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

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

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

By Tobias Vestner, Head of Security and Law at the GCSP

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 leads the Security and Law Programme. He teaches, researches, and organizes dialogue on the intersection between security policy and international law.

He heads the annual ‘Symposium for Senior NATO/PfP Legal Advisors’. Tobias Vestner also leads and teaches in the executive education courses ‘Air and Missile Warfare: Navigating the Legal Dimension (Advanced AMPLE)’, ‘Legal Dimensions of Contemporary and Future Use of Force’, ‘Weapons Law and the Legal Review of Weapons’, as well as ‘Negotiations Theory and Practice’, among others. He is also responsible for the event series ‘Security and Law: A Reality Check’, a public dialogue that explores how international law matters in security affairs. Tobias Vestner regularly advises governments, international organizations, and private firms on global security and legal issues.