IRRC No. 223

Language rights in international humanitarian law

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War, more than peace, is likely to give rise to circumstances in which soldiers and civilians find themselves against their will in a setting where a foreign language is employed. In addition, they may be forced to have contact on their own territory with people using another tongue. Therefore in the context of war, the protection of basic language rights is perhaps even more crucial than in peacetime in easing the fate of those involved. One of the ways humanitarian law seeks to protect the victims of war is by guaranteeing their right to communicate in a language which they easily understand. The purpose of this study is to analyze linguistic rights in time of war.

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