At this year’s World Summit on Counter-Terrorism—Sept. 11-14, 2017, in Herzliya, Israel—INSCT will convene its 10th New Battlefields/Old Laws (NBOL) workshop. One of INSCT’s signature projects, NBOL has grown since 2007 into a wide-ranging series of workshops and publications that reexamine the application of centuries-old customs and laws of armed conflict in the age of asymmetric warfare.
Co-chaired by INSCT Director William C. Banks, the theme of this year’s New Battlefields/Old Laws 10th Anniversary Workshop is “Crisis Management in Times of Transition.” It will be a key event at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism’s (ICT) World Summit, one of the world’s largest and most influential national and international security events. ICT’s Senior Researcher and Head of its International Humanitarian Law Desk Dr. Daphné Richemond-Barak will co-chair the workshop. Discussants will be Dr. Amnon Cavari, Assistant Professor, Lauder School of Government, Interdisciplinary Center, Herzilya, Israel; Dr. Katja Samuel, Co-Chair of Disaster Law, American Society of International Law; and Dr. Dana Wolf, Senior Researcher, ICT.
Says Banks, “In September 2017, I look forward to both a celebration and a compelling workshop in Herzliya, Israel, as NBOL continues to illuminate a path for legal scholars navigating the complex laws of armed conflict.”
NBOL began with an inaugural symposium in Washington, DC—hosted by NPR’s Robert Siegel—to commemorate the 100th anniversary of The Hague Convention of 1907. International legal scholars agreed that after 100 years, a re-examination of the laws of armed conflict and of international humanitarian law was a pressing requirement. Numerous modern conflicts—in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and elsewhere—underscore the shortcomings of international law’s response to asymmetric warfare. This term refers to conflicts in which the standing, regular army of a nation state is pitted against insurgent, irregular combatants, who often don’t wear uniforms, blend in with civilian communities, use terror tactics, and don’t recognize international treaties.
The insurgent, terrorist tendencies of modern insurgents present significant strategic and tactical challenges for states and citizens. Neither The Hague Rules of 1907—the “customary laws of war”—nor post-1949 laws of armed conflict and accompanying international humanitarian laws account for non-state groups waging prolonged asymmetric campaigns within civilian populations and across international borders. Nation states lack guidance in shaping the parameters of their response and are often left with little choice but to respond in ways that inflict heavy civilian casualties. The result is that a defending state is often criticized for violating norms that do not accommodate the asymmetric conflict.
To address these shortcoming, over the past decade NBOL has addressed such sub-topics as counterinsurgency operations; foreign terrorist fighters; “legal triggers” of war on new battlefields; how the customary laws are “operationalized” on modern battlefields; and the duties of states engaged in conflict with non-state actors.
Numerous international and human rights thought-leaders have served as discussants over the years, including renowned human rights scholar Boaz Ganor; military law expert Geoffrey Corn; Anton Camen of the International Committee of the Red Cross; national security scholars Laurie Blank and Jennifer Daskal; and David Scharia, Senior Legal Officer of the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate. In addition, scholarship arising from the workshops has led to two books, both edited by Banks: New Battlefields/Old Laws: Critical Debates from the Hague Convention to Asymmetric Warfare (Columbia, 2011) and Counterinsurgency Law: New Directions in Asymmetric Warfare (Oxford, 2013).
This year, NBOL will examine how the laws of armed conflict and humanitarian law impacts peace time crises. “The battlefield has grown geographically broader in recent years, with conflicts spilling over national boundaries. At the same time, the distinction between peace and war has eroded. Terrorism, in particular, features in both peace and war under quite similar forms,” explains Banks. “Moreover, national security crises, public health emergencies, natural disasters, and financial crises are becoming conflict trigger issues not that different from those encountered in times of war. This workshop will look at the reasons for this change, the extent of crisis management by various actors, and the crises’ local and global repercussions. Questions of authority, legitimacy, and decision-making in times of governmental transitions also will be examined.”