Maj Gen (Retd) Blaise Cathcart and Tobias Vestner Discuss the Role of the Legal Advisor

Back to all Trending
Time to read: 10 minutes 33

Maj Gen (Retd) Blaise Cathcart and Tobias Vestner Discuss the Role of the Legal Advisor

By Tobias Vestner, Head of Security and Law
18 December 2018
Blaise Cathcart and Tobias Vestner

Maj Gen (Retd) Blaise Cathcart and Tobias Vestner Discuss the Role of the Legal Advisor

By Tobias Vestner, Head of Security and Law

Maj Gen (Retd) Cathcart, former Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Armed Forces, gave his thoughts on current challenges faced by legal advisors dealing with international law and security.

Interviewed by Tobias Vestner, Head of Security and Law Programme, Maj Gen (Retd) Cathcart touched upon the following questions:

  • What is the role of the legal advisor?
  • Are legal advisors only required to decrypt the law for non-lawyers or should they have an agenda, be it higher respect for the rule of law, foreign policy interests or domestic gains?
  • We seem to live an era of decreasing respect for international law. Yet, legal advisors are those “speaking law to power”. What are the inherent challenges and what is the best strategy to be persuasive?
  • Which lessons learned can convince leaders, as well as future lawyers, that complying with the law is both right and smart?

Maj Gen (Retd) Cathcart served as the Judge Advocate General (JAG) of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) from 2010-2017. As JAG, he directly advised the Government of Canada, the Governor-General of Canada, the Minister of National Defence, the Chief of the Defence Staff, and the Deputy Minister of National Defence on matters of military law and was the superintendent of the administration of the Canadian military justice system. He provided legal advice during the planning and execution of the CAF participation in the Campaign Against Terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. He has deployed as legal advisor to the Commander Canadian Contingent in several peacekeeping missions, including the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) and the United Nation Peace Forces (UNPF) in the former Yugoslavia in 1994 and 1995, and the Stabilisation Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (SFOR) from February to September 2000.

Tobias Vestner is Head of Security and Law at the GCSP. He teaches, researches, and organizes dialogue on the intersection between security policy and international law. Before joining the GCSP, he was Research Affiliate and Global Futures Fellow at Georgetown University. Prior to that, he was Policy Advisor at the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, where he managed political processes with regard to the export of conventional weapons, and participated in the UN negotiations of the Arms Trade Treaty. Previously, while at the Law of Armed Conflict Section at the Swiss Federal Department of Defense, Sports and Civil Protection, he contributed to bilateral negotiations on military cooperation, and trained military officers in international humanitarian law. Tobias Vestner holds a Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, a Master of Laws in International and European Law from the University of Geneva, and a Bachelor degree in Swiss law from the University of Lausanne.