Continuing the Dialogue on the Law of Armed Conflict

Katherine Thompson - 07 October 2013

We welcome back Faculty of Law Professor Joanna Harrington, who was one of several Canadians invited to participate at an invitation-only workshop on current issues of international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict held at Duke University's School of Law in Durham, North Carolina, USA.

Co-hosted by the Center on Law, Ethics & National Security at Duke University and the Regional Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in partnership with the American Red Cross and the Canadian Red Cross, the workshop brought together former and current American and Canadian military law advisors, including the Judge Advocate General for the Canadian Forces, and Canadian and American legal academics, to discuss current legal issues arising in the application of the law of armed conflict and international humanitarian law.

Inspired by allegations of an accountability gap for wrongs committed during peacekeeping and coalition missions, and by the recent Dutch litigation concerning state responsibility for the acts of a Dutch battalion in Srebrenica as well as the spreading of cholera by foreign troops assisting with post-earthquake efforts in Haiti, Harrington spoke on the "The Accountability and Responsibility of International Organizations," examining the legal situation that arises as between the UN and troop-contributing countries. "The debate arising by calls for greater accountability is similar to efforts to pierce the corporate veil in domestic law, with international legal organizations, such as the UN and NATO, having a legal personality separate from their member states." Harrington also acknowledged that: "The knowledge gained from these non-for-attribution discussions with lawyers working in the field, whether as civilian or military personnel, as well as the cross-border perspective from bringing Canadians and Americans together, is invaluable to both research and teaching. It also informs my classroom discussions and serves to inspire a variety of really interesting real-life operational topics for students to work on as independent research papers."

Harrington's participation continues a partnership that was formalized back in May 2012 when the University of Alberta's Faculty of Law became the first Canadian law school to co-host a "Teaching International Humanitarian Law" workshop with the ICRC and the Canadian Red Cross. For past coverage of the Canadian workshop, see here.