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The Use and Abuse of Refugees and Other Forced Migrants as Weapons of War

It is axiomatic that protracted armed conflict and war mass-produce refugees and internally displaced persons. The reasons for this are patently obvious but what is less so is whether this is an unintended and secondary consequence of the armed conflict or warfare, where opposing forces are engaged in fierce fighting and civilians flee the war zone to avoid being inadvertently killed, maimed, and starved of the basic necessities of life or forced migration or displacement are deliberately employed as a stratagem and tactic by opposing combatants to gain military advantage and ultimately outright victory and/or as part of some broader social engineering goals. This presentation will consider how civilian non-combatants have been used as weapons of warfare and how forced displacement has been employed as a deliberate “weapon of war.” The deliberate targeting of civilian non-combatants is a violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL), yet this has not stopped military forces from deliberately targeting civilian non-combatants in warfare, for the purposes of “ethnic cleansing” and/or genocide, as an example. This presentation examines the “use and abuse” of forced migration or displacement as a “weapon of war” and will argue that such blatantly serious international crimes not only need to be condemned immediately by the international community but prosecuted at the earliest opportunity.

Photo of James C. Simeon

James C. Simeon