CfP: Humanitarian Technologies and Genocide Prevention GSP

Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal (GSP) is preparing a special issue on Humanitarian Technologies and Genocide Prevention. We would like to invite you to contribute to this issue either through submitting manuscripts or serving as peer reviewers.

This special issue will focus on the latest developments in mapping, citizen-based monitoring, crisis mapping, crowdsourcing, conflict analysis, e-humanities, network analysis, simulation modeling, social media and news analysis, and related fields and their potential use in preventing genocide. We are interested in articles that critically examine both the potential benefits and draw backs of these new technologies.

Specific details can be found in the call for papers and call for reviewers.

CfP: Lieber Society Richard R. Baxter Military Writing Prize

ASIL’s Lieber Society on the Law of Armed Conflict annually recognizes a paper that significantly enhances the understanding and implementation of the law of war. The prize is given for exceptional writing in English by an active member of the regular or reserve armed forces, regardless of nationality. For details, click here.

Book Reviews Sought – International Review of the Red Cross

The International Review of the Red Cross recently launched a new book reviews section. Short reviews of 1,500-2,000 words on new/recent books on the laws of war, humanitarian action, international justice, or related topics are sought. Those interested in reviewing a particular book or authors interested in having their book reviewed should contact Jamie Williamson

CfP: War, Memory, and Gender: An Interdisciplinary Conference

Location: Mobile, Alabama
Conference Date: March 27-29, 2014
Deadline for Proposals: October 15, 2013

The past several decades have seen an explosion of scholarly interest in
the subject of war and gender. At the same time, the study of collective or
cultural memory, especially in connection with armed conflict, has become a
veritable cottage industry. This conference seeks to bring these two areas
of intensive study into dialogue with each other, exploring the complex
ways in which gender shapes war memory and war memory shapes gender.
Comprised of a select number of presentations (so that all participants
will be able to hear every paper), together with a keynote address by
Professor Jennifer Haytock (SUNY-Brockport) and a panel discussion
featuring women military veterans, the conference will address multiple
conflicts and nationalities from the perspectives of multiple disciplines. Continue reading


There were certainly some scepticisms and challenges of
ideas, which highlighted the open nature of the group and a willingness to
confront and debate. Karen Engle, who presented the public lecture entitled ‘From
the UN Security Council to Charlize Theron: “Getting Cross” about Sexual
Violence in War’, raised a few eyebrows. She criticised the UN, in particular
the Security Council, for emphasising the ‘shame’ brought to victims of rape
and other sexual violence in armed conflict. However, when asked about the fact
that in many societies, women are ostracised for being raped, and how Engle
would approach the issue, Engle did not have an answer. Thus, she presented a
criticism, but no solution. A related theme in some other presentations was
that of the ‘feti$hisation’ of sexual violence victims in armed conflict; how
this issue is overshadowing other concerns of women who have experienced armed
conflict, and being a key factor in NGO funding. This approach is one of the
concerns I have with feminism at times, where it seems to an extent that they
are shooting themselves in the foot. Women’s rights activists, professionals,
and academics have fought for years for recognition of the scale of sexual
violence against women in armed conflict (and Felicity Hill of WILPF spoke of
the fight by rights groups for SC Res 1325 on women in peacekeeping and peace
processes). Yet when this recognition is achieved, it is criticised. We should
be embracing the fact that organisations such as the UN, including through the
Security Council, are bringing up sexual violence in armed conflict on a
regular basis, and acknowledging the negative outcomes of such violence,
including the ostracisation and shaming of many victims. Di Otto found an
effective balance for this problem: pointing out the dilemmas created through
both the positive outcomes but also the dangers of what feminist activism has
achieved in international peace and security, including Heathcote’s scrutiny of
women victims as a validation for use of force.[1]
There is also a need to remember that men are also victims of sexual violence
in armed conflict, and for this particular kind of violence to be addressed; a
point that was emphasised by Chloe Lewis (University of Oxford).[2]

Another feminist contradiction that threaded its way through
the symposium was that of same vs different. This contradiction is the argument
that, on the one hand, women are the same as men, but on the other hand we
should celebrate our differences and what makes us women. This arose during the
symposium with the issue of women’s participation in peacekeeping missions and
in the peace process. One camp is of the opinion that women’s participation
makes a difference because of the different perspective that women bring, an
alternative way of dealing with situations- more conciliatory, tending more
towards arbitration than aggression as a first reaction. This is in contrast to
the idea that women in the military should not be perceived any differently to
men; that they can undertake the same tasks and achieve the same results; and
that just because someone in a military uniform is a woman, she should not be
viewed as weaker or as someone who won’t take militaristic action. Both sides
have valid arguments, and in reality, we should apply both. The Female
Engagement Teams (FETs) that LTCOL Penny Cumming of the ADF spoke about have
achieved results that male teams were previously not able to achieve, e.g.
obtain more information about male concerns that Afghani men did not feel
comfortable discussing with other men. The all-female CivPol units that Lesley
Pruitt (Victoria University, Aust.) spoke of have been perceived by the public
to be strong women, leaders, and the presence of female police officers have
encouraged more women to enlist in the local police force. Such successes
highlight the importance of women’s immersion in conflict and post-conflict
situations.  This is despite the
continued reluctance of the military to embrace women, and the sexual and other
harassment and abuse experienced by women in the military, as demonstrated by
the difficulties and abuse faced by women in the military (Kathryn Spurling,
ANU; Olivera Simic, Griffith University).

The practical engagement of women’s groups in the
Asia-Pacific region was considered by Sharon Bhagwan Rolls (femLINKPACIFIC,
Co-chair Pacific Regional Working Group on Women, Peace and Security) and by
the plenary speaker, Hilary Charlesworth. Bhagwan Rolls talked about Fiji and
Papua New Guinea, while Charlesworth revealed the inner workings of women in
the peace process in Timor Leste. Such engagement highlighted the foremost
concern of the symposium- the practicalities and realities faced by women in
post-conflict situations in being heard in the peace, reconciliation and
rebuilding processes.

Accountability of peacekeepers for criminal offences
including sexual exploitation and abuse has been an issue of much discussion
within the UN, NGOs, and amongst academics, over the past decade. The UN has
been trying to jump the hurdles of ensuring disciplinary action is taken,
fighting ‘boys will boys’ mentality and the lack of regulation and disciplinary
capabilities within the UN and sending states. The complex laws of peacekeeping
operations were tackled by Helen Durham (Australian Red Cross),[3]
who gave an overview of Status of Forces Agreements (SOFAs), and Memoranda of
Understanding (MoUs).[4]
Roisin Burke addressed the issue of state responsibility for human rights
violations by peacekeepers.[5]
The fact that sending states are granted exclusive jurisdiction over their own
military and police personnel was mentioned, as was the lack of action taken by
states, but there was no analysis of whether or not states have the legislative
capabilities to actually do so. However, this is an omission that will be
included in the publication that will arise from the symposium.

Overall, the symposium reinforced the importance of gender in
peacekeeping and peace building, whether through policing, the military, peace
negotiations, or in any other capacity. Nor is gender is just about women. The
importance of engaging women in all aspects of peace processes is relevant for
women and men, boys and girls, across all ages, races, ethnicities, and

[1] G. Heathcote, ‘Feminist Politics and the Use of Force: Theorising Feminist
Action and Security Council Resolution 1325’, 7 Socio-legal Review (2011)
. See Otto’s article D. Otto, ‘Power and danger: Feminist engagement with International Law
through the UN Security Council’, 32 Australian
Feminist Law Journal
(2010) 97-121

[2] See
also S. Sivakumaran, ‘Sexual violence against men in armed conflict’, 18 (2) European Journal of International Law
(2007) 253-276

[3] B. Oswald, H. Durham and A. Bates, Documents
on the Law of UN Peace Operations
, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010)

[4] For
more on these laws, see M. O’Brien, ‘The Ascension of Blue Beret Accountability: International
Criminal Court Command and Superior Responsibility in Peace Operations ‘, 15
(3) Journal of Conflict and Security Law
(2010) 533-555
Deen-Racsmany, ‘The Amended UN Model Memorandum of Understanding: A New
Incentive for States to Discipline and Prosecute Military Members of National
Peacekeeping Contingents?’, 16 (2) Journal
of Conflict and Security Law
(2011) 321-355

[5] R. Burke, ‘Attribution of Responsibility: Sexual Abuse and Exploitation,
and Effective Control of Blue Helmets’, 16 Journal
of International Peacekeeping
(2012) 1-46
. See also this author’s piece
M. O’Brien, ‘State Responsibility for Sexual Exploitation and Abuse as
Human Rights Violations by Peacekeepers’, in A.P. Foley (ed.), Ethics, Evil, Law and the State: State Power
and Political Evil
Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2011), 17-28

Salaried doctoral candidate in International Humanitarian Law

Call for applications for a 4 year salaried Doctoral position in international humanitarian law at Lund University, Sweden, focusing on ‘The Impact of Military Training Practices on Targeting Law’.
Salaried doctoral candidate in International Humanitarian Law
Starting 1 September, applications are invited for a salaried doctoral position in public international law within the framework of a project on ‘The Impact of Military Training Practices on Targeting Law’. The project is financed by a grant of the Ragnar Söderberg Foundation. In the Nordic context, the Faculty of Law hosts one of the most dynamic research environments in international law, with a large group of researchers exploring the interaction of theory and empiry in this field. Continue reading

Most popular posts since July 2008

Since July 2008, this blog has been viewed over 98,276 times. I think this is a good opportunity to celebrate. In order to do so, I have listed the most popular blog articles, in terms of the number of views since July 2008. This is the Top 10 (number of views in brackets):

  1. Manipulating and measuring the political spectrum part 1: Obama and the flip flops (4619): In this post, Nick Li provided his own analysis of whether Obama had really moved to the centre on various issues, as was often suggested.
  2. Calvin & Hobbes on International Law (2513): In this post, Otto Spijkers provides an example of the lessons international lawyers can learn from comic books, especially Calvin & Hobbes.
  3. Understanding Bokito, the gorilla that escaped and attacked a woman (2290): In this post, Otto Spijkers tried to explain why a gorilla escaped from his cage in Blijdorp Zoo (Netherlands), and immediately attacked a woman that visited him on an almost daily basis in the Zoo.
  4. In Manipulating and measuring the political spectrum part 2: Political Rankings and Compasses (2266), Nick looked in greater detail at how one can actually measure the political spectrum. He looked at what constituted the ‘centre’ in US politics, and how these things were measured by the likes of the National Journal, which ranked Obama as the most liberal Senator in 2007.
  5. Political Economy of Myanmar/Burma Part 2 – what can the international community do? (1765): In this post, Nick Li assessed the steps the international community could take to alleviate the suffering of the Burmese people. He looked at the possibility of military intervention, economic sanctions, and engagement.
  6. New Online Journal: The Göttingen Journal of International Law (1553): In this post, Tobias Thienel wrote about the publication of the first issue in history of a brand new, exciting online journal: the Göttingen Journal of International Law (GoJIL). The GoJIL is the first student-run German international law review. Tobias himself was actively involved in setting up this journal: one of the articles in the first journal was written by him, and he is a member of the journal’s Scientific Advisory Board.
  7. Why the internship at UN Headquarters should be (un)paid (1549): In this post, Otto Spijkers listed all the reasons brought forward to defend the position that the UN interns should get paid for the duration of their internship. The comments to this article have slowly evolved into what can only be called an Unofficial United Nations Internship Programme Discussion Group, where various issues relating to the application process are discussed by a number of future interns.
  8. Acts of Dutchbat must be attributed to the United Nations and not to the Netherlands (1108): This post is about a number of cases before the Dutch District Court relating to the responsibility of the Netherlands for the failure of Dutch peacekeepers in Srebrenica in the early nineties.
  9. The problem with MONUC (1102): In this post, Richard Norman looks critically at the achievements and failures of UN’s largest peacekeeping mission, MONUC, which is based in the Congo.
  10. Update on Australia’s refugee policy (1034): In this post, Mel O’Brien looked critically at recent changes in Australia’s refugee policy. After looking in great detail at a speech by Chris Evans, Australia’s federal Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Mel concluded that ‘it seems the government is really planning a complete overhaul of the immigration system to render it fair and treat asylum seekers with the dignity they deserve.’

I calculated the number of hits in the morning of 25 March 2009. The blog articles that were written before July 2008 have been published once again on this new blog, but they actually first appeared on our previous blog ( which is no longer available. Unfortunately I thus cannot take into account the number of views of those posts as originally published. The posts that appeared on United Nations, Global Values, and the Individual and The Core, our previous blog efforts, are also not taken into account. They are still available on the original blogs.

The International Law and Armed Conflict Symposium

I attended three panels, the first of which was my own panel on accountability, which was chaired by Prof. Bill Bowring of Birkbeck College, UCL in the UK. There were three papers presented, which at first glance seemed to have little in common. They addressed IHL and justice in the Colombian armed conflict (Prof. Rafael Prieto Sanjuan from the Poltifical University Javeriana in Colombia), the Draft Convention on the Criminal Accountability of UN Officials and Experts on Mission (my own paper), and whether criminal accountability or civil liability is a more effective approach for redressing environmental consequences of armed conflict (Tara Smith of the Centre for Human Rights, University of Galway, Ireland). However, Prof. Bowring brought these together by noting how the issue of accountability can be problematic in many different areas of IHL, with immunity and impunity remaining pervasive in different fields. He pointed out that each of the papers demonstrated the existence of idealistic law making, which is in stark contrast to the political reality and the application of such laws. This could be seen in the difficulty experienced in Colombia in implementing laws in accordance with the Rome Statute of the ICC and that state’s efforts to ensure accountability for violations of IHL during its ongoing armed conflict; the problems within the UN and its member states of ensuring accountability for all categories of peacekeeping personnel for crimes committed whilst engaged in a peace support operation; and the lack of action taken over history for environmental crimes committed in armed conflicts such as in Vietnam (the defoliation of forests using chemical agents) and Iraq (the burning of oil fields).

The second panel I attended was on implementation and weapons. The papers were all starkly different in their subject material. One took an overall introduction to international criminal justice. Unfortunately, this paper was very basic, and did not particularly offer up a challenging discussion among the participants. Another paper addressed the impact of the US military commissions on the development of IHL. This paper was particularly interesting, and it is a shame there was not more time to develop the points made by Dr. Poretto from the University of Western Sydney in Australia. Dr. Poretto questioned the weight that should be given to decisions made by first instance military judges in relation to the development of IHL internationally, determining instead that such a judgement does not have the importance of (for example) a judgement on appeal to the Supreme Court. The third paper in the panel was delivered by Bonnie Docherty of Harvard Law School, who is an expert in cluster munitions. through her work with Human Rights Watch She was involved in the drafting of the recently adopted convention on cluster munitions, and gave a very informative presentation on the convention, including its unique and breakthrough aspects such as the requirement for sending states to provide assistance to victims of cluster munitions.

The final panel I attended was on peace, security and justice, and considered a couple of very relevant and topical issues: the relationship between the ICC and truth commissions (Madalena Pampalk, University of Vienna, Austria), and Article 16 of the Rome Statute in relation to Uganda (Yassin M’Boge, Queens University Belfast, UK). Both papers enabled discussion about controversial aspects of the Rome Statute and the potential challenges for application of provisions that have not yet been applied by the Court- or the Security Council. Ms M’Boge emphasised that justice and peace do not have to be mutually exclusive, and that the involvement of the ICC in the Ugandan situation does not mean that peace cannot occur. Ms Pampalk looked at the examples of truth commissions in Sierra Leone and Timor Leste in order to analyse the potential of the ICC to work with truth commissions, and what potential agreements such bodies could make, such as the sharing of information.

Aside from the scholarly stimulation, the Symposium was a surprisingly social event too. The emphasis on participation by early career academics and PhD candidates meant that there was no real separation of groups of people at the social events, and thus there was a very positive and communal sentiment amongst the symposium attendees. The dinner was enjoyed by all, with a number of attendees staying quite some time at the bar afterwards!

The only downside of the Symposium turned out to be the no-shows of previously scheduled experts Nigel White and Nico Shrijver, but it was a minor disappointment in a very enjoyable and interesting Symposium. We look forward to the next one!