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In other news…

Published on February 27, 2009        Author: 

… this time from the department of shameless self-promotion: I’ve just posted on SSRN a draft chapter on the territorial application of the Genocide Convention and state succession in the forthcoming Commentary to the Convention edited by Paola Gaeta and published by OUP. Some of my blogging here was based on that piece, so maybe some of the readers would be interested in it. Comments are welcome.

 
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ICTY Trial Chamber decides Milutinovic et al

Published on February 26, 2009        Author: 

Today a Trial Chamber of the ICTY delivered its judgment in Milutinovic et al, a case against a number of high-ranking political, military and police officials of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia regarding crimes committed by FRY/Serbian forces in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999. This is the first judgment delivered by the ICTY on Kosovo, since the Kosovo indictment against Slobodan Milosevic was never adjudicated on because of the death of the accused. Because of the scope of the case and the status of the accused, this is beyond any doubt one of the most important trial judgments to be delivered by the ICTY.

In its judgment, the Trial Chamber confirmed the existence of a broad campaign of violence against the Kosovo Albanian civilian population, causing the departure of at least 700.000 Albanians from Kosovo. The campaign was legally qualified as deportation, murder and persecution as crimes against humanity.

Read the rest of this entry…

 

Kadi and Al Barakaat: Luxembourg is not Texas – or Washington DC

Published on February 25, 2009        Author: 

Piet Eeckhout is Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for European Law at King’s College London. He was a member of the legal team for the applicant Yassin Kadi.

The European Court of Justice’s approach in the Kadi decision has already been described as sharply dualist (see,Professor Joseph Weiler’s EJIL editorial, posted here on this blog and Gráinne de Búrca, “The European Court of Justice and the International Legal Order after Kadi“, Jean Monnet Working Paper No. 01/09).  The Court emphasises the autonomy of the Community legal order. Judicial review in the light of fundamental rights is the expression of a constitutional guarantee stemming from the EC Treaty as an autonomous legal system, a guarantee which is not to be prejudiced by an international agreement. Not even the UN Charter is capable of interfering with that guarantee, notwithstanding the Charter’s primacy under international law, a primacy which the Court accepts.

The strong confirmation of the autonomy of Community law is undeniable. But there is of course nothing new in that autonomy: since Van Gend en Loos this is the very premise of the Community legal order. However, I find the notion of dualism much less helpful for the purpose of characterising the Court’s reasoning. The interactions between international law and municipal law in today’s world have too many different dimensions for blunt concepts such as monism and dualism to be helpful. This means that Kadi needs to be put in perspective. It is very tempting to argue that the judgment is ground-breaking, perhaps even revolutionary, the most important judgment handed down by the Court in decades. Alas, my academic assessment is that this is exaggerated. Read the rest of this entry…

 

The Obligation to “Extradite or Prosecute” is not an Obligation to “Prosecute or Extradite”

Published on February 23, 2009        Author: 

Joanna Harrington is Associate Professor of Law, University of Alberta, Canada. Her Phd obtained from the University of Cambridge dealt with extradition and human rights. From 2006-2008, she was on secondment to the Legal Affairs Bureau of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. In that capacity, she, among other things, was a member of the Canadian delegation to the UN General Assembly for meetings of the Sixth (Legal) Committee dealing with the work of the International Law Commission.

Dapo’s post on the case in the ICJ between Belgium and Senegal highlights the real issue in the case, which is this question of whether international law “obliges” prosecution.

One aspect of the ILC’s recent work on “Extradite or prosecute” that has attracted my own interest is the Special Rapporteur’s description of this obligation as a choice, an “either/or” option for States, thus equating “extradite or prosecute” with “prosecute or extradite” (the latter being the “obligation” now invoked by Belgium).

In the very treaties that the Special Rapporteur has cited in his reports, the actual wording of the treaty provisions imposes an obligation to extradite, and IF that does not occur, THEN an obligation arises to submit the case for prosecution. In other words, there is a condition within the treaty-based provision, which the shorthand reference to “extradite or prosecute” does not convey, and which does not mean that we can look to these treaty obligations on “extradite or prosecute” to substantiate a customary obligation to “prosecute or extradite”. We can’t just flip the phrase. This is especially so where the obligation to extradite or prosecute applies to crimes for which one of the state parties to the extradition treaty would not have jurisdiction to prosecute. This happens in extradition treaties between common law and civil law countries, when the latter may invoke the nationality exception to extradition, and in return, is subject to an obligation to submit the case for consideration for national prosecution. The common law country would not be in the same position if it refused to extradite all nationals for all crimes given the territorial nature of much of common law criminal law.

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Belgium brings case against Senegal in the ICJ over Failure to Prosecute Hissene Habre

Published on February 20, 2009        Author: 

Belgium has filed a case in the ICJ against Senegal (see press release) with regard to Senegal’s failure to prosecute former Chadian Head of State, Hissene Habre. This is the latest episode in the long running saga regarding the possible prosecution of Habre. Habre is accused of torture and crimes against humanity committed in the 1980s against dissidents and political opponents during his period in office in Chad. Habre has been resident in Senegal since he was overthrown in 1990. Following the Pinochet precedent, attempts were first made in 2000 to institute criminal proceedings in Senegal against Habre. These attempts failed when the Senegalese courts held that Senegal lacked extraterritorial jurisdiction over the crimes because it had not passed the necessary legislation. Thereafter, proceedings against Habre were commenced in Belgium and, in 2005, a Beglian magistrate issued an international arrest warrant for Habre. After the African Union recommended prosecution in Senegal, that country amended its domestic law in order to provide jurisdiction for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. However, no proceedings against Habre have been commenced in Senegal though he is said to be under house arrest.

 In its Application to the ICJ Belgium, requests the Court to adjudge and declare that:

” –  the Republic of Senegal is obliged to bring criminal proceedings against Mr. H. Habré for acts including crimes of torture and crimes against humanity which are alleged against him as author, co-author or accomplice;
- failing the prosecution of Mr. H. Habré, the Republic of Senegal is obliged to extradite him to the Kingdom of Belgium so that he can answer for his crimes before the Belgian courts”.

Belgium has also requested provisional measures as the Senegalese President has suggested that Habre may be released from house arrest. Read the rest of this entry…

 

European Court decides A and others v. United Kingdom

Published on February 19, 2009        Author: 

Today the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgment in A and others v. United Kingdom, App. No. 3455/05, the sequel to the Belmarsh case, [2005] UKHL 71, decided by the House of Lords several years ago. The applicants were detained preventatively as suspected terrorists by UK authorities pursuant to legislation passed by Parliament and a derogation from Article 5 ECHR made by the UK after the 9/11 attacks under Article 15 ECHR. The House of Lords declared the derogation incompatible with the ECHR, on the grounds that it discriminated between nationals and non-nationals, as it allowed the preventative detention only of the latter. Today it was the European Court’s turn to deal with numerous issues arising out of the applicants’ preventative detention.
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The Tricky Question of State Succession to International Responsibility

Published on February 16, 2009        Author: 

Consider the following scenario: state A commits an internationally wrongful act (say genocide) against state B, incurring responsibility for doing so and giving state B an entitlement to reparation. Before state B actually manages to obtain reparation from state A, state A dissolves into two new states, X and Y. What happens to A’s responsibility towards B? Does it devolve to X and Y, and how? Alternatively, what happens if A does not dissolve and manages to continue its international personality, but two of its smaller territorial units, X and Y, successfully secede from it, and become states in their own right? What then?

Both of these factual scenarios involve state succession, defined as change or transfer of sovereignty over a territory. The first scenario is one of dissolution. State A and its international personality have ceased to exist, and two new states have emerged. The second scenario is one of succession alongside continuation. State A is territorially diminished, but its identity and international personality remain the same. Again, however, two new successor states have emerged on the territory of their predecessor. The dissolution of Czechoslovakia and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia are examples of the former scenario, while the best example of continuation and separation is the Soviet Union, which continued its existence as the Russian Federation, along a number of new successor states. (Note that a continuator state is often misleadingly termed as the successor state, even though there may be a number of actual successor states alongside the continuator.)

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Recent Developments at the International Court of Justice

Published on February 12, 2009        Author: 

Speedy Despatch of Business at the Court?

In addition to new judges taking up office, and the election of the President and the Vice President (which Marko points out in his post), the Court has also elected a Chamber of Summary Procedure (see here). This is something that the Statute of the Court (Art. 29) requires the Court to do annually, “with a view to the speedy despatch of business.” Despite the Court setting up this Chamber dutifully, the Chamber of Summary Procedure of the ICJ has has never been asked to decide a case. The equivalent Chamber of the Permanent Court of International Justice was resorted to once in the case concerning the Interpretation of the Treaty of Neiully (Bulgaria/Greece) 1924 [or should we say it has been used twice since Greece's request for an interpretation of that judgment was dealt with by the Chamber of Summary Procedure in 1925]. The Court has been accused in the past of moving at a snails pace and certain cases seem to bear this out. It took the court nearly 14 years (1993-2007) to get from the filing of Application to a Merits judgment in the Bosnian Genocide Convention Case, 11 years in the Oil Platforms case, and 10 years in Qatar v. Bahrain. Could use of the Chamber of Summary Procedure be a way of solving this problem? Perhaps more importantly, is there really a problem of slow justice at the ICJ?

Despite the fact that some cases have taken very lengthy periods to reach a conclusion in the ICJ, there are good reasons to think parties do not consider there to be a significant problem with the speed of proceedings. In fact, it is probably wrong to assume that parties to ICJ cases always or even normally wish to have those cases decided quickly. Read the rest of this entry…

 
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Judge Owada Elected as New ICJ President

Published on February 12, 2009        Author: 

Last week, the judges of the International Court of Justice elected Judge Hisashi Owada as the Court’s new President, and Judge Peter Tomka as its new Vice-President, each for a term of three years. The ICJ press release is here. Three new judges have also now assumed their seats on the bench, namely judges Greenwood, Cancado Trinidade and Yusuf, while three judges have departed the Court, namely former President Higgins, and judges Ranjeva and Parra Aranguren.

 
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ICTY Trial Chamber Suspends Seselj Trial

Published on February 11, 2009        Author: 

The most poorly run trial ever before the ICTY – the high profile proceedings against the ultra-nationalist Serbian leader Vojislav Seselj – has entered into what I can only call its metastasis. AP reports that today the Trial Chamber, by 2 votes to 1 (presiding Judge Antonetti dissenting), decided to adjourn the trial indefinitely, for fears that the integrity of the proceedings has been compromised. The most serious allegations involve witness intimidation by Seselj’s associates – indeed, Seselj himself has recently been charged with contempt of Tribunal for disclosed the identity of a witness in the most recent, 1000 page instalment in his endless, Mein Kampf-like book series that he (supposedly) writes while in detention.

The trial itself has truly devolved into a travesty, with the presiding judge in particular showing an incredible lack of ability to manage the self-representing Seselj. In short, Seselj was basically allowed to run his own trial. That Seselj himself is probably one of the most obnoxious and irritating human beings in all of creation is really not an excuse for the amount of incompetence that has been displayed at the ICTY (see generally A. Zahar, ‘Legal Aid, Self-Representation and the Crisis at The Hague Tribunal’, (2008) 19 Criminal Law Forum 241; G. Sluiter, ‘Compromising the Authority of International Criminal Justice–How Vojislav Šešelj Runs His Trial’, (2007) 5 Journal of International Criminal Justice 529)

There is for now no indication how the trial might find its way out of limbo. I won’t even try to explain what kind of impact these developments can have on the already abysmally poor public perception of the ICTY in the Balkans, Serbia in particular. (Not to mention the fact that poor Serbia (i.e. me; self-pity is the best kind of pity) is going to have to suffer through Seselj’s return to the country, probably sooner rather than later, and through his boasting that he actually managed to defeat the Tribunal.)  What is fairly certain is that no-one working in the ICTY – least of all the judges – will actually bear any consequences for this fiasco.

 
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