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Home Archive for category "EJIL Analysis"

Favourite Readings 2019 – Closing an Uneasy Decade with Rhythm and Blues

Published on December 11, 2019        Author: 

 

As in previous years, EJIL’s Review Editor, Christian J. Tams, has invited EJIL board members and (associate) editors to offer short reflections on their favourite books of the year 2019. No strict rules apply — the posts are meant to introduce books that left an impression, irrespective of their genre. Today we have selections from Michal Saliternik. You can read all the posts in this series here.

 

We are closing the second decade of the twenty-first century without seeing much progress in addressing this century’s most daunting problems, including violent conflicts, social inequality, environmental degradation, and the decline of democracy. My good reads for the past year deal with these problems from different perspectives and methodological approaches within several genres. Together, they take the reader to a journey between the small details and the big picture; between the past and the future; between the heart and the mind; between despair and hope.

Read the rest of this entry…

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Bringing Deforestation before an International Court?

Published on December 6, 2019        Author: 

 

Deforestation is a key issue in the fight against climate change. In all areas of the world, forests are being transformed for different uses, all leading to a loss of forest cover “from 31.6 percent of the global land area to 30.6 percent between 1990 and 2015”. Recently, the Amazon fires have caused concern around the globe, not only because of their scale but also because of the importance of the Amazon for everyone, as one of the largest rainforests in the world, and therefore crucial for both mitigating climate change and hosting millions of species. Much concern has been raised at why such fires had intensified compared to previous years. Human-driven deforestation has been shown to be the main reason for the fires, and with less environmental oversight from the current Brazilian government, different political actors have pointed fingers at its responsibility. Brazil is not the only country where important forests are threatened. Other major forested areas in Western and Central Africa and South-East Asia are not spared from large-scale deforestation. The few original forests in Europe are also under threat.

Between legal and illegal deforestation, more forested territory is converted for various uses, from agriculture to mining. Moreover, many areas of major forests are inhabited by indigenous peoples, who suffer directly from the consequences of deforestation. President Bolsonaro has been very clear that he intends to use the land for economic prosperity as he claims that it is his sovereign power to do so. The tension between economic development and environmental protection is not specific to the Amazon and struggles over how to achieve economic development in the forested lands, with people already living and using those lands exist elsewhere too.

One rhetorical question arising from this dramatic situation is whether there are avenues to use the international judicial system to try to hold the states accountable for the deforestation happening in their territory. Is there a chance for interstate litigation to succeed? Read the rest of this entry…

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For Whom the Bell of the European Convention on Human Rights Tolls? The Curious Case of Slovenia v. Croatia

Published on December 5, 2019        Author: 

 

“This case is unusual, yet important and also familiar”, was the opening statement by Mr. Jeremy McBride (Croatian counsel) at the admissibility hearing before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (the Court or ECtHR) in the case of Slovenia v. Croatia held on June 12. The case is also hot since Slovenia expects the Court’s decision on the admissibility by the end of 2019 or in the first half of 2020.

The case is unusual because it is the first EU inter-state application case and it is all about the rights of a legal person which can be classified as a governmental organization. Namely, Slovenia sued Croatia before the Court for alleged human rights violations of the state-owned bank Ljubljanska banka (LB) in Croatia. The case is familiar because the Court previously decided that LB is a governmental organization and therefore it does not have locus standi under Art 34 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention) (see cases Ališić and Ljubljanska banka). The problem occurred during the era of Socialist Federal Republic Yugoslavia. It concerns Yugoslav banking system problems which emerged after the dissolution of Yugoslavia.

Slovenia states that the purpose of the case is a just solution for the old foreign-currency savings problem. By virtue of the Ališić judgment, Slovenia was obliged to pay the vast majority of old foreign-currency savings in Yugoslavia. Relying on the findings in that case, Slovenia expects the Court to remedy violation of LB’s rights committed by Croatia.

The factual background and the Court’s findings in Ališić and Ljubljanska banka cases are explained in detail in Janja Hojnik’s post on this blog. Therefore, I will not elaborate on the facts further, nor will I consider whether Croatian courts violated LB’s rights and denied justice. Instead, I will focus on one issue of importance: whether a state can bring an inter-state application before the ECtHR while at the same time the alleged victim cannot file an individual application

One important issue for the Court to resolve

Can Slovenia claim that Croatia violated LB’s rights under the Convention even though LB itself is not authorized to file an individual application? Read the rest of this entry…

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Published on December 4, 2019        Author: 

(Image credit: AFP)

Next week, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and de facto head of government of Myanmar, will appear in person before the International Court of Justice. She will be defending her country in the case brought by Gambia for breaches of the Genocide Convention due to atrocities against the Rohingya. The Court will be holding oral hearings on provisional measures in the case (for our earlier coverage, see here). According to an AFP report:

Ardent fans of Aung San Suu Kyi are snapping up spots on $2,000 tours to The Hague, in a display of moral support as Myanmar faces charges of genocide over the Rohingya crisis at the UN’s top court in December.

Supporter rallies, billboards and outpourings of praise online followed the shock announcement by the country’s civilian leader last week that she would personally represent Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The once-lauded democracy champion will be defending the 2017 military crackdown against the Rohingya minority.

One travel operator is organising a five-day tour to The Hague that includes visa and transportation as part of a $2,150 package, said employee Ma July — a prohibitive rate for most in the developing nation.

Social influencer Pencilo and well-known TV presenter Mg Mg Aye are among the 20 or so people to have already signed up.

“I believe this is our duty as citizens,” Pencilo, 29, told AFP Friday, urging any of her 1.1 million Facebook followers who have the means to do the same.

“It’s important the world knows her compatriots are fully behind her.”

– ‘We stand with you’ –

All of this is so deeply disturbing on so many levels that I genuinely find myself bereft of words. But the image above somehow manages to convey it all – Peace Palace, Photoshop, Facebook. For analysis of why Suu Kyi has decided to appear before the Court in person, perhaps due to her total inability to accept a reality that is not to her liking, or perhaps as part of a cynical strategy to buoy support for her party and herself within Myanmar, see here and here. Either way, it will be a sad spectacle, in more ways than one.

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Time to fix the Rome Statute and add the crime of starvation in non-international armed conflicts!

Published on December 3, 2019        Author: 

This week the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ASP) meets in The Hague for its 18th session. On the agenda is the Swiss proposal to amend Article 8 (“War crimes”) of the Rome Statute by adding a non-international armed conflict version of the war crime of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare. The present post discusses the Swiss proposal and explains why it is high time to amend the Rome Statute as per the Swiss proposal, and that in fact the drafting history of the Statute shows that the omission to include this crime into Article 8(2)(e) was accidental, making it even more important to now fix this mistake.

In 1998, the States negotiating the Rome Statute included the war crime of “[i]ntentionally using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare by depriving them of objects indispensable to their survival, including wilfully impeding relief supplies as provided for under the Geneva Conventions” in Article 8(2)(c), a paragraph that lists “serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict”, “[o]ther” than the grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions included in the first paragraph, which also concern international armed conflict (IAC). As readers will know, the question whether the Rome Statute should include war crimes committed in times of non-international armed conflict (NIAC) was hotly debated by the delegates in Rome. Fortunately, with the ICTY’s case law and the scope of the ICTR Statute having paved the way, the States reached consensus to include NIAC war crimes. Violations of Common Article 3 to the 1949 Geneva Conventions were listed in Article 8(2)(c), and a large number of the ‘other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in times of international armed conflict’, listed in Article 8(2)(b) of the ICC Statute, were reproduced in Article 8(2)(e), which relates to NIAC. However, among the crimes that were not reproduced was the war crime of starvation and impeding humanitarian access.

The failure to do so has been criticised for good reason (e.g., Werle, Kress, and more recently, Bartels, and D’Alessandra and Gillett). In addition to the war crimes related to prohibited weapons (addressed below), the only other violations not included for NIAC are the conduct of hostilities crimes Article 8(2)(c)(ii), intentionally directing attacks at civilian objects, Article 8(2)(b)(iv), the crime of causing excessive collateral damage, and Articles 8(2)(viii), (xiv), and (xv). The last three provisions deal with occupation and “nationals of the hostile party”, and therefore obviously do not have a NIAC equivalent. The Additional Protocol I general prohibition to attack civilian objects and the prohibition to launch attacks that may be expected to cause incidental damage that would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated, which both apply during IACs, do not appear in Additional Protocol II relating to NIACs. As a result, it was hard in 1998 for the proponents of a more extensive set of NIAC crimes to argue that these prohibitions constituted customary IHL also in time of NIAC, and no NIAC versions of these war crimes were included in Article 8 (see Bartels, pp 292-293). However, the foregoing makes the omission of a NIAC crime of starvation all the more puzzling, because Additional Protocol II does explicitly prohibit the starvation of the civilian population.

Read the rest of this entry…

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Academic Freedom Under Pressure

Published on December 2, 2019        Author: 

 

Contemporary threats to academic freedom are global, diverse and mounting. The ICNL-commissioned report Closing Academic Space published in March found “repressive and potentially repressive government practices against higher education institutions, including academics and students, in more than 60 countries”, including Hungary, Russia, Venezuela, Turkey, Egypt and China.

Challenges to academic freedom and autonomy in Europe, particularly the EU, now seem alarming, despite significant resistance. A couple of causes célèbres illustrate the point. On Wednesday 27 November, the distinguished constitutional law scholar Professor Wojciech Sadurski faced the first hearing in one of three SLAPP lawsuits brought against him under civil and criminal defamation laws by Poland’s governing Law and Justice party and the public broadcaster, TVP. Various actors have stood in solidarity with Professor Sadurski. In the run-up to the hearing, constitutional law scholars launched the #WithWoj hashtag, following an open letter on the Verfassungsblog in May; ARTICLE 19 submitted an amicus curiae brief, live-monitored the hearing and, together with other NGOs, issued a statement.

On Friday 15 November, my institution, the Central European University (“CEU”) officially inaugurated its Vienna campus, having been forced to move its US accredited degree programmes from Budapest as a result of amendments to Hungary’s higher education law adopted in April 2017 (“Lex CEU”). The subsequent fight to defend CEU spurred street demonstrations, the #IstandwithCEU hashtag and thousands of statements of support – including from academic institutions and associations, Nobel Laureates, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the late former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and a network of freedom of expression NGOs. It also motivated the adoption of the Utrecht Declaration on Academic Freedom by human rights academics.

These cases raise a number of individual human rights issues and deep concerns about the implications of restrictions on scholars and universities for democracy and the rule of law across societies. They further prompt questions about the definition, scope and place of the notion of “academic freedom” in international law. Read the rest of this entry…

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To Forget, But Not Forgive: Why the CJEU’s Latest Ruling on Google and the ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ is Not at All a Win for US Tech Giants

Published on November 29, 2019        Author: 

 

Google has recently triumphed in the fight against a worldwide application of the European “right to be forgotten” following the European Court of Justice’s ruling that Google does not have to take down search results revealing sensitive personal information of EU citizens worldwide, rejecting demands by the French Data Protection Authority. The long anticipated judgment by Europe’s top Court in Google v CNIL, delivered on 24th September 2019, was a test of the ‘right to be forgotten’, which allows EU citizens to request, among other things, the removal of search engine results that reveal their personal information. This right is now explicitly recognised in Article 17 of the influential EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The ruling has been welcomed by US tech giants as an iconic curb of what they see as a ‘European overreach’- extension of its laws beyond borders.  However, not many have noticed that the Court intentionally left a glaring loophole – an opportunity for EU countries to force worldwide de-listing if they deem so fit. In other words, EU countries could still compel Google to de-list beyond Europe, and this decision comes as no surprise in light of the broader context of EU’s pushback against US tech giants.

In the wake of Edward Snowden’s 2013 mass-surveillance revelations about US spying on ordinary citizens and world leaders alike, Europe’s top Court demonstrated leadership by taking a hard line stance on the enforcement of data privacy law, even against other EU bodies. Although many have perceived the latest judgment as a restraint on the Court’s expansive interpretation of EU law, the CJEU  has in fact continued its hard line data privacy crusade with this judgment, which has significant implications for data privacy law, US tech companies, and Internet users. Read the rest of this entry…

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The Same Thing? Negotiation and Articles 11-13 of the CERD Convention in Ukraine v Russian Federation

Published on November 28, 2019        Author: 

On 8 November 2019, the ICJ issued its preliminary objections judgment in Ukraine v. Russian Federation – see here for an excellent discussion of its importance. This piece focuses on one aspect of the decision, that the “preconditions” of Article 22 of the CERD Convention are alternative rather than cumulative. It looks specifically at the reasoning in the decision, and the understanding that it relies on of the Articles 11-13 inter-state communications procedure before the CERD Committee. It may be recalled that Articles 11-13 applies to all States Parties to the CERD Convention and has an importance beyond the jurisdiction of the Court. In the judgment the right outcome (dispositif) may have been reached, but the reasoning (motif) may be problematic in relation to the Court’s narrow understanding of Articles 11-13 as negotiation.

Article 22 and its alternative/cumulative preconditions

Article 22 of the CERD Convention reads:

Any dispute between two or more States Parties with respect to the interpretation or application of this Convention, which is not settled by negotiation or by the procedures expressly provided for in this Convention, shall, at the request of any of the parties to the dispute, be referred to the International Court of Justice for decision, unless the disputants agree to another mode of settlement.

Three principal arguments on the alternative/cumulative question will be highlighted, as they relate to the eventual decision.

First, Read the rest of this entry…

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Mandatory Derogation from Human Rights in Overseas Armed Conflicts? A Response to the Policy Exchange Proposals

Published on November 27, 2019        Author: 

 

 

A recent paper published by Policy Exchange, Resisting the Judicialisation of War, sets out a range of policy and legislative proposals for the incoming UK government. In this blog post, I raise concerns over three recommendations in the paper.

Contextualising the proposals

In the background to the Policy Exchange paper is the Ministry of Defence (MOD)’s 2016 announcement of a “presumption to derogate” from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), particularly in “future overseas operations”. Derogation is the mechanism built into the ECHR to provide flexibility in times of war or emergency. It enables States to modulate the scope of Convention obligations and take measures consistent with the Law of Armed Conflict (if applicable).

The MOD’s 2016 press release asserted that litigation followed military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan on “an industrial scale”, and that derogation would protect troops from persistent “vexatious claims”. Previous Policy Exchange reports, Fog of Law (2013), Clearing the Fog of Law (2015) and Protecting Those Who Serve (2019), placed the blame for such claims squarely on judicial decisions applying the ECHR to extraterritorial armed conflicts, including Al-Skeini v UK (2011) 53 EHRR 18 and Smith v MOD [2013] UKSC 41.

This resulted in what Policy Exchange calls the ‘judicialisation’ of war. The application of the ECHR to military operations is alleged to hinder commanders by generating risk aversion, leading to the hyperbolic claim that the military risks “defeat by judicial diktat”. The recent paper is the latest instalment in Policy Exchange’s coordinated efforts to sway UK policy in this area.

Derogation is the proposed workaround. Read the rest of this entry…

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The Inter-American Court’s Advisory Function Continues to Boom – A few comments on the requests currently pending

Published on November 25, 2019        Author: 

 

 

Just on the same day that Evo Morales had asked the Bolivians to re-elect him for the fourth time as President, Colombia’s President Iván Duque apparently followed his words with deeds by filing a further request for an advisory opinion to the IACtHR. Already in his opening speech at the occasion of the Court’s last special session held in Colombia this summer, Duque had announced that his government was working on a request asking the Court to clarify whether or not a human right to be re-elected for indefinite terms exists. Then, on the day of the Bolivian elections, it was reported that the request had been submitted. An opinion by the Court contradicting that of the Bolivian Constitutional Court, according to which the possibility to be re-elected indefinitely constitutes a human right, could have destabilized a further Morales government. In light of the most recent events in Bolivia, including the resignation of Morales, the immediate reason for the request seems to be obsolete. But the issue of indefinite re-election remains topical. Not least, as also mentioned here, a Colombian State agent had indicated that the request was also relevant with regard to Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The request on re-election is already the third request currently pending before the Court, highlighting the continuing importance of the Court’s advisory function. Just a few weeks ago, the Court published a request filed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) regarding the guarantee of trade union freedom, its relationship to other rights, and its application from a gender perspective. The Commission’s request addresses a very important matter in times of a changing world of employment and also in light of the heavy protests in Ecuador and Chile which are basically rooted in the high rates of social inequality.

This post will focus on the first of the three pending requests, which submitted by Colombia in May. Not only is the May request politically sensitive, but it also raises some very interesting technical legal questions.

In its request of May, Colombia poses the following three questions to the Court: Read the rest of this entry…

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