Armed Non-State Actors and the Protection of Civilians

Completed in December 2015

This research project looked at the reactions to norms of more than 30 armed groups worldwide. It was guided by an advisory board of individual experts from the Berghof Foundation, Conciliation Resources, Geneva Call, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, the Human Security and Migration Division of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Human Rights Watch and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).


Picture of Alice Priddy

Alice Priddy


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

Picture of Stuart Casey-Maslen

Stuart Casey-Maslen

Picture of Marina Mattirolo

Marina Mattirolo


An Analysis of Armed Groups' Normative Policies Relating to the Protection of Civilians

Research led to the publication in January 2014 of Academy Policy Briefing No. 1, Reactions to Norms, Armed Groups and the Protection of Civilians. In August 2013 selected individuals belonging or linked to armed groups met in the Philippines to discuss this publication’s draft.

The Policy Briefing analyzes normative policies of armed groups relating to the protection of civilians in armed conflict and other situations of violence, not their operational practice. However, it notes some instances in which the operational practice of a group appears to systematically contradict its stated policy. It is based on declarations and statements by members or representatives of armed groups and policy positions.


The Geneva Academy disseminated the results of the project through regional training workshops in Amman, Bangkok and Nairobi, organized by the International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP). Other events to disseminate the Policy Briefing have also been held in Brussels, Geneva, London and New York.

In recognition of the prominence and importance of this work, senior staff from the Geneva Academy were regularly contacted during the year to discuss the project and give advice. For example, the Geneva Academy advised the Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances, Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria and Overseas Development Institute.

The success of this project helped increase awareness among armed non-state actors of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.


Cover of the Policy Briefing No1: Reactions to Norms Armed Groups and the Protection of Civilians

Policy Briefing N°1: Reactions to Norms Armed Groups and the Protection of Civilians

January 2014

Stuart Casey-Maslen, Marina Mattirolo, Alice Priddy

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights


East Timor, Dili, burnt houses Short Course

The Law of Non-International Armed Conflicts and Other Contested Issues

26 April - May 2018

This course examines one of the main purpose of international humanitarian law (IHL), which is to mitigate human suffering caused by war. It enables a careful evaluation of the various IHL rules intended to help protect vulnerable persons, such as civilians and prisoners of war, as well as property during armed conflict.

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UN Mission patrols disputed area in Sudan Short Course

Peacebuilding in Post-Conflict and Fragile Situations

13 April - May 2018

This course provides a concise and systematic treatment of the peacebuilding process in post-conflict and fragile situations. It adopts a holistic definition of peacebuilding that combines the socio-political issues with economic growth in a sustainable development perspective.

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South Lebanon, Aita ech Chaab. Entry door of the primary school. Project

Protection of Education in Armed Conflict

Completed in January 2011

This project analyzed how United Nations (UN) human rights treaty bodies and relevant UN Charter-based mechanisms and entities have addressed the implementation of the right to education and other relevant rights in armed conflict and armed violence.

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Syria, Aleppo, Sheikh Massoud neighbourhood, near the frontline. Fighters of the Free Syrian Army. Project

‘Foreign Fighters’ and Counter-Terrorism

Started in January 2014

Against the background of the mobilization of ‘foreign fighters’ for the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, the Geneva Academy undertook various research projects to highlight and clarify a range of international law issues that arise through their participation and measures taken to stem their mobilization.

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