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Nils Melzer is Professor of International Law at the University of Glasgow and the current United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. He also holds the Human Rights Chair at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.

Throughout his career, Professor Melzer has advised governments, organizations and other institutions with a view to safeguarding human dignity and the rule of law in armed conflicts and other situations of violence, but also in response to challenges such as corruption, irregular migration, the privatization of security service providers, and the emergence of new weapons technologies.

Professor Melzer has previously served as Senior Security Policy Adviser of the Swiss Government; Senior Fellow and Senior Advisor for Emerging Security Challenges at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy; Research Director of the Competence Centre for Human Rights at the University of Zürich; and as Legal Adviser, Delegate and Deputy Head of Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Professor Melzer is the author of numerous award-winning and widely translated books. He has also been a member of the Steering Committee for the “International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers” (2011-13), and of the expert groups drafting the “Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare”, NATO CCDCoE (2013) and the “Policy Guidance Autonomy in Defence Systems”, MCDC, NATO ACT (2014).


Interpretive Guidance on the Notion of Direct Participation in Hostilities under International Humanitarian Law

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Published by the ICRC, this book aims to clarify the meaning and consequences of direct participation in hostilities under international humanitarian law (IHL).

Human Rights Implications of the Usage of Drones and Unmanned Robots in Warfare

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In recent years, the use of drones and other unmanned robots in warfare and other situations of violence has increased exponentially, and States continue to invest significantly into increasing the operational autonomy of such systems. The present study provides an overview of the current and likely future use of such systems and examines the relevant legal implications under human rights law, international humanitarian law and the UN Charter. The study concludes that the present sense of uncertainty as to the applicable legal standards, the rapid development and proliferation of drone and robotic technology, and the perceived lack of transparency and accountability of current policies have the potential of polarizing the international community, undermining the rule of law and, ultimately, of destabilizing the international security environment as a whole. Accordingly, the study develops a number of policy recommendations for European foreign policy.

International Humanitarian Law : A Comprehensive Introduction

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"International Humanitarian Law: A Comprehensive Introduction" is an introductory handbook that aims to promote and strengthen knowledge of international humanitarian law (IHL) among academics, weapon-bearers, humanitarian workers and media professionals. It presents contemporary issues related to IHL in an accessible and practical style, and in line with the ICRC’s reading of the law. That, plus its distinctive format – combining “In a nutshell”, “To go further” and thematic textboxes – make it the ideal everyday companion for anyone approaching IHL for the first time and curious about conflict-related matters, as well as for military and humanitarian personnel seeking useful guidance on a vast array of topics.

Targeted Killing in International Law

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This book is a comprehensive analysis of the lawfulness of state-sponsored targeted killings under international human rights and humanitarian law. It examines treaties, custom, and general principles of law to determine two distinct normative paradigms which govern the intentional use of lethal force against selected individuals in law enforcement and the conduct of hostilities. It also addresses the relevance of the law of interstate force to targeted killings, and the interrelation of the various normative frameworks which may simultaneously apply to operations involving the use of lethal force. The book shows in what circumstances targeted killings may be considered as internationally lawful. The practical relevance of the various conditions and modalities are illustrated by reference to concrete examples of targeted killing from recent state practice. The book argues that any targeted killing not directed against a legitimate military target remains subject to the law enforcement paradigm, which imposes extensive restraints on the practice. Even under the paradigm of hostilities, no person can be lawfully liquidated without further considerations. As a form of individualized or surgical warfare, the method of targeted killing requires a ‘microscopic’ interpretation of the law regulating the conduct of hostilities which leads to nuanced results reflecting the fundamental principles underlying international humanitarian law. It concludes by highlighting and comparing the main areas of concern arising with regard to state-sponsored targeted killing, and by placing the results of the analysis in the greater context of the rule of law