Visiting Fellow will discuss UAS and teaching military law
CHRGS Visiting Fellow will discuss UAS and teaching military law
When Laurie Blank was a second-year law student at the New York University School of Law, renowned international law professor Theodor Meron, now a judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, asked her if she could help him with a fascinating project. He was writing a book about how the law of war was used in the works of playwright William Shakespeare.
“I thought it was amazing opportunity," said Blank, "and it was fascinating to see how the law of war played a role in some of the great works of literature. For example, there is a famous scene in Henry V where King Henry orders his troops to kill all the French prisoners of war after the Battle of Agincourt. That’s a pivotal moment in the play but it also had a tremendous impact on me personally. It made me want to understand how law seeks to regulate the horrors of war and help bring some sanity, maybe even some humanity to what seems to be an inherently inhumane activity.” Blank had found her calling.
After law school she went on to work for the U.S. Institute of Peace and she now serves as Director of Emory Law School’s International Humanitarian Law Clinic. She will be on campus this week as the Fall Visiting Fellow for the UND Center for Human Rights and Genocide Studies. Blank will provide her insights on the law of war and human rights at three different forums open to the public:
(1) October 17th: a 7 p.m. lecture at the Chester Fritz East Asian Room titled “Using the Rhetoric of War for Counterterrorism: What Impact on Human Rights”;
(2) October 18th: an all-day symposium at the Odegard School Atmospherium, “Exploring the Drone and the Legal Unknown,” where Blank will deliver a 12:30 p.m. keynote address (“UAS and the Law of War” – other UND professors across campus will also participate and it is co-sponsored by the Center for UAS Research, Education and Training) and
(3) October 19th: a 12:30 p.m. faculty workshop in the Badlands Room of the Memorial Union, “Using the Law of War as a Tool Across Disciplines (co-sponsored by the Social Work Department -- all UND faculty are invited to participate).
Blank, whose clinic students have worked on cases related to Guantanamo Bay detainees, will explore the dangers of using the rhetoric of war in counterterrorism operations as part of her October 17th lecture at the East Asian Room. “Using the word ‘war” to frame a policy objective rallies the public and focuses resource allocation on achieving a key societal goal,” Blank observes. “But in the case of the ‘War on Terror,’ the rhetoric goes far beyond the rallying cry. It has significant consequences for civil liberties and human rights and threatens to undo the delicate balance between national security and individual rights.”
Blank sees the current debate on the U.S. drone campaign as a terrific opportunity to explore both traditional and contemporary law of war questions in greater detail. “The use of drones [UAS], particularly in Yemen and Somalia raises foundational questions about the justification for the use of force, the identification of legitimate targets, and the geographic parameters of the battlefield in a conflict with transnational terrorist groups. At the same time, drones have the potential to enhance law of war compliance in a variety of ways. I look forward to discussing these issues at the UAS Symposium.”
More than anything, though, Blank is excited to participate in the October 19th faculty workshop and return to her law of war roots. “I expect we’ll talk about Shakespeare and the law of war.”
Blank is equally interested in exploring ways in which the law of war arises in other disciplines, including political science, philosophy, and history. “I hope we’ll consider issues such as the morality of killing in wartime – whether combatants or innocent civilians – and the legitimacy of self-defense as a justification for the use of military force. Such questions can really inspire class discussion and learning on issues across the spectrum.”
Blank engages regularly with military and civilian leaders on law of war issues. But just as when she was a law student, she still struggles with the reality of pervasive violence and the omnipresent specter of human rights violations in her field of expertise. “I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to grapple with these issues as a Visiting Fellow with the UND Center for Human Rights and Genocide Studies. Sometimes it’s hard to resolve these dilemmas in a black and white way. That’s why it’s so great for scholarly discussion. I expect to leave the UND campus with new insights and even more passion for my work.”
Moussa Nombre Doctoral Student LLM./MSc. Criminal Justice/Criminology