War, Conflict and Human Rights. Theory and Practice. By Chandra Lekha Sriram, Olga Martin-Ortega and Johanna Herman London

War, Conflict and Human Rights. Theory and Practice. By Chandra Lekha Sriram, Olga Martin-Ortega and Johanna Herman London

War, Conflict and Human Rights. Theory and Practice.By Chandra Lekha Sriram, Olga Martin-Ortega and Johanna Herman London and New York, Routledge, 2010. 252 pp., ISBN 10: 0-415-45206-6 (pbp). £ 22.99.

This interdisciplinary textbook focuses on the interfaces of armed conflict, human rights and international politics as these relate to conflict resolution. It is the work of the Director and two Research Fellows of the Centre on Human Rights in Conflict at the University of East London. In addition, there is a chapter on the Global War on Terror" by Carmen Draghici, a Visiting Research Fellow from Italy. Part I deals with War and Human Rights, addressing theoretical issues, examining critical debates, politics and law. Part II deals with four major contemporary internal conflicts and human rights violations occurring in them, focusing on former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, the DR Congo and Sudan. Part III looks at recent mechanisms and institutions for building peace and seeking accountability, such as various Ad Hoc Tribunals and the International Criminal Court. A long series of Boxes dispersed throughout the text provides "in-a-nutshell"-information on key Conventions an (e.g. Rome, Geneva), Agreements (e.g. Lome, Abuja), court cases (e.g. Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Rasul v. Bush) and UN resolutions (e.g. SC 1244, 1593). This indicates that the book has been written for university courses. However, it can also serve as a useful repertory for practitioners. The authors stress that international human rights law applies in times of war and peace, in internal and international conflicts, while international humanitarian law is confined to war. One of the problems is that many human rights violations are not directly criminalized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). These documents create obligations for states but do not automatically create international crimes (exceptions are Torture and Genocide which are also the subject of separate treaties). There are no universal enforcement measures and no criminal punishments for most of the rights contained in the UDHR, ICCPR and ICESCR. Neither do the European Convention on Human Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights contain direct criminal punishment mechanisms for violating state actors. When it comes to non-state armed groups, these international instruments are in many cases even more inadequate. However, the situation is better in regard to terrorism: the mandatory (under Chapter VII of the UN Charter) Security Council Resolution 1373 of 28 September 2001 and 16 voluntary anti-terrorism conventions (e.g. again hijackings, taking of hostages, terrorist bombings) passed since 1963 provide a comprehensive framework for international criminal prosecution. Many of these treaties are based on the principle aut dedere aut judicare (either extradite the perpetrator of a terrorist crime or bring him/her to justice in your own country). However, one problem here is that there is still no universally accepted legal UN definition of terrorism although a number of UN resolutions (especially SC1566) offer some guidance for states with the political will to treat as terrorists perpetrators alternatively labelled "enemy combatants", "unlawful (or unprivileged) combatants", " freedom fighters" or " jihadists". The volume's chapter on the "Global War on Terror" is, unfortunately, the weakest of an otherwise worthwhile and well-structured book.(Reviewed by Alex P. Schmid, TRI)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

Disclaimer, Terms and Conditions