Thursday, July 2, 2009

Provost: Asymmetrical Reciprocity and Compliance with the Laws of War

René Provost (McGill Univ. - Law) has posted Asymmetrical Reciprocity and Compliance with the Laws of War. Here's the abstract:
How does one get the Taliban in Afghanistan, the FARC in Colombia, Russian troops in Georgia, and Blackwater contractors in Iraq, to improve their dismal record of compliance with international humanitarian law? The recipe, inasmuch as one can be surmised, will involve a complex mix of carrot and stick, normative and political, humanitarian and strategic. One basic question is the degree to which reciprocity is a toxic factor in the normative dynamics of international humanitarian law, importing conditionality and offering excuses to match any violation committed by the other side, or whether there lies in reciprocity a force that can be successfully marshalled to improve the protection of the victims of war. A second related question is the extent to which an armed conflict has to involved symmetrical forces in order for reciprocity to operate at all. Should we agree with Marco Sassoli that “reciprocity . . . does not work in asymmetrical conflicts”? The paper attempts to show that even in asymmetrical conflicts so unreceptive to humanitarian ideals as the ones listed above, reciprocity offers such potential that it should not be discounted as merely another hurdle to overcome in the application of the laws of war, but rather that one of the bases on which legitimate norms can be established to link participants variously positioned in a regime like international humanitarian law.