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New issue of Journal of Human Rights and International Legal Discourse on relationship between IHL and IHRL

July 10, 2018

This week, the new issue of the Journal of Human Rights and International Legal Discourse that I edited together with Steven Dewulf from Antwerp University was published. The issue is devoted to exploring new developments regarding the relationship between human rights law and international humanitarian law.

With two headline articles by Professor Andrew Clapham and Jean-Marie Henckaerts & Ellen Nohle, the articles (which include articles by fellow blog editors Rogier Bartels and Annyssa Bellal) explore themes such as conflict-driven displacment, international criminal law, armed groups, soft law and jurisdiction.

Here is the table of contents:-

Steven Dewulf and Katharine Fortin – Introduction

 Andrew Clapham – Human Rights in Armed Conflict: Metaphors, Maxims, and the Move to Interoperability

 Jean-Marie Henckaerts and Ellen Nohle – Concurrent Application of International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law Revisited

 Rogier Bartels – The Interplay between International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law during International Criminal Trials

 Deborah Casalin – A Green Light Turning Red? The Potential Influence of Human Rights on Developing Customary Legal Protection Against Conflict-Driven Displacement

Peter Vedel Kessing – Soft Law Instruments Regulating Armed Confl ict. Are International Human Rights Standards Reflected?

Ka Lok Yip – What does the Jurisdictional Hurdle under International Human RightLaw mean for the Relationship between International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law?

Annyssa Bellal and Ezequiel Heffes – ‘Yes, I do’: Binding Armed Non-State Actors to IHL and Human Rights Norms through their Cons

Report on ANSAs by Special Repporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, June 2018

July 10, 2018

Agnes_CallamardKeen observers of the law relating to non-international armed conflicts will already have seen the report on armed non state actors (ANSAs) that was issued by Dr Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings in June 2018 (UN Doc A/HRC/38/44). The report is important because it addresses the topic of armed groups and human rights law more comprehensively than any report ever issued by a UN special rapporteur.

In the report, the Special Rapporteur starts by surveying the factual and legal landscape relating to ANSAs and the right to life. Factually, she explains how ANSAs (e.g. armed opposition groups, insurgents, rebels, terrorists, militias, criminal cartels or gangs) have become a pervasive challenge to human rights protection. Legally, she maps the way in which ANSAs have been dealt with by the Security Council and Human Rights Council. She shows that over the last 20 years, States have regularly addressed ANSAs both as perpetrators of human rights violations and as duty bearers.

In the body of the report, the Special Rapporteur explains what she sees as the ‘rationale’ for binding ANSAs to human rights norms. She reviews the limitations of the duty to protect under human rights law vis-a-vis ANSAs, the conceptual constaints of IHL and the drawbacks of criminal law and the counter terrorism framework. After reviewing the main theories to explain how ANSAs may be bound by human rights law, the Special Rapporteur goes on to set out how human rights law could be applied to ANSAs, in a graduated manner. This is the most interesting part of the report, as the Special Rapporteur not only delves into how the right to life might be implemented by ANSAs at the level of the obligation to respect, protect and fulfil but also sets out possible methods of implementation.

In short, this is a bold report – with important recommendations – and readers are encouraged to take a look at it, as it will surely stir important debate on the topic.


News Roundup – 22th May – 5th June

June 7, 2018

What does it take to be a non-state armed group?

‘Precision’ airstrikes kill civilians. In Raqqa we saw the devastation for ourselves

Russian troops killed during rebel raid in Syria’s Deir Az Zor

Activists: ISIL fighters withdraw from Syria’s Yarmouk

Chlorine gas was dropped on Syrian rebel town Saraqib, say OPCW

Syrian rebels pull out of their last besieged area

Post-ISIL fears loom over Mosul’s Old City

Foreign fighters in Turkistan Islamic Party call on Westerners to migrate to Syria

Taliban operations span the entire country, Afghan Interior Ministry confirms

Taliban says negotiations are ‘pointless’ as long as coalition forces occupy Afghanistan

Islamic State suicide bomber strikes meeting of Afghan clerics who had just condemned terrorism

Insurgent killed along LoC in North Kashmir: Army

Israel strikes Hamas sites in Gaza after militants fire rockets

Will the Hamas-Israel ceasefire hold?

Battle for rebel-held Yemen port may trigger humanitarian disaster

Yemen: Fierce new offensive displaces tens of thousands of civilians from Hodeidah

Libya: Battle for City Endangers Civilians

Tuareg alliance claims more operations against ISGS in northern Mali

US kills 27 Shabaab terrorists in rare northern Somalia strike

“By Day We Fear the Army, By Night the Jihadists” – Abused by Armed Islamists and Security Forces in Burkina Faso

Central African Republic Part 1: Inside mission impossible

Central African Republic, part 2: ‘We Have Become the Targets’

Central African Republic approves war crimes court

More than 200 child soldiers released in Pibor, reintegrating them remains huge challenge

Rohingya insurgents reject Amnesty report on Hindu villagers killed in Myanmar

Myanmar: New evidence reveals Rohingya armed group massacred scores in Rakhine State

Ta’ang Armed Group Opens First Liaison Office in Wa Territory

‘Slow genocide’: Myanmar’s invisible war on the Kachin Christian minority

Thanks to Sam Jackson for preparing this news roundup!



News Roundup – 7-13th May 2018

May 18, 2018

This is posted a bit late, but relates to the period above.

Prevent terrorists profiting from cross-border crime, urges UN Security Council

Rebels begin evacuation of Syria’s last besieged enclave

UK apologizes to Libyan ex-rebel and wife over role in 2004 rendition

Taliban overruns another district in the Afghan north

Why Are The Taliban Seeking Territory In Northern Afghanistan

Pakistani militants have created their own political party. Can it actually win votes?

Libya: Armed Group Detains Media Figures

Afghanistan: Insurgent Attacks on Civilians Escalate

Analysis: Islamic State ramps up attack claims in Somalia

Al Qaeda branch threatens attacks on Western companies in Africa

Sudan: Darfur Armed Groups Declare Immediate Humanitarian Ceasefire

Death of Mozambique rebel leader shakes peace process           

ISIS claims its ‘soldiers’ are responsible for prison riot in Indonesia

Insurgents in Myanmar kill 19 in attack near China border: official

Myanmar’s northern offensive against rebels sparks youthful revolt

Colombia, ELN rebels say peace talks will be moved to Cuba

News Roundup – 16-30th April 2018

April 30, 2018

2018 Ramadan Radicals: Revenge and Redemption – Potential Actors, Motivators and Dates

Yazidis who suffered under ISIS face forced conversion to Islam amid fresh persecution in Afrin

Turkey, rebel allies have lost hundreds in Afrin fighting, Erdogan says

Syrian rebels withdraw from enclave northeast of Damascus

As Islamic State Fades in Syria, Another Militant Group Takes Root

Why the Syrian regime has been targeting civilian infrastructure

Syria: SDF reclaim territory hours after government capture

Estimated 60 percent of Yarmouk destroyed amid violence: Group

Syrian government plans to retake north Homs from rebels next: minister

Snipers ordered to shoot children, Israeli general confirms

Rockets hit airport in Libya’s capital, damaging passenger jet

‘We Helped You and Now You’ve Abandoned Us’

Suicide bomber strikes voter registration office in Kabul

Ten journalists among 36 killed in Afghanistan attacks

State urges Taliban yet again to ‘run for office’

Taliban forces hundreds of schools to Kunduz to close

Pakistan’s ‘disappeared’: The cost of the war against Taliban

Yemen’s Rebels Step Up Attacks on Aramco Oil Facilities

Saud-led air strike kills top Houthi official in Yemen

Israeli law group files complaint about Hamas to the ICC

The Blurred Distinction Between Armed Conflict and Civil Unrest: Recent Events in Gaza

Sahel al-Qaeda offered immunity in ‘secret French-backed deal’

Al Qaeda’s JNIM claims suicide assault in Timbuktu

Negotiations with jihadists? A radical idea gains currency in Mali

Islamic State ally stakes out territory around Lake Chad

Suspected jihadists in Mali kill more than 40 in two days of violence

Liberia: Warlord “Jungle Jabbah” jailed for 30 years in US

UN hails release of more than 200 child soldiers in South Sudan

Five likely mass graves found in Congo borderlands: U.N.

“I just want to live like a normal man”: What’s stopping CAR disarming?

Philippines’ Duterte sets window for peace talks with communist rebels

Ecuador pulls support for talks between Colombia, ELN, new venue sought

Colombians flee homes amid fresh violence, forced lockdown by rebels

Colombian civilians caught in crossfire as rebel factions fill violent vacuum

Rebels kidnap couple on Ecuador and Colombia border

Myanmar rebels say clashes with government could displace more people

Seminar on protracted armed conflict and governance – 14th May 2018

April 25, 2018

Together with Utrecht University colleagues from cultural anthopology and conflict studies, I’m co-organising a small seminar (30 attendees max) on governance and protracted armed conflict in Utrecht on 14th May 2018. The seminar which is funded by the Utrecht Centre for Global Challenges aims to bring together international lawyers, cultural anthropologists, conflict studies scholars and practitioners to share perspectives and research on these issues.

This seminar aims to discuss questions such as: What kinds of governance arrangements emerge in areas of protracted conflict? What kinds of institutions and citizenship experiences does this produce? When and how do non-state (armed) actors attain legitimacy in such arrangements? How can and should  these actors, institutions and arrangements be acknowledged and regulated by (international) law?

Here is the programme:-

Venue: Bestuursgebouw Van Lier & Eggink room, de Uithof

Preliminary program:

9:00     Coffee

9:15     Welcome and introduction


Chair: Jolle Demmers

9.30 –  10.00   Key note: “Ubi rebellium, ibi ius: Legal Governance by Armed Insurgents” – René Provost (McGill University)

10.00 – 10.30  Key note – Kees Koonings (Cultural Anthropology, Utrecht University)

10.30 – 11.00  Q&A. Discussion

11.00 – 11.15 Break
11.15 – 12.30  From state rule to hybrid governance?

11.15 – 11.30  State building and democratisation in conflict areas. A mission impossible? Chris van der Borgh (Conflict Studies, UU)

11.30 – 11.45  Hybrid governance and layered legitimacy: perspectives from anthropology Martijn Oosterbaan & Nikkie Wiegink (Cultural Anthropology, UU)

11.45 – 12.00 Subcontracting internal security and repression during violent conflict, Ugur Ungor (History, UU)

12.00 – 12.10 Discussant

12.00 – 12.30 Discussion

12.30 – 13.30 Lunch

13:30 14:45 Hybrid governance: what role for law?

Chair: Marie-Louise Glebbeek (Cultural Anthropology, UU)

13.30 – 13.45 Law in situations of hybrid governance: A life boat or a sinking ship? – Katharine Fortin (SIM, UU)

13.45 – 14.00 Pascal Bongard (Geneva Call)

14.00 – 14.10 Discussant Brianne McGonigle Leyh (SIM, UU)

14.10 – 14.45 Discussion

14.45 – 15.00 Break 

15.00 – 16.30  Cases: Governance in conflict

Chair: Luuk Slooter (UGlobe, UU)

15.00 – 15.15 Civil society and insurgent governance: the case of El Salvador – Ralph Sprenkels (Conflict Studies, UU)

15.15 – 15.30 Brian McQuinn (ICRC)

15.30 – 15.45 The case of Kosovo Jovana Radosavljevic (New Social Initiative)

15.45 – 15.55 Discussant:

15.55 – 16.30 Discussion

16.30 – 17.00 Closing Remark

17.00 Drinks

There are a few places left. If you are interested in attending, please email Nikkie Wiegink ( to reserve a place. It would be helpful if you could explain your interest in the issue, as priority will likely be given to those most connected to the topic.


Katharine awarded Francis Lieber Prize for best 2017 LOAC book

April 24, 2018

I have not been able to post anything for quite a while, but this is a great occasion to start again. Those who have a twitter account may already have seen the announcement, but for the less ‘progressive’ members of the IHL community (like myself):

Katharine’s excellent book The Accountability of Armed Groups under Human Rights Law (OUP 2017) was awarded the Francis Lieber Prize two weeks ago. This prize is annually awarded by the Lieber Society of the American Society of International Law for outstanding scholarship in the field of the law of armed conflict; one prize for the most outstanding monograph in the field of law and armed conflict, and one for the best article. Previous winners include Ken Watkin, who won the book prize last year for Fighting at the Legal Boundaries: Controlling the Use of Force in Contemporary Conflict, Sandesh Sivakumaran for his The Law of Non-International Armed Conflict (2012), and Tom Ruys for ‘Armed Attack’ and Article 51 of the UN Charter (2011).

The prize for best article of 2017 was awarded to Jay Butler for his article “Amnesty for Even the Worst Offenders”, published in the Washington University Law Review. Congratulations to the winners!

We are, of course, very proud of Katharine!