Detention by Non-State Armed Groups
Detention – by states and non-state armed groups (NSAGs) – is a reality in armed conflict. In 2021, the ICRC estimated that around 100 armed groups were holding detainees. Detention puts people in a vulnerable situation: their lives and dignity depend on the detaining authority. Experience shows that detention by NSAGs often presents legal and practical challenges, ranging from a lack of knowledge of international rules and standards on detainee protection, in particular those found in international humanitarian law (IHL), to practical challenges such as how to ensure humane conditions of detention in the dire realities of armed conflict, or how to provide essential judicial guarantees for persons facing criminal charges.
This study presents research conducted by the ICRC on the law and practice relating to detention by NSAGs. It restates the legal framework for the protection of detainees in non-international armed conflict and presents examples of how NSAGs have implemented their obligations.
The study is accompanied by a 'pocket card' designed for non-state parties to non-international armed conflicts, which presents a selection of the rules of international humanitarian law that every fighter should know and follow.
It is hoped that this study and 'pocket card' may provide evidence-based examples of how NSAGs can respect and protect detainees. It may also be of interest for states that consider supporting non-state parties to armed conflicts to protect detainees, humanitarian organizations working for the protection of detainees, and researchers working on related issues.