Monday, October 8, 2018

Grzebyk: The Status of Police in Armed Conflicts

Patrycja Grzebyk (Univ. of Warsaw - Institute of International Relations) has published The Status of Police in Armed Conflicts (Israel Yearbook on Human Rights, Vol. 48, 2018). Here's the abstract:

Police members as well as police stations are often a key target during armed conflicts, as confirmed by fatalities statistics. They are attacked by non-State armed groups and by State forces as well. The chapter evaluates from the perspective of the law of targeting the status of police members and police property such as stations, weapons, vehicles, and materials, in international armed conflicts and non-international armed conflicts. It also assesses police conduct in light of definition of direct participation in hostilities.

The chapter argues that police agents are, in principle, civilians whose routine activities are not hostile. Therefore, they are afforded protection – unless they engage in hostilities. In international armed conflicts, States may incorporate law enforcement agencies into their armed forces, which gives their agents the status of combatants. However, broad interpretation of exceptions from the lack of immunity should be applied. In non-international armed conflicts in which State forces are engaged, the police in principle are part of the broad notion of armed forces. This is reinforced by their engagement in fighting with non-State armed groups often described as criminals. However, because there is no combatant status in NIACs, the attacks against police can be assessed as lawful only if they are based on the conduct of particular units and/or persons, namely on their direct participation in hostilities or, in other words, their combat function. In reference to police stations, vehicles, weapons, etc., the chapter argues that they are not military objectives purely because of their nature; they can be used for civilian purposes as well. Rather, police property can become a military objective because of its location and use (either current or future, if the future use is nearly certain). The likelihood of a police station being classified as a military objective is greater in NIACs because law enforcement agencies typically play a part in combating non-State armed groups and their routine actions, such as confiscation of illegal weapons, checking identity documents, and transmission of information to headquarters that might be considered as an engagement in hostilities.