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BRIEFING paper

1ST GENERAL ASSEMBLY

APRIL | 4 - 7 | 2013 | NATHAN CAMPUS | GRIFFITH UNIVERSITY

BRISBANE MODEL UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE


//THE COMMITTEE The General Assembly is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and the main deliberative assembly. It is the only UN organ in which all member States have equal representation, providing a unique forum for multilateral discussion on a broad range of international issues. A majority of two-thirds of those present is required for a motion to pass through the General Assembly. Issues that are voted upon include peace and security recommendations, budgetary considerations and membership of States to the United Nations. All other matters are decided by a majority vote. Whist resolutions of the General Assembly are not binding on member States (unless they relate to budgetary matters), the Assembly has initiated political, economic, humanitarian, social and legal actions, which have had a significant effect on an international level. Given the General Assembly’s wide mandate to make recommendations, it has a number of sub-committees, each with a specific focus and constitutive mandate. The First Committee of the General Assembly (‘Disarmament and International Security Committee’) deals with challenges and threats to global peace and security, making it a key subsidiary organ. The committee aims to build consensus in order to make recommendations and form draft resolutions to bring to vote. This provides a prime environment for delegates to push their agenda forward and make declarations denouncing their opponents.

//TOPIC OVERVIEW The First Committee of the General Assembly at BrizMUN 2013 will discuss the question of international security in relation to civilian armies. Whilst traditionally, wars were once elegantly declared, conducted only between States and concluded by agreement; in the twenty first century, with the advancement of modern warfare, stateless individuals and civilian armies have begun to participate in internal and international conflicts. The First Committee of the General Assembly is tasked with making recommendations on the topic and considering the need to introduce a comprehensive international framework regulating the employment of civilian armies in the context of security.

//CIVILIANS OR COMBATANTS?

While civilians and combatants were once clearly separate in war, modern warfare has blurred the distinction, and the concept of ‘civilian armies’ is now used to denote the idea of civilians participating in armed conflict. In international armed conflicts, the term “combatants” refers to persons with a right to participate directly in hostilities, usually through killing or wounding enemy combatants or destroying enemy military objectives. Lawful combatants are said to be immune from prosecution for lawful acts of war in the course of military operations and are entitled to prisoner-of-war status if captured. Under international law, civilians have traditionally been regarded as those persons who are not members of their country’s armed forces or other militia; it is by virtue of this status that they are afforded protection. Article 50 of the 1977 Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions indicates that a civilian is not a legal combatant. Civilians do not have the right to participate directly in hostilities. The ICRC has expressed the opinion that if civilians do so, they are considered ‘unlawful’ or ‘unprivileged’ combatants or belligerents. The term ‘unlawful combatant’ prevailed during the Afghanistan conflict, where captured Taliban soldiers and Al Qaeda fighters were classified in such a manner. Groups of armed civilians have been linked to the idea of guerrilla or ‘irregular’ warfare and are known for employing military tactics and high levels of mobility to take on larger, more traditional armies. The Committee is called upon to consider questions that arise in respect to civilians who engage in conflict. In what instances should civilian armies be lawful, if any? At what moment do individuals undergo the transformation from civilian to combatant? Should they be subject to the protections and immunities granted to lawful combatants?

//CASE STUDY: LIBYA In 2011, amidst growing tensions in the Middle East, a civil war erupted in Libya, as citizens sought to overthrow state leader Muammar Gaddafi. To help protect civilians, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) led a military intervention into the country, with the support of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), through Resolution 1973. This was the first time that the UNSC had authorised the use of force to protect civilians in direct contradiction to the wishes of an operating State.


The question of concern for the military and officials attempting to uphold international obligations was how to differentiate between civilians and armed non-state actors who were acting in support of the opposition. General Ham, controller of the United States Command in Africa replied, in question to the military policy on engagement with opposition forces: “Having seen reports [that] there are also those in the opposition that have armoured vehicles and that have heavy weapons...I would argue, [they] are no longer covered under that protect-civilian clause. So it’s…not a clear distinction, because we’re not talking about a regular military force.” It remains questionable whether protection should be afforded to civilians engaged in warfare, under the doctrine of responsibility to protect, or if their status as civilians is purely forgone because they become part of a force opposing the United Nations. Consider that the delegations of China, India, Russia, Brazil and Germany specifically abstained from voting on Resolution 1973. Each “equally stressed the need for peaceful resolution of the conflict and warned against unintended consequences of armed intervention.”

//CASE STUDY: SYRIA The civil war currently occurring in Syria started in March 2011, in response to uprisings across the country against President Bashar al-Assad, who, with his family, has maintained control of the country since 1971. In February 2013, the death toll from violence across the city has been estimated to be 70,000. There are a number of non-state actors who are part of the ongoing conflict. These include organisations such as Shabiha, a pro-government militia and the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the main armed opposition to the government. The lack of action, thus far, on part of the United Nations remains in stark contrast to the multilateral response to the situation in Libya. The response to actions of members of the Free Syrian Army has been mixed. Are they to be treated as civilians and does the international community hold the responsibility of protecting members of the FSA? In recent times, UK, France and the United States have pledged to provide “non-lethal” military equipment to aid democratically aligned opposition, whilst Arab League Nations such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar continue to provide rebels with military equipment. In interviews conducted in Syria by the Centre for Civilians in Conflict, it was noted, “rebels

are causing civilian casualties and sometimes violating international humanitarian law”. Rhetoric within the country by civilians and members of the FSA, in response the dogmatic Assad regime has led to the creation of the “idea of an existential fight and acceptance to employ all means toward the destruction of the enemy, regardless of civilian harm”. It remains incumbent upon this Committee to analyse, how armed civilians should be defined and their actions scrutinised, as a matter of international security.

//KEY ISSUES FOR DISCUSSION Some of the problems surrounding stateless individuals and the employment of civilian and individual armies, include: Terrorism Traditionally, only combatants who act on behalf of a State have been regarded as legitimate. Participants in warfare who do not meet this criterion have been considered illegitimate or unlawful. Designated as a terrorist organisation by the Security Council, Al Qaeda is considered a multinational, stateless army. The threats made by stateless armies and stateless individuals have been said to be “impossible for any national police force, no matter how advanced to, to contain”. Moreover, combatants assuming the appearance of civilians or national military personnel, a tactic often used in guerrilla warfare and terrorism, is highly problematic in terms of security. In mid-March 2013, following the seizure of fabrics used to make military uniforms, Egyptian authorities warned citizens to remain vigilant to people posing as army officers. Thus delegates are called upon to consider the threats to international security caused by stateless armies and individuals. Children Controversial questions arise as to the relationship between child soldiers and child civilians. The two concepts are often blurred especially given that children involved in conflict are particularly susceptible to moving “back and forth between being ‘civilians’ and being ‘combatants’ according to the particular circumstances.” The Lord Resistance’s Army (LRA) is an 18 year-old rebellion against the government of Uganda. Through continued violence, leaders of the army recruit civilian children, often as young as eight, to become soldiers who pursue the goals of the LRA. It is estimated that minors


make up 90% of the LRA. Recruiting an individual younger than the age of 16 to participate in military conduct is prohibited under international law, however, the International Criminal Court refuses to prosecute individuals under the age of 18. In light of this special immunity granted to children, concerns arise as to the possibility of parties employing the use of children to engage in combat as a means of avoiding being held accountable. Thus in addition to giving consideration to the ways in which child soldiers and civilians are to be differentiated, delegates should consider the possibility of armed non-state actors and States abusing this distinction. Human rights Concerns arise with regard to the human rights afforded to citizens assuming the role of nonstate actors during conflict. In the instance of Syria, the rebels have little military training and are not regulated by the State, creating the potential for significant human rights infringements. Thus there is an important question as to whether such combatants should be subject to the Laws of War. However, this idea in itself may be deemed flawed - can a non-state actor, who was not an active participant in the process of the development and ratification of treaties (because of a lack of international legal personality) be subject to its regulations? There is also a question as to whether members of civilian armies themselves, as combatants, should be afforded support from the international community and protected in times of warfare under the Geneva Convention. Therefore, delegates should not only consider the responsibilities of members of civilian armies, but also the rights owed to them in respect of human rights.

//CONSIDERATIONS COMMITTEE

FOR

THE

The definition of phrases such as ‘civilian army’ and ‘individual army’ and the distinction between soldiers and civilians The regulation of civilian armies by the international community The threat to international security posed by stateless individuals

The rights and responsibilities (if any) of civilians part of an armed group or rebellion in respect of human rights

//ADDITIONAL READING Centre for Civilians in Conflict. 2010. Issue Brief: Civilian Protection in Syria – December 2012. Available online at http://civiliansinconflict.org/ uploads/files/publications/Syria_Public_Brief_ Dec_2012.pdf Conference of Government Experts on the Reaffirmation and Development of International Human Rights Law Applicable in Armed Conflicts: ‘Rules Applicable in Guerrilla Warfare’ - June 1971 Available online at http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/ Military_Law/pdf/RC-conference_Vol-6.pdf Kuper, Jenny. 2008. ‘Essay: Child “Soldiers” and Civilians – Some Controversial Issues. University of La Verne Law Review. 29: 12. Vrk, René. 2005. ‘The Status and Protection of Unlawful Combatants’, Juridica International, Available online at http://www.juridicainternational. eu/public/pdf/ji_2005_1_191.pdf Watkin, Kenneth. 2005. Warriors Without Rights? Combatants, Unprivileged Belligerents, and the Struggle Over Legitimacy. Available online at http://www.hpcrresearch.org/sites/default/files/ publications/OccasionalPaper2.pdf

//REFERENCES Bellamy, Alex & Williams, Paul. 2011. ‘The New Politics of Protection? Côte d’Ivorie, Libya and the Responsibility to Protect’ International Affairs 87(4): 825 – 850. Dormann, Knut. 2003 ‘The Legal Situation of Unlawful/Unprivileged Combatants’ International Review of the Red Cross, vol 85 (849); 45- 72. Available Online at http://www.pegc.us/archive/ Journals/irrc_849_Dorman.pdf Dreyfuss, Robert. 2011. ‘US in Libya: Protecting Civilians? A Rebel Army? What?’ Available online at http://www.thenation.com/ blog/159377/us-libya-protecting-civilians-rebelarmy-what#. Goldman, Robert & Tittemore, Brian (2002) ‘Underprivileged combatants and their hostilities


IRIN. Date Unknown. ‘Analysis: Should child soldiers be prosecuted for their crime?’ Available online at http://www.irinnews.org/ Report/93900/Analysis-Should-child-soldiers-beprosecuted-for-their-crimes Presse, D. 2013. ‘Egypt Army cautions against people posing as officers. Available online at http://www.arabnews.com/ news/445231 Security Council Department of Public Information – SC/10200. 17 March 2011. Available online at http://www.un.org/News/Press/ docs/2011/sc10200.doc.htm Security Council Report, ‘Children in Armed Conflict’, vol 3, August 2012. Available online at http://www.securitycouncilreport. org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/cross _cutting _ repor t _ cac_2012.pdf United Nations. Date Unknown. ‘Uganda: Child soldiers at centre of mounting humanitarian crisis’. Available online at http://www.un.org/events/ tenstories/06/story.asp?storyID=100 Whitehead, Tom. 2012. ‘Stateless terrorists with a dirty bomb now real threat for UK, says Clegg’. Available online at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ news/uknews/law-and-order/9126896/Statelessterrorists-with-a-dirty-bomb-now-real-threat-for-UKsays-Clegg.html

Briefing: First General Assembly  

Briefing: First General Assembly BrizMUN 2013

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