Digitalizing the rules of war – Marking 70 years of the Geneva Conventions

Digitalizing the rules of war – Marking 70 years of the Geneva Conventions

70 years ago today the Geneva Conventions were adopted. To mark this milestone, the ICRC is launching a new digital app giving users access to key IHL treaties and texts, via mobile or tablet device, anywhere and anytime, whether online or offline.

Developed by the ICRC the IHL – International Humanitaian Law Digital App  provides access and reference, in multiple languages, to more than 75 treaties and other documents relating to IHL – most notably, the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, the ICRC’s original and updated Commentaries on the Conventions and Additional Protocols, and the rules of customary IHL identified by the ICRC’s 2005 Study on customary IHL.


Key features:

·         Search, and use the app anywhere, anytime, thanks to its online and offline modes.

·         Access the app in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian or Spanish.

·         All legal treaty articles and customary rules featured can be opened in English and French, whether on or offline. Corresponding documents are also available in Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish, and some in Portuguese.

·         The built-in search function makes all included texts fully searchable, helping support informed IHL discussions, decisions, negotiations or training.

·         All searches can be bookmarked for later use, and shared.

·         The app is fed by the ICRC’s Treaties, State Parties and Commentaries, as well as Customary International Humanitarian Law databases, enabling automatic updates when online.

Also in celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Geneva Conventions

5 myths about the Geneva Conventions as they turn 70 – Dr Helen Durham, Director of International Law and Policy at the ICRC reflects on the unique role of the Conventions in today’s world.

Geneva Conventions’ 70-year path protecting humanity in war – Discover the ICRC’s new Casebook highlight of key learning resources dedicated to the Geneva Conventions.

Learn the basics of IHL without a legal background – The ICRC’s Introduction to IHL elearning course is now available on Read this guest blog to learn more about the learning behind the course.


International Writing Competition 2018

Justis are offering a £2,000 prize for the best blog post written by a student on one of the following topics: Future of legal technology & the work of law firms, how the law copes with technological innovations, and the mass impact of technology for providing new and easy access to legal information.

For more information on each topic area, guiding questions and inspiration, click the link here.

International Law Events at the University of Glasgow

Prof Nils Melzer: inaugural event

The Fight against Torture: Perspective of a Practitioner
Thursday 28 September
5pm, Gilbert Scott Suite 250 (Main Building)

Please register via Eventbrite.

‘International Law as a Profession’ seminar series

Professor Nils Melzer
(UN Special Rapporteur on Tortume, Geneva Academy Human Rights Chair)
Tuesday 10 October
Time and venue tbc

Human Security in a Destabilising World – high-level panel event

Wednesday 11 October
5pm, Melville Room, Main Building


  • Helen Durham, Director of International Law and Policy, International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Ben Emmerson, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in counter-terrorism
  • Nils Melzer, Professor in International Law, Human Rights Chair Geneva Academy, and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture

‘International Law as a Profession’ seminar series

Dr Kate Parlett
(20 Essex Street Specialist in PIL and International Arbitration)
Thursday 2 November
Time and venue tbc

ReVisions seminar series

David Quinton, Tax Barrister and Consultant
Thursday 16 November
4pm, Room 207, No 10 The Square

ReVisions seminar series

Nahed Samour
Thursday 30 November
4pm, Room 207, No 10 The Square

Please contact Joanna Wilson:( for more details and to register.

Understanding Article 50: Today, Tomorrow and the Two-Year Myth…

Andrew Agnew is an LL.B. (Hons) Dual Qualifying Scots & English law graduate of the University of Dundee. Having specialised in European Union law at Honours level, Andrew submitted his dissertation on the interpretation of Article 50 in March 2015, being awarded a 1st Class for the thesis. Outwith academia, Andrew has undertaken placements in Brussels, Westminster, the Civil Service and local government.


Today marks the beginning of the long, unprecedented and tumultuous journey to fulfil the referendum mandate delivered by the people to politicians on 23rd June 2016: The United Kingdom is withdrawing from the European Union.


Following a high-profile judicial battle through the High Court and concluding with the Supreme Court’s judgement in R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union[1], that parliamentary consent is required before the Executive can trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, ‘Brexit’ is a public lawyer’s dream. The legal implications and requirements of Article 50, alone, should not be underestimated.


Articulating Article 50

Article 50 has five subsections. Theresa May has already undertaken the first subsection of Article 50, with assistance from their Lordships’ judgement in Miller, that a Member State may “withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional elements.”[2] This was provided through June 2016’s referendum and the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 which was given Royal Assent on 16th March 2017.


Today, Theresa May completes the next step in the Article 50 saga – the United Kingdom shall notify the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, per the requirements of Article 50(2).[3] This will be in the form of a written letter to be delivered to the Council, followed by Mrs May providing a statement to the House of Commons in the afternoon informing Parliament and setting out the aims and future relationship the British Government wishes to negotiation with the European Union. European Council President, Donald Tusk, will respond to the UK’s withdrawal notice within 48 hours of it being received. This response will be expected to include the guidelines and framework for negotiations.[4] Article 50(2) also establishes that a potential Withdrawal Agreement will be negotiated in terms of Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – this deals with negotiations between the EU and third parties.[5] Any Withdrawal Agreement will be concluded by the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, and after the agreement of the European Parliament.


One myth that has stemmed from the recent attention on Article 50 is the ‘two-year deadline’ to negotiate a Withdrawal Agreement. This is not completely factual. Article 50(3) states that membership “shall cease to apply…from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification…unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.”[6] Membership, and the EU Treaties, shall cease on the date that any negotiated Withdrawal Agreement comes into force. Article 50(3) does not stipulate that a Withdrawal Agreement must be reached within two years; only that if no agreement is reached then membership shall cease two years to the date that the withdrawal notification is issued to the Council. UK politicians have been repeatedly, and wrongly, stated that withdrawal will take two years – due to the complexity of withdrawal, this is extremely unlikely. This myth is perfectly highlighted in the Daily Telegraph’s recent article entitled What is Article 50? The only explanation you need to read, where it states that “The process is supposed to take two years but many people believe that it could take longer.”[7] Article 50 is silent on the duration of withdrawal negotiations, only that if no Withdrawal Agreement is to be reached then the membership ceases after two years. However, this can also be postponed if an agreement to extend the period of negotiation is reached between the Council and the UK.


Article 50(4) prohibits the UK from participating “in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.”[8] This clearly establishes that a notification to withdraw from the EU, under Article 50, provides a semi-transition for the UK from a Member State to a third party, for the purposes of all decisions and matters relating to the withdrawal. The United Kingdom can still participate in the work of European Union in all other areas, although it is unlikely that the UK Government will continue to participate in votes of the European Council.


Following the ‘termination’ of the UK’s membership of the EU if Mrs May, or any future British Government, were to follow David Cameron’s recent utterance on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s snapchat of “I’ll be back”[9], they could reapply for membership of the EU under Article 50(5) which allows for former Member States to return under Article 49. However, if the UK were to reapply following withdrawal, this would not come with the current opt-outs and preferential treatment that has been provided under our current membership…

Concluding Remarks

“…there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”


Donald Rumsfeld, 13th and 21st United States Secretary of Defense

12th February 2002[10]


It has been 280 days since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.  Today Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.


This “we know, we know.”[11]


The United Kingdom will immediately begin work to negotiate a Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. However, there is no guarantee of a successful Withdrawal Agreement being concluded and there is currently no guidelines as to how a Member State can leave without one.


This is a “known unknown.”[12]


Lastly, the terms of a potential withdrawal agreement, post-Brexit UK-EU commitments and Britain’s future relationship with the international community cannot be predicted, even amongst legal commentators.

This is an “unknown unknown.”[13]







[1] [2017] UKSC 5

[2] Consolidated Version of the Treaty on European Union [2012] C 326/13, art 50(1).

[3] BBC, ‘Article 50: Theresa May to trigger Brexit process next week’ (BBC, 20 March 2017)<>, last accessed 23 March 2017

[4] Cynthia Kroet, ‘Donald Tusk: EU to respond within 48 hours of Brexit notification’ (Politico, 8 March 2017) <;, Last accessed 23 March 2017

[5] Consolidated Version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union [2012] OJ C326/47

[6] Consolidated Version of the Treaty on European Union [2012] C 326/13, art 50(3)

[7] Michael Wilkinson, ‘What is Article 50? The only explanation you need to read’ (The Daily Telegraph, 23 March 2017) <;, Last accessed 23 March 2017

[8] Consolidated Version of the Treaty on European Union [2012] C 326/13, art 50(4)

[9] Helena Horton, ‘‘I’ll be back’: David Cameron speaks in Arnold Schwarsenegger Snapchat video’ (The Daily Telegraph, 3 February 2017) <;, Last accessed 23 March 2017.

[10] Donald Rumsfeld, ‘Department of Defense News Briefing’ (The Pentagon, Virgina, 12 February 2002) <; last accessed 30 March 2016.

[11] [Ibid]

[12] [Ibid]

[13] [Ibid]

The University is engaged in work to develop a revised brand framework, which will shape how we present ourselves to the world. This is being led by External Relations and is being done at a time when we are approaching our 50th anniversary in 2017.

The existing brand guidelines were developed in 2000 and no longer reflect the University’s position or ambition. In that time the world has also changed significantly in terms of where and how the University needs to be seen, and we need to ensure that we respond effectively to these changes. The revision of the brand framework is therefore part of the University’s strategic plan to raise our profile and ultimately generate more income.

We are working on this with an external agency, Tangent Graphics, who were appointed following a competitive procurement process.  Based in Glasgow, they delivered all the branding for the highly successful Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the recent “People make Glasgow” city promotion campaign. They also employ two graduates from our School of Art and Design, and regularly take on others on as interns, including one this summer.

The University brand and how we present ourselves is something that affects all who work here. So we are keen to get your views on some of the questions it raises. Earlier this summer we ran initial workshops with small groups of staff and students. These yielded useful insights and we’d now like to build on these through responses to a short questionnaire, which is at

The survey will close on 09/09/16.

International Criminal Court recognises Rape as a War Crime.

The Hague: The International Criminal Court convicted a former Congolese vice president on Monday of murder, rape and pillage committed by members of his militia in the Central African Republic in 2002-2003. The judgment was hailed as a landmark in the fight against impunity for sex crimes in conflict.

The unanimous conviction of Jean-Pierre Bemba marked the first time the court has convicted a suspect based on his role as a military commander. It also was the court’s first judgment recognising rape as a war crime and crime against humanity.

Bemba, 53, is the highest-ranking person yet convicted by the court. He showed no emotion as Presiding Judge Sylvia Steiner read out the long judgment highlighting horrific crimes by his militia.

He will be sentenced following a separate hearing. His defense lawyers can appeal.

Presiding Judge Sylvia Steiner of Brazil outlined a litany of rapes by members of Bemba’s militia, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, after it was deployed to Central African Republic to help forces loyal to then-President Ange-Feliz Patasse fight rebels led by Francois Bozize. Bozize’s forces ultimately won and he replaced Patasse as president.

Steiner said women, girls and men were targeted by Bemba’s forces, often with multiple soldiers raping women and girls in front of other family members.

In one incident, a man’s wife was gang raped and when he protested he, too, was raped at gunpoint.

“Entire families were victimized,” Steiner said. “Victims included the elderly men, women and children.”

Bemba was convicted even though he spent much of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Even so, the three-judge panel said that he was able to communicate with his troops using radios, as well as satellite and mobile phones and also saw reports of their grave crimes in the media.

Steiner called what little action he did take to prevent or punish crimes by his forces “grossly inadequate.”

The convictions for rape as a war crime and crime against humanity will be a boost for the court’s Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda who has made the fight against sexual assault in conflict one of her priorities.

Human rights activists also welcomed the convictions.

“This first guilty verdict at the ICC for sexual violence shines a spotlight on the use of rape as a weapon of war,” Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, international justice advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “There is still a profound need for justice for these crimes and other atrocities in both the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Bemba is from and mainly operated.

“The ICC prosecutor should bring further cases against those who bear responsibility for the gravest crimes in these countries.”

Descartes Mponge, secretary general of Congolese rights group ACADHOSHA, said the judgment “strengthens the ICC’s its credibility in Africa where it is accused of bias and politicization.”