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Legal Office

ACO Office of Legal Affairs (ACO OLA) was created in 1951, headed by Mr. Jean Bertout, and has seen a large expansion in the quantity and diversity of its workload.
Like any large international organisation, ACO/SHAPE faces on a daily basis a multitude of legal challenges, including general public international law, international agreements, national and international litigations, human rights law, international humanitarian law, international and local employment law, contract law and administrative law.
ACO OLA advises the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), his Command Group and all SHAPE staff branches. It is the final supervisor within ACO on all matters that may have legal implications on NAC's mandate to SACEUR and with regard to all subjects that affect the responsibilities, functions, operations and activities of SHAPE and the subordinate headquarters.
ACO OLA as well provides guidance and support to the legal advisers in subordinate ACO headquarters and formations, that is to say: ACO OLA provides legal advice to 37 legal offices in the NATO Command Structure, NATO Force Structure and assets at the disposal of NATO.
ACO OLA has no hierarchical relationship with the IS/IMS and HQ SACT legal offices although, since it is the major legal office among the NATO international organisations, it contributes majorly to NATO's legal interoperability.
ACO OLA has traditionally being organised in three branches: International, Operational and Legal Management and has in recent years been supplemented by the Readiness Arrangements Implementation Office (RAIO) and the Legal Advisors Worktop Functional Area System (LAWFAS) teams, as well as, in a contributor role by the Special Investigation and Litigation Team (SPL).

Comprehensive NATO's Institutions

Serge Lazareff Prize

Since 2017, the ACO OLA hosts the Serge Lazareff Prize for honouring individuals, both engaged with NATO/ACO and from outside the organisation, whose work has proved outstanding and helpful for support and/or developing the knowledge of the NATO legal position(s) and NATO legal works. The Prize also aims to honour the memory of Serge Lazareff, an exceptional scholar, legal practitioner and former NATO lawyer, who among his various and extended merits and achievements, helped and developed the NATO Status of Forces Agreement.

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