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Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict: Introduction to a Joint Blog Series

Published on September 21, 2016        Author: 

In late July, a group of academic, military, and governmental experts from both sides of the Atlantic gathered at the University of Oxford for the fourth annual “Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict”. The roundtable, held under the Chatham House Rule, and which this year included participants from Australia was held over two days and examined contemporary questions of international law relating to military operations.

This year’s event placed a particular emphasis not only on some substantive issues relating to the conduct of hostilities (such as targeting of “war sustaining” objects and the principle of proportionality), but on procedural obligations arising under the law of armed conflict. The procedural obligations discussed include the obligations of parties: to engage in review of the lawfulness of detentions in the armed conflict; to guarantee fair trials for those prosecuted for offences related to the conflict; and to investigate suspected violations of the law of armed conflict. Discussion of these procedural obligations focused on the content and scope of these obligations. The sessions also examined the extent to which these obligations apply to (and are capable of being fulfilled in) non-international armed conflicts and non-state armed groups. Inevitably, the sessions also considered the relationship between the procedural obligations imposed by international humanitarian law and those which may arise under international human rights law. To what extent should the latter inform the former?

Some of those who attended the workshop have agreed to participate in a series of blog posts focusing on specific topics that were addressed during the workshop. Three blogs, Intercross, EJIL:Talk!, and Lawfare, are coordinating the series, and will host the posts, outlined below. Each blog post represent’s the different authors’ perspectives, and not necessarily those of anyone else at the workshop, nor any of the institutions represented. The blogposts focus almost exclusively on procedural obligations in the law of armed conflict. In addition, there will be a post on the principle of proportionality under IHL. Although proportionality imposes a substantive obligation on parties not to cause damage or casualties which are excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage, arguably, the attempts to achieve conformity with this obligation tend to be effected through particular processes and procedures . Read the rest of this entry…

 

Withdrawal from the United Nations: Would it have been Lawful for the Philippines?

Published on September 19, 2016        Author: 

50 years ago today (on 19 September 1966), the Ambassador of Indonesia to the United States sent a telegram to the UN Secretary-General stating that “my Government has decided to resume full co-operation with the United Nations and to resume participation in its activities . . .” That marked the beginning of the end of the only case where a UN member has purported to withdraw from the organization. Last month, Rodrigo Duterte, President of Indonesia’s neighbour, the Philippines, threatened that the country would withdraw from the United Nations because of criticism by two UN Special Rapporteurs (see here). As has been widely reported, and as pointed out by Marko a couple of weeks ago, hundreds of (or on some accounts up to 3000) suspected drug dealers or users have been killed since the Duterte took over in Philippines.  On 18 August, the UN Special Rapporteurs on Summary Executions and on the Right to Health issued a statement “urging the Government of the Philippines to put an end to the current wave of extrajudicial executions and killings in the context of an intensified anti-crime and anti-drug campaign targeting drug dealers and users.” In response, Philippines President Duterte stated that “maybe we’ll just have to decide to separate from the United Nations” (see here and here). The Philippines Foreign Minister later stated that the country had no plans to leave the UN, and Duterte himself subsequently stated that his threat was just a joke.

However, the threat to withdraw does raise the question of whether UN members may legally withdraw from the Organization. Although the circumstances are very different, and there are clear treaty provisions to provide guidance, British withdrawal from the European Union also provides cause to ponder more generally about how and when states may withdraw from international organizations. Would the Philippines have been entitled to withdraw from the UN? Unlike the position with the European Union, and it’s now well-known Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union), the UN Charter does not make explicit provision for withdrawal. This post explores whether despite the absence of specific provision,  a UN member is legally entitled to withdraw from the organization. Read the rest of this entry…

 

New Blog: Foreign States in English Courts

Published on July 1, 2016        Author: 

Over the past couple of decades there has been a significant increase in the number of cases in the English courts raising questions of international law. Many of those cases involve proceedings by or against foreign states, or occasionally raising issues involving foreign states even when not a party to the proceedings. I would like to draw the attention of our readers to a new blog Foreign States in English Courts which has been established by my colleague Professor Dan Sarooshi (also of Essex Court Chambers) and Robert Volterra (senior partner of Volterra Fietta) which will assist in keeping on top of this burgeoning case law. The blog is intended to provide concise, informative case summaries of recent and important English court decisions involving foreign States as litigants.  As they say:

This blog aims to highlight the latest, most important case law involving foreign States in the English courts. Our aim is not to provide a complete account of the factual matrix and law decided by each case, but rather to provide the busy practitioner with a quick reference to the most important cases as they emerge.

I am sure the blog will also be of interest to academics and students.

 
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Honour for Professor Colin Warbrick

Published on June 11, 2016        Author: 

I am delighted to note that Professor Colin Warbrick, Emeritus Professor at the University of Birmingham and longtime Professor of International Law at the University of Durham has been appointed in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list as “Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George” (see here). So from now he is Professor Colin Warbrick CMG.Prof-Colin-Warbrick

For all who know Colin and who know his work, this appointment will immediately be recognised as a well deserved honour. Awards in the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George are for service rendered internationally or in a foreign country and in Colin’s case, he is appointed CMG “for services to international law”. Those services to international law are indeed considerable. He has written on a wide range of areas of international law with some of his best known and most influential work dealing with issues of statehood and recognition, the application of international law in domestic law, and human rights law. He is a co-author of Harris, O’Boyle and Warbrick, The Law of the European Convention on Human Rights (OUP) now in its 3rd edition. For many years he was editor of the “Current Developments: Public International Law” section of the International and Comparative Law Quarterly, contributing many insightful pieces himself to that section.  He is also a member of the editorial committee of the British Yearbook of International Law and has had joint responsibility for the “United Kingdom Materials on International Law 2013” section of the Yearbook for quite some years. In those roles in the ICLQ and the BYIL Colin has done more than most to bring to light the reality of how international law works and develops, as well as to subject the big issues of the day to powerful international legal analysis. In addition to his scholarship, Colin has also acted as a consultant to international organizations like the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and was a specialist adviser to the Select Committee on the Constitution of the House of Lords. Read the rest of this entry…

Filed under: Announcements and Events
 

An International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the ICC Head of State Immunity Issue

Published on March 31, 2016        Author: 

Earlier this week, I wrote about the recent decision of the South African Supreme Court of Appeal holding that the South African government had violated its obligations in failing to arrest Sudanese President Bashir when he attended the African Union Summit in South Africa last June. That decision is just the latest in the ongong saga about whether serving heads of States, particularly heads of states not party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), have immunity when they are wanted by the ICC. The issue has been a particularly toxic one in the relations between the African Union (AU) and the ICC. The AU continues to insist that Bashir and all serving heads of states are immune from arrest and prosecution and Bashir has now travelled to numerous African (and other states) including a number of states that are party to the ICC Statute (see the Bashir Watch website – and also here – for information on the states that Bashir has travelled to, as well as those which have denied him access). The AU Assembly (of heads of states and governments) has made a number of proposals in an attempt to put an end to the prosecution of Bashir, including a proposal for deferral of the case under Article 16 of the Rome Statute ( see Assembly/AU/Dec.547(XXIV) (June 2015)). It has also encouraged African states to put forward amendments to the Rome Statute (see Ext/Assembly/AU/Dec.1(Oct.2013). Following that suggestion, Kenya proposed an amendment to Article 27 of the Rome Statute which would provide for immunity of heads of states and their deputies (see p. 16 of this report of the ICC Assembly of States Parties Working Group on Amendments). I am sure that everyone knows that the chances of success on such an amendment is precisely zero. For the amendment to come into force, seven-eights of the parties to the ICC Statute would have to ratify it (under Art. 121(4) of the Statute) and it is inconceivable that this will happen.

However, the AU has made one suggestion which I think ought to be taken up. This is the proposal (see p. 9-10 of this document) that the International Court of Justice be asked to render an advisory opinion on the immunity of heads of states or other senior officials of states not party to the ICC (for earlier discussion of this proposal see my posts here and here). Despite the fact that the ICC has ruled on the question of Bashir’s immunity on several occasions (including in cases regarding non-cooperation by Malawi and Chad, DRC and South Africa), there are, in my view, good reasons to try to have the ICJ address the issue. Some of those reasons are legal and others political. Read the rest of this entry…

 
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The Bashir Case: Has the South African Supreme Court Abolished Immunity for all Heads of States?

Published on March 29, 2016        Author: 

Earlier this month, the South African Supreme Court of Appeal decided unanimously (see the judgment here) that the South African government had breached its obligations under the South African domestic statute implementing the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and under the Rome Statute, by failing to arrest and detain for surrender to the ICC Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir. Bashir visited South African in June 2015 to attend the African Union summit held there. As will be explained below, although the decision was ultimately based on domestic law, it is potentially very far reaching in the effect that it will have in South Africa and possibly internationally. In summary, the Court held that under the South African Implementation of the Rome Statute of the ICC Act 2002, any head of State subject to an ICC arrest warrant may be arrested in South Africa and surrendered to the ICC. However, the Court also held that under the same Act international law immunities, including the immunity of heads of states, do not apply under South African law when a person is sought for domestic prosecution in South Africa for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. This aspect of the decision is particularly remarkable given that the same South African Act provides for universal jurisdiction over those crimes, and the South African Constitutional Court held in 2014 that the South African Police Service may commence an investigation of these crimes even if the person is not present on South African territory. Although the aspect of the Bashir decision relating to domestic prosecution in South Africa, is in my view obiter and not part of the ratio decidendi of the decision, if it stands, it means that South Africa would be a very rare example of a State that claims the authority to prosecute serving heads of state for international crimes.

The lead judgment of the South African Supreme Court of Appeal was given by Wallis JA, with whom two judges concurred. A further two judges concurred in the result but agreed with the lead judgment only in in so far as it was based on South African ICC Implementation Act. Read the rest of this entry…

 

International Criminal Justice on the March?

Published on March 28, 2016        Author: 

March been a significant one for international criminal justice with a series of high profile judgments by the ICC and the ICTY. There has been the conviction of the former Vice President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, on the basis of superior responsibility, for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic. Then we have had the conviction of Radovan Karadzic, including for genocide (see Marko’s commentary here). We also have the Seselj judgment due at the ICTY. In addition, last week saw two ICC cases in which charges were confirmed by the pre-trial chamber (see here and here). Confirmation of charges involves a lower standard than conviction, with the requirement at confirmation being that there “is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe” that the accused committed the crimes charged (Art. 61(7) of the ICC Statute) as opposed to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. However, confirmation is still a significant development and in one of those cases,  Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi, it appears that the accused will plead guilty to those charges.

What is significant about these cases is not so much the development of the law or jurisprudence but rather the sense that international criminal justice seems to be on the march in its task of speaking law/justice/truth to power. We have a judgment against a former Vice President of a state, against a leader of an entity claiming to be a state and the prosecution of parts of the leadership of non-state groups that have wreaked significant destruction and misery.

However, we have also had in March one domestic decision dealing with a serving head of state that both serves to remind those in power about the demands of international criminal justice but that also reminds us of the difficulties in the field. This is the decision of the South African Supreme Court of Appeal in the case relating to the failure of the South African government to arrest Sudanese President Bashir when he visited South Africa for the African Union Summit in June 2015 (see judgment here). Read the rest of this entry…

Filed under: EJIL Analysis
 

AJIL Unbound Symposium on the Crime of Aggression

Published on March 3, 2016        Author: 

In June 2010, parties to the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) meeting in Kampala, Uganda agreed amendments to the ICC Statute which would allow the ICC to prosecute the crime of aggression. However, they also agreed that the Court would only be able to exercise jurisdiction with respect to the crime of aggression subject to a further decision to be taken after 1 January 2017 and only after the ratification or acceptance of the amendments by thirty States Parties [Arts. 15bis(2) & (3); Arts. 15ter(2) & (3), ICC Statute].  In 2010, this may have seemed a long delay before the Court would be able to exercise jurisdiction over the crime. However, with 26 ratifications or acceptances of the amendments and more seemingly to follow, ICC jurisdiction over aggression appears to be just round the corner. This is therefore a good time to give serious consideration to the implications that ICC jurisdiction over the crime of aggression will have both with regard to international law but also in international politics.

The American Journal of International Law’s online Companion AJIL Unbound has just published a symposium on the crime of aggression under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which I had the pleasure of editing. The symposium publishes a number of responses to the lead article in the April 2015 issue of the American Journal of International Law by Harold Koh and Todd Buchwald: “The Crime of Aggression: The United States Perspective“, 109 AJIL 257, 292 (2015). In that piece, Harold Koh and Todd Buchwald, both of whom were leaders of the U.S. delegation at the Kampala review Conference, consider a range of issues raised by the impending activation of the ICC’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression. They provide a critique of the definition of the crime of aggression provided for in the amendments to the ICC Statute agreed in Kampala, Uganda in 2010; examine issues relating to the jurisdiction of the Court and domestic courts over that crime; and consider the role of the Security Council with respect to aggression. One of the main focuses of their piece is a consideration of how best to prevent the new jurisdiction over the crime of aggression from chilling uses of force they consider legitimate, particularly humanitarian intervention that is not authorized by the Security Council. In the July 2015 issue of the American Journal of International Law, Alain Pellet and Bing Bing Jia respond to Koh and Buchwald. The AJIL Unbound symposium, in addition to an introduction by me, includes four pieces which provide further consideration of issues relating to the crime of aggression and some responses to the Koh & Buchwald article.   Read the rest of this entry…

 
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Provisional Measures and Joinder of Cases at the International Court of Justice – The Answers

Published on January 18, 2016        Author: 

Earlier this month I asked four trivia questions about the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) practice on provisional measures and joinder of cases. The questions were prompted by the ICJ’s recent Judgment in the joined cases concerning Certain Activities carried out by Nicaragua in the Border Area (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua) and Construction of a Road in Costa Rica along the San Juan River (Nicaragua v. Costa Rica). I also stated that the first person to provide the most correct answers would win a year’s free subscription to the European Journal of International Law prize. Within minutes of my piece being posted, Niccolò Ridi (right, who is doctoral candidate at the Dickson Poon School of Law,  King’s College London and Research Assistant at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva) had provided comprehensive answers to all four questions. His quickness off the mark hardly gave anybody else a chance! He later added to his answers with subsequent comments, and is very deserving of the prize!

My first question was “1) In what other case has the Court made a finding in the dispositif of a judgment that a party has breached a provisional measures order made by the Court?” Niccolò is absolutely right to note that the use of the singular – ‘case’ – in my formulation is incorrect. The Court has made such a finding in the dispositif of a judgment in a few cases. The first case in which the Court did so was the La Grand case (Germany v the US) 2001. That was the first case in which the Court held that provisional measures orders were legally binding, and it is only since that judgment that the Court has included declarations of non-compliance with provisional measures in the dispositifs of judgments. Massimo Lando and Niccolò are also right that the Request for Interpretation of the Avena Judgment (Mexico v US); the Armed Activities case (DRC v Uganda); and the Bosnia Genocide (Bosnia and Herzegovina v Serbia and Montenegro) case are other cases where the Court has found non-compliance with provisional measures. Indeed, it seems to be the case that, since LaGrand, in the majority of judgments dealing with cases where the Court has ordered provisional measures, it has subsequently made findings of violations of its interim orders. Two cases where the ICJ has not, in that time period since LaGrand, made such findings are the Land and Maritime Boundary (Cameroon v Nigeria) case (2002) and the Request for Interpretation of the Judgment in the Temple of Preah Vihear (Cambodia v. Thailand) case (2013). By my count that makes it 5 cases of findings of non-compliance with 2 cases of no such finding. These are not encouraging statistics regarding compliance with provisional measures!

Which Cases have been Joined?

Question 2 asked “In which proceedings have cases before the International Court been joined?” Niccolò was correct in referring to the South West Africa cases (Liberia & Ethiopia v South Africa) and the North Sea Continental Shelf cases (Federal Republic of Germany/Denmark; Federal Republic of Germany/Netherlands). Those were indeed the two cases where the ICJ has formally joined proceedings (I later realized that I had made a gaffe in my earlier post in referring to this press release as the answer to the question was made plain there).  Read the rest of this entry…

 

Trivia Competition: Provisional Measures and Joinder of Cases at the International Court of Justice

Published on January 8, 2016        Author: 

A few years ago I began the practice of asking on this blog – every now and again – trivia question relating to international law, with the questions focusing mainly on the practice of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and other international tribunals. Unfortunately, I have not done this in quite a while. You can find previous questions (and answers) here or by viewing the EJIL:Trivia category in the list of categories on the right hand column of the blog. Last month, the International Court of Justice delivered its Judgment in the joined cases concerning Certain Activities carried out by Nicaragua in the Border Area (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua) and Construction of a Road in Costa Rica along the San Juan River (Nicaragua v. Costa Rica). This judgment and the cases provide me with an opportunity to ask a set of trivia questions relating to the ICJ.

On this occasion, we will offer a prize to one respondent. The person who provides the most correct answers will win a free subscription to the European Journal of International Law for 2016. In the case of a tie, the first person to provide their answers will be the winner.

In the Costa Rica v. Nicaragua case, the Court found that “Nicaragua has breached the obligations incumbent upon it under the Order indicating provisional measures issued by the Court on 8 March 2011”. This is a relatively rare finding by the Court that a party has breached a provisional measures Order indicated by the Court earlier in that case. This finding was not merely made in passing but was recorded in the dispositif of the judgment. My first question is a perhaps an easy one:

1) In what other case has the Court made a finding in the dispositif of a judgment that a party has breached a provisional measures order made by the Court?

The rest of my questions relate to joinder of cases at the ICJ. The Costa Rica v Nicaragua and Nicaragua v Costa Rica cases began as separate proceedings which were joined together by the Court in 2013 (see this press release). Under Article 47 of the Rules of the ICJ,

The Court may at any time direct that the proceedings in two or more cases be joined. It may also direct that the written or oral proceedings, including the calling of witnesses, be in common;  or the Court may, without effecting any formal joinder, direct common action in any of these respects.”

There are not too many cases that have been joined by the Court and my second question is this:

2) In which proceedings have cases before the International Court been joined?

Read the rest of this entry…