Three international law blogs, Intercross, EJIL:Talk!, and Lawfare, have published a series of posts arising from the discussions at the fourth annual “Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict" held in Oxford in July 2016. The workshop brought together, a group of academic, military, and governmental experts from both sides of the Atlantic (as well as Australia) in order to examine contemporary questions of international law relating to military operations. It was organized and sponsored by the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, the Oxford Martin Programme on Human Rights for Future Generations, the Washington DC & London delegations of International Committee of the Red Cross, the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas, and the Houston College of Law.
This year’s workhop placed a particular emphasis not only on some substantive issues relating to the conduct of hostilities (such as targeting of “war sustaining” objects and the principle of proportionality), but on procedural obligations arising under the law of armed conflict. The procedural obligations discussed include the obligations of parties: to engage in review of the lawfulness of detentions in the armed conflict; to guarantee fair trials for those prosecuted for offences related to the conflict; and to investigate suspected violations of the law of armed conflict. Discussion of these procedural obligations focused on the content and scope of these obligations. The sessions also examined the extent to which these obligations apply to (and are capable of being fulfilled in) non-international armed conflicts and non-state armed groups. Inevitably, the sessions also considered the relationship between the procedural obligations imposed by international humanitarian law and those which may arise under international human rights law. To what extent should the latter inform the former?
The blog series, which is available here, focused almost exclusively on procedural obligations in the law of armed conflict and on the principle of proportionality under International Humanitarian Law. Although proportionality imposes a substantive obligation on parties not to cause damage or casualties which are excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage, arguably, the attempts to achieve conformity with this obligation tend to be effected through particular processes and procedures .