Human rights violations in conflict settings

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Márquez Carrasco, Carmen
Íñigo Álvarez, Laura
Loozen, Nora
Salmón, Elizabeth
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The dramatic reality of contemporary conflicts and related violent crisis is the heavy toll of armed violence on civilians. The changing nature of conflict have brought about strategies and tactics that have made vulnerable groups in society the specific target of attack, as the evidence compiled in databases and reports suggests. In a context of evolving forms of ‘war’ and other forms of violent conflict, the protection of human rights faces unprecedented challenges and poses essential dilemmas. Against this backdrop, Work Package 10 (WP 10) ‘Human Rights Violations in Conflicts’, part of the FP7 project ‘Fostering Human Rights Among European (External and Internal) Policies’ (FRAME) aims at providing a comprehensive assessment of the Europan Union external policies in response to conflicts and crisis situations, exploring ways to prevent and overcome violence through the integration of human rights, humanitarian law and democracy/rule of law principles. As a first step, this report (Deliverable 10.1) tackles the complex relationship between conflicts and human rights, taking into account the evolving and multifaceted nature of conflicts in the modern world. The report provides a comprehensive survey of the various patterns of human rights violations related to conflict and violent crisis situations with a specific focus on the rights of vulnerable groups, as well as on the role of non-state actors as key players in the context of new forms of violence and war. After introducing in section I the aims and scope of the report, section II provides an account of the changing character of contemporary violent conflict and related crisis. It addresses theoretical debates, political approaches and law on the changing landscape of contemporary conflict, exploring in particular general trends and evolving forms of violence and ‘war’ and gives an overview of the relevant data on the basis of existing databases. It presents the transformation of objectives, dynamics, and actors of conflicts: from national armies fighting each other (inter-state wars), to armies fighting for independence, separation or political control (intra-state or civil wars), to various forms of violence, involving non-state actors such as rebels, gangs and organized crime. Section III lays out the relationship between human rights violations and conflict, establishing the interaction that underpins the analysis in this report. It identifies trends in the current landscape of conflict and violent crisis and examines the interaction between human rights violations and conflict. This interplay is studied from a multidisciplinary perspective: legal and non legal approaches taking into consideration conflict analysis discussion and peace and conflict databases presented in the previous section. Section IV examines the special role of non-state actors, specifically non-state armed actors and private companies, as perpetrators of conflict-related human rights violations. This section seeks to survey the role of non-State actors as ‘perpetrators’ of human rights violations in armed conflicts-settings and other situations of violence. In particular two types of non-state actors are addressed in view of the way they affect human rights: non-state armed groups (rebel and opposition groups, and terrorist and other criminal groups); and economic non-state actors (multinational corporations and private military and security companies). Section V focuses specifically on the nature and types of human rights violations related to conflict and other crisis settings, seeking to identify common patterns in ongoing conflict and crisis situations around the world, as well as cross-cutting issues. Specific patterns such as the ‘civilianization’ of modern conflict or sexual violence as a method or tactic of warfare are analysed in this context. Section VI of the report focuses on the impact of conflicts/crisis situations of the rights of selected vulnerable groups, including women; children; refugees and internally displaced persons, and indigenous peoples. It identifies patterns, perpetrators and trends of serious human rights violations committed against them on the basis of the information provided by existing databases and human rights reports. The structural discrimination of vulnerable groups is presented, along with the human rights abuses they suffer. The last section offers some preliminary conclusions on how prevention of such violations and protection of the selected vulnerable groups might be strengthened and indicates factors to be considered in the analysis of normative and policy frameworks, the next phases of the Frame project. Among the main preliminary findings of the report it has been concluded that there is a need for greater clarity of States obligations under international human rights law in the context of conflicts. In this sense, the applicability of IHRL to non-state armed actors merits further research and analysis. Furthermore, the use of autonomous weapons systems under international humanitarian law and human rights law also needs to be clarified. This survey study has also led to the conclusion that the analysis of human rights violations as causes of conflict is an imperative aspect of conflict prevention. Furthermore, the changing nature of armed conflict has affected different vulnerable groups and has created new challenges, which requires an assessement of their needs at all stages of conflict and an analysis of the role of all the actors involved in this continuum. Indeed the applicable legal frameworks on vulnerable groups related to conflict-settings must be continuously assessed in light of any new circumstances or challenges that arise in all possible conflict senarios. The report has identified certain areas where development would be beneficial, such as internal conflicts related to situations of lawlessness and urban violence. Finally, as impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations in conflict settings remain rampant, the report concludes that there is a need of more systematic reporting methods of all serious human rights violations.