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Armed Conflict is a contested incompatibility

Armed violence can be described as: “the intentional use of illegitimate force (actual or threatened) with arms or explosives, against a person, group, community or state, which undermines people centred security and/or sustainable development.”

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) proposed a general definition of international armed conflict. In the Tadic case, the Tribunal stated that "an armed conflict exists whenever there is a resort to armed force between States" [ICTY, The Prosecutor v. Dusko Tadic, Decision on the Defence Motion for Interlocutory Appeal on Jurisdiction, IT-94-1-A, 2 October 1995, Para 70].

An armed conflict is a contested incompatibility which concerns government and/or territory where the use of armed force between two parties, of which at least one is the government of a state, results in at least 25 battle-related deaths.[Wallensteen, Peter, and Margareta Sollenberg, Armed Conflict and Regional Conflict Complexes, 1989-97, Journal of Peace Research, vol. 35, no. 5, 1998, pp.621-634; The Conflict Data Project, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Sweden]

The separate elements of the definition are operationalised as follows:
(1) Use of armed force: use of arms in order to promote the parties’ general position in the conflict, resulting in deaths. Arms: any material means, e.g. manufactured weapons but also sticks, stones, fire, water, etc.
(2) 25 deaths: a minimum of 25 battle-related deaths per year and per incompatibility.
(3) Party: a government of a state or any opposition organisation or alliance of opposition organisations.
·         Government: the party controlling the capital of the state.
·         Opposition organisation: any non-governmental group of people having announced a name for their group and using armed force.
(4) State: a state is
·         an internationally recognized sovereign government controlling a specified territory, or
·         an internationally unrecognised government controlling a specified territory whose sovereignty is not disputed by another internationally recognised sovereign government previously controlling the same territory.
(5) Incompatibility concerning government and/or territory the incompatibility, as stated by the parties, must concern government and/or territory.

·         Incompatibility: the stated generally incompatible positions.
·         Incompatibility concerning government: incompatibility concerning type of political system, the replacement of the central government or the change of its composition.
·         Incompatibility concerning territory: incompatibility concerning the status of a territory, e.g. the change of the state in control of a certain territory (interstate conflict), secession or autonomy (intrastate conflict).

According to D. Schindler, "the existence of an armed conflict within the meaning of Article 2 common to the Geneva Conventions can always be assumed when parts of the armed forces of two States clash with each other. […] Any kind of use of arms between two States brings the Conventions into effect”.

Terms such as ‘civil wars’ and ‘ethnic conflict’ quickly came into use in the 1990s as shorthand descriptors for the armed conflicts in Africa, Asia and Europe. Such terms reinforced the common view that these were mainly intra-state affairs that were triggered and fuelled by virulent ethno-nationalism. However, in most cases, these conflicts involved regional actors and trans-border activities, and were driven by a mix of factors and not simply ethnic difference.

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