Direct Participation in Hostilities

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Direct Participation in Hostilities (DPH) refers to the active involvement of individuals in an armed conflict or war. The concept of DPH has been discussed and debated in international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law.

According to IHL, civilians are generally protected from direct attack unless and for such time as they directly participate in hostilities. This principle is outlined in Article 51(3) of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, which states that civilians lose their protection if they take part in hostilities. However, the definition of direct participation in hostilities has been subject to interpretation and is not explicitly defined in international law.

Various legal and policy documents, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Interpretive Guidance on the Notion of Direct Participation in Hostilities under International Humanitarian Law, provide some guidance on determining when an individual crosses the threshold and becomes a direct participant. Some key factors that can be considered include the nature of the act, the direct causal link between the act and the harm likely to result, the target of the act, and the existence of a continuous combat function.

It is important to note that the determination of direct participation in hostilities is context-dependent and requires a case-by-case analysis. The situation on the ground, the nature of the conflict, and the specific actions of the individual involved all play a role in making such determinations.

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