Making and Shaping the Law of Armed Conflict
35 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2017 Last revised: 15 Aug 2018
Date Written: December 7, 2017
Who makes international law? That is the subject of this article, with a focus on the particular case of the law of armed conflict (international humanitarian law). Is it states and only states? Or are other actors also involved? What is the role of international courts and tribunals? And where does the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross fit? Drawing on ideas of communities of practice and interactional international law, the article argues that it is the community of international humanitarian lawyers that makes international humanitarian law through a process of dialogic interaction. This community includes states, international courts and tribunals, the International Committee of the Red Cross, academics, and others. Through interaction in the selection of issues, during the drafting of outputs, and following the publication of the finished product, the community makes and shapes international humanitarian law. States thus play a crucial role in law-making, particularly insofar as the conclusion of treaties and the formation of customary international law are concerned. However, states have tended not to react to the interpretation, application and identification of the law by other members of the community. This relative silence on the part of states has had a number of consequences. Silence has been taken as acquiescence. The response of other members of the community to the publication of an output has taken on a greater significance. And states have been side-lined. The Article concludes by discussing ways in which states can re-engage in the making and shaping of international humanitarian law.
Keywords: international humanitarian law, law of armed conflict, law-making, sources, states, international courts and tribunals
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