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International Review of the Red Cross, 2009, No. 874 – War victims

The notion of ‘war victims’ has several connotations: from its narrow sense in international law - where it denotes a person who has been harmed by the consequences of an internationally unlawful act - to its broader sense where it refers to all persons whom humanitarian law seeks to protect in armed conflict. Indeed, it is this latter understanding which is used in the domain of humanitarian action. From a humanitarian perspective, armed conflicts and violence are about people – the risks, vulnerabilities and suffering they are exposed to, and the actions that must be undertaken to prevent, mitigate or put an end to that suffering. In this spirit, the present edition focuses on the people affected by armed violence, and on how they can be better protected, assisted, and treated with dignity.

Issue No. 874 - 2009

Theme: War victims

Table of contents

  • Editorial - IRRC June 2009 No 874
    Toni Pfanner
  • Interview with Khaled Abu Awwad and Roni Hirshenson
    Khaled Abu Awwad is the General Manager of the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families Forum. Roni Hirshenson is the Forum’s president and one of its founders.
  • A sense of self-perceived collective victimhood in intractable conflicts
    Daniel Bar-Tal, Lily Chernyak-Hai, Noa Schori and Ayelet Gundar
    A sense of self-perceived collective victimhood is a mindset resulting from a perceived intentional harm inflicted on a group by another group. This emerges as a major theme in societies involved in intractable conflict. This article analyses the nature and antecedents of the self-perceived collective sense of victimhood in conflict, the functions that it fulfils for the society, and its consequences.
  • Victim identity and respect for human dignity: a terminological analysis
    Valerie Meredith
    The use of the term ‘victim’ as an identity can have different implications, depending on who is using it, claiming it, rejecting it or attributing it to others; therefore, the term should be used with some care and insight. This article analyses the use and function of the word ‘victim’ at different levels in the work and actions of the ICRC. It stresses the importance of aid workers being able to recognize the potential and active identity of a person beyond the institutional label as 'victim', thereby respecting that person’s human dignity.
  • Various mechanisms and approaches for implementing international humanitarian law and protecting and assisting war victims
    Toni Pfanner
    This article presents an overview of the mechanisms for improving the lot of people affected by armed conflict. Some are anchored in international humanitarian law, but increasingly, multiple actors contribute to implementing this law outside its original implementation framework. This may result in different approaches to ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law: judicial recourse, public pressure on parties to a conflict, or even recommendations of the use of force. Nevertheless, humanitarian action unattached to any political agenda is often the only means of improving the situation of the victims of armed conflicts.
  • International assistance for victims of use of nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical weapons: time for a reality check?
    Robin Coupland and Dominique Loye
    At an international level, there are no plans for assisting the victims of a nuclear, radiological, biological or chemical (NRBC) event which are both adequate and safe. This article examines the challenges posed to humanitarian organisations in developing and deploying any capacity to assist victims of an NRBC event, including in terms of the health and security of their personnel bringing this assistance.
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross: its mission and work
    (Adopted by the Assembly of the ICRC on 19 June 2008)
  • The war dead and their gravesites
    Anna Petrig
    This article provides an overview of the various IHL obligations in respect of persons who have lost their lives in armed conflicts, as well as their gravesites. It investigates the peacetime applicability of these provisions, and examines why present-day IHL should be applied to questions concerning the war dead and their graves, regardless of when death occurred.
  • Facilitating humanitarian assistance in international humanitarian and human rights law
    Rebecca Barber
    Violent attacks on humanitarian workers, as well as other restrictions, substantially limit the ability of humanitarian aid agencies to provide assistance to those in need. Using the humanitarian crises in Darfur and Somalia as examples, this article considers the legal obligation of state and non-state actors to consent to and facilitate humanitarian assistance, and examines whether this obligation now extends even to situations where the denial of such assistance does not necessarily threaten the survival of a civilian population.
  • International Committee of the Red Cross: prevention policy
    Adopted by the Assembly of the ICRC on 18 September 2008
  • ICRC operational security: staff safety in armed conflict and internal violence
    Patrick Brugger
    Humanitarian work, especially in conflict areas, has become more dangerous and every humanitarian organization is affected by serious security problems, constituting a threat to their staff and hampering much-needed activities on behalf of the victims of armed conflicts and other situations of collective armed violence. The article outlines the general approach of the ICRC to security issues and describes the pillars of the security policy it has adopted in the field to protect its operational staff.
  • Books and articles
    Recent acquisitions of the Library & Research Service