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Legal Implications Surrounding the Use of Human Shields

16th March 2018 - 9:30 AM


Download the full transcript here.

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies hosted a breakfast event on the legal implications surrounding terrorist use of human shields, on Capitol Hill on Friday, March 16, from 9:30am to 10:45am. The conversation featured Laurie R. Blank, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the International Humanitarian Law Clinic at Emory University School of Law; Geoffrey S. Corn, Professor of Law and Presidential Research Professor at South Texas College of Law Houston; and Orde Kittrie, Senior Fellow at FDD and Professor of Law at Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. FDD Chief Executive Officer Mark Dubowitz moderated the discussion.

Terrorists often use civilians as shields, and hide in, and fire from, homes, schools and places of worship during combat. This unlawful tactic – referred to as the use of “human shields”– presents a major challenge for U.S. and other law-abiding armed forces. Terrorist groups use human shields to a) cause our armed forces to self-impose restraints that render them less effective, and b) delegitimize lawful military operations waged against them by causing and later exploiting civilian casualties. The Islamic State, the Taliban, and al Qaeda have extensively used human shields against U.S. and allied armed forces.  Hamas and Hezbollah have repeatedly used human shields against the Israeli Defense Forces. The speakers will discuss the U.S. and international legal issues arising from the use of human shields, and how the use of human shields by terrorist groups can more effectively addressed.

Legal Implications Surrounding the Use of Human Shields
A conversation with Laurie Blank, Geoff Corn, and Orde Kittrie,
moderated by Mark Dubowitz

Laurie Blank is director of the International Humanitarian Law Clinic at Emory University School of Law where she teaches international humanitarian law and works directly with students to provide assistance to international tribunals, non-governmental organizations, and law firms around the world on cutting-edge issues in humanitarian law and human rights. Professor Blank is the co-author of International Law and Armed Conflict: Fundamental Principles and Contemporary Challenges in the Law of War, a casebook on the law of war (with G. Noone, Aspen Publishing 2013). She is also the co-director of a multi-year project on military training programs in the law of war and the co-author of Law of War Training: Resources for Military and Civilian Leaders (USIP 2008, with G. Noone, second edition 2013). In addition, she is the series editor of the ICRC’s teaching supplements on IHL, a member of the American Bar Association’s Advisory Committee to the Standing Committee on Law and National Security, and a member of the Public Interest Law and Policy Group’s High Level Working Group on Piracy. Before coming to Emory, Professor Blank was a program officer in the Rule of Law Program at the United States Institute of Peace. At USIP, she directed the Experts’ Working Group on International Humanitarian Law, in particular a multi-year project focusing on New Actors in the Implementation and Enforcement of International Humanitarian Law.

Geoffrey S. Corn is the Presidential Research Professor of Law at South Texas College of Law Houston in Houston Texas. Prior to joining the South Texas College of Law Houston faculty in 2005, Professor Corn served in the U.S. Army for 21 years as an officer, and a final year as s civilian legal advisor, retiring in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Professor Corn’s teaching and scholarship focuses on the law of armed conflict, national security law, criminal law and procedure, and prosecutorial ethics. He has appeared an expert witness at the Military Commission in Guantanamo, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and in federal court. He is the lead author of The Law of Armed Conflict: An Operational Perspective, and The Laws of War and the War on Terror, and  National Security Law and Policy: a Student Treatise. He is also co-author of Principles of Counter-Terrorism Law. His Army career included service as the Army’s senior law of war expert advisor, tactical intelligence officer in Panama; supervisory defense counsel for the Western United States; Chief of International Law for US Army Europe; Professor of International and National Security Law at the US Army Judge Advocate General’s School; and Chief Prosecutor for the 101st Airborne Division.

Mark Dubowitz is the CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where he leads projects on Iran, sanctions, countering threat finance, and nonproliferation. He is an expert on Iran’s global network including the regime's nuclear, terrorist, missile and cyber threats to the United States and other allies, and is widely recognized as one of the key influencers in shaping sanctions policies to counter the threats emanating from Iran and its surrogates. Mr. Dubowitz was featured as one of the key “financial warriors” in the book “The Iran Wars.” Mr. Dubowitz has advised the Trump, Obama and Bush administrations and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on Iran issues and testified more than twenty times before the U.S. Congress and foreign legislatures. A former venture capitalist and technology executive, Mark heads FDD’s Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance and is the author or co-author of over twenty studies on economic sanctions and Iran's nuclear program.

Orde Kittrie is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and professor of law at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. He is a leading expert on nonproliferation law and policy with a focus on Iran sanctions, and an expert on international law, particularly as it relates to the Middle East. Mr. Kittrie is author of Lawfare: Law as a Weapon of War (Oxford University Press, 2016), which describes how and why law is becoming an increasingly powerful and prevalent weapon of war, through examples of lawfare use by the U.S., China, Israel, the Palestinians, as well as non-governmental organizations and individuals. Prior to entering academia, Mr. Kittrie served for eleven years at the Department of State, where he received the Department’s Superior Honor Award and its Meritorious Honor Award. As the Department's lead nuclear affairs attorney, Mr. Kittrie helped negotiate five U.S.-Russia nuclear agreements and a UN treaty to combat nuclear terrorism. Mr. Kittrie also served as director of the department’s Office of International Anti-Crime Programs, as the department’s lead attorney for strategic trade controls, and as a lead attorney for public affairs and public diplomacy. He also served as Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs.