The ICRC's 'support-based approach' : a suitable but incomplete theory
Raphaël van Steenberghe and Pauline Lesaffre
Host item entries:
Questions of international law, zoom-in 59, 2019, p. 5-23
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) recently developed a new theory, entitled ‘support-based approach’, which deals with foreign interventions by ‘one or more States, a coalition of States or an international or regional organization’ in a pre-existing non-international armed conflict (NIAC) in support to one of the parties to this conflict. This new theory helps to define the ratione personae scope of application of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Indeed, its main legal effect is to make the intervening power a new party to the pre-existing NIAC, without requiring the hostilities between this power and its enemy to reach the intensity threshold necessary to trigger a new separate NIAC. Despite seeming reasonable, the ICRC’s approach leaves many questions unanswered and raises several issues. This paper will briefly address these issues, namely the added value of the theory in terms of protection, the nature of the supported and supporting powers according to this theory, the precise meaning and implications of its conditions, the applicable law to the NIAC in which the intervening power is involved, and the legal basis of this theory.
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