NEWPORT, R.I. – Approximately 20 international law experts and practitioners from around the globe came together for the Geography of War in Armed Conflict workshop at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC), May 7-8.
Hosted by the NWC’s International Law Department (ILD), the workshop was organized to explore the legal issues surrounding where a nation-state may conduct hostilities when it is engaged in an armed conflict with a non-state actor, such as an international terrorist group.
“Modern day conflicts have stretched the boundaries and interpretations of international law regarding a state’s use of force and also the law governing the conduct of hostilities,” said ILD faculty and director of the workshop Army Maj. Matt Hover. “The United Nations Charter and the Geneva Conventions of 1949 did not contemplate a nation-state being in an armed conflict with a globally-based non-state actor such as
al-Qaida. This has created varying legal opinions on whether the United States is able to carry the conflict outside of Afghanistan, and if so, what law applies.”
According to Hover, other questions regarding state sovereignty and whether the legal regime governing hostilities changes when non-state actors operate out of non-belligerent states were discussed at the workshop.
The workshop was attended by international law scholars from Harvard, Columbia, and Georgetown universities; legal advisors from the Department of Defense, Department of State, the Central Intelligence Agency, the office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Department of the Navy, the Israeli Defense Forces and the Royal Australian Navy; and legal advisors from the International Committee of the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch.
“The workshop was very productive,” said Hover. “The topics we discussed are not of the type that can be resolved in a two-day workshop, but we reached consensus on areas of the law which have evolved through state practice in the past decade, and we also identified key areas which require further development and research.”
A report to inform various government agencies and shape key international decision makers will be published by NWC’s ILD that will include what was discussed as well as research articles written by many of the workshop participants.
“This workshop supports NWC’s mission of helping the chief of naval operations define the future roles and missions of the Navy,” said ILD Chairman Mike Schmitt. “The U.S. is engaged in armed conflicts with a number of international armed groups operating out of territorial waters, safe havens or uncontrolled territories. The workshop was instrumental in helping us bring certainty to the legal issues of when and where we, together with our allies, can conduct combat operations.”
Posted by Alyssa Menard