Syria in state of civil war, says ICRC

About the author(s):

Katharine Fortin is an Associate Professor at Utrecht University where she teaches IHL and IHRL. Before joining Utrecht University, she worked at the ICTY, ICC and Norton Rose Fulbright. She is the author of The Accountability of Armed Groups under Human Rights Law (Oxford University Press, 2017) which won the 2018 Lieber Prize. She has written widely about the framework of law that applies to armed groups in non-international armed conflicts and is one of the editors of the Armed Groups and International Law blog.

Previously on this blog, I have remarked on the reluctance of international organisations to call the conflict in Syria a civil war and the atrocities committed by both sides ‘war crimes’. When Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, addressed the Security Council on 3 July 2012, she said that the evidence was pointing to the commission of ‘crimes against humanity’ in the country. All that changed today, when the ICRC announced that it considered Syria to be in a state of non-international armed conflict or civil war. As a consequence, international humanitarian law now applies throughout the country and breaches of its provisions may be prosecuted as ‘war crimes’.

The humanitarian law applicable to the conflict in Syria will be Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and customary international humanitarian law. Syria is a party to the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Convention relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts but it is not a party to Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of non-international armed conflicts.

There is currently no official press release to be seen on the ICRC website, but many of the major news sites are running the story. If the ICRC publishes a statement tomorrow, I will post the link here.




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