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Home Articles posted by Iain Scobbie

Lieber Prize 2014: Call for Submissions

Published on November 10, 2013        Author: 

It’s that time of the year again…

The Francis Lieber Prize is awarded annually by the American Society of International Law’s Lieber Society on the Law of Armed Conflict to the authors of publications which the judges consider to be outstanding in the field of law and armed conflict.  Both monographs and articles (including chapters in books of essays) are eligible for consideration, as the prize is awarded to the best submission in each of these two categories.

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Why is David Cameron in this blog’s attic, naughtily rattling my cage?

Published on September 2, 2013        Author: 

You might remember me.  I am the editor who doesn’t write much, and I have been less engaged here than I would have liked for the past few months as I am in the process of moving to Manchester.  I did prepare an entry on the legal nonsense currently being spewed, principally by the UK, on forcible intervention in Syria, but Dapo posted first (here and here and here) and, to be honest, he did so extremely well.  I can add little to what he has said.

On the other hand, as someone said in the comments to one of Dapo’s posts, at least international law is being discussed in the UK parliament.  It is a pity that the government has been doing this so blatantly badly.  Former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, who was central in formulating the responsibility to protect doctrine, has apparently accused the UK government of “making things up as it goes along”.   On a brighter note, the House of Commons rejected the government’s motion that would have opened the door to possible UK intervention in Syria, by 285 votes to 272, with 91 members of parliament absent.  Read the rest of this entry…

 

Discussion of David Kretzmer’s “The inherent right to self-defence and proportionality in jus ad bellum”

Published on April 16, 2013        Author: 

Over the next week or so we shall be hosting a discussion of Professor David Kretzmer’s latest article “The inherent right to self-defence and proportionality in jus ad bellum which has just been published in the first issue of volume 24 of the European Journal of International Law.  The discussion will be started by Dr Noam Lubell (University of Essex), and then be continued by Dr Gina Heathcote (SOAS, University of London), Thomas Lieflander (St Hugh’s College, Oxford), Professor Mary Ellen O’Connell (Notre Dame), and culminate in comments by Professor Kretzmer himself.

Professor Kretzmer’s article is free to view at the link above.  Please read it and join in the conversation.

Filed under: EJIL Analysis
 
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Discussion of Kokott and Sobotta, “The Kadi case – Constitutional Core Values and International Law – Finding the Balance?”

Published on January 13, 2013        Author: 

Over the next few days, we shall be hosting a discussion of Juliane Kokott and Christoph Sobotta’s article “The Kadi case – Constitutional Core Values and International Law – Finding the Balance?” which was published in the final issue of volume 23 of the European Journal of International Law (2012).  Juliane is an Advocate General at the Court of Justice of the European Union, and Christoph is a legal secretary in her chambers.  The first commentary on this article is by Nele Yang, who is a PhD candidate and research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, and the second by Dr Antonios Tzanakopoulos, who is a lecturer in public international law at the University of Oxford and a fellow of St Anne’s College.  The final post in this discussion is a reply to Nele and Antonios’ comments by Juliane and Christoph.  You are invited to join in this conversation.

 
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In Bed with Alcibiades: Theory and Doctoral research

Published on January 4, 2013        Author: 

Douglas Guilfoyle has published a couple of very useful practical pieces here on the process of doing a PhD in international law (here and here).  Professor Andrea Bianchi recently asked me to speak to the new law research students at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva on the importance of theory in doctoral research.  This is a slightly revised version of the lecture I gave.

In bed with Alcibiades: theory and doctoral research

I have been reading a lot about Socrates recently.  I am reading about him rather than reading him because he didn’t leave any texts behind, so what we know or think we know about what he thought and argued comes from secondary sources, from philosophers such as Plato and Xenophon, and from satirists like Aristophanes.  But some contemporary Socratic experts, such as Vlastos, argue that it is unclear what precise ideas should be ascribed to him.

I know why I am reading about Socrates: I am planning to do some work on theories of rhetoric, and especially of legal rhetoric, soon and so I want to read about Socrates and the Sophists to provide a background to Aristotle’s Rhetoric.  From there I’ll move forward to more contemporary theorists such as Alexy, Perelman, and Habermas.  I might have to stop by some of the Roman authors, but maybe they were more practitioners rather than theorists of rhetoric.  I know the start and I know the finish, but I’ll have to find out what lies between.  But if one did know what was there before one started, then why do it?  That isn’t research.

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Francis Lieber Prize

Published on October 10, 2012        Author: 

The Francis Lieber Prize is awarded annually by the American Society of International Law’s Lieber Society on the Law of Armed Conflict to the authors of publications which the judges consider to be outstanding in the field of law and armed conflict. Both monographs and articles (including chapters in books of essays) are eligible for consideration, as the prize is awarded to the best submission in each of these two categories.

Criteria: Any work in the English language published during 2012 or whose publication is imminent at the time of submission may be nominated for this prize. The re-submission of works which have already been considered for this prize is not allowed. Entries may address such topics as the use of force in international law, the conduct of hostilities during international and non international armed conflicts, protected persons and objects under the law of armed conflict, the law of weapons, operational law, rules of engagement, occupation law, peace operations, counter terrorist operations, and humanitarian assistance. Other topics bearing on the application of international law during armed conflict or other military operations are also appropriate.

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Filed under: EJIL Reports
 
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Justice Levy’s Legal Tinsel: The Recent Israeli Report on the Status of the West Bank and Legality of the Settlements

Published on September 6, 2012        Author: 

In February 2012, the Israeli government appointed a commission, headed by former Supreme Court Justice Levy, to “examine the status of building in Judea and Samaria”—in other words, to examine the legality of settlements, whether authorised by the Israeli government or not, in the West Bank.  On 9 July 2012, the Commission’s report was released.  The report is in Hebrew, but its conclusions and recommendations have been translated into English by one of the Commission’s members, Alan Baker, and an unofficial translation of its arguments regarding international law has been published on a pro-Israeli US blog.

The reasoning of the Report, such as there is, is a travesty of legal argumentation.  It is selective in the issues it chooses to address, and perverse in its interpretation of international law. The arguments employed with regard to the status of the West Bank and legality of the Israeli settlements there are not novel.  Indeed, they are well-worn, tired, and have been thoroughly discredited in the past.  They contradict established legal opinion, both international and Israeli.

The Commission’s conclusions fall into two categories, one dealing with international law and the other with domestic Israeli law.  The Report states:

“Our basic conclusion is that from the point of view of international law, the classical laws of “occupation” as set out in the relevant international conventions cannot be considered applicable to the unique and sui generis historic and legal circumstances of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria [ie, the West Bank] spanning over decades.

In addition, the provisions of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, regarding transfer of populations, cannot be considered to be applicable and were never intended to apply to the type of settlement activity carried out by Israel in Judea and Samaria.

Therefore, according to International Law, Israelis have the legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria and establishment of settlements cannot, in and of itself, be considered to be illegal.”

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Thinking about Tom Franck’s Thoughts

Published on June 27, 2012        Author: 

Tom Franck, University of Glasgow Honorary LLD graduation, July 2004

Professor Thomas Franck died on 27 May 2009.  He was a good friend and I remember him fondly.  I would probably remember a lot more had he not made such killer martinis.  Very dry, straight-up, with a twist.  This was meant to have been posted on the anniversary of his death, but the exigencies of exam marking and a trip to Scotland for my brother’s wedding delayed matters.  Tom would no doubt be amused that I got lost along the way and was late, as usual.

My colleague, Dr Catriona Drew, and I organised a memorial conference at SOAS on the first anniversary of Tom’s death.  This is a rewritten version of one of the papers I gave that day.  Tom, I think, played a variety of roles in his publications.  At times, he commented, writing pithy short articles, especially for the American Journal, analysing developments.  At other times, he was what could truly be called a publicist, taking international law out of our invisible academy to other interested groups, to reach out to people who are not like us—for instance, to domestic judges as well as to those civilians who have never been lawyers.  There were also his more lengthy academic expositions of substantive issues.  He wrote for diverse audiences on diverse topics.  As Dickens would have said, he did the police in different voices.  (But, believe me, when he tried to do a Scots voice it was atrocious—more like a squeaky Boston–Irish.) Read the rest of this entry…

Filed under: EJIL Analysis
 
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Surface to Air Missiles to be Deployed at the Olympics: One More Step to Dystopia?

Published on May 11, 2012        Author: 

It was recently announced that the security measures for this year’s London Olympics will include the deployment of surface to air missiles in the vicinity of the various Olympic venues. Oddly, there has been very little discussion of the implications that these security measures might have for civil liberties or human rights. Unlike the games themselves, these legal issues are important in the wider scheme of things.

Call me cynical, or at least bitter and twisted, if you like.   I simply have never seen the point of the Olympic Games, unless one sees it as a continuation of politics through sport (which we now have to assume includes synchronised swimming, (see this YouTube clip), or as a nice little revenue stream for construction companies, fund-raisers, and those successful in their chosen sport, or as a laboratory for the development of new undetectable drugs.  With few exceptions, for instance Bannister’s achievement in breaking the four-minute mile, who remembers a world-record-breaking performance once it has itself been broken?  This is an investment in ephemera, and the substitution of chauvinistic public emotion for reason and decorum.

So I, for one, am dreading the descent of the Olympics on London later this summer.  I shall not be waving flags or cheering the athletes on, and that is not simply because there is no Scottish team.  It is bad enough that I cannot look out my office window without seeing the “count-down to the games” revolving around the top of what used to be called the Post Office Tower.  It is a constant reminder of dread.  A dread which has been increased by the press reports of the enhanced security measures currently being proposed—in particular, the deployment of surface–to–air missiles which some reports claim can down a 747 (see here and here).

Perky army types in uniform have stressed that any decision to use missiles against a threat from the air will be taken not by them on the ground, but rather at the highest levels of government.  Security analysts are, of course, claiming that the aim of these draconian measures is to reassure the public and deter potential air attacks.

Oh really?  Even if we assume that the current crop of senior UK politicians might be able to make a sensible decision under extreme pressure, I am not at all reassured by the thought that they might entertain the possibility of shooting down planes over central London.  And all the publicity that has been given to these extreme security measures might simply give rise to the new unofficial Olympic sport of outwitting security in a spectacular manner.  And it too will be televised.  Rather than being a deterrent, this might be seen as a challenge—and if an aerial threat were to be posed by, say, a drone, or those intent on a suicide attack, how could these measures deter in the first place?  Leaving unmanned aircraft to one side, the question that I have not yet seen discussed is the threat that these measures pose to civil liberties and human rights.  Are these, once again, to be swept aside without comment by alleged considerations of “security”?  Is this, once again, politicians goading the public into mute acceptance and aquiescent complicity by ratcheting up a climate of fear?  Is this just one more step to dystopia?

I must admit that I am surprised that lawyers have been silent because we have been here before.  Read the rest of this entry…

 

On Security Council Reform

Published on April 4, 2012        Author: 

Dapo and Marko both know that I must be one of the worst blog editors ever.  I don’t know how to blog, because I can’t (yet) conceive of something written without shedloads of research and footnotes.   Nor do I know how to post posts, despite it being explained to me, patiently, slowly, and using simple words.  If either of them says a child of four could do it, then all I can do is echo Groucho Marx and ask that someone find me a child of four.  If you are reading this, then one of them has done the computer magic.

Tonight I am in Manhattan, and have just returned to my hotel after eating too many mussels in a rather pleasant bistro.  But as it is New York, and a “boutique” hotel, it is virulently non-smoking, and so I am writing this without benefit of cigars.  There is a small balcony outside my room window but, of course, the window is fixed fast  shut for fear that an open window might interfere with the air conditioning.  It is late March for pete’s sake—who would want air conditioning now?  And who wants to sit in a fridge anyway?

Alan Rickman is appearing in a play a few blocks away.  As I wandered back from the bistro, I was somewhat surprised to see crush barriers and a reasonable crowd outside the stage door.  Never mind a career as a distinguished classical and character actor, as well  the campest Sheriff of Nottingham ever, or even a thoughtful if bleak debut as a film director (The winter guest released in 1997 in case you are wondering—is that nearly a footnote, or merely an aside?), simply play a witch in a blockbuster movie or three and the world is your lobster.

Much as I admire his work, I am not here to collect Alan Rickman’s signature.  I have not read any of the Hairy Potter books nor seen the films.  I was so not part of the demographic awaiting him, clutching autograph books, at the end of his performance.   I am here to participate in a retreat called by the President of the General Assembly, to discuss what seems to be the never-ending search for Security Council reform.

And jeez, I desire to do some inhalation exercises with a cigar.

INTERMISSION (CIGAR)

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