International Humanitarian Law

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The Dutch Prosecution’s Opening Statement in the MH-17 Trial: What Lies Beyond the Horizon?

On 9 March 2020, the Dutch Prosecution made its opening statement in the much anticipated MH-17 Trial, dealing with the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17 over eastern Ukraine and the deaths of its 298 passengers. In doing so, the Prosecutor Ward Ferdinandusse shed light on some of the legal questions that arose when it was first announced, nearly a year earlier, that the four accused would be charged with “domestic” crimes under the Dutch Criminal Code (DCC), namely: (i) causing the crash of an airplane (Article 168 DCC), and (ii) murder (Article 289 DCC). The lack of war crimes charges naturally raised a few eyebrows, with some media reports viewing it as a strategic choice by the Prosecution, meant to “avoid unnecessary debates” on complex legal questions stemming from the field of international humanitarian law (IHL). This contribution offers some critical thoughts on the legal reasoning that the Prosecutor provided in his opening statement to underpin that choice and thus flags several concerns over the projected course of…

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The Duties of Occupying Powers in Relation to the Fight against Covid-19

Significant scholarship is investigating the array of international legal issues pertaining to the fight against Covid-19. This brief post aims at contributing to this debate by assessing the obligations upon occupying powers in this regard. Many sources have been reported that Covid-19 has reached occupied areas such as the OPT (e.g., here) and Northern…

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Reviewing Legal Weapons Reviews: is it possible to verify compliance?

Debates about the legal and ethical implications of new weapons are often based on hypotheticals because information about ongoing research and development is scarce. For instance, discussions about the legality of autonomous weapons systems (AWS) and meaningful human control are taking place (e.g. here, here, here, here, and here) while we are still…

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Hacking Humanitarians? IHL and the protection of humanitarian organizations against cyber operations

For some years, experts have cautioned that the more humanitarian organizations collect data, the more they ‘are exposed to a growing wave of digital attacks and cyber espionage, and have become highly prized targets’. In late January 2020, the issue made headlines: The New Humanitarian reported a ‘sophisticated’ cyber operation…

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(Not) Investigating Kunduz and (Not) Judging in Strasbourg? Extraterritoriality, Attribution and the Duty to Investigate

  A 2009 airstrike near Kunduz, Afghanistan, that led to more than 100 casualties and was ordered by a German colonel will be the subject of oral arguments in the Grand Chamber (GC) of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case of Hanan v. Germany, tomorrow, 26 February 2020. On 4 September…

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