Foreign Fighters, Terrorists and Anyone Caught In Between – Guantanamo Military Commissions and the Distinction Principle

Foreign Fighters, Terrorists and Anyone Caught In Between – Guantanamo Military Commissions and the Distinction Principle

Tue 15 October 2019


Usha Kasera Lecture Theatre, Old College


This event will explore the principle of distinction as defined in international humanitarian law and how this impacts a variety of issues including: the obligations of non-state actors in armed conflict; the prosecution of different actors through military commissions; how the distinction principle has changed since the US War on Terror began; how to categorise intelligence and mercenary paramilitaries; human rights breaches linked to detention of individuals inappropriately categorised, etc.

The panel will feature both academics and practitioners, including two of the defense lawyers in the 9/11 military commission case taking place in Guantánamo Bay. Dr Kasey McCall-Smith will chair the event.

James Connell is an attorney detailed to represent Ammar al Baluchi on behalf of the Military Commissions Defense Organization. Mr. Connell began his career as a public defender in Las Vegas, Nevada and Fairfax. Virginia. After moving to private practice, Mr. Connell began to represent people against whom the government was seeking the death penalty. From 2003, forward, Mr. Connell has worked primarily on death penalty cases. His clients have included Darrell Rice (the alleged Route 29 Stalker, falsely accused of multiple murders in Virginia); John Allen Mohammad (the DC Sniper, executed in 2009); and Eddie Bell (whose case was heard in the Supreme Court before his execution in 2009). Mr. Connell first participated in the Guantanamo Bay military commissions process in 2008 and has been engaged full-time in the defense of Mr. al Baluchi since 2011.

Dylan Craig is senior professorial lecturer of International Relations at American University’s School of International Studies (SIS) in Washington, DC, and the author of “Sovereignty, War and the Global State” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). His current research projects concern proxy wars, the intermediarization of violence more generally, and the “sovereign interstices” to which these intermediarized forms of violence are adapted. Before joining the SIS community in 2004, he taught colonial and Cold War history at Rhodes University in South Africa.

Benjamin R. Farley is a trial attorney and law-of-war counsel at the U.S. Department of Defense, Military Commissions Defense Organization, where he represents Ammar al-Baluchi, one of the five codefendants in the 9/11 conspiracy case who face capital charges before the military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. From 2013 until 2017, he served as a Senior Adviser to the Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure at the U.S. Department of State. A 2012 Presidential Management Fellow, Mr. Farley received a J.D. with honors from Emory University School of Law, where he served as the editor-in-chief of the Emory International Law Review. Mr. Farley has published on topics including sovereignty, statehood, and international humanitarian law in various law and policy journals.

Katharine Fortin is an Assistant Professor at Utrecht University where she teaches international humanitarian law, international human rights law and public international law. She is the author of The Accountability of Armed Groups under Human Rights Law (Oxford University Press, 2017) which won the 2018 Lieber Prize. Katharine has written widely about the framework of law that applies to armed groups in non-international armed conflicts and is an editor of the Armed Groups and International Law blog.

This event is free and open to all. Registration is required (below)