Geneva, 14 June 2011: The Foundation Prix Henry Dunant (the Foundation), in partnership with the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law (the Academy), will award the Henry Dunant Research Prize 2011 to Mr. Antoine P. Kaboré, for his master’s thesis entitled “Do voluntary human shields participate directly in hostilities? An analysis based on the ICRC’s Interpretive Guidance on the Notion of Direct Participation in Hostilities under International Humanitarian Law”.
The award ceremony will take place on 16 June 2011 at 18:00 at the privileged setting of la Salle de réunions at Villa Moynier, which is also where the Academy headquarters is housed since September 2009.
On the occasion, a keynote speech will be given by Yves Sandoz, Professor of International Humanitarian Law at the University of Fribourg and at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law.
Since 2005 the Prize has been awarded annually by the Foundation, together with the Academy, for a piece of exceptional academic work that contributes to deepen, strengthen and renew the ideals and commitment of Henry Dunant. Through this award, the Foundation and the Academy seek to motivate young people to contribute to the dissemination of the international rules protecting the victims of armed conflicts and states of emergency. The prize money awarded amounts to CHF 5’000.
Founded in 2007 by the Faculty of Law of the university of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), the Academy aims to provide instruction of a high academic standard, in French and in English, conduct and promote scientific research, organize training courses and expert meetings and provide legal expertise in the branches of international law relating to situations of armed conflicts.
Summary of the thesis
The author reminds at first the classic rules of IHL and international penal law, in relation to the question of human shields generally, such as the absolute and usual features of the ban on the use of human shields, and the criminal nature of the failure to respect this ban. Since this is about voluntary human shields, a distinction was also made between the voluntary and involuntary human shields.
Examining later the relationship which could exist between the notion of direct participation in hostilities and the behaviour of voluntary human shields, the author, through a thorough analysis of the doctrine, the jurisprudence and especially the Interpretative Guide of the ICRC, reaches the conclusion that people who constitute themselves voluntarily as human shields remain civilians not participating directly in hostilities, and as such may benefit from protection against direct attacks. This is even more true, contrary to what the Interpretative Guide suggests in the case of ground military operations, when the voluntary human shield is not a physical obstacle for the attacking agent, but rather a moral obstacle and, from this moment, it is no longer appropriate to speak about direct participation in hostilities.
Focusing finally on the respect of the principle of proportionality by the aggressor towards voluntary human shields, the author analyses what he qualifies as qualitative proportionality, an application of the principle of proportionality according to the conduct of the affected civil persons. With regards to voluntary human shields, the question is whether the voluntariness of their behaviour can justify the reorientation of the standards of the calculation of the proportionality in their favour. Without rejecting the principle of qualitative proportionality, the author pleads however for a rare and very specific application of the concept, after the respect of a number of conditions, and it with the aim of avoiding abuses.