Implementation of international humanitarian law obligations in Australia : a mixed record
Yvette Zegenhagen and Geoff Skillen
Asia-Pacific perspectives on international humanitarian law
Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2020
Australia has a strong track record of international humanitarian law (IHL) implementation despite never having fought a contemporary armed conflict on its own soil. There are several obvious reasons for this, including Australia’s history of deploying troops to conflict zones since the Boer War. Through both World Wars, regional Cold War flash points (notably Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam) and more recent conflicts in Iraq (first and second Gulf Wars) and Afghanistan (where Australians are still on active duty), IHL is of enduring relevance to Australia and its armed forces. In addition, IHL is an essential component of Australia’s foreign and defence policies, which are both based on strong support for a global ‘rules-based international order’. A focus on the Rule of Law and democratic institutions is also seen as a way of building Australia’s ‘soft power’, which is becoming an increasing focus of its foreign policy. A staunch commitment to IHL is but one way of furthering this objective. To provide further insight into how Australia has developed such a strong record of IHL implementation, this chapter presents a panoramic snapshot of the mechanics of domestic implementation of treaty obligations in Australia and how it has achieved this in relation to its IHL obligations (to varying degrees of success) through both legislation and Common Law. It also explores one of the more unique reasons why IHL implementation in Australia is so strong: namely the prominent role of civil society and civic participation in democratic processes within the Australian context.
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