Humanitarians Unite For St. Petersburg Summit

Humanitarians Unite For St. Petersburg Summit

A pioneer in the field, Fyodor Fyodrovich Martens mediated the first cases of international arbitration.

Published: May 29, 2013 (Issue # 1761)

The International Conference on International Humanitarian Law will celebrate 150 years of humanitarian action at the Martens Readings, a two-day summit that starts tomorrow in St. Petersburg.

The conference, now in its 10th year, is the result of the combined efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Law Faculty of St. Petersburg State University and the Russian Association of International Law. It aims to provide a platform for discussion to further the field of international humanitarian law by bringing to the fore pertinent issues and promoting their research.

The summit includes a full panel of over 100 participants. Academics, arbitrators and students from Russia and the CIS states, as well as Scotland, the United States, and other countries, will tackle such topics as “Means of Warfare and Challenges of the 21st Century,” “Contemporary Armed Conflict and IHL,” and “Humanitarian Action: Challenges and Future Prospects.” A photography exhibition will lend immediacy to the proceedings.

 The conference will be led by the Vice-President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Christine Beerli, who brings many years of experience in politics, law and science to the organization of the biannual conference. Beerli served in the Swiss government in the legislative assembly of the Canton of Bern and then in the upper house of the parliament, where she chaired the foreign affairs committee and the committee for social health and security. Beerli also chaired the caucus of the Free Democratic Party in the Swiss federal assembly from 1996-2003.

Other legal luminaries slated to speak are Bakhityar Tuzmukhamedov, a judge of the Appeals Chamber of the UN International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda; Lord Iain Bonomy, a retired judge of the Supreme Courts of Scotland; and Charles J. Dunlap Jr., the Executive Director of the Center on Law, Ethics, and National Security in the United States, and a law professor at Duke University.

The conference also includes a student component, with young scholars from over 10 universities in Russia, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine taking part in the annual Martens Moot-Court Competition to test their knowledge, theoretical and applied, in a mock scenario of armed conflict.

In the international spirit, law students from Kazan, Kiev and Leiden universities will give talks on non-state armed groups and IHL, chaired by Ivan Kotlyarov, Human Rights and International Law Chair at Moscow University.

The Martens Readings take their name from Russian diplomat and jurist Fyodor Fyodrovich Martens, who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to international humanitarian law in the early 20th century.

A pioneer in the field, Martens mediated the first cases of international arbitration, edited several volumes of Russian international treaties and published his own tomes on the subject of international humanitarian law. Most notably, Martens helped lay the groundwork and conduct the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907. He himself was a graduate of the St. Petersburg University law faculty.

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