IILAH Work in Progress Seminar


Dr Michelle Lesh
Dr Michelle Lesh

The Brereton Report and Its Conception of the Laws of War

Please join Dr Michelle Lesh, Visiting Fellow who will be presenting on ‘The Brereton Report and Its Conception of the Laws of War’ with Professor Hilary Charlesworth as respondent.

Tuesday 25 May 2021 - 1pm -2pm via Zoom

Register here


The release of the Brereton Report into alleged war crimes by Special Forces in Afghanistan has largely been lauded in Australia for its rigour and genuine willingness to ensure accountability. At the same time, it has received a defensive backlash from some quarters who believe that all veterans are being dishonoured for their brave service by the extreme behaviour ‘of a few bad apples’. Missing from these reactions is an analysis of whether the Brereton Report actually constitutes a serious attempt to discover, investigate and enable the prosecution of crimes alleged to have been committed by members of the ADF. Does the Brereton Report, and the response to it by our military and political leaders, give Australians serious reason to believe that in the future the ADF will fight in accordance with the laws of war, or even take the need for the laws of war seriously? The conception of the laws of war that is put forward in this analysis, centred on IHL, is one from which a morally informed understanding of humanity is inseparable. Concern for morality during armed conflict is not a new phenomenon: it was the impetus for the creation of the laws of armed conflict in the second half of the 19th century. This paper will examine a number of examples that in different ways demonstrate the failure of the Report to understand fully, and to be seriously committed to, the moral basis of IHL and therefore our moral need of the laws of war. These include the significance of the ‘warrior culture’ uncovered by the Report; its perception of the role of legal officers; and its discussion of the moral responsibility of commanders.

Registrants will receive a Zoom link via the registration confirmation email.