Home » Articles » Losing the Forest for the Trees: Syria, Law, and the Pragmatics of Conflict Recognition

Losing the Forest for the Trees: Syria, Law, and the Pragmatics of Conflict Recognition

PDF · Laurie R. Blank & Geoffrey S. Corn · May-29-2013 · 46 VAND. J. TRANSNAT’L L. 693 (2013)

The situation in Syria has the potential to become a pivotal moment in the development of the law of armed conflict (LOAC). The ongoing brutality serves as a reminder of the importance of extending international humanitarian regulation into the realm of non-international armed hostilities; however, the very chaos those hostilities produce reveals critical fault lines in the current approach to determining the existence of an armed conflict. The international community’s year-long reluctance to characterize the situation in Syria as an armed conflict highlights a clear disparity between the object and purpose of the LOAC and the increasingly formalistic interpretation of the law’s triggering provisions. Focusing on Syria, this Article critiques the overly technical approach to the definition of non-international conflict currently in vogue—based on Prosecutor v. Tadić’s framework of intensity and organization—and how this approach undermines the original objectives of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. This overly legalistic focus on an elements test, rather than the totality of the circumstances, means that the world has witnessed a retrograde of international humanitarian efficacy: Syria appears to be a lawless conflict like those that inspired Common Article 3—the regime employs its full combat capability to shell entire cities, block humanitarian assistance, and target journalists and medical personnel directly. The LOAC is specifically designed to address exactly this type of conduct, and yet the discourse on Syria highlights the dangers of allowing over-legalization to override—and undermine—logic, resulting in a deleterious impact on human life.




Leave a Reply

ExpressO Top 10 Law Review

ANNOUNCEMENTS

The Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law has confirmed the schedule and panelists for its 2015 Symposium, This is Not a Drill: Confronting Legal Issues in the Wake of International Disasters.

Read the Journal’s latest issue (Vol. 47 No. 4) here.

The Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law mourns the death of its founder, Professor Harold G. Maier.

We are pleased to announce the 2014-2015 Board of Editors and 2014-2015 Editorial Staff Members.

Please join us in congratulating the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 2013-2014 Annual Award Winners.

Coming up:

The Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law invites you to its 2015 Symposium, This is Not a Drill: Confronting Legal Issues in the Wake of International Disasters.

Recent and dire international disasters, both environmental and humanitarian, have left legacies not only of destruction and destitution, but also of an uncertain legal landscape. The Symposium will address current and pressing international-disaster-response topics. These will include environmental effects, disaster assistance, humanitarian assistance, and criminal processes and sanctions in the wake of various types of international disasters. Symposium participants will include leading scholars from across the country.

The 2015 Symposium will take place on Friday, February 13, 2015 at Vanderbilt Law School, 131 21st Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37203. A detailed schedule will be available soon.

For information on the 2015 Symposium, as well as past symposia hosted by the Journal, please visit the Symposium page.

Explore Other Vanderbilt Law Resources