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

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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). Here is a taster:

The ICRC commentary states that the obligation also has an external dimension related to ensuring respect for the Conventions by others that are Party to a conflict. It argues that such a reading is accommodated by the broad formulation of common Article 1. This is not the strongest argument. A more convincing argument in my view is that whatever the original meaning of the provision, it is now broadly understood to include an external dimension. In this view, if indeed the original meaning of common article 1 was limited to a State’s own people, it has since been given a dynamic interpretation by the High Contracting Parties. There are several other examples of provisions of the Geneva Conventions that have been given a dynamic interpretation in this manner.

Schedule for the upcoming posts in this series:

  • ‘Common Article 3 and Linkages Between Non-State Armed Groups’- Ashley Deeks (University of Virginia Law School) –Lawfare
  • ‘ICRC Commentary of Common Article 3: Some questions relating to organized armed groups and the applicability of IHL’- Annyssa Bellal (Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights)- EJIL:Talk!
  • ‘Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict Wounded and Sick, Proportionality, and Armaments’- Geoff Corn (South Texas College of Law)- Lawfare
  • ‘Wounded and Sick and the Proportionality Assessment’- Jann Kleffner (Swedish Defence University)- 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 (co-directed by Dapo Akande), the Individualisation of War project, European University Institute, Florence (directed by Jennifer Welsh), the Washington DC & London delegations of the  International Committee of the Red Cross, 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).


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