruction, and transitional justice. This study presents the needs and priorities of the Congolese population in light of prevailing social and political instability, and recommends that the Congolese government and international community take steps to monitor and implement peace negotiations, security, and good governance as the country moves forward.

Nesrine Badawi. 2/2009. Islamic Jurisprudence and the Regulation of Armed Conflict.Abstract

The increase in violent attacks against civilians and non-civilians and the claims made by groups waging such attacks that their acts are legitimate under Islamic law generated wide interest in Islamic ‘laws of war’. This paper attempts to challenge the approach focused on comparison between international humanitarian law (IHL) and Islamic law on the basis of the rules adopted in each system and argues that both legal regimes are governed by certain theoretical and ideological paradigms that are distinct from each other. In order to highlight this difference, the paper examines the different juristic approaches to issues of concern to the jurists and shows how these approaches reflected particular agenda and thus can not be simply compared to rules of IHL, because these are equally governed by other agendas and interests.

Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. 8/2009. Characterizing Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Profiles of Violence, Community Responses, and Implications for the Protection of Women.Abstract

This report uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to explore sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Results from this report show the sexual violence perpetrated by armed actors in the DRC has features that indicate rape is being used as a weapon of war. The violence in DRC embodies a new kind of war emerging in the 21st century - one that occurs in villages more than battlefields and affects more civilians than armed combatants.

Patrick Meier and Jennifer Leaning. 9/2009. Applied Technology to Crisis Mapping and Early Warning in Humanitarian Settings.Abstract

The purpose of this Working Paper Series on Crisis Mapping is to briefly analyze the current use, and changing role, of information communication technology (ICT) in conflict early warning, crisis mapping and humanitarian response. The authors demonstrate that ICTs have the potential to play an increasingly significant role in three critical ways by: facilitating the communication of information in conflict zones, improving the collection of salient quantitative and qualitative conflict data, and enhancing the visualization and analysis of patterns.

Phuong Pham, Patrick Vinck, and Tino Kreutzer. 6/2011. Talking Peace: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes about Security, Dispute Resolution, and Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Liberia.Abstract

Liberia has made progress in peacebuilding and reconstruction in the aftermath of a 14-year long civil war, but the country continues to face challenges in overcoming the results of a legacy of violence. This study, undertaken in November and December 2010, provides insight into Liberians’ current priorities for peacebuilding, their perceptions of post-conflict security, and existing dispute and dispute resolution mechanisms.  The findings suggest that while Liberians are generally positive about the country’s prospects for peace and security, the fears and inequalities perpetuated by years of civil strife continue to reverberate throughout the country. This study provides recommendations to address the existing problems of gaping socioeconomic disparities, limited access to information, a weakened security sector, and the diminished quality of current dispute resolution systems. It also supports inter-ethnic national dialogue on truth, reconciliation, and the underlying causes of the war.

Not On Our Watch, The Enough Project, Google, DigitalGlobe, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, and LLC Trellon. 7/2011. Strike Range: Apparent Deployment of SAF Mobile Rocket Launchers Near South Kordofan.Abstract

Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery captured on 28 June has identified four vehicles consistent with BM-21 mobile multiple rocket launcher (MRL) systems at an apparent Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) camp southwest of El Obeid, North Kordofan, Sudan.

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