Justice Update – Culture & Conflict

The New Year of 2020 started with some extraordinary events; a nearly war between Iran and the United States, precipitated by the American assassination of senior general Qassem Soleimani, retaliatory strikes by the Iranians and the downing of a civilian aircraft. Frankly it’s been a bit too much to keep on top of, and Stephanie admits to retreating to her couch to snuggle with her cats.

Nevertheless, we decided to peek our noses out, and bring you the first Justice Update of the year, looking at one small sliver of the maelstrom of the past few days – the tweeted threat by Donald J. Trump to specifically target Iranian cultural sites in any conflict with Tehran.

We asked Polina Levina, an international lawyer, whose essay on Syrian cultural heritage and war crimes earned her a prize last year, to help guide us through some of the key issues.

There have been many many great takes by great international lawyers on what has been happening. It feels a bit invidious to select only some (but we do love Oona Hathaway and want her on the show sometime, and love the investigatory work of Bellingcat) – so our advice – keep it simple: read Just Security, EJIL Talk, Opinio Juris and follow all the editorials in the Washington Post and the New York Times.

You can listen to the superb Radiolab episode about the 60 words that form the legal basis for the United States’ ‘war on terror’ through the embedded player below.


This podcast has been produced as part of a partnership with JusticeInfo.net, an independent website in French and English covering justice initiatives in countries dealing with serious violence. It is a media outlet of Fondation Hirondelle, based in Lausanne, Switzerland.