Mind the Gap Project

Creating a Toolbox to Assess the Applicable Law Along the Continuum of Conflict

A joint project of the Emory International Humanitarian Law Clinic and the United States Institute of Peace, Mind the Gap will examine the intersecting legal frameworks applicable during conflict, stability operations and peace operations. These situations pose complex challenges for both military and civilian actors tasked with promoting the rule of law. For example, uncertainty about the applicable law can impact determinations regarding: detention regimes; limits on targeting, especially regarding the applicability of human rights norms; and the parameters of the authority and responsibility for conducting operations (as it arises in relations between the host nation and the States sending forces).  Understanding this complex suite of issues is fundamental to promoting the rule of law in conflict and post-conflict environments.


Identifying the Applicable Law

The continuum of conflict ranges from domestic disorders to non-international armed conflicts to international armed conflicts.  The nature of a particular conflict determines which law governs the actions, rights and obligations of those involved. But conflicts sometimes involve elements of both international and non-international armed conflict and often evolve from one form of conflict into another. The emergence of new forms of conflict for which there is no ready characterization complicates matters.  For example, is transnational terrorism an international armed conflict, a non-international armed conflict, a law enforcement operation, or, perhaps, something altogether different?

Each situation is subject to distinct bodies of law:  human rights law, international humanitarian law and domestic law overlie the conflict continuum; stability operations then also involve multiple layers including bilateral treaties, international conventions, and the domestic law of the state where an operation occurs.


Project Framework

This project will bring together leading practitioners and scholars with operational and legal experience in a range of peace and stability operations to:

  1. identify the key legal questions that arise over the continuum of conflict scenarios;
  2. assess whether and how problems in defining the conflict situation and identifying applicable legal regimes complicates effective and legal interventions;
  3. determine which relevant materials and products would be most useful for military and civilian actors on the ground;
  4. address how to better train key actors in this regard; and
  5. develop a framework for better analyzing the key questions and dilemmas identified.

In addition, the project will develop an operational matrix that can be used as a tool for actors in peace and stability operations to more accurately assess their legal obligations and duties in a given context.