Victims of Civil War

  • Stefanie Bock


Large-scale international crimes always have a profound impact on both the individual victims and the society as a whole, i.e., the victimisation has an individual and a collective dimension. Civil wars or non-international armed conflicts are characterised by the fact that they take place within a society. Accordingly, the belligerent parties are often connected in language, history and culture. With the outbreak of the conflict, the need arises to stress the differences between them in order to construct clearly distinguishable opposing groups. This process is often accompanied by a systematic discrimination, dehumanisation and degradation of the adversary creating a general atmosphere of hate which furthers an escalation of violence and a brutalisation of the conflict. In addition, civil wars are often asymmetric conflicts with a strong imbalance of power between the conflicting parties—a critical situation which entails an increased risk of non-compliance with international humanitarian law. Moreover, the fighting may result in a circle of violence in which the positions of victims and victimisers become interchangeable. The main challenge of a transitional process in the aftermath of the atrocities is to meet the needs of all persons affected by the violence—be they civilians, soldiers or fighters—and to heal the divide of the society.


Victims Civil war Neutralisation techniques Asymmetrical warfare International humanitarian law Traumatisation 


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Copyright information

© T.M.C. ASSER PRESS, The Hague, The Netherlands, and the authors 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department for Foreign and International Criminal LawGeorg-August UniversitätGöttingenGermany

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