5 May 2023
As every year and in the framework of our LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights core course on international humanitarian law (IHL) given by Professor Marco Sassòli, half of the LLM class pleaded on 29 April on the 2014 armed conflict in and around Gaza, arguing that the side they represented – Israel or Palestine (which they could not select) – has respected IHL while the adverse side has violated it.
The other half of the LLM class who was not pleading could watch the pleadings and improve its understanding of the legal issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The exercise focused on the July-August 2014 armed conflict in and around Gaza, which took place in the context of 'Operation Protective Edge'. Launched by Israel, this operation claimed many civilian victims and gave rise to numerous mutual accusations of violations of IHL.
In 2015, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry made its findings on violations of IHL and human rights committed in this conflict public and the International Criminal Court Prosecutor decided to proceed with an investigation into that situation and a Pre-Trial Chamber confirmed that the Court had the necessary jurisdiction.
In front of a jury – composed of Professor Marco Sassòli, Angelo Gnädinger, former Director-General and General-Delegate for the Middle East at the International Committee of the Red Cross, and our teaching assistant Revaz Tkemaladze – teams of two students, one team for Israel and one for Palestine, pleaded on:
‘Students showed that they mastered the law and facts, their arguments were very convincing and most coordinated very well their interventions. Despite all the emotions linked to the context of Israel and Palestine, the presentations remained always nuanced, professional and respectful of the adverse party, while making the strongest possible legal arguments for Israel or Palestine respectively. Some were rhetorically powerful on the law but none was passionate about the cause. It is also remarkable to notice that those who are weaker in written assignments are sometimes the best in pleading’ underlines Professor Sassòli.
‘The pleadings were challenging in many regards. We already knew that there can be some vagueness around the law and its interpretation, but this is also true for the facts. Once I became accustomed to the factual context and the points where legal tensions existed were identified, everything became much clearer. I really enjoyed watching my classmates completely get into their roles. The questions of the jury were also very stimulating and allowed us to sharpen our analysis’ says Kheda Djanaralieva, a 2022–2023 LLM student.
This pleading exercise challenges students not only to find creative ways to persuasively defend their clients but to also practice the art of advocacy. It also allows them to practice IHL as professionals and trains them in delivering convincing oral submissions before domestic and international courts as international lawyers.
‘Pleading is a challenging process where just presenting an unassailable legal argument is not enough. While I could sense the nervousness in teams during preparations, once the actual day came they handled it like professionals. Every pleading was a demonstration of how important it is that each party to an armed conflict abides by protections contained in IHL treaties. The students understood the complexities of this long conflict both in its legal and political dimensions. Some pleadings were completely independent of the script and presented with a lot of clarity and structure which was a real highlight. Overall, there is a deep sense of gratification when you witness how much the students grow in the process’ explains Revaz Tkemaladze.
‘Teamwork was essential throughout the whole procedure. My teammate and I really supplemented each other, something that facilitated the preparation and made it fun! The part that I enjoyed the most was the question section, in which we had to provide replies to complicated legal questions. It was fascinating that we were not only expected to give the technically ‘correct’ answer but the answer that would be in line with the client’s policy! And this is the most important lesson from the pleadings, being able to put aside your personal beliefs and develop arguments independently from them, as is often the case in real life’ says Ioannis Bamnios, a 2022–2023 LLM student.
In two weeks, the other half of the class will plead according to the same formula in favour of Russia or Georgia concerning the 2008 armed conflict in Georgia.
Our new Research Paper presents a comprehensive examination of the realities faced by 'Youth Associated with Non-State Armed Groups'.
Sandra Pointet/Geneva Academy
We organize online Q&A information sessions for prospective students interested in our LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights and MAS in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law.
On the occasion of the launch in Geneva of the volume Armed Groups and International Law. In the Shadowland of Legality and Illegality, panelists will reflect on the status of armed groups within a complex legal landscape.
This annual conference co-organized with the University of Essex provides a space for experts and practitioners, diplomats, academics, young scholars and civil society representatives to discuss contemporary legal issues in armed conflict.
After having followed this online short course, participants will know who the protected persons and goods are and what rules of IHL can be used for their protection in an international armed conflict. An overview of the rules applicable in non-international armed conflicts will also be given.
This online short course dwells on the means of international law-making (treaties, customary international law, unilateral acts, general principles of law etc.). In other words, the course looks at the sources from which public international law rules stem and at the entities that are empowered with the capacity of law-making in the international legal order.
UN Photo/Violaine Martin
The IHL-EP works to strengthen the capacity of human rights mechanisms to incorporate IHL into their work in an efficacious and comprehensive manner. By so doing, it aims to address the normative and practical challenges that human rights bodies encounter when dealing with cases in which IHL applies.
The Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts project (RULAC) is a unique online portal that identifies and classifies all situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict under international humanitarian law (IHL). It is primarily a legal reference source for a broad audience, including non-specialists, interested in issues surrounding the classification of armed conflicts under IHL.