Direct Participation in Hostilities: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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Modern trends of warfare have witnessed the increasing involvement of civilians in conflict dynamics. This rising phenomenon has sparked considerable discussions in the realm of International Humanitarian Law (‘IHL’), which has traditionally protected civilians from the dangers of warfare through the principle of distinction. The response of IHL to these trends is the so-called Direct Participation in Hostilities (‘DPH’), which foresees that civilian protection in warfare could be suspended “unless and for such time as” a civilian takes a “direct part in hostilities”. This paper aims at unpacking the theoretical and practical underpinnings that are associated with DPH with the goal of providing a snapshot of the issues that vex the practical application of DPH on the battlefield. Furthermore, this paper will critically explore the main attempt by the international community to address these issues, namely the 2009 Interpretive Guidance on the Notion of Direct Participation in Hostilities (‘Guidance’), which excelled in its logical and structured approach to the matter but ultimately failed in providing solutions to the problems it highlighted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-19
Number of pages7
JournalPerth International Law Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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