Assistance to disaster victims in an armed conflict: The role of international humanitarian law

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Routledge Handbook of Human Rights and Disasters, 2018, pp. 43 - 62
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© 2018 selection and editorial material, Flavia Zorzi Giustiniani, Emanuele Sommario, Federico Casolari and Giulio Bartolini; individual chapters, the contributors. This chapter considers the interaction between International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Disaster Law (IDL) in governing humanitarian assistance to disaster victims in an armed conflict. Disasters may occur in a State that is already experiencing armed conflict; or a disaster or series of disasters may lead to armed conflict. The relationship between IHL and IDL, and which law applies in practice, is unclear. Using examples from the Asia-Pacific region, this chapter discusses the International Law Commission (ILC) Draft Article that treats IHL as lex specialis in disasters. First, it outlines the principles of IHL on humanitarian assistance and how they potentially apply to those affected by a disaster. Next, it considers how the ILC has approached the role of IHL, before examining how IHL and IDL may interact in practice. Finally, the chapter argues that a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between IHL and IDL is required so as to take into account the context in which disasters occur and to recognise that the IHL and IDL may be complementary and mutually reinforcing.
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