New Oxford Forum for International Humanitarian Law Compliance

Elizabeth Stubbins Bates, an early career Fellow at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, has been awarded £4,500 from the University's knowledge exchange seed fund to establish the Oxford Forum for International Humanitarian Law Compliance

The Oxford Forum for International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Compliance is a series of workshops at which states will share their practice on IHL’s procedural norms of implementation and enforcement, and hear research findings from scholars working on the same norms. With seed funding, the first workshop will involve a dialogue on best practice on the obligation to train the armed forces in IHL, and lead to a collaborative rubric for other states subsequently to share their practice on the same obligation, to be submitted to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for future, global use.

At each proposed workshop (to be held in Oxford at approximately six-monthly intervals), three to five states would share their practice in detail on one particular procedural norm in IHL, and would hear empirical findings and scholarly debate on that particular norm. For the first workshop the focus would be on IHL dissemination and military instruction. In the second, the role of legal advisers to the armed forces would be considered; in the third, command responsibility inter alia to prevent, suppress and report grave breaches of IHL in international armed conflict; in the fourth, the criminalisation and enforcement of the grave breaches regime (and its shortcomings, as it applies only in international armed conflict); in the fifth the review of new weapons in terms of IHL compliance; and in the sixth, the neglect of IHL’s existing monitoring tools, such as the rarely used International Humanitarian Law Fact-Finding Commission, and the never-used provision to call a meeting of states on particular matters of concern with IHL compliance.

There will be a collaborative outcome document from each workshop, with the aim of securing a detailed reporting tool so that states which are not participating in the Oxford Forum will have the opportunity to share their practice in these IHL norms of implementation and enforcement. The goal would be to move the diplomatic conversation on IHL beyond mere platitudes and assertions that states implement it correctly; and to use research findings and states’ own experiences to inform more detailed queries as to how these norms are implemented.