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Does international humanitarian law legitimise wars?

FIFDH Genève
Rony Brauman

Medical doctor, specialized in tropical medicine and epidemiology. Involved in humanitarian action since 1977, he has been on numerous missions, mainly in contexts of armed conflicts and IDP situations. President of Médecins sans Frontières from 1982 to1994, he also teaches at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI) and is a regular contributor to Alternatives Economiques. He has published several books and articles, including "Guerre humanitaires ? Mensonges et Intox" (Textuel, 2018), "La Médecine Humanitaire" (PUF, 2010), "Penser dans l'urgence" (Editions du Seuil, 2006) and "Utopies Sanitaires" (Editions Le Pommier, 2000).

On March 8, 2020, the FIFDH Geneva organised a debate between Rony Brauman, Annyssa Bellal,  Strategic Adviser on International Humanitarian Law and Amani Ballour, a paediatrician who spent five years in an underground hospital in Syria and the protagonist of the film The Cave, to answer the question "Does international humanitarian law legitimise wars ?"

The debate enlightens disagreements around Humanitarian Law. Rony Brauman explains that the IHL is based on two pillars : the fragile distinctions between combatants & non-combatants and the elimination of excessive cruelty. According to him, these foundations are totally biased since they are defined by those who wage the war, revealing the absurdity of IHL.

Rony Brauman

The humanitarian law suffers from a descrepency between the period when it was elaborated and the reality of wars as they are waged now.