law of armed conflict

2017 December

Is it lawful to destroy the enemy?

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“A dead terrorist can’t cause any harm to Britain,” said the Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson in a Daily Mail interview in December 2017. “I do not believe that any terrorist, whether they come from this country or any other, should ever be allowed back into this country,” he continued. “We should do everything we can do to destroy and eliminate that threat.” Mr Williamson’s comments sparked widespread consternation in the UK press, having been condemned as contrary to international law. In this post, published on Lawfire, Michael Schmitt and I examine whether this really is the case.

2017 October

Was the drone strike on IS recruiter Sally Jones lawful?

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Sally Jones, a British member of Islamic State (IS), was reportedly killed by a US drone strike in June 2017 inside Syria. Her 12-year-old son, JoJo, is believed to have been killed alongside her. In news reports about the strike, which has come to light only recently, there has been confusion about the legal framework governing the operation. An article in the Guardian assessed its legality in light of the rules governing the use of force, which determine under what circumstances states may use force in international relations. However, whether or not Jones and her son were lawful targets depends on an entirely different body of law, known as the law of armed conflict – or international humanitarian law – which regulates the conduct of hostilities once an armed conflict has come into existence. In this post, I briefly consider what the law of armed conflict has to say about the strike.

2016 November

EX Trident Juncture 16

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Trident Juncture 16 was my fifth exercise with the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC). This year, the ARRC returned to RAF St Mawgan, just outside of Newquay in Cornwall. The purpose of the exercise was to evaluate NATO Joint Force Command HQ in Naples before it assumes the role of the headquarters for NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) in 2017. The exercise was also designed to certify that the ARRC is ready to assume the role of the Land Component Command of the VJTF next year.

2016 September

EJIL:Talk post on Reprieve, ‘Kill Lists’ and Human Rights Advocacy

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Earlier this year, human rights charity Reprieve published a report entitled ‘Britain’s Kill List. In its report, Reprieve claims to reveal shocking proof that exposes the involvement of the British Government in a global assassination project. In particular, Reprieve alleges that the British Government has been complicit in preparing and executing a ‘kill list’ for

2016 January

Human Rights in Armed Conflict: Law, Practice, Policy

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Gerd Oberleitner, Human Rights in Armed Conflict: Law, Practice, Policy (Cambridge University Press, 2015, 431 + xx pp, £109.99) ISBN 9781107087545, Hardback. Today, it is widely recognised that human rights continue to apply in times of war. However, the implications of this principle remain contested. The international community is deeply divided about the proper role of

2015 December

Lawfare post on ‘Targeting ISIL Oil Transport Trucks’

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In this comment, I offer some thoughts in response to Butch Bracknell’s recent post on the targeting of ISIL oil transport trucks by the US in eastern Syria. As has been reported in the New York Times, the aircraft carrying out these strikes have issued advance warnings to persuade the drivers to abandon their vehicles before the attacks commenced. Bracknell accepts that a number of policy reasons militate in favour of issuing advance warnings in the present case. However, he suggests that such warnings were not in fact required by the law of armed conflict.It is useful to revisit this assessment, partly because the legal and policy consideration seem to be more closely aligned than Bracknell’s conclusion suggests and partly because the case brings to light some interesting aspects of legal inter-operability.

2015 October

Hybrid Warfare: Legal Challenges and Solutions

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The subject of hybrid warfare – a strategy which blends conventional and irregular means of warfare – has attracted considerable attention in recent years. While the concept and its practical implications remain the subject of debate, it is clear that legal considerations and arguments play an important element of hybrid conflict. However, so far the legal aspects of hybrid warfare have received only limited attention. To address this gap, I had the pleasure of convening an expert workshop at the Strategy and Security Institute of the University of Exetetr in collaboration with the NATO Office of Legal Affairs and the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps. The workshop brought together senior legal advisors and experts from across the UK and NATO in an effort to deepen our understanding of the subject and set the direction for future work. I intend to take forward some of this work in the context of a research project on the legal aspects of hybrid warfare.