08 July 2024

Critical Analysis of the Law of Targeting Wins the SNIS Award 2024

Abhimanyu George Jain, recent PhD graduate in International Law, has won the prestigious SNIS Award 2024 for his PhD thesis "Fig Leaf: A Critical Analysis of the Law of Targeting".  The SNIS Award awards the "best PhD thesis received in a Swiss University on a subject related to International Studies." 

Tell us about your research. 
My research is concerned with the law of targeting, which is the set of international law rules that governs the conduct of hostilities in warfare – who or what can be attacked, when and how. The law of targeting is generally characterised as a balance between the requirements of military necessity and humanity. My research seeks to understand what it means to balance two ideas that are so different, and how the law of targeting achieves this. My argument is that the law of targeting does not actually balance military necessity and humanity. Instead, humanity is a fig leaf that conceals and legitimises the pursuit of military necessity. Parts of my thesis are available online on SSRN.

What does it mean to win the SNIS Award? 
The SNIS Award recognises the best thesis of the year in the field of international studies, in particular theses that are interdisciplinary and relevant to the work of international organisations. It is a tremendous honour to receive this award, and I’m especially gratified that my thesis has been recognised for its interdisciplinarity and policy relevance. I’m incredibly grateful to the Swiss Network for International Studies for this award, and to my supervisor and second reader (Professors Andrew Clapham and Paola Gaeta) and the Graduate Institute for their support. 

How do you hope to see your research and your work evolve? 
After completing my thesis, I took up a position as a legal adviser at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), where I am a member of the team that is writing commentaries on the Geneva Conventions. This is proving to be a wonderful opportunity to develop and deploy my knowledge of the international legal regulation of warfare. At the same time, in my personal capacity, I’m also working on turning my thesis into a monograph. (I should clarify that my thesis was completed before I started work at the ICRC and doesn’t necessarily reflect the ICRC’s views.) Towards the end of my PhD, I received a postdoc grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation for an independent research project on time and international law. I didn’t end up taking up that grant, but at some point I would like to return to that research project.