Rebellious Detention: Reflections on the ICRC Study on Detention by Non-State Armed Groups

About the author(s):

Ezequiel Heffes is the Director of Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict in New York. Prior to joining Watchlist, Ezequiel worked for Geneva Call as a Senior Policy and Legal Advisor and for the ICRC in various operational positions in Colombia, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He holds a PhD from the University of Leiden, an LLM in IHL and Human Rights from the Geneva Academy, and a law degree from the University of Buenos Aires School of Law. He has widely published on different international law issues. Ezequiel is the author of Detention by Non-State Armed Groups under International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2022) and the co-editor of International Humanitarian Law and Non-State Actors. Debates, Law and Practice (Springer/Asser Press, 2020).

In early April 2023, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) released a much-needed study on “Detention by Non-State Armed Groups: Obligations under International Humanitarian Law and Examples of How to Implement Them.” The focus of the study is the law and practice relating to detention by non-State armed groups (NSAGs). It explains the legal framework protecting detainees in non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) and provides examples of how NSAGs have applied their international obligations. It does so by presenting 13 rules that restate international humanitarian law (IHL) obligations binding on all parties to NIACs and making three additional recommendations. For those who have followed the topic of detention in NIACs, this is a stimulating addition that contains important insights into how these non-State actors operate in conflict settings, and the legal regulation of their activities.

In this post, I engage with three specific issues that are dealt with by the ICRC (and in my book on the topic) that I believe to be of particular importance. The full piece was originally published on April 17th, 2023, and can be found in Articles of War.

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