International Law Articles

Members of the U.N. investigation team take samples from the ground to test for chemicals in the Damascus countryside of Zamalka, Syria, Aug. 29, 2013 (AP Photo/Local Committee of Arbeen).
Global Insights

Chemical Weapons Regime Must Be Updated to Better Counter Terrorist Threat

By Richard Weitz
, , Column

A series of recent media reports have refocused attention on chemical weapons. Until now, nation states have been the main possessors and users of chemical weapons. The challenge in coming years will be to refocus efforts to better counter the threat of chemical weapons terrorism. more

Waiting for Disruption: The Western Sahara Stalemate

By Jacob Mundy
, , Feature

The Western Sahara conflict is fast approaching its 40th anniversary with no end in sight. A web of geopolitical interests keeps the conflict in a permanent state of limbo. Therein lies the paradox: The peace process now exists to contain the conflict, but only a crisis will save Western Sahara. more

The Politics of Advocacy: Setting and Vetting the Global Agenda

By Charli Carpenter
, , Feature

A U.N. conference this year on fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots,” raises the question: Why do some issues and not others attract global policy attention? This article explores the channels through which humanitarian concerns are guided from grassroots activism to the highest levels of the international political agenda. more

Global Insider

The Costs and Benefits of Trade Agreement Disputes

By The Editors
, , Trend Lines

Last month, Germany voiced concerns over the inclusion of an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) in the free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada. In an email interview, Timothy Josling, senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, discussed the settlements and their role in international trade agreements. more

Nagorno-Karabakh’s Summer of Violence

By Laurence Broers
, , Feature

This year, while Europe commemorated 100 years since the beginning of World War I, a long-forgotten conflict on the edge of the continent rumbled on. Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a contest for control over Nagorno-Karabakh for more than 25 years. Following a particularly dismal stretch of the peace process over the past two years, tensions have come to a head in a summer of violence along the front line. Yet while front-line casualties have dominated the headlines, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has also become a formidable weapon for both Armenia and Azerbaijan to securitize politics, exclude opposition and explain away the absence of domestic reforms. more

With More Evidence of Assad War Crimes, Is Transitional Justice Possible in Syria?

By Frederick Deknatel
, , Trend Lines

Last week, a former Syrian military photographer appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee with thousands of photographs allegedly showing widespread torture and killing in Bashar al-Assad’s jails. Amid the geopolitical wrangling over the Syrian civil war, the photographs have reignited calls for transitional justice and accountability for atrocities committed there, whenever the fighting stops. more

Congressional Republicans Seize on Russia’s Missile Treaty Violation

By Eric Auner
, , Trend Lines

Last week, the State Department officially reported that Russia had violated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty when it tested cruise missiles. Republican lawmakers expressed immediate dismay with the Obama administration; some even advocated U.S. withdrawal from the treaty. Even if Republicans shy away from that, the INF issue will continue to serve as a locus of anti-Russian sentiment. more

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