The Kurdish Conflict: International Humanitarian Law and Post-Conflict Mechanisms, by Kerim Yildiz and Susan Breau.
Reviewed by Michael M. Gunter
London and New York: Routledge, 2010. xxii + 272 pages. Notes to 329. Appendices to 340. Bibliography to 347. Index to 354. $47.95 paper. Published in The Middle East Journal 65 (Winter 2011), pp. 152-54.
This book is a groundbreaking analysis of the on-going conflict waged by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in southeastern Turkey and its spill over into northern Iraq in terms of the international law of war (jus in bello or international humanitarian law) and the use of force (jus ad bellum). As such, it frames the question within new lights that are particularly appropriate. Apposite too are the two authors. As the executive director of the Kurdish Human Rights Project in London (KHRP), Kerim Yildiz brings a thorough knowledge of Kurdish history and culture with a lengthy experience in the practical application of human-rights law regarding the Kurds within the European community. Over the years the KHRP has argued successfully numerous cases before the European Court of Human Rights involving Turkish violations of ethnic Kurdish rights within Turkey. Susan Breau is a professor of international law at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia with an emphasis on the international law of armed conflict and human rights.
After a brief discussion of the historical background, their analysis is divided into two parts. Part I concerns the international law of armed conflict as applied to the Kurdish struggle, while Part II delves into some potential legal and political solutions. Upon analyzing the relevant literature and treaties, the opening chapter of Part I concludes “on a factual basis in spite of the denial of Turkey” (p. 58) that the complex conflict in southeast Turkey, which also spills over into northern Iraq, constitutes a non-international armed conflict. Thus, “it can be argued that a whole range of humanitarian guarantees are offered to both civilians and combatants” (p. 88) by such means as the Hague Regulations of 1907 as well as the Geneva Conventions of 1949 with their Common Article 3 that provides limited protections for civilians and members of armed forces hors de combat.
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