The Law and Politics of Responding to Attacks against Aid Workers
Julia Brooks and Rob Grace
Despite the widespread lamentations about impunity for perpetrators of attacks against aid workers and calls from the humanitarian community for increased accountability, many practitioners caution against directly engaging with accountability mechanisms themselves. Humanitarian actors who struggle to gain and maintain acceptance from parties to conflict and access to populations in need are highly sensitive to the potential costs of further antagonising the perpetrators of attacks. This element is particularly salient in protracted conflict settings where the
patterns of attacks on health, timing of occurrence, and its consequences could allow us to draw some conclusions about the motivations behind these atrocities. As argued by Fouad et al. (2017) , we believe that healthcare was instrumentalised by the GoS and its allies in their warfare. Moreover, we argue that these attacks were strategically used as part of a larger military tactic to weaken the resilience of communities under opposition control. We will demonstrate this use in the following examples of military offensives by the GoS and its allies.
The Baba Amr
humans truly were naturally violent and that violence came easily to them, would there not be more cases of violent outrage and self-destruction among impoverished communities? What is more, most of the extreme cases of human slaughter throughout history have taken place within the bounds of domestic and international law. They have been fully in keeping with the prevailing normative claims to truth and its ritualised performances. Very rarely does violence come to us in a truly sporadic or spontaneous way. All political violence has a history and most often it is
curbs on the public declarations of NGOs imposed
by the Sri Lankan government during and after its war against the Tamil Tigers.
Medical NGOs will almost certainly have an easier time than, say, groups focusing on community
development or psycho-social care, but taken in aggregate the humanitarian world will be less
transformed by a post-North Atlantic world than the Northern human rights movement. 4 Humanitarian action has never been a zero-sum game,
whereas that is precisely what human rights activism has to be to be morally coherent.
racialised ‘others’ – a criticism also levelled at the
international community’s focus on conflict-related sexual violence over much
more prevalent intimate partner violence in conflict zones ( IRC, 2017 ).
Sexual Violence and Harassment in Aid
Against this securitised backdrop, sexual violence has largely been framed as a
danger facing aid workers from outside the sector – that is, from the
‘other’, namely armed actors and the local population. The 2016 sexual
Staff Security and Civilian Protection in the Humanitarian
more broadly, commonly distinguishes three types of strategy: acceptance, deterrence
and protection ( Egeland et al. ,
2011 ; Humanitarian Practice Network,
2010 ). Acceptance aims to reduce the threat through soft measures, such
as building relationships with local communities and stakeholders to obtain their
consent for the agency’s presence and work ( Humanitarian Practice Network, 2010 : xv). Deterrence, by
contrast, ‘attempts to deter a
The Politics of ‘Proximity’ and Performing Humanitarianism in Eastern DRC
the professional spheres. If all social interaction is performative, we all play multiple and overlapping roles, and few follow the same social script at work as when they are with their friends ( Goffman, 1978 ). In MSF however, this is particularly exaggerated: MSF imagines volunteers to be ‘unencumbered by social obligations at home’, similarly acquiring ‘few in the field’ ( Redfield, 2012 : 362). For many Congolese staff, this is a particularly complex endeavour: some are members of the communities in which they live and work, embedded in political and social
Abducted in Chechnya in January 2001 by a group of Islamist fighters, the
Dutch section head of mission was released after 26 hours, and a letter of
apology was published by his captors on the website kavkaz.org. Seeking
support from the international community, the armed opposition took
advantage of his release to announce its decision to ‘ban all
kidnappings of aid workers’. In Colombia, an MSF volunteer held for
individual human life and for that person’s own interests and projects, the appeals
of humanitarians become mere arguments, opinions, preferences, not obligations anchored in
fundamental and shared moral rules.
Those who challenge legitimate authority can now be painted as anti-social elements who
fragment society and threaten political stability, who undermine moral probity and who are a
danger to the community, which has an overwhelming collective interest in stopping them. And
they can be stopped even with the use of lethal violence (Presidents
German Responses to the June 2019 Mission of the Sea-Watch 3
open, to individuals such as Cédric Herrou – and their supporters. 24 But it also comprises local politicians – in places as diverse as Barcelona ( Augustín and Jørgensen, 2019 ) and Rottenburg – who are convinced that their communities ought to be able to practice hospitality irrespective of quotas for the number of asylum seekers assigned to local communities and irrespective of federal or state laws that determine whether or not an undocumented migrant is entitled to receive free medical care.
There is nothing new about the bordering of Europe and its human