International Law Articles

The Challenge of Protecting Civilian Health in War

By David P. Fidler
, , Feature

For human health, war is hell. Armed conflicts kill, injure and traumatize people; wreck health infrastructure and services; and expose populations to diseases. Powerful ideas and beliefs inform the responses to health crises spawned by war, but they are challenged by the realities in armed conflict. These challenges do not negate the imperative to protect health during armed conflict, but they reveal complexities in the war-health relationship that deserve exploration.


Safeguarding Cultural Heritage in Times of War

By Craig Forrest
, , Feature

How far have we come in protecting cultural heritage from the devastating effects of war? Over the past century, surprisingly far, and at the same time not quite far enough. International law to protect cultural heritage has developed reactively, responding to conflict and destruction after the fact in the hope that it will not be repeated. An understanding of this law, its strengths and its shortcomings, requires its contextualization within the conflicts of the past century. more

International Law Solutions Fall Short for Israelis, Palestinians in Gaza Conflict

By Lolita Brayman
, , Briefing

As the death toll in Gaza rises, legal definitions of what is permissible in war have been bitterly contested. International law defines war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute, but in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the classifications are difficult to apply. Through the grey areas of international law, both sides have found new ways to blame each other. more

Migrant or Refugee? U.N. Joins Tense U.S. Immigration Debate

By Eric Auner
, , Trend Lines

The rapid influx of migrants from Central America, many of them children, into the United States from Mexico has created political and logistical turmoil in Washington. The United Nations and others have pushed for the United States to treat at least some of these children as refugees, given that many are fleeing violence and deprivation back home. That could have a major impact on U.S. immigration policy. more

Global Insider

Spain’s Exclaves Prove to Be Security Boon as Well as Risk

By The Editors
, , Trend Lines

Spanish police have recently begun to crack down on Islamist militants in its exclaves Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa. In an email interview, Gerry O’Reilly, senior lecturer in geography and international affairs at St Patrick’s College, Dublin City University, discussed Spanish policy toward both autonomous territories. more

With Sound Policy and New Discourse, Migrants’ Conditions Can Be Improved

The international labor migration system is rife with the type of exploitation and abuse the New York Times recently exposed at New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus—not just in the Middle East but in many parts of the world. Far too often, people suffer extreme conditions and risk their lives to secure work abroad, usually to support siblings, children and parents back home. It doesn’t have to be this way. more

Debate Over ‘Targeted Killings’ About More Than Just Terminology

By Matt Peterson
, , Trend Lines

Last week’s confirmation process for David Barron, a former Obama administration lawyer nominated to the federal judiciary, reopened a debate about what has come to be known as the U.S. “targeted killing” program. Differing interpretations of the terminology at the heart of the debate speak to broader questions about the future of the American war on terror. more

Global Insights

West Joins China, Russia to Promote Nuke-Free Central Asia

By Richard Weitz
, , Column

At a ceremony on the margins of last week’s Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty meeting, France, the U.K. and the U.S. reversed their long-standing opposition and joined China and Russia in signing the protocol to the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Agreement. The signing demonstrates that even in moments of great power tensions, nuclear nonproliferation remains an issue of consensus and cooperation. more

Putting Environmental Crimes on the Defense and Security Agenda

Environmental crimes, such as illegal fishing, logging and poaching, are no longer just a conservation and biodiversity problem. They have significant consequences for countries’ development aspirations, in addition to global security implications. With growing awareness of this dynamic, governments around the world are taking action. But they need to sharpen their approach to fighting environmental criminals. more

China, Russia Resume Push for Content Restrictions in Cyberspace

By Eric Sterner
, , Briefing

China and Russia have launched a global campaign to regulate content on the Internet that, if successful, would slowly destroy cyberspace as a means of self-expression and unregulated speech. The Russian and Chinese governments already heavily regulate the Internet at home, but they increasingly seek to use international forums, organizations and rules to apply their domestic censorship practices globally. more

U.S. Struggles to Build Coherent Response to Ugandan Anti-Gay Law

By Matt Peterson
, , Trend Lines

A panel discussion on Thursday organized by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at the NYU School of Law discussed options for U.S. policy toward Uganda, after relations were ruffled by a new Ugandan law signed in February that imposes harsh legal penalties, including life sentences, for homosexual acts. The question is whether the Obama administration can produce an effective response to the new law. more

Renewed Push, Public Weariness Puts Closing Gitmo Within Obama’s Reach

By Ken Gude
, , Briefing

Advocates working to end a sad chapter in American history were given new hope last year when President Barack Obama renewed his push to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The diminished risks of closing the prison, combined with public war-weariness, mean that what seemed a hopeless and nearly forgotten project for Obama a year ago—closing Guantanamo by the end of his administration—now seems achievable. more

Unsafe Spaces: Trends and Challenges in Gender-Based Violence

There is not sufficient evidence to determine whether the use of sexual violence in conflict is increasing or decreasing. However, evidence indicates it is widespread. Despite the prevalence of sexual violence in conflict today, we are no longer living in an era of silence and impunity. Nevertheless, the risks of sexual violence are shifting along with changes in the patterns of conflict and the spaces in which it takes place, requiring new approaches to support affected members of communities. more

Full-Spectrum Diplomacy: Crimea Crisis Shows That Norms Still Matter

By Heather Hurlburt
, , Column

The Crimea crisis has given realists a field day for attacking the belief structures of rules-based internationalists. Ukraine just paid the price of giving up its nuclear weapons 20 years ago, we hear. Integrating Russia into international economic institutions proved meaningless. Human rights and the rule of law don’t matter when great power interests are at stake. The reality, however, is more complicated. more

Kagame’s Rwanda Presents South Africa With Delicate Balancing Act

By James Hamill
, , Briefing

Relations between South Africa and Rwanda have suffered a sharp downturn with the murder and attempted murder in South Africa of two former high-level Rwandan security officers who had fled Rwanda for South Africa. While the Rwandan regime formally denied responsibility, the attacks have poisoned bilateral relations, which had been close until South Africa began providing safe haven for Rwandan exiles. more

Hopes and Fears: Trade Regimes and the Changing Shape of Sovereignty

By Philip Nichols
, , Feature

Twenty years ago it was fashionable in academic circles to predict the end of sovereignty. It was also fashionable for people to take to the streets to protest the end of sovereignty. In both cases, trade occupied a central role. With the conclusion of NAFTA, the birth of the EU and the formation of the WTO, trade seemed to dominate the international agenda. Since then, the international trade regime has contributed to changes in the operation of sovereignty, but not as much as was once both feared and hoped. more

Unstoppable Court: The European Court of Justice and EU Sovereignty

By Gareth Davies
, , Feature

No secular organization has ever peacefully deprived states of as much sovereignty as has the European Union, and the European Court of Justice has played a central role in that process. While at its outset, the court was expected to have a relatively marginal role in European integration, the ECJ has understood its role quite differently. It has become in substance one of the primary legislators of the EU, laying down rules and principles without which the EU would be quite a different creature today. more

Virtual Sovereignty: Governments, Stakeholders and Internet Governance

By Jovan Kurbalija
, , Feature

The way the Internet is governed is of strategic importance to modern society. Yet current Internet governance is not robust enough to address the Internet’s critical relevance. Recent developments have led many governments, international organizations, think tanks and experts to search for a new governance formula. The main challenge is how to reconcile the tension between current Internet governance, led by nongovernmental players, and increasing demands for a stronger role for governments. more

Global Insider: Under Montreux Convention, Turkey Controls Black Sea Access in Wartime

By The Editors
, , Trend Lines

Amid the crisis in Crimea, Turkey authorized a U.S. Navy destroyer to pass through the Bosphorus last week but noted that the legal agreement governing access to the Black Sea would not permit a U.S. aircraft carrier to make the same passage. In an email interview, James Kraska, an expert in maritime governance who is Mary Derrickson McCurdy visiting scholar at Duke University, discussed the terms of the Montreux Convention. more