The War Report: Armed Conflicts in 2017

Cover page of the War Report 2017 Cover page of the War Report 2017

In 2017, 55 situations of armed violence amounted to armed conflicts according to the definitions under international humanitarian law (IHL) and international criminal law (ICL). The vast majority were non-international armed conflicts (NIACs), as in preceding years. The analysis highlights two salient features: the multiplication of armed non-state actors (ANSAs) and unprecedented casualties linked to armed gang violence.

The 160 page War Report 2017 identifies, describes and discusses the situations of armed violence that amounted in 2017 to armed conflicts, in accordance with the definitions under IHL and ICL.

In 2017, 55 armed conflicts occurred in 29 states and territories: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Cyprus, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Eritrea, Georgia, India, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Mexico, Moldova, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, the Philippines, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Western Sahara and Yemen.

Six New Armed Conflicts in 2017

Comparison with The War Report 2016 shows that at least six new armed conflicts started in 2017: a NIAC between Mexico, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco Cartel New Generation; a NIAC between the DRC (with the support of MONUSCO) and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF-Nalu); three short-lived international armed conflicts (IACs) between Libya and Egypt, Israel and Syria, as well as Turkey and Iraq; and the military occupation of Syria by Turkey.

War Report 2017 Armed Conflicts

38 Non-International Armed Conflicts

The report highlights that the majority of today’s armed conflicts are NIACs involving states and organized armed groups, a trend that has been highlighted since the first edition of The War Report back in 2012.

In 2017, a total of 38 NIACs occurred in the territory of 21 states: Afghanistan, Colombia, the DRC, Egypt, India, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine and Yemen.

Specific sections analyse recent developments or particular aspects of the NIACs in Afghanistan, Colombia, Libya, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, the Philippines, Turkey Somalia and Yemen.

‘The qualification of some of these conflicts as NIACs is controversial and subject to discussion, like the conflicts in Myanmar where we looked at the Ethnic Armed Organizations’ degree of organization and level of violence’ stresses Dr Annyssa Bellal, Strategic Adviser on IHL at the Geneva Academy and Editor of The War Report 2017.

War Report 2017 NIACS

Ongoing and Short-Lived International Armed Conflicts

In 2017, IACs involving sovereign states were taking place in the territory of 6 states: between India and Pakistan, Ukraine and Russia, as well as between Syria and the different states belonging to the United States-led coalition in Syria.

In addition, there have been a series of short-lived IACs between Libya and Egypt, Israel and Syria, as well as Turkey and Iraq.

Eleven Military Occupations

Belligerent occupations continued in parts of ten states and territories: Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Eritrea, Georgia, Lebanon, Moldova, Palestine, Syria, Ukraine and Western Sahara.

‘With the exception of Turkey’s occupation of Syria and Russia’s occupation of Ukraine, these are long-term occupations that have lasted for decades, as in the case of Cyprus, Eritrea, Palestine or Western Sahara’ underlines Annyssa Bellal.

War Report 2017 Military Occupations

The Multiplication of Armed Non-State Actors

‘Perhaps more than in previous years, we observed a multiplication of ANSAs in the 38 NIACs that took place in 2017, and their involvement in several armed conflicts’ underlines Annyssa Bellal. ‘The armed conflicts in Syria and Libya are, in this respect, emblematic examples of this trend, which highlights the necessity to analyse the links between these different groups across various conflicts’.

The section on ‘Kurdish Military Formations in Middle Eastern Battlefields’ precisely examines the dynamics and alliances between the various Kurdish groups in the Middle East – the PKK in Turkey, the YPG/YPJ in Syria and the Peshmerga in Iraq.

War Report 2017 Armed Non State Actors

Armed Gang Violence

The War Report 2017 highlights – via the classification of violence related to urban gangs in Mexico and Colombia as armed conflicts, and via dedicated sections looking at gang violence in Colombia, Mexico and El Salvador – the unprecedented level of violence and casualties related to this phenomenon.

While this is not new, the violence is unprecedented in terms of casualties and the form it takes: armed gangs often use heavy weaponry, and some control sizeable territory and have the ability to conduct military operations, while the military is frequently involved in their repression. The number of civilian casualties linked to gang violence and state responses to this violence, might also exceed those of major current armed conflicts

‘The qualification of these situations of violence as NIACs is controversial and subject to discussion: in the cases of Mexico and Colombia, it is the degree of gangs’ organization, the nature of the clashes and the level of casualties that triggered their classification as armed conflicts’ underlines Annyssa Bellal.

The War Report 2017 also analyses the situation in El Salvador, but does not classify it as an armed conflict as the level of organization of the armed gangs arguably does not meet the IHL and ICL criteria.

War Report 2017 Armed Gangs

Situations to Watch in 2018

The 2018 edition of The War Report will notably look at developments in North Korea, violence related to urban gangs, such as in Brazil and Honduras, as well as the situation in the Central African Republic, in the DRC and in the Sahel, where a new French-backed force known as the G5 Sahel – comprising troops from Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania – was created at the end of 2017.

Background

The War Report is an essential reference for experts, governments, policy-makers, NGOs, international organizations, donors, international courts and tribunals, judges and lawyers who work on human rights, humanitarian issues and peace or security.

Together with the Geneva Academy’s Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) online portal, The War Report is the only independent global classification of armed conflicts under international law. ‘Such independent classification is essential as it has far-reaching implications, notably regarding applicable law, the commission of war crimes or the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)’ underlines Robert Roth, Director of the Geneva Academy.

‘The classification of a situation of armed violence under international law is an objective legal test and not a decision left to national governments or any international body, not even the UN Security Council’ he adds.

Video

The War Report: Armed Conflicts in 2017

Dr Annyssa Bellal is Strategic Adviser on international humanitarian law at the Geneva Academy and the Editor of the War Report 2017.

In this video, she presents the presents the 2017 edition of the War Report and its main features: the multiplication of armed non-state actors (ANSAs) and unprecedented casualties linked to armed gang violence.

 

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Map of the RULAC online portal with the pop-up window of the non-international armed conflicts in the Philippines News

Philippines: A Series of Long-Lasting Non-International Armed Conflicts

7 January 2019

The Government of the Philippines is involved in multiple non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) in Mindanao. Our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict online portal provides a detailed analysis and legal classification of these NIACs, as well as information about parties to these conflicts and recent developments.

Read more

Map of the RULAC online portal with the pop-up window of the non-international armed conflict in Mexico. News

International Humanitarian Law Applies to the Armed Confrontations between Mexico and the Jalisco Cartel New Generation

12 February 2019

In Mexico, there has been armed violence between the government and a number of cartels, as well as between such cartels over the past decades. Our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict online portal concludes that Mexico and the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación are parties to a non-international armed conflict.

Read more

Safe and rescue operation of a boat in the Mediterranean Sea. IHL Talks

Search and Rescue Obligations in the Mediterranean Sea

26 February 2019, 13:00-14:30

This IHL Talk will discuss the legal framework and the main critical questions related to search and rescue in the Mediterranean Sea, using concrete cases and examples to illustrate current issues and challenges.

Read more

Mali, view of a Mosque from the Niger river Short Course

Introduction to the Islamic Law of Armed Conflict

28 February - 11 April 2019

This short course introduces participants to the Islamic law of armed conflict and how it relates to the current conflicts in Muslim contexts. It examines the rules regulating the use of force during both international and non-international armed conflicts under classical Islamic law.

Read more

An aerial view of camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), which have appeared following latest attacks by M23 rebels and other armed groups in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Short Course

International Refugee Law

8 March - 5 April 2019

This short course analyses the main international and regional norms governing the international protection of refugees. It notably examines the sources of international refugee law, including the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and their interaction with human rights law and international humanitarian law.

Read more

South Lebanon, Aita ech Chaab. Entry door of the primary school. Project

Protection of Education in Armed Conflict

Completed in January 2011

This project analyzed how United Nations (UN) human rights treaty bodies and relevant UN Charter-based mechanisms and entities have addressed the implementation of the right to education and other relevant rights in armed conflict and armed violence.

Read more

Putis, Peru. The clothes of missing child found in a mass grave close to the village at the exhibition organized for the relatives of victimes. The family will be able to identify their missing relatives. Project

INVESTIGATING IN SITUATIONS OF ARMED CONFLICT: Law, Policy and Good Practice

Started in January 2014

This project, initiated in 2014 by the Swiss Chair of International Humanitarian Law, Professor Noam Lubell, intends to identify, via expert meetings and research, a set of best practices that states should apply when they investigate or examine alleged violations or misconduct in situations of armed conflict.

Read more