Suppressing Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Supporting Principled Humanitarian Action: A Provisional Framework for Analyzing State Practice

122 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2015  

Jessica Burniske

Harvard University - Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (PILAC)

Dustin A. Lewis

Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (HLS PILAC)

Naz K. Modirzadeh

HLS Program on International Law and Armed Conflict

Date Written: October 14, 2015

Abstract

In 2014, reports suggested that a surge of foreign jihadists were participating in armed conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere. The United Nations Security Council responded by imposing in Resolution 2178 (2014) an array of obligations on member states to counter the threat posed by “foreign terrorist fighters” (FTFs). In the intervening year, those states have taken a range of actions — though at various speeds and with varying levels of commitment — to implement the FTF obligations imposed by the Council.

Meanwhile, many states continue to fund and otherwise throw their support behind life-saving humanitarian relief for civilians in armed conflicts around the world — including conflicts involving terrorists. Yet, in recent years, members of the humanitarian community have been increasingly aware of the real, perceived, and potential impacts of counterterrorism laws on humanitarian action. Part of their interest stems from the fact that certain counterterrorism laws may, intentionally or unintentionally, adversely affect principled humanitarian action, especially in regions where terrorist groups control territory (and thus access to civilians, too). The effects of these laws may be widespread — ranging from heightened due diligence requirements on humanitarian organizations to restrictions on travel, from greater government scrutiny of national and regional staff of humanitarian organizations to decreased access to financial services and funding.

Against that backdrop, this briefing report has two aims: first, to provide a primer on the most salient issues at the intersection of counterterrorism measures and humanitarian aid and assistance, with a focus on the ascendant FTF framing. And second, to put forward, for critical feedback and assessment, a provisional methodology for evaluating the following question: is it feasible to subject two key contemporary wartime concerns — the fight against FTFs and supporting humanitarian aid and assistance for civilians in terrorist-controlled territories — to meaningful empirical analysis?

Keywords: Security Council, counterterrorism, humanitarian action, terrorism, Iraq, Syria, international law, exemptions, foreign terrorist fighters

Suggested Citation

Burniske, Jessica and Lewis, Dustin A. and Modirzadeh, Naz K., Suppressing Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Supporting Principled Humanitarian Action: A Provisional Framework for Analyzing State Practice (October 14, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2673502 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2673502

Jessica Burniske

Harvard University - Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (PILAC) ( email )

1545 Massachusetts Avenue
Langdell 175-J
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Dustin A. Lewis (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (HLS PILAC) ( email )

Langdell 175-J
1545 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://pilac.law.harvard.edu/dustin-a-lewis

Naz K. Modirzadeh

HLS Program on International Law and Armed Conflict ( email )

1545 Massachusetts Avenue
Langdell 175-J
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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