This in-brief sets out to describe the current legal framework applicable to armed non-state actors and to address the controversy about whether or not these actors have human rights obligations under international law. It explores the practice of the HRC and makes recommendations that may be of interest to states, NGOs, and other stakeholders, including when they negotiate resolutions by the HRC. It first discusses how the HRC has dealt with human rights violations that armed non-state actors commit, and the type of non-state actors on which it has focused. As the main subjects of public international law, states have an obligation to ensure that treaties to which they are a party, and customary international law, are respected in territories under their jurisdiction and control. The in-brief therefore explains the rules that determine the responsibilities of states when armed non-state actors violate international law. It then examines how the main legal frameworks applicable in armed conflict, IHL and HRL, apply to armed non-state actors. It focuses on the applicability of HRL because this issue is the subject of most debate. Finally, the study makes recommendations and suggests how future HRC resolutions could best address armed non-state actors.
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