A porous humanitarian shield: The laws of war, the red cross, and the killing of civilians
An important literature examines the attempts by the international community in inducing or coercing conflict parties in civil wars to refrain from committing atrocities against the civilian population. We examine in this article whether a non-governmental actor, the distinctively neutral and independent International Committee of the Red Cross, whose mission includes the promotion of humanitarian law and the protection of the civilian population, has such a restraining effect on the conflict parties. Our results suggest that the more time has passed since the ratification of the relevant Geneva Conventions and Protocols, the larger is the risk of civilian victimization. We cannot find evidence that the ICRC’s presence in conflict zones and the seminars it conducts to spread humanitarian law make a crucial difference. Case studies of Bosnia and Darfur indicate that shaming strategies and thus a relatively unusual instrument for the traditionally neutral actor did not abate the killings; the statistical evidence in the form of Granger causality tests rather show that the killing and harming precedes the naming and shaming.
KeywordsCivil war Laws of war Geneva conventions International Committee of the Red Cross One-sided violence Compliance
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