For the second year in a row now, the lawyers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have opened the doors of one of the FCO’s “fine rooms” to fellow members of the international legal community, judges, journalists, and other government officials to play host to a lecture by an individual with a profound impact on the development of international law.
Harold Hongju Koh, the former US State Department Legal Adviser, now Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School, delivered a great lecture last year. This year, we were immensely pleased to welcome Peter Maurer, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross to speak on the subject of “War, Protection, and the Law: the ICRC’s Approach to International Humanitarian Law” (see full text here). We thought there was no better person to comment on the challenges facing IHL on the centenary of the beginning of the Great War. As the Solicitor General noted in introducing President Maurer, it is thanks in no small part to the work of the ICRC, that respect for IHL has grown all over the world since the war that was supposed to “end all wars”.
Nevertheless, one hundred years on, the use of chemical warfare against soldiers in those Great War trenches has awful resonance with the chemical weapons attacks on civilians that we have seen so recently in Syria. President Maurer’s speech grappled with a number of such critical challenges for IHL, ranging from the ramifications of overlap between IHL and human rights obligations and gaps in the law on detention, to monitoring and influencing new technologies of warfare.
Our hope is that events such as our Annual Lecture will be a constructive means of fostering discussion and debate in the wider international legal community. This year we were determined to do more to increase the accessibility of our lecture to as many people as possible, particularly academics and law students, who might like a “virtual seat”! We are really pleased to present a video of this year’s lecture, and the lively question and answer session that followed. Please do leave us comments, or join the twitter discussion of the lecture at #lawofwar.