This article examines the international legal protections for United Nations humanitarian assistance and other civilian facilities during armed conflict, including under general international law, setting forth the immunities of the United Nations, and the law of armed conflict (LOAC). Recent conflicts have often caused damage to UN facilities. To identify the appropriate parameters for protection for such facilities, this article therefore focuses on what “inviolability” of UN premises means within the context of LOAC. Part Two of this article addresses the question of which law governs for the purposes of determining the scope of protection for UN facilities and analyzing actions during armed conflict to assess whether damage to UN facilities violated that law. Part Three of this article then examines how LOAC’s rules on military objectives, specially-protected objects, proportionality and precautions apply in practice when UN facilities located in areas of combat operations face direct or collateral consequences from those operations.
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