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What’s Jus Post Bellum for? The Function of Jus Post Bellum in International Law

Jens Iverson, Assistant Professor of International Law and a Researcher in the Jus Post Bellum Project, defended his Ph.D. dissertation on 21 September 2017.

Jens Iverson

This study focuses on legal and normative principles of the transition from armed conflict to peace, often called jus post bellum. Jus post bellum is self-consciously named in relation to its sister terms, jus ad bellum and jus in bello, terms that have been exhaustively developed and theorized. Jus post bellum, in contrast, is comparatively under-developed. It is a phrase frequently used without definition, or with little understanding that others may use the term to mean something else. It is almost never used with anything approaching a full exposition of the intellectual history upon which it is built. Before the scholarship in recent years, the laws and principles that constitute the jus post bellum were rarely expounded. This study helps to consolidate a firmer theoretical grounding for the term, as well as a clearer intellectual history and analysis of its content. Jus post bellum, like jus gentium or jus civile, is best understood as by definition primarily a system or body of law and related principles.

This thesis has three overarching objectives. First, the thesis will evaluate the history of jus post bellum avant la lettre, tracing important writings on the transition to peace from Augustine, Aquinas, and Kant to more modern jurists and scholars. Second, it explores definitional aspects of jus post bellum, including current its relationship to sister terms and related fields. Third, it will explore the current state and possibilities for future development of the law and normative principles that apply to the transition to peace. Jus post bellum has received an increasing amount of attention in recent years, but remains comparatively under-theorized, and frequently referenced without realizing that many authors be talking past each other, meaning different things while using the same term. The author’s hope for the thesis is not only to help clarify the debate over the term, but also to move the consensus towards a hybrid functional (rather than temporal) approach to jus post bellum, that is, to define an approach to this area of law that focuses on the goal of achieving a just and sustainable peace (with an awareness of temporal context) rather than a mere discussion of law that applies during early peace.

Prof. Dr. Carsten Stahn about Jens Iverson

"The concept of jus post bellum is an old idea that is rooted in classical writings (e.g., Alberico Gentili, Francisco Suarez, Immanuel Kant) and just war theory. It is typically associated with the idea of ‘justice after war’ and the vindication of ‘rights’ and ‘duties’ after conflict.

In this important new study, Jens Iverson offers one of the first comprehensive accounts of the historical and legal significance of the concept in the modern international law. He challenges a temporal understanding of jus post bellum and clarifies key areas in which the concept may contribute to just and sustainable peace in processes of transition.

His work is written in the spirit of the great humanist Hersch Lauterpacht. His findings are of great relevance to academics and practitioners studying the role of law in conflict and post-conflict societies.

The PhD is part of an NWO- funded Vidi project on the ‘Role and contours of a contemporary Jus Post Bellum’ which examines how international law and the ethics of warfare can enhance the fairness and sustainability of the ending of conflict."