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Campus inNizhny Novgorod

Dialogue at the International Level: Students of the Faculty of Law Met a Scholar from Syria

A working meeting of the 2nd and 4th year students with Alaa Assaf, Master of Law at the Beirut Arab University / Faculty of Law and Political Science, was held on December 22 at the Faculty of Law, HSE, Nizhny Novgorod. The selected topic was sensitive not only legally, but also politically: "Foreign Armed Intervention in Internal Conflicts: The Case of the Russian Intervention in Syria”. It should be noted that the event was not specifically associated with the end of the Russian military campaign in the Middle East, but technically coincided with it, so the lecturer made a number of conclusions.

Mr. Assaf offered to discuss some of the results of his research in the field of General International and Humanitarian law, including an assessment of the Russian approaches to the application and interpretation of international legal norms. In particular, he argued on the category of "sovereignty", analyzing the European political and legal concepts of the age of Enlightenment as well as modern ones, and also the Russian doctrines. The concepts of statism and pro-individualism, which described the behavior of states in international relations to some extent, were propounded.

In his speech, the lecturer did not omit the essential circumstance regarding the long-term Russian-Syrian cooperation, which, surprisingly for many students, began long before the notorious events in the Syrian Arab Republic.

The legal analysis of the non-international armed conflict in Syria, i.e. the definition of the belligerents’ status, including terrorist groups, insurgent movements; establishing the grounds for the armed intervention by the Russian Federation and the International Coalition; the justification of application of the "humanitarian intervention" concept lied in the center of the presentation.

Mr. Assaf identified the following basic scenarios for military intervention, assessing their compliance with the General International and Humanitarian law: 1) request / invitation of a sovereign, a state requiring support; 2) assistance to insurgents; 3) promotion of self-determination; 4) humanitarian intervention; 5) restraint of grave violations of jus cogens.

To the end of his lecture Mr. Assaf summarized: in the context of the increased attention of the Russian Federation to the principles of sovereign equality and territorial integrity (due to statism in the lecturer's opinion), the main reason for the participation of the Russian armed forces in the military conflict in Syria was the invitation of the President Bashar Assad’s government to help in the elimination of terrorist units and in the restoration of effective government control throughout the country. Although the Russian Federation was also guided by the Article 51 of the UN Charter (right to self-defense), motivating the initiation of military action in the Middle East in 2015.

Mr. Alaa Assaf received many questions, both legal and political. For example, the students were interested in the process of further self-determination of the Kurds, including the case of possible foundation of national statehood; the Arab-Israeli conflict, through the evaluation of acts of recognition, border disputes; suppression of terrorist activities; the quality of Russian and foreign media in relation to the coverage of the Syrian conflict; the prospects of the Iran and Syria cooperation and other.

The Faculty of Law will be happy to welcome students from all the faculties of the Higher School of Economics, Nizhny Novgorod, interested in discussing problems and issues of modern international relations, at future events of the Public International Law course.

“I had the chance to participate in the Public International Law course at the HSE NN, by being given the chance to conduct a presentation and a Q&A session to the students of law at the HSE-NN. The presentation covered the main points regarding the concept of Sovereignty in different legal registers (Russian and Western), the Use of Force by the states, the Syrian-Russian relations, and finally we discussed the military intervention in international law, with a special focus on the Russian intervention in Syria. The atmosphere was really positive and encouraging. I was very pleased by the students’ cooperation during the whole course of the session. Their questions did not only cover the legal approaches of the Russian military intervention in Syria, but also the political aspects of the Syrian conflict as a whole. Which reflected their rigorous interest in the subject matter of the presentation.

I would like to thank the faculty of law at HSE-NN, particularly (Prof. Elizaveta Shushunova), for all aforementioned could not have happened without her organizing and facilitating the process of the event”. Alaa Assaf, Master of Law, Beirut Arab University

Preferred introduction to the legal profession is impossible without an access to the humanitarian principles of law, which in turn is achieved through a cross-cultural dialogue. For various reasons, many students are in need of quality reliable information about other cultures, traditions, movements, particularly in the area of political and legal thought. In the HSE, Nizhny Novgorod, for the first time ever we have welcomed a researcher who has not only a degree in international law and currently studies issues relevant to students, but also is here in the process of further education with the opportunity to carry out free communication during the course of Public International Law.

Elizaveta Shushunova 
Senior Lecturer at the Department of Department of Theory and History of Law and State (HSE Nizhny Novgorod)

 “Alaa demonstrates an excellent skill to cover the material, never argues on deadlock matters or enters the jungle of political exclusivity. The presentation was very informative, but not boring at all. The matter concerns the lion's share of the main contemporary problems of international law. Receiving information from people who are directly studying any problem is important, it makes it possible to get out of the news vacuum”.

Yury Zerkal, 4th year’s student of the faculty of law

“I was surprised by Alaa’s absolute openness and his desire to answer all the questions. Interaction with a representative of another culture always contributes to the emergence of interest in the study of this issue in the future, which has only a positive impact on the development of our own perception of the world”.

Ekaterina Shubina, 4th year’s student of the faculty of law

“Alaa supported all of the facts with evidence and various viewpoints, therefore there were no hint of bias in his report. He managed to impartially cover such a controversial topic in a succinct, yet informative way. I appreciated his maintaining contact with the audience throughout the presentation. Alaa has a unique approach to teaching and speaking in public, making students think outside the box”.

Maxim Nikiforov, 4th year’s student of the faculty of law