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.
Ziad Ayoubi is the Head of Livelihoods and Economic Inclusion at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). He is currently enrolled in our Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict.
In this interview, Alexis Comninos, currently enrolled in the LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, tells us about the programme and life in Geneva.
In the face of a rapidly changing world, this opening lecture of the academic year by Lindsey Cameron will explore some of the current challenges for IHL and transitional justice.
This event, co-organized with the ATLAS Network will feature prominent women in international law. Coming from different professional backgrounds, they will share their experience and advice through an interactive discussion.
This short course focuses on the specific issues that arise in times of armed conflict regarding the respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights. It addresses key issues like the applicability of human rights in times of armed conflict; the possibilities of restricting human rights under systems of limitations and derogations; and the extraterritorial application of human rights law.
This short course aims to study, in depth, an emblematic example of the complexity of international humanitarian law and the challenges it raises: the classification of armed conflicts.
The Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts project (RULAC) is a unique online portal that identifies and classifies all situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict under international humanitarian law (IHL). It is primarily a legal reference source for a broad audience, including non-specialists, interested in issues surrounding the classification of armed conflicts under IHL.
© ILO/ Joydeep Mukherjee
This project aims to support the UN working group’s consultation process and thus contribute the promotion and protection of human rights and gender equality in relation to the business sector via research on international human rights law and policy related to gender equality guarantees and their application to business activities, and the organization of a global conference in Geneva.