Disability and Armed Conflict

Started in May 2016

Background

Approximately 500 million people with disabilities live in states affected by armed conflict. Conflict not only renders a person disabled directly, e.g. when a landmine blast amputates a leg, it also inflicts indirect harm since persons with disabilities may face physical and/or communication barriers to accessing emergency information and humanitarian assistance, rendering them more vulnerable to harm and potentially exacerbating a pre-existing impairment. Persons with disabilities are also at higher risk of injury or death during periods of armed conflict, either as specific targets or through insufficient support to allow them to flee the violence. Despite the high number of persons with disabilities affected by armed conflict and the particular support that they need, persons with disabilities are too often the forgotten victims of armed conflict.

Objective

This project aims to ensure better protection of persons with disabilities in situations of armed conflict and in its immediate aftermath by identifying the legal obligations to protect and assist persons with disabilities during conflict. The project will test three hypotheses, the results of which will provide academic and policy communities, states, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations, armed non-state actors, humanitarian organisations and persons with disabilities with:

  • A previously unavailable and detailed explanation and analysis of legal obligations (under international humanitarian law, international human rights law, international refugee law and weapons law) to protect and assist persons with disabilities during armed conflict and its aftermath;
  • Previously unavailable information concerning the situation of persons with disabilities during armed conflict and in its aftermath in five case study states - the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Palestine, Ukraine and Vietnam
  • An explanation and justification of what laws, policies and practices are required to meet the obligation to protect and assist persons with disabilities during and in the aftermath of armed conflict.

For the first time, these hypotheses will be tested by answering a series of research questions in a comparative way. The project’s methodology involves a combination of tailored desk research; field research including interviews of persons with disabilities, their carers and humanitarian personnel; and field workshops to disseminate and test preliminary findings, seek feedback on discrete issues and empower stakeholders. It will involve multidisciplinary applied research, bringing together: legal, policy and medical expertise; experienced researchers; persons with disabilities living in conflict-affected states; and humanitarian personnel engaged in assessing the needs of persons with disabilities in armed conflict and in its aftermath.

The project has been awarded a research grant from the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS) and is being undertaken in partnership with Humanity & Inclusion (the new name of Handicap International), the Institute for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Basel, Psychiatric University Clinics Basel, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities and the Legacy of War Foundation.

The first 12 months of the project were supported by Pro Victimis.

The projects findings will be published in autumn 2018.

TEAM

Picture of Annyssa Bellal

Annyssa Bellal

Senior Research Fellow and Strategic Adviser on International Humanitarian Law

Annyssa Bellal's areas of expertise include public international law, international humanitarian law, international human rights law and armed non-state actors.

Picture of Alice Priddy

Alice Priddy

Senior Researcher

Alice Priddy's current main research areas concern the rights of persons with disabilities during and in the immediate aftermath of armed conflict.

Portrait of Giles Duley

Giles Duley

Photographer

Giles Duley is a British documentary photographer and photojournalist. His work has been exhibited and published worldwide in numerous papers and magazines and he has talked about his experiences on television, radio and at several international and national events.

NEWS

Screenplay presenting the CRPD session News

UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Discusses our Research Project on Disability in Armed Conflict

17 September 2018

Our Senior Researcher Alice Priddy presented our research project on disability in armed conflict to the members of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Read more >

Portrait of Giles Duley News

Photographer Giles Duley Joins our Project on Disability and Armed Conflict

19 September 2017

Giles Duley will travel to five case study states – Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Palestine, Ukraine and Vietnam – to document and tell the stories of persons with disabilities during and following armed conflict.

Read more >

Street Art in Bogota News

Disability and Armed Conflict: Field Trip to Colombia

27 March 2017

Our researcher Alice Priddy visited Colombia last week as part of our project ‘Disability and Armed Conflict’.

Read more >

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Elisabeth Decrey Warner in discussion with representatives of armed non-state actors Event

Utility and Limits of International Law for Protecting Persons Affected by Armed Conflict

September 2018, 18:00-20:00

In this opening lecture of the academic year, Elisabeth Decrey Warner will share her experience, as Co-Founder and Former Executive President of Geneva Call, of promoting respect of international humanitarian law by armed non-state actors.

Read more

A wide view of the UN Security Council Short Course

Sanctions in Public International Law

25 January - February 2019

This course provides an introduction to the regime of sanctions under international law and their effectiveness in addressing contemporary forms of conflict. It addresses the questions related to state responsibility, the pacific settlement of international disputes and the role of the International Court of Justice.

Read more

An aerial view of camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), which have appeared following latest attacks by M23 rebels and other armed groups in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Short Course

International Refugee Law

8 March - April 2019

This course analyses the main international and regional norms governing the international protection of refugees. It notably examines the sources of international refugee law, including the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and their interaction with human rights law and international humanitarian law.

Read more

ICC Trial Chamber VIII declares Mr Al Mahdi guilty of the war crime of attacking historic and religious buildings in Timbuktu and sentences him to nine years’ imprisonment Project

Modes of Liability for International Crimes

Started in January 2015

This project intends to clarify the conditions of accountability for international crimes by providing a detailed assessment of the customary international law status of, in particular, the actus reus and mens rea elements of modes of liability: planning, instigating, conspiracy, direct and indirect perpetration, co-perpetration, the three forms of joint criminal enterprise, the doctrine of common purpose under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, command responsibility and aiding and abetting.

Read more

Séléka rebels patrol in the town of Bria, Central African Republic (CAR). Project

Human Rights Responsibilities and Armed Non-State Actors

Started in June 2018

This research aims at building a common understanding and vision as to how states and the relevant parts of the UN system can provide a concrete and practical framework to address human rights responsibilities of armed non-state actors.

Read more