When May States Lawfully Recruit Internally Displaced Persons into Civil Militias?

All states have an intrinsic right to call upon their citizens to undertake military service, but under what circumstances may states recruit citizens into irregular forces or civil militias? And what if the citizens are internally displaced persons? The answers to these questions are far from straightforward. Recognizing that recruitment into civil militias is a particularly understudied topic in international law, in 2010, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions called for further research into the conditions under which civil militias come into existence, factors that contribute to illegal conduct, and in what circumstances and how governments could or should legally support or encourage the development of such forces.

Photo: AFP/MARCO LONGARI

Photo: AFP/MARCO LONGARI

Responding to this call, my article Recruiting Internally Displaced Persons into Civil Militias: the case of northern Uganda explores the significant recruitment of IDPs into state-sanctioned civil militias in northern Uganda between 1996 and 2006. I base my analysis on international and domestic (Ugandan) legislation concerning the issue of civil militia recruitment, but also on empirical material collected in 2009 and 2010, when I was a guest researcher at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. In addition to interviews with former civil militia members in the northern part of the country, I made comprehensive research into the records of the Ugandan Parliament, which I found provided an important contextualization of how human rights norms are viewed in political decision making. Continue reading