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The Law of War in the Age of Terror

Chair: Professor Fred Halliday, LSE
Moderator: Mr Robin Lustig, BBC Radio
May 2002

Following 11th of September 2001 and the ensuing 'war on terrorism' many of us had to reassess values, rules, notions of right and wrong and of group belonging- that had been long held for granted. Not since the end of the 'cold war' has this reassessment been so compelling. After the 11th of September, the future changed... or did it not....

The Centre for the Study of Human Rights at LSE, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and BBC World Service radio, have jointly organised a symposium to debate some of the crucial areas of concern regarding this kind of war. The symposium will be divided into two panel sessions:

Panel one: In a World of Rules and Terror

Panellists: Dr Katerina Dalacoura; Louise Doswald-Beck; Col. Terence Taylor

In the aftermath of the events of September 11th, a 'war on terror' was launched. A new kind of war. So new that old rules regulating war, which have evolved since the late XIXth century, were said to be outdated and perhaps even a hindrance to the continued safety of populations...

The main focus of such debates are the four Geneva Conventions, presently endorsed by 189 States.

Each of the four Conventions- dealing in turn with wounded on the battlefield, war at sea, prisoners of war and civilians - was born of terrible experience such as the Holocaust and World War II. In 1977, as a result of changing conflictual environments, two Additional Protocols were added - one dealing with forms and limits in the context of international conflict, the other with internal conflicts.

The proposed panel, open to questions and comments from the floor, will debate whether these rules, conceived to contain acts of violence by armed groups, are still relevant in the present international environment and what could become of them in the years to come? Similarly, what would be the consequences to each individual should old rules be dropped and new rules adopted instead? Are new rules actually conceivable and would they necessarily be better than the old ones?

Download full text of Panel 1 discussion: The Law of War in the Age of Terror (PDF)

Panel two: Quiet diplomacy or front page news?

Panellists: Marion Haroff-Tavel; Kenneth Roth; Kevin Clements

The denouncing of a person, or group, often aims to find justice for the victims of a violation of Human Rights' or Humanitarian Law. Information and access to information have been hailed as tools for the making of a better world since information assists public awareness and some claim that public awareness, not quiet behind the scenes diplomacy, gets things done. This seems particularly obvious as the international community prepares itself to formally endorse the setting up of the International Criminal Court.

But is it possible that 'shaming' has limits? Can the practice be in fact detrimental to those it seeks to help? One organisation, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) persists in sticking to its 'confidential' way of doing things and believes that sometimes, quiet diplomacy and friendly persuasion can do more for vulnerable people than banner headlines. To back its case, the ICRC points out that it is the only organisation able to penetrate, regularly, prisons and detention camps around the world.

The purpose of this panel is to explore, with questions and comments from the floor, the limits, strengths, handicaps and conditions of work geared towards the protection of victims. In the age of omnipresent and massive information boulevards, could it be right, sometimes, not to inform?

Download full text of panel 2 discussion: Quiet Diplomacy or Front Page Headlines (PDF)

Kevin Clements - Secretary General of International Alert. Prior to this he was the Vernon and Minnie Lynch Chair of Conflict Resolution at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University Fairfax Virginia USA 1994-2000 and Director of the Institute from 1994-1999. His career has been a combination of academic analysis and practice in the areas of peace-building and conflict transformation. He was formerly Director of the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva and Head of the Peace Research Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra. Prior to this he was Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Co-ordinator of Peace Studies at Canterbury University, Christchurch New Zealand. He has been an advisor to the New Zealand, Australian and British governments on conflict resolution, nuclear disarmament, and regional defence and security issues.  He was President of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) from 1994-1998 and President of the IPRA Foundation from 1995-2000 and past Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Peace Research Association. Dr Clements is also on the Board of the European Centre for Conflict Prevention and President of the European Peace Building Liaison Office in Brussels.


Katerina Dalacoura - lecturer in International Relations at LSE. She is an expert in human rights, international relations theory, focusing particular on the Middle East. Last year she took part in major panel debates at LSE with, among others, James Rubin, Ben Bradshaw MP, Anton le Guardia of the Daily Telegraph, and The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland.


Louise Doswald-Beck - secretary-general of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) since March 2001, responsible for recommending policies and planning the programmes of the ICJ, and ensuring their implementation. Previously a lecturer in Law at University College, London and an author of numerous works, she joined the ICRC, Geneva, in 1987 as head of the Legal Division, with lead responsibility for the development of ICRC's policy directions regarding international humanitarian law, human rights law, disarmament and arms control law. During her time there, she was instrumental in lobbying for the creation of the International Criminal Court, through the negotiation of the Rome Statute and in particular, the drafting of the Elements of Crimes and the Rules of Procedure. She has worked hard for the adoption of various instruments of international humanitarian law, including the Ottawa treaty banning anti-personnel landmines and a pre-emptive treaty banning blinding laser weapons.


Fred Halliday - Professor of International Relations at LSE. An expert in great power relations, international relations theory and founding director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at LSE, his most recent book, Two Hours That Shook the World (Saqi, 2001), describes the many socio-cultural, religious and political problems that have plagued the Middle East and Central Asia in the last half-century. He is a frequent broadcaster and commentator for national media such as The Observer newspaper.


Marion Harroff-Tavel - deputy director of International Law and Communication, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) since 2000. Previously she was political adviser to the ICRC directorate, and head of the Division for Promotion of International Humanitarian Law, after joining the ICRC as a jurist in 1977. She studied political science at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva and has a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Medford, USA. She is also author of several articles in the International Review of the Red Cross, l'Annuaire Suisse-Tiers Monde, Relations internationales, and International Affairs, Moscow.


Kenneth Roth - executive director of Human Rights Watch since 1993, previously deputy director from 1987-93. HRW is the largest US-based international human rights organisation. It investigates, reports on, and seeks to curb human rights abuses in some 70 countries. Under his directorship, it has nearly tripled in size, while greatly expanding its geographic reach, and adding special projects devoted to refugees, children's rights, academic freedom, international justice, AIDS, gay and lesbian rights, and the human rights responsibilities of multinational corporations. Previously, he was a federal prosecutor for the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and the Iran-Contra investigation in Washington. He has written extensively in publications such as the New York Times and appeared often in the major media, as well as testifying repeatedly before the US Congress. A graduate of Yale Law School and Brown University, he was drawn to the human rights cause in part by his father's experience fleeing Nazi Germany in 1938.


Terence Taylor - president and executive director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies - US (IISS-US). Also assistant director of the IISS in London. He is one of the Institute's leading experts on issues associated with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and their means of delivery. Previously he was one of the commissioners to the UN Special Commission on Iraq, for which he also conducted missions as a chief inspector, and also a Research Fellow on the Science Program at the Center for International Security and Co-operation at Stanford University. He has also carried out consultancy work for the International Committee of the Red Cross. Prior to joining IISS, he worked at UN Headquarters in the Department for Disarmament Affairs and earlier for the UK Ministry of Defence, as a member of the UK negotiating team for Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conferences, the Chemical Weapons Convention and also a member of joint US/UK inspection teams in Russia. Among other publications, he has edited, and substantially written, five editions of the IISS's The Military Balance from 1995 to 2000 (Oxford University Press).