This article analyses international law regarding the human right to water as it impacts people who are stateless, displaced, and/or residents of armed conflict zones in the contemporary Middle East. Deficiencies in international law, including humanitarian, water, human rights, and criminal law, are examined to demonstrate international law’s strengths and weaknesses for functioning as a guarantor of essential rights for vulnerable groups already facing challenges resulting from ambiguous legal statuses. What are the political factors causing lack of water access, and what international legal protections exist to protect vulnerable groups when affected by water denial? The analysis is framed by Hannah Arendt’s assertion that loss of citizenship in a sovereign state leaves people lacking “the right to have rights”, as human rights are inextricably connected to civil rights. This article demonstrates that stateless/displaced persons and armed conflict zone residents are disproportionately impacted by lack of water, yet uniquely vulnerable under international law. This paper offers unprecedented analysis of international criminal law’s role in grappling with water access restrictions. I challenge existing “water wars” arguments, instead proposing remedies for international law’s struggle to guarantee the human right to water for refugees/internally displaced persons (IDPs). Examples include Israel/Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. A key original contribution is the application of Arendt’s theory of the totalising impacts of human rights violations to cases of water access denial, arguing that these scenarios are examples of environmental injustice that restrict vulnerable persons’ abilities to access their human rights.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited