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Home Articles posted by Dapo Akande

Patrick Robinson of Jamaica Elected to the ICJ

Published on November 18, 2014        Author: 

Judge RobinsonLast week, I wrote about the elections held last Monday, by the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council, to fill 5 upcoming vacancies on the International Court of Justice  As I reported, both bodies were able to agree on the election of four judges, but were unable to agree on the filling of the fifth vacancy. In several rounds of balloting over two days, Patrick Robinson from Jamaica (currently a Judge and former President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) consistently received a majority in the General Assembly However, it was Susana Ruiz Cerutti, the current Legal Adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Argentina and former Foreign Minister of that country, who obtained a majority in the Security Council. On Tuesday last week, as noted by Ambassador (and Professor)Kriangsak Kittichaisaree in his comments to my previous post , Argentina withdrew the candidacy of Susana Ruiz Cerutti.

Yesterday, the General Assembly and the Security Council, again meeting separately but concurrently, elected Patrick Robinson as Judge of the ICJ. He obtained all 15 votes in the Security Council and 185 votes in the General Assembly. As previously noted by Ambassador Kittichaisaree in his comments to my previous post , the election of Judge Robinson means that 4 out of the 5 judges elected or reelected to the ICJ, in this election cycle, are or were members of the International Law Commission. By my calculation practically half of the judges of the ICJ (in its new composition starting in February 2015) will have been members off the ILC prior to election to the ICJ.  Judge Robinson’s elections also adds to the growing number of ICJ judges with prior international judicial experience – a trend that I noted three years ago (here and here).

 

The United States and the Torture Convention: A Memo from Harold Koh

Published on November 11, 2014        Author: 

On Wednesday and Thursday this week, the United States will appear before the United Nations Committee Against Torture for a discussion of the United States’ Third to Fifth Periodic Reports under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel and Degrading Treatment. If the size and membership of the United States’ delegation to the Committee is anything to go by, the US is taking the session very seriously indeed. The US delegation includes high level representation from the State, Justice, Defence, Homeland Security and other Departments of the Federal Government as well as representatives of states. The dialogue between the US delegation and the Committee will be webcast here.

One key issue that will come up in the discussion is whether the US accepts that the Convention applies to conduct  of its officials and agents beyond its territory. In the list of issues that the Committee presented to the US in advance of the submission of its report (a list that was prepared five years ago now!), the Committee asked the US to:

“Please provide updated information on any changes in the State party’s position that the Convention is not applicable at all times, whether in peace, war or armed conflict, in any territory under its jurisdiction and is not without prejudice to the provisions of any other international instrument, pursuant to article 1, paragraph 2, and 16, paragraph 2, of the Convention.”

In its report, the United States was evasive on the question of the extraterritorial application of the Convention. It stated:

“6.  . . . It should be noted that the report does not address the geographic scope of the Convention as a legal matter, although it does respond to related questions from the Committee in factual terms.”

However, it then went on to note that:

“13. Under U.S. law, officials of all government agencies are prohibited from engaging in torture, at all times, and in all places, not only in territory under U.S. jurisdiction. Under the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (DTA), Pub. L. No. 109-163, 42 U.S.C. 2000dd (“No individual in the custody or under the physical control of the U.S. Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment”), every U.S. official, wherever he or she may be, is also prohibited from engaging in acts that constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This prohibition is enforced at all levels of U.S. government.”

Thus, while the US was indicating that US law and policy forbid torture by US officials wherever committed, it failed to acknowledge that the treaty obligations went this far. The US delegation will no doubt be asked to clarify its position before the Committee. A recent report in the New York Times indicates that there is an internal debate in the US administration about whether to abandon the US’ previous position that that provisions of the Convention Against Torture are restricted to acts on US territory. Apparently, while State Department lawyers are  pushing for a change in this position,

“military and intelligence lawyers are said to oppose accepting that the treaty imposes legal obligations on the United States’ actions abroad. They say they need more time to study whether it would have operational impacts. They have also raised concerns that current or future wartime detainees abroad might invoke the treaty to sue American officials with claims of torture . . .”

In a recent intervention in this debate, Harold Koh, Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School and, Legal Adviser to the US State Department in first term of the Obama Administration, last week, wrote a “Memo to the President: Say Yes to the Torture Ban,” in Politico Magazine. Read the rest of this entry…

 

ICJ Elections 2014: UN General Assembly and Security Council Elect four Judges to the ICJ But Fail to Agree on a Fifth, Again!

Published on November 10, 2014        Author: 

Last week Thursday (Nov. 6), the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council elected four judges to the International Court of Justice (see ICJ Press Release). Judges Mohamed Bennouna (Morocco) and Joan E. Donoghue (United States of America) were re-elected to the Court. In addition, Professor James Crawford (Australia) and Kirill Gevorgian (Russian Federation) were elected as new members of the Court. There are five vacancies on the International Court of Justice every 3 years, including this year. However, for the second time in a row in regular elections for judges at the ICJ, the two organs of the UN charged with electing the judges have been unable to agree, at least initially, on the list of judges elected to the Court (arguably, the third time in a row if one includes the situation in the 2008 elections described below). This year, as was the case in the last regular elections in 2011 (on which see previous posts here and here), the two organs have suspended voting until a later date, after several rounds of balloting in each organ failed to produce a fifth candidate that was elected by absolute majority of both organs (see UN Press Releases here and here). The General Assembly and the Security Council will meet on November 17 to resume voting.

Under Articles 4, 8 and 10 of the Statute of the ICJ, ICJ judges are elected by an absolute majority of the General Assembly and the Security Council. An absolute majority in the Security Council for the purpose of elections to the ICJ has been interpreted in practice as meaning eight votes, rather than the nine required for other Council decisions (see Opinion of the UN Office of Legal Affairs 1984 Juridical Yearbook 173, at 175, para. 8, also available here). Also, under Article 10(2) of the Statute, no distinction is drawn between permanent and non-permanent members (i.e there is no veto).  The two organs meet separately, but concurrently, to conduct ICJ elections. Once five have obtained an absolute majority in one organ, the President of that organ will notify the President of the other organ of the names those candidates. Although each state member can only cast 5 votes in each organ it is mathematically possible, and in fact often happens, that more than five candidates will obtain an absolute majority in one organ. [For example, there 75  votes available in the SC – 15 states  x 5 votes each. If there are 7 candidates who only need 8 votes each, all 7 can obtain 8 votes, which only totals 56 of the available votes.]  It is the practice of both organs that only when five candidates have obtained an absolute majority is the result to be communicated to another organ. A proposal to select the five with the highest votes was previously rejected in the practice of both organs  [see Hogan, “The Ammoun Case and the Election of Judges to the International Court of Justice”, (1965) 59 American Journal of International Law 908]. When 6 or more candidates obtain a majority, the ballot is rerun with all candidates.

In the elections held on Thursday Nov 6, the General Assembly conducted seven rounds of balloting and it was only in the seventh round that only 5 candidates obtained an absolute majority with Patrick Robinson from Jamaica (currently a Judge and former President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) receiving an absolute majority, in addition to the four other candidates mentioned above. However, in the Security Council, where four rounds of voting took place on Thursday until only five candidates received a majority of votes, it was Susana Ruiz Cerutti, the current Legal Adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Argentina and former Foreign Minister of that country, who obtained a majority in addition to the four candidates named in the first paragraph. In the seventh round of voting in the GA, she obtained only 2 votes less than the majority required in that body, while Mr Robinson received only 1 vote less than required for a majority in the Security Council. Read the rest of this entry…

 

New additions to the UN Audiovisual Library of International Law

Published on October 30, 2014        Author: 

In a previous post of a couple of years ago, I highlighted the extensive series of video lectures on international law commissioned by the Codification Division of the United Nation’s Office of Legal Affairs.  The UN Audiovisual Library of International Law covers the full spectrum of international law topics and are delivered by a very impressive list of international lawyers. They include judges at international tribunals, leading academics and practitioners of international law.  The lectures provide high quality international law training and research materials to an unlimited number of recipients around the world free of charge.

The Codification Division of the UN Office of Legal Affairs recently added new lectures and introductory notes to the UN Audiovisual Library of International Law website. The latest lectures include one by me on “The Immunity of State Officials from Foreign Criminal Jurisdiction” and another by my Oxford colleague, Professor Guy S. Goodwin-Gill, on “Expulsion in Public International Law“. Both of these topics have been under consideration by the International Law Commission in its recent programme of work and the work of the ILC on these and other issues is under consideration this week by the Sixth (Legal) Committee of the United Nations General Assembly.

The UN Audiovisual Library also includes  introductory notes to significant legal instruments. These are introductions to legal instruments that are prepared by an eminent international law scholar or practitioner with special expertise on the subject. The latest introductory notes uploaded to the site  include the following: “Statute of the International Court of Justice” by Judge Antônio Augusto Cançado Trindade and “Articles on the Responsibility of International Organizations” by Judge Giorgio Gaja.

 

UN Human Rights Council Panel Discussion on Drones

Published on October 1, 2014        Author: 

Last week the United Nations Human Rights Council convened a panel to  discuss the use of armed drones (remotely piloted aircraft) in counter-terrorism and military operations in accordance with international law. The panel was convened as part of the Human Rights Council’s 27th regular session, which finished last week.  The session held last Monday took the form of an interactive dialogue between a panel of experts, members of the Human Rights Council (i.e States), as well as observers. I had the honour to be invited to moderate what turned out to be a very interesting panel discussion. The panellists were Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Ben Emmerson QC, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism; Shahzad Akbar, Legal Director, Foundation for Fundamental Rights; Alex Conte, Director of International Law and Protection Programmes, International Commission of Jurists;  and Pardiss Kebriaei, Senior Attorney, Centre for Constitutional Rights. Flavia Pansieri, the UN’s Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights opened the discussion.

There was a really interesting exchange of views, not only amongst members of the panel but also between states and NGOs. Over 20 states spoke, including all the permanent members of the UN Security Council, as did the ICRC. There was discussion of the entire range of legal issues relating to targeted killings in counterterrorism and other operations. In particular, there was consideration of the applicable legal framework regulating the use of armed drones with much attention given to the applicability of international human rights law and international humanitarian law (IHL). In this context there was discussion of the substantive legal issues relating to the determination of the applicable legal framework – such as the classification of situations of violence (for the purpose of determining the applicability of IHL) and the extraterritorial application of the right to life. However, perhaps the most significant disagreement between states related to the question of institutional competence for discussing and monitoring compliance with the law. In a divide which appeared to mirror the range of views as to whether norms of human rights or IHL constitute part of, or the main applicable legal framework, some states (like the US, the UK and France) insisted that the Human Rights Council was not an appropriate forum for discussion of the use of armed drones whereas many other states, observers and panellists insisted that the Council was such a forum.

A significant part of the discussion also covered the applicable human rights  and IHL rules that apply to the use of drones. The panellists spoke about the right to life as it might apply to drones; the principles relating to targeting under IHL; and other potentially applicable human rights, such as the right to a remedy.  A key part of the discussion was about accountability with respect to the use of drones. All the panellists spoke about the obligations of states under IHL and human rights law to conduct investigations in cases where there was a credible allegation of violations, as well as the obligations relating to transparency with respect to drone operations. This issue was also raised by a number of states with some seeking examples of best practices that may be employed with respect to disclosure of data relating to drone operations.

A press release summarising the discussion is available here and a video of the entire panel discussion is available on UN Web TV. Christopher Rodgers of the Open Society Foundations has also written an excellent report of the session on Just Security. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will submit a report on this discussion to the Human Rights Council’s 28th regular session which will take place early in 2015. At this point, the matter will return to the Council for further consideration.

 

Geoff Corn and Guglielmo Verdirame take part in Transatlantic Dialogue on International Law and Armed Conflict

Published on September 19, 2014        Author: 

This week guglielmo-verdirame_0 Professors Geoff Corn (left, South Texas College of Law)j-corn and Guglielmo Verdirame (right, Kings College London & barrister at 20 Essex Street) contributed pieces in the joint blog series arising out of the Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict held in Oxford this past July.

Geoff Corn’s piece, “Squaring the Circle: The Intersection of Battlefield Regulation and Criminal Responsibility”, was posted at Lawfare at the start of this week. In this thoughtful pose, Geoff says:

“I sought to highlight what I believe are several evidentiary and institutional complexities associated with subjecting commanders and other operational decision-makers to criminal accountability for battle-command judgments – complexities that will become more significant as cases focus increasingly on complex operational decision-making, particularly in relation to targeting.”

He raises a number of important issues relating to the feasibility of international criminal prosecutions to produce credible accountability decisions in relation to battlefield decision-making. One question he addresses, which is particularly novel but really important is this:

“[A] complicated aspect of criminal prosecution based on alleged unlawful targeting decisions is the relationship between LOAC/IHL presumptions and criminal burdens of proof. The presumption of innocence an axiomatic component of any fundamentally fair trial, and imposes on the prosecution the burden of production and the burden of persuasion. However, several LOAC/IHL targeting rules are based on presumptions which, when applied in the criminal context, arguably shift the burden of production to the defense.”

At the the end of the week, Guglielmo’s piece, “Taming War through Law – A Philosophical & Legal Perspective” , was posted on InterCross (the blog of the ICRC. Guglielmo begins his post in this way:

“The relationship between theory and practice in international law eludes easy explanations. In the history of international law there are examples of ideas shaping practice. But at times the phenomenon of international law – with its complex mix of state practice, adjudication and politics – finds directions not foreseen by any theory.

The application of human rights law to armed conflict may be a case in point. It emerged over the last two decades from the decisions of international and domestic courts without being preceded by a reflection – by jurists, policy-makers or others – on how human rights could contribute to regulating armed conflict. Can this development be accommodated within the system of international law or does it in some way challenge its architecture?”

His post then examines the work of Kant, Grotius and Hobbes, together with decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the UK courts, in his survey of the question whether human rights law should apply to armed conflicts.

 

 

Joint Blog Series on International Law and Armed Conflict: Ken Watkin on the Overlap between IHL and IHLR: Part II

Published on September 11, 2014        Author: 

BOG_Ken WatkinThe latest post in the joint blog series we are hosting with Lawfare and Intercross is Part II of Brigadier General (Rtd) Ken Watkin QC’s piece on “The Overlap between IHL and IHRL”. The piece  is posted on Intercross, where you can also find Part I. Ken Watkin was the senior legal adviser in the Canadian Armed Forces and, also  a former Stockton Professor of International Law at the US Naval War College. The joint series arises out of the 2nd annual Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict, which took place in Oxford in July.

Ken begins his latest post in this way:

Last week, I described  the “exclusionary” approaches to the application of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international law human rights law (IHRL), which assume that one body of law will apply to the exclusion of the other. I also described how the approaches taken by the United States and Canada differ from those taken by European nations, the latter approach being influenced, in large part, by decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. However, the widely and often loudly debated exclusionary approaches do not actually represent how the law is being applied, particularly in a North American context. The reality of contemporary conflict is that both normative frameworks often need to be relied on concurrently. The application of human rights based norms occurs less through consideration of IHRL treaty law obligations than by operation of customary law obligations (both IHRL and IHL), the application of domestic law, or as a matter of policy. There is increasing recognition that Common Article 3 and Article 75 of Additional Protocol I apply as a matter of customary international law to international operations. Article 75 was clearly influenced by the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As then Professor Christopher Greenwood noted, the relationship between IHL and human rights law “is expressed in the adoption of major human rights principles in Article 75 AP I” [Christopher Greenwood, “Scope of Application of Humanitarian Law”, in Dieter Fleck, ed., The Handbook of International Humanitarian Law (2nd ed., 2008), 74, Rule 254.] Significantly, these human rights norms must be applied regardless of the geographic location of the armed conflict, thereby avoiding the intractable debate regarding the extra-territorial application of IHRL treaty law.

Read the rest on Intercross!

 

Transnational Dialogue on International Law and Armed Conflict: Ken Watkin on the Overlap between IHL and IHRL

Published on September 6, 2014        Author: 

BOG_Ken WatkinThe latest post in the joint blog series on International Law and Armed Conflict was posted yesterday on Intercross (the blog of the ICRC). The post is by Brigadier Gen (Rtd) Ken Watkin QC, former Judge Advocate General (i.e the head legal adviser) in the Canadian Armed Forces and former Stockton Professor of International Law at the United States Naval War College. Ken’s post is on the overlap between international humanitarian law and international human rights law. He starts by saying that:

It is possible to address the perennial debate about the relationship between international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) from a number of perspectives. In these posts, I would like to set out some of the issues that deserve close attention. First, there is the strategic theoretical conflict that continues to play out between the advocates of exclusionary applications of IHL and IHRL. This is a conflict that is firmly grounded in different views emanating from each side of the Atlantic. Secondly, there are the different perspectives brought to this issue based on the unique North American (in this context the United States and Canada) and European legal systems, as well as differing geographic and experiential factors. Thirdly, there is the ongoing reliance on customary international law, domestic law and policy to assist in resolving what appears on its surface to be an intractable theoretical impasse. Finally, notwithstanding the exclusionary debate the reality is that military forces are applying both IHL and IHRL norms during contemporary operations, although approaches that seek to uniquely apply one legal framework over the other will continue present operational challenges.

The requirement to consider human rights during contemporary military operations arises in a number of ways. Often it occurs in the context of the use of force, particularly when military forces interface with civilians who are not direct participants in hostilities. Operations can involve the detention of insurgents, terrorists, and persons providing indirect support to organized armed groups; the quelling of civil disorder and unrest; and the arrest of members of criminal organizations taking advantage of the general disorder often associated with armed conflict. These situations can arise during inter-State conflict (i.e. occupation), as well as comprise a significant component of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations. 

The full post is available on Intercross here

 

Joint Blog Series on International Law and Armed Conflict: Bobby Chesney on “When Does LOAC Cease to Apply”

Published on September 5, 2014        Author: 

As indicated earlier this week, EJIL:Talk! is partnering with Lawfare and Intercross (blog of the International Committee of the Red Cross) to publish a series of posts arising out of the 2nd Transatlantic Dialogue on International Law and Armed Conflict (which took place in Oxford in July of this year). On Wednesday Bobby Chesney, the Charles I. Francis Professor in Law at the University of Texas School of Law, and one of my co-convenors of the transatlantic workshop, kicked off the series with a post exploring the interesting question: “When does LOAC cease to apply?”

Bobby, introduced his post by saying:

“People sometimes speak of peacetime and wartime as sharply demarcated, their factual foundations and legal consequences being clearly distinct from one another. Everyone here will appreciate that it is not always or even often so simple, as Mary Dudziak has documented so richly in her recent book WAR TIME: AN IDEA, ITS HISTORY, ITS CONSEQUENCES. Circumstances of violence can occur across a broad spectrum of intensity, with the nature and intensity of events rising or falling in unexpected ways (and places) over time. Even the parties themselves can undergo sweeping changes. Small wonder, then, that we lawyers spend so much time wrestling with the details of IHL’s field of application.”

He then explained that:

Usually we approach the field-of-application question from the front-end, which is to say we talk about whether a given situation of violence has crossed over into the realm of armed conflict, bringing IHL to bear (and thus also complicating the question of IHRL’s role). It is a particularly vexing issue in the context of potential NIACs”

However, less attention has been paid to the back-end of the armed conflicts, particularly to the question of when a NIAC is to be regarded as having ended. This is the focus of Bobby’s post. He considers various options for assessing when IHL should cease to apply, examining the approach set out in the ICTY Appeals Chamber’s famous Tadic case (that IHL applies until a “peaceful settlement is achievement”), as well as whether the test for determining whether a NIAC exists at the front end of the conflict should be applied for determining whether it has terminated.

You can read Bobby’s post in full over on Lawfare.

For a list of other scheduled posts in this series, see here

 

Is Israel’s Use of Force in Gaza Covered by the Jus Ad Bellum?

Published on August 22, 2014        Author: 

On any account, the conflict in Gaza is depressing. It is clear that Hamas’ firing of rockets which are incapable of distinguishing between military and civilian targets is a violation of international humanitarian law. However, the question whether Israel’s actions in Gaza, which have reportedly resulted in the death of over 2000 people, comply with international law generates much more heated debate. As Professor Geir Ulfstein has pointed out, in a recent post on Just Security, in discussions about whether Israel has violated international law, “the focus is only on violations of international humanitarian law (jus in bello), not on breaches of restrictions following from the right of self-defence (jus ad bellum).” An example is this post by Mark Ellis, Executive Director of the International Bar Association on Huffington Post. One of the key questions that arise in connection with Israel’s actions in Gaza is whether its actions are proportionate. In a later post I will focus on proportionality and what it might mean in this conflict. Suffice it to say for now that as Geir Ulfstein notes (and as pointed out by Marko in this post) the “requirements of proportionality are different in international humanitarian law (IHL) and as a restriction on the right of self defence”. One may also note that even if every individual acts of targeting by a party to a conflict is proportionate under IHL, the overall campaign might still be disproportionate under the law relating to self defence in the jus ad bellum. Prof Ulfstein ends his post by saying that “the restrictions on self-defence for Israel’s military operations should receive more attention”. This posts responds to that call.

In this post, I wish to address the question whether Israel is bound by the law relating to self-defence in the action it is taking in Gaza. Put differently, the question is whether the international law limitations on the right of self-defence apply to Israeli action in Gaza? As Israel’s actions in Gaza are taken in response to Hamas’ actions and Israel claims to be acting in self defence, our intuitions might suggest that we ought to assess whether Israel’s actions comply with the international law limits on self defence. In particular, one may ask whether Israel’s actions are proportionate in the jus ad bellum sense.

Despite first impressions, it is not at all obvious that the jus ad bellum applies to Israel’s use of force in Gaza. When one scratches beneath the surface, the question appears more complicated. Read the rest of this entry…