Twenty-one lawyers, commanders and staff officers from sixteen nations recently attended DIILS third Law of Armed Conflict and Human Rights (LCHR) course at Naval Station Newport. The three-week course offered a multi-faceted view of the application of the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) and human rights law to international and non-international armed conflict, as well as other types of military operations.
The LCHR course examined the full range of LOAC and human rights issues facing military forces today, including: human rights issues in domestic operations, terrorism and human rights, child soldiers, torture, command responsibility, international human rights laws against gender violence, transparency in military justice, impunity, UN mechanisms for protecting human rights, detention operations, NGO relations and refugee issues. Topical films illustrated the underlying nature of these LOAC and human rights challenges while practical group exercises guided the participants as they considered contemporary applications of international human rights standards.
Gender violence as a tactic and a weapon of war was a topic of emphasis for LCHR. During the class trip to New York City, participants met with Ms. Peggy Kuo, formerly a trial attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). She described her role in prosecuting the historic and precedent-setting Foca case that established rape and sexual slavery as war crimes and crimes against humanity. In that case, three former members of the Bosnian Serb armed forces were sentenced to a total of 60 years imprisonment following their convictions on charges of the rape and sexual enslavement of Muslim girls and women in Foca in 1992. All three were found guilty of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war.
In an effort to offer a range of perspectives, LCHR instructors included distinguished U.S. and international legal experts from government, the military, academia, and international organizations. The graduation speaker, Ms. Brenda Oppermann, an independent advisor on stabilization and development, offered an overview of human rights in stabilization operations and addressed issues stemming from gender violence, NGO relations and traditional justice.
Participants find that the DIILS LCHR course offers a unique opportunity for international interaction and constructive exchange of ideas. One participant said, in summary: “all the participants were here to agree to the disagreements in a cordial manner. The most encouraging line was that we all were here not to fight with each other but to fight for each other.”
Participants were uniformly positive in their appraisal of the LCHR course as a valuable learning experience.
On the Law of Armed Conflict Presentation:
“This was a world class presentation masterly done and delivered with lots to learn about from the professor:”
On the Gender Violence Presentation:
“Graphic depiction– powerful effect. Moving to the point of asking myself what I can do about this heinous crime. How can I make it better?”
"After I saw this presentation, I thought about how things stand in my own country and I realized that we do not have the proper mechanisms in place to address sexual violence in the military. When I return home I am going to look into that and try to make some changes.”
“Perhaps one of the most important classes here, due, in part, to some of the participants coming from areas that still struggle with this…”
On ICTY Prosecutor Peggy Kuo:
“Very, very rare and unforgettable occasion where students met the prosecutor of Bosnian case. Her briefing and discussion was very fresh and alive. Her experience in the respective field was displayed and Q and A was also interesting. Totally it was one of the most important discussions.”
On the Operational lawyer/Commander presentation:
“This was the most important and interesting presentation …the personal commander’s experiences along with the military/regional advisors’ were brilliantly insightful.”
On the Field Studies Trip to the Native American Museum:
“…reminded me of the true value of human beings in the USA.”