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School of Law

Ms Elizabeth Stubbins Bates

BA (Oxford) LLM (Harvard) PGCertHE (LSE) FHEA


Elizabeth Stubbins Bates
Ms Elizabeth Stubbins Bates
Email address:
Thesis title:
Effective Military Training in International Humanitarian Law: Towards a Theory of Prevention and Compliance
Year of Study:
Internal Supervisors

PhD Research

States are obliged to integrate international humanitarian law (IHL) into programmes of military instruction and training, as part of a broader obligation to disseminate IHL, including to the civilian population. Although the IHL training obligation applies in peace and war, and is reiterated in numerous treaties, treaty texts provide scant guidance on its implementation, delegating military training in IHL to state discretion. Only recent treaties and non-binding standards add specificity to the IHL training obligation. This simplicity is puzzling in view of the explicit link in the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Commentary between the IHL training obligation and the broader obligation to ‘respect and ensure respect’ for the Four Geneva Conventions ‘in all circumstances’, i.e. to promote compliance with IHL and prevent violations. Literature on military training in IHL has been built interstitially, compared to the richer interdisciplinary works on military ethics and on the social psychology of atrocities. The scholarly consensus is pragmatic and cognisant of the limitations of IHL training to prevent violations: military IHL training should aim to internalise norms through attitudinal change, discourse and repetition, yet training is acknowledged to be insufficient to ensure compliance with the law. The ICRC’s practice has evolved as the academic research has broadened. It has moved from an emphasis on dissemination of IHL norms to states and non-state armed groups, to integration: the idea expressed in 2007 that IHL should be included into all aspects of ‘doctrine, training, education, equipment and sanctions’, and more recently in 2011, that IHL is continuously relevant to the decision-making and communication within the military command structure. These principles remain a work-in-progress and have not to date been the subject of empirical inquiry.

Literature on military training in international humanitarian law, on military ethics and the social psychology of wartime atrocities lead to a broader theory of prevention and compliance in international humanitarian law, of which IHL training is but a part. Data from public inquiries and the recent court-martial of Alexander Blackman (Marine A)  support the conclusion of the ICRC’s 2004 Roots of Behaviour in War study that ‘moral disengagement’ can coexist with knowledge of IHL, and creates a risk of violations. Discourse that attempts to justify violations of IHL can undermine otherwise well-designed IHL training, and reduce its effectiveness to prevent violations of IHL on deployment. A theory of prevention and compliance in IHL needs to take account of recent research on compliance in ‘areas of limited statehood’ (Krieger, 2013; Borzel and Risse, 2013, Jo and Bryant, 2014); and the implementation of norms (Betts and Orchard, 2014); accounts of normative legitimacy and indeterminacy; an interactional approach to international law (Brunee and Toope, 2010); the influence of ‘barracks culture’ and the ‘commingling’ of legal advisers as tools for compliance (Lloyd Roberts, 2006; Dickinson, 2010); and norm internalisation, creating ‘taken-for-granted’ norms (Finnemore and Sikkink, 1998), in this case, among soldiers and officers.

This research is qualitative, archival and doctrinal, drawing on case law, training directives and public inquiry datasets on UK state practice. It seeks to theorise effectiveness (the capacity to promote legal compliance) in military IHL training, and to design a rubric for replicable state reporting on dissemination and military instruction in IHL. Through documentary and archival analysis, the thesis constructs a chronology of British Army practice on IHL training, evaluating recent deficits and reforms in progress. The thesis argues that international humanitarian law needs a distinct theory of compliance and prevention. International humanitarian law’s reliance on the understanding and conduct of multiple sub-state actors (civilian officials, officers and soldiers) and non-state armed groups make it distinct from many other branches of international law for which a meta-state approach to compliance theory might still be justified. The indeterminacy, some might say constructive indeterminacy, of international humanitarian law presents additional challenges to effective IHL training, and problematises compliance in the IHL context. The thesis presents a critical account of normative indeterminacy in IHL, and of state practice in military training where IHL and international human rights law intersect.

PhD Publications

In Proofs:
Journal Article

‘Towards Rigorous State Reporting on Military Training in International Humanitarian Law: A Recommendation for the Strengthening Compliance Initiative’, International Review of the Red Cross, special issue on Generating Respect for International Humanitarian Law (forthcoming, 2015).

In Press:
Combined Review
‘Sophisticated Constructivism in Human Rights Compliance Theory: Review of Ryan Goodman and Derek Jinks, Socializing States: Promoting Human Rights through International Law; Courtney Hillebrecht, Domestic Politics and International Human Rights Tribunals: The Problem of Compliance; Thomas Risse, Stephen C. Ropp and Kathryn Sikkink (eds), The Persistent Power of Human Rights: From Commitment to Compliance’ European Journal of International Law (forthcoming, 2015)

Previous Publications:
Terrorism and International Law: Accountability, Remedies and Reform – A Report of the International Bar Association Task Force on Terrorism, edited by an IBA Task Force of Justice Richard Goldstone, HHJ Eugene Cotran, Gijs de Vries, Julia A. Hall, Juan Mendez, Javaid Rehman (Oxford University Press, 2011);

Conference Proceedings
‘Interpretive Complexity and the International Humanitarian Law Principle of Proportionality’, Proceedings of the American Society of International Law Annual Meeting 2014 (fact patterns for panel discussion; in press)

‘Law of Warcraft: New Approaches to Generating Respect for the Law’ Proceedings of the American Society of International Law Annual Meeting 2014 (moderator’s introduction and comments; in press)

‘From Assertion to Solid Methodology in Customary International Human Rights Law’, Proceedings of the American Society of International Law Annual Meeting 2009

Case Reports and Short Notes

‘Introductory Note to Hassan v. United Kingdom (European Court of Human Rights) International Legal Materials (under review, 2015);

‘Introductory Note to Margus v. Croatia (European Court of Human Rights)’ International Legal Materials 53(5) (2014) 751;

‘Introductory Note to the International Criminal Court Appeals Chamber, Prosecutor v. Francis Kirimi Muthaura, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and Mohammed Hussein Ali, 51(1) (2012)  International Legal Materials 17.

Reports and Policy Briefings
(co-authored with Sarah Williams and Matthew Cross) ‘Implementation of International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law in the United Kingdom: Study Commissioned by the European Commission as part of the ATLAS Project’, (ATLAS Project, 2009);

‘Occupation, armed conflict and the legal aspects of the relationship between Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip: A resource for practitioners’ (HPCR Policy Brief, 2008);

‘From Legal Theory to Policy Tools: International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’ (HPCR Policy Brief, 2008);

(co-authored with Ari Bassin) ‘Civilian Participation in Hostilities’, (HPCR Policy Brief, 2008);

(co-authored with Chia Lehnhardt) ‘Private Military and Security Companies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: The International Law Framework’ (HPCR Policy Brief, 2008).

PhD Conferences

‘Silence and Meta-Narrative in the Baha Mousa and Al-Sweady Public Inquiries’, UCL Postgraduate and Early Careers Conference, 3 November 2014.

‘Towards Effective Military Training in International Humanitarian Law’ University of Manchester School of Law Postgraduate Research Masterclass, 15 October 2014.

‘Law of Warcraft: New Approaches to Generating Respect for the Law’ (moderator), American Society of International Law Annual Meeting and International Law Association Biennial Meeting, 11 April 2014.  

‘Interpretive Complexity and the International Humanitarian Law Principle of Proportionality’, (co-organised panel and wrote fact patterns for discussion) American Society of International Law Annual Meeting and International Law Association Biennial Meeting, 10 April 2014.

‘Training Military Personnel in International Humanitarian Law: What Works to Prevent Atrocities in Armed Conflict?’, SOAS School of Law PhD Colloquium, 22 January 2014.

‘Training Troops in International Humanitarian Law: New Thoughts on Compliance Theory’, Society of Legal Scholars (SLS) Annual Meeting, University of Edinburgh, UK, 5 September 2013.

‘Is Dissemination Sufficient to Promote Compliance with International Humanitarian Law?’, Opinio Juris Emerging Voices Symposium, 13 August 2013.

‘Testing the Effectiveness of the British Army’s Training in International Humanitarian Law’, American Society of International Law (ASIL) 2nd Research Forum, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 20-21 October 2012.

‘From Assertion to Solid Methodology in Customary International Human Rights Law’ American Society of International Law Annual Meeting, Research Showcase (Poster Session), 27 March 2009.


American Society of International Law,
British Institute of International and Comparative Law,
European Society of International Law,
International Law Association (Associate Member),
Higher Education Academy (Fellow),
International Society of Military Law and the Laws of War,
Society of Legal Scholars.


  • International Humanitarian Law
  • International Human Rights Law
  • Jurisprudence/International Legal Theory
  • Compliance Theory
  • Empirical Approaches to International Law