Queen's Law

Faculty of Law
Faculty of Law

Queen’s hosts conference on contemporary international humanitarian law concerns

(March 7, 2018)

International Humanitarian Law Conference poster

Known as the “Law of Armed Conflict,” international humanitarian law is the body of wartime rules that protect people affected by armed hostilities. Two current problematic areas of the field are the focus of the upcoming conference, “Vulnerabilities in Armed Conflict: Exploring Child Soldiers and Sex as a Weapon of War.” 

The afternoon event, co-organized by Queen’s Centre for International and Defence Policy (CIDP) and the Red Crescent Movement, with assistance from Queen’s Law, will be held on March 9 in Sutherland Hall.  

“Humanitarian law is sometimes called the ‘vanishing point’ of law because law is at its weakest in armed conflict,” says co-organizer Professor Darryl Robinson, who observed that law nevertheless plays a valuable role in reducing violence and mitigating suffering even in armed conflict. The legal community, NGOs and watchdogs play crucial parts in the research and advocacy for standard-bearing in armed conflict.

“The organizers want to introduce students to international humanitarian law,” says Robinson, “Rather than a general conference, they want to drill down into some specific contemporary issues of great concern.”

The conference will be conducted by experts from various perspectives – military, Red Cross, academic and non-governmental organizations. There will be two panels: the first will unpack various problems arising from the prevalent use of child soldiers; and the second will examine responses to endemic sexual violence.

Blaise Cathcart, retired Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Armed Forces, is the keynote speaker. He will talk, from his perspective as a military legal advisor, about child soldiers and sexual- and gender-based violence during armed conflict.  

Sabrina Henry, Legal and Policy Officer, Canadian Red Cross (CRC) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Canadian Delegation, will present the introduction. 

Jonathon Somer, Senior Legal Advisor for IHL at the CRC, will moderate the panel on child soldiers. Zama Neff, Executive Director for the Children’s Rights Division for Human Rights Watch, will discuss the child soldier’s perspective, whereas a speaker from the Peace Support Training Centre of the Canadian Armed Forces will discuss the soldier/training.

Stefanie von Hlatky, CIDP Director, will head the session on sexual violence. Andrew Carswell, ICRC’s Senior Delegate to Canada, will give insight into the ICRC’s perspective. 

For the second panel, University of Windsor professor Sara Wharton, who researches international criminal law and transnational criminal law, will speak on the sexual and gender-based violence, and the role of tribunals such as the International Criminal Court. Dr. Susan Bartels of Queen’s Department of Emergency Medicine will talk about militarized sexual violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. 

For students interested in international law, responses to armed conflict, or protection of vulnerable persons, this conference will provide a helpful introduction to this field.  

Students can register at the Red Cross website.  

By Aschille Clarke-Mendes