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.

Related Publications

Sameer Lalwani on the Future of U.S.-India Relations

Sameer Lalwani on the Future of U.S.-India Relations

Monday, January 30, 2023

By: Sameer P. Lalwani, Ph.D.

The United States and India have a common cause in their tensions with China, as well as a “natural partnership” on technology investments, says USIP’s Sameer Lalwani. But India remains noncommittal when it comes to Russia’s war on Ukraine: “They’ve concluded that they need Russia to stick around.”

Type: Podcast

Another Clash on the India-China Border Underscores Risks of Militarization

Another Clash on the India-China Border Underscores Risks of Militarization

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

By: Sameer P. Lalwani, Ph.D.;  Daniel Markey, Ph.D.;  Vikram J. Singh

On December 9, hundreds of Indian and Chinese forces clashed along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the roughly 2,100 miles contested boundary that separates northern India from China. Neither side used firearms, and no deaths were reported, but both Indian and Chinese forces sustained injuries. The skirmish was the worst since the summer of 2020, when deadly fighting in the Galwan Valley led to the most significant border escalation in over four decades. In the wake of those 2020 clashes, India and China held 17 rounds of military talks — but have been unable to reach terms for disengagement across key areas of the disputed border.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

The Water Wars Myth: India, China and the Brahmaputra

The Water Wars Myth: India, China and the Brahmaputra

Thursday, December 8, 2022

By: Mark Giordano;  Anya Wahal

South Asia’s Brahmaputra has been cited as one of the basins most at risk for interstate water conflict. While violent conflict has occurred between China and India within the Brahmaputra’s basin boundaries, the risks of conflict over water are in fact low. This is in part because China functionally contributes less to the Brahmaputra’s flow than is commonly perceived and in part because, despite its massive volume, the river can contribute little to solving India’s significant water security challenges. Nonetheless, the Brahmaputra is and will continue to be intimately connected to Sino-Indian tensions largely through the use of water infrastructure investment as a form of territorial demarcation and control.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & PreventionEnvironment

What a Russian Nuclear Escalation Would Mean for China and India

What a Russian Nuclear Escalation Would Mean for China and India

Thursday, November 10, 2022

By: Andrew Scobell, Ph.D.;  Vikram J. Singh;  Alex Stephenson

Since Russia began its assault on Ukraine last February, India and China have straddled the fence by hinting at their concerns regarding the war’s global fallout while avoiding direct public criticism of Moscow. Despite rhetorical consternation and calls for a peaceful resolution, neither has shown a willingness to meaningfully push back against Putin’s escalations in Ukraine. Instead, the two Asian nuclear powers are approaching the situation with caution and calculated diplomacy to preserve their own strategic interests — both in Russia and the West.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & PreventionGlobal Policy

View All Publications