25 February 2019
Part of our multi-year project that focuses on human rights responsibilities and armed non-state actors (ANSAs), our new publication State Responsibility for Human Rights Violations Committed in the State Territory by Armed Non-State Actors explores the particular aspects of state responsibility for human rights violations committed by ANSAs in its territory.
As a general fact, a state is only responsible for its own acts. But there are exceptional circumstances in which the conduct of an ANSA will invoke a state's responsibility.
The author, Tatyana Eatwell, explores various scenarios, including situations where an ANSA operates independently of any state and controls territory. She acknowledges that these situations of de facto control over a territory by an ANSA give rise to a protection gap where victims of human rights violations committed by the ANSA are left without recourse to remedy.
This question of jurisdiction does not arise for the application of international humanitarian law (IHL): in situations of armed conflict to which the ANSA is a party, the ANSA will be responsible for violations of IHL it has committed pursuant to Article 3 common to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and customary IHL.
The author, therefore, concludes that in situations of armed conflict, the state’s loss of control over part of its territory will give rise to a protection gap with respect to the substantive rights and freedoms guaranteed under international human rights law (IHRL), and not protected under IHL.
The author explains that the United Nations (UN) human rights mechanisms have sought to close this protection gap by invoking the responsibility of the ANSA itself. However, she acknowledges that there is a lack of agreement as to whether ANSAs are bound by IHRL, and if so, what the nature of their obligations might be.
‘Tatyana Eatwell recommends the development of a shared understanding of the human rights obligations of ANSAs, a path that is currently undertaken by various Special Rapporteurs’ explains Felix Kirchmeier, Manager of Policy Studies at the Geneva Academy.
‘We will continue, via our research project, to work on this issue and collaborate with UN Special Rapporteurs who are interested in exploring the role and responsibilities of ANSAs in relation to their specific mandates’ he adds.
At a roundtable organised by Chatham House and hosted by our Geneva Human Rights Platform, experts addressed the role of human rights in AI governance.
Our Geneva Human Rights Platform organized – along with the Syria Offices of UNFPA, UNDP and OHCHR – a customized training course for UN staff in Syria.
In this online event co-organized with the ATLAS Network, prominent women in international law will share their experience and advice through an interactive discussion.
This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, 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.
This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, will cover the ‘nuts and bolts’ of implementation, including national legislation, dissemination and training, and discuss the mechanisms such as the International Fact-Finding Commission, as set out in the treaties.
This research aims at taking stock of and contributing to a better understanding of the above-mentioned challenges to the principle of universality of human rights while also questioning their validity. It will identify relevant political and legal arguments and develop counter-narratives that could be instrumental to dealing with and/or overcoming the polarization of negotiations processes at the multilateral level.
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe