On 23 January 2023, the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies (CHS), in collaboration with the Human Rights Program at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies and Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS), hosted Professor Marco Sassòli, Professor of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and Director of the Department of Public International Law and International Organizations at the University of Geneva, where he met with experts, and specialists in the fields of International Humanitarian Law and human rights, as well as academics and diplomats.
In a public lecture he gave at the CHS, Professor Sassòli discussed issues of IHL, where he shed a light on the theoretical law concepts and its practical aspects, the role of the region in law enforcement, and ways to enhance the respect and application of it in light of the escalating intensity and pace of armed conflicts globally, especially in Ukraine, Yemen, Palestine, Syria, Ethiopia, and other conflicts.
The lecture focused on discussing IHL, its axes and relationship with other laws, such as human rights law, international relations, security studies, and conflict studies. It distinguished between the types of international and non-international armed conflicts, and some cases which are no longer classified as an armed conflict, such as the case of Afghanistan. Moreover, Professor Sassòli presented the recent challenges that are facing IHL, such as the double standards of the international community and the laxity in holding accountable violations and crimes by some parties – where former Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir is being held accountable whilst turning a blind eye to Israeli violations against Palestinian civilians. He also explained that the absence of a clear definition of terrorism posed a "challenge" to the application of IHL. Additionally, he talked about the role of the media in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, pointing to the fact that the violations committed by the Ukrainian side are no less than those committed by the Russian side, as well as within the contexts of the conflicts in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and Palestine. He also stressed the need to respect IHL during conflicts, to refrain from indiscriminate targeting operations that only serve to harm civilians, and to activate mechanisms of dialogue between the conflicting parties in IHL, including non-state armed groups.
Furthermore, and in light of his visit to Qatar, QRCS hosted Professor Sassòli in a closed discussion session on Sunday 22 January, which was attended by academics, legal experts, and the relevant institutions. The session tackled the application and enforcement of IHL in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. It also concentrated on the pivotal role of international law in protecting civilians during armed conflict in different regions, and the current challenges that are facing its application. Additionally, the session discussed the possibility of adapting IHL to contemporary conflicts, the role of the different parties in raising the level of respect for IHL, and the importance of raising awareness around IHL rights amongst potential victims.
It is noteworthy that Professor Sassòli is a high-ranking figure in the field of IHL and possesses a wealth of experience. He has served as a legal official in the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and as a professor in number of prestigious universities and academic institutions. Recently, he chaired the investigation committee into violations of IHL in the Russian-Ukrainian war. Moreover, he has authored many books and articles on IHL, international criminal law, sources of international law, and the responsibility of states and non-state actors.
This lecture comes as a first in a series of lectures that the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies (CHS) will hold within the framework of its intellectual commitment to producing theoretical and applied knowledge to develop policies and practices that contribute to resolving crises.
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