Students Staff

16 November 2011

Soldiers and law students prepare for international crisis

Army officers and students from School of Law at Essex

Army officers and law students have joined forces to plan for an international crisis.

Postgraduate students from the University of Essex’s School of Law and Human Rights Centre and 16 Air Assault Brigade officers worked together at Colchester’s Merville Barracks to plan a response to a fictional humanitarian crisis in Africa.

Exercise Demeter’s Eagle involved 30 students studying for Masters on the postgraduate courses International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and Theory and Practice of Human Rights. Meanwhile, the Army officers brought operational experience from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The exercise was based around the fictional countries of Tytan and Petraceros. Both countries are beset by a humanitarian crisis and accompanying insurgency. At the invitation of both governments an international force has been called in to stabilise the border area, where insurgents have attacked refugee camps, intimidated local residents and recruited child soldiers.

After introductory briefings, the students and officers worked in mixed groups to draw up a plan for operations taking account of both military and civilian factors. The plan was then briefed to Colonel Hugo Fletcher, Deputy Commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, and Professor Geoff Gilbert, head of the University’s School of Law.

Colonel Fletcher said: “16 Air Assault Brigade provides the Army’s high-readiness, light, short duration intervention force. This scenario is exactly the kind of situation that 16 Air Assault Brigade could find itself tasked to deal with. Our troops can expect to come across staff from aid agencies and international organisations already operating in the area, which is precisely the kind of employment that these students are working towards.

“It is vitally important for all involved in these difficult and demanding situations to know how other institutions think and operate, and it is that mutual understanding that we hope to develop through this exercise.”

Professor Gilbert said: “This exercise is an essential part of a postgraduate student’s preparation for going into humanitarian operations.

“It has been running since the mid-1990s and grew out of the realisation that our students were going on to work alongside the military in the more challenging parts of the world. As a university, we felt it was important for them to be prepared for that and also help the Army improve its awareness of international humanitarian organisations.”


Notes to editors

Air Assault Brigade is the British Army’s largest brigade with 7,400 soldiers, combining the speed and agility of airborne and air assault troops with the potency of Apache attack helicopters. The Brigade deployed to Afghanistan between October 2010 and April 2011.

The School of Law and Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex are recognised internationally for their work on human rights. In 2009 the University was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in recognition of its excellence in the advancement of human rights. The University was the first in the world to establish a dedicated Master of Laws (LLM) course in International Human Rights Law. The LLM International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and MA Theory and Practice of Human Rights build on the strengths of the School of Law and Human Rights Centre at Essex.

For further information please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 874377.

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