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PHAP online expert briefing on the end of armed conflict under IHL

February 4, 2016

Two years ago, I wrote on Opinio Juris (Part 1 and 2) and here on the blog about the end of non-international armed conflicts (NIACs). How do you determine when NIACs end? IHL is rather unclear as to its temporal scope of application for NIACs. Whilst there is – by now – extensive case law and a lot written on when a NIAC, and thus the application of IHL to it, starts, the case law is very limited when it comes to the end of such armed conflicts. Initially, there was nothing on this topic. Since these blog posts, my piece in this book, Marko Milanovic’s excellent article in the International Review of the Red Cross, and Julia Grignon’s equally excellent book (in French), have all discussed the end of the application of IHL applicable to NIACs, but there is not much out there. In its latest report on IHL and the challenges of contemporary armed conflicts, prepared in advance of the 2015 International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, the ICRC’s said the following:

In the ICRC’s practical experience, the cessation of all hostilities between the parties to the conflict and the absence of a real risk of their resumption – based on an overall assessment of the surrounding factual circumstances – have proven to provide the strongest and most reliable indicators that a NIAC has ended. The ICRC’s practice has thus been to wait for the complete cessation of hostilities between the parties to a NIAC before assessing, based on the surrounding factual circumstances, whether there is a real risk of resumption of hostilities. If there is no such risk, the conclusion is drawn that the NIAC at issue has come to an end.

Given the limited academic attention so far, the current project by the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (PILAC) on the “end” of armed conflicts is very welcome. On 23 February 2016, Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP) organises an online expert briefing about this project. Those familiar with Lauterpacht’s famous quote on IHL will – like I did – smile when seeing the very appropriate title:

International law at the vanishing point of war

PHAP announces the briefing as follows:

In December 2014, President Obama said that the United States “combat mission in Afghanistan is ending, and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.” Yet over a year later hostilities continue. What are the stakes for humanitarian organizations in the ongoing application—or not—of international humanitarian law (IHL) in Afghanistan and in other contemporary armed conflicts? Does international law provide sufficient guidance for humanitarians and other battlefield actors to discern when today’s armed conflicts end? At this PHAP online IHL expert briefing, Naz Modirzadeh and Dustin Lewis, of the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (PILAC), will discuss initial PILAC research on the “end” of armed conflict under IHL. Among the issues they will explore are:

What are the IHL criteria pertaining to the end of armed conflict?

Who benefits, and who is disadvantaged, from a presumption of the continued application of IHL—both its more permissive and its more restrictive elements?

What is at stake for humanitarian actors, for the parties to the conflict, and for affected civilian populations?

I am looking forward to this very interesting event!

 

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