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Hunger as a weapon of war

Hunger can be just as deadly as bombs and bullets in the context of war. The deliberate act of depriving individuals and communities of food serves as a ruthless means to inflict suffering and debilitate populations within conflict zones. This strategy not only inflicts immediate harm but also leaves enduring repercussions, perpetuating cycles of poverty and instability, thus amplifying the devastating impact of armed conflicts on innocent civilians.

The use of starvation as a weapon of warfare dates back to ancient times, exemplified by the Romans' ruthless application of it to conquer and obliterate Carthage in 146 B.C. The methods employed throughout history remain strikingly similar, encompassing the destruction of food sources, agricultural lands, water reservoirs, and the isolation of besieged enemy populations.

Despite the historical prevalence of starvation tactics, they have often been excluded from war crime prosecutions. In 1998, the International Criminal Court Statute officially classified starvation tactics as a war crime within international armed conflicts. Subsequently, a 2019 revision extended this doctrine to encompass non-international armed conflicts between states and organised armed groups or among such groups.

The legal definition of starvation also encompasses withholding essential resources like water, shelter, and medical assistance. Recent conflicts in various regions, including Ethiopia, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Ukraine, and now Gaza, have witnessed instances of starvation crimes.

While criminal accountability is crucial, eradicating starvation in armed conflicts demands comprehensive efforts such as reconstruction, reparations, aid for displaced communities, and targeted humanitarian interventions.

Nevertheless, ensuring accountability remains a pivotal aspect of the response to combat the intentional weaponisation of food supplies, revealing a disturbing disregard for human life and dignity. This grim reality underscores the ruthless nature of modern warfare, where even fundamental necessities are weaponised for political gain at the cost of civilian lives caught in the middle of the conflict.

Existing international laws and jurisdiction stand ready to address such grave violations this time around, presenting an opportunity for justice to prevail. It will indeed be intriguing to witness whether the international community will muster the necessary courage and determination to hold the perpetrators of these atrocious actions accountable for their crimes.

Or might economic considerations or political alliances stand in the way of justice?

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