New article: Classification of the Conflict in Syria

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.

This article by Professor Terry Gill ‘Classifying the Conflict in Syria‘ in the International Law Studies journal examines the classification of the current armed conflict in Syria under international humanitarian law. The article first sets out the factual background identifying the principal parties and their alignments and motivations. It then proceeds to examine the question of classification of conflict under international humanitarian law and discusses the contentious issue of the effect of lack of consent by the government of a State in relation to foreign intervention in an ongoing non-international armed conflict when such intervention is directed against one or more armed groups operating from within that State’s territory. Here, Professor Gill sets out why in his view an intervention directed exclusively against an OAG, which does not target the territorial State’s organs or “national assets”, remains, in principle, a NIAC (assuming the requisite intensity and organizational criteria are satisfied), notwithstanding the lack of consent by the territorial State. The article then proceeds to apply these factual and legal considerations to the complicated situation in Syria and identifies the parallel armed conflicts underway in Syria and their classification and sets out arguments as to why classification matters.


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