Humanity’s Law: A Few Opening Thoughts
So thanks for the opportunity to exchange on my new book Humanity’s Law. I have been following the relationship of law to post conflict and political transition for many years now. The puzzle that occasioned this book was the apparently expanding role of law in periods of conflict, and the way the law at issue departed from traditional international law and its traditional distinctions between war and peace, international and domestic law, and focus on state security, to a shift in focus and new emphasis on the protection of human security.
In this book, I trace this development historically and through illustrations involving conflicts in diverse regions, showing that the overarching legal framework which governs this new normativity draws from international human rights law, the law of war (its two strands) and international criminal law.
I argue that just as the human has become the subject of protection, so too it is the subject of enforcement, although this understanding can also result in greater duties for the state regarding as we have seen in recent legal judgments in number of areas, from awards of reparations for abuses committed in and out of conflict and often after the passage of time to identifying responsibility in the counter terror campaign.
A host of controversies ensue from the normative, what principles ought guide the new responsibility to protect? To the question of how largely our state based institutions can operationalize global engagement? The emergence of humanity law and its domination in many contexts of conflict lead to a number of hard questions that need to be tackled directly. For example: Have criminal trials far from the scene of conflict made it more not less difficult to heal old grievances, for example in the Balkans? How about the intervention in Libya? Did the international legal community jump the gun in threatening Ghadaffi and his family with criminal indictments, taking off the table options such as amnesties or exile that might have led to an earlier and less bloody regime change in Libya? Have the competing allegations of war crimes and humanitarian violations made in harder rather than easier to have meaningful peace talks between Israel and Palestine, distracting from the underlying political claims at issue? I look forward to hearing your views.