Episode 19 – Sarah Holewinski on the Mitigation of Harm to Civilians in Armed Conflict

In this episode I speak with Sarah Holewinski, the Washington Director at Human Rights Watch, and formerly the Director of CIVIC (Civilians in Conflict). In between those two roles she served under then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, and as special advisor on human rights in the Chairman’s Office of the Joint Staff in the Department of Defense. We begin by discussing an essay Sarah published in Foreign Affairs in 2013, in which she argued that the U.S. could do much more to mitigate harm to civilians in the armed conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that it had ethical and strategically self-interested reasons for doing so. She revisited the issue in a very recent blog post in Just Security, in which she argued that little has changed. Drawing on her experience in the Pentagon, we explore how and why the U.S. has failed to establish either formal policy or leadership positions within DoD to ensure greater protection for civilians; as well as why there is a tendency in the military to deny any and all claims of civilian harm, and a general failure to adequately investigate such claims or accept outside evidence in support of them. Finally, we discuss a simulation that she designed which revealed a rather disturbing tendency on the part of government officials to take positions on issues that they think are expected of their role, rather than positions that they personally think are right.

Materials:

– “The Progress Not Made on Protecting Civilians,” Just Security, Feb. 2, 2021.

– “Do Less Harm,” Foreign Affairs, Jan./Feb. 2013.

Reading Recommendations:

– Hugo Slim, Killing Civilians: Method, Madness, and Morality in War (2010).

– Jessica Mathews, “Present at the Re-Creation? American Foreign Policy Must be Remade, Not Restored,” Foreign Affairs, Mar./Apr., 2021.

– The DSR Network, Deep State Radio – Podcast.

Season 2: Episode 15 – Michael Schmitt on Cyber Ops and the Laws of War

In this episode, the first of “Season 2”, I speak with Michael Schmitt, who is, among other things, Professor of International Law at the University of Reading, Francis Lieber Distinguished Scholar at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and Charles H. Stockton Distinguished Scholar at the US Naval War College.  He is also the Director of the International Group of Experts responsible for the Tallinn Manual 2.0 On the International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations. We discuss the development of the Tallinn Manual, the reasons for a 3.0 that is currently underway, and the implications and significance of recent state declarations and statements on their understanding of how the jus ad bellum and IHL regimes apply to cyber operations. We also grapple with some of the difficult issues that arise in trying to apply these legal regimes to cyber ops, and, more importantly, how efforts to do so may threaten the integrity of the legal regimes themselves. Both a wonderful introduction for the uninitiated to how the laws of war apply to cyber ops, and a fascinating discussion of some of the more knotty questions for the experts.

Materials:

Tallinn Manual 2.0 On the International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations (2017).

“Israel’s Cautious Perspective on International Law in Cyberspace: Part II (jus ad bellum and jus in bello),” EJILTalk!, Dec. 17, 2020.

“France Speaks Out on IHL and Cyber Operations: (Parts I & II),” EJILTalk!, Oct. 1, 2019.

Reading Recommendations:

– Israel Ministry of Justice, “Israel’s Perspective on Key Legal and Practical Issues Concerning the Application of International Law on Cyber Operations,” 97 International Law Studies (2021).

– Ministère des Armées, Republique Français, International Law Applied to Operations in Cyberspace, Oct. 2019.

– Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of the Netherlands, Letter to the Parliament on the International Legal Order in Cyberspace (with Annexes), Jul. 5 , 2019.

Episode 13 – Douglas Guilfoyle on the Australian Inquiry into War Crimes in Afghanistan

In this episode, I speak with Douglas Guilfoyle, Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales, Canberra, in Australia. We discuss the recent report of the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force on his investigation into war crimes – including murder and cruel treatment of civilians and detainees – alleged to have been committed by members of the Australian Special Forces deployed in Afghanistan. We discuss the impetus for the investigation, the nature of the findings and recommendations, and explore in some detail the report’s treatment of the issue of command responsibility, and its finding that no officers had sufficient knowledge of the misconduct so as to attract criminal liability. This includes a discussion of how the provisions on command responsibility in the Rome Statute were subtly but perhaps significantly adjusted when implemented in the Australian Criminal Code. This leads to the question of what influence the principle of complimentarity and possible ICC involvement may have had in shaping the government’s handling of the issues. Finally we discuss some of the structural, organizational, and cultural features of the Australian forces in Afghanistan that were said to have contributed to the unlawful conduct.

Materials:

“Australian War Crimes in Afghanistan: The Brereton Report,” EJILTalk!, Nov. 23, 2020.

– The Hon. PLG Brereton, Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force Afghanistan Inquiry Report, Oct. 29, 2020.

– Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, “The Afghan Files,” The ABC, Jul. 10, 2017.

Reading Recommendations:

– Monique Cormier, The Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court over Nationals of Non-State Parties, (2020).

– Jessie Hohmann and Daniel Joyce, eds., International Law’s Objects, (2019).

– Thomas Rid, Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare, (2020).