2023 – Rodanthi Violaki and Edward Madziwa

The Board of the Prix Henry Dunant Foundation is pleased to award the Prix Henry Dunant – Research 2023 ex aequo to Ms. Rodanthi VIOLAKI and Mr. Edward MADZIWA.

Rodanthi-ViolakiWith regard to Ms. Rodanthi Violaki’s paper, “The erosion of the right to asylum in Europe: Strategic litigation for victims of harmful practices before the European Court of Human Rights in their pursuit of asylum”, the members of the jury noted the impressive scope of her research into the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, through the number of decisions she studied and analyzed, and through the remarkable synthesis she produced of these decisions.

The members of the jury were also sensitive to Ms. Violaki’s aim, which went beyond the academic, to establish, in the light of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, a strategy for successfully defending the rights of asylum seekers before this court and, ultimately, the right to asylum, which we know to be so threatened today by populist movements and national egoisms. In other words, the author takes asylum seekers’ lawyers by the hand and shows them, in the light of the Court’s case law, the path that will offer the best chances of asserting their clients’ rights.

Edward MadziwaWith regard to Mr. Edward Madziwa’s paper, “Advancing Honour and Dignity in Death for Victims of Armed Conflicts: Exploring the Challenges and Opportunities of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Humanitarian Forensic Action under International Humanitarian Law”, the jury noted the choice of an interesting and topical subject, combining tradition and modernity, as well as an interdisciplinary approach combining international humanitarian law, human rights law and new technologies.

The author has carried out in-depth research in these three fields, taking into account not only the potential of these new technologies in the search for the missing and the identification of human remains, but also the risks inherent in their use. In addition, Mr. Madziwa submits proposals for normative and operational developments with a view to maximizing the potential and minimizing the risks inherent in the use of these new technologies.

The members of the jury noted that Mr. Madziwa’s subject goes far beyond the respect due to the dead but is much more about protecting the dignity of the living beyond death, on the one hand, and the rights of the families and loved ones of the disappeared, on the other.

Experience has shown that the loved ones of the disappeared cannot truly mourn the death of the deceased until his/her remains have been found and identified; the spouse will not be able to remarry or rebuild his/her life, and the children will often not be able to inherit his/her property, or only after interminable delays. Disappearance is a mourning process that never ends.

These two memoirs are in line with Henry Dunant’s most constant commitment: the fight against all forms of persecution and the protection of victims of persecution in the case of Mrs. Violaki’s paper, and the protection of war victims and the alleviation, as far as possible, of their suffering in the case of Mr. Madziwa’s paper.

In view of the excellent quality of these two LLM Papers, which deal with different subjects using different approaches, the Foundation Board has agreed, in the interests of fairness and as an exceptional measure, to award two prizes in 2023.


Rodanthi Violaki has an academic background in public international and human rights law, specializing in refugee law and migration from Panteion University in Athens. Her interest in advancing her legal competencies in the intersection between human rights and refugee law to better support asylum seekers in her professional career led her to follow the LL.M. at the Geneva Academy. Prior to the Programme, Rodanthi worked with the Greek migration authorities, as an Asylum Case Officer adjudicating applications of international protection, a capacity that enabled her to monitor the compliance of asylum decisions with the international legal framework and standards. She also has field experience at Lesbos refugee camp in Greece, where she focused on the improvement of the living conditions, the establishment of protection mechanisms for vulnerable applicants, and access to asylum proceedings. Before coming to Geneva, she worked with Médecins Sans Frontières at the Balkan Migration Mission, where she supported medical projects providing life-saving activities to people on the move. During her studies at the Geneva Academy, Rodanthi participated in the Pictet Competition, reaching the semi-finals and interned with Asylex on strategic litigation before judicial and quasi-judicial human rights bodies on behalf of refugees fearing refoulement.

Edward Madziwa is a registered Legal Practitioner, Conveyancer and Notary Public of the High Court and Superior Courts of Zimbabwe. He holds a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) Degree (2019), an LLM in Constitutional and Human Rights Law (2022) from Midlands State University and an LLM from the Geneva Academy (2023). After his graduation in 2019, Edward interned at the International Committee of the Red Cross where he conducted comprehensive research on Zimbabwe’s legal domestic and normative framework concerning the missing and management of the dead pursuant to the 2018 ICRC’s Missing and Deceased Migrants Pilot Project for Zimbabwe and South Africa. After his internship, he transitioned into the role of a Human Rights Complaints Handling and Investigations Officer at the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission. In this capacity, he diligently received, reviewed, and investigated human rights and maladministration-related complaints. He also spearheaded impactful human rights awareness campaigns and monitoring initiatives. During his tenure at the Geneva Academy, he further honed his skills and knowledge by interning with Diakonia International Humanitarian Law Centre, making notable contributions to various research endeavours. Currently, he is a Graduate Professional in the Security and Technology Programme at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research.

Summary of thesis

Rodanthi Violaki

Witnessing the scarcity of legal aid available to asylum seekers who undergo human rights violations in their pursuit of asylum, this paper serves as a roadmap for strategic litigation before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). It explores an under-researched topic, yet its conclusions are of significant importance for the victims in their efforts to seek justice and accountability.

In its first part, the paper introduces the obligations incumbent on states under Articles 3 and 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Convention) and the key legal notions they consist of. In view of Article 3, it underscores the absolute prohibition of exposing individuals to irreversible harm in situations of extradition, removal or interception and outlines the general principles that expulsions must conform to. In light of refoulement-in-chain, the paper sheds light on situations of removal to an intermediary state without sufficient individual guarantees ensuring access to asylum proceedings.

The paper then proceeds with a comparative legal analysis between vulnerable and non-vulnerable applicants following the Court’s dichotomy on the minimum standards of living conditions at migration and detention facilities. It explores the parameters under the Court’s scrutiny for evaluating the existence of the minimum standards and focuses on higher positive obligations of contracting parties towards children. Lastly, the paper specializes in the requirements detention facilities must meet to avoid causing distress besides the inescapable minimum.

In light of the protection from arbitrary interference with their liberty, the focus on Article 5 is driven by the institutionalization of administrative detention under the Common European Asylum System. The author challenges detention in inappropriate conditions, that is not free from arbitrariness and bad faith nor connected with the permissible grounds under domestic law. The paper encourages submissions from detainees pending deportation without reasonable prospect of removal, given the encouraging caselaw on the subject.

In the second part, the author first suggests legal avenues for removals under Article 3 that trigger states’ responsibility due to deficit asylum systems at the destination state and summary returns without prior risk assessment. She continues by presenting the successful elements of the caselaw where the Court held that the living conditions were at variance with human dignity. It focuses on suggested legal avenues for certain vulnerable profiles, such as pregnant women or children and presents the well-settled notions of the Court and concludes with the adjudication of cases regarding the extreme material.

For alleged violations under Article 5, the author enumerates the standards detention must comply with according to the Court’s caselaw and proposes legal arguments to substantiate the violation of each standard. It commences with the existence of a legal basis under domestic law that prescribes the permissible grounds, procedural safeguards, and procedures of detention. It then supports victims who have been deceived in violation of the principle of good faith and encourages those who are detained in substandard conditions to challenge the legality of detention, such as border police stations or transit zones. Aligned with the migration, it concludes with cases regarding the absence of habeas corpus guarantees at the national level, the undeniable value of which is strongly highlighted by the Court, as a requirement to contest the arbitrariness of detention.

The paper ultimately demonstrates in view of the timid European Court to challenge states’ prerogatives, asylum seekers shall rely upon well-crystalized notions to maximize their chances of successful litigation. The author hopes that the paper will serve as a tool for justice for everyone who, by seeking asylum, fell victim to Europe’s non-entrée politics.

Edward Madziwa

Data-driven artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are progressively transforming the humanitarian field, yet their role in the forensic identification of dead bodies remains unexamined. The correct and early identification of dead bodies is important, not just to afford them their honour and dignity or to ensure that their families have closure and know the fate of their loved ones but also to have broader implications for human rights and international humanitarian law.  Drawing from the law, forensic science, computer science, and transitional justice disciplines, the paper examines the opportunities and challenges of AI and ML in advancing honour and dignity in death for armed conflict victims in humanitarian forensic action under international human rights law.

It draws from recent studies to show how geospatial intelligence can be employed in forensic investigations to look for spatial patterns of the dead or mass graves in post-conflict situations and highlight the limitation in its applications, primarily on the battlefield. I argue that it can also be used for identifying the unidentified armed conflict victims.

It starts by providing conceptual definitions of key terms like AI, ML, and humanitarian forensic action. It further provides an overview of how AI and ML are currently used in forensic action in peacetime and armed conflict situations, for example, its integration into civil protection activities to reduce disaster-related deaths, identify vulnerabilities, detect hazards, and predict their development in peacetime.

To contextualise the discussion, the paper examines current developments and the application of AI and ML in humanitarian forensic action. It acknowledges the development of tools and software like Commingled Remains Analytics (CoRA), which the United States of America is currently using to identify the US service members who died in the Korean War; the use of forensic facial imaging software which applies to craniofacial identification processes like facial approximation and photographic superimposition in reconstructing faces of the deceased and Skeleton ID, a software that uses physical anthropological methods like craniofacial imposition, biological profiling, comparative radiography and facial comparison as means of identification. It also highlights the extensive use of AI and ML in geospatial intelligence in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War, particularly in sensitive geopolitical locations for analysing open-source data like social media photos and satellite imagery.

It proceeds to analyse the international humanitarian law obligations for humanitarian forensic action in both International Armed Conflicts and Non-International Armed Conflicts. This analysis is further complemented by identifying human rights, such as the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion and the right to truth, among other rights pertinent to treating and managing the dead. It further outlines the opportunities for new technologies regarding speed, efficiency, and accuracy in human identification. Additionally, it acknowledges the inherent challenges of utilizing such technologies, such as the potential bias and discrimination, right to privacy, data vulnerability, dehumanization of humanitarian forensic action, and the asymmetry between parties to a conflict.

The paper proposes recommendations for the future use of AI and ML in humanitarian forensic action, including the adoption of a legally binding international instrument governing their use, the development of guidelines for their use, the creation of an International Humanitarian Forensic Action Taskforce, the training of forensic actors on IHL and human rights law and the use of new technologies in humanitarian action. It concludes by noting that the application of AI and ML in humanitarian forensic action has the potential to revolutionise and improve the identification of the deceased. This will consequently guarantee that the families know the fate of their loved ones and that the deceased are afforded dignified burials according to their religious and cultural rites.