The Legal Adviser in International Organizations: Technician or Guardian?


  • Treasa Dunworth



The participation of lawyers as legal advisers to international organizations is reviewed from a historical and political perspective, looking primarily at the United Nations and the League of Nations. An inquiry is made into the “accountability debate” of international organizations and the role that legal advisers play in this regard. The issue of whether lawyers act as technicians or guardians in the international arena is reviewed historically both through academic publications, and through the writings of lawyers who have acted as international legal advisers. The 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib are analyzed with respect to the advice given to states by their international legal advisers.

Author Biography

Treasa Dunworth

Senior Lecturer, University of Auckland. Many thanks to Joanna Harrington and Craig Forcese for their work in organizing the 2nd ANZSIL Four Societies’ Conference on International Law and Democratic Theory at the University of Alberta in September 2008, and to the participants for their comments and feedback. Thanks also to the anonymous reviewer for comments, to Rt. Hon. Sir Kenneth Keith for his assistance, and to Claire Nielsen for her excellent research assistance.