Safe Zones in International Law

Full title: Safe Zones in International Law

Financed by: Masaryk University

Duration in months: 24

Expected outputs: 1 book and 2 articles

Researcher: Dr Bríd Ní Ghráinne


This project will be the first to comprehensively examine the legal framework surrounding the establishment of safe zones in armed conflict. A ‘safe zone’ (sometimes referred to as a ‘buffer zone’, ‘safe haven’, or ‘de-escalation zone’) refers to an area within a state engulfed in armed conflict where civilians may find refuge from attack. Remaining in a safe zone allows civilians to avoid the inherent dangers associated with leaving their state, such as drowning and people smugglers. However, they may be invoked as an alternative to asylum and are often unsafe, as the tragic example of Srebrenica illustrates. Despite its status as a UN-designated safe zone, Srebrenica fell to the Bosnian Serb forces, resulting in the deaths of over 7,000 Bosnian Muslims.

A detailed legal analysis of the creation of safe zones is timely and long overdue. US President Donald Trump has repeatedly proposed to build a ‘big, beautiful safe zone’ within Syria; and Turkey, Russia, and Iran have established four ‘de-escalation zones’ in Syria where rebels and government forces should halt hostilities for six months. In addition, safe zones have been employed as a foreign policy tool since the 19th century, and have been recently established in Sri Lanka (1990), Iraq (1991), Rwanda (1994), Bosnia (1993 – 1995), Afghanistan (2000 – 2001), and Somalia (2007).

Although the use of safe zones dates from the 1930s, literature on this issue is limited. A handful of pieces examine the issue from a politics and social studies perspective, and there is hardly any published research on the legal framework surrounding safe zones. This project will make a significant contribution to academia and practice by establishing whether, and if so, how safe zones can be lawfully established. In doing so, it sheds light on the legality of past safe zones and may inform states’ future plans in respect of safe zones. In addition, this project questions various grounds upon which states may deny recognition of refugee status and will thus be of relevance to adjudicators in refugee status determination proceedings, state legal advisors seeking to understand their states’ obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention, advocates, and asylum-seekers themselves. Finally, this project will set out the human rights and international humanitarian law applicable to individuals within a safe zone and will thus be of relevance to parties to a conflict, humanitarian actors within a zone, and individuals within the zone seeking to understand their rights and obligations.

EUADMIN-GOV - Reforming European Administrative Governance in Times of Crisis

Full title: Reforming European Administrative Governance in times of crisis: Common or disjunctive sector regulatory models (EUADMIN-GOV)

Financed by: Masaryk University

Duration in months: 36 (Nov 2017- Nov 2020)

Expected outputs: one monograph, two edited books, 3 journal articles

Researcher: Dr Madalina Moraru


The Project will focus on the evaluation of the EU administrative governance performance in times of crisis. Three main administrative areas were selected for the study on the status and evolution of EU administrative governance: the implementation of the EU citizenship right to equal protection abroad; the functioning of the CEAS and EU immigration rules; and data protection. The reasons for choosing these areas related to their nature of core administrative law fields, where changes occurred at EU level can significantly re-shape traditional understanding of domestic administrative systems. They are all affected by ongoing salient crises with repercussions on: the single domestic institutions; vertical institutional relations (EU-Member States); transnational relations between the various domestic administrative institutions, as well as between the trias politica.

The Project will first put forward a comparative outlook of the EU policy reforms across the selected three fields of administrative law, in order to trace whether there are common threads in policy development. It will then explore the impact of the sectoral reforms on EU policies. Namely, do the policy reforms adopted in reaction to the consular, economic, security and so-called migration crises preserve the same level of fundamental right protection, or a reprioritisation of EU policy objectives has emerged, i.e. from fundamental rights protection to security? Is the shift capable of seriously affecting fundamental rights protection? Have the policy reforms brought: enhanced transnational administrative cooperation, or increased EU agencification? How are the reforms impacting on the relationship between the administrative and judicial bodies? In particular, how is the power raising at EU level influencing the distribution of powers between the administration and courts? These questions will help to ultimately establish the level of federalisation of the EU and domestic administrations. Additional reasons for choosing the selected fields relate to the objective of global justice for particular vulnerable groups (e.g. migrant children; persons deprived of liberty, such as detained asylum seekers and returnees; persons whose dignity might have been affected by data protection violations; EU citizens and their families in distress abroad). Furthermore, the Project will assess how administrative justice in these fields has responded to rule of law attacks.

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