Saturday 30th – 31st January sees the annual IBA War Crimes Conference on International Criminal Law: “Legal Challenges of Modern Warfare” taking place at the Peace Palace, The Hague, the Netherlands. Bringing together over 300 legal experts from around the world the weekend aims to examine and review current situations of global significance and assess the legal implications.

Lewis Power QC, Officer to the War Crimes Committee of the IBA and a senior member of the criminal and international & offshore teams at 7BR Chambers will chair the session on Peace keepers responsibilities and liabilities in conflict zones.

Speaking with Lewis ahead of his trip to The Hague he outlines the purpose of the session and its importance for today’s society:

In the 21st century, civilians have increasingly become the victims of armed conflict. In response, the UN Security Council has mandated a number of Peacekeeping operations for the Protection of Civilians (POC) from physical violence. This session aims to review the contemporary issues in [UN} peacekeeping operations and international law.  Central to the theme are the Use of Force, International Criminal Law and Accountability and we will also explore UNSC Resolutions in terms of both application and responsibility.

The session is interwoven with the others occurring over the weekend, all of heightened importance with the relevance and complexity of military operations occurring today. Interventions such as Kosovo were hugely challenging for the international community, explicitly retaining moral and legal superiority and preventing the conflict from escalating.

Kosovo remains high on the international agenda. Most recently, the decision by Kosovo Authorities to hear cases in the Courts of Den Hague.

The unintended consequences of ordering a military intervention can be far reaching and dramatic.  Today, the international community faces the challenges and calls for intervention in Syria.

We need only remind ourselves of the history of UN Peacekeeping as to lending towards reactive rather than proactive measures, and thus without a cogent and strong legal framework to guide it, this has brought with it significant problems.

Indeed, as the UN General Assembly opened with the celebration of its 70th birthday last September 2015, the argument raged on as to successes and failures, from Srebrenica, Rwanda and Somalia on one hand as argued failures to Sierra Leone, and Burundi as argued success stories.  Peacekeepers have a responsibility for protecting civilians and when force does need to be used, they must both operate under their rules of engagement but also within the ambit of the rule of law.

It brings to mind the wisdom of Ban Ki-Moon (Secretary General of the UN) when he famously said:

“The U.N.’s impartiality allows it to negotiate and operate in some of the toughest places in the world. And time and again, studies have shown that U.N. peacekeeping is far more effective and done with far less money than what any government can do on its own”.

The question begs: Is there a place for the UN Peacekeeping Forces in the modern world? From the empirical evidence, the answer must be, yes.

Lewis Power QC
Officer to War Crimes Committee
7BR Chambers



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