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

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In late July, a group of academic, military, and governmental experts from both sides of the Atlantic gathered at the University of Oxford for the fourth annual “Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict”. The roundtable, held under the Chatham House Rule, and which this year included participants from Australia was held over two days and examined contemporary questions of international law relating to military operations.

This year’s event placed a particular emphasis not only on some substantive issues relating to the conduct of hostilities (such as targeting of “war sustaining” objects and the principle of proportionality), but on procedural obligations arising under the law of armed conflict. The procedural obligations discussed include the obligations of parties: to engage in review of the lawfulness of detentions in the armed conflict; to guarantee fair trials for those prosecuted for offences related to the conflict; and to investigate suspected violations of the law of armed conflict. Discussion of these procedural obligations focused on the content and scope of these obligations. The sessions also examined the extent to which these obligations apply to (and are capable of being fulfilled in) non-international armed conflicts and non-state armed groups. Inevitably, the sessions also considered the relationship between the procedural obligations imposed by international humanitarian law and those which may arise under international human rights law. To what extent should the latter inform the former?

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. Three blogs, Intercross, EJIL:Talk!, and Lawfare, are coordinating the series, and will host the posts, outlined below. Each blog post represent’s the different authors’ perspectives, and not necessarily those of anyone else at the workshop, nor any of the institutions represented. The blogposts focus almost exclusively on procedural obligations in the law of armed conflict. In addition, there will be a post on the principle of proportionality under IHL. Although proportionality imposes a substantive obligation on parties not to cause damage or casualties which are excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage, arguably, the attempts to achieve conformity with this obligation tend to be effected through particular processes and procedures .

Schedule of blog posts:

  • “Fair Trial Guarantees in Armed Conflict”- Nehal Bhuta (European University Institute) – EJIL: Talk!
  • “Fair Trial Guarantees in Armed Conflict” – Monica Hakimi (University of Michigan) – Lawfare
  • Chris Jenks, “Coalition Operations & the Obligation to Investigate IHL Violations” (Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law) –  Intercross
  • “The Obligation to Investigate Violations of International Humanitarian Law” – Ian Park (Royal Navy) – EJIL: Talk!
  • “Procedural Guarantees in Detention” – Rachel E. VanLandingham (Southwestern Law School) – Lawfare
  • “Procedural Guarantees in Detention”- Lawrence Hill-Cawthorne (University of Reading) –  EJIL:Talk!
  • “Proportionality”- Janina Dill (London School of Economics) – Intercross

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). 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 directed by me), the Washington DC & London delegations of International Committee of the Red Cross, the Houston 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).



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Jordan says

September 21, 2016

The first two should be interesting in view of the patent primacy of human rights obligations under UN Charter, articles 55(c), 56, and 103 over inconsistent law of war treaties -- which they should address. Additionally, Charter-based human rights obligations are expressly "universal" and without contextual limitations. Some human rights also obviously have primacy as jus cogens over any inconsistent non-jus cogens. As noted in several writings, there is no lex specialis law of war override of human rights law and certainly there is no such override of UN Charter obligations or jus cogens.

Ezéchiel Amani says

September 21, 2016

Very interesting. I'll be particularly happy to read the articles on the obligation to investigate Violations of International Humanitarian Law.
I remain waiting

Jordan says

September 21, 2016

Ezechiel: I'm from the US and we're all waiting (e.g., for the US to effectuate GC art. 146 and the customary duty aut dedere aut judicare re quite reasonably accused members of the former US administration).