Iain Scobbie

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Iain Girvan Mann Scobbie is a British expert in international law who is the Chair of International Law at the University of Manchester, where he lectures on public international law, international courts and tribunals, and the use of force.[1] He was previously the Sir Joseph Hotung Research Professor in Law, Human Rights and Peace Building in the Middle East at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, where he remains affiliated. He has played an especially active role in the discussion of international law vis-a-vis the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and has published widely on the question of Palestine in international law journals.

Early life and education[edit]

Scobbie studied from 1977–1981 at the University of Edinburgh, earning an LLB (Hons). In 1981–82 he was at the University of Cambridge, where he earned an LLB in international law. In 1982–83 he studied at the Australian National University, receiving a GDIL. He was again at Cambridge from 1983–87, where he received a Ph.D. in international law.[2]

His doctoral dissertation "examined legal reasoning and the judicial function in the International Court."[2]

Expert opinion on Quarries case[edit]

On 26 December 2011, the Israeli High Court issued a ruling in the Quarries case, concerning the legality of Israeli quarrying in the West Bank, with 94% of the stone being transferred to Israel. In 2012, Scobbie and Alon Margalit, his colleague at SOAS, University of London, rendered an Independent Expert Opinion on the legal status of Israeli quarrying activity. They concluded that "while in a prolonged occupation, quarrying activity initiated and permitted by Military Commander may not be prohibited per se," it is only "permitted insofar it is proven essential for the benefit of the local population, which has not been demonstrated in this case."[3]

Dershowitz debate[edit]

In January 2009, Scobbie and Harvard law Professor Alan Dershowitz debated on BBC-2 television the question of whether Israel had committed war crimes during the Gaza conflict.[4]

Lectures and seminars[edit]

In August 2009, Scobbie gave a presentation in Haifa under the auspices of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Rights in Israel, on the subject of the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa study "Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid: A re-assessment of Israel's practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law." Scobbie was identified as "a principal contributor to the study."[5]

Scobbie took part in the International Law Symposium in 2013.[6]

On 20 March 2013 Scobbie held a seminar as part of the SOAS School of Law Research Seminar Series.[7]

2009 Parliamentary testimony[edit]

Scobbie testified at length about Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament in February 2009. Asked "whether international humanitarian law applies to groups that are non-state actors or non-state groups engaged in armed conflict, such as Hamas," he said: "Yes, it does. And we prefer to call it the law of armed conflict because if you call it international humanitarian law it tends to give a different flavour to the field." He also said that in his view, and that of other specialists, "is that Gaza remains occupied, despite Israeli disengagement in 2005," given that "Israel is controlling land borders, the airspace and the territorial sea," as well as "Gaza's population registry." He testified that under international law neither Israel nor Hamas can plea self-defence "when a conflict exists." When British or American authorities declare Israel's "right to self-defence," Scobbie said, they are not using the term "in a very strict legal sense." He also said that the "indiscriminate" launch of missiles from Gaza "is a breach of international law." In sum, he said that the international law issues surrounding the Israeli–Palestinian situation are very "bound up with the facts and the circumstances."[8]



Scobbie is one of the editors of International Law and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Rights-Based Approach to Middle East Peace, along with Susan M. Akram, Michael Dumper, and Michael Lynk. The book was published by Routledge in 2010.[9]

He is the author of Legal Reasoning and the Judicial Function in the International Court.[10]

An 11-page essay by Scobbie, The Spratly Islands Dispute: An Alternative View, was published separately in 1996.[11]

Earlier book chapters[edit]

  • A chapter by Scobbie, "The Responsibility of Great Britain in Respect of the Creation of the Palestinian Refugee Question," appeared in the Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law in 2003–04.[12]
  • A chapter by Scobbie appeared in Asserting Jurisdiction: International and European Legal Perspectives, edited by Patrick Capps, Malcolm David Evans, and Stratos V. Konstadinidis.[13]

Recent book chapters[edit]

  • Scobbie, Iain (2007) 'An Intimate Disengagement: Israel's Withdrawal from Gaza, the Law of Occupation and of Self-Determination.' In: Cotran, E. and Lau, M., (eds.), Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, Volume 11 (2004–2005). Brill, pp. 3–31.
  • Scobbie, Ian and Pfaff, D and Shukri, M (2004) 'The responsibility of States and individuals.' In: The International Criminal Court and Enlarging the Scope of International Humanitarian Law. ICRC: Damascus, pp. 107–130.
  • Scobbie, Ian (2003) 'New wine in old bottles or old wine in new bottles or only old wine in old bottles?: reflections on the assertion of jurisdiction in public international law.' In: P, Capps, (ed.), Asserting Jurisdiction: International and European Legal Perspectives. Hart: Oxford, pp. 17–37.
  • Scobbie, Ian and M, Evans (2003) 'Some common heresies about international law: sundry theoretical perspectives.' In: International Law. Oxford University Press, pp. 59–87.
  • Scobbie, Ian and PM, Dupuy (2003) 'Invocation de la responsabilité pour violation d’«obligations découlant de normes impératives du droit international général».' In: Obligations multilaterales, droit impératif et responabilité internationale des États. Pedone: Paris, pp. 121–144.
  • Scobbie, Ian and Delapraz, D and Shukri, M (2002) 'The jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.' In: The International Criminal Court: A Challenge to Impunity. ICRC: Damascus, pp. 17–37.[2]

Recent articles and papers[edit]

In a long and detailed September 2012 online article, entitled "Justice Levy's Legal Tinsel: The Recent Israeli Report on the Status of the West Bank and Legality of the Settlements," Scobbie criticized the findings, released on 9 July 2012, of the Israeli government commission tasked with examining the legality of settlements in the West Bank. He called the report "a travesty of legal argumentation" that was "selective in the issues it chooses to address, and perverse in its interpretation of international law." Asking whether the criticism by the Palestinian Authority and "various human rights NGOs" of the commission's views on international law was justified, he answered his own question: "Hell, yes!"[14]

The Yale Journal of International Affairs published an essay by Scobbie, Alon Margalit, and Sarah Hibbin, "Recognizing Palestinian Statehood," in 2011. It was based on a brief entitled "Palestinian Statehood and Collective Recognition by the United Nations."[15] In the essay, they argued that while "the Jewish population’s right to self-determination" has been fulfilled in the founding and recognition of Israel, the "parallel right of the indigenous Arab population to self-determination in the remaining part of Historic Palestine is yet to be attained." Examining at length the question of whether Palestine satisfies the "traditional criteria for statehood in international law" as defined in the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, they concluded that while Palestine does satisfy most of these criteria, "the question of its UN membership remains open," given the Israeli occupation and the fact that Hamas is widely considered a terrorist group.[16]

In an article for the Forced Migration Review, Scobbie examined the question of whether Gaza remained technically occupied despite the withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers. He concluded that since "Israel retains absolute authority over Gaza's airspace and territorial sea. ... Israeli withdrawal of land forces did not terminate occupation." He maintained that this conclusion was "only reinforced by the ease with which Israeli land forces re-entered Gaza in June 2006."[17]

With his University of London colleague Sarah Hibbin, Scobbie is the author of a 2009 SOAS Research Paper entitled The Israel–Palestine Conflict in International Law: Territorial Issues. It was prepared for the U.S./Middle East Project and the Sir Joseph Hotung Programme for Law, Human Rights and Peace Building in the Middle East, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. The paper "addresses the question of what territory a future State of Palestine may lay claim to under contemporary international law" and examines "the question of what is the legal basis for, and integrity of, Israel's territorial claims." It also explore the question of "whether Israel could lawfully retain the occupied territories under its control" if the peace process should fail.[18]

In a December 2009 article for the Los Angeles Times, Scobbie replied to an op-ed in which Eric Rozenman had argued that "Israeli settlements are more than legitimate." Calling this claim "legal nonsense that disregards history," Scobbie granted that the Mandate for Palestine permitted "close settlement by Jews on the land," but called Rozenman's conclusions "flatly wrong," noting that "Israel has never claimed legal title to all of the territory of the former British Mandate of Palestine." Rehearsing the history of Israel's statements about its borders, he asked "How...can there be a right of Israeli settlement in the West Bank, territory to which Israel itself has never made legal claim?" Scobbie also challenged Rozenman's interpretation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. "The fundamental point about settlements, then," concluded Scobbie, "is not that they obstruct diplomacy—which they do—but rather that they are illegal." Occupying powers do not have sovereignty over occupied territory, but must act in accordance with international law.[19]

Scobbie's article "The Theorist as Judge: Hersch Lauterpacht's Concept of the International Judicial Function" appeared in the European Journal of International Law in 1997.[20]

Older articles[edit]

  • Scobbie, Iain (2006) 'Regarding/Disregarding: The Judicial Rhetoric of President Barak and the International Court of Justice's Wall Advisory Opinion.' Chinese Journal of International Law, 5 (2), pp. 269–300.
  • Scobbie, Iain (2005) '"Une hérésie en matière judiciaire"? The Role of the Judge ad hoc in the International Court.' The Law and Practice of International Courts and Tribunals, 4 (3), pp. 421–464.
  • Scobbie, Ian (2005) 'The Responsibility of Great Britain in Respect of the Creation of the Palestine Refugee Question.' The Responsibility of Great Britain in Respect of the Creation of the Palestine Refugee Question, 10, pp. 39–58.
  • Scobbie, Ian (2005) 'Unchart(er)ed waters?: consequences of the advisory opinion on the Legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.' European Journal of International Law, 16 : 5.
  • Scobbie, Ian (2005) 'Words my mother never taught me: In defence of the International Court.' Americal Journal of International Law, 99 : 1, pp. 76–88.
  • Scobbie, Ian (2005) 'Slouching towards the Holy City: some weeds for Philip Allott.' European Journal of International Law, 16 : 2, pp. 313–327.
  • Scobbie, Iain (2002) 'The Invocation of Responsibility for the Breach of 'Obligations under Peremptory Norms of General International Law'.' European Journal of International Law, 13 (5), pp. 1201–120.[2]
  • Scobbie wrote a 1993 article for the International and Comparative Law Quarterly about the case Nauru v. Australia, which concerned phosphate lands in Nauru.[21]


He is a member of the Executive Board of the European Society of International Law, and of its International Legal Theory interest group; of the Governing Board of the Scottish Centre for War Studies, based in the University of Glasgow; of the Lieber Society on the Law of Armed Conflict; and of the International Advisory Council of Diakonia’s International Humanitarian Law Programme, based in Jerusalem; of the International Advisory Council of Diakonia's Jerusalem-based International Humanitarian Law Programme; and of the Scientific Advisory Board of the European Journal of International Law.[2][22]


  1. ^ "Prof Iain Scobbie research profile - personal details". Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Professor Iain Scobbie | Staff". SOAS. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  3. ^ Scobbie, Iain. "The Israeli Military Commander's Powers under the Law of Occupation in relation to Quarrying Activity in Area C" (PDF). University of London. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  4. ^ "Gaza war crimes - the debate". BBC News. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  5. ^ "Professor Iain Scobbie" (PDF). Adalah. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  6. ^ "2013 International Law Symposium". Scottish Centre for International Law. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  7. ^ "SOAS School of Law Research Seminar Series 2012-13". LSE Department of Law Law Events Update. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  8. ^ Scobbie, Iain. "Examination of Witnesses (Questions 49-59)". UK Parliament. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  9. ^ Scobbie, Iain. International Law and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Rights-Based Approach to Middle East Peace. Routledge.
  10. ^ Scobbie, Iain (1996). The Spratly Islands Dispute: An Alternative View.
  11. ^ Scobbie, Iain. Yearbook of Islamic And Middle Eastern Law: (2003-2004).
  12. ^ Capps, Patrick (2003). Asserting Jurisdiction: International and European Legal Perspectives. Hart Publishing.
  13. ^ Scobbie, Iain. "Justice Levy's Legal Tinsel: The Recent Israeli Report on the Status of the West Bank and Legality of the Settlements". European Journal of International Law. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  14. ^ "Law, Human Rights and Peace Building in the Middle East". SOAS. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  15. ^ Scobbie, Iain. "Recognizing Palestinian Statehood". Yale Journal of International Affairs. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  16. ^ Scobbie, Iain. "Is Gaza still occupied territory?" (PDF). FMF Review. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  17. ^ Scobbie, Iain. "The Israel-Palestine Conflict in International Law: Territorial Issues". Social Science Review Network. SSRN 1621382. Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  18. ^ Scobbie, Iain. "International law is clear: Israeli settlements are illegal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  19. ^ Scobbie, Iain. "The Theorist as Judge: Hersch Lauterpacht's Concept of the International Judicial Function" (PDF). Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  20. ^ Scobbie, Iain. "Case concerning certain phosphate lands in Nauru (Nauru v. Australia) (Iain Scobbie)". Hague Justice Portal. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  21. ^ Kattan, Victor. "THE PALESTINE QUESTION IN INTERNATIONAL LAW" (PDF). BIICL. Retrieved 29 October 2013.