Research Explores the Position of Voluntary Human Shields under International Humanitarian Law
An opportunity to address the gap in knowledge concerning military situations involving women and children under international law is what motivated LLM summa cum laude graduate, Mr Marco Nel, to choose voluntary human shields as his research topic.
His master’s thesis titled: “Voluntary Human Shields in International Humanitarian Law: A Proposal for Suitable Future Regulation”, explores the human interest issue of women and children being manipulated to take up positions before military targets in order to ward off attacks. The research was supervised by Dr Shannon Bosch.
‘The day I first found out about voluntary human shields and how various states have utilised the presence of these individuals contrary to the stated goals of international humanitarian law, I knew the time was ripe to do something. The more I read on the topic the more concerned I grew. Scholars are divided on just about every aspect pertaining to voluntary human shields. I did however begin to see a way out,’ explained Nel.
Nel further goes on to explain that these women and children have a difficult choice of whether to unite under the veil of nationality or to look on as their country is attacked by enemy forces. This results in blurred lines between what is legitimate and what is illegitimate.
‘Tragic situations unfold where lives are lost for illegal causes. A rebel state, legitimately targetable for having committed heinous crimes or refusing to adhere to international law, play on the conscience and good intentions of its citizens who in the circumstances are incapable of making an informed decision,’ explained Nel.
Considering that there exists a lot of grey areas around the position of voluntary human shields in international humanitarian law, Nel substantiates a proposed solution with strong arguments that relate to the creation of an organisation tasked with regulating the recruitment and deployment of voluntary human shields in a manner that eliminates the influence militaries have been exerting on these shields for years.
‘The deaths of these innocent people are always unnecessary and has the tendency to escalate political and military conflict around the world. All of which can, and should of course, be mitigated against through the establishing of an effective international legal regime’, he concluded.