2016 Bruges Colloquium on IHL – Programme and Registration

About the author(s):

Rogier is a researcher at the Netherlands Defence Academy (NLDA) and works at the Dutch National Prosecutor’s Office. He holds LL.M-degrees from Utrecht University and the University of Nottingham. Before taking up his current positions, he was an associate legal officer in Chambers at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and a legal adviser at the International Humanitarian Law Division of the Netherlands Red Cross.

Rogier is an adjunct-lecturer at the Hague University of Applied Sciences, where he teaches international humanitarian law, and he co-convenes the Hague Initiative for Law and Armed Conflict.

The 17th edition of the Bruges Colloquium on International Humanitarian Law will take place on 20-21 October 2016 and deal with “Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism and International Humanitarian Law”. Registration is now open (here).

In the past years, I have advertised the yearly Bruges Colloquium here at the blog and these posts always had loads of hits (mostly via search engines), because information of the colloquium has always been somewhat hard to get to. However, that is a thing of the past, as the ICRC and the College of Europe have now launched a great new (flashy) website for this jointly organised conference, which has all relevant information, including PDFs of the conference proceedings of previous editions (e.g., the following ones, which are of particular relevance for readers of the blog: Scope of application of IHL, Relevance of IHL to Non-State Actors, Improving compliance with IHL, and Armed Conflicts and Parties to Armed Conflicts under IHL: Confronting Legal Categories to Contemporary Realities)

I have sung the praise of this wonderful conference before, but will do so again for those who are learning about the colloquium for the first time. Besides the lovely location (the pretty, quaint city of Bruges), the level at the conference is great and it is attended by a good mix of academics and practitioners (ICRC, government and IGO/NGO representatives and, importantly, members of the armed forces (NATO HQ is nearby)). It always futures excellent presentations on current topics, followed by high-level discussions (both as part of the sessions, and in between, over coffee or beers), with relevant questions (no questions being asked solely for the sake of putting a question on the record; in this regard, it is should be noted that the proceedings of the colloquia reflect the discussions that follow the presentations in an anonymous manner). Also important, attending the conference is free of charge. At least, if you do not sign up for the conference dinner (which is generally held at a nice historic venue) and instead go for, for example, moules et frites and Belgian beers. It is one of my favourite reoccurring (IHL) conferences and I can recommend attending to everyone.

This year, the colloquium will deal the legal framework related to terrorism and counter-terrorism and address issues such as the status of foreign fighters, how to determine who is a party to an armed conflict, and the geographical scope of IHL. It will include speakers such as Marco Sassoli, Noam Lubell, Tristan Ferraro and Francoise Hampson. The programme will be as follows:

Day 1: Thursday, 20th October

9:00 – 9:30    Registration and Coffee
9:30 – 9:55    Welcome addresses

9:55 – 10:15  Keynote address by Christine Beerli, Vice-President of the ICRC


Session One: Setting the scene

Chairperson: Paul Berman, Council of the EU Legal Service
10:30 – 10:50            Legal framework addressing terrorism and counter-terrorism

Speaker: Sandra Krähenmann, Geneva Academy of IHL and Human Rights
10:50 – 11:10            Interaction and overlap of between counter-terrorism legislation and international humanitarian law
Speaker: Tristan Ferraro, ICRC Legal Divsion


11:10 – 11:30 European approach to counter-terrorism and international humanitarian law

Speaker to be announced


11:30 – 12:15 Discussion


Session Two: Legal parameters of the fight against terrorism

Chairperson: Elzbieta Mikos-Skuza, University of Warsaw and College of Europe


13.45 – 14:05 Legal qualification of the fight against terrorism

Speaker: Marco Sassoli, University of Geneva


14:05 – 14:25           Terrorist groups as parties to an armed conflict

Speaker: Rogier Bartels, International Criminal Court
14:25 – 14:45           Limits of the geographical scope of application of IHL in combating terrorism

Speaker: Noam Lubell, Essex University Discussion
14:45 – 15:15 Discussion


Session Three: The use of force in the fight against terrorism

Chairperson: Steven Hill, NATO Legal Office


15:30 – 15:50 Legal challenges in fighting armed groups extra-territorially

Speaker: Claire Landais, Ministry of Defence, France


15:50 – 16:10           The conduct of hostilities versus the law enforcement paradigm Speaker: Françoise Hampson, Essex University [tbc]


16:10 – 16:30           Questions of detention in operations against terrorist armed groups

Speaker: Frederik Naert, Council of the EU Legal Service


16:30 – 17:00           Discussion


17:00 – 18:00 Panel discussion: The status of foreign fighters

Moderator: Elizabeth Wilmshurst, Chatham House


Vaios Koutroulis, Université Libre de Bruxelles

Christophe Paulussen, T.M.C. Asser Institute

3rd speaker to be announced


Day 2: Friday, 21st October

Session Four: Criminalisation of humanitarian action

Chairperson: Ann-Kristin Sjöberg, Geneva Call


9:00 – 9:20     Impact of counter-terrorism measures on humanitarian action Speaker: Patrick Duplat, International Rescue Committee


9:20 – 9:40    Humanitarian exemption in counter-terrorism law

Speaker: Dustin Lewis, Harvard Law School


9:40 – 10:00  Funding of humanitarian action in territories controlled by terrorist groups

Speaker to be announced


10:00 – 10:45           Discussion


11:00 – 12:30           Panel discussion: Countering violent extremism

Moderator: Hugo Slim, ICRC Policy Cell



Stephan Husy, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs [tbc]

Naureen Chowdhury Fink, Global Center for Cooperative Security [tbc]

Dick Clomen, Swedish Red Cross


12:30 – 13:00 Concluding remarks and closure by Christine Beerli, Vice-President of the ICRC


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