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News Roundup – 30 June 2015

June 30, 2015

ISIL beheads women for first time in Syria. 

Targeting Saada: Unlawful Coalition Strikes on Saada city in Yemen. 

Tunisia killer trained in Libya. 

NY Times Op Ed: A Close encounter with Boko Haram. 

Niger: Boko Haram’s neglected crisis. 

Islamist extremists linked to Al-Qaida launch an offensive in Southern Mali. 

Ukraine ceasefire: there is shooting all the time. 

News Roundup – 29 June 2015

June 29, 2015

Polisario Front becomes ‘party to Geneva Conventions’. 

Women in armed groups are more than just an exotic novelty. 

FARC slams Colombian government for causing environmental destruction. 

We need an ICJ ruling on Syria. 

Tanzanian court orders extradition of Islamic rebel leader to Uganda. 

South Sudan President and rebel leader hold direct talks in Kenya. 

News Roundup – 24-27 June 2015

June 27, 2015

Human Rights Watch report on Colombian conflict: On Their Watch: Evidence of Senior Army Officers’ Responsibility for False Positive Killings in Colombia

Gunmen attack military camp near Mauritania border

UN: DRC Rebel Group Weakened in Joint Operation

On the World Policy Blog: Reintegrating Boko Haram

UN Libya envoy meets with armed groups in support of political agreement and ‘We are getting closer to a solution,’ says UN Libya envoy, opening latest round of talks on ending crisis

Gunman storms Tunisia resort in deadly attack aimed at foreigners

ISIS claims to be behind deadly Tunisia attack

Deadly blast hits Kuwait mosque after Friday prayers

Al Shabab Militants Attack African Union Base in Somalia

U.S. Army Begins Training Ukrainian Soldiers

Mass Killings by ISIS Fighters in Syrian Kurdish Town

Syrian Kurds force ‘IS’ militants out of Kobani

Yemen’s Houthis attack oil refinery in Aden

The psychological cost of Yemen’s war

TedX talk by ICRC’s Helen Durham on IHL

Already a couple of weeks old, but still interesting:

How Boko Haram Courted and Joined the Islamic State


Public international law advisor to the Dutch government, prof. Nollkaemper, concludes that use of force (in collective self-defence) against ISIS in Syria would be legal. See here for his report (in Dutch).

Call for Papers from Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law – Vol 18 (2015)

June 26, 2015

YIHLThe editorial board of the Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law has issued the following call for papers:-

General theme: Contemporary Armed Conflicts and their Implications for International Humanitarian Law

The changing nature of contemporary armed conflicts, both in terms of actors involved and means employed, has important implications for the continuing relevance of international humanitarian law (IHL) as the legal framework governing the conduct of the parties.

A few challenges:

▪ The expansion of the entity known as “Islamic State” (IS/ISIS/ISIL) in Syria and Iraq and the military efforts to fight it raise a number of legal issues, including the role of IHL as a tool to regulate the action of a party which recognises no universal legal framework whatsoever.
▪ Russia’s alleged support to separatists and use of infiltration tactics in Eastern Ukraine, represent another challenge when it comes to determine its responsibilities in terms of compliance with IHL.▪ The direct involvement of regional powers and their use of proxies in Syria and Iraq, as well as in other countries in the region such as Libya and Yemen, has important implications in terms of responsibility for arms transfers and support to States, rebels and militias.
▪ The violence in Mexico also raises some challenges in terms of the applicability, scope and relevance of IHL: is there an argument for rethinking the threshold of armed conflict in relation to large scale criminal violence by organised armed criminal groups?▪ The annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation highlights complex issues of international law and the interaction between State sovereignty, self-determination and IHL, in particular the rules on occupation.
▪ Other ideas may relate to: The law of occupation in Crimea; The status of “volunteers” under IHL, both in Syria and Iraq as well as in Ukraine; Targeting of IS oil facilities; Increased attacks on humanitarian workers and challenges to the delivery of humanitarian aid; Extraterritorial targeting by use of armed drones; Targeting of cultural property as a specific method of warfare, for example by IS in Syria and Iraq and by jihadist groups in Mali; The threshold of armed conflict in peacekeeping operations (for instance in Eastern DRC, Mali and the CAR) and possible convergence of the positions of UN and ICRC.▪ One of the central issues in the ongoing negotiations between government and FARC rebels in Colombia is amnesty for both FARC and paramilitary leaders for ordering and directing violations of IHL.

These are only but a few examples of the implications of contemporary armed conflicts for IHL.

You are requested to send your submission, related to one of the above themes, or any other theme fitting the general theme of Vol. 18, before 1 October 2015, to YIHL Editorial Board member Dr. Christophe Paulussen, who will assist you with further questions concerning next steps, author’s guidelines etc. The Editorial Board aims to publish Vol. 18 (year 2015) in December 2016.

XXXVIII Round Table on current issues of International Humanitarian Law: “The Distinction between International and Non-International Armed Conflict: Challenges for IHL?”, Sanremo, 3-5 September 2015

June 23, 2015


This year’s IHL round table in Sanremo will deal with the distinction between IACs and NIACs. The International Institute of Humanitarian Law, together with the ICRC, has put together an interesting programme. Besides the general distinction between the two types of armed conflict and classification questions, specific panels will address the: i) temporal and geographical scope of application of IHL; ii) the relationship between IHRL and IHL in IAC and NIAC; iii) the use of force in IAC and NIAC; iv) detention; v) convergence of the law governing IAC and NIAC; vi) humanitarian assistance; and vii) compliance with IHL.

Sanremo is an excellent place to immerge yourself for a few days in IHL, whilst at the same time being exposed to a quaint town on the Ligurian (Italy) coast, with great food and nice side-events. Going to the round table is a treat, every time.

This is the announcement on the IIHL website:

“By far the majority of armed conflicts occurring in the world today are non-international conflicts. The eyes of the world are on the violence in Syria, in Iraq and in the Yemen, for example. But such conflicts also have international aspects.

There is growing concern about the way in which international law applies to all these forms of violence, whenever international or non-international. All these conflicts are governed by international humanitarian law. But the treaty law which applies to non-international conflicts is not as extensive as for State to State conflicts. International customary law plays a part.

But to what degree and under what conditions is the law applicable to non-international armed conflicts and should it be the same as for international conflict? What is the legal position when international and non-international conflicts are occurring in one country? And how can we improve the compliance of non-state armed groups with international humanitarian law? International human rights law also applies in armed conflicts. How does this body of rules apply in international and non-international conflicts?

The XXXVIII Round Table on current issues of International Humanitarian Law, jointly organized by the International Institute of Humanitarian Law and the International Committee of the Red Cross in Sanremo from 3 to 5 September 2015, will examine and discuss these and other issues regarding international and non-international armed conflicts.”

Practical information can be found here, and the registration form here.

News Roundup – 22-23 June 2015

June 23, 2015

Main Tuareg rebel coalition signs peace deal with Malian government 1 month after others did

A myriad armed groups in northern Mali

UN welcomes announcement by Mali armed groups of withdrawal from eastern town

Boko Haram raid in Niger leaves ‘dozens’ dead

Rwandan spy chief Karake held in London

Libya’s Tripoli forces hit Islamic State in Sirte with air strikes

U.S. Says Drone Killed an ISIS Member Linked to Benghazi Attack

As South Sudan Crisis Worsens, ‘There Is No More Country’

Serbia seeks extradition of Bosnian wartime commander

UN report cites possible war crimes by both Israel and Palestinian groups in 2014 Gaza conflict (see here for the report)

Druze attack Israeli ambulance carrying wounded Syrians Read more…

Interview with Geneva Call on their new ‘Fighter not Killer’ mobile phone application

June 19, 2015

Fighter not killerA few weeks ago, some of you may have seen that Geneva Call launched a new mobile application quiz called ‘Fighter not Killer‘ which aims to raise awareness of the laws of war among armed groups. If you haven’t already downloaded the app onto your phone, you should as it is a really interesting and impressive attempt to disseminate core rules of IHL through a clear and engaging medium. Links to the app can be found here for iphone users and here for android phone users.

Intrigued by the concepts and thinking behind this tool, I asked Nicolas Sion at Geneva Call some questions about the app and his answers are published below:-

Where did the idea of the ‘Fighter not Killer’ app come from?

Geneva Call’s mission is to engage with armed groups to encourage them to respect International Humanitarian Law (IHL). When Geneva Call’s representatives go the field and meet armed non-State actors (ANSAs) to disseminate IHL among their rank-and-file, they are faced with considerable difficulties. IHL is enshrined in complex treaties while combatants may have varying levels of education and knowledge of the rules. There is an obvious need to make IHL more accessible and understandable.  They also face difficulties to access areas where they operate. The mobile application can help to overcome these two challenges.

We did not want to do an encyclopaedia, but rather an entertaining quiz that would raise the attention of combatants and make sense to them.

We also realized that many fighters and leaders of armed groups in Sudan, Syria, Burma/Myanmar or Democratic Republic of Congo do have smartphones even in the most remote areas.  It’s also a media on which people spend an increasing amount of time even in countries affected by armed conflict.

Why is the app called ‘Fighter not Killer’?

The app complements the video campaign “Fighter not Killer” that was launched two years ago in Syria with short TV spots. We tried to find a name for this campaign that would have an impact in terms of visibility as we wanted to disseminate IHL to ANSAs, but also to the civil society.

We wanted to highlight the fact that it is possible to be a fighter who respects human dignity and IHL compared to a killer who doesn’t care about IHL.

Considering Geneva Call’s work with armed groups, is the app principally aimed for members of armed groups? Or is it also suitable/ intended for students of IHL? Did you have a particular target audience in mind?

The first targets are the members of armed groups that we are engaging with. Geneva Call currently has a dialogue with more than 50 armed groups in 15 countries. We are now discussing with some of them how we can disseminate the app to their rank and file. For example, in Syria, the YPG-YPJ the main Kurdish armed forces, announced they will install it on all mobile phone sold on their territories. Other armed groups from Sudan and DRC have showed interest in it.

The second target is the civil society, NGOs and local communities in conflict-affected countries. The more people know about the law of armed conflict the better it can be respected. Local communities can have a strong influence on the behaviour of ANSAs.

We also have a third target, the general public: few people know that during conflict there are rules to respect and even less people have a basic knowledge of these rules. A mobile quiz is a good tool to educate people on IHL. We have also presented the app to international law students, it is a good way to draw their attention to the reality of the field.

Does the ‘Fighter not Killer’ app draw exclusively on rules that are common to international and non-international armed conflicts?

Not exclusively. The app is based on the customary international humanitarian law applicable in NIACs. Some rules on detention are not the same in IACs and NIACs since there is no prisoner of war status in NIACs. In the quiz however, there are questions on detention issues, which would have a different answer in an IAC.

How did you set about developing the scenarios that are dealt with in the app?

Most of the scenarios presented in this quiz are real questions that came from ANSAs themselves when our colleagues go and meet them in the field. Therefore they all are very realistic. At the same time, we wanted them to be accurate: they were written by our (then) legal adviser and reviewed by a committee of IHL experts.

Can you provide an example of a scenario which is dealt with by the app?

At a shop, the clerk tells you that she wants to join your organization. Your organization has made a commitment to not recruit or use children under 18. You ask how old she is. She says “18”.  You can’t tell if she’s 16 or 18, but you need recruits, and if she says so…

Do you need to verify her age?


Correct. If in doubt you must take measures to verify the age of recruits.

You ask to see her birth certificate. She says she doesn’t have one, but she can undergo a medical examination.

Can you accept the results of the medical examination as proof of age?


Correct. Medical assessments are not reliable enough to prove age.

She tells you she came from a province where all the records were destroyed in the previous conflict. But she can get notes from the village mayor, her parents and school teachers.

If she provides all of these notes, and they are authentic, can you accept them as proof of age?


Correct. If official documents are unavailable, multiple sources should be used to confirm age.

Do you think that there is potential for phone apps or computer games to be used more often in the dissemination of IHL?

The use of smartphones has increased significantly in the past few years even in conflict-affected areas and is expected to increase further. Although mobile technology use to disseminate and promote law is increasing, its potential is still under-utilized

What was the greatest challenge for you in developing the app?

The main challenge was to find yes-or-no IHL scenarios. IHL doesn’t always provide two-fold answers, we had to find a way to make them simple but remaining accurate. We also had to be cautious when it came to say that yes, IHL in some specific cases allow to target a child soldier or a hospital. The quiz is not limited to a yes/no answer, but an explanation on the rules of IHL related to the scenario is provided to the user as soon as he is selecting a reply.

According to the Google Play app store, the app has already had over 500 downloads. Do you have any means of tracking the extent to which the app is being used in conflict zones?

Yes. We know in which countries and areas the app has been downloaded, Google Play and Apple stores provide us with this information. However, until now it has been downloaded mainly in Europe and we are planning more dissemination in the field over the coming month in particular in the Middle East and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In some areas where the internet connection can be weak, we will provide the app file directly so they don’t have to download it.

Many thanks to Nicolas for answering my questions! If you wish to obtain more information about the ‘Fighter not Killer’ app, you can contact Nicolas Sion at or Annyssa Bellal at Geneva Call.


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