Improving Protection of Persons with Disabilities during Armed Conflict

What are the legal obligations to protect and assist persons with disabilities during conflict and what are the policies and practices required to put these obligations into effect?


Over one billion people worldwide suffer from some form of disability, half of which are in states affected by armed conflict. Conflict not only directly results in disability, persons with disabilities are at higher risk of injury or death during armed conflict, either as specific targets or through inability to protect themselves. In contrast to other vulnerable groups – such as children, women and ethnic minorities – comparatively little political, academic or media attention has been paid to the subject.

To date, no research has been conducted on the medical and social needs of persons living with disabilities in situations of armed violence, nor on the precise scope and extent of the obligations defined in Article 11 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  We also lack knowledge on the operational policies and procedures necessary to put the legal obligations of the states parties into effect.

This multidisciplinary applied research project fills these gaps. It will provide detailed explanations and analysis of legal obligations under international humanitarian law, international human rights law, international disability rights law, international refugee law and weapons law. Case studies include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Palestine, Ukraine, and Vietnam.

The research results will provide information for academic and policy communities, states, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations, armed non-state actors, humanitarian organisations and persons with disabilities and their carers with the objective to ensure better protection and assistance to persons with disabilities in situations of armed conflict or its aftermath.


  • Disability rights
  • International human rights
  • International humanitarian law
  • Medical field
  • Anthropology and sociology
  • Access to health services
  • Humanitarian aid


  • Health – Medicine
  • Human Rights
  • Law
  • Security
  • Sociology


Non-governmental organisations:

  • Handicap International
  • UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities
  • University of Basel

Relevant Countries

  • Colombia
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Palestine
  • Ukraine
  • Vietnam


This is an ongoing project, which started in autumn 2016. The information here is updated regularly. If you have any inquiries please don’t hesitate to contact the project team via the form below.

Contact the project team

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Research team

Andrew Clapham
Graduate Institute Geneva

Nathalie Herlemont Zoritchak
Principal Member

David Shaw
Universität Basel

Anyssa Bellal
Principal Member
Graduate Institute Geneva

Aude Brus
Principal Member
Handicap International

Alice Priddy
Principal Member
Graduate Institute Geneva

Catalina Davandas
Associated Member

Anita Riecher-Rössler
Associated Member