CHRGJ co-hosts Discussion on the Protection of Civilians

Protection of Civilians

During a panel discussion about the legal challenges of the protection of civilians, held at the NYU School of Law on Thursday June 23, Mona Khalil of Independent Diplomat, Scott Sheeran, the senior Legal Counsel of the New Zealand Permanent Mission to the UN, and Siobhan Wills, professor of Law at the Transitional Justice Institute of the University of Ulster, discussed the legal and practical challenge related to the protection of civilians, and how these challenges have changed in the context of recent conflicts. The panel discussion was moderated by Carne Ross of Independent Diplomat and introduced by the Divisional Dean of NYU School of Professional Studies, Vera Jelinek. Panelists discussed the successes and failures of current legal provisions and reflected on the relevance and desirability of always applying international humanitarian law to peacekeepers’ who can become parties to a conflict when using force to protect civilians. In an interactive discussion with the audience, panelists also debated more hands-on questions about how, for example, military staff on the ground decide who is a civilian, who trains them to make this decision, and how much guidance commanders receive on how to deal with competing demands. Siobhan Wills underlined the need to foresee in the mandates adequate resources and intelligence for evidence-gathering, something which is often missing. In their concluding remarks, panelists provided some avenues for further research on the tension between international humanitarian and human rights law, and how to deal with this on the ground.