Mélange du Mercredi/Refuge from Inhumanity? War Refugees and International Humanitarian Law

Welcome to Mélange du Mercredi (Wednesday Mix). Each week, we highlight one of the latest and greatest in reading, film and other scholarly resources, focusing on a variety of issues pertaining to international humanitarian law. As always, if you have suggestions, or would like to submit a post on something you feel our readers will also enjoy, we're happy to include them. Just email Editor Niki Clark


Refuge from Inhumanity? War Refugees and International Humanitarian Law, edited by David James Cantor and Jean-François Durieux.  

This review was written by Sarah Barr, Programme Partnership Arrangement Officer at the British Red Cross. Her review was originally published in The International Review: Generating Respect for the Law. 



David James Cantor and Jean-François Durieux’s edited volume Refuge from Inhumanity? War Refugees and International Humanitarian Law explores the legal dimensions of the significant protection gap for those fleeing violent conflict. The authors of the eighteen chapters each assess different scenarios, and aspects of the existing international protection regime, in a bid to clarify and potentially expand the boundaries of legal protection currently available for war refugees. The analysis is underpinned by the omission of any explicit protection for those fleeing conflict in the 1951 Refugee Convention and looks to international humanitarian law (IHL) for a potential solution.

The opening section by David Cantor sets the scene by outlining characteristics shared by IHL and international refugee law (IRL), and exploring the ways in which the two regimes interact, before assessing how IHL may assist in the interpretation of IRL. His purpose is to lay the conceptual groundwork for the detailed analysis of the interrelationships between the two bodies of law which follows.

The remainder of the book is divided into five further sections which are grouped thematically. The second section builds on Cantor’s argument in his opening chapter; that IRL and IHL, alongside international human rights law (IHRL), must be used in conjunction with one another rather than being treated as autonomous. Hugo Storey recalls his previous argument that international protection fails to address the needs of those fleeing conflict with reference to the correct body of law and argues for the development of a comprehensive framework and guidance to address this. This is well supported by Stéphane Jaquemet’s chapter, which argues that IRL, IHL and IHRL should be repositioned in relation to each other, to work towards a continuum of protection. Hélène Lambert’s chapter in the same section focuses on how causation is analyzed by refugee decision-makers and posits prioritizing “constitutive causation”. Lambert argues that assessing the material situation of war refugees and understanding the construction of threat in their social environment can enable us to better understand a refugee’s reason for leaving, and therefore potentially lead to betterquality decision-making by those determining asylum cases.

To download the full review, click here.