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close this bookLaw in Humanitarian Crises Volume I : How Can International Humanitarian Law Be Made Effective in Armed Conflicts? (European Commission Humanitarian Office)
close this folderInternational Humanitarian Law and the Law of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentI. Introduction
Open this folder and view contentsII. The Inadequacy of International Refugee Law in Situations of Armed Conflict
Open this folder and view contentsIII. The Inadequacy of International Law in Respect of Internally Displaced Persons
Open this folder and view contentsIV. The Need for Comprehensive Approaches
View the documentV. Conclusions and Recommendations

I. Introduction

Once again, the recent belligerent conflicts, in particular in Bosnia Herzegovina, Chechnya, and Rwanda, have made (or should have made) the international community understand that, not with standing all commendable efforts by governmental and non-governmental organisations, it is faced with a most serious humanitarian crisis. As a consequence of the extensive media coverage, the plight of the civilians displaced by such events, be it externally or internally, their unspeakable human suffering, have again been brought to the attention of the international community Although it must be admitted that international - humanitarian - law has only a limited role to play in the context of seeking to prevent and to reduce such suffering, it is evident that, with a view to the present state of international humanitarian law and its implementation, international lawyers are seriously called upon to consider ways and means to better implement the existing body of international humanitarian law in a wide sense and to improve its substantive rules. Such action should encompass, inter alia, international refugee law and the - however, only emerging - set of norms applicable to internally displaced persons, as very considerable numbers (if not most) of the civilian victims of such events are subjected to involuntary displacement, i.e. they are either directly forced by the belligerent parties to leave their places of habitual residence or they are indirectly forced to do so in order to survive the imminent consequences of situations of armed conflict.

Although the factual reasons, circumstances, and results of such involuntary displacements are, in practical terms, usually the same, the civilians involved will be subject to quite a different legal regime simply depending upon the mere fact of whether they have crossed, during their displacement, an internationally recognized border: if they have done so and are thus to be considered as externally displaced persons, they might be eligible for protection under the rules of international refugee law; if they have not done so and are, thus, to be considered as internally displaced persons, they benefit only from the - still very incomplete - set of rules applicable to such persons. Therefore, this paper is structured into three parts: the first one addresses the inadequacies of international refugee law in situations of armed conflicts, the second one deals with the inadequacies of international law in respect of internally displaced persons in such situations, whereas the third one seeks to establish the need for comprehensive approaches intended to overcome the existing differentiation in the existing legal regime with regard to refugees on the one hand, and internally displaced persons on the other hand.