I agree Our site saves small pieces of text information (cookies) on your device in order to deliver better content and for statistical purposes. You can disable the usage of cookies by changing the settings of your browser. By browsing our website without changing the browser settings you grant us permission to store that information on your device.
Internal Disturbances and Tensions
Situations described in international humanitarian law as “internal disturbances and tensions” are those in which the level of violence has not yet reached an intensity qualifying the situation as an armed conflict and when the armed group involved is not sufficiently organized. This means that the law of armed conflict—humanitarian law—is not applicable. Such situations are characterized by riots and isolated and sporadic acts of violence (APII Art. 1.2). They are in a zone of political tensions and legal grey areas, between the application of conventions relative to human rights and those relative to international humanitarian law.
In situations of internal disturbances and tensions, the State is authorized to use armed force to restore public order and national security. This recourse to force must nevertheless respect human rights conventions, which provide fundamental guarantees from which States cannot derogate, whatever the circumstances. Nonetheless, States are often judge and party in these contexts and national security often prevails upon the maintenance of the rule of law. The weakness of international mechanisms of remedies in case of human rights violations increases this risk.
Besides, it is very difficult to determine with precision the moment when the use of public force that aims at defending national security turns into an internal armed conflict. It implies that States recognize that their authority is contested by armed opposition groups and acknowledge that they have lost control over a part of their territory.
Several legal initiatives have taken place from the 1980s to fill the grey area between human rights law and the law of armed conflict. They highlighted the necessity to impose international rules that would govern States’ security missions and to explore the status of non-state armed groups.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) affirmed that it had the mandate to develop humanitarian law in this domain. In conformity with the right of initiative contained in its Statute, it was also able to develop actions of assistance and protection in this kind of situation.