The 15th Annual Minerva/ICRC Conference on International Humanitarian Law


The Minerva Center for Human Rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Israel and the Occupied Territories are organizing an international conference that seeks to evaluate recent developments in the law and practice related to family members and/or relatives impacted by measures taken during and in connection with situations of armed conflict and belligerent occupation.

The conference, the 15th in the series of annual Minerva/ICRC international conferences on International Humanitarian Law (IHL), is scheduled for 9-11 November 2020. Due to the uncertainty about international travel due to COVID-19, the conference will be held this year in an online format.

Recipients of this call for papers are invited to submit proposals to present a paper at the conference. Authors of selected proposals will be able to participate online in the conference.

Submission deadline: 1 August 2020


The main protections provided by IHL are afforded to persons who are impacted directly by the armed conflict – the wounded and shipwrecked, prisoners of war and civilians in the hands of an adversary against whom measures are taken. Yet several IHL rules and principles appear to afford protection also to the interests of indirect victims, whose material welfare and emotional wellbeing depend on the manner in which those directly affected by the conflict are treated. Prominent among those are family members and other relatives of casualties, victims and participants in hostilities. The right to family life is affirmed in certain IHL norms (see e.g., Hague Regulations 1907, art 46; Geneva IV, art. 27) and in international human rights law (ICCPR, art 23, ICESCR, art 10). Still, the rights and interests of relatives affected by armed conflicts have not gained sufficient attention. They have not been fully conceptualized as conflict-related and integrated into assessment of the legality, necessity and proportionality of specific measures taken by parties to armed conflict, and of the remedies due for violations of IHL and human rights law applicable to armed conflict situations.

The conference seeks to evaluate the legal significance of introducing into the discourse on the interpretation and application of IHL norms the perspective of family members and other relatives affected by armed conflict in practice or potentially. It will focus on five main interfaces between measures taken during and in connection to armed conflict, and belligerent occupation (although the organizers welcome discussion of other themes and perspectives as well):

1) Collective punishment: Measures taken to punish or deter security offences, especially in connection to noninternational armed conflicts and belligerent occupation, often affect dramatically the material and emotional wellbeing of family members and/or relatives of militants. While some unintended effects for relatives exist in many other legal contexts where measures are taken against certain individuals (for example, relatives of those affected by the application of criminal law), the analysis changes considerably when such an effect is intended, as is the case in certain controversial practices such as punitive house demolitions or travel bans on family members of suspected terrorists.

2) Contacts with the outside world : Restrictions on the ability of individuals deprived of their liberty in the course of and in connection with armed conflicts to communicate with the outside world, including receiving family visits, telephone calls and internet access, are often analysed as a possible infringement of detainees’ rights. The rights and interests of the relatives to maintain such contacts and the indirect adverse effects on them of disruptions in communication has not received the same level of attention (with the notable exception of situations of enforced disappearance, where the anguish of relatives who are not aware of the fate and whereabouts of the victim is well recognized). The relevance of this issue has increased recently due to COVID-19 restrictions on prison visits, which raise issues both under IHL and human rights law.

3) Burial of the dead: IHL contains a number of provisions on handling the remains of the deceased, including GCI Article 17. Clearly, the rights and interests of relatives of the deceased are strongly affected by practices in this regard. An assessment of how IHL protects such rights and interests is needed, as well as an inquiry into how human rights law, which has long recognized the independent rights of individuals to claim violation of rights by reason of the emotional harm caused to them by mistreatment of their relative, affects the legal analysis. This topic has particular domestic resonance, as in recent years courts in Israel have been confronted with litigation challenging restrictions imposed on the release and return of bodies of suspected militants (in order to prevent funeral riots, or to hold bodies as ‘bargaining chips’ in negotiations over the release of bodies of Israeli soldiers and civilians held in Gaza).

4) Family reunification: The degree in which IHL recognizes such a right for residents in occupied territories, above and beyond human rights law, has been contested. Still, in situations of long-term armed conflict and occupation, such as the one existing in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights, some cross-border immigration may be necessary for fully respecting family rights under both IHL and human rights law. Questions have also arisen in recent years concerning the repatriation of spouses and children of foreign fighters back to their states of nationality, inter alia on the basis of their extended family relations. In the Israeli-Palestinian context, family reunification has also been limited in connection with immigration of Palestinians into Israel proper.

5) Compensation: Whereas IHL does mention a general duty to compensate for violations (Hague IV, art. 3), it does not clearly provide for the right of family members of victims to be compensated. While human rights law does recognize the right of victims for a remedy, there is limited state practice and scholarly work on who qualifies as a relative for the purposes of compensation (or other form of reparation), what violations entail compensation, how is compensation for relatives calculated and how is it actually enforced.


The conference organizers invite proposals to present a paper dealing with one or more of these questions. The committee further welcomes proposals on other relevant and contemporary issues relating to the topic of the conference.

Researchers interested in addressing these and other issues are invited to respond to this call for papers with a 1-2 page proposal for an article and presentation, along with a brief CV. Proposals should be submitted through the online application platform at: no later than 1 August 2020. Note that in order to apply, applicants must first create an account on the website. Once the account has been created, “15th Annual Minerva/ICRC Conference” can be found under “General Applications”. For any questions regarding the application process, please contact:

Applicants should expect notification of the committee’s decision by 15 August 2020. Written drafts (of approx.10-25 pages), based on the selected proposals, will be expected by 30 October 2020.


The Israel Law Review (a Cambridge University Press publication) has expressed interest in publishing selected full length papers based on conference presentations, subject to its standard review and editing procedures.

Conference Academic Committee:

Yuval Shany, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Chair); Karen Loehner, ICRC, Israel and the Occupied Territories; Tomer Broude, Minerva Center for Human Rights, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Yaël Ronen, Israel Law Review, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Miya Keren-Abraham, ICRC, Israel and the Occupied Territories; Shlomit Stein, ICRC, Israel and the Occupied Territories; Danny Evron, Minerva Center for Human Rights, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.