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ESIL-International Human Rights Law Symposium: Human Rights and Development Regimes – Reflections on Convergence and Influence

Published on February 10, 2016        Author: 

Human rights and development interact in a range of ways. They occupy many of the same spheres and this has increased due to the expanding reach of the development policy and activities alongside the proliferation of IHRL. Moreover the overarching goals of human rights and development regimes may be argued to enjoy a purposive affinity, particularly in areas of social and human development. Despite this interaction and affinity however, the relationship between these regimes evidences an evolution along separate tracks and development regimes’ relative autonomy from human rights law and general law may exemplify the fragmentation of international law.

This comment considers the degree to which human rights law has influenced development regimes, exploring the place of international human rights obligations in development policies and their impact in operational terms. Despite substantive overlaps and certain affinities, when assessed from the perspective of obligations, the uptake has been inconsistent and the direct influence quite limited. Viewed from the perspective of principles however, the uptake and influence are more extensive: the place of human rights principles such as participation, accountability, inclusion, equality and non-discrimination and attention to vulnerable groups is now rarely contested, even within mainstream development regimes.

What are the reasons for this differentiated influence? There are important qualitative differences between the frameworks governing human rights and development regimes. Law and legal accountability are defining hallmarks of human rights, which remain a quintessentially legal concept. As Coomans, et al. have written “[L]aw has remained central to the notion of human rights. […] it is law that authoritatively defines a society’s understanding of what are human rights.” Development, for its part, is underpinned by global goals such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) or the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and by the policy frameworks and strategies of development institutions, which do not generally rely upon international legal norms in direct or explicit terms. The binding legal frame of reference for development cooperation emerges either at the level of the constitutive instruments of development agencies (between member countries) or at the transactional level of individual legal agreements governing particular operations (between the agency and a client country). While each of these instruments is an international treaty under public international law few international development policy frameworks are defined in terms of international legal obligations: the text of both the MDGs and the new SDGs evidence this. Read the rest of this entry…

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Determining Customary International Law: The ICJ’s Methodology and the Idyllic World of the ILC

Published on December 3, 2015        Author: 

Editor’s Note: This is the author’s concluding post in the EJIL:Debate! regarding an article in the current issue of EJIL Vol. 26 (2015) No 2, by Stefan Talmon. The original post is here. See also the posts discussing the article by Omri Sender and Michael Wood, Harlan G. Cohen and Fernando Lusa Bordin.

I am very grateful to Sir Michael Wood and Omri Sender, as well as Harlan G. Cohen and Fernando Lusa Bordin, for their thoughtful comments on my EJIL article. Both Harlan and Fernando seem to agree with my main propositions and, in particular, with the proposition that the ICJ, in order to determine rules of customary international law, uses induction and deduction as well as assertion. They raise interesting questions that I did not address in my article, such as why the ICJ was not more interested in developing a clear methodology and why States might actually prefer ‘methodological mayhem’, or the flexibility of methodological uncertainty, over the strict application of the inductive method or a relaxation of the demands of that method. Their contribution takes the debate further and may be read as a complement to my article.

In the following, I will focus on the comments of Sir Michael Wood and Omri Sender, who are more critical of my propositions. I will only deal with their substantive comments and leave readers to decide for themselves how many eyebrows they would like to raise while considering what the authors identified as ‘some bold statements’ in my article without, however, specifying their concerns. Let me respond to their counter propositions one by one before offering some final remarks on the work of the ILC, and thus Sir Michael’s work as its Rapporteur, on the identification of customary international law. Read the rest of this entry…

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Induction, Assertion and the Limits of the Existing Methodologies to Identify Customary International Law

Published on December 2, 2015        Author: 

Professor Talmon’s article on the methodologies employed by the International Court of Justice to ascertain custom is as important as it is timely now that the International Law Commission is advancing with its study on the identification of customary international law. To contribute to the debate, I propose to elaborate on a crucial question that the piece raises. Why is it that the Court so often resorts to ‘asserting’ customary international law instead of providing more robust reasoning to back up the rules that it identifies? Though the precise reasons why the Court takes the approach it does are a matter for speculation, I suspect that this has to do with limitations that are inherent to the standard methodology to establish custom (the ‘inductive method’, to use Professor Talmon’s terminology), in the shaping of which the Court itself has played a large part.

As Professor Talmon suggests, systemic reasoning – argument by principle and argument by analogy – has been a major catalyst for development in international law, filling gaps that would be left behind if the inductive method were applied. Yet, the inductive method is the best accepted methodology to identify custom insofar as it encapsulates the prevailing view as to what is required by the ‘rule of recognition’ of international law.

The problem with that ‘rule of recognition’ is that it does not allow us to reach any firm conclusions as to the existence of particular rules of custom. That becomes clear when one dissects the inductive method as defined and applied by the International Court. Read the rest of this entry…

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The International Court of Justice and Customary International Law: A Reply to Stefan Talmon

Published on November 30, 2015        Author: 

There is much to agree with in Professor Talmon’s article, which addresses the International Court of Justice’s methodology for the determination of rules of customary international law, and concludes that “the main method employed by the Court is neither induction nor deduction but, rather, assertion.” But there are some questionable aspects, including its conclusion.

The Court’s approach to the identification of rules of customary international law

Professor Talmon regrets the lack of discussion, both by the Court itself and by writers, of the methodology used by the Court to determine the existence, content and scope of rules of customary international law. But the Court has of course stated in its 2012 Jurisdictional Immunities of the State judgment that in order to determine the existence of a rule of customary international law “it must apply the criteria which it has repeatedly laid down for identifying a rule of customary international law” – as indeed it has. The Court recalls its pronouncements in the North Sea Continental Shelf and Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Malta) cases, where it “made clear” that “the existence of a rule of customary international law requires that there be “a settled practice” together with opinio juris” (I.C.J. Reports 2012, p. 99, at p. 122, para. 55). It could well have cited to other decisions as well, among them Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua and Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons. A coherent methodology does come into sight in these (individually and even more so in the aggregate), even if not all questions relating to it have been fully addressed. It is one thing to suggest, as some have, that the Court does not consistently adhere to this stated methodology; it is a different thing altogether to argue, as Professor Talmon does, that the Court “has hardly ever stated” such methodology. Read the rest of this entry…

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The EU’s Human Rights Obligations in Relation to Policies with Extraterritorial Effects: Rejoinder to Enzo Cannizzaro

Published on January 23, 2015        Author: 

This post is a continuation of the EJIL:Debate! in EJIL vol. 25: 4 between Lorand Bartels and Enzo Cannizzaro on “The EU’s Human Rights Obligations in Relation to Policies with Extraterritorial Effects.”

I thank Professor Cannizzaro warmly for his thoughtful reply to my article, which extends it in several interesting directions. Professor Cannizzaro’s main point is that Article 3(5) and Article 21 TEU do not add anything to the EU’s existing human rights obligations insofar as they apply to conduct with mere extraterritorial effects. In some respects I agree with him. However, I would argue that there are some gaps that these provisions plug.

I agree, first of all, that there is some conduct with mere extraterritorial effects that is already covered by the EU’s fundamental rights obligations. Most obviously, there is a Soering-inspired obligation not to remove a person to a third country in which he or she would be at risk of harm (NS v. Secretary of State for the Home Department). But this is a special case, and I do not think that it follows, as does Professor Cannizzaro, that other conduct with mere effects in third countries is also covered. There is to my mind something particular about the EU’s (or a state’s) obligations in relation to a person that is at the relevant time on its territory, and this cannot so easily be translated into an obligation to prohibit exports of death penalty drugs or not to adopt an economic embargo on third states.

At a more general level, the problem is that in practice the high level of fundamental rights protection applicable domestically cannot automatically be extended to policies with mere extraterritorial effects. As my article details, with the exception of Soering scenarios, there have not been any CJEU decisions on whether fundamental rights obligations apply to measures with mere extraterritorial effects, and while the European Court of Human Rights has dealt with this, it has done so very inconsistently (Cf the contrasting decisions in Kovačič (ECtHR, admissibility, 9 Oct 2003) and Ben El Mahi (ECtHR, 11 Dec 2006)). My suspicion is that the CJEU will avoid the problem of extending domestic levels of protection to measures with extraterritorial effects not by applying a dual standard, but rather by not applying fundamental rights obligations to measures in the first place. Read the rest of this entry…

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Consent and Customary International Law

Published on August 4, 2014        Author: 

I am pleased to see Professor Guzman and Jerome Hsiang being among those authors who admit that one cannot construct a plausible and coherent CIL theory without a thorough conceptual clarification. In their short article in EJIL Vol. 25:2 (2014), they are focusing on consent and CIL, particularly on the tension between the principle of consent prevailing in international law and non-consensual law-making in the field of CIL. They do not perform an analysis on the concept “consent”, but try to answer the question of why rationally self-interested states should accept the existence of non-consensual customary rules in international relations. I am willing to accept some of their claims or conclusions, as follows. (i) There exist some weak, limited forms of non-consensual rule-making in contemporary international law. (ii) Customary rules are the output of such rule-making. (iii) A non-consensual customary rule, by its content and nature, usually provides great benefits to most of the states or the whole international order and relatively small costs to one or some states.

Of course, all this is the rejection of the so-called consent theories of CIL. It is no surprise. In his excellent, seminal article of 2005 (Saving Customary International Law), Guzman has outlined the basis of a modern, non-objectivist, belief-based CIL theory within the framework of his rational choice doctrine. A belief-based CIL theory is not compatible with consent theories. I also have doubts about that a consent theory could adequately explain how CIL really works. However, three caveats are in order here.

First, consent theories of CIL put up a stout resistance. They are supported by the requirement of “acceptance” in the text of Article 38(1)(b) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, although they encounter difficulties with adjusting acceptance to opinio juris. For example, Olufemi Elias and Chin Lim, who worked out a modern, refined and flexible version of CIL consent theories (The Paradox of Consensualism in International Law), simply conflate the two concepts, which is problematic from the theoretical angle. Read the rest of this entry…

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The Nature of Investor’s Rights under Investment Treaties: A Rejoinder to Martins Paparinskis

Published on October 31, 2013        Author: 

Editor’s note: This is the final installment in the discussion begun last week of Martins Paparinskis’s EJIL article, “Investment Treaty Arbitration and the (New) Law of State Responsibility“.

Martins’ reply to my comments on his EJIL article highlights a number of challenging issues regarding the ongoing debate over the direct or derivative nature of investors’ rights under international investment agreements (IIAs). To summarize our disagreement: Martins, on the one hand, views the derivative rights approach “as only one of a number of plausible ways of articulating international law arguments about investment law”; on the other, I remain strongly reluctant towards this polyphony of plausible  articulations, and rather find that the direct rights model is unconvincing.

Martins questions, first, whether the practice of NAFTA Parties indeed favours the derivative model; second, whether international law provides for causality (or even correlation) between the nature of obligations under treaties and the nature of rights derived thereunder; and, third, whether indeed the HICEE v Slovakia award explicitly adopts the derivative rights model. By way of rejoinder to Martins’ reply, I will address the first point separately, and the second and third points jointly. Read the rest of this entry…

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Reply to Howley and Howse

Published on October 24, 2013        Author: 

I am grateful to Jessica Howley and Rob Howse for their thoughtful comments. This post replies to each of their responses.

My response to Jessica Howley will focus on the first and third questions that both, albeit in different ways, challenge my argument that choice is the right criterion for distinguishing the third party model from other approaches. In the first question, Howley wonders whether public interest underlying international human rights could not provide a better explanation for the human rights/investment law distinction than consent. In the third question, she identifies the choice of an individual to become a rights-holder as also present in the diplomatic protection model, thus blurring the distinction between those approaches. I am grateful to Howley for raising questions about the limits of third party model and will answer them in turn, after first briefly outlining my general argument.

Law of third parties and choice

It seems to me that one is on fairly safe conceptual and legal grounds when discussing the tension between elements of inter-State and investor-State dispute resolution in investment treaty arbitration. In my response to Gourgourinis, I sketched some aspects of this tension, and it has been addressed in leading legal writings (in particular by James Crawford ((2002) 96 AJIL 874, 887-8) and Zac Douglas ((2003) 74 BYBIL 151, 160-94). The LaGrand judgment of the International Court also provides some guidance on the criteria for identifying the presence of individual rights in treaty instruments ([2001] ICJ Rep 466 [77]).

My article suggests that that the image of a spectrum of different expressions of inter-State and individual-State elements in the structure of international dispute settlement regimes is right but may be incomplete. A triangle provides a more accurate portrayal of the legal dynamic of investment law. The three corners of the triangle are human rights, diplomatic protection, and third party rights. International law permits creation of rights of non-treaty parties under two regimes – rights of individuals and rights of third parties – that are in many ways as distinct from each other as they are from the inter-State diplomatic protection regime. The distinction between those models is not intuitively clear, but in technical terms the most distinctive element of the law of third parties is a requirement of consent as a precondition for the creation of rights (VCLT arts 34-37). My thesis is that consent and the choice to provide consent are instrumental for the law of third parties but not the law of human rights and law of diplomatic protection, and therefore would provide a convenient analytical perspective for discussing investment law. Howley questions both aspects of the distinction, and I will respond to these arguments in the following paragraphs. Read the rest of this entry…

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Reply to Gourgourinis

Published on October 24, 2013        Author: 

I am very grateful to Anastasios Gourgourinis, Robert Howse, and Jessica Howley for their remarks about my EJIL article. I hope that my responses will enable me to clarify my position (and thinking) on the aspects of my argument with which each commenter has engaged. Since there is very little overlap between their comments, I will address them in turn, responding to Gourgourinis in this post and then to Howley and Howse in the next.

Gourgourinis makes a strong argument in favour of derivative rights (which the article calls ‘delegated rights’), suggesting that (1) State practice favours the derivative model, (2) individual rights of the human rights character derive from multilateral obligations, and investment law is not multilateral in that sense, and (3) the HICEE v Slovakia award explicitly adopts the derivative rights model. I will take the first and third argument together, first explaining my basic thesis to ensure that our arguments do not pass each other like two doomed ships in storm.

Investment law as progeny of three regimes of international law

My basic thesis is that investment protection law partly borrows and partly diverges from three different regimes of public international law (international human rights law, law of treaties on third parties, and inter-State law of diplomatic protection). Law-makers and adjudicators will conduct the debate within the broad contours of the following propositions. They will debate the appropriateness of analogies; the content of particular rules flowing from analogies; the appropriateness of the particular rules and other related rules; and the appropriateness of analogies reconstructed back from those rules, etc. It remains to be seen how the issue will develop, both in terms of State practice and arbitral decisions, and doctrinal evaluations. At the moment, each perspective seems to dominate particular aspects of the system without being excessively concerned about internal inconsistency. The pragmatic ‘without prejudice to the broader principle’ practice may continue, or a particular perspective may gain dominance, or one perspective could provide a starting point that is tweaked by introduction of special rules, possibly borrowed from other perspectives. To avoid any possible doubt, this is not an argument against delegated rights, but an argument that views delegated rights as only one of a number of plausible ways of articulating international law arguments about investment law. Read the rest of this entry…

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Interpreting Fair and Equitable Treatment within the Evolving Universe of Public International Law

Published on October 23, 2013        Author: 

Rob HowseRobert Howse is Professor of International Law at New York University Law School.

When a tribunal interprets a treaty it does so not in a vacuum or as an isolated decider, but as an adjudicator embedded in a large and dynamic universe of public international law—as Bruno Simma forcefully articulated in his separate opinion in Oil Platforms. Yet in recent years there have been decisions of investor-state tribunals, fortunately not in the mainstream but still much commented on, that adopt a much narrower, hide-bound approach to fair and equitable treatment, the most egregiously awful arguably being Glamis Gold v. United States, where the tribunal froze the meaning of fair and equitable treatment as the content of the standard of diplomatic protection of aliens in the early 20th century. By tracing the reciprocal influences flowing back and forth between investment treaty law and other areas of public international law, Martins Paparinksis’s article provides a good antidote to the misguided thinking behind rulings like Glamis. This thinking is based upon a number of assumptions. One is that investment treaties simply import through fair and equitable treatment a self-contained regime of diplomatic protection, rather than the fair and equitable treatment norm adapting concepts from diplomatic protection to a new context of investor protection, which operates not through espousal but direct access to dispute settlement by investors. Second is the strong presumption against customary law having evolved through the thickening jurisprudence of international and regional courts and tribunals. Third is the very notion that the law of diplomatic protection, or the minimum standard of treatment, is a kind of self-contained regime unaffected by developments in other areas of international law, whether human rights or, for example, various transparency and administrative fairness-type provisions in multilateral and regional economic treaties. All of these dubious assumptions are in effect challenged by Martins’ rich and textured analysis of the fair and equitable treatment standard within the large complex universe of public international law. As Martins shows, although some treaties may explicitly restrict the kind of normative material available for interpretation, in general the ambit is defined broadly, if one takes together Article 31 of the VCLT and Article 38 of the ICJ Statute. Because fair and equitable treatment is a treaty-based obligation, the normative material relevant to defining the standard need not itself have the status of custom. In any case, it is well established that in the modern universe of international law there is a dynamic interplay between custom, conventional law, even soft law. This reality makes the Glamis Gold approach seem particularly sterile or arid.

Also worth further thought in the context of Martins’ article is an issue he raised in his exchange with Anthea Roberts in the recent EJIL:Talk! discussion of his book:  I agree with Martins that one should not lightly have reference to municipal public law as a source for the content of fair and equitable treatment, certainly not as a ceiling. To ensure fair and equitable treatment of an investor it is not enough that a host state have laws on the books that appear to be consonant with public law in other states.  Evaluating the standard set by municipal public law would involve assessing not only the standard implicit or explicit in formal statutes but the actual workings of the system, in other words, administrative practice. Also, even between countries such as the US and Canada there are quite significant differences with respect to how administrative discretion is controlled by judicial review and other vital mechanisms.  The risk of going down the path that Roberts suggests is that the fair and equitable treatment standard could become the lowest common denominator of public law and administrative practice among a certain select group of states.  Another risk is that a host state might be considered to have discharged its state responsibility by having a working system of public law with certain formal guarantees, even if the investor is egregiously mistreated in the process. The fair and equitable treatment standard must, as the word treatment implies, be applicable not only to the laws of the host state, but also to the specific behavior of the host state towards the investor in question.  Just as with human rights law, investor protection ought to provide relief against exceptional abuses even within systems of law that are not formally deficient.  As Martins shows in his article, public international law as it is evolving in diverse areas provides adequately fertile normative material for an evolving international standard of fair and equitable treatment.

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