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2016 Bruges Colloquium on IHL – Programme and Registration

September 22, 2016

The 17th edition of the Bruges Colloquium on International Humanitarian Law will take place on 20-21 October 2016 and deal with “Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism and International Humanitarian Law”. Registration is now open (here).

In the past years, I have advertised the yearly Bruges Colloquium here at the blog and these posts always had loads of hits (mostly via search engines), because information of the colloquium has always been somewhat hard to get to. However, that is a thing of the past, as the ICRC and the College of Europe have now launched a great new (flashy) website for this jointly organised conference, which has all relevant information, including PDFs of the conference proceedings of previous editions (e.g., the following ones, which are of particular relevance for readers of the blog: Scope of application of IHL, Relevance of IHL to Non-State Actors, Improving compliance with IHL, and Armed Conflicts and Parties to Armed Conflicts under IHL: Confronting Legal Categories to Contemporary Realities)

I have sung the praise of this wonderful conference before, but will do so again for those who are learning about the colloquium for the first time. Besides the lovely location (the pretty, quaint city of Bruges), the level at the conference is great and it is attended by a good mix of academics and practitioners (ICRC, government and IGO/NGO representatives and, importantly, members of the armed forces (NATO HQ is nearby)). It always futures excellent presentations on current topics, followed by high-level discussions (both as part of the sessions, and in between, over coffee or beers), with relevant questions (no questions being asked solely for the sake of putting a question on the record; in this regard, it is should be noted that the proceedings of the colloquia reflect the discussions that follow the presentations in an anonymous manner). Also important, attending the conference is free of charge. At least, if you do not sign up for the conference dinner (which is generally held at a nice historic venue) and instead go for, for example, moules et frites and Belgian beers. It is one of my favourite reoccurring (IHL) conferences and I can recommend attending to everyone.

This year, the colloquium will deal the legal framework related to terrorism and counter-terrorism and address issues such as the status of foreign fighters, how to determine who is a party to an armed conflict, and the geographical scope of IHL. It will include speakers such as Marco Sassoli, Noam Lubell, Tristan Ferraro and Francoise Hampson. The programme will be as follows:

Day 1: Thursday, 20th October

9:00 – 9:30    Registration and Coffee
9:30 – 9:55    Welcome addresses

9:55 – 10:15  Keynote address by Christine Beerli, Vice-President of the ICRC


Session One: Setting the scene

Read more…

Legal Roundup – Jan-Sep 2016

September 22, 2016

This is the legal roundup for January-September 2016 that Rogier and I have compiled. If you think that we might have forgotten your publication, please let us know. Likewise feel free to send us details of any publications which you think should be included in the next roundup. 

International humanitarian law & international human rights law

Bannelier-Christakis, K. (2016) ‘Military Interventions against ISIL in Iraq, Syria and Libya, and the Legal Basis of Consent’, Leiden Journal of International Law, 29(3), pp. 743–775

Bartels, Rogier and Fortin, Katharine, Law, Justice and a Potential Security Gap: the Organization Requirement in International Humanitarian Law and International Criminal Law, Journal of Conflict and Security Law, 2016, 29

Egan, Brian, International Law, Legal Diplomacy, and the Counter-ISIL Campaign: Some Observations, International Legal Studies, 2016, Vol 92

Ford, Christopher, Syria: Can International Law Cope? Workshop Report, International Legal Studies, 2016, Vol 92

Fortin, Katharine, The Application of Human Rights Law to Everyday Life Under Rebel Control, Netherlands International Law Review, 2016, Vol 63, Issue 2, 161-181

Gill, Terry, Classifying the Conflict in Syria, International Legal Studies, 2016, Vol 92

Koutroulis, V. (2016) ‘The Fight Against the Islamic State and Jus in Bello’, Leiden Journal of International Law, 29(3), pp. 827–852.

Kuyang Harriet Logo Mulukwat, , Challenges of Regulating Non-International Armed Conflicts – an Examination of Ongoing Trends in South Sudan’s Civil War, Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies 6 (2015) 414-442

Melzer, Nils, ICRC Handbook on IHL, 2016

Murray, Daragh, Wilmshurst, Elizabeth, Hampson, Francoise, Lubell, Noam and Akande, Dapo, Practitioner’s Guide to Human Rights Law in Armed Conflict, Oxford University Press, 2016

Murray, Daragh, Human Rights Obligations of Non-State Armed Groups Human Rights Oblgations of Non-State Armed Groups, Bloomsbury, 2016

Ohlin, Jens David, Theoretical Boundaries of Armed Conflict and Human Rights, CUP, 2016

Sampaio, Alexandre Andrade and McEvoy, Matthew, Little Weapons of War: Reasons for and Consequences of Treating Child Soldiers as Victims, Netherlands International Law Review, April 2016, Volume 63, Issue 1, 51-73

Scholdan, Bettina, “The End Of Active Hostilities:” The Obligation To Release Conflict Internees Under International Law, 38, Houston Journal of International Law, 2016

Shereshevsky, Yahli, ‘Politics by Other Means: The Battle over the Classification of Assymetrical Conflicts’ 49(2) (2016) Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, pp. 455-498

Solis, Gary D. The Law of Armed Conflict, 2nd Edition, CUP, 2016

Watkin, Kenneth, Fighting at the Legal Boundaries: Controlling the Use of Force in Contemporary Conflict, Oxford University Press, 2016

Willmot, Haidi,  Mamiya, Ralph,  Sheeran, Scott and Weller, Marc, Protection of Civilians, Oxford University Press, 2016

Ad bellum

De Hoogh, André, Restrictivist Reasoning on the Ratione Personae Dimension of Armed Attacks in the Post 9/11 World, Leiden Journal of International Law, 2016, Vol 29, Issue 1, 19-42

Steenberghe van, Raphaël, Law of Self-Defence and the New Argumentative Landscape on the Expansionists’ Side, Leiden Journal of International Law, 2016, Volume 29Issue 1, 43-65

Tsagourias, N. (2016) ‘Self-Defence against Non-state Actors: The Interaction between Self-Defence as a Primary Rule and Self-Defence as a Secondary Rule’, Leiden Journal of International Law, 29(3), pp. 801–825


Nieuwenhuizen, Maarten, S. and Meulenbelt, Stephanie, E., Non-State Actors’ Pursuit of CBRN weapons: From Motivation to Potential Humanitarian Consequences, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 899, 2016

International criminal law

Brammertz, Serge and Jarvis, Michelle eds., Prosecuting Conflict-Related Sexual Violence at the ICTY, Oxford Unviersity Press, 2016

Clark, Janine Natalya, The First Rape Conviction at the ICC: An Analysis of the Bemba Judgment, Journal of International Criminal Justice, Vol 14, Issue 3, July 2016, 667-688

Provost René, Accountability for International Crimes within Insurgent Groups. SSRN.

Rodenhauser, Tilman, Squaring the Circle: Prosecuting Sexual Violence against Child Soldiers by their Own Forces,  Journal of International Criminal Justice, Vol 14. Issue 1 (March 2016) 171-194

Van Schaak, Beth, Mapping War Crimes in Syria, International Legal Studies, 2016, Vol 92

Foreign fighters

De Guttry, Andrea, Capone, Francesca and Paulussen, Christophe, Foreign Fighters under International Law and Beyond, Asser Press, 2016

Zwanenburg, Marten, Foreign Terrorist Fighters in Syria: Challenges of the “Sending” State, International Legal Studies, 2016, Vol 92






New article: Classification of the Conflict in Syria

September 13, 2016

This article by Professor Terry Gill ‘Classifying the Conflict in Syria‘ in the International Law Studies journal examines the classification of the current armed conflict in Syria under international humanitarian law. The article first sets out the factual background identifying the principal parties and their alignments and motivations. It then proceeds to examine the question of classification of conflict under international humanitarian law and discusses the contentious issue of the effect of lack of consent by the government of a State in relation to foreign intervention in an ongoing non-international armed conflict when such intervention is directed against one or more armed groups operating from within that State’s territory. Here, Professor Gill sets out why in his view an intervention directed exclusively against an OAG, which does not target the territorial State’s organs or “national assets”, remains, in principle, a NIAC (assuming the requisite intensity and organizational criteria are satisfied), notwithstanding the lack of consent by the territorial State. The article then proceeds to apply these factual and legal considerations to the complicated situation in Syria and identifies the parallel armed conflicts underway in Syria and their classification and sets out arguments as to why classification matters.


Two new vacancies at Geneva Call: Training Coordinator and Thematic Adviser

August 12, 2016

There are two interesting new vacancies at Geneva Call: training coordinator and thematic adviser.

The Training Coordinator will contribute to the implementation of Geneva Call’s operational strategy by providing training and pedagogical support. She/he will adapt and further develop training/dissemination material on issues related to international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL), manage Geneva Call’s pool of trainers and ensure the quality of trainings delivered to target audiences. She/he will also develop internal policies and guidelines.The Training Coordinator will work within the Policy and Legal Unit of Geneva Call and report to its Director.

The Thematic Adviser will contribute to the implementation of Geneva Call’s operational strategy by providing thematic and legal expertise on issues related to international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL). In particular, she/he will contribute to the development of new thematic areas of engagement with ANSAs for Geneva Call (forced displacement and the protection of the medical mission). She/he will also contribute to the development of Geneva Call’s community based protection approach, support internal capacity-building and knowledge management and represent Geneva Call in relevant expert meetings. The Thematic Legal Adviser will work within the Policy and Legal Unit of Geneva Call and report to its Director.

Please click here and for details on the positions.

New article: The application of human rights law to everyday life under rebel control

August 10, 2016

My article on The Application of Human Rights Law to Everyday Life under Rebel Control has recently been published by the Netherlands International Law Review and is available via open access. In the article, I draw upon social science literature to offer a new assessment of the normative value of human rights law visàvis international humanitarian law in territory under armed groups’ control. The research presented in the article has emerged out of research conducted for a larger study on armed groups and human rights law that will be published by Oxford University Press in 2017.

In the article, I explore the notion of ‘governance‘  in political science literature, demonstrating that armed groups engage in governance activities more than lawyers often acknowledge. I demonstrate that governance activities by armed groups engage in law enforcement activities in a manner that is much more nuanced than is often noted in legal literature. I also argue that while legal literature tends to present law enforcement activities and territorial control in binary terms (i.e. armed groups are either State-like or non-State-like, territory is either controlled by the State or the armed group, law enforcement activities are either provided by the State or the armed group), research from political scientists shows us that the provision of law enforcement activities by armed groups is a complex phenomenon that is hard to categorise in absolute terms. Political science literature repeatedly demonstrates that governance structures in areas under rebel control are often more complex than it is often thought, with input from, and alliances between, multiple players including armed groups, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), religious leaders and the State.

I also present  the idea that ‘everyday life‘ continues in conflict zones, more often than it was once thought. Indeed, it is increasingly noted in research emerging from political sciences and anthropology that the experience of everyday life in times of armed conflict has been all too often excluded from empirical research. Instead, there has been a general tendency for an analysis of non-international armed conflicts to be conducted in a top-down manner, focusing mainly on the identification of the parties and their motivations. As a result, the dominant accounts of armed conflict have tended to focus on how individuals living in their midst cope with violence as victims. In order to redress this balance, a growing body of researchers have taken what has been termed a ‘micropolitical’ approach to armed conflict, which focuses on the social dynamics of daily life.  A micropolitical approach concentrates on how individuals and groups utilise formal and informal power structures in order to achieve their goals within organisations. The research that has emerged from this bottom-up approach has radically challenged dominant narratives of armed conflict and adjusted the image of the individual’s role within it. One of the key observations emerging from micropolitical studies is the idea that individuals retain a large degree of agency in the midst of armed conflict.

Taking these two ideas as my starting point, I consider how international humanitarian law and human rights law can be applied in a complementary manner to regulate the everyday life of civilians who are not involved in hostilities. I argue that that while it might be tempting to imagine that concerns relating to rights such as the freedom of movement, the right to work or protection from common crime are completely displaced by considerations of physical security and survival in times of armed conflict, in reality this is often not the case. I also argue that the nexus test which has been developed in the context of jurisdiction decisions in international criminal law can provide helpful guidance on where the parameters of international humanitarian law vis-a-vis human rights law should be drawn.

Footnotes found in the original article.

Violence against Women: Call for Submissions

July 1, 2016

This is not specifically on armed groups, but probably of interest to some of the readers of this blog focusing on armed conflict and sexual violence.

The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Dubravka Šimonović took up function as Special Rapporteur on 1 August 2015 and intends to, inter alia, focus on the legal and policy frameworks of her mandate and the international human rights mechanisms to discuss the gap in incorporating and implementing the international and regional standards related to violence against women.

The Special Rapporteur considers that the discussion on the adequacy of the international legal framework on violence against women initiated by the former mandate holder should continue and she wishes to secure views from different stakeholders, including States, National Human Rights Institutions, Non-governmental organizations, as well as members of academia.

Taking into consideration the important role that different stakeholders play in reinforcing universal human rights standards, she would be very interested to receive input and views on the following questions:

  1. Do you consider that there is a need for a separate legally binding treaty on violence against women with its separate monitoring body?
  2. Do you consider that there is an incorporation gap of the international or regional human rights norms and standards?
  3. Do you believe that there is a lack of implementation of the international and regional legislation into the domestic law?
  4. Do you think that there is a fragmentation of policies and legislation to address gender-based violence?
  5. Could you also provide your views on measures needed to address this normative and implementation gap and to accelerate prevention and elimination of violence against women?

All submissions should be sent by 1 October 2016 to

Open for comment: ICC OTP’s Draft Policy on Children

June 29, 2016

Last week, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”), Mrs Fatou Bensouda, published a draft Policy on Children for comment. The Policy once finalised and adopted, will help guide the Office of the Prosecutor (“Office”) in its efforts to address international crimes under the Rome Statute against or affecting children, as well as the Office’s interaction with children during the course of its work.

In highlighting the importance of the Policy, Prosecutor Bensouda stated: “when I assumed the role of Prosecutor in June 2012, one of the principal goals I set for the Office was to ensure that we pay particular attention not only to ‘children with arms’, but also ‘children affected by arms.’ This Policy demonstrates our firm commitment to closing the impunity gap for crimes against or affecting children, and adopting a child-sensitive approach in all aspects of our work bearing in mind their rights and best interests. It is also our hope that the Policy, once adopted, will serve as a useful guide to national authorities in their efforts to address crimes against children.”

The draft Policy is based on the Rome Statute and other regulatory instruments of the Court, as well as applicable treaties, principles and rules of international law. It also draws on the experience of the Office; its existing good practices and lessons learned, as well as relevant international jurisprudence.

The ICC OTP has said that it welcomes and encourages comments on the draft Policy. Comments can be sent to the following email address: until Friday, 5 August 2016.

Following consideration of the comments received and any appropriate amendments to the draft, the final version of the policy will be officially launched in November 2016.