Theodor Meron, Judge and President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, brought the third day of the One Young World Summit to a close by reflecting on the concepts of law and conflict which have shaped his career.
The room fell still as the audience listened to the highlights of a career self-described as, “an attempt to grapple with the atrocities and chaos of war”.
From Meron’s perspective the law and conflict are inexorably intertwined. He explained how we look to the law as a way to resolve and reduce conflict. He argued that it is through the law that we express our shared values, values that keep soldiers in line with codes of conduct, even on the battlefield.
Then the Judge spoke of the seismic shifts that have occurred since the War, which ultimately built what we now call Human Rights Law.
Talking about this shift he posed that, “accountability is increasingly the expectation rather than the exception.” Both safeguarding and responsibility have become orientated around the individual. No individual should hide behind government orders. Instead each and everyone is capable of being held accountable for their actions.
However, he noted, individuals around the globe continue to suffer from human rights violations. So in reflecting on the future of human rights law he urged the delegates, “We must take the long view, and understand that extraordinary changes in human and international law can be achieved through ingenuity, hard work and dedication to principles”.
Finally, in a moment that resembled passing over the baton, Meron concluded:
“It will be for you and your generation to decide how the new universe of accountability shall take shape...I have every confidence that each of you gathered here today will do your part and for that I salute you”.