When state support for non-state actors in a conflict is covered by international humanitarian law

From an article by Droege & Tuck, on when state support for non-state actors in a conflict is covered by international humanitarian law.

Depending on the circumstances, State support to one or more of the Parties to an armed conflict may be unlawful under the established rules on State sovereignty


IHL recognizes the reality of partnerships between the Parties to an armed conflict, such as co-belligerency … It seeks only to limit the effects of armed conflict, protecting persons who are not or are no longer participating in hostilities and restricting the means and methods of warfare.


…under to the rules of State responsibility, a State may be liable for violations—including of IHL—committed by its partners or allies.


… actors—State and non-State—that are embroiled in conflict perform functions that have no nexus to the conflict as such and that, consequently, are not governed by IHL


.. even those actors — State and non-State — that are embroiled in conflict perform functions that have no nexus to the conflict as such and that, consequently, are not governed by IHL.


… even absent sufficient ‘intensity’ between it and an enemy armed group, the State that acts in support of a Party to an existing NIAC may become bound by IHL. In the ICRC’s view, a State may become party to an armed conflict by virtue of its contribution to the collective conduct of hostilities.

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Creating psychological distance, even when near, can make horrific things possible

From A Leveringhaus, on the ICRC blog, considering psychological as opposed to geographic distance:

…geographical distance does not automatically result in psychological distance. After all, radical Hutus who set out, during the Rwandan genocide in 1994, to ‘crush cockroaches’ by hacking their Tutsi or moderate Hutu neighbours to do death were psychologically distant from, yet geographically close to, their victims. Conversely, drone operators who report post-traumatic stress are geographically distant from, yet psychologically close to, events on the battlefield. The relationship between geographical and psychological distance is anything but straightforward.

In short, one might expect that that which causes greater psychological distance at a societywide level (whether imbued by fake news or intentionally manipulative forum content, caused by dehumanizing Zersetzung-style campaigns, or other) will increase the general capacity for really bad stuff – unless in a particular sociopolitical, geopolitical and technological context there are some reasons to think otherwise.

The article also discusses other concepts of “distance” (causal distance related to chain of command; temporal distance with the example of a landmine) as pertains to moral and legal dimensions of engaging in hostilities in conflict.

In terms of International Humanitarian Law, where the yardstick is the legal criteria of distinction, proportionality and precautions, the following challenge can be cited with respect to causal distance:

…if the causal chain that led to a war crime is particularly long and complex, it may diminish individual (criminal) responsibility for that crime. For one thing, it may become difficult to determine who has done what. And even if it was possible to do so, none of the many agents who acted within the causal chain may have contributed enough to be held responsible for the resulting war crime. Everyone, in other words, does a little bit to contribute to the crime but not enough to be held responsible for it.

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Xiaoxing Li, physics professor at Temple University

Re: events of 2015, from a video available through EFF’s Facebook page. He mentions targeting of Asians, and of the scientific community, as particularly troublesome.

– “had never done research that involved sensitive, classified or protected information, or export-controlled technology”

– “the government has never told us the reason that it decided to target me”

– “was pursued as a national security case … and then became a criminal case”

– “to pick bones out of an egg” (Chinese saying)

– “use these tactics (for violent criminals) [parentheses added], and designed to inflict maximum psychological damage, against me and my family, without a thread of truth in their allegations”

– “this sudden strike was bad enough to crush anybody, but the stress day-in day-out would accumulate and sometimes become almost unbearable.” … “go through roller coasters of emotions, consumed by … anguish, defiance and also scared. It was really a nightmare that I do not want to see any innocent American go through.”

– “they undermine people’s confidence in America’s legal system. They endanger the liberty we cherish so much in our country, and tell you here, and the work my fellow panelists are doing, is important to prevent any innocent American from becoming the next innocent target of American government surveillance.”

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I normally ask these four questions of people I have just met

1) Where were you born?
2) Where was your sister born?
3) Where does your father live?
4) What was it like to grow up as the child of a (parent’s profession)?

Also, I will require satisfactory explanation about the rationale of your last overseas trip.

Want to meet again?

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The real story of the Catalonia referendum? (comment taken from online)

The following account involves a case of a town where violence was not perpetrated by police, in a context of a substantial civilian population actively defending ballot boxes. It can also be mentioned that in many cases the police refused to follow orders to disrupt the referendum.


Dear Sirs.

Relating to the current situation in Catalonia, I am happy to share some personal comments following a very special day last Sunday, a day full of emotion, tension and companionship, shared with kids, friends and neighbours in our little village just North of Barcelona.

Of course the ‘referendum’ that took place last Sunday was far from worthy of that description. In the run up, the Spanish government led by President Mr. Mariano Rajoy and his right of centre PP party, ensured through rushed court actions, the physical requisition of ballot boxes and papers, and the downing of web sites and IT systems, that the vote lacked any real legal basis. Neither was there any sort of campaign for the ‘No’ vote, with the large number of remain supporters simply staying at home.

Nevertheless people still turned out. In my village they turned out in their thousands. Across Catalonia they turned out in their millions. They turned out from Friday evening, filling town halls, schools and other public places nominated as polling stations. They organised parties, sports tournaments, sleep-ins and rotated vigilances, all with the hope of keeping out the Civil Guard who had been literally shipped in from garrisons all over Spain in the days preceding.

The vast majority of people who did turn out knew that there was little possibility their vote would lead to Independence. Indeed many have long preferred finding some negotiated middle road. However crucially what they all wanted, was simply to vote. What they wanted was to express their views, and make their voices heard.

Since the political transition following the death of Franco in 1975, large chunks of Catalan society has neither identified with, nor felt represented by the alternating central parties of PP and PSOE in Madrid, feeling short-changed economically and side-lined socially and politically. As my neighbour Carmen, a school teacher expressed: “This is not about a vote for the future, the future is uncertain, we know that. This is about a vote to finally break with the past”.

On Sunday morning the streets of our village were busy from the early hours. There was expectation and uncertainty. Dozens were queued to vote, and those that had voted remained packed around the town hall in defence of any intervention from the Civil Guard. Throughout the whole day I estimated there oscillated between 500 and 1,000 people permanently on guard outside of the polling station. There were constant reports of Civil Guard actions in nearby villages, images of which have since been shared worldwide.


After lunch I accompanied my two kids to vote, one ‘No’ and one ‘Yes’, and we joked and hugged with friends and neighbours. It was quite emotional. In the late afternoon the polls were closed, but the crowds remained to guard the ballot boxes, until late into the evening when the local Mayor came to the window, gave thanks to all, and announced the results amid relieved cheers, applauses, and even fireworks.

The handling of the situation by Mr Rajoy has been gravely miscalculated. The orders given to send in the Civil Guard and their subsequent actions have only served to strengthen the resolve of would be ‘Independentistas’ , and crucially sway more moderate opinions. In addition, the videos seen around the world have brought an international focus to what is basically a national issue, and done little to add to the friendly ‘fiesta’ image of this fantastic country. Even today, two days later, the Government continue to praise the “professional and proportional actions” of the Civil Guard, and to insist they were sent to ‘defend’ the Catalan people from the trouble making ‘extremistas’.

What happens next is uncertain. The Spanish Government continues to insist that the problem in Catalonia is with a minority of Independence seeking politicians and collaborators, who are somehow illegally fooling the rest of the Catalans. Por Favor!!! I have spent the last 26 years in Catalonia, shoulder to shoulder with people from all sorts of backgrounds and educations, and it is a fantasy as well as an insult to their intelligence to believe in this simple populist view. The issues here are far more complex, and need better quality leaders than Mr Rajoy and his team to tackle them.

I personally hope that Catalonia does not leave Spain. I have always considered this option an unnecessary shame. But I am not Catalan. If the Spanish Government, whoever is in power, wish to persuade these people likewise, they will have to do much more than sending riot police with batons.

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Economic costs of sleep deprivation

Quartz follows up on linking to a NY Times article on sleep deprivation with the following basic facts:

7: Minimum hours of sleep you need to not be “sleep deprived.”

$680 billion: GDP lost to sleep deprivation each year in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, and Japan.

$80.8 billion: Projected size of the global sleep aid market in 2020.

$6.20: The price per hour of a pod in one of South Korea’s nap cafes. (Includes drinks.)

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An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind

An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind – Gandhi

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Methods to think out of the box

If you are unwilling to be told when to view things through the analytical lens of a strictly “rational economic actor” view, taking yourself as the actor whose interest is at stake, then you’re biased.

For example, if the question is about a public housing program, if there is any possible grievance (including on the part of any who you have some sympathy for) in any possible way linked to any interpretation of your biased understanding in relation to a public housing program, then your failure to ‘willingly’ accept being told when to admit that a “rational economic actor” in that position – which is now you – is the source of bias.

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Highlights from a trip to the #1 learning centre in the country, for an event about non-violent approaches to addressing conflict

1) Democracy is totalitarianism because there are (social) classes. (The male who made the statement approached the female presenter afterwards, diving with little interruption into questions of misogyny.)

2) Democracy is when everyone I disagree with or don’t like the look of is gone. After which point, that democracy may be sufficiently acceptable.

An additional highlight on the return trip included a blonde haired male and a long haired male, who responded to the statements that a) France did not want to be ruled by Germany and b) an extended period of bombing of London occurred prior to the return of hostilities against the aggressor. Their response was comprised of “directed conversation” which amounted to threatening to follow a person to their house in order to be able to arrange for them to be mugged.

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Which infamous 20th century figure’s thinking is most consistent with the following?

Trying to rule every individual’s little micro decision on the basis of a potential one-penny benefit to the public pursue is “wise benevolence” and the job of an economist is to yes/no answer questions of whether a policy increases or decreases the number of warplanes that can be built.

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