Relief workers in African conflict zones : neutrals, targets or unlawful participants ?
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African security review, Vol. 19, issue 3, September 2010, p. 78-93
Relief workers deployed in conflict-torn African states are especially vulnerable to a variety of risks, including being taken hostage, being injured as part of collateral damage, or being detained. This piece focuses on how international humanitarian law (IHL) responds to the acts that give rise to these particular risks, whether they are perpetrated by state officials or non-state organised armed groups acting in the African context. In unpacking the legal protections available to relief workers it is crucial to understand the status that relief workers enjoy under IHL in situations of armed conflict. Any discussion of IHL status necessitates an inquiry into the concept of 'direct participation in hostilities' and the limitations that this prohibition places on civilians. Finally the author discusses the three main risks facing relief workers: being taken hostage, being targeted as part of collateral damage, and being detained, and explores the legal implications of these particular risks for relief workers in the African context.
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