InterAction Stresses Need to Restore Respect for Civilians in Armed Conflict

REUTERS/Yazan Homsy

The scale and severity of human suffering in current armed conflicts represent a distressing race to the bottom in disregard for the basic rules regulating armed conflict.

Parties to conflict all too frequently use indiscriminate force in populated areas; deliberately target civilians as well as their homes, hospitals, schools, and other infrastructure; and fail to take precautions in the conduct of military operations. Much of this loss of life and human suffering is avoidable. This is precisely what international humanitarian law, also known as the law of armed conflict, is for – to limit the effects of armed conflict.

Focusing in particular on the acute nature of civilian harm in Syria and Yemen, InterAction’s new policy brief, “Civilians Under Fire: Restore Respect for International Humanitarian Law,” calls on President Obama and his administration to take a series of steps to communicate the United States’ intentions to minimize civilian harm in its own military operations and encourage others to respond in kind.

Specifically, the policy brief outlines several policy initiatives for the Obama Administration to help restore respect for the basic rules which protect people during armed conflict, including:

  1. Issue a presidential statement affirming respect for the protections to which civilians and civilian objects are entitled, including humanitarian and medical facilities and personnel;

  2. Adopt and implement, including through training, a standing operational policy on civilian protection and harm mitigation applicable to all branches of the armed services;

  3. Condition U.S. support for and cooperation with foreign forces (both state and non-state) on compliance with international humanitarian law; and

  4. Set clear benchmarks for enhanced measures by all parties to mitigate civilian harm in Syria and Yemen.

Read the full report:

Additional Resources

More on international humanitarian law/the law of armed conflict:

More on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas:

More on medical care during armed conflict:

More on tracking civilian harm in military operations: