Lessons from Conflict: The Role of a Strong Judiciary and the International Community in Protecting Human Rights for Successful Humanitarian Aid

By Greenwood, Scot W. | Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

Lessons from Conflict: The Role of a Strong Judiciary and the International Community in Protecting Human Rights for Successful Humanitarian Aid


Greenwood, Scot W., Denver Journal of International Law and Policy


Armed conflict between sovereign states creates many problematic issues that civilized societies must address. Reconstruction of war tom nations is restricted by human rights violations, both during and following armed conflict, and the difficulty of providing humanitarian aid to refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). (1) These problems often go hand in hand, as most refugees and IDPs are the victims of human rights violations suffered at the hands of conflicting parties. (2) In recent years, many conflict areas have received humanitarian aid and benefited from the involvement of foreign governments to the extent that "nationbuilding" has become a common term associated with humanitarian aid in post-conflict situations. However, due to the complexity of many of the problems faced by refugees and IDPs, the effectiveness of humanitarian aid and nation-building efforts as a whole is variable.

One of the most important elements to ensure that humanitarian aid is successful is the need to maintain protection for refugees and IDPs while assistance is being provided. (3) Protection for refugees and IDPs must be provided concurrently with humanitarian efforts to facilitate proper reintegration with society. (4) More importantly, ensuring that a legal system is in place to adequately address human rights violations is an essential component to providing protection and ensuring that humanitarian aid and nation-building efforts have sustainable, long-term positive effects. (5) The necessary protection that must accompany returning refugees and IDPs cannot be adequately maintained if ongoing human rights violations go unpunished and unresolved. (6) Refugees and IDPs will not feel safe and secure within the society in which they are attempting to be reintegrated without an effective legal system that addresses human rights claims. (7) The efforts of humanitarian aid organizations will founder without the presence of an effective judiciary. (8) The sense of protection provided by a just and functioning legal system will enable humanitarian aid efforts to reach their maximum potential. (9)

The necessity of protecting human rights with a functioning judiciary in order to support successful humanitarian aid effects can be evidenced by an examination of three recent post-conflict situations, namely Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bill), Kosovo, and East Timor. This article will briefly describe the conflicts that occurred in these areas, the human rights violations associated with these areas, and the major problems with the judicial systems of these areas following the cessation of hostilities that allowed on-going human rights violations to occur. The applicable human rights law and judicial mechanisms employed regarding protection of human rights in these areas will also be examined, with particular emphasis placed on the need for a strong judicial system in aiding these mechanisms to function. Also presented is (i) evidence that the protection of human rights is an important component in allowing humanitarian aid and nation building efforts to be successful and (ii) evidence demonstrating that the international community must play a vital role in strengthening the judicial systems of these post-conflict areas.

Lastly, this paper will examine the importance of insuring a strong, functioning judicial system to protect the human rights of refugees and IDPs in the context of two more recent conflicts, namely Afghanistan and Iraq. This article will demonstrate the vital role played by the international community in rebuilding post-conflict judiciaries; specifically, for any post-conflict judicial system to adequately protect human rights and allow for successful humanitarian aid efforts, discussion will highlight the necessity of international community involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

The Conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Following the succession of the Republics of Slovenia and Croatia from the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991, (10) the wars that followed this succession and the recognition of Slovenia and Croatia as independent nations by the international community, Bill declared its own independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on April 5, 1992. …

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