2015 Joint Series: The Application of IHL by National Courts

In the third installment of our Transatlantic Dialogue Series, Dr. Lawrence Hill-Cawthorne discusses how national courts are applying International Humanitarian Law.  Dr. Hill-Cawthorne is a Graduate Teaching Assistant in Public International Law for the Law Faculty. He is also in the final year of his DPhil, for which he is writing a thesis on "International Law and the Procedural Regulation of Internment in Non-International Armed Conflict". The views expressed in his article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the ICRC or the other blogs taking part in this series. 

Here's a taste:

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It is well known that in an order such as international law where there is no universal, compulsory judicial system, domestic courts play an important role not only in enforcement, but also in interpretation and development of particular international legal rules. This is especially the case in international humanitarian law (IHL), an area that constantly faces existential critique for its lack of effective enforcement mechanisms. Moreover, it was only in the 1990s with the emergence of modern international criminal justice that many of the specific rules of IHL came to be interpreted and developed since their codification several decades before. Against this background, domestic courts are increasingly called on to apply and interpret IHL.

The purpose of this post is to offer a brief overview of the circumstances that might lead a domestic court to examine IHL, the extent to which such jurisprudence can be considered as contributing to the development of IHL, and some of the problems that arise here.

Read his full post on the blog of the European Journal of International Law - EJIL: Talk!.

Other posts in this series:

  1. Introduction to the 3rd Annual Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict
  2. Direct participation in hostilities: what are the issues and where are the controversies? - Professor Marco Sassoli, University of Geneva
  3. Querying the Roles for Human Rights Bodies in the Interplay between International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law - Professor Joanna Harrington, University of Albert Law School, September 10 on Lawfare
  4. The Development of International Humanitarian Law by International Criminal Courts and Tribunals - Professor Sandesh Sivakumaran, University of Nottingham, September 17 on Intercross
  5. Application of IHL by National Courts - Professor Jeff Kahn, Southern Methodist University, September 22 on Lawfare
  6. Humanitarian Relief Operations: Professor Dapo Akande, University of Oxford & Emanuela Gillard, United Nations,  September 24 on EJIL:Talk!