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UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Adopts Principles and Guidelines on Habeas Corpus

Published on May 5, 2015        Author: 

A couple of days ago the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted an important document, the “Basic Principles and Guidelines on Remedies and Procedures on the Right of Anyone Deprived of His or Her Liberty by Arrest or Detention to Bring Proceedings Before Court,” and submitted the text to the Human Rights Council. The document was developed by the WG at the Council’s request. The project is meant to guide Member States on principles on the judicial review of the lawfulness of detention. The drafting process was completed after extensive consultations with states and other stakeholders. A press release is available here, the full text of the Guidelines and Principle is here, while the submissions by interested states and other actors are here.

This is a rich document dealing with many different issues. Perhaps most interesting – and certainly bound to be the most controversial – are the WG’s conclusions with regard to deprivation of liberty in armed conflict. The WG takes a very strong position regarding the right of habeas corpus in wartime, which it sees as non-derogable in common to a number of other human rights bodies, finding for example that in international armed conflict even prisoners of war have the right of access to a judicial mechanism that would establish the lawfulness of their status-based preventive detention. The WG also takes the view that IHL does not authorize internment in NIACs, and that internment would only be lawful if it is prescribed by domestic law, after a derogation in a public emergency. Some of the most important paragraphs are reproduced below the fold.

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Reminder: ESIL Annual Conference 2015, Oslo – Early Bird Registration

Published on April 27, 2015        Author: 

ESIL Annual Conference 2015, Oslo – Registration: early bird fees applicable until 30 April 2015

The 11th Annual Conference of the European Society of International Law (Oslo, September 10-12, 2015) will be hosted by the University of Oslo’s PluriCourts Center on the Legitimate Roles on the Judiciary in the Global Order.

The conference is entitled “The Judicialization of International Law – A Mixed Blessing ?”. The conference will address the international law aspects of the increased judicialization from an interdisciplinary perspective. The conference will feature plenary sessions, fora with invited speakers, and a number of agorae with selected speakers. Invited speakers include current and former judges of various international courts, as well as legal practitioners and scholars of several disciplines.

Early bird registration fees are applicable until 30 April 2015. Please visit the conference website for more information.

Filed under: Announcements and Events
 

The Law and Politics of the Kosovo Advisory Opinion

Published on April 20, 2015        Author: 

The Law and Politics of the Kosovo Advisory OpinionI’m happy to report that OUP have now published a collection of essays edited by Sir Michael Wood and myself on The Law and Politics of the Kosovo Advisory Opinion. Michael and I are especially happy with the cover, which is gloomy in a very nice way. Our intro to the book is available here, while a smattering of draft chapters is also freely available on SSRN.

Here are the blurb and the ToC:

This volume is an edited collection of essays on various aspects of the 2010 Kosovo Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice. The main theme of the book is the interplay between law and politics regarding Kosovo’s independence generally and the advisory opinion specifically. How and why did the Court become the battleground in which Kosovo’s independence was to be fought out (or not)? How and why did political arguments in favour of Kosovo’s independence (e.g. that Kosovo was a unique, sui generis case which set no precedent for other secessionist territories) change in the formal, legal setting of advisory proceedings before the Court? How and why did states supporting either Kosovo or Serbia choose to frame their arguments? How did the Court perceive them? What did the Court want to achieve, and did it succeed in doing so? And how was the opinion received, and what broader implications did it have so far? These are the questions that the book hopes to shed some light on. To do so, the editors assembled a stellar cast of contributors, many of whom acted as counsel or advisors in the case, as well a number of eminent scholars of politics and international relations whose pieces further enrich the book and give it an interdisciplinary angle. The book thus tells the story of the case, places it within its broader political context, and so attempts to advance our understanding of how such cases are initiated, litigated and decided, and what broader purposes they may or may not serve.

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A Really, Really Foggy Report

Published on April 15, 2015        Author: 

Eirik Bjorge has written an excellent critique of the Policy Exchange report Clearing the Fog of Law: Saving Our Armed Forces from Defeat by Judicial Diktat, by Richard Ekins, Jonathan Morgan, and Tom Tugendhat. I now write only to add a few additional (and apologetically undiplomatic) comments which I think the report warrants. I do so not because it may be substantively wrong in its conclusions and prescriptions, although some of these may be subject to reasonable disagreement. In fact, when it comes to one of the report’s main recommendations, that the UK (and other states parties) should derogate from the ECHR in (extraterritorial) situations of armed conflict, I at least am on the record as arguing that extraterritorial derogations are both permissible and that they can be a good idea.

My problem with the report is hence not with (some of) its conclusions, but with the quality of its analysis, leading to the misdiagnosis of the chief ailment that it identifies – allegedly extravagant judicial overreach. I have to say, regretfully, that the report’s analysis is crude and unsophisticated. It is in fact so crude and unsophisticated that it does a disservice to the overarching position it advances. The report is moreover manifestly clouded by the politics of its authors. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong, mind you, with the report of a right-of-centre (or left-of-centre, or whatever) think-tank demonstrating a distinct political bent. The problem here is rather that the authors allow their political predilections to solidify into a type of confirmation bias that all too easily leads to errors in judgment, argument, and method. Let me explain how and why.

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UN Human Rights Council Adopts Resolution on a Special Rapporteur for Privacy

Published on March 26, 2015        Author: 

The Council today adopted by consensus the resolution on privacy in the digital age, which includes the creation of a new special procedure. Bearing in mind the wide scope of the right to privacy, this SR is sure to be a mega-mandate. The resolution is available here; Privacy International press release here.

 
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The Power of Citizenship Bias

Published on March 23, 2015        Author: 

Cross-posted on Lawfare.

Following up on my post from last week on the report of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) of the UK Parliament, which inter alia recommended that British law for the first time introduce distinctions between citizens and non-citizens for the purpose of regulating electronic surveillance, I’d like to briefly comment on another relevant development. Amnesty International last week also published the results of a major public opinion poll conducted in 13 countries, in which 15,000 respondents were surveyed on a number of questions regarding surveillance. The upshot of the poll is that there is strong opposition to US mass surveillance programs in all of the countries surveyed, and this is also how Amnesty chose to present the results (Amnesty’s press release is available here; the full results are available here; an analytical piece by Chris Chambers, one of the researchers on the project, is available in The Guardian).

What I found most interesting about the poll are the responses regarding the question whether the permissibility of surveillance should depend on the citizenship of the target. As Chris Chambers explains:

Are people more tolerant of the government monitoring foreign nationals than its own citizens?

Yes. In all surveyed countries, more people were in favour of their government monitoring foreign nationals (45%) than citizens (26%). In some countries the rate of agreement for monitoring foreign nationals was more than double that of citizens. For instance, in Canada only 23% believed their government should monitor citizens compared with 48% for foreign nationals. In the US, 20% believed their government should monitor citizens compared with 50% for foreign nationals. These results suggest the presence of a social ingroup bias: surveillance is more acceptable when applied to “them” but not to “us”.

general attitudes to surveillance

 

In every country, people were more tolerant of surveillance directed toward foreign nationals than toward citizens. Illustration: Chris Chambers

We can also look at this ingroup bias in a different way – by specifically counting the number of people who disagreed with government surveillance of citizens while at the same time agreeing with surveillance of foreign nationals. In most countries, fewer than 1 in 4 people showed such a bias, with Sweden showing the least favouritism toward citizens (approximately 1 in 9). However, the US stands apart as having the highest ingroup bias – nearly 1 in 3 US respondents believed their government should monitor foreign nationals while leaving citizens alone.

ingroup bias

The US stood out as particularly prone to ingroup bias: favouring surveillance of foreign nationals over citizens. Illustration: Chris Chambers

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Comments on the British Intelligence and Security Committee Report

Published on March 16, 2015        Author: 

Cross-posted on Lawfare.

Last week the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) of the UK Parliament published its much-anticipated report entitled ‘Privacy and Security: A modern and transparent legal framework.’ The Report followed an extended inquiry into UK agencies’ surveillance practices prompted by the Snowden revelations; while it concludes that the agencies have generally acted within the prescribed legal limits, it also calls for a total overhaul of the UK legislation governing electronic surveillance, which it finds to be fragmented, overly complex and confusing. For helpful overviews of the Report’s main conclusions and recommendations, see Shaheed Fatima and Ruchi Parekh on Just Security, and James Ball in The Guardian.

The ISC’s exoneration of GCHQ et al. was hardly surprising – libertarians and privacy activists have derided its members as having long gone native and being nothing more than a bunch of apologists for the intelligence agencies whom they are supposed to oversee. Liberty’s ShamiChakrabarti thus commented that ‘the ISC has repeatedly shown itself as a simple mouthpiece for the spooks – so clueless and ineffective that it’s only thanks to Edward Snowden that it had the slightest clue of the agencies’ antics,’ while The Guardian’s editorial page a tad more delicately called it the ‘watchdog that rarely barks,’ the ‘slumbering scrutineer’ and a body that ‘searches out nothing.’ So there.

Whatever the intentions behind the Report, and despite the (at times comical) level of redactions in its public version, it is still a useful document. At a minimum, it provides a reasonably clear analytical overview of the legal framework currently regulating the surveillance activities of the British intelligence agencies, as well as the relevant procedures, and provides a helpful comparison point for those looking at the same set of problems in a different system, for instance in the United States or Germany. In this post I will comment critically on some aspects of the Report that I think are especially interesting and deserving of further consideration.

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House of Cards and International Law

Published on March 11, 2015        Author: 

I just finished watching season 3 of Netflix’s House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as your modern-day Lord and Lady Macbeth. I love watching great bad guys, and season 3 did not disappoint, even if I thought it wasn’t as good as the previous ones. (warning: some minor spoilers follow). Interestingly, one major plotline had a strong international legal element. To wit, although President Underwood had been superb in his climb to ultimate power, his domestic and foreign policies range from the remotely plausible to the utterly preposterous. One such idea is a half-baked and never really explained peace plan for Israel and Palestine which involves the deployment of international peacekeepers in the Jordan Valley.

This obviously involves much toing and froing in the UN Security Council, and to do that effectively President Underwood appoints his wife as US Ambassador to the UN (despite the fact that she has zero foreign policy experience, causing her confirmation to be denied by the Senate, which leads the President to give her a recess appointment – seriously). This policy is opposed on and off by Russia, leading to quite a bit of direct negotiations between President Underwood and his Russian counterpart, Viktor Petrov (a Vladimir Putin impersonator played infernally well by Lars Mikkelsen). We even have a spectacularly implausible state dinner for Petrov at the White House, to which Underwood’s people inexplicably invite three members of the Pussy Riot band (actually playing themselves!). As you can imagine, things don’t end well.

Amusingly, in order to overcome the Russian veto in the Security Council, President Underwood and his better half decide to invoke the Uniting for Peace Resolution.  I certainly did not see that old chestnut coming, and I’m also pretty sure that this is the first time the words ‘Uniting for Peace Resolution’ were uttered in a major Hollywood production. Honestly, all I now need is for Kevin Spacey to do a menacing soliloquy distinguishing between the jus ad bellum and the jus in bello and my life will be complete.

So that was fun. Dear readers, any other hot movies/series out there with international law-related plots? Feel free to display your nerddom in the comments.

Filed under: EJIL Analysis
 

On the Entirely Predictable Outcome of Croatia v. Serbia

Published on February 6, 2015        Author: 

This week the International Court of Justice delivered its judgment in the genocide case brought by Croatia against Serbia. The result was entirely predictable: the Court quite correctly dismissed both the Croatian claim and the Serbian counterclaim. I wrote about this on the blog before (here and here), and have also written a reaction piece intended for a lay audience for the Serbian online magazine Pescanik, which is available in English here. The nationalist reactions to and misinterpretations of the judgment in Croatia and Serbia have been equally predictable, if no less tiresome.

For its part, the Court displayed a laudable degree of both restraint (which is after all de rigueur for the ICJ) and consensus (not so much). The Court’s general approach was entirely consistent with its 2007 Bosnian Genocide judgment: repeatedly finding that acts that qualified as the actus reus of genocide were committed, but without the necessary mens rea (genocidal intent), so that there was no genocide, while the Court had no jurisdiction to determine state responsibility for any other internationally wrongful act. While there are some interesting paragraphs regarding the assessment of evidence etc, the Court basically completely followed the factual findings of the ICTY (including the controversial Gotovina appeals judgment), and rightly so. By following this general approach the Court entirely avoided some of the most interesting legal issues raised in the case, for example the question of state succession to responsibility (i.e. whether Serbia could have succeeded to the responsibility for a wrongful act of its predecessor state, the SFRY), or the question of the attribution to Serbia of the conduct of the Croatian Serb separatists by virtue of the relevant control tests.

The one question that did divide the Court was the issue of its temporal jurisdiction under the compromissory clause in Article IX of the Genocide Convention. By 11 votes to 6 the Court found that it did have the jurisdiction to examine Serbia’s responsibility for genocide allegedly committed by the SFRY (i.e. before Serbia’s independence) by virtue of succession to responsibility, while finding that it ultimately did not need to decide on the succession question because no genocide was committed (most notably during the destruction of the town of Vukovar by the Yugoslav National Army). A number of judges wrote separately on this point of the temporal extent of the Court’s jurisdiction.

On all other matters the judges were either unanimous or virtually unanimous. Even the Serbian judge ad hoc voted for the dismissal of the Serbian counterclaim, while the Croatian claim was rejected by 15 votes to 2, the two being the Croatian judge ad hoc (who wrote a rather half-hearted three-page dissenting opinion, which doesn’t really say much except that he dissents) and Judge Cancado Trindade. Judge Cancado Trindade indeed did not disappoint; in an awesome display of his Cancadotrindadeness he wrote an opinion of some 142 pages (the Court having written a total of 153), dissenting about, well, everything. The summary of his conclusions runs from ‘first’ to ‘fourty-fifth,’ and in Latin, as is only proper (that’s quadragesimus quintus for you h8ers out there).

 

ICJ to Hand Down Croatia v. Serbia Genocide Judgment on 3 February

Published on January 22, 2015        Author: 

As reported in Serbian and Croatian media yesterday, and officially confirmed by the Court today (press release). As for what the Court will decide, it will most likely find that no crime in the conflict in Croatia constitutes genocide, that it lacks the jurisdiction to decide on the responsibility of either state for any other crime, and that accordingly it has to reject both Croatia’s claim and Serbia’s counterclaim. By ‘most likely’ read ‘virtually inevitable, so that I would fall of my chair if the Court did anything else’ – see more here.  We’ll see whether the Court will say something interesting on various ancillary substantive questions before it reaches its main conclusion.