magnify
Home Archive for category "International Humanitarian Law"

Freeing up the Rules on The Treatment of Detainees from the Debate on the Geographical Scope of International Humanitarian Law

Published on January 3, 2018        Author: 
Facebook
GOOGLE
https://www.ejiltalk.org/category/international-humanitarian-law
LINKEDIN

A few weeks ago, my great friend Elvina Pothelet analysed, on this blog, the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor’s to request authorization to investigate, inter alia, acts of ill-treatment of detainees allegedly committed since 2002 by the CIA in black sites in Poland, Romania and Lithuania, in connection with the armed conflict occurring in Afghanistan. Elvina affirmed that there may be an added value in qualifying these alleged behaviours as war crimes, but she also hinted that such qualification might support the idea that International Humanitarian Law (IHL) applies globally, even outside the borders of the States where active hostilities take place. In this post I will argue that a wide geographical scope of application of the IHL rules on the treatment of detainees — especially those contained in common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions and reflected in customary international law — does not necessarily imply an equally wide applicability of the rules on the conduct of hostilities.

To put my intervention in context, I should recall the obvious: a war crime presupposes a serious violation of an IHL rule. And for a rule of IHL to be applicable, there must be a sufficient link of correlation (so-called ‘nexus’) between the behaviour in question and an armed conflict (see ICTY AC, Kunarac, § 57 ff., referring to acts that are ‘closely related to the armed conflict’; see also Cassese). Although these sources refer to international criminal law (ICL), they build on the principle that IHL only applies to conducts and events which are sufficiently related to an armed conflict, as recognized e.g. in the ICRC Introduction to IHL, at pp. 28 and 59 (see also Practitioners’ Guide to Human Rights Law (HRL) in Armed Conflict, § 4.23). When such behaviour occurs outside the theatre of hostilities — e.g. where acts of torture were allegedly perpetrated in Poland/Romania/Lithuania, but the supposedly related hostilities took place in Afghanistan — one should ask whether such ‘sufficient nexus’ exists and, additionally, whether are there any geographical limitations to its establishment. In other words, is IHL applicable to conduct or an event as soon as it is sufficiently connected to an armed conflict, regardless of the territory where it took place (as contended, e.g., by Lubell-Derejko)? Or should the applicability of IHL be limited only to behaviour occurring in the area where active hostilities are being fought, or in the territory of a State party to the conflict (as deemed preferable by the ICRC in its 2015 report, at p. 15)?

Like ‘global battlefield’ theorists, I am convinced that geographical considerations per se do not necessarily limit the applicability of IHL. But, as also accepted by Lubell and Derejko, I believe that they are a fundamental factor to be taken into account when assessing the existence of the necessary nexus between an event under scrutiny and an armed conflict. Geographical distance from the actual conflict may be an indication that the relevant conduct or event is sufficiently ‘closely related to the hostilities’. And that is where I think the difference between the rules on the treatment of detainees and other IHL rules (especially those on the conduct of hostilities) lies. Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

Understanding the Use of Zones and the Concept of Proportionality: Enduring Lessons from the Falklands War

Published on December 13, 2017        Author: 
Facebook
GOOGLE
https://www.ejiltalk.org/category/international-humanitarian-law
LINKEDIN

On 2 April 1982 Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands (alternatively, the Islas Malvinas). The resulting conflict lasted 74 days and claimed the lives of 255 UK military personnel and 652 Argentine servicemen. The conflict raises a myriad of legal issues but at its core is the issue of sovereignty (here). However complicated the issue, disputes over sovereignty did not legally authorise the Argentine invasion (see UNSCR). This post will not go over the vexed issue of sovereignty but will instead focus on two select issues relating to the conduct of hostilities. The Falklands War has largely receded from thought but lingering doubts over the legality of a Total Exclusion Zone (TEZ) established by the UK and its torpedoing of the Belgrano endure. By focusing on the issue of zones and the concept of proportionality this post will seek to provide clarity to two often misunderstood areas of law that are of vital importance to contemporary military operations.

The UK Total Exclusion Zone

A few days after the Argentinian invasion the UK issued a notice indicating that, from 12 April 1982, a Maritime Exclusion Zone (MEZ) would be in force, extending 200 nautical miles from the centre of the Falklands. On 28 April, the UK declared a TEZ that encompassed the same geographical area as the MEZ but was broader in scope regarding ratione personae.  In essence, the TEZ stated that any ship or aircraft entering the TEZ that was not authorised to be there by the UK Ministry of Defence was deemed to be operating in support of the occupation, regarded as hostile, and therefore liable to attack. Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

A “Compliance-Based” Approach to Autonomous Weapon Systems

Published on December 1, 2017        Author:  and
Facebook
GOOGLE
https://www.ejiltalk.org/category/international-humanitarian-law
LINKEDIN

A Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on the topic of Lethal Autonomous Weapons (LAWS) concluded its first meeting in Geneva on 17 November 2017. The meeting was held under the auspices of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and built upon on three informal meetings of experts held between 2014 and 2016 (for reports of those meetings, see here). In December 2016, the Fifth Review Conference of the High Contracting Parties of the CCW had tasked the GGE “to explore and agree on possible recommendations on options related to emerging technologies in the area of LAWS” (see Decision 1 here and the agreed recommendations contained in this report).

At the heart of the debate is the question how States should respond to the emergence of such weapons. While some highlight legal, ethical or moral concerns of delegating life and death decisions to machines and advocate for a preventive prohibition of autonomous weapons systems, others pinpoint potential benefits for the way wars are fought in the future and deem any policy options, including regulation, to be premature.

As often in such multilateral discussions, it is hard to make progress and to get all States to agree on a common approach. The topic of autonomous weapon systems is no different. Indeed, perhaps it is particularly difficult because we do not yet fully understand what robotics and artificial intelligence truly harbor for the future of warfare, and for humanity in general. In an initial step, the GGE in its first session affirmed that international humanitarian law (IHL) applies to all weapons, including the potential development and use of autonomous weapon systems, and that responsibility for their deployment remains with States (see report here). This is a welcome step but obviously cannot be understood to exhaust the topic.

In an effort to generate momentum and identify common denominators, Switzerland presented a working paper at the beginning of the GGE, in which it is argued that ensuring compliance with international law, notably IHL, could and should be common ground among States and that this could form a constructive basis for further work. Accordingly, it should, at least as one element, be central to discussions of the GGE about autonomous weapon systems and should figure prominently in the report of the GGE as well as in the way forward. In the following, we recapitulate requirements for compliance with IHL and on that basis identify elements for a “compliance-based” approach aimed at advancing the debate within the CCW in an inclusive and constructive manner. Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 
Comments Off on A “Compliance-Based” Approach to Autonomous Weapon Systems

War crimes in Afghanistan and Beyond: Will the ICC Weigh in on the “Global Battlefield” Debate?

Published on November 9, 2017        Author: 
Facebook
GOOGLE
https://www.ejiltalk.org/category/international-humanitarian-law
LINKEDIN

The ICC Prosecutor recently announced her decision to request an authorization to open a formal investigation into possible international crimes committed in connection with the conflict in Afghanistan. The outcome of her preliminary examination was long-awaited and expected to be significant because an investigation into the Afghanistan situation would cover all parties involved – that is, not only local actors but also the international coalition, including the US (US nationals would come under the jurisdiction of the Court if they committed crimes in Afghanistan or in any other State party to the Rome Statute).

The Prosecutor’s choice to subject some aspects of the Afghan conflict to judicial scrutiny despite the pressures deserves to be praised as an “act of bravery.” If the Pre-Trial Chamber authorizes this investigation, the road to justice will be long – many have already commented on possible issues of jurisdiction (e.g. here and here), admissibility (e.g. here and here), evidence-gathering and cooperation (e.g. here), etc. In this post, I want to focus on a potential effect of this announcement: the situation in Afghanistan may give the ICC an opportunity to weigh in on the debate over the global applicability of IHL. Fatou Bensouda intends to prosecute acts of torture committed in CIA detention facilities located in Europe, in connection with the armed conflict in Afghanistan, as war crimes. If she does, ICC judges will have to rule on whether IHL applied to those acts and hence more generally on whether IHL applies beyond the territory of a State where a non-international armed conflict (NIAC) is primarily taking place. The geographical scope of IHL remains one of the most vexing debates in international law (as was clear from a heated discussion on this blog and others, just a month ago) but the Afghanistan investigation may help highlight an overlooked aspect of it. Here is why. Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

Joint Blog Series on International Law and Armed Conflict: Jann Kleffner on ‘Wounded and Sick and the Proportionality Assessment’

Published on October 13, 2017        Author: 
Facebook
GOOGLE
https://www.ejiltalk.org/category/international-humanitarian-law
LINKEDIN

The final installment of our joint blog series arising from the 2017 Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict, ‘Wounded and Sick and the Proportionality Assessment’- by Jann Kleffner (Swedish Defence University) is now available on Intercross

Here’s a taster of Jann’s post:

For all wounded and sick other than civilian ones, the question looms large how that obligation to respect and protect in all circumstances can be squared with the absence of such persons from the collateral damage side of the proportionality equation. The following possibilities present themselves.

Option 1The obligation to respect and protect such wounded and sick in all circumstances could be interpreted to mean that any incidental harm to them falls foul of the obligation and hence constitutes a violation of the law of armed conflict.

[…]

Option 2: The right of parties to an armed conflict to attack lawful targets could be understood to supersede the obligation to respect and protect the wounded and sick other than civilian ones.

[…]

Option 3The obligation to respect and protect could be interpreted to require a proportionality assessment in which incidental harm to wounded and sick other than civilian ones is legally assimilated to harm to civilians.

Read the rest of the post over on Intercross.

 

Thanks to all who participated in this joint blog series. Special thanks to post authors, readers and commentators, and to our partners over at Intercross and Lawfare. 

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 
Comments Off on Joint Blog Series on International Law and Armed Conflict: Jann Kleffner on ‘Wounded and Sick and the Proportionality Assessment’

Joint Blog Series on International Law and Armed Conflict: Geoff Corn on Wounded and Sick, Proportionality, and Armaments

Published on October 11, 2017        Author: 
Facebook
GOOGLE
https://www.ejiltalk.org/category/international-humanitarian-law
LINKEDIN

The fourth post in our joint blog series arising from the 2017 Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict, ‘Wounded and Sick, Proportionality, and Armaments’- by Geoffrey Corn (South Texas College of Law Houston) is now available on Lawfare.

Here’s an excerpt: 

Imagine you are commanding forces that have just repulsed a combined arms enemy ground attack. The enemy is now withdrawing, and you observe what are obviously wounded enemy soldiers being loaded onto enemy combat vehicles. You fully anticipate the enemy to regroup in order to continue the offensive. These vehicles are not protected because they are not properly marked nor exclusively engaged in the collection and evacuation of the wounded and sick. Instead, the enemy is employing the common practice of evacuating wounded with any available combat vehicle. While this is occurring, other enemy forces are providing covering fires in support of the withdrawal. You have on-call close air support assets, and your air support coordination liaison asks if the enemy vehicles should be attacked? The enemy vehicles are lawful objects of the attack, but you know that the military wounded and sick must be respected and protected. It is therefore clear that an attack may not be directed against the wounded enemy soldiers. But the ICRC’s updated Commentary asserts that before launching the attack on the withdrawing enemy forces who are not hors de combat you must assess whether the risk created to the wounded enemy personnel is excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

[…]

Suggesting that such an obligation is logically inferred from the civilian proportionality rule is fundamentally flawed, because unlike military personnel, civilians (who do not take a direct part in hostilities) do not accept the risks of combat. 

Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

On Whether IHL Applies to Drone Strikes Outside ‘Areas of Active Hostilities’: A Response to Ryan Goodman

Published on October 5, 2017        Author: 
Facebook
GOOGLE
https://www.ejiltalk.org/category/international-humanitarian-law
LINKEDIN

Over on Just Security, Ryan Goodman has an excellent post entitled Why the Laws of War Apply to Drone Strikes Outside “Areas of Active Hostilities” (A Memo to the Human Rights Community). In sum, Ryan argues that human rights activists have been too radical in their critique of US drone strike policy, as reflected in the Presidential Policy Guidance adopted during the Obama administration, and in the context of the Trump administration’s recent proposal to revise this standing policy and relax some of its requirements, especially with regard to the procedure for authorizing lethal strikes. In particular, Ryan argues that human rights activists have been portraying as clearly unlawful decisions which legally fall within the bounds of reasonable disagreement.

In that regard, Ryan argues – persuasively in my view – that the mere fact that a drone strike takes place outside an area of active hostilities under the PPG does not mean that the strike takes place outside armed conflict under IHL. The former, as Ryan correctly notes, is not even a legal term of art. I also agree with Ryan that some US positions that used to be regarded as novel or anomalous have become mainstream with time, in part through the acceptance of these positions by European and other states, by the ICRC and scholars – viz., for instance, the idea of ‘spillover’ NIACs (for more on the operation of this mainstreaming process see here; on spillover NIACs see here).

That said, Ryan in some respects significantly overstates his argument. Yes, states have accepted the idea that they can be engaged in an armed conflict with a terrorist group – but I would say that this really was never in doubt. What was in doubt is whether this NIAC can be global in scope, and this US position has not been mainstreamed – or at least I am unaware of any other state which agrees with it. What do I mean by this?

Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

ICRC Commentary of Common Article 3: Some questions relating to organized armed groups and the applicability of IHL’

Published on October 5, 2017        Author: 
Facebook
GOOGLE
https://www.ejiltalk.org/category/international-humanitarian-law
LINKEDIN

This post is part of the joint blog symposium hosted by EJIL:Talk!, Lawfare and Intercross and arising out of the 5th Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict held at the European University Institute in Florence this summer.

I was asked during our workshop to discuss some questions related to non-state armed groups raised by the chapeau of Common Article 3 (In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions) and the 2016 ICRC Updated Commentary to Geneva Convention I.

It is well known that for there to be a non-international armed conflict, the violence must involve an organized armed group.  So one of the first questions to arise in this context is what degree of organization of the armed group is required in order to trigger the application of international humanitarian law (IHL)?  

The 2016 ICRC Commentary acknowledges that Article 3 does not provide a detailed definition of its scope of application, nor does it contain a list of criteria for identifying the situations in which it is meant to apply. It is however uncontroversial that armed groups must reach a certain level of organization so as to be bound by IHL. As the well known definition of armed conflicts in the ICTY 1995 decision in the Tadić case reminds: ‘[A]n armed conflict exists whenever there is a resort to armed force between States or protracted armed violence between governmental authorities and organized armed groups or between such groups within a State’ (Prosecutor v. Dusko Tadić (aka ‘Dule’), Decision on the Defence Motion for Interlocutory Appeal on Jurisdiction (Appeals Chamber), ICTY (Case No. IT-94-1), 2 October 1995, §70).

How to determine the appropriate level of organization seems to be the difficult question. Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

Joint Blog Series on International Law and Armed Conflict: Ashley Deeks on Common Article 3 and Linkages Between Non-State Armed Groups

Published on October 4, 2017        Author: 
Facebook
GOOGLE
https://www.ejiltalk.org/category/international-humanitarian-law
LINKEDIN

The second post in our joint blog series arising from the 2017 Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict, ‘Common Article 3 and Linkages Between Non-State Armed Groups’- by Ashley Deeks (University of Virginia School of Law) is now available over on Lawfare.

Here’s a snippet:

Assume State A finds itself in a NIAC with a NSAG – call it “Group X.”  What happens if and when another NSAG – call it “Group Y” – begins to provide certain assistance to Group X?  At what point does Group Y become part of the State A/Group X NIAC, and thus become subject to military force by State A?  This question has arisen in a variety of scenarios, including in the interactions between core al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and between al Qaeda and al Shabaab.

[…]

Approach 1 – State A should never treat Group X and Group Y as participating in single armed conflict.  Instead, State A should treat its fights with Group X and Group Y as two distinct NIACs.

[…]

Approaches 2 and 3:  These two approaches analogize from the concept of co-belligerency, which originated in international armed conflicts. Approaches 2 and 3 (described below) take different positions on what that concept requires.

[…]

Approach 3 – Assistance by Group Y to Group X in Group X’s NIAC against State A is enough to render Group Y a functional co-belligerent, even if Group Y does not directly engage in hostilities against State A.

[…]

Approach 4 – Use the ICRC’s “direct participation in hostilities” (“DPH”) factors to evaluate Group Y’s efforts in relation to the State A/Group X NIAC.

Read the full post on Lawfare.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 
Comments Off on Joint Blog Series on International Law and Armed Conflict: Ashley Deeks on Common Article 3 and Linkages Between Non-State Armed Groups

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

Published on September 27, 2017        Author: 
Facebook
GOOGLE
https://www.ejiltalk.org/category/international-humanitarian-law
LINKEDIN

Over the coming weeks, three blogs – IntercrossEJIL:Talk!, and Lawfare – will host a joint blog symposium on International Law and Armed Conflict. The series will feature posts by some of the participants at the Fifth Annual Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict, which was held at the European University Institute in Florence in late July. As in previous years, the workshop brought together a group of academic, military, and governmental experts from both sides of the Atlantic. The roundtable, held under the Chatham House Rule, was held over two days and examined contemporary questions of international law relating to military operations.

This summer, there a particular emphasis on issues arising from the ICRC’s updated commentaries to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The publication of the updated commentaries provided an opportunity to revisit some of the core issues that relate to the obligations of parties to conflicts under Common Article1 (the obligation to respect and ensure respect), issues relating to classification of situations of violence as non-international or international armed conflicts under Common Articles 2 and 3, as well as issues relating to humanitarian access which arise under Common Article 3 and Common Articles 9/9/9/10 of the Conventions. The sessions also examined protection of the wounded and sick; cyberspace and the LOAC; and the Common Article 3 concept of non-state armed groups.

Some of those who attended the workshop have agreed to participate in a series of blog posts focusing on specific topics that were addressed during the workshop. Each blog post represents the different authors’ perspectives, and not necessarily those of anyone else at the workshop, nor any of the institutions represented.

Intercross kicked off the series yesterday with a post from Marten Zwanenburg (Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs) on “The Obligation to ‘Ensure Respect’ for IHL: The Debate Continues” (available here). Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email