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Why the Laws of War Still Matter

Since the end of World War II the world has come together to outline the ways in which States can fight wars in a just manner. Through the Geneva and Hauge Conventions, as well as the United Nations Charter, there are clear, yet complex, rules on the proper conduct of war. However, time and again it seems that these laws are violated with impunity. High level cases, such as the indictment of Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, have gone unresolved, however other major violators have faced repercussions. The laws of war are often cited as the world reacts to armed conflicts in places as diverse as Ukraine, Sudan, Vietnam, and Israel, yet they are not always clearly articulated to audiences who need to understand this important part of international law. 

Speaking with Dr. Charli Carpenter of the University of Massachusetts - Amherst, we dive into what the laws of war say, why accountability seems lacking, accusations of violations rising, and how people can better understand the laws of war to pressure their leaders to follow them. Knowing that public opinion does affect the ways in which leaders conduct wars, it is important to understand these laws and why they are important.

This interview was recorded on Friday, February 9th.

More Information

"The Laws of War Matter - Now More Than Ever" "The ICJ's Ruling on Genocide is Actually a Game Changer"

About Our Speaker

Charli Carpenter is Professor in the Department of Political Science and Legal Studies at University of Massachusetts-Amherst specializing in international law and human security, and Director of Human Security Lab, an interdisciplinary initiative focused on science in the human interest. Her teaching and research interests include the protection of civilians, laws of war, humanitarian affairs, humanitarian disarmament, global advocacy networks, political violence, and the role of pop culture in global security. She has published three books and numerous journal articles, held fellowships at the Peace Research Institute of Frankfurt, Oakley Center, and Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, has served as a consultant for the United Nations, State Department, Department of Defense, and human rights NGO community, is a bi-weekly columnist at World Politics Review, and regularly contributes to Foreign Policy, and Foreign Affairs. In addition to teaching and research, Professor Carpenter spends her time parenting, traveling, arguing with concentration camp guards, kayaking, snowboarding, and rescuing spiders.

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