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Impartiality and Neutrality inHumanitarian Law and Practice

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Chapter Summary

On 27 June 1986, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) gave judgment in the case concerning Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua. The case, pitting Nicaragua against the United States of America, is remarkable in many respects, and so is the judgment. This chapter singles out two special features: it deals with a situation of armed conflict, and it mentions the Red Cross. The author's point of departure is the fact that States often limit the material support they give one party to an armed conflict to what they describe as "humanitarian assistance". In a sense, neutrality is a necessary negative complement to the essentially positive notion of impartiality. The neutrality of the Red Cross implies, therefore, that none of its component parts may take sides in any political controversy, whether national or international and no matter what the issues.

Keywords: armed conflict; humanitarian assistance; impartiality; International Court of Justice (ICJ); neutrality; Nicaragua; Red Cross; United States of America



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