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The protection of persons with disabilities in armed conflict: An empty shelf in an IHL-specialized library?

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The protection of persons with disabilities in armed conflict: An empty shelf in an IHL-specialized library?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 October 2022


A window into the history of international humanitarian law scholarship, the ICRC Library's collections capture over 150 years of debates and developments related to the branch of international law that protects those who do not, or no longer, take part in hostilities. Yet, among the 41,000 references in the Library's collections, only a handful of recent publications focus on how this protection applies to persons with disabilities. In this article, two ICRC reference librarians take stock of this gap in their collections and consider its implications.

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Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the ICRC

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The advice, opinions and statements contained in this article are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the ICRC. The ICRC does not necessarily represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other information provided in this article.


1 In line with its current acquisition policy, the ICRC Library aims to capture all academic scholarship on IHL published in English and French. It also acquires publications in the other United Nations languages (Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish), and in German and Italian, without striving for exhaustivity, and occasionally in other languages. The remarks made in this contribution are based on the Library's collections as they stand as of September 2022, and the works discussed herein can be browsed via the Library's online catalogue at: (all internet references were accessed in September 2022). Suggestions for any academic publication on the protection of persons with disabilities in armed conflict that the librarians may have missed are most welcome and can be sent to .

2 Alice Priddy, Disability and Armed Conflict, Academy Briefing No. 14, Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights (Geneva Academy), Geneva, 2019, p. 14; Lord, Janet E., “Persons with Disabilities in International Humanitarian Law: Paternalism, Protectionism or Rights?”, in Gill, Michael and Schlund-Vials, Cathy J. (eds), Disability, Human Rights and the Limits of Humanitarianism, Routledge, London and New York, 2016, p. 155Google Scholar.

3 Hart, Naomi, Crock, Mary, McCallum, Ron and Saul, Ben, “Making Every Life Count: Ensuring Equality and Protection for Persons with Disabilities in Armed Conflicts”, Monash University Law Review, Vol. 40, No. 1, 2014Google Scholar.

4 J. E. Lord, above note 2.

5 Mugabi, Ivan K., “An Analysis of the Adequacy of Protection Afforded by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in Situations of Armed Conflict”, Societies, Vol. 8, No. 2, 2018CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 A. Priddy, above note 2.

7 N. Hart et al., above note 3.

8 Ibid., p. 150.

9 J. E. Lord, above note 2.

10 I. K. Mugabi, above note 5.

11 In 2021, the same author published a shorter “military briefing” on persons with disabilities and armed conflict, to be used as a training tool for armed forces. Priddy, Alice, Military Briefing: Persons with Disabilities and Armed Conflict, Geneva Academy, Geneva, 2021Google Scholar.

12 This can be traced back to the end of the Second World War, when the ICRC's medical department cared for former combatants who had become disabled and supported their reintegration into civilian life. See ICRC, Report on Assistance to War-Disabled: Replies to an Enquiry Opened by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva, 1949; ICRC, The Return of the War-Disabled to Normal Life, Geneva, 1949.

13 The current text of reference is ICRC, The ICRC's Vision 2030 on Disability, June 2020, available at: This text addresses the inclusion of persons with disabilities at all levels in the organization's humanitarian programming.

14 An initiative worth noting in this regard is the Braille transcription of an article in the Review by Professor Don Winiecki. See Asaro, Peter, “On Banning Autonomous Lethal Systems: Human Rights, Automation and the Dehumanizing of Lethal Decision-Making”, International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 94, No. 886, 2012CrossRefGoogle Scholar, Braille translation by Don Winiecki available at: -2012- On banning LAWS-braille.brf.