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ICC Review Conference: Taking Stock of Stocktaking

Published on June 3, 2010        Author: 

In the opening days of the Review Conference, one often heard references to the Review Conference as an “historic event” and a “second constitutional moment”.  With the significant exception of the possible adoption of the crime of aggression, which would indeed be a profound development, there is reason to ask whether the Conference is more a “constitutional moment” or just “another day at the office”.

My first blog highlighted the potential value of the stocktaking exercise.  Amending attitudes and understandings could prove as important, or more important, than amending the Statute.  I remain positive about the idea of stock-taking, the topics selected, the format adopted and the prominent panelists invited to open discussions.

However, given that the venue is a Review Conference, and given that the stocktaking is in part a substitute for actual amendments to the Statute, one might have hoped that the delegates would at least tackle a few issues of comparable difficulty and significance and take some meaningful decisions about their vision for international justice.  Instead, the discussions among States have adhered quite closely to safe, well-worn and self-congratulatory scripts.

Thus, for example, in the discussions on peace and justice, most States intervened to deliver an essentially similar message:  Peace is good.  Justice is good.  Peace and justice are not contradictory.  Except perhaps sometimes when they at least seem so, and such situations require careful thought and handling.  The last point is typically made in a knowledgeable tone hinting that the speaker has a few deep insights into how this is done (and giving the sense that different delegations might handle the balancing in very different ways).  Repeat 40 times in different voices and languages, with no real delving into controversies or solutions. Read the rest of this entry…

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Legal Issues Raised by Israel’s Blockade of Gaza (UPDATED)

Published on June 2, 2010        Author: 

In this post I simply want to direct readers to places where they can read about the legal issues raised by the Israeli blockade of Gaza and about Israel’s attempt to enforce that blockade earlier this week. I am sure we will return to these matters on EJIL:Talk! in the next few days. Douglas Guilfoyle, who has written several posts on this blog on issues relating to maritime interdiction has a piece in the Times (of London) in which he states that:

International law tells us that states may create and enforce blockades during an armed conflict, but it also tells us that those blockades must meet humanitarian standards to be lawful.    . . .

The law or armed conflict requires that blockading states allow aid through to the civilian population; however, the blockading state may control the channel through which aid is delivered, and that is what Israel has been doing. The authority to intercept vessels and control aid deliveries, however, is available only in a lawful blockade. To be lawful, a blockade must not be implemented where the damage to the civilian population is excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade, and this is where Israel’s legal position is open to question.

He then goes on to examine the legality of the operation to enforce the blockade and considers whether the Israeli soldiers acted lawfully in self-defence – a matter which may prove to be as important  and worthy of analysis as the legality of the blockade. Douglas then turns to and categorically rejects the charge that the operation was an act of piracy, as does Julian Ku at Opinio Juris.  Douglas has also given two interviews on the BBC which are worth listening to. See here and also here (around the 19 min mark). Afua Hirsch, Legal Correspondent at the Guardian also has a piece considering the legal issues here.

Also at Opinio Juris, Kevin Jon Heller has an excellent post in which he suggests that the legality of the blockade depends on the type of armed conflict is Israel is involved in in Gaza. He accepts that if Israel is involved in an international armed conflict (IAC) in Gaza then it has the right to blockade Gaza. However, he questions whether blockades are lawful in non-international armed conflicts. So:

Israel’s defense of the blockade thus appears to create a serious dilemma for it.  Insofar as Israel insists that it is not currently occupying Gaza, it cannot plausibly claim that it is involved in an IAC with Hamas.  And if it is not currently involved in an IAC with Hamas, it is difficult to see how it can legally justify the blockade of Gaza.  Its blockade of Gaza, therefore, seems to depend on its willingness to concede that it is occupying Gaza and is thus in an IAC with Hamas.  But Israel does not want to do that, because it would then be bound by the very restrictive rules of belligerent occupation in the Fourth Geneva Convention. Read the rest of this entry…


Live from Kampala: Day 2

Published on June 1, 2010        Author: 

At long last, I have arrived in Kampala, after my original flight booking was affected – twice – by the British Airways strike. Much of today was a continuation of yesterday’s general plenary, wherein the states parties representatives read out pre-prepared statements of a polite but general nature, and diplomats and NGO delegates go hunting for extra copies. For many, the statements of interest today were those of the Observer States, including the statement of the United States.

A Plea of Caution, Care and Regard for the Court

The US statement was delivered by Stephen Rapp, US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, and the former prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Evoking a general theme of “caution, care and regard for the Court”, and attributing support for this theme to prominent groups within civil society, Ambassador Rapp spoke of the challenges facing delegates, using a series of questions about the success of the ICC’s efforts in situation countries to connect with the four themes of the upcoming stocktaking exercise. Mention was also made of US co-sponsorship, along with Norway and the DRC, of a side-event on “positive complementarity”, drawing a link to the “frontlines of justice, national courts”.

But the larger, and more immediate, challenge facing the Conference, as identified by Ambassador Rapp, are the proposed amendments concerning the crime of aggression. Despite years of discussion, key issues remain without a consensus resolution, with Rapp identifying the conditions for the exercise of jurisdiction and how the aggression amendments will enter into force as being “elemental”, and “not of marginal significance”. Rapp also identified problems with the definitional aspect of the aggression amendment project, albeit that many view the definition aspect as easier to resolve than the conditions for the exercise of jurisdiction. (English School IR scholars and R2P watchers may be interested in Rapp’s reference to “the use of force that is undertaken to end the very crimes the ICC is now charged with prosecuting” in discussing the uncertainties of the proposed definition.)

The possible impact of aggression amendments on national jurisdiction was also highlighted as an area of uncertainty, with Rapp drawing a link to a conference non-paper circulated by the chairman of the Special Working Group on the Crime of Aggression, H.R.H. Prince Zeid of Jordan, available at:

Rapp then focused on the “plea for caution, care and regard for the Court” promulgated by some civil society organizations, and clearly supported by the US, which has emphasized a need for a genuine consensus with respect to the definitions of crimes for the ICC. Read the rest of this entry…

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EJIL Editorial Vol 21:1- Lautsi: Crucifix in the Classroom Redux

Published on June 1, 2010        Author: 

There are few legal issues which still manage to evoke civic passion in the wider population. Increasingly, and sometimes for the wrong reasons, the place of religion in our public spaces has become one of them. In the age of the internet and Google we can safely assume that all readers of this Journal will have either read the Lautsi decision of the European Court of Human Rights or have read about it, thus obviating the need for the usual preliminaries. As is known, a Chamber of the Court held that the displaying in Italian public schools of the crucifix was a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Independently of one’s view of the substantive result, the decision of the Second Chamber of the ECtHR is an embarrassment. There are few long-term issues on the European agenda that are more urgent, more complex and more delicate than the way we deal with the challenging problems of State and Church, religious minorities, the questions of collective identities of Europe and within Europe, and the parameters of uniformity and diversity of our states and within our states. All these issues are encapsulated in Lautsi. All are disposed of, Oracle like, in 11 impatient and apodictic paragraphs. Compare this to the 90 pages of the Supreme Court of the UK in the recent JFS Case, to give but one example.[1]

The European Court of Human Rights is not an Oracle. It is a dialogical partner with the Member States Parties to the Convention, and the legitimacy and persuasiveness of its decisions resides both in their quality and communicative power. The ECtHR is simultaneously reflective and constitutive of the European constitutional practices and norms. When there is a diverse constitutional practice among the Convention States – and there certainly is in this area – the Court needs to listen, not only preach, and to be seen to be listening. In this decision not only does it not engage with the rich jurisprudence, doctrine and practice to be found in many of the Member States, while blithely citing mostly its own decisions, it does not even address some of the issues raised by the defendant state. Read the rest of this entry…


EJIL Editorial Vol 21:1- In this issue . . .

Published on June 1, 2010        Author: 

We begin this issue with a symposium to honour one of our Founding Editors, Professor Antonio Cassese, who recently celebrated his 70th birthday. Many happy returns.  We publish five short pieces on the role that public international law plays and can play in the protection of individuals, a topic of abiding concern to Nino. From a variety of perspective our writers, Giorgio Gaja, Christian Tomuschat, Andrew Clapham, Luigi Condorelli and Francesco Francioni each provide tribute by providing insight in this particular area of international law.  We extend warm thanks to Paola Gaeta, an EJIL Editorial Board member, for Guest Editing this symposium.

In our articles section you will find a trenchant piece by B.S. Chimni – ‘Prolegomena to a Class Approach to International Law’ –with a distinct and challenging theoretical voice.  Next, we have an article by Mario Mendez entitled, ‘The Legal Effect of Community Agreements: Maximalist Treaty Enforcement and Judicial Avoidance Techniques’, which suggests that a ‘twin-track’ approach to treaty enforcement is developing in the European Community.  We turn then to two pieces which engage with fresh questions concerning international humanitarian law.  We hope you will read these articles by Katherine Del Mar and Carlo Focarelli as logical extensions of the symposium in this issue.  Our final article by Roozbeh Baker addresses an ever fresh topic: ‘Customary International Law in the 21st Century: Old Challenges and New Debates’.

As part of our occasional series – Critical Review of International Governance – we publish a piece by Milagros Álvarez-Verdugo  which investigates the relationship between climate change and the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Life continues even after the Copenhagen farce.

In an earlier editorial, we encouraged review essays which cover a variety of texts on a single topic.  In this issue we include a good example of an insightful review essay by Lindsey Cameron and Rebecca Everly on territorial administration.

The Last Page features a poem by Laura Coyne entitled ‘Market Fictions’ – food for the soul.

Filed under: Editorials, EJIL, Journals
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