This research project (led by Dr Elizabeth Stubbins Bates) is at the intersection of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, where the two co-apply in international or non-international armed conflict. Its premise is the relative lack of monitoring and enforcement mechanisms for international humanitarian law, where domestic prosecutions or litigation under international human rights law might fill the gap. Its research questions consider how and to what extent states are willing to investigate violations of international law in armed conflict, and how accurately international legal concepts are understood by governments and domestic courts. Further, it asks if states might prefer to emphasise policies to prevent future violations of international law in armed conflict (including reforms to military training in international humanitarian law) while neglecting their investigatory obligations.
The first article for this project, published in 2019 by the International and Comparative Law Quarterly, focuses on the United Kingdom's investigations into alleged torture and inhuman or degrading treatment in Iraq. This article finds that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) closed many hundreds of these investigations on the assertion that the allegations of ill-treatment were 'less serious' or at a 'lower' or 'middle' range of severity. These terms usually appeared without reference to international law, and are once defined with reference to the English criminal law of assault, so that investigations were closed if the alleged treatment resulted in less than grievous bodily harm. This approach is conceptually underinclusive, and fails to grasp substantive and procedural obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law. This article has been cited in the Joint Alterrnative Civil Society Report to the UN Committee against Torture on the UK's 6th periodic report, and was briefly quoted in the Concluding Observations of the Committee in May 2019. It was also cited in NGO communications to the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor in relation to the latter's preliminary examination of possible war crimes committed by the UK in Iraq. Further work on the same dataset examines the MOD's closure of investigations on grounds of 'proportionality'; a term which is prima facie inapplicable to the positive investigatory obligations in Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
A second article, on the British Army's Training in International Humanitarian Law, has been published by the Journal of Conflict and Security Law. This combines archival research with documentary analysis of training materials obtained by Freedom of Information request. The article finds that historically, implementation of the IHL training obligation was delayed; and that absent or perfunctory training correlated with patterns of torture and ill-treatment in British military detention from the 1950s to the 2000s. From 2012-2017, however, there were comprehensive reforms to the British Army's IHL training, following the Report of the Baha Mousa Public Inquiry, into the death of an Iraqi civilian in British military custody. Current training comprehensively implements the 71 recommendations of the Baha Mousa Public Inquiry which the MOD accepted. Yet there is no norm-by-norm evaluation of soldiers' and officers' understanding of the training materials; some IHL and IHRL prohibitions are under-emphasised or absent; and training reforms have been cited (without justification) as one reason to close pending investigations into alleged violations of international law in Iraq.