• Leopold Adejoby Benito-Idjidina posted an update 5 years, 8 months ago

    1. Why is it necessary to protect and uphold fundamental human rights of vulnerable groups during armed conflict?
    Vulnerable groups in international law are composed of: women and girls; children; refugees; internally displaced persons; stateless persons; national minorities; indigenous peoples; migrant workers; disabled persons; elderly persons; and so on. It is necessary to protect and uphold the fundamental human rights of all these vulnerable groups because they are first human beings and as such, they merit to enjoy all human rights norms. The concept of vulnerability has not been unequivocally interpreted either in regional or in universal international legal instruments. It is evident from the perspectives of both the international human rights and humanitarian laws, that, protecting the fundamental human rights of persons is very paramount in both peace and armed conflict situations. This is necessary because, majority of victims of human rights violations during armed conflicts belong to the vulnerable group: – women, children refugees and displaced persons. Members of this group incidentally also constitute a significant population of the sick, wounded, shipwrecked, capture, missing and dead.

    2. Under what circumstances can human rights be suspended during armed conflicts?
    While IHL is applicable in armed conflicts only, International Human Rights Law is applicable in all situations. However, all but the non-derogable provisions may be suspended, under certain conditions, in situations threatening the life of the nation. As the latter do not only include armed conflicts, the complementarity remains imperfect; in particular, a gap exists in situations of internal disturbances and tension. It regulates the relationship between a state and individuals, including – and specifically targeted on – the own nationals of the respective state. Except for the most essential human rights such as the right to life, the prohibition of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, slavery and servitude, many human rights instruments nevertheless allow states to derogate certain rights in times of public emergency.

    3. Explain some of the rights protected during armed conflict?
    During armed conflict, IHL as well as human rights which can never be derogated are protected. These set of rights are in favor of the civilian population (Geneva Convention IV & Customary Law). In addition, civilian population, women, children, IDPs, refugees are the ones which must be protected first during armed conflicts because they belong to the category IHL has defined as vulnerable persons. Apart from human beings, it important to remind that IHL protects also civilian objects like hospitals, schools, humanitarian vehicles and shelters. The following rights must be forcibly protected during armed conflicts: the first is the right to life which every person deserves and no one shall be deprived of his or her life intentionally or without any legal jurisdiction. This right is available against both the State and private individuals. It is however not an absolute right due to certain qualifications or exceptions, such as, in execution of the sentence of a court of law or tribunal in respect of a criminal offence of which one has been found guilty, or in self-defence. A more specific definition is needed in armed conflicts, since the killing of enemy military personnel is considered to be a legitimate act. So, the Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols of 1977 as well as The Hague Conventions forbid violence to the life of all protected persons namely, the wounded, sick prisoners or war, civilian persons; they likewise forbid the killing or murder of enemy persons who have laid down their arms, have surrendered or are defenceless.
    The second right to protect is the right to liberty which is a greater right in the history of human rights. An individual should be free from physical restraint on his body; one should not be restricted bodily except in justifiable circumstances which are specifically recognised by the law.

    The next “hard core” right is the right to dignity of human person. To respect this right, both national and international human rights instruments forbid any form of torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The starting point is the fact that all UN member States are bound by Article 5 of the UDHR which prohibits torture. Therefore, neither morally nor legally can torture be justified.
    Moreover, third Geneva Convention provides a wide range of protection for prisoners of war (POW). It defines their rights and sets down detailed rules for their treatment and eventual release. IHL also protects other persons deprived of liberty as a result of armed conflict. The status of POW only applies in international armed conflict. POWs are usually members of the armed forces of one of the parties to a conflict who fall into the hands of the adverse party. The third 1949 Geneva Convention also classifies other categories of persons who have the right to POW status or may be treated as POWs. POWs cannot be prosecuted for taking a direct part in hostilities. Their detention is not a form of punishment, but only aims to prevent further participation in the conflict. They must be released and repatriated without delay after the end of hostilities. The detaining power may prosecute them for possible war crimes, but not for acts of violence that are lawful under IHL. POWs must be treated humanely in all circumstances.

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