Gender, War and Technology: Peace and Armed Conflict in the 21st Century

By Emily Jones 

Technology is vastly changing contemporary conflict. While there has been a lot of recent focus by international lawyers on topics such as drone warfare and autonomous weapons systems, very little has been published on these issues from a gender and law perspective. Seeking to bridge this gap, I recently co-edited a Special Issue for the Australian Feminist Law Journal on Gender, War and Technology: Peace and Armed Conflict in the 21st Century alongside Yoriko Otomo and Sara Kendall. The issue brings together a wide array of voices. Several different technologies are discussed; from drone warfare to lesser known technologies being used in conflict settings such as evidence and data collection technologies and human enhancement technologies.

As the introduction to the Special Issue notes, gender is used throughout the Special Issue in multiple ways, highlighting women’s lived experiences in conflicts as combatants, victims, negotiators of peace agreements, military actors and as civilians, as well as being used as a theoretical tool of analysis, ‘considering issues of agency, difference, and intersectionality, and contesting gendered constructions that presuppose femininity, ethnicity, and passivity.’ Intersectionality is also a key theme throughout the issue, with articles also ‘considering issues of race, colonialism, ability, masculinity and capitalism (and thus, implicitly, class).’ War is understood in light of feminist scholarship on conflict, noting how war and peace work on a ‘continuum of violence’ with neither war not peace being as easy to define as legal categorisations suggest.

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A Bad Decision from GTMO: Why the Commission Lacks Jurisdiction over 9/11 Defendants

By Tara Van Ho

This week, US courts issued two important cases for international law, in the areas of business and human rights and the laws of armed conflict. First, the US Supreme Court’s Jesner v. Arab Bank decision foreclosed the use of the Alien Tort Statute to hold corporations accountable for their role in violations of human rights. Then, the US military commission at Guantanamo Bay found it had personal jurisdiction over the 9/11 defendant in US v Mohammad, et al. To do this, the commission had to determine an armed conflict existed between the US and Al Qaeda on 9/11.

Both cases significantly warped international law.

I’ll address both cases through a series of posts here, at Nadia Bernaz’s Rights as Usual, and on my own blog. In this post, I’ll address issues with the most significant decision of the Mohammad judgment: the finding of the commission that on 9/11 the US was engaged in an armed conflict.

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Derogations from the European Convention on Human Rights During Armed Conflict?

By Daragh Murray

The UK Joint Committee on Human Rights is currently conducting an inquiry into the Government’s proposed derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights during armed conflict.

Prof. Françoise Hampson, Prof. Noam Lubell and Dr. Daragh Murray of the Essex Human Rights Centre submitted written evidence to the Committee.

The submission addressed derogations from human rights law treaties in the context of military operations. It argued that the derogation regime does not nullify the applicability of human rights law, but rather allows for the modification of specific human rights obligations in response to emergency or exceptional circumstances.

The submission suggests that derogations play a key role within the international human rights law system and that derogations during military operations may be both appropriate and necessary. In particular, in situations of armed conflict, derogations may be required in order to ensure the coherent co-application of international human rights law and the law of armed conflict. As such, appropriate derogations permit the application of both human rights law and the law of armed conflict, ensuring the existence of a legal ‘bottom line’ that is appropriate to the situation.

The full text of the submission is available on the Committee’s website.

 


Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are the author(s) alone.

Supreme court rulings open door to future ‘war on terror’ litigation in Britain

By Daragh Murray

The UK Supreme Court has handed down three landmark judgements relating to the activities of UK authorities and officials in the fight against terrorism. The court ruled on January 17 that cases could now proceed against UK officials accused of involvement in detention and rendition operations – even if foreign states and their officials were the “prime actors” of alleged human rights violations. This means that cases can now proceed against, among others, the former foreign secretary Jack Straw.

Another key element of the rulings relates to the authority to detain people in armed conflict, and the interplay between the law of armed conflict and international human rights law.

The Supreme Court’s rulings will have a significant impact on future litigation in relation to the activity of UK authorities and officials abroad. As a number of the claims relate to the extraterritorial application of the Human Rights Act and its application to UK armed forces, these cases are particularly sensitive in the current political climate.

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Theresa May’s Attempt to Shield British Soldiers Gets the Law Very (Very) Wrong

By Tara Van Ho

 

UK Prime Minister Theresa May and defense secretary Michael Fallon announced Tuesday a plan to limit the UK’s human rights obligations in future conflicts. According to The Guardian:

 

May said the change would “put an end to the industry of vexatious claims that has pursued those who served in previous conflicts”. It would be implemented by introducing a “presumption to derogate” from the ECHR in warfare. 

The plan raises two issues I wish to touch upon briefly here. The first is the question of whether there can be a presumption of derogation. The second is whether the derogation would actually limit the UK’s relevant human rights obligations – or its ability to fight war appropriately.

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Lethal Autonomous Robots and the Dehumanization of War

Over the last week several newspapers around the world have highlighted the second round of meetings in Geneva, under the supervision of the Convention on Certain Convention Weapons CCW, regarding the legal future of so-called Lethal Autonomous Robots (LARs). For some, who argue that LARs can be more ethical than human soldiers this new technology represents the future of warfare (R. Arkin). For others, LARs are ‘killer robots’ that should be subject to a prohibition similar to that applicable to Blinding Lasers Weapons, which were prohibited by Protocol IV to the CCW (Human Rights Watch; Article 36).

By Afonso Seixas-Nunes, SJ.

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Assembly Elections in Jammu & Kashmir, India: A glimmer of hope for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958

The Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) has long been the focus of enduring tensions between India and Pakistan. The recent elections – which have resulted in a coalition government formed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) – have brought to the fore issues relating to the impunity granted to the security forces under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA). The AFSPA is presently applicable in parts of J&K and certain states in North-east India.

By Anubhav Tiwari. Anubhav is a qualified advocate from India presently pursuing an LLM in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.

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