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How to Bridge the Gap? Corporate and Government Surveillance Examined at the UN

Published on December 7, 2016        Author: 

On 21 November, the UN General Assembly Third Committee adopted the draft resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age. This came at the same time the UK passed a law (the Investigatory Powers Act) which codified what are arguably the most extreme surveillance powers in the history of any western democracy.

This is the third time the UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution on the topic, and as it did in 2014, the UN has called on all states to review their surveillance legislation, policies, and practices “with a view to upholding the right to privacy by ensuring the full and effective implementation of all their obligations under international human rights law”.

This comes at a time in which governments around the world are adopting laws that give wider surveillance powers to state security agencies, beyond what is permitted under existing human rights law. Just to name a few, Privacy International had documented this trend in a range of countries, including in China, Colombia, France, Kenya, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Poland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

So, which part of effective implementation of human rights law do governments need explained? Read the rest of this entry…

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South Africa’s Withdrawal: A Lesson Learned?

Published on December 6, 2016        Author: 

In October 2016, South Africa formally notified the United Nations Secretary-General of its withdrawal from the Rome Statute (‘RS’) pursuant to article 127(1) thereof. In its reasons for so doing, the fact that it was placed under ‘conflicting international law obligations’ during President Al-Bashir’s visit to the country was particularly relevant. The importance of distinguishing ‘well-founded concerns’ from other reasons for withdrawal has been subsequently noted; this helps draw the appropriate lessons therefrom. In a previous post, it was argued that there is no such conflict. However, varying views on the matter should be duly considered, particularly since the cause, consequences or mere existence of conflicting obligations may constitute a well-founded concern. This will ensure that the focus remains on resolving the relevant issues. Consequently, the present contribution offers a divergent conclusion.

The Court’s Request for Arrest and Surrender: Conflicting Obligations(?)

Sudan is not a party to the RS, but the International Criminal Court (‘ICC’ or ‘the Court’) has jurisdiction over crimes allegedly committed therein by virtue of article 13(b) and the referral of the situation in Sudan by the Security Council (‘SC’) (SC Res 1593). An investigation and the issuance of two arrest warrants for President Al-Bashir in 2009 and 2010 followed (see here and here), each accompanied by a request to states parties for his arrest and surrender (see here and here). However, many states parties considered their compliance with the Court’s requests – as required by article 89(1) of the Rome Statute – problematic.

As a non-party, all states are obliged under customary international law to refrain from arresting Al-Bashir by virtue of his immunities ratione personae (South Africa was also allegedly obliged to do so as a result of other international law obligations, but these need not be discussed for present purposes). State parties have waived their officials’ immunities insofar as these otherwise ‘bar the Court from exercising its jurisdiction over such a person’ (article 27(2)), but the RS cannot bind non-party states. Thus, although this has at times been questioned, article 98(1) seems applicable: Read the rest of this entry…

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The Kunduz Affair and the German State Liability Regime – The Federal Court of Justice’s Turn to Anachronism

Published on December 5, 2016        Author: 

On 6 October 2016 the Federal Court of Justice (henceforth “Court”) decided on an appeal against the Higher Regional Court of Cologne’s dismissal of two actions for compensation brought against the Federal Republic of Germany (III ZR 140/15, only available in German): Abdul Hannan sought compensation for the death of two of his sons in the amount of 40.000 Euro, Qureisha Rauf, a mother of seven, sought alimentation for the death of her husband and father of her children in the amount of 50.000 Euro. The death of their relatives was the result of a fatal airstrike ordered by Colonel Klein who was in charge of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kunduz in the northern part of Afghanistan. The PRT was institutionally embedded in the framework of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Whilst Klein was operationally subordinated to the ISAF commander and in the end the NATO Commander-in-Chief he remained within the chain of command of the German Federal Army ultimately being subject to orders of the German Ministry of Defense. The ordered strike was directed against two fuel tanks previously stolen by Taliban from PRT’s premises which were stuck in a sandbank close by. Fearing that these tanks would be used for an attack against the PRT camp Klein commanded their destruction after receiving the information of a military informant that no civilians were present at the relevant location which infrared pictures delivered by US-American fighter aircrafts seemed to support. In retrospect these assumption proved wrong: The attack led to the death of 100 to 150 people, mostly civilians who gathered around the fuel tanks out of curiosity, others were apparently forced by the Taliban to assist with the recovery of the tanks (with regard to the criminal investigation against Klein see here).

A Legal Bombshell

The lower courts were unable to find that Germany incurred liability based on Art. 34 Basic Law in conjunction with § 839 German Civil Code since the claimants failed to establish that Klein violated ius in bello norms – Art. 51, 57 of the First Additional Protocol and Art. 13 of the Second Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions were particualrly in question. The Court, however, went beyond that by asserting that the state liability regime does not apply with regard to actions of the German army in the context of armed conflicts per se. The Court’s finding can be considered a legal bombshell since this question has been left open within previous judgments (see the Court’s “Varvarin” judgment of 2nd November 2006, III ZR 190/05). Until now both the Court itself as well as the Federal Constitutional Court (FCC) applied an “even if” argumentative strategy in similar cases: Not explicitly deciding whether actions within armed conflicts fell into the scope of the liability regime, they limited themselves to finding that even if they did, compensatory claims would remain unsuccessful since other conditions – especially a breach of a duty on part of German state officials – were not met (see FCC, “Varvarin” decision of 3th August 2013 – 2 BvR 2660/06, 2 BvR 487/07 – available in English).

Viewed against the background of German constitutional law as well as obligations stemming from international law – especially the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) – this decision suffers from methodological and substantive deficiencies and is hardly tenable. Read the rest of this entry…

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Announcements: Roma Tre Law Department Workshop; CfP Human Dignity and the Constitutional Crisis in Europe; Deadline for 2017 Sixth Annual Junior Faculty Forum for International Law

Published on December 4, 2016        Author: 

1. Roma Tre Law Department Workshop. The Roma Tre Law Department is hosting a workshop on “International/EU Scholarship Facing Digital Technologies and Innovative Approaches” on Monday 5 December. Streaming of the event is available here while a background report can be accessed here.

2. Call for Papers: “Human Dignity and the Constitutional Crisis in Europe: Humanity, Democracy, Social Europe”. The School of Law at the University of Portsmouth and the European University Institute (EUI) are organising a 2-day international conference on “Human Dignity and the Constitutional Crisis in Europe: Humanity, Democracy, Social Europe”. The conference will be hosted by the European University Institute in Florence on 15th and 16th June 2017. For more information please visit the conference webpage.

3. Deadline for the 2017 Sixth Annual Junior Faculty Forum for International Law. The deadline for applications for the Sixth Forum is fast-approaching: it is 15 December 2016, and applications are warmly welcomed from those who fit the eligibility criteria for the Forum, which will be convened by Dino Kritsiotis (Nottingham – Law), Anne Orford (Melbourne – Law) and J.H.H. Weiler (NYU – Law) at the University of Nottingham in May 2017. Further details can be found here.

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The Draft Articles on “The Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters”: Towards a Flagship Treaty?

Published on December 2, 2016        Author: 

The debate held on 24 – 26 October within the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Sixth Committee concluded an intensive year for the International Law Commission (ILC) topic “The Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters”. It followed the adoption of the related 18 Draft Articles (DAs) on their second reading, and of the Commentary (here), on the basis of the eighth report submitted by the Special Rapporteur Eduardo Valencia-Ospina and comments received on the 21 draft articles adopted in 2014.  These DAs, which have already attracted attention (e.g. herehere), will be addressed in this post, which will also take into account the proposal made by the ILC “to recommend to the General Assembly the elaboration of a convention on the basis of the draft articles” (2016 Report, para. 46) thus diverging from its trend of favoring ‘soft’ final forms for topics under exam (here). Such possibility might concretize in the near future, taking into account the draft UNGA resolution requesting Governments to submit “comments concerning the recommendation by the Commission” and to include this item in the 2018 UNGA’s agenda.

The structure of the Draft Articles

The possibility of developing a universal flagship treaty would represent a significant novelty in the area of disaster law, which is currently characterized by a fragmented legal framework. In the ‘80s UN attempts to develop a similar convention were unable to achieve consensus, and practice has continued to evolve through universal treaties only addressing specific types of disasters or forms of assistance, regional instruments with different characters in terms of efficacy and structure (here and here), an incoherent network of bilateral treaties (here), and a vast array of soft-law instruments scarcely able to influence stakeholders.

Against this multifaceted background, the Draft Articles attempt to provide a legal systematization of the main issues, their purpose being “to facilitate the adequate and effective response to disasters, and reduction of the risk of disasters, so as to meet the essential needs of the persons concerned, with full respect for their rights” (Draft Article 2). In a nutshell, this provision encompasses some of the main topics addressed, and challenges faced, in the law-making process due to diverging perspectives. Read the rest of this entry…

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Filed under: Disaster Law, EJIL Analysis
 

Negotiating Justice at the ASP: From Crisis to Constructive Dialogue

Published on November 29, 2016        Author: 

During the past two weeks, the world came together in The Hague for the Assembly of States Parties (ASP), the annual diplomatic meeting on the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was clear that this session would be crucial for the ICC’s future and its place in the geopolitical constellation. The weeks before had thrown the Court in somewhat of an existential crisis: Burundi, South Africa and Gambia announced their withdrawal from the ICC. Several other states, such as Uganda and the Philippines, announced that they might leave too. Russia withdrew their signature from the ICC a day after the Court called the Crimea situation an international armed conflict and occupation. And US mobilization against the ICC is anticipated following the Court’s announcement that it may soon open full investigation into Afghanistan, including US conduct. Not surprisingly therefore, the main theme of this year’s ASP was (African) critique, cooperation and complementarity (i.e. the relationship between national prosecutions and the ICC as a court of last resort). However, observers of this year’s ASP also noticed a remarkable turn of attitude, language, tone and body language by representatives of the ICC and most state delegations. Like Darryl Robinson pointed out in his post, the discussion on the critique of the ICC during this ASP session could be described as “groundbreaking” – open, respecting and mature – while “constructive”, “dialogue” and “common ground” became this year’s sound-bites.

How the ICC and the project of international criminal justice will affect and be affected by this shifting geopolitical landscape remains to be seen. However, more than merely a technocratic meeting between states on the management and budget of the institution, the ASP functions as an annual diplomatic ritual where stakeholders reconstitute and renegotiate the ICC, and the international criminal justice field more broadly. It is a site of continuous (re)negotiation and political proxy battles on the law and politics, practice and development of international criminal justice. As such, the ASP offers an ethnographic prism for understanding how consensus and contestation in global deliberation processes forms part of the identity project of international criminal justice.

Lost amid polarization

This year was decidedly different from previous years, when polarization grew increasingly tense. Read the rest of this entry…

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Chatham House Paper on Aiding and Assisting by States

Published on November 28, 2016        Author: 

When states engage in armed conflict today, it is often the case that they do so with some support from other states. The same is true with respect to counter-terrorism efforts. That support may come in many forms: from being part of a coalition that engages in actual fighting; to logistical support that enables the fighting to take place; to supply of weapons; to intelligence sharing; or capacity building in one shape or another. One only has to look at the network of state assistance to other states on all sides of the conflict in Syria, and also in Yemen. A couple of weeks ago Chatham House published a paper –  “Aiding and Assisting: Challenges in Armed Conflict and Counterterrorism” – that I would like to commend to readers. The paper, authored by Harriet Moynihan who is Associate Fellow in the International Law Programme at Chatham House, seeks to set out:

“a clear statement of the law on aiding and assisting as it stands, with particular regard to its application in situations of armed conflict and counterterrorism. The paper also aims to provide guidance to governments on best practice in their cooperation in armed conflict and counterrorism, taking into account the legal and policy issues raised by the various rules in this area.” (para. 6)

A central question addressed in the paper is: when will a state that provides assistance that is used by another state to carry out actions that are wrongful in international law, responsible for assisting that wrongful act? The paper addresses this issue by first considering (in Chapter 2) the general rule that is established with regarding to aiding and assisting in Article 16 of the International Law Commission’s Articles on the Responsibility of States 2001. Chapter 3 then pays some attention to more specific rules of international law that deal with aiding and abetting, eg Common Article 1 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, some treaties dealing with weapons transfers and some applicable rules of international humanitarian law.

Much of the analysis in Chapter 2 deals with the tricky question of the mental element that must be fulfilled in order to establish a breach of Article 16 of the ILC Articles on State Responsibility. Read the rest of this entry…

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Announcements: CfP Spaces and Places of the Journey to the UK; CfP ESIL Annual Conference; International Immunities – Law in a State of Flux? Conference; Francis Lieber Prize; Additions to the UN Audiovisual Library of International Law; Goettingen Journal of International Law New Edition;

Published on November 27, 2016        Author: 

1. Call for Papers: Spaces and Places of the Journey to the UK – Assessing the Legal Framework for People Fleeing Conflict. This conference is motivated by the plight of people fleeing conflict, attempting to reach Europe, and more specifically, the UK. How does the UK government govern (globally) for refugees and how should it govern for refugees? We invite engagement from theoretical, legal and empirical research into refugee journeys to the UK. From the plight of people affected by conflict, to refugee camps, perilous water crossings, the Jungle, UK Border Force and the process of seeking asylum on arrival in the UK (including UK detention centres). This conference will establish an evidence base to help practitioners and to highlight issues specific to the UK government in the current ‘crisis’. Further information on the Call for Papers can be found here, or email Dr Christy Shucksmith at cshucksmith {at} lincoln.ac(.)uk.

2. Call for Papers: ESIL Annual Conference, Naples. The 13th Annual Conference of the European Society of International Law will take place in Naples, Italy, on 7-9 September 2017. The conference will be hosted by the University of Naples Federico II, the oldest public university in the world. The theme of the conference is ”Global Public Goods, Global Commons and Fundamental Values: The Responses of International Law”. The Call for Papers is now open. The deadline for submission of abstracts is 31 January 2017Further information is available on ESIL website.

3. International Immunities: Law in a State of Flux? Conference. On 15-16 December 2016, the Ghent Rolin-Jaequemyns International Law Institute (GRILI) at Ghent University will be hosting an international two-day conference entitled ‘International Immunities: Law in a State of Flux?’ The aim of the conference – organized in partnership with the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL), and Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) – is to take stock of recent evolutions pertaining to international immunities and to offer a comprehensive tour d’horizon of outstanding challenges and controversies. The conference will bring together distinguished scholars as well as practitioners, civil servants and other experts (e.g. ICC, ILC, EU, Foreign Affairs), to broach the various issues at stake. Presentations will be grouped into four clusters: jurisdictional immunities; immunity from execution; immunities in the international legal order; and, immunities of the armed forces/in armed conflict. The conference will also feature a roundtable on the immunities of foreign officials, during which the ILC Special Rapporteur Concepción Escobar Hernández will present her views and engage with expert respondents. The conference will conclude with a keynote lecture by Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert of the ICC. Detailed information can be found here. Read the rest of this entry…

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Africa and the ICC: Shattered Taboos, and the Status Quo

Published on November 23, 2016        Author: 

The withdrawals of South Africa, Burundi and the Gambia from the International Criminal Court have generated much discussion in the past few weeks. After shock and despondency, commentary has shifted to new and creative ways of dealing with the ICC’s ‘Africa problem’. Some of these proposals are truly original, for instance Ambassador Scheffer’s suggestion that African states should target non-African states to balance the ICC’s case docket, while others strike a more measured (Mark Kersten here) but ultimately hopeful (Darryl Robinson here and here) tone about the prospects of salvaging the international criminal justice project. As far as I can tell, only one commentator engages head on with the full spectrum of critiques and problems that the ICC faces, making Tor Krever’s conclusion that “little has changed” particularly noteworthy. In this post, I want to suggest that the conflict between the ICC and African states has poisoned the debate in subtle and imperceptible ways that raise troubling questions about the future of the international criminal justice project.

The Shifting Debate

The debate about the ICC’s role in Africa has certainly shifted in the past few weeks. At the ongoing Assembly of States Parties (ASP) in The Hague, civil society representatives are, for the first time, voicing formerly taboo opinions, like the suggestion that Al-Bashir may benefit from immunity under customary international law. To be sure, civil society groups are not endorsing this legalistic argument, which has long been put forward by prominent scholars of international law (see here, here and here), but it is certainly a revolution of sorts when NGOs acknowledge that the African Union (AU)’s denunciation of the ICC’s conflicting case law on Head of State immunity is more than just Machiavellian politicking aimed at shielding dictators.

Whatever the merits of the AU and South Africa’s legalistic position on Bashir’s immunity, it is hard to deny that a major shift may be afoot when the ICC’s President rushes to welcome the justice minister of South Africa, which just repudiated its membership of the Court, in a last-ditch attempt to accommodate his government’s concerns and, hopefully, find a way out of ‘the impasse’.

This is not to suggest that the ICC should not engage in diplomacy. If there is a way to change South Africa’s withdrawal decision, then the Court’s representatives should certainly try. However, in the rush to stem the prospect of diminished membership, the ICC must not lose sight of the bigger picture and the ideals on which it is premised. The real danger is that the ICC vs. Africa quagmire has already irreversibly changed the debate, with negative long-term consequences for the Court and its supporters. Read the rest of this entry…

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Feeling a Way Forward for International Justice – ICC, Africa and the World

Published on November 22, 2016        Author: 

As we all know, 2016 has seen, on many fronts, a surge of isolationism and nativism, as well as a tendency toward polarization and “post-factual” rhetoric. Against this global backdrop, there were reasons to expect dramatic confrontations at the ongoing session of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Assembly of States Parties (ASP). In recent years, discontent with the ICC has been growing, particularly among African states, culminating in three prominent withdrawals (on which see my previous post). If badly handled, the situation could lead to further withdrawals and setbacks for international criminal law.

The ASP has instead offered a promising glimmer of light in the gloom of 2016. On Friday 18 November the ASP held an “open bureau meeting” on the ICC-Africa relationship. The maturity of the discussion renewed my hope in the possibility of respectful listening, open-mindedness, sincere engagement and meaningful change.

Rather than drawing battle lines, delegations from all latitudes generally reached out in a very open and reflective manner. The sensationalist, oversimplified criticisms that are common in media and even academic commentary made little appearance. Instead, delegations generally advanced grounded, focused concerns and possible solutions.

For a great many states, the current impasse was a wakeup call. Instead of reacting to all concerns as attempts to undermine the Statute and the rule of law, delegations showed a sincere readiness for real conversations about the future of international justice. International justice must be inclusive justice. African states helped shape the Rome Statute system and will continue to do so. International justice must also be living and organic, adapting to experience. As the Ugandan delegate explained, a legislature can revise a rule based on experience and changed conditions, which is not necessarily to disrespect the original rule.

The discussion was at times moving. Some delegates at the podium shared heartfelt thoughts, their feelings of connectedness to other states parties, and even the personal tragedies that led them to support international criminal justice. Read the rest of this entry…

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