Home 2013 November (Page 3)

The 21st Century Atlantis: The International Law of Statehood and Climate Change-Induced Loss of Statehood

Published on November 8, 2013        Author: 

AbanyanuAbhimanyu George Jain is a recent LL.M. graduate of Georgetown University (2013).

Plato wrote of the legendary island kingdom of Atlantis: “…in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea.” It is not clear whether there ever was a kingdom of Atlantis which disappeared into the sea. But a substantially similar fate seems set to befall several low-lying, small island states in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

In the next 50-100 years it is possible that the entire territory of the Maldives, Tuvalu, Nauru and other island countries will be submerged as a result of increasing sea levels caused by climate change. International law stipulates that territory is a necessary prerequisite for statehood. Will these states cease to be states when they lose their territory?

The importance of this question is underscored, first, by the blatant unfairness of loss of statehood in this fashion. These states have barely contributed to climate change and have been at the forefront of efforts to combat climate change, yet they are to be the first victims of a disaster not of their making. Second, these states own vast economic resources in the form of exclusive economic zones. The dissolution of their claims to these resources may incite a global race to appropriate the fruits of these entitlements, to the detriment of international stability. Read the rest of this entry…


The Extraterritorial Seizure of Individuals under International Law – The Case of al-Liby: Part II

Published on November 7, 2013        Author: 

In this second of two posts I intend to continue the analysis of the extraterritorial seizure of individuals under international law, with a particular focus upon the recent arrest, detention and now trial of the al-Qaida leader al-Liby by the United States, who was wanted in connection with the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. In the previous post I addressed the prescriptive jurisdiction of the US over these offences and, noting that its enforcement was territorially limited, looked at two possibilities as to how enforcement may occur; the consent of the Libyan authorities and in self-defence. While the existence of the former would have justified the entering of Libyan territory, question marks still existed in connection with al-Liby’s human rights in such operations. This issue will be addressed in this post. By contrast, while it is at least possible that extraterritorial seizures could be justified as self-defence, the US has thus far failed to demonstrate that the Libyan authorities were unable or unwilling to apprehend and hand-over al-Liby to the US, instead basing the operation broadly upon the ‘laws of war’.  As such, whether this branch of the law permits such operations will be addressed first.

Arrest and detention as part of an armed conflict

Assuming here for the sake of argument that the US is in a state of war/armed conflict with al-Qaida, and similarly assuming for the sake of argument that given the absence of two state parties this is a non-international armed conflict per the ambiguous Hamdan judgment, the law of armed conflict says very little about powers of detention in such conflicts, as opposed to the rather extensive provision it makes for the issue (particularly in GCIII) in armed conflicts of an international nature.

It could be argued that there is a power of extrajudicial detention in non-international armed conflicts under customary international law. Indeed, this appears to be the view of the US and certain other states. Yet, the rules that do exist in the law of non-international armed conflicts governing detention are concerned with the general treatment and trial of individuals after they have been detained, as opposed to providing prior grounds for detention and thus ensuring that any deprivation of liberty is not of an arbitrary nature. Instead, such issues are left to the domestic law of the state where the non-international armed conflict is taking place and/or international human rights law. In this respect, regardless of whether the claim of the US in regards to its armed conflict with al-Qaida is well-founded or not, given the extraterritorial nature of the arrest and detention of al-Liby questions are raised as to whether, and if so how, international human rights law provides a form of regulation to the actions of the US. Read the rest of this entry…


The Extraterritorial Seizure of Individuals under International Law – The Case of al-Liby: Part I

Published on November 6, 2013        Author: 

Chris_Henderson_150x200Christian Henderson is Senior Lecturer in Law and Director of the Human Rights and International Law Unit at the University of Liverpool.

On 5th October 2013, the US Army’s Delta force entered Libyan territory and seized the alleged al-Qaida leader Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai (pictured right), more commonly known by his alias Abu Anas al-Liby, who was wanted by the US for the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The incident recently made the news again as al-Liby came before a Federal Court in New York to plead not guilty to the offences with which he was charged.

Anas_al-LibyUnsurprisingly, the US has made a robust defence of both the raid to seize al-Liby, including apparent invocation of the Authorisation for Use of Military Force (AUMF) adopted under the Bush administration (for an analysis of the use of AUMF see the post by Marty Lederman on Just Security here), as well as its current jurisdiction over him in order to bring him to justice for the bombings (see here and here).

Regardless of whether the abduction was lawful under the domestic law of the United States (see here for an excellent post on this issue) the whole operation raises several key questions under international law. In particular, this incident raises the question of the permissibility of a state entering another to apprehend an individual so as to be able to try them for crimes committed against its nationals. It also raises questions in regards to the treatment of that individual by the apprehending state and the subsequent jurisdiction over them for the alleged offences. The purpose of this and a following post is to seek to set out the framework of applicable rights and obligations in regards to such operations, with a particular focus on the al-Liby seizure. Read the rest of this entry…


Surveillance without Borders: The Unlawfulness of the NSA Panopticon, Part II

Published on November 4, 2013        Author: 

This is Part II of a post assessing the international law implications of the U.S. National Security Agency’s global spying program. Part I focused the general international law implications of the program. This part focuses on potential violations of human rights law and breaches of the law of diplomacy.

Constitutional fundamental rights binding the European states

In probably all surveilled states, citizens enjoy a constitutional right to privacy which has been affected by secret surveillance measures by the NSA. Fundamental rights embodied in European constitutions bind only the territorial state, not the USA. The territorial states’ responsibility under their own constitutional law could be involved through their condonement, toleration, or by just refraining from protesting against surveillance measures by the NSA.

In Germany, the secrecy of communication is protected by Art. 10 of the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz, GG). This fundamental right may be lawfully restricted. The principal relevant legislation in Germany is the Gesetz zur Beschränkung des Brief-, Post und Fernmeldegeheimnisses as of 26 June 2001, colloquially called the G10-Act. This Act allows for measures to repel “dangers to the troops of the non-German contracting parties of the NATO treaty” (§ 1 of the G10-Act). That Act allows for different types of restrictions of the fundamental right to privacy, for example “strategic limitations”. But all restrictions are tied to specific conditions, for example, “concrete clues” must exist to found a “suspicion”. Also, the Act only authorises specific German agencies to perform surveillance measures, notably the German intelligence service (Bundesnachrichtendienst). Third, specific procedures must be respected. Finally, the affected persons must be informed ex post, and they are guaranteed access to non-judicial remedies. None of these preconditions have been met in the course of NSA-surveillance. It remains to be seen whether German authorities have violated citizens’ fundamental right to privacy by tolerating NSA measures. Read the rest of this entry…


Announcements: Call for Papers, ICJ Vacancies

Published on November 2, 2013        Author: 

1. Call for Papers: Subsidiarity in Global Governance. The Hertie School of Governance has issued a Call for Papers for a workshop on ‘Subsidiarity in Global Governance’ in Berlin on 19 and 20 June 2014. The workshop will gather around 25 scholars from law, politics and related disciplines for an in-depth debate over two days. The organizers welcome proposals from scholars at any level – PhD students at an advanced stage, postdoctoral and more senior researchers alike. Details can be found here.

2. Law Clerk Vacancies at the International Court of Justice. The International Court of Justice wishes to appoint several Law Clerks, each of whom will provide research and other legal assistance to one of the judges of the Court. Details available here.
Filed under: Announcements and Events

Surveillance Without Borders? The Unlawfulness of the NSA-Panopticon, Part I

Published on November 1, 2013        Author: 


Introduction: The draft GA resolution on privacy on the Internet

At the end of October 2013, a draft General Assembly resolution calling for the right to privacy on the Internet was sponsored by Brazil and Germany. (photo: a panopticon, credit)

The draft resolution reaffirms the human right to privacy. It calls upon states to take measures to put an end to violations of these rights (operative para. 4 b), calls upon states to review their procedures, practices and legislation concerning the extra-territorial surveillance of private communications (para. 4 b) and calls upon states to establish independent oversight mechanisms capable of ensuring the transparency and accountability of state surveillance of communications (para. 4 d).

Although the draft resolution does not mention the United States or the National Security Agency (NSA), it is indirectly reacting against the NSA’s recent espionage and surveillance activities conducted in a number of European states, including France, Italy, and Spain. This two-part post will focus on surveillance of German officials including the chancellor Angela Merkel and of ordinary persons in Germany by way of example. Spying on government officials concerns general international law, which will be the focus of Part I of this post. Part II will focus on the bugging of the communication of private persons, which implicates human rights law.

Breach of international law vis-à-vis the surveilled states

The interception of communication by government officials, agents, and authorities seems to constitute espionage. However, there are no specific international law norms that would contain or regulate espionage.

Spying has been more common (and more acceptable under international law) during war and under the international rules of armed conflict. If the United States seek to justify their surveillance activities by pointing to the “global war on terror” or, to use the term employed by former US legal adviser Harold Koh, “armed conflict with Al Qaeda, as well as the Taliban and associated forces”, the US would first have to show that there is indeed, in Germany, an armed conflict of this type. This seems difficult to demonstrate because the geographic and substantive nexus to the battlefield is lacking. Read the rest of this entry…