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International Criminal Justice and the Military

Oslo, 12-13 September 2008

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This two-day seminar examined the interplay between international criminal justice and the military. Through presentations and discussions, participants explored various issues surrounding the former as an instrument of normative restraint on the latter. Over the centuries, international humanitarian law has acquired increasing acceptance and recognition within the military. Many armed forces, for their part, maintain functioning military justice systems; to do so is not only eminently in their self-interest to enforce discipline but also in accordance with considerations of reciprocity, political accountability and media scrutiny. If, these days, responsible armed forces are less likely to dismiss the idea that belligerent conduct in armed conflict can and should be subject to rules of international law, are they also prepared to embrace the idea that some of these rules should be enforced through international and/or domestic criminal jurisdictions? The seminar follows three themes. First, has international criminal justice penetrated the minds of men and women in arms with whom, among others, it is concerned? What is the relationship between criminal sanctions and the military mind? Does international criminal justice really affect military behaviour? Second, does international criminal justice have what it takes to be taken seriously by otherwise reasonable, law-abiding soldiers? How are those who administer international criminal justice to understand the notion of the "reasonable soldier"? What role, if any, does or should military expertise play in international criminal litigation? Third, in what way would soldiers be held meaningfully accountable for war-time behaviour punishable under international law? What are the implications of the interplay between international criminal justice and the military for soldiers in contemporary armed conflicts?

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