By David Strom
The American Red Cross in Arkansas is now providing important information for local attorneys about humanitarian war policies. Lori Arnold-Ellis, the Executive Director of the Greater Arkansas chapter, and Wes Manus, an attorney and Red Cross board member, have expanded and extended a course first assembled by the International Red Cross called Even War Has Rules.
Manus proposed the idea to expand the course to attorneys during a chapter board meeting, and Arnold-Ellis was immediately supportive. Members of the Arkansas Bar Association can now receive continuing legal education credit (CLE) for the first of the three lessons, and Arnold-Ellis and Manus are working to obtain CLE accreditation for the remaining two courses. State bar associations have approved such arrangements in the past, and the course has been offered in numerous countries around the world for several years.
“The Red Cross offers this free course to its volunteers and the public. We encourage attorneys to participate in order to provide an overview of the laws applicable to warfare. Attorneys must often pay for their CLE credits, and they are required to take several CLE classes per year,” said Arnold-Ellis.
“Usually, CLEs are related to an attorney’s practice area, but this class gives exposure to an area they may not have knowledge of,” said Manus. “There are many conflicts in the world. Refugees from these situations are coming to the U.S. to receive assistance, and the Red Cross is on the front lines to provide resources and be helpful to these folks.” The course could also be helpful for Red Cross volunteers who manage shelters and other disaster team members who are working with individuals in need who come from conflict zones.
The hour-long classis offered virtually and in-person and is especially relevant considering current conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine. While the course was created by attorneys, the information is easy to understand and helps broaden public knowledge of humanitarian law beyond general awareness of the Geneva Convention. The class in Arkansas is taught by both Arnold-Ellis and Manus and covers the various elements of what constitutes humanitarian practice, such as the proportionality of a military response and the segregation of civilian and military members. But more importantly, the course covers when warfare moves into non-humanitarian events such as has occurred in the past several years.
“In a conflict, virtually anything could become a military target,” Manus said. “What is tricky is that when we are observing in the moment, we want to say whether something is right or wrong. But we don’t have all the facts at hand. What is needed is to hold back the urge to judge the conflict and reserve it for the subsequent tribunals and courts to decide.”
The course doesn’t attempt to offer opinions, especially about current conflicts.
“We have to be neutral and not take sides or pass judgement,” said Arnold-Ellis. Neutrality is one of the reasons various Red Cross efforts have been at the scenes of this conflict, “because that position of neutrality gives us trust and access in a conflict zone,” said Manus. An extreme example of this happened in February 2004 when Red Cross members visited Saddam Hussein in prison. “Because he was a prisoner of war, he still needs to be treated with humanitarian values,” said Arnold-Ellis.
Manus also mentioned that taking the long view of centuries of conflict is more difficult for Americans, because many conflicts pre-date our own country’s founding and history. The course offered by the Red Cross tries to take this longer view.
Arnold-Ellis and Manus are working with Red Cross members in several other states, including Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, and Oklahoma, to approve similar CLE credit for attorneys in those states. Anyone can register for the class, and they encourage young adults considering a military career to take the course and learn more about humanitarian practices.
For more information on International Humanitarian Law, visit https://www.redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/news/2023/international-humanitarian-law-history-and-education.html