By Andrea Lunt

Texting Dadaab Refugee Camp Internews Europe CC BY NC ND 2.0

Messaging apps — such as WhatsApp, Viber and Facebook Messenger — are becoming the primary mode of communication for many people around the world, including populations affected by conflict and disaster. Today, more than 2.5 billion people use this technology, a figure that is expected to rise to 3.6 billion by 2018. As these apps grow in popularity, their usage in emergencies is also on the rise. …


Interview with Dr. Brad Evans, Reader in Political Violence, by Achille Després

Antoine d’Agata/Magnum Photos

What is torture today? How should we respond to it? On the occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the ICRC convened a panel in Geneva on 26 June 2017. Leading thinkers reflected on the broader notions of violence, pain and human dignity. Interview with Dr. Brad Evans, Reader in Political Violence and moderator of the discussion.

In your work, you have highlighted how public attitudes and discourses about violence have shifted since 9/11, with violence being increasingly accepted as a legitimate means to…


Modern technologies that actively seek to combine bio, nano, info and neuro elements can give us the ability to ‘enhance’ human beings in ways that we want. This ability — to make soldiers more capable of defeating their enemies and/or surviving the perils of conflict — is of great interest to militaries throughout the world. By Dr Adam Henschke, ethicist.

Dr Adam Henschke, ethicist.

Examples of technologies being researched at present include the following: exo-skeletons and prostheses for increasing strength and endurance; cognitive enhancements involving pharmaceuticals, electronic brain stimulation and other means to reduce the need to sleep and increase…


By Trevor Keck, Deputy Head of Communications & Congressional Affairs, ICRC

HOMS, SYRIA. A VIEW OF THE BADLY DAMAGED CENTER OF THE CITY. Photo credits: Pawel Krzysiek, ICRC

We have seen extraordinary suffering in urban wars in the Middle East in recent years. We have heard stories of people in besieged towns in Syria or Yemen, eating grass or garbage to stay alive. We have seen images of towns in Syria that harken back to World War II; cities decimated by airstrikes and artillery. We have seen sieges — an ancient form of warfare — make a comeback in Syria and Yemen, depriving people of the essentials they need to survive. …


The remains of a house set alight during an attack targeting a family accused of sorcery. In this case, six people, who were accused of causing the death of a local politician, were captured and tortured for several weeks in an effort to force confessions. Their village was burned to the ground. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / J. Boylan

The clan’s revenge came at night. Armed fighters slipped into Ragu, home of the Wombe, at 2 a.m. Three of their clansmen lay dead at Wombe hands, and they could not let the outrage go unanswered.

With machetes drawn, they approached the haus man, a community building meant only for men. Did the attackers know that Wombe women and children were inside? Perhaps not. After all, their presence in this male space broke tribal custom.

But then again the attackers may not have cared. What happened next reflects a worrying trend in Papua New Guinea: increasingly violent tribal attacks —…


UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan

On 8 June 2017, the Protocols additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 turned 40. Looking at the road travelled and the way ahead, they stand more than ever before at the front line of contemporary conflicts, protecting civilians from the worst excesses of war and guiding parties to armed conflicts as they navigate new realities.

In the aftermath of World War II, the Charter of the United Nations (UN) was adopted and war was outlawed. It was believed that the newly created UN system would guarantee peace, and any effort towards the expansion of international humanitarian law (IHL) was…


By Melina Lito, International Law Attorney and Mediator

United Nations General Assembly

In the heart of the Cold War, nuclear weapons were the central issue of international peace and security debates, with a devastating nuclear war considered a realistic possibility. After several decades that saw the rise of threats such as terrorism and transnational organized crime, the nuclear risk is returning to the frontline of considerations, fueled by unstable relations between nuclear-armed states.

North Korea’s recent ballistic missile tests and the escalating tensions with the United States serve as an important reminder of the continued threat posed by nuclear weapons to international security, as…


Sébastien Vrancx, The looting of Wommelgem (1625–1630)

In 1618, the first in a series of conflicts broke out in Northern Europe, sparking three decades of violence, famine and disease that swept across the continent and decimated its population. What we now know as the Thirty Years’ War lasted until 1648. The ensuing intellectual upheaval ushered in the beginnings of a new global order and laid the foundations of the law of war. But the episode has resonated down the centuries in other, less well-known ways. St Vincent de Paul’s charitable endeavours marked the birth of humanitarian work as we know it today. And there are many parallels…


The Thirty Years’ War saw some of the most violent and bloodiest episodes in history. But it was more than just a frenzy of wanton atrocities. From the chaos of the battlefield emerged new rules — some driven by the very pragmatic need to conserve energy, others by religious dictate.

One unwritten rule was that invading forces should spare villages and towns that showed no resistance, so as not to provoke needless hostility towards the occupying troops.

In Aphorisms on the Art of War, Italian military commander Raimondo Montecuccoli argued that while terror and hunger were legitimate methods of warfare, those who surrendered without putting up a fight were entitled to humane treatment.

And in his 1639 handbook on war, French chevalier Antoine de Ville instructed commanders to pillage whatever they wanted and set fire to everything else, but warned that soldiers should respect three things — churches and the…


Outer space is becoming an arena for technological shows of force — whether by deployment of spy satellites or testing of weapons. What does international space law have to say on the militarization of space? In this three-post series (see also here and here), Pavle Kilibarda attempts a broader interpretation of the norms, one that would lead to a more pacifist reading of the law.

Earth viewed from the Suomi NPP satellite, January 2012. (NASA/Norman Kuring)

Having previously explored the general notion of “peaceful uses” of outer space, as well as the more specific regime governing the use of weapons of mass destruction, there is a third aspect of space law that is relevant to the ‘militarization’ or ‘weaponization’ of outer space: the system of international liability established by the Outer Space Treaty (OST) and the 1972 Liability Convention.

If it is accepted that space law provides no general prohibition of the militarization of outer space, examining the liability regime becomes particularly relevant. …

ICRC

International Committee of the Red Cross: On the ground in over 80 countries, providing humanitarian aid to victims of conflict and violence.

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