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Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict: Introduction to a Joint Blog Series

Published on September 9, 2015        Author: 

Over the next few weeks, three blog –  Lawfare, InterCross (the blog of the ICRC) and EJIL:Talk! – will host a joint blog symposium on International Law and Armed Conflict. The series will feature posts by some of the participants at the Third Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict, which was held at the University of Oxford this summer. As with previous years, the Transatlantic Workshop brought together senior government officials, senior military lawyers and leading academics from the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Israel and Switzerland. The two day workshop focuses each year on a range of critical issues in the law of armed conflict. This summer, there was a particular focus at the workshop on the judicial application of international humanitarian law, with sessions dedicated to the application of the law of armed conflict by human rights tribunals; international criminal tribunals; and by national courts. In addition, the workshop also engaged in discussions on direct participation in hostilities; humanitarian access in armed conflict; and foreign intervention in non-international armed conflicts.

The first post in the series – “Direct Participation in Hostilities- What are the Issues and Where are the Controversies?” – by Marco Sassoli (University of Geneva) is now available on InterCross. In his concluding paragraph he argues that:sassoli_marco220

” . . . it is this preliminary question whether and in which circumstances someone who is not a combatant may be targeted even while not DPH [taking a direct part in hostilities] that is at the heart of the controversies surrounding the ICRC DPH Guidance, rather than the question of what conduct actually constitutes direct participation. On this latter question the Guidance has suggested a definition. Today several experts and officials criticize some aspects of this definition. Experts representing militaries are however mostly obsessed by – and object to – first, the application, by the ICRC, of the principle of military necessity to the targeting of individuals directly participating in hostilities and second, by what they refer to as the ‘revolving door’ phenomenon. That a civilian regains protection once s/he no longer directly participates, regardless of whether s/he may possibly directly participate in the future, is however, an unavoidable result of the clear wording of Article 51(3) of Protocol I and of Art. 13(3) of Protocol II. If the fact of having directly participated in hostilities once or several times had the effect of turning civilians into combatants or members of armed groups, the crucial criteria relevant to determining whether an individual is a member of an armed group – belonging, responsibility and command – would become irrelevant. From a pragmatic point of view, I wonder how a soldier confronted with a civilian not directly participating can be expected to know that the individual did previously engage in direct participation and/or is likely to do so again. To make such speculations the basis for decisions over life or death is dangerous, including for the great majority of harmless civilians.”

Forthcoming posts in the series are as follows:

  • “Querying the Roles for Human Rights Bodies in the Interplay between International Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law” –  Joanna Harrington (University of Alberta) – Lawfare – September 10
  • “Application of International Humanitarian Law by Domestic Courts” – Lawrence Hill-Cawthorne (Reading University) – EJIL:Talk! – Sept. 15
  • “The Development of International Humanitarian Law by International Criminal Courts and Tribunals”  – Sandesh Sivakumaran  – InterCross – September 17
  • “Application of International Humanitarian Law by Domestic Courts” – Jeff Kahn (Southern Methodist University Law School) – Lawfare – September 22
  • “The Legal Framework for Humanitarian Relief Operations in Armed Conflict” – Dapo Akande and Emanuela Gillard (Oxford University) – EJIL:Talk! – Sept. 25

The joint blog series arising from the workshop follows on from our collaboration in hosting a similar series last year (see here, here and here and here for the report of the 2014 workshop). The Transatlantic Workshop is organized and sponsored by the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, the Oxford Martin Programme on Human Rights for Future Generations (both of which I co-direct), the International Committee of the Red Cross Delegations for the United States and Canada and for the United Kingdom and Ireland, the South Texas College of Law (through the good offices of Geoff Corn), and the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas (directed by Bobby Chesney). It has been a fantastic collaboration and a privilege to work with all these people.

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  1. […] Blog Symposium.  Lawfare, EJIL:Talk!, and Intercross will publish various articles on International Law and Armed Conflict throughout September, as part of its joint […]