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War Crimes and Refugee Status Research Workshop

The aim of this research project, an international collaborative and comparative effort, is to assess whether and how IHL and ICL are applied to the adjudication of claims for refugee status where exclusion is raised as an issue.  The research project will focus on five common law countries, including: Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. 

The lack of an international refugee court to provide authoritative interpretations of the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol, binding on all States parties, makes it evident that an international collaborative comparative research project examining the jurisprudence of a number of leading refugee receiving States is required to achieve verifiable and reliable research findings and conclusions.  Accordingly, the “War Crimes and Refugee Status” research project will look at refugee law decisions from these five common law jurisdictions.  Indeed, the courts and tribunals from these five common law jurisdictions provide the vast majority of all refugee-related jurisprudence.

The principal objectives of the “War Crimes and Refugee Status” research project are to:

  1. Determine whether judges and decision-makers cite to treaty provisions of or case law on IHL and ICL in deciding cases where exclusion is an issue in a claim for Convention refugee status.

  2. Assess whether judges and decision-makers refer to the IHL or ICL via their incorporation in UNHCR guidelines and directives.

  3. Explore whether there is a common understanding across these States as to the meaning of IHL and ICL provisions relevant to refugee status determination.

The “War Crimes and Refugee Status” research project will also be addressing inconsistencies in asylum adjudication and, more generally, the fragmentation of international refugee law and IHL and ICL between and among various national jurisdictions given the absence of an international refugee court or other authoritative expert treaty body.   There has not been any sustained international research effort to assess if and how these companion bodies of public international law have been incorporated into States’ understanding of their refugee protection obligations.  Accordingly, the “War Crimes and Refugee Status” research project will be breaking new ground in this regard.

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