'Law of warcraft': new approaches to generating respect for the law.


This panel was convened at 10:45 am, Friday, April 11, by its moderator, Elizabeth Stubbins Bates of the SOAS, University of London, who introduced the panelists: Vincent Bernard of the International Committee of the Red Cross Forum for Integration and Promotion of the Law; Laurie Blank of Emory University Law School; David E. Graham of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School; and Brad Gutierrez of the American Red Cross.



Good morning and welcome to the panel on '"Law of Warcraft:' New Approaches to Generating Respect for the Law." States parties to the four Geneva Conventions and numerous other international humanitarian law (IHL) instruments are obliged to disseminate IHL as widely as possible, including to the civilian population, and in particular to integrate the text of the four Geneva Conventions, and these other instruments, into programs of military instruction and training. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) commentary to these provisions sees this dual obligation--dissemination and training--as logically prior to the obligation in Common Article 1 to the four Geneva Conventions--to respect and ensure respect for the law in all circumstances.

Yet empirical evidence is lacking as to whether the dissemination which is clearly necessary is sufficient to ensure respect for IHL or--in the language of this Annual Meeting--whether it is effective. Indeed, existing efforts have proven ineffective. With this in mind, innovative methods have recently been developed using technological visual and social media, including virtual-reality training tools, revised military training, and law school clinics on IHL. These innovative methods are the subject of our panel today, and in which our four panelists are expert.

The first part of this panel concerns theoretical and conceptual questions about dissemination and the extent to which dissemination is sufficient to promote compliance with IHL. How do you identify dissemination? What is its potential, and what are its limits in terms of ensuring respect for IHL?


Dissemination in its classic form, with information leaflets, with PowerPoints, with foreign delegates telling the military to respect the law, is not sufficient. Dissemination needs to be part of a broader prevention approach, in which prevention stands for creating and maintaining an environment conducive for the respect of the law. An integrated approach is hence required, in which dissemination is a necessary prerequisite enabling dialogue.


With respect to the military, dissemination definitely speaks to training and instruction. The drafters intended that the Geneva Conventions be included in the instruction program provided to the military, and stated that this instruction should be tailored to the various ranks within the military. From the military's perspective, dissemination also extends to effective training not only in the Conventions, but--as the years have gone by--in the law of armed conflict (LOAC) as a whole.

One of the limitations inherent in the obligation to disseminate is that it is optional with respect to dissemination to the general populace. The drafters were wise enough to understand the federal state system and to appreciate the fact that a federal government could not dictate to states what they must include in their state educational curriculum. Additionally, I would note that even the most sophisticated LOAC program will not prevent all violations of the law of armed conflict. Will it help? Will it instruct? Will it make the law of armed conflict relevant to individuals on the battlefield? Absolutely. But I am certain that even...

To continue reading