News Archive 2011-2012

Mass Demonstrations – Hugo Slim blogs on the challenges for humanitarian action

Hugo Slim writes for the Oxford Martin School blog ThinkLONG on the growing concern within humanitarian agencies about violence in “Situations other than Armed Conflict”. He highlights the rise in mass protests against dictators, mining companies and western media, and the blurring of the line between such tensions and armed conflict - suggesting that these may require innovative new forms of rapid humanitarian response in future.

You can read the full article here:

Amos Guiora on 'Humanitarian Intervention and Geo-Politics: A Complicated Confluence'

ELAC Research Associate Professor Amos Guiora writes in e-International Relations on the reasons for US intervention in Libya, but not in Syria, questioning ' why has the Obama Administration chosen not to intervene in Syria given the sheer brutality of the Assad regime', and comments on the need for clear principles and values amid the 'complicated confluence of humanitarian intervention and geo-political considerations'.

You can read the full article here:
International Law and the Classification of Conflicts- Dapo Akande contributes to a new publication on classification and its consequences

Oxford University Press have recently published International Law and the Classification of Conflicts, edited by Elizabeth Wilmshurst (Chatham House). Dapo Akande has contributed to the book with the chapter, “Classification of Armed Conflicts: Relevant Legal Concepts“.

This provides an overview of how and why international law classifies situations of violence for the purpose of application of international humanitarian law. It examines the distinction between international and non-international armed conflicts as well as the distinction between armed conflicts and situations of violence that do not qualify as armed conflicts. The chapter examines the history of the distinction between the two categories of armed conflict, the consequences of the distinction and whether the distinction still has validity. It also discusses the meaning of the concepts of ‘international armed conflict’ and ‘non-international armed conflict’, including the legal standards by which such qualifications are to be made. Particular attention is paid to foreign intervention in non-international armed conflicts, extraterritorial hostilities by one State against a non-state armed group and conflicts in which multinational forces are engaged.

The book resulted out of a project at Chatham House led by Elizabeth Wilmhurst, which concluded with a weekend workshop hosted by ELAC. See this link for further details.

The African Union, the ICC and Universal Jurisdiction - Dapo Akande blogs on EJIL Talk!

Dapo Akande comments on EJIL:Talk! (the blog of the European Journal of International Law) on some recent African Union (AU) Assembly decisions with regard to international criminal justice, against a backdrop of the strained relationship between the AU and the International Criminal Court.

You can read the full blog post here.

The Julian Assange affair - Dapo Akande and Jennifer Welsh comment on the diplomatic controversy

Dapo Akande and Jennifer Welsh have both commented on the developing diplomatic situation following Ecuador’s controversial decision to grant political asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

In an interview with Thomson Reuters, Dapo Akande considers that any potential guarantee by Britain to block re-extradition from Sweden to the USA is unrealistic. You can read the full article here: 'Britain's best bet to handle Assange: sit and wait'. Dapo Akande also writes on the case in his recent EJIL:Talk! blog, see below.

Jennifer Welsh comments in a blog for the CIC website Open Canada, analysing the consequences of the 'veiled threat' by the UK government to ‘de-recognize’ and enter the Ecuadorean embassy to arrest Assange. You can read the full piece here: 'UK loses a ‘set’ in its match with Assange'.

The Julian Assange Affair: May the UK Terminate the Diplomatic Status of Ecuador’s Embassy?

Dapo Akande writes on the Julian Assange Affair at EJIL:Talk!, the blog of the European Journal of International Law.

He concludes that "it would not be lawful for the UK to remove the diplomatic status (with consequent loss of inviolability) of premises that are actually being used for diplomatic purposes even when those premises are being abused for other purposes. Such a removal of the status of diplomatic premises would be a dangerous precedent and one which might well backfire on the UK. To undertake such an act would set quite a distabilising precedent in international relations. This precedent would almost certainly be used by other countries." Read the full blog post here

Targeted killing's 'flexibility' doctrine - Amos Guiora questions morality in The Guardian

ELAC Research Associate Professor Amos N. Guiora writes in The Guardian 'Comment is free' online on the dangers of US redefinition of imminent threat and proportional response to allow more 'flexibility' in targeting potential threats - warning that, 'In the high-stakes world of operational counterterrorism, there is no room for imprecision and casual definitions'.

Click here for the full article: 'Targeted killing's 'flexibility' doctrine that enables US to flout the law of war', co-authored with Laurie Blank.

War and computers - Alex Leverighaus blogs on the ethics of new technology

Alexander Leveringhaus, ELAC Postdoctoral Research Fellow, blogs on the future of warfare in a new piece for the Oxford Martin School - War and computers: autonomy, responsibility and modern targeting systems'.

You can read more comment on the Oxford Martin school blog 'thinkLONG' here:

Horn of Africa Drought Crisis 2011 - Hugo Slim evaluates the international response and effects of regional conflict

Hugo Slim has recently completed a Synthesis Report of the Real Time Evaluations of the International Response to the 2011 Horn of Africa Drought Crisis for UN OCHA and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee. He presented the report's findings at a special side event at ECOSOC's meeting on humanitarian action at the UN in New York on 19 July.

The report is positive about many areas of national and international response, particularly in Ethiopia, but notes significant delays in early action and is critical of the strategies of all warring parties that led to many thousands of deaths in Somalia.

The report is available to download at:

The Council Fiddles While Damascus Burns - Jennifer Welsh blogs on the crisis in Syria

Jennifer Welsh discusses the implications of the recent stalemate in the UN Security Council over escalating Syrian conflict in her recent CIC blogs, considering that the distrust between Russia, China and the Western may signal a return to '...a phase, not unlike the decades prior to the 1990s, where the Security Council simply cannot bear the weight of the expectations placed upon it'.

With the evolving war on the ground making the actions of the Council 'increasingly irrelevant', and full-blown sectarian conflict likely, she questions whether the West, Russia, and China can put differences aside to ensure the security of the region and also the weapons of mass destruction stockpiled by the Syrian regime.

You can view the full blog postings here: The Council Fiddles While Damascus Burns and Western Diplomacy Meets Russian Intransigence.

Trial of Chadian dictator Hissene Habre - Dapo Akande comments on the implications

Dapo Akande comments on the Reuters website (USA) on the recent landmark case against Hissene Habre, former President of Chad, for political killings and systematic torture - and also the potential implications, such as difficulties in offering safe exile to former leaders as part of future peace agreements.

You can view the full article here.

The 'Responsibility to Protect' and cyber attacks- Jennifer Welsh in new Oxford Martin School webcasts

Jennifer Welsh discusses emerging challenges in modern conflict in a new series of short webcasts for the Oxford Martin School:

Is it the responsibility of individual states to prevent mass atrocities against their populations? Should the international community step in if states are unwilling to act? But who or what do we mean by the "international community"? Jennifer Welsh navigates the complexities of the R2P mandate.

You can view the webcast here.

How can a responsible 21st century state prevent or limit the possibility of cyber attack when the threats do not necessarily come from within state boundaries? Here, Jennifer Welsh draws parallels between cyber and nuclear threats.

You can view the webcast here.

Lifting the Siege: Protecting Civilians in Syria

Hugo Slim blogs on the Oxford and Cambridge forum Politics in Spires on the failure of the international community to prevent the worsening conflict in Syria, and the struggles faced by the NGO community and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in providing humanitarian assistance to the civilian population.

You can view the full article here.

Dapo Akande on BBC R4 Law in Action on secret courts, drones and international law

Dapo Akande appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme Law in Action on 5 June, presented by Joshua Rozenberg. This discussed the implications of changing international law, including the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, on the Government's foreign and military policy, and also included an interview with Sir Daniel Bethlehem, former principal legal advisor at the Foreign Office. There was also discussion on the international response to the current conflict in Syria and the legitimacy of US drone strikes.

You can view the full programme details and listen again to the programme here.

Drone wars and state secrecy - Amos Guiora comments on targeted killing

ELAC Research Associate Professor Amos N. Guiora comments in The Guardian and Observer online on the recent revelations surrounding President Barack Obama's "kill list" of terrorists and the increasing use of drone strikes for targeted killing, speaking of his concern that the criteria for selecting targets is questionable, and that the President was 'making a decision largely devoid of external review'.

You can view the full article ''Drone wars and state secrecy – how Barack Obama became a hardliner' here.

Dapo Akande writes on State Obligations to Cooperate with the ICC

Dapo Akande writes in the Journal of International Criminal Justice (Vol. 10, Issue 2, May 2012) on the whether the obligations of states in respect of which there is a United Nations Security Council referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) are the same as the cooperation obligations of states parties to the Statute.

His article argues that despite the lack of clarity in the resolutions referring the situation in Darfur and in Libya to the ICC, the better view is that the obligation imposed on Sudan and Libya to ‘cooperate fully’ with the ICC should be regarded as an obligation to cooperate in accordance with the provisions of the ICC Statute. This means that those states are entitled to benefit from those limited provisions of the ICC Statute which permit a refusal to cooperate with the Court or permit the state to postpone the execution of a request by the Court for assistance. The article also considers the interaction between the obligations of states to cooperate with the ICC and domestic proceedings against those sought for ICC prosecution. It considers the extent to which the obligation of cooperation may be suspended by an admissibility challenge and addresses whether the permission to suspend the obligation of cooperation may extend to a suspension of the obligation to surrender an accused person to the ICC.

You can view the full article on SSRN here: or

The Cost of Drones - Jennifer Welsh blogs on why military drones and liberal democracy don't mix

Jennifer Welsh participates in the Canadian International Council series on 'The Future of Fighting', discussing the increasing use of unmanned weapons, or drones, in modern warfare. Responding to the article by Dr Peter Singer on Drones Vs. Democracy, she agrees that these attacks are not 'cost free', that claims of minimal civilian casualties may be questionable, and while distancing the enemy may be advantageous for the attacking side, it risks eroding restraint and the clear distinction of a battlefield space. She also discusses targeted killing in general, and what can be argued to be permissable in liberal democracies.

You can read the full article here.

Intervention in Libya, Yes; Intervention in Syria, No: Deciphering the Obama Administration

ELAC Research Associate Professor Amos N. Guiora explores the reasons behind the US Administration's willingness to intervene in the case of conflict in Libya, but not in the recent crisis in Syria, and discusses the often controversial history of Western Intervention in the Middle East.

You can read the pdf copy of this article here, or access an electronic version here:

David Rodin on BBC World Service The Forum

Dr David Rodin appeared on the BBC World Service Programme The Forum on Sunday 20 May, as part of a panel of experts discussing the future of warfare, particularly the impact of new technology on the nature and ethics of conflict.

You can listen again to the programme here. Or visit 'The Forum' webpage here.

Competing Views on Libya’s Obligation to Surrender Saif Gaddafi to the ICC

Dapo Akande blogs on EJIL Talk! (blog of the European Journal of International Law) on the debate surrounding whether Libya is obliged to surrender Saif Gaddafi given they have asserted that the case against Saif and Al Sanussi are inadmissible because Libya’s “national judicial system is actively investigating Mr Gaddafi and Mr Al-Senussi for their alleged criminal responsibility for multiple acts . . . amounting to crimes against humanity.”

You can view the full posting here.

ELAC-MSF roundtable 'Humanitarian Negotiations Revealed'

On 9 May, ELAC Senior Research Fellow, Hugo Slim, chaired a seminar with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to discuss the significant ethical issues arising from MSF's important new book, Humanitarian Negotiations Revealed, edited by Claire Magone, Michael Neuman and Fabrice Weissman.

The seminar was the first in a new series of ethical roundtables with NGOs and humanitarian agencies that are participating in ELAC's Humanitarian Ethics Project. Claire Magone, Marc Dubois and Jeroen Jansen participated from MSF alongside others from the University of Oxford's Department of Politics and International Relations, Oxfam GB and Oxford Brookes University.

You can read the electronic version of the book online here.

ELAC publishes new policy briefing 'Operationalizing the Responsibility to Prevent'

The principle of the responsibility to protect (R2P), endorsed by heads of states and governments, has developed in recent years to help the international community respond to mass atrocity crimes and build the political will to act.

The Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict (ELAC) has been undertaking research into a key component of R2P – the challenge of prevention. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also declared 2012 ‘the year of prevention’, signalling a renewed focus on this critical area.

This briefing examines the path of escalation that leads to mass atrocity crimes and analyses the success of targeted preventive tools such as mediation, referrals to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and no-fly zones. It is being sent to policy makers, academics and NGOS, and can be downloaded here.

More information about the project is available on our website here.

A shorter version has also been produced for the Asia-Pacific Centre for R2P series 'R2P ideas in brief', see their webpage here.

Kofi Annan: Super Negotiator - Jennifer Welsh blogs on mediation efforts in Syria

As the former UN Secretary General attempts to resolve the ongoing conflict in Syria with the 'Annan Peace Plan', Jennifer Welsh reflects on his past achievements in Kenya in 2007 and considers that many of the factors that made this mediation a success are absent in Syria.

You can read the full article on the Canadian International Council (CIC) website Opencanada here.

ICC Prosecutor Decides that He Can’t Decide on the Statehood of Palestine. Is He Right?

Dapo Akande blogs on EJIL Talk! on the recent statement by the ICC Prosecutor that the decision whether Palestine should be regarded as a State (and therefore can accept ICC jurisdiction) is a matter for the United Nations, observing that 'In short, it has taken the Prosecutor over three years to decide that it is not up to him to decide the question of the statehood of Palestine', and while the decision seems reasonable and was intended to avoid political issues, it remains controversial and complex.

You can view the full posting here.

ICC Delivers Its First Judgment: The Lubanga Case and Classification of Conflicts in Situations of Occupation

Dapo Akande writes on EJIL Talk! (blog of the European Journal of International Law) on the landmark first judgement by the ICC in its 10 year history, convicting Thomas Lubanga of the war crime of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities. He also questions whether the conflict in question should have been classified only as non-international, as part was arguably international and should have been governed by the law of international armed conflicts.

You can view the full posting here.

BBC The Moral Maze - Dr David Rodin on Iran and Nuclear Weapons

Dr David Rodin appeared as a witness commentator on the BBC Radio 4 programme The Moral Maze on Weds 7 March 2012 discussing 'Iran and the Bomb'.

The other witnesses were Douglas Murray, Henry Jackson Society; Dr Mehrdad Khonsari, Sen Res. Consultant at Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies, London/former Iranian diplomat and Prof Mike Clark, Director of RUSI. The regular panellists are Michael Portillo, Matthew Taylor, Clifford Longley and Melanie Phillips, and the programme is chaired by chaired by Michael Buerk, see the BBC website here:

You can listen to the programme again here:

What a Difference a Year Makes - Jennifer Welsh compares UN action on Syria and Libya

Jennifer Welsh writes on the differences in the UN reaction to the current crisis in Syria to that seen in response to the uprising in Libya in 2011. In a feature for OpenCanada (The Canadian International Council) she compares the consensus to end the violence in Libya with the recent ' tension and discord' in the UN Security Council that saw Russia and China using their veto to block a resolution aimed at ending the conflict peacefully.

You can read the full article here.
Ethics at Davos - Dr David Rodin interviewed at The World Economic Forum

Dr David Rodin speaks at 'Hub Davos' at the recent World Economic Forum meeting on the emerging need for fundamental 'global ethics' to address pressing international problems such as conflict, climate change and financial crisis.

He also explains how ELAC works with the UK and US military on professional ethics issues, and the challenges involved in shifting their traditional values systems.

You can see the full interview on Youtube here.

Dr Rodin is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, see the previous ELAC news item. You can read more about the YGL programme here.

New ELAC Kindle publication 'Essays in Humanitarian Action' - Dr Hugo Slim

ELAC visiting fellow Hugo Slim has published a volume of essays in Kindle format. These ten essays on humanitarian action address a range of ethical and operational issues that have preoccupied humanitarian agencies in recent years. They include: essays on humanitarian values; humanitarian dilemmas; NGO legitimacy; hostile perceptions of humanitarian agencies; civil-military relations; marketing humanitarian ideals; humanitarianism and the holocaust, humanitarian innovation, and the evolution of humanitarian action.

Visit the Amazon webpage here.

Visiting Fellow Dr Hugo Slim writes for the Guardian Online on improving early warning for humanitarian action

Hugo Slim discusses the reasons why international action comes late in many cases of humanitarian disaster in his recent article for the Guardian online: 'Why east Africa's famine warning was not heeded'.

Dr Slim reasons that there are psychological and organisational reasons why this happens, both nationally and internationally - and while the global community is often guilty of inaction, the 'hesitations, conflicts and power plays' of local political elites is also a serious problem. However while too early is better than too late, international aid agencies are at least now providing a form of 'nascent global safety net'.

You can read the full article here.

Symposium on Jeff McMahan’s Killing in War - ELAC Annual Workshop papers published as a special issue of the journal Ethics

Conference papers from the first ELAC Annual Workshop on Killing in War have been published as a symposium in the latest edition of Ethics, the world's leading journal of moral philosophy.

The special issue includes articles on the morality of war by Dr David Rodin, Professor Cheney Ryan (ELAC Visiting Fellow), Dr Yitzhak Benbaji and Professor Jeff McMahan (ELAC Associate), and is guest edited by Dr Seth Lazar (ELAC Associate and former ELAC Post-Doctoral Fellow).

You can access the symposium here.

Solving Syria - Jennifer Welsh writes for Canadian blog Roundtable

Jennifer Welsh comments on the recent controversial monitoring mission in Syria by the Arab League, and questions whether regional or international organisations are best placed to help find solutions to conflict. The full article can be read here.

Reflections on R2P: Ten Years On - Serena Sharma guest edits special edition of Global Responsibility to Protect

Dr Serena Sharma is guest editor for a special edition of the journal Global Responsibility to Protect (Vol 3 No. 4, Dec 2011), looking back on the development of RtoP over the last decade, with contributions from former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Francis M. Deng (UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide), Edward C. Luck (UN Advisor on RtoP) and others. You can access the full text from:

ELAC Hosts High-Level Meeting on the Responsibility to Prevent Mass Atrocity Crimes

Professor Jennifer Welsh and Dr Serena Sharma hosted a meeting of influential policy makers, academics and NGOs in Oxford on 12 December 2011, to discuss the preventive dimension of the responsibility to protect.

Edward Luck, the United Nations Special Advisor on the Responsibility to Protect, gave the keynote address in front of an invited audience which included representatives from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence, EU European External Action Service, the Asia-Pacific Centre for R2P, the United Nations Association-UK, humanitarian organisations, and advocacy groups. Other speakers included Mr Walter Lotze from the Peace Support Operations Division, African Union, and leading authorities such as Professor Dan Saxon, Professor Mónica Serrano and Dr Ekkehard Strauss.

This event marked the final stage of a 2-year research project ‘The Responsibility to Prevent: Developing Targeted and Systemic Strategies.’ Funded by the Australian Responsibility to Protect Fund, this project focuses on operationalising the responsibility to prevent. Apart from examining the conceptual and operational challenges associated with preventive action, the project explores a number of relevant case studies, including Kenya, Libya, Macedonia, Guinea, Burundi and South East Asia. Ultimately, its aim is to contribute towards the broader implementation of RtoP by enhancing the capacity of states to prevent the commission of mass atrocities.

As part of the project, ELAC has been hosting a series of policy dialogues throughout 2011 with partner organisations in the US, UK, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. An edited volume of research papers is planned for 2013, and ELAC hopes to continue research on this important theme in the future. More information about the project is available on our website here.

Hugo Slim on the role of international NGOs in Global magazine

Dr Hugo Slim writes on the changing perception and effectiveness of international NGOs, as their global reach and budgets have grown in recent times. Despite their expertise in influencing the media, he argues that they can never match the aid of government and business, and should not present themselves as miracle workers, instead framing themselves as representatives of the citizens in need. You can read the full article here.

Visiting Fellow Hugo Slim appears on BBC Radio 4's Today programme

Dr Hugo Slim was interviewed for the Today programme for a feature on humanitarian aid, linked to the 40th anniversary of Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Dr Slim comments on the difficulties surrounding humanitarian work, impartiality, and the inevitable comprimises and choices that need to be made. You can listen to the programme again at this link.

ELAC and Defence Academy co-host MoD Working Group on the Ethics of Military Capability

The Defence Academy of the UK and ELAC will co-host a workshop ‘To consider the Ethical Component of Military Capability’ on 3 November at the Royal College of Defence Studies.

This convenes a working group of senior UK and US military officers and defence officials to discuss ethically aware military decision making in the UK armed forces and monitor its effectiveness. Dr David Rodin will be one of a select group of presenters and will speak on the ethics of military action.

ELAC participates in FCO London Conference on Cyberspace
The London Conference on Cyberspace took place on 1-2 November 2011 and was hosted by the Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs, the Rt Hon William Hague MP. Speakers included high-level Government representatives from around the world and global business.

The conference aimed to help protect and preserve the opportunities offered by the development of cyberspace. One component of this was international security - how can problems between states be prevented and managed? Dr David Rodin attended the conference and participated in this thematic area. You can view the full details of the conference here.


News from the Oxford Martin School