A broader concept of the role of rule of law in fragile and conflict-prone states has emerged in the past decade. Shaped by experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, the space for rule of law in the security sector is now understood to play a critical role in promoting stability, good governance, and human rights.  Yet what is the role of the military as relates to the rule of law? What standards should be assessed and measured?

U.S. Africa Command's Office of Legal Counsel (USAFRICOM) has developed a five-pillared model, which asserts that advancing the rule of law by the military, normatively, includes: 

  1. Military subordination to civilian control; 

  2. A transparent and reliable military justice system; 

  3. Adherence to  International Humanitarian Law (Law of Armed Conflict; 

  4. Adherence to strict human rights normative frameworks; and 

  5. Preventing and reducing corruption within the military.

These five core pillars, when not adhered to, may lead to internal instability, could have direct adverse impacts on civilian populations, and will undermine the professionalism, force cohesion, good order and discipline necessary for successful military operations. In developing countries sensitive to political and economic instability, militaries often play an essential role in maintaining public order. If they do not conform to the foregoing principles, or are so perceived, they lose local credibility and may themselves become embroiled in internal grievances.

Accordingly, given the importance of maintaining adherence to these five core pillars as regards internal stability and overall defense capabilities, developing a mechanism to assess how well countries adhere to these principles is a useful new step in monitoring and measuring rule of law globally. In support of this effort, based on the five pillars, USAFRICOM has developed numerous sets of quantitative and qualitative indicators, which measure whether the security sector adheres to the rule of law. Yet questions remain and the need for scholarly, academic, and professional input remains high. This panel will seek to evaluate the five core criteria as a starting point for discussion, address dimensions that may be unique to the military, and discuss how to ensure that countries most at risk of violation and consequent instability are measured in a way consistent with their levels of development, institutional frameworks and reform/growth abilities.

Roundtable Discussion


  • Juan Carlos Botero, Executive Director, World Justice Project

  • M. Karna L. Cohen, Social Scientist, U.S. Africa Command


  • Captain Benes Aldana, USCG, Chief Counsel, Legal Engagements Division, U.S Africa Command

  • Major Ronald Kgomela, Acting Director of Legal Services, Botswana

  • Dr. John Kelly, Professor of National Security Studies, Africa Center for Strategic Studies

  • Robert Kravinsky, Director, International Humanitarian Policy, U.S. Department of Defense

  • John McLoughlin, Regional Director (Africa & South America), Defense Institute of International Legal Studies

Back to the World Justice Forum IV (July 8-11, 2013)