Lawfare

Forensic Architecture

With the introduction and popularization of international law in contemporary battlefields, all parties to a conflict might seek to use it for their tactical and strategic advantage. The former American colonel and military judge Charles Dunlap, who was credited with the introduction of this term in 2001, suggested that lawfare can be defined as “the strategy of using—or misusing—law as a substitute for traditional military means to achieve an operational objective.” In the hands of non-state actors, the lawfare effect is created by an interaction between guerrilla groups that “lure militaries to conduct atrocities” and human rights groups that engage in advocacy to expose these atrocities, and who use whatever means for litigation they have at hand. Lawfare refers to the multiple ways by which contemporary warfare is conditioned, rather than simply justified, by international law. In both cases international law and the systems of courts/tribunals that exercise and enact it are not conceived as spaces outside the conflict, but rather as one of the battlegrounds internal to it.

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