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Bouchet–Saulnier, Françoise

Bouchet–Saulnier, Françoise


Education: University of Nice, Ph.D.


Home—Paris, France. E-mail—[email protected]


Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders (humanitarian organization), Paris, France, legal director, 1991—, research director, 1995—; University of Paris, France, law faculty, 1992—. Consultant for several organizations, including the United Nations Disaster Relief Office and Amnesty International.



(With Frédéric Laffont) Maudits soient les yeux fermés, Arte Éditions/J.C. Lattès (Paris, France), 1995.

Dictionnaire pratique du droit humanitaire, La Découverte & Syros (Paris, France), 1998, 3rd edition, 2006, translated by Laura Brav as The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (Lanham, MD), 2002, 2nd edition edited and translated by Laura Brav and Clementine Olivier, 2007.

Droits de l'homme, droit humanitaire et justice internationale, Arles Centre Européen de la Culture/Actes Sud (Arles, France), 2002.


Françoise Bouchet-Saulnier is an expert in humanitarian law. As the legal and research director of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders (MSF), a humanitarian relief organization, she has helped devise humanitarian responses to conflicts in Somalia, Kosovo, and Rwanda. Her activities include field work for international advocacy programs, training MSF workers about the legal aspects of humanitarian issues, and acting as a support person during negotiations at field locations. Prior to becoming part of MSF, she was a consultant for other humanitarian agencies, including Amnesty International and the United Nations Disaster Relief Office.

In Dictionnaire pratique du droit humanitaire, translated as The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law, Bouchet-Saulnier uses her knowledge of law and humanitarian work to clarify the rights of victims and relief organizations in crisis situations. The book is arranged alphabetically, with entries defining the responsibilities of various parties in crisis and illustrating the pitfalls inherent in the fight against genocide and other violations of human rights. The book is meant to help workers navigate through the terminology and concepts involved in relief work. Language can confuse the issues considerably because people in crisis areas may use very banal language to describe horrific events and situations. Sometimes this is done deliberately in order to put a more acceptable face on atrocities. Throughout the book, key points are summarized in boxed text, and there is information leading readers to additional resources. Global Governance critic Edwin M. Smith commented: "Françoise Bouchet-Saulnier provides a valuable handbook for humanitarian practitioners seeking to assist victims of large-scale violence. Based on her experience as legal director of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and legal counsel and research director for the MSF Foundation in Paris, her handbook could inform and prepare aid workers on the ground seeking to protect those most in need of assistance." He further noted: "Assistance workers who explore Bouchet-Saulnier's work will find valuable information to support them in coping with the chaotic, hellish maelstrom of human suffering they encounter during and after large-scale violent conflicts. It will also assist them in helping the victims of the complex humanitarian emergencies that result."

Remarking on the role of international humanitarian law (IHL) in the era of terrorism, Bouchet-Saulnier said in an interview for the Integrated Regional Information Networks Web site that the notion of a war on terror plays havoc with the existing IHL system: "If you really enter the whole picture of war against terrorism (as it is presented, mainly by the U.S. government), you have to admit that you get rid of the whole IHL system…. It's very tricky to try to create a new kind of war: ‘the war against terrorism,’ which is a non-existing body of law…. Terrorism and non state-actors are not new phenomena. Terror and terrorist method of war are included in the IHL regulations. But the whole IHL system relies on the distinction between civilians and combatants."



Global Governance, January 1, 2003, Edwin M. Smith, review of The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law, p. 115.

Melbourne Journal of International Law, October, 2003, Bruce Oswald, review of The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law, p. 636.

Reference & Research Book News, May, 2002, review of The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law, p. 156; August, 2007, review of The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law, 2nd edition.


Integrated Regional Information Networks Web site, (March 3, 2003), interview with Françoise Bouchet-Saulnier.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders, (January 28, 2008), biographical information about Françoise Bouchet-Saulnier.

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