Carcano, Andrea (2015) The Transformation of Occupied Territory in International Law. Leiden: Brill. xxx + 540 pp.​​​​

ISBN: 978–90–04–227873 (hdbk)

Matthew Saul

University of Oslo

This book offers a detailed analytical narrative of the occupation of Iraq. The main focus is on compliance with the law of occupation; a component of international humanitarian law, which applies when territory is placed under the control of a hostile army. While the coalition that occupied Iraq in 2003 intended state transformation, the law of occupation prescribes conservation as the guiding principle for administration of a territory. Carcano’s view is that the rigour of compliance with the law of occupation should be open to variation according to the demands of the context. For Iraq, the UN Security Council provided the occupiers with a provisional administering mandate, which arguably carved out exceptions from the law of occupation. Through charting how the reconstruction of Iraq unfolded (judicial system, security, economy…), Carcano demonstrates how on occasion the occupier came within a reasonable interpretation of the extant law of occupation, but at other times went beyond it even taking account of the SC mandate. This is evidence of internation​​al law having a normative pull that does not always hold. Importantly, Carcano’s analysis of events continues once an Iraqi government was created and the application of the law of occupation ended. The details of the subsequent struggle to deliver on the promise of a stable democracy lead Carcano to doubt whether the SC should issue a mandate for the exercise of powers beyond the law of occupation in the future. But the alternative might be an even faster rush to establish an interim government to consent to the presence of the external actors and with it the end of the application of the law of occupation.