AGIL Podcast: Legal identity and birth registration in territory controlled by armed groups – a conversation

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.

When I was chatting to my colleague (and long-time podcast-er) Willem Janssen at Utrecht University about how to make podcasts, he said that the best thing to do was “just go for it”. I have followed his advice and this first episode of the Armed Groups and International Law podcast is the result! It is a conversation between Kathryn Hampton and myself where we discuss the topic of birth registration in territory controlled by armed groups.

Kathryn Hampton is the author of an article in the International Review of the Red Cross entitled ‘Born in the Twilight Zone: Birth Registration in Insurgent Areas’. It is great to be able to put her excellent article in the spotlight, as she learnt last week that it has won the 2021 Lieber Prize for best article. An accolade which is thoroughly deserved. At the time her article came out, I had already finished my article that has just come out in the February issue of the Human Rights Quarterly entitled ‘To be or not to be? Legal Identity in Crisis in Non-International Armed Conflicts’ *. Both articles explore the issue of how civilian populations obtain documentation pertaining to life events in territory controlled by armed groups. We take slightly different angles to the law and as a result our articles make interesting companion pieces on this issue which is of considerable humanitarian importance. Kathryn and I thought it would be interesting to have a chat about this topic, relating why we both found the topic so critical, explaining how our respective articles had come about and identifying what had surprised us in our research. As Kathryn also has experience as a humanitarian practitioner, she brings this perspective to the table too. Have a listen!

I’d like to thank Kathryn very much for taking part in this conversation which was recorded in July 2020. It’s taken a while to get the episode out into the world, as my technical skills are somewhat lacking in the audio department and I’ve been juggling homeschooling and work for the last few months. However now it’s up on the blog, we’d love to hear your feedback on the topic, format and future topics we might cover in audio form. Hopefully there will be more conversations to come!

Below are some documents and reports referenced in the podcast:-

Melanie J Khanna and Peggy Brett, ‘Making Effective Use of UN Human Rights Mechanisms to Solve Statelessness’ in Laura Van Waas and Melanie J Khanna (eds), Solving Statelessness (Wolf Legal 2016) 13

Michael Schoiswohl, ‘De Facto Regimes and Human Rights Obligations – The Twilight Zone of International Law, Austrian Review of International and European Law, 6: 45-90 2001

UNICEF, Birth Registration in Armed Conflict, 2007

IRC, Identify Me: The Documentation Crisis in Northern Syria, 2016

NRC, Paperless people of post-conflict Iraq, 2019

NRC, Barriers from birth: undocumented children in Iraq sentenced to a life at the margins, 2019

*this is not open access, but please feel free to email me if you would like a copy.

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