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The seminar was well attended by Exeter staff and students and also included guests from the partner institutions. 

Scholars from Exeter, Oxford, and Reading discuss the future of warfare and law

On 1 May Exeter Law School held the third meeting of the 'Axis of Protection: Human Rights in International Law' Seminar Series, featuring a talk by Professor Michael Schmitt on the topic ‘Future War and the Evolution of International Humanitarian Law’.

The series, jointly convened with colleagues at Oxford University and University of Reading, provides an opportunity for scholars to engage in discussion of contemporary and challenging issues concerning the protection of human rights in international law with emphasis on human rights law, international humanitarian law, and international refugee law. Meetings alternate each term between the three host institutions: the Autumn term meeting was held at Reading and the Spring term meeting was held at Oxford.

In his presentation, Professor Schmitt discussed the relationship between changes in the nature of warfare and the evolution of international humanitarian law (IHL). In particular, he asked how future warfare is likely to shape the interpretation and application of international humanitarian law. He focussed on the effect of cyber operations, the fielding of autonomous weapon systems, and increased visibility of the battlespace.

Dr Aurel Sari gave the formal response, emphasising the interconnected relationship between policy and law in the development of IHL and warned before the fragmentation of IHL in the future.

The debate was varied and lively and it continued well past the official closing time of the seminar. Among other matters, questions concerned the issues of compatibility of the principle of proportionality with autonomous weapons systems; the influence of humanitarian law scholars on the development of the field; and the relationship between science fiction writing and actual development of technology and law.

Kubo Mačák, Lecturer in Law and Co-Convenor of the Seminar Series


Date: 23 May 2014

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