quotes Preventing the next war crime, peace and reconciliation in international and Islamic law

14 October 2023
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Updated 14 October 2023

Preventing the next war crime, peace and reconciliation in international and Islamic law

A war crime refers to a serious violation of the laws and customs of war, also known as international humanitarian law. These crimes are committed during armed conflicts and are among the most egregious offenses under international law.

As we witness the horrific scenes that are coming out of Israel where a “state of war” has been declared by the government, it is imperative that the core tenets of international humanitarian law are adhered to by all parties engaged in this conflict.

War crimes can take various forms, including but not limited to:

Attacks on civilians

Intentionally targeting or causing harm to civilians, including through direct attacks, bombings, or other acts of violence.

Indiscriminate attacks

Conducting attacks without distinction between combatants and civilians, or those that cause excessive harm to civilians and do not adhere to the principle of proportionality.

Torture and inhumane treatment

Inflicting severe physical or mental suffering, torture, or inhumane treatment upon combatants or non-combatants, including prisoners of war or detainees.

Forced displacement

Forcibly displacing civilians from their homes or communities without a valid military reason or subjecting them to deportation or forced labour.

Use of prohibited weapons

Employing weapons or methods of warfare that are internationally banned or restricted, such as chemical weapons, biological weapons, or landmines.

Sexual violence

Rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, or any other form of sexual violence committed against individuals in armed conflicts.

Attacks on humanitarian personnel or facilities

Targeting or causing harm to humanitarian workers, medical facilities, or relief supplies that are recognised as being impartial and providing assistance to civilians.

Enforced disappearance

Unlawfully arresting, detaining, or abducting individuals, often followed by their disappearance with authorities refusing to acknowledge the person's whereabouts or fate.

War crimes can be committed by both state actors, such as military forces or government officials, as well as non-state actors, including armed groups or paramilitary forces. These crimes are considered grave breaches of international law and individuals responsible for them may be held accountable under national or international legal systems, including through international criminal tribunals or courts.

It is important to note that the definition and categorization of war crimes are outlined in various international legal instruments, including the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols, as well as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

A war crime, as defined by the Rome Statute, can include acts such as genocide, torture, intentionally directing attacks against civilians or civilian objects, using prohibited weapons, and intentionally depriving prisoners of war or civilians of their rights.

We have seen the cataclysmic ramifications that war crimes have on nation states and globally in recent history with the emergence of terrorist-nihilistic groups such as Daesh, Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab and other offshoots. Conflict theaters such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Palestine-Israel, Myanmar, Sudan and Ukraine are causing multi-faceted seismic ripple effects at economic, social, migration, and humanitarian levels across the world. A lot of the time, the conflict hot spots or epicenters tend to be Muslim-majority countries.

I attempted to unravel many of these multi-faceted nuances cited above in my recent book titled “Peace and Reconciliation in International and Islamic Law.” The book is essential reading for legal, political, international relations, security, faith-based actors, and diplomatic personnel who wish to prevent future war crimes from materializing and violent extremist individuals or terrorist groups coming to the fore to cause destruction.

In an age where the rules-based world order faces significant challenges to maintaining peace and stability — with superpowers jockeying to preserve their influence across multiple areas of conflict — the book explores the major international laws and treaties governing the process of peace and reconciliation. Focusing on the conflicts in Afghanistan, Palestine-Israel and Kashmir, it examines and analyses these conflicts through the prism of international law, humanitarian norms, treaties, and conventions, interspersed with insights from the Islamic legal tradition.

An innovative approach to the problem of conflict resolution is applied by reviewing the jurisprudential sources and tools that are used in international and Islamic law, and using comparative analysis to provide an assessment of whether these sources help or hinder — individually or collectively — the chances for peace and reconciliation in specific global conflict theaters.

It also explores how, by supplementing these legal tools using principles of Islamic peacebuilding, United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, along with a theo- diplomatic conflict reconciliation model, could assist in the brokering of peaceful outcomes. The book shares insight on the deeply concerning trend of political movements and organizations that are operating at a non-state, intra-state or state level who go on to use religious doctrine or dogma to galvanize the masses to support their movement or cause at the behest of normative adherents of these respective traditions.

This book will be of benefit to think tanks; inter-faith institutions; government departments; diplomats, ambassadors, statesmen and stateswomen; consulates; faith leaders; universities; public policy-political science departments; international relations analysts; counter terrorism-security experts; and academics who are interested in the interfaces between Islamic and international law in our global polity today, intertwined with a theo-diplomatic model, soft power diplomacy conflict resolution, peace and reconciliation tools to address the challenges and plight of our common humanity.

Kaleem Hussain is a fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce. He is an honorary fellow at the University of Birmingham, UK.  Twitter Handle @KaleemHussain20