Expert Panel Manuals for the Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law
Manuals on the law of armed conflict come in different guises. The most common one is the military manual, which is a publication issued by a State’s Ministry of Defence or a branch of the armed forces with a restatement of the law of armed conflict or another branch of military law as interpreted by that State. Such manuals usually have an official status as standing orders or ordinances within that State’s armed forces and are used for training and educational purposes within the armed forces and sometimes are also used in the operational context when applying the law to the planning and conduct of operations. Such manuals can trace their origins back to at least the 19th Century with the famous Lieber Code of 1863, usually seen as the first such codification.
In more recent years, a second type of manual has emerged in the form of a practically oriented academic publication which aims to set out an authoritative restatement of a particular branch of the law of armed conflict or another branch of operational law which is the product of a process of a panel of experts setting out their views on the interpretation of the area of law in question. Such manuals have taken on an increasingly prominent role partly to address emerging technologies and applications of the law and partly to fill the gap left in updating and codifying the law because of the difficulty of reaching consensus at the State level. They differ from traditional military manuals by their non-governmental and non-binding status and from edited volumes by being the product of a group effort where consensus is sought and presented as an authoritative interpretation by a group of experts within a particular field. These manuals are aimed at policy level officials in foreign ministries, defence staffs, and international organisations as well as at fellow academics and (post) graduate-level students. In this, they differ from traditional military manuals which are primarily internal training and operational tools within a State’s armed forces.
Examples of these “expert panel manuals” include the San Remo Manual on the Law of Armed Conflict at Sea (1994), the HPCR Manual on International Law Applicable to Air and Missile Warfare (2005), the Tallinn Manual on the Application of International Law to Cyber Warfare (2013), its follow-up 2nd edition including peacetime cyber operations entitled Tallinn Manual 2.0 on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations (2017) and others dealing with a wide variety of applications of international law ranging from peace operations to military use of outer space. It is to be expected that more such manuals will follow on topics such as autonomous weapons systems, bio-enhancement and other emerging technologies at some point.
What should the contributions focus on?
While these manuals can and do play an undoubtedly useful role, their proliferation raises a number of questions. What degree of authority do they have and how much weight should be given to the views expressed in them? What is the methodology they employ and how effective is it in ensuring an objective and impartial interpretation of the law as possible? What are the strengths and weaknesses in the way the expert panels are comprised and operate? What is their place in the doctrine of sources? Should they have more weight than more traditional academic publications because of the group opinion, or perhaps less because it is difficult or impossible to see who is responsible for a particular view? Certain recent publications have focused on one or more of these questions, but not until now in a comprehensive way.
This volume will attempt to fill that gap and shed light on these and other questions and issues relating to these ‘expert panel manuals’. The collection of articles aims to include persons who have participated in one or more of these expert panels, views from the policy level audience of the manuals in government and international organisations on their usefulness or lack thereof and views both positive and critical on the role these manuals fulfil within academic opinion forming.
Moreover, there is, of course, the possibility to submit articles on other relevant topics not related to the general theme.
Interested authors should send their submission before 1 October 2020 to the Managing Editor of the Yearbook, Rebecca Mignot-Mahdavi LL.M. (R.Mignot-Mahdavi@asser.nl). Articles should be submitted in conformity with the Yearbook’s guidelines. The Editorial Board aims to publish Vol. 23 (2020) at the end of the ensuing year, in December 2021 at the latest.
About this Series
The Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law is the world’s only annual publication devoted to the study of the laws governing armed conflict. It provides a truly international forum for high-quality, peer-reviewed academic articles focusing on this crucial branch of international law. Distinguished by contemporary relevance, the Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law bridges the gap between theory and practice and serves as a useful reference tool for scholars, practitioners, military personnel, civil servants, diplomats, human rights workers and students.
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