Towards a New Law of War Conference


June 20-21, 2016

The Shurat HaDin Law of War Conference was the first perennial event to bring together lead academics, policy makers, and military leaders to exchange ideas regarding the development of armed conflict legal doctrine favorable to Western democracies engaged in conflict against non­traditional, non­-democratic, non-­state actors.

The goal of the law of war conference is to influence the direction of legal discourse concerning issues critical to Israel and her ability to defend herself. The law of war is mainly unwritten and develops on the basis of state practice.

Panel 1: “Confronting the Challenge of Human Shields: When Civilians Protect Weapons”



Use of human shields – deliberately placing civilians in harm’s way during conflict – is a rapidly growing phenomenon. Terror groups justify using them. But when democratic forces, which are bound by international law, consider using them, the questions are raised: Should they? Or shouldn’t they, in the interest of protecting the majority of civilians?

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Panel 2: “Proportionality: Crossing the Line on Civilian Casualties”

Panel 2

Proportionality is the idea that in an attack on a military objective, the harm to civilians and their property must not be excessive relative to the direct military advantage expected from the attack. But on the battlefield difficult decisions still must be made, including, among others, whether an army should attack quickly with the weapons it has or wait for more appropriate armaments but lose valuable time and perhaps increase risk to its soldiers.

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Panel 3: “Law of Terrorism: Is ‘Terrorism’ an Independent Target of International Law?”


Panel 3

The world community for decades has been trying to define the term “terrorism” to help develop a global strategy to combat the practice. But the world’s nations have been unable to agree on a common definition. Do they need one and why? Does “terrorism” need to be a separate target of international law?

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Panel 4: “Rules of Engagement: Force Multipliers or Agents of Defeat?”


Panel 4

Soldiers generally fight under Rules of Engagement that anticipate symmetry. But modern warfare has seen the rise of asymmetrical conflict, where combatants hide among civilian populations and the RoE can be extremely dynamic. How can democratic armies fight in these circumstances? Can rules for asymmetrical warfare be set?

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Panel 5: “Targeted Killings: Between the Laws of War and Criminal Law”

Panel 5

How did targeted killings develop? Are they legal? How effective are they and are military goals pursued through such efforts worth the price? How much should the IDF and democratic armies invest in them? Was the targeting of Osama Bin Laden legitimate?

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Panel 6: “The International Criminal Court”


Panel 6

The International Criminal Court has become prominent on the political landscape, particularly as the Palestinian Authority has said it plans to pursue war-crimes charges against the Israel Defense Forces there. Can the ICC carry out its mandate fairly, given the world’s fractured political conditions? Can the court do its work without following a specific agenda? How does the principle of complementarity affect the discussion?

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