The Oxford handbook of the international law of global security
Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2021
This chapter discusses civilian protection in armed conflicts. Inevitably, all armed conflicts cause suffering for civilians. International humanitarian law (IHL) aims to reduce suffering but as a normative regime it cannot completely address the plight of civilians, which has much broader political, economic, and ideological dimensions. That said, considering that many of the hardships experienced by civilians appear to actually be a direct result of IHL violations, better respect for IHL would indeed lead to better protection for civilians. While contemporary armed conflicts pose a number of challenges to this body of law, the correct application, interpretation, and, where necessary, development of IHL is a valid starting point for increased civilian protection. The chapter offers a brief historical overview of the areas of international law relating to the protection of civilians during times of armed conflict. It then focuses on a number of key challenges facing both the normative regime and the practical application of rules—from denial of civilian status, terrorism, the nature of warfare (asymmetric, urban, and protracted), and the impact of displacement, to new technologies.
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