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POSTPONED - Safe Zones and International Humanitarian Law - Bríd Ní Ghráinne

UN Zone



Thu 26 March 2020

*** This event has been postponed to a later date ***

The Edinburgh Centre for International and Global Law presents

Safe Zones and International Humanitarian Law

Dr Bríd Ní Ghráinne, Masaryk University, Czech Republic

About the event
A ‘safe zone’ (sometimes also referred to as ‘safe haven’, ‘safe area’, ‘buffer zone’ or ‘de-escalation zone') refers to the establishment of areas where civilians may find refuge from armed conflict or generalised violence. The establishment of a safe zone often indicates that International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is not being respected, particularly the principle of distinction and the prohibition of civilian attacks. However, it is unclear how IHL regulates the establishment of safe zones.

Although IHL provides for the establishment of buildings or small areas where civilians can seek protection from armed conflict, most, if not all of the safe zones established in the post-Cold War period do not fit these categories. In addition, there has been very little academic attention paid to the relationship between IHL and safe zones. Most of the literature to date puts forward the argument that modern-day safe zones differ from those formally provided for by IHL. However, the literature has not gone beyond this general argument. In particular, there has not been any detailed analysis of how the general principles of IHL might apply to safe zones and there is no detailed analysis on whether and if so, how, the law of occupation might apply to safe zones. These gaps in the literature will be filled by this paper.

The importance of this topic is underscored by the recent establishment of a safe zone in Syria by Turkey. Turkey’s stated aim is to return two million Syrian refugees to the safe zone, even though conflict is ongoing in that area. It is thus more important than ever that the contested norms regarding safe zones in armed conflict are clarified.

This paper will be structured as follows. Part 1 sets out the paper’s main aims, claims, structure, and contribution to literature. Part 2 gives a very brief introduction to IHL. Part 3 sets out how IHL might apply to safe zones in both international and non-international armed conflicts. Part 4 sets out the explicit framework surrounding the law of occupation. Part 5 concludes.

About the speaker
Dr Bríd Ní Ghráinne is a Senior Researcher at the Judicial Studies Institute, Masaryk University, Czech Republic. She is also a lecturer on the MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies (distance learning) at the Refugee Law Initiative and an Ad Hoc Associate at Global Security and Disaster Management. From 2014 – 2018, Bríd was a Lecturer at the University of Sheffield where she researched, supervised, and taught in the fields of Public International Law and Forced Migration. She has held visiting lecturer positions at Shandong University, Weihai, China; the University of Helsinki; and the University of Cyprus. 

Bríd’s current research project is entitled ‘Safe Zones in International Law’, and examines the human rights, humanitarian, and refugee law frameworks pertaining to the establishment of safe zones in armed conflict. Bríd has also conducted research on reproductive rights, statelessness, migration at sea, and internally displaced persons. Her work has appeared in journals such as the International Journal of Refugee Law, Legal Studies, and the Irish Yearbook of International Law. Bríd was appointed a member of the Council of Europe Expert Working Group on Internally Displaced Persons, and she has acted as a consultant for Greenpeace South Asia, and an Expert for Oxford Analytica.

Bríd completed her doctorate in 2014 at the University of Oxford under the supervision of Professor Guy S. Goodwin Gill. Her research was funded primarily by the National University of Ireland Travelling Studentship. Bríd also holds an LLM cum laude from Universiteit Leiden, the Netherlands; a BCL (International) from National University of Ireland, Galway; and diplomas in both Legal French (Law Society of Ireland) and Legal Irish (National University of Ireland, Galway).

Prior to commencing her doctoral studies, Bríd worked as a researcher in the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and completed a judicial clerkship at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.


This event is free and open to all. No registration necessary.




Image Credit: Marco Fieber - The Green Line in Nicosia (Cyprus) -