Lecture at the International Criminal Court

I gave a lecture at the Office of Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. It was an absolute honor to be part of this unique lecture series for ICC OTP senior staff.

I decided to use the lecture as an opportunity to think about how to make academic theories and research on armed violence usable for the prosecution of international crimes. Therefore I focused the lecture on the differences between armed groups in the type of relations they build with civilian populations. Within this context, we look at the use of violence against civilians by non-state armed groups and how this varies across cases.

The abstract of my lecture:

Organizational Aspects of Armed Rebellion: explaining variation in the use of violence

Dr. Saskia Baas

20 March 2014


Social scientific inquiry into the dynamics of civil wars has increased steadily over the past two decades resulting in an increased understanding of the conditions under which civil wars erupt, the factors that impact its duration, and possible pathways to successful resolution. While much has been gained from macro-level statistical studies, scholars have recently shifted their attention to researching conflict dynamics at the meso- and micro levels. Among others, this shift to the micro-level has provoked researchers to pay more attention to non-state armed groups. Next to states, armed opposition groups are central actors in civil wars, and understanding how these actors operate is essential to understanding the dynamics of civil war violence. Scholars from various sub-disciplines – including political science, sociology, economics and anthropology – have therefore been researching the organizational development of armed rebellion. Apart from having academic value, the knowledge deriving from these scholarly endeavors could also be relevant to institutions whose policies and decisions aim to limit civil war violence. This lecture will present a basic explanatory model for understanding variation in the use of violence by insurgent groups that links violent strategies to rebel group’s internal organization. Then, I will present some results from my own research on the SPLM/A in (South) Sudan, followed by a short discussion of the model’s limitations. It is hoped that the presented model, despite its limitations, can serve as a tool to help understand the dynamics of violence against civilians used by insurgent groups.

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