Weekly IHL Update

Option 1

Monday, December 8, 2014

In the News

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has the ability to prosecute violations of international humanitarian law in certain circumstances. Last week the ICC dropped charges against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was indicted for crimes against humanity related to post-election violence in 2007. The Appeals Chamber released its decision to uphold the conviction of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo for committing war crimes.

The ICC also released a preliminary report on its yearly activities, which highlights its investigations into detention and torture practices in Afghanistan—and, perhaps most notably, named the United States as a potential culprit. Although the United States is not a party to the Rome Statute, Afghanistan ratified the treaty in 2003, which gives the ICC jurisdiction over crimes committed within Afghan territory. You may also want to read the report for ICC activities in other countries, including Iraq, Honduras and Ukraine, among others.

Boko Haram carried out multiple attacks against civilians in Nigeria this past week; many were reported in the northeast provinces where the group has strong roots. And, while criticized for alleged failures in protecting civilians from terrorist attacks, the Nigerian government ended a U.S. training program intended to build capacity for the Nigerian Army to respond to Boko Haram.

After months of U.S.-led attacks on Islamic State (IS), there has been allegedly minimal territorial gain. Currents may change though, now that Iran launched several airstrikes against IS; although there is no direct collaboration between U.S. and Iranian forces. Last week, Lebanese officials announced they were detaining a wife and child of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, while Iraq’s Interior Ministry disputed this fact. DNA confirmed, however, that Saja al-Dulaimi was previously married to al-Baghdadi, which Lebanese officials may use in negotiations over the release of Lebanese security forces captured by militants.

Around the Web

Protecting Cultural Property. Sites and objects of historic and cultural importance have been attacked, destroyed, and looted throughout the conflict in Iraq and Syria, leading UNESCO to urge for “protected cultural zones.” Cultural property is protected under international law; in addition to protections contained in the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, deliberate attacks on cultural property are war crimes under the Rome Statute.

Close Call. This week the Norwegian military released a video of a highly unusual close encounter between one of its F-16s and a Russian MiG-31. The aircraft came closer than 100 feet from each other, which raised eyebrows in the wake of increased tensions between the West and Russia. Encounters (at greater distances) between Western and Russian aircraft are not unusual, however, noted Russia Today while expressing awe at the aging MiG-31 fleet.

Hypersonic Weapons on the Horizon. China tested its new hypersonic glide vehicle, the Wu-14, capable of traveling at hypersonic speeds eight or ten times the speed of sound (depending on who you ask). A U.S. report says that the Wu-14 development is a core component of China’s next generation precision strike weapons capabilities.

Domestic Courts and IHL. The ICC is not the only court that handles violations of international humanitarian law; in fact, domestic courts are supposed to hear cases on international humanitarian law issues. In a recent case in the United States, al Warafi v. Obama, the United States Circuit Court for the District of Columbia affirmed the District Court’s finding that al Warafi was not protected medical personnel under the First Geneva Convention. A post on Opinio Juris, however, reexamines the holding and contemplates whether the court fully understood the “medical personnel” provisions in international humanitarian law.

Drone Wars. Last week’s New Yorker had a tremendous article on drone warfare and its impact on civilians. The Unblinking Stare of drones can literally drive persons insane with fear from living under constant surveillance, never knowing when the drones above them will finally fire a missile. Read it!

On the Blog

Improving Your “Battleship” Skills. After directing attention to the prototype of a new laser weapon for the U.S. Navy a few weeks back, we decided to follow up with a primer on the different types of ships used in navies around the world. Don’t forget to follow that up with our overview of hospital ships!

Armed Children in Armed Conflict. Children are particularly vulnerable in armed conflict; especially the 250,000 child soldiers involved in hostilities around the world. Developments in prevention, rehabilitation, and criminal prosecution, however, may help eradicate the use of child soldiers.

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