All armed groups capture or detain individuals in a variety of situations, but it is unclear what legal obligations, if any, non-state groups have when dealing with detainees. Bruce Oswald explores this question and the challenge of getting non-state groups to respect basic detention standards.

Summary

All armed groups capture or detain individuals in a variety of situations, but it is unclear what legal obligations non-state armed groups have when dealing with detainees. The international community should consider: (1) studying the extent to which armed non-state actors are able to adhere to extant international humanitarian law and international human rights law; (2) and develop generic detention principles and guidelines that are specifically relevant for non-state armed groups.

About This Brief

This Peace Brief, based on the author’s research on armed groups in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and other conflict zones, considers some issues relevant to the development of principles and guidelines governing the treatment of detainees taken by armed groups. Bruce ‘Ossie’ Oswald is an associate professor of law at Melbourne Law School and a Jennings Randolph senior fellow (2012-2013). Ossie’s interest in armed groups stems from his military service in places such as Rwanda, East Timor, Iraq, and Afghanistan. His academic research is focused on international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and post-conflict state-building. Ossie would like to thank Pamela Aall, Vivienne O’Connor and Beth Wellington for their very helpful comments on earlier drafts of this Brief. Ossie is also grateful to Maria Glenna for her research assistance.

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