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Susan Power; Siege Warfare in Syria: Prosecuting the Starvation of Civilians, Amsterdam Law Forum, VU University Amsterdam, Vol. 8:2





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This paper examines the starvation of civilians during siege warfare in the Syrian conflict, the violations of international law this constitutes and whether criminal liability arises. Firstly, the author describes the debate on the classification of the Syrian conflict. Without drawing a final conclusion, she notes that the provisions concerning siege warfare in international armed conflict and non-international armed conflict are highly similar.

Sieges may be controversial, but they are not illegal per se so long as they do not target the civilian population. The following factors are relevant in determining the (il)legality of sieges:

(a) Distinction between civilian objects and military objectives
(b) Humanitarian access to besieged areas (either allowing relief consignments or evacuations)

Starvation of civilians may be prosecuted under several grounds:

  1. A war crime (art. 8(2)(b)(xxv) Rome Statute)
  2. A crime against humanity (art. 7(b) Rome Statute)
  3. Genocide (art. 6 Rome Statute)

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