Dean Rusk International Law Center hosts “International Law and the Ukraine-Russia Conflict,” featuring Georgia Law Professors Amann, Cohen, and Durkee

Nearly a hundred members of the University of Georgia School of Law community took part Wednesday in “International Law and the Ukraine-Russia Conflict,” a forum hosted by our Dean Rusk International Law Center and presented by three international law experts on the law school’s faculty.

The armed conflict began on February 24, 2022, when Russian military troops invaded the neighboring state of Ukraine, entering the latter country at points on its northern, eastern, and southern borders. At this writing just a week later, thousands of persons, civilians and combatants alike, reportedly had been killed, and, according to UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, more than a million Ukrainians had been forcibly displaced.

At Wednesday’s forum, each of the three Georgia Law professors first offered a brief overview of a particular aspect of the armed conflict:

  • Our Center’s Director, Melissa J. “MJ” Durkee, who is also Associate Dean for International Programs and Allen Post Professor, began by outlining the international rules that have outlawed aggressive war – that is, one country’s unjustified invasion of another – since the adoption of the 1945 Charter of the United Nations. She explained why reasons that Russia has put forward do not constitute legally valid justifications for the invasion, and further emphasized the threat that Russia’s actions place on the international rules-based order that came into being after the Allied victory in World War II. In so doing, Durkee cited a UN General Assembly resolution, adopted Wednesday by a huge majority of votes, which condemned Russia’s actions as violative of this order.
  • Next came Harlan Grant Cohen, who is Gabriel M. Wilner/UGA Foundation Professor in International Law and one of our Center’s 2 Faculty Co-Directors. Cohen focused on economic sanctions that have been levied against Russia in the last week, by individual countries including the United States and also by international organizations including the European Union. While noting that these types of economic actions had been developed in response to Iran’s nuclear program, Cohen stressed that the extent and impact of the sanctions already imposed against Russia is unprecedented.
  • Then followed our Center’s other Faculty Co-Director, Diane Marie Amann, who is also Regents’ Professor of International Law and Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law. She addressed international humanitarian law, the body of law concerned with the ways that armies and armed groups actually conduct the war. She underscored that this body of law concerns itself with all sides of the conflict, regardless of who started the conflict: fighters on either side may be found liable for violations, and thus charged with war crimes. Amann concluded with a look at forums already engaged to review legal issues arising out of the war, among them the European Court of Human Rights, International Criminal Court, and International Court of Justice.

The forum concluded with a lively and wide-ranging question-and-answer period.

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