The Arab Spring : a testing time for the application of international humanitarian law
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New Zealand yearbook of international law, Vol. 11, 2013, p. 159-173
This brief note begins with the basics of international humanitarian law (IHL) - its raison d'être and when it applies. It then considers the violence in Libya and Syria respectively. It notes that the violence in Libya quickly passed the threshold for the application of the humanitarian rules governing non-international armed conflict and almost as quickly evolved to include an international armed conflict with the commencement of the United Nations authorised North Atlantic Treaty Organisation military intervention. In contrast, determinations that the violence in Syria comprised a non-international armed conflict were slow and the ongoing high level of civilian casualties suggests the relevant rules of IHL are notable more for their breach than any observance. This notes concludes with some comments on the residual utility of IHL rules as a means to hold alleged violators (both States and individuals) to account.