2009 NATO Legal Conference in Strasbourg, France

17 Jul 2009

On Tuesday, 9th June 2009, General Mattis delivered the opening presentation at the annual NATO Legal Conference that occurred in Strasbourg, France, from 8th to 12th June and hosted by EUROCORPS under the command of Lieutenant General Pedro Pitarch (ESP) and the City of Strasbourg.

General Mattis discussed the role of today's legal advisors within NATO as the Alliance and its partners face complex threats and seemingly constant new challenges. Mr. Jose Aznar, former Prime Minister of Spain and Executive President of the Foundation for Social Studies and Analysis next addressed the conference, providing his view of the choices faced by NATO to remain relevant in the future. General Mattis, Mr. Aznar, Lieutenant General Pitarch, and Doctor Jean-Yves Haine, Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto then all participated in a one-hour panel discussion where the panellists answered questions on NATO's transformation, expansion and cooperation with the European Union and the United Nations. Other first day speakers included Mr. Serge Lazareff who contrasted today's NATO legal practice with his own that began under General Eisenhower from 1951 until 1967 and Mr. Gert-Jan van Hegleson, the Legal Adviser to the European Union Military Adviser.

The conference dedicated its second day to considering the subject of transnational justice. Beginning with an update on the progress of cases at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) by Mr. Daryl Mundis, Senior Prosecuting Trial Attorney, conference participants enjoyed presentations and discussions with four renowned judges of international tribunals: Mr Frederik Harhoff, ICTY, Ms Nina Vajic, European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Mr Pierre Boutet, Special Court Sierra Leone, and Vice President Hans-Peter Kaul, International Criminal Court (ICC). Relating the relevance of their tribunals to NATO, the judges and Mr. Mundis discussed piracy, the relationship between international humanitarian law and human rights law, jurisdictional issues for international courts, and the expected cooperation between the international courts, international organizations such as the United Nations and NATO, and military organizations as participants in post-conflict justice efforts.

During Thursday's session three legal topics received attention: the law of armed conflicts (LOAC), the latest results of the International Committee of the Red Cross's (ICRC) study of customary international humanitarian law and human rights law. Ms Mona Rishmawi, the Legal Advisor to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights opened the proceedings followed by Dr. Jean-Marie Henckaerts, Director of the ICRC study, and Colonel Livorn Libman, Head of the International Law Department of the Israeli Defense Force. During the lively panel that concluded this session, the speakers responded to questions from the audience and received the most inquiries regarding the status as combatants/non-combatants for different groups such as guerillas or pirates.

More than 115 participants representing 35 organizations and 43 countries attended the 2009 NATO Legal Conference—the largest number yet.

Nominations for next year's conference site and program are now being considered.