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René Provost awarded a second international book prize

Published: 30 January 2023

The Faculty of Law is pleased to announce that Rebel Courts: The Administration of Justice by Armed Insurgents (Oxford University Press, 2021), by Professor René Provost, FRSC, Ad E, has received the American Society of International Law’s (ASIL) Certificate of Merit for a Preeminent Contribution to Creative Scholarship.   

This is the second international distinction awarded to Rebel Courts. In 2022, it received the International Society of Public Law (ICON-S) Book Prize.  

“Clearly a magnum opus,” Professor Provost’s monograph constitutes “creative and eye-opening scholarship of the highest order,” wrote the ASIL committee in its report.    

In war zones, armed insurgents often replace the state as the provider of law and justice. In Rebel Courts, Professor Provost offers insight into this little-studied phenomenon. Based on extensive fieldwork, the book compares case studies of several non-state armed groups around the world, including the FARC (Colombia), the Islamic State (Syria and Iraq), the Taliban (Afghanistan), and the Tamil Tigers (Ski Lanka), among others. It argues that rules of public international law that regulate the conduct of war can be interpreted as authorizing the establishment of rebel courts by armed groups. When operating in a manner consistent with due process, rebel courts demand a certain degree of recognition by international states, institutions, and other non-state armed groups.  

“The book opens our minds to things we rarely see,” highlighted the committee. “It questions deep-seated notions of the concept of law, positivism, and the necessary connection between state, order, and justice, leading us to a pluralistic understanding of law and a non-state centered normativity.”  

A full professor at the McGill University Faculty of Law, René Provost is interested in human rights, international criminal law, the law of armed conflict, and the intersection of law and culture. In September 2015, he was awarded a fellowship by the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation for the research that culminated in the publication of Rebel Courts. He is principal investigator for the Unreserved Justice Project, a SSHRC-funded collaboration with Indigenous leaders from coast to coast to coast on the emerging practice in Canada of Indigenous communities establishing institutions and practices to administer justice on their territory.  

“I was very proud to see the ASIL celebrate the extraordinary depth of our colleague’s research, as well as the incredible efforts he undertook to conduct field studies in difficult circumstances,” said Dean Robert Leckey. “Rebel Courts is a shining example of transformative scholarship addressing some of our world’s most pressing challenges.”   

Access Rebel Courts: The Administrative of Justice by Armed Insurgents on Oxford Academic 

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