Audience acclaim JUSTICE Scotland war event
It had been a "truly fascinating" discussion on the tensions between the law and war, said Dorothy Bain, QC, Chair of JUSTICE Scotland as she drew the evening to a close, and few in the capacity audience who had heard General Sir Mike Jackson and Lord Campbell of Pittenweem, QC, would argue.
With two such forthright and authoritative voices, it had been hoped that the event, hosted by the Faculty in the Laigh Hall, and chaired by Lord Hodge, the Supreme Court Justice, would be a fitting curtainraiser to JUSTICE Scotland's Beyond Law series. The applause at its close showed the hope had not been misplaced.
General Sir Mike Jackson, 45 years "a military practitioner", was Chief of the General Staff at the time of the Iraq war, and Lord (Menzies, Ming) Campbell is the former leader of the Liberal Democrats.
The men explained how the law of armed conflict had evolved from an urge to ameliorate the worst effects of war, and had been set down in the likes of the Geneva Convention and the UN Charter.
"They have, by and large, been successful in ameliorating, not removing, the worst effects of human conflict, giving protection to prisoners of war and the wounded," said Sir Mike.
"They are a great comfort to soldiers who can rely largely on them if they become prisoners or are wounded."
Lord Campbell said the law had been a reactive process following events and was no means settled. He suggested that there would undoubtedly be a reaction to events of the last fortnight.
Sir Mike said the difficulty was that those who ignored the law saw adherence to it as a weakness to be exploited.
He was quite clear that for countries like Britain there was "no get-out clause" from the law, even if it put them at a military disadvantage.
"One should not underestimate the disadvantage in military terms which comes from one side accepting the constraints placed on them and another side which regards it as a weakness to be exploited," he said.
Lord Campbell suggested that in the past the concern would not have been as great because advanced nations had been "streets ahead" of possible adversaries with their technology. But things were different with the modern terrorist.
"They are very, very clever people and know about computers and information technology and are very clever at exploiting those. It is more and more difficult for those adhering to the legislative provisions to deal with that, and I think the only possible way to do it is by resources...having people who are properly trained and have the skills to match the cunning of the non-adhering actors," he said.
The Beyond Law series is part of the "Securing JUSTICE at 60" appeal through which JUSTICE, the law reform and human rights body, is hoping to raise £2 million by its 60th anniversary in 2017.
JUSTICE Scotland was launched as a branch in 2012 and it is making a small charge for the events to raise funds to sustain it.
The Dean of Faculty, James Wolffe, QC, said the Faculty was pleased and proud to be able to support the work of JUSTICE Scotland by hosting the series.
"JUSTICE Scotland depends on the support of those interested in its work and if it is to be as effective as it should be, it needs as much support as it can get. It is a mark of the standing of JUSTICE that Lord Hodge has agreed to chair this series of events," said Mr Wolffe.
The next event is on 22 January when Mr Wolffe will discuss with Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, her lifetime of campaigning on issues affecting all members of society.