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2017 Garance Talks: the role of armed non-State actors in the administration of justice in armed conflict

On 22 November, Geneva Call held its second session of Garance Talks on the topic of the administration of justice by armed non-State actors (ANSA). ANSAs frequently carry out judicial or quasi-judicial procedures during conflicts. Although the administration of justice is a governmental function, international law asserts that all parties to an armed conflict must ensure a fair trial when passing sentence. However, the enforcement of these rules by ANSAs is a topic that has not been addressed thoroughly by the international community and deserves further attention.

The meeting brought together legal experts and specialized agencies to discuss the challenges faced by ANSAs when they attempt to abide by international law. A former high-level military commander from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–People’s Army (FARC-EP), a judge from an area controlled by the Southern Front in Syria and a judge from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) were also present and brought real-life examples directly from the field and faced by ANSAs.

The participants agreed that one of the main challenges was related to ANSAs’ capacity to abide by the requirements of certain rules, such as the right to due process. Participants discussed three main thematic issues faced by ANSAs and in ANSAs’ territories: the legal basis for the establishment of courts and judicial processes, the types of deprivation of liberty and the rights and protections of detainees.

“One important added value that the Garance Talks generate, is to bring ANSAs’ perspectives into discussions that concern them and provide them with practical guidance on how to better comply with humanitarian norms,” said Pascal Bongard, Head of Geneva Call’s Policy and Legal Unit.

In addition to the face-to-face event itself, a report will be published. This will sum up the discussions held during the meeting and provide further analysis and references.

Geneva Call regularly organizes the Garance Talks—meetings that bring together experts to address challenges faced by ANSAs attempting to comply with international humanitarian norms. The first session of the Garance Talks took place in 2015 on the issue of ANSAs’ positive obligations.


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