Mélange du Mercredi/The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law

Welcome to Mélange du Mercredi (Wednesday Mix). Each week, we highlight one of the latest and greatest in reading, film and other scholarly resources, focusing on a variety of issues pertaining to international humanitarian law. As always, if you have suggestions, or would like to submit a post on something you feel our readers will also enjoy, we're happy to include them. Just email Editor Niki Clark



The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law by Françoise Bouchet-Saulnier

This review was written by Dirk Salomons, Director of the Humanitarian Policy Track at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. His review was originally published in The International Review: 
Scope of the Law in Armed Conflict.


It is astonishing how much those of us who live in reasonably functional communities take for granted. Looking out of my office window upon the brownstones in a leafy New York City neighbourhood, I feel confident that my peace and security are guaranteed. In the unlikely case that a shootout below me should shatter that peace, I only have to call 911 and a reliable scenario will unfold: police cars, ambulances and possibly a curious journalist will appear in no time. The police will secure the street and go after the perpetrators of the violence, the ambulance crews will pick up the casualties, impartial to their role in the conflict, and the media will begin to speculate on the root causes of the event. At some point, a prosecutor will gather information from the police, a trial will be held, the perpetrators will be given their day in court, and the local jail will provide room and board. The media will cover it all. I can safely go back to my desk. 

Where rule of law prevails, we know that the State has the monopoly of force, that the judiciary is fair and effective, and that the penitentiary system is functional. The media are the public’s watchful eye. If only we could feel as secure when it comes to violence in the international arena: violence between States, or violence within States or regions where the rule of law has lost is bearings. What do we have at the international level to mirror those State institutions that we rely on domestically? What legal framework shields us from lawlessness in international armed conflicts? Does international law, in other words, ensure that the necessary triad for global security is in place: a strong and neutral international armed force to protect civilians, a powerful international judiciary, and an effective international structure to provide humanitarian aid?

To download the full review, click here