Improving the Protection of Persons with Disabilities during 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 Handicap International, the Institute for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Basel, Psychiatric University Clinics Basel and the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities.

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

The projects findings will be published in autumn 2018.

TEAM

Picture of Andrew Clapham

Andrew Clapham

Professor of International Law at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies

Andrew Clapham is an expert in international law, international human rights law and international humanitarian law. His current research focuses on the role of non-state actors in international law and related questions in human rights and humanitarian law.

Picture of Annyssa Bellal

Annyssa Bellal

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

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

Portrait of Giles Duley News

Photographer Giles Duley Joins our Project on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities during 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

Improving the Protection of Persons with Disabilities during Armed Conflict: Field Trip to Colombia

27 March 2017

Our researcher Alice Priddy visited Colombia last week as part of our project ‘Improving the Protection of Persons with Disabilities during Armed Conflict’.

Read more >

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Banner Geneva Academy Wednesday

Book Launch: ‘The Accountability of Armed Groups under Human Rights Law’

November 2017, 18:30-20:00

This event marks the launch of Dr Katharine Fortin’s new book ‘The Accountability of Armed Groups under Human Rights Law’.

Read more

Afghanistan, Parwan detention facility Short Course

Preventing and Combating Terrorism

16 February - March 2018

This course discusses the extent to which states may  limit and/or derogate from their international human rights obligations in order to prevent and counter terrorism and thus protect persons under their jurisdiction.

Read more

Lifejackets on a beach in Greece Short Course

International Refugee Law

16 February - March 2018

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

Colombia, Mountains in the Valle del Cauca region, between Santander de Quilichao et Popayan. FARC-EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) combattants. Project

Rules of Engagement

Completed in January 2009

This project looked at how to enhance compliance by armed non-state actors with international norms, taking into account the views both of the actors themselves and the experiences of those engaged in dialogue with them.

Read more

Central African Republic, Ouham province, village of Ouogo. International Humanitarian Law dissemination session to members of the Peoples' Army for the Restoration of Democracy. Project

From Words to Deeds: Exploring the Practice of Armed Non-State Actors and its Impact on the Implementation of International Law

Started in January 2017

This project aims to understand and study the practice and views of armed non-state actors on key norms of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Read more