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ANNOUNCING SEMINAR: The Self-Interest of Armed Forces in Accountability for their Members for Core International Crimes

This international expert seminar is organized by the Forum for International Criminal and Humanitarian Law (FICHL), the War Crimes Studies Center (WCSC), and Stanford University

27 November 2012, at Stauffer Auditorium, Herbert Hoover Memorial Building, Stanford University.

Seminar participation is free, but this event is open to registered participants ONLY, as seating is limited.  To register, please send an e-mail message to bolton@fichl.org, indicating your wish to register as a seminar participant, your name, e-mail address and telephone number. Confirmation e-mail responses will be sent. Non-speakers arrange their own travel and accommodation. Seminar papers to be published by Torkel Opsahl Academic EPublisher (TOAEP).

Seminar Description:

Accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide has received increasing international attention since the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in 1993. Internationalized criminal tribunals have subsequently been established for Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Iraq and Lebanon, and we have seen high profile war crimes cases against Slobodan Milošević, Saddam Hussein and Charles Taylor. At the same time, a number of states have prosecuted their own citizens or refugees from war-affected countries before national military or civilian courts. Although there have been some controversies, the overall trend since the mid-1990s has been one of increased support for accountability for flagrant violations of international criminal law.

The political and diplomatic rhetoric put forward in favour of criminal justice for atrocities frequently refers to the struggle against impunity and that there can be no last-ing peace without justice. A common theme is the obligation to investigate and prosecute core international crimes under international law. Sometimes a government may also pursue national prosecutions in response to purely political interests or expectations. Both the language of international legal obligation and that of politics can act on military or civilian decisions to investigate or prosecute, as a raised stick. This seminar is not concerned with the stick, but the carrot.

Most often, such accountability tends to be rationalized and imposed as a ‘stick’, even when undertaken by the military. However, one should also look at accountability from a ‘carrot’ perspective, namely, whether such accountability is in the self-interest of the armed forces. Why do soldiers, officers and military leaders themselves often prefer such accountability? Is it because accountability mechanisms distinguish them as military professionals who are uncompromised by such crimes? Or is it because of the way individual incentive structures, such as promotion, function? Are they concerned that the commission of war crimes may undermine the public’s trust in the military, increasing the security risks faced and the size and cost of deployment in the area concerned? Or are they motivated by moral, ethical or religious reasons? Does accountability ensure higher discipline and morale and therefore secure more effective chains of command? Or is it because accountability gives them a political advantage vis-à-vis potential opponents? Or does it promote a better public image? Could such accountability be particularly crucial when the armed forces are involved in efforts to establish a new regime in a post-conflict situation or a process of democratization?

This seminar seeks to create a better understanding of the self-interested reasons that armed forces may have in ensuring accountability for core international crimes by clearly mapping and articulating the above issues and others. It aims to provide military lawyers and military professionals around the world with a more comprehensive statement of these reasons. The needs of institutional military training mechanisms are also relevant. To these ends, the papers presented at the seminar will be published in an anthology to be publish by the Torkel Opsahl Academic Epublisher by 1 July 2013. Additionally, a concise policy brief summarizing the outcome of the seminar will be published online and in print in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese shortly after the seminar. It will list and describe each self-interest of armed forces in ensuring accountability, as identified during the seminar. The programme of the seminar seeks to establish common ground between accountability traditions.

Please find the detailed Seminar Agenda here

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