International law at the vanishing point of war

Ongoing course
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In December 2014, President Obama said that the United States “combat mission in Afghanistan is ending, and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.” Yet over a year later hostilities continue. What are the stakes for humanitarian organizations in the ongoing application—or not—of international humanitarian law (IHL) in Afghanistan and in other contemporary armed conflicts? Does international law provide sufficient guidance for humanitarians and other battlefield actors to discern when today’s armed conflicts end? At this PHAP online IHL expert briefing, Naz Modirzadeh and Dustin Lewis, of the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (PILAC), discusses initial PILAC research on the “end” of armed conflict under IHL. Among the issues they explore are:

  • What are the IHL criteria pertaining to the end of armed conflict?
  • Who benefits, and who is disadvantaged, from a presumption of the continued application of IHL—both its more permissive and its more restrictive elements?
  • What is at stake for humanitarian actors, for the parties to the conflict, and for affected civilian populations?

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