Principles of Neutrality and Impartiality of Humanitarian Action in the Aftermath of the 2011 Libyan Conflict
HUMANITARIAN ACTION: GLOBAL, REGIONAL AND DOMESTIC LEGAL RESPONSES, Andrej Zwitter et al (eds), Cambridge University Press, 2014
Posted: 1 Mar 2014 Last revised: 13 Jul 2014
Date Written: April 1, 2013
Have the principles of neutrality and impartiality of humanitarian action become a myth, a dead concept emptied of its contents due to the reality of modern asymmetrical armed conflicts? This chapter considers the events of the Libyan civil war of 2011 against the legal backdrop of international humanitarian law (IHL) to argue that although these two principles have been placed under severe strain in Libya, any reports of their death would nonetheless be greatly exaggerated. Although the trend of their weakening that has been observed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has in some ways continued, they still constitute, in law and in practice, the guiding principles of humanitarian action.
The analysis provided in this chapter is divided into three main parts. Part I provides the legal framework applicable to the provision of humanitarian action during the Libyan conflict from the perspective of IHL. Part II analyses how principles of neutrality and impartiality of humanitarian action have been respected by the quantitative and qualitative nature of aid provided in Libya by external actors. Part III analyses to what extent the conflict posed a challenge to neutrality and impartiality with respect to agents of humanitarian action, contrasting the different problems faced by humanitarian agencies on the one hand and multi-purpose actors on the other. The conclusion draws lessons to be learned from the analysis presented and supports on its basis the central claim of this chapter that the two principles, even if badly battered during the war, are still alive and kicking.
Keywords: armed conflict, humanitarian action, humanitarian law, impartiality, ICRC, Libya, neutrality
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation