Editorial: Occupation

'Vae victis!' ('Woe to the vanquished!'). This exclamation by the Gaulish chieftain Brennus, dictating his terms after defeating ancient Rome,1 illustrates a historical reality: defeat on the battlefield has, over the centuries, entailed a series of misfortunes for the conquered peoples. Murder, rape, slavery, and plunder: conquest gave the victors absolute rights over people and their property, and it often meant the outright annexation of captured territories. 'To act as if one owns the place' is still a current expression that reflects the arbitrary actions of the conqueror – the principle that 'might makes right'.

About the author

Vincent Bernard

Vincent Bernard

Vincent BERNARD is editor in chief of the International Review of the Red Cross, a leading academic journal on humanitarian law, policy and action published by the ICRC and Cambridge University Press. He is also the head of the Law and Policy Forum, which leads ICRC’s engagement with expert audiences interested in teaching, researching and debating international humanitarian law (IHL). The unit runs the Humanitarium conference center in Geneva, the new Humanitarian Law and Policy blog, the IHL online training center etc. Vincent joined the ICRC in 1998 and worked in the field for 6 years in Dakar, Nairobi and Jerusalem. As head of the ICRC’s field communication set-up from 2006 to 2010 he travelled and worked in most of ICRC’s operational contexts. Prior to joining the organization, Vincent studied political science, law and international relations at the Political Science Institute and Law Faculty in Strasburg, The King’s College, London and the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, and taught law at the University of Marmara in Istanbul.