Our Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts (RULAC) online database features new non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) that are taking place in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and Somalia.
It provides, for each conflict, the factual and methodological basis for its classification and identifies the parties and the applicable international law. Visitors can discover these new NIACs either by browsing the map or by browsing conflicts by type or region.
‘While sometimes the parties to the conflict change, for example when new non-state armed groups emerge, these conflicts have been going on for years with a devastating impact on the civilian population’ under lines Dr Sandra Krähenmann, Research fellow at the Geneva Academy. ‘In Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the U.S. also operates its controversial drone strikes. Some of the drone strikes, but not necessarily all of them, are linked to the on-going non-international armed conflicts’ she adds.
RULAC is still under development and new entries continue to be regularly added.
For decades, Afghanistan has been mired in conflict. Supported by the United States, the Afghan government continues to fight against the Taliban and other armed groups, including the newly established Khorasan Branch of the group that calls itself Islamic State.
The Indian Government is involved in a NIAC against the Communist Party of India – Maoist, a non-state armed group. This group is also frequently referred to as the Naxalites.
The government of Pakistan is involved in NIACs with various armed groups acting throughout its territory, particularly Taliban-affiliated groups in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and independence fighters in Balochistan.
The Somali government is engaged in a NIAC on its territory against non-state armed groups, most notably al-Shabaab. It is supported by the African Union Mission in Somalia and the United States of America.
A Collaboration with the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex
Our RULAC project is supported by students from the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex. Some of the new conflict entries were drafted by students enrolled in the University of Essex’s LLM in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, in accordance with the RULAC methodology. These were then revised and complemented by the Geneva Academy.
An Independent and Impartial Assessment
While there are many different definitions of armed conflict used for different purposes, the question whether a situation of armed violence amounts to an armed conflict under IHL has important consequences. States involved in armed conflicts have rights and duties that do not exist in times of peace.
The classification of situations of armed violence is fraught with difficulties. Many states deny that they are involved in armed conflicts, arguing instead that they are engaged in counter-terrorism operations. Others apply IHL to situations that do not amount to an armed conflict. Moreover, contemporary armed conflicts are increasingly complex due to the multitude of state and non-state parties involved.
Based on open source information, RULAC provides an independent and impartial assessment that identifies situations of armed conflict under IHL. It is intended to assist other actors that may want to classify situations of armed violence for their purposes.
By making such information available to a broad, non-specialist audience, including by using visual tools, the RULAC project strives to promote a more coherent approach classifying conflicts, and, ultimately, to foster implementation of the applicable legal framework, a key element for accountability and the protection of victims.