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Home Archive for category "State Responsibility" (Page 6)

Better Get A Lawyer: Are Legal Constraints Defeating Britain’s Armed Forces on the Battlefield?

Published on October 25, 2013        Author: 

Aurel SariAurel Sari is a Lecturer in Law at the University of Exeter and an affiliated member of its Strategy and Security Institute.

Last Friday, the Policy Exchange, a British think tank dedicated to the development and promotion of new policy ideas, published a Report entitled ‘The Fog of Law: An Introduction to the Legal Erosion of British Fighting Power’. The Report makes fascinating reading and deserves serious attention. Written by Thomas Tugendhat and Laura Croft, its aim is to explain how the cumulative effect of legal developments taking place over the past decade has undermined the ability of Britain’s armed forces to operate effectively on the battlefield. The Report questions the desirability of what it calls ‘legal mission creep’ and offers seven policy recommendations designed to reverse it or at least arrest its future development.

Undermining the warfighting ethos

Flexibility, initiative and the acceptance of risk and responsibility are central to British military doctrine. As the British Defence Doctrine puts it, one of the key components of the ‘British way of war’ is ‘a style of command that promotes decentralised command, freedom and speed of action and initiative’. ‘The Fog of Law’ brings together a considerable body of examples to suggests that the growing legal regulation and civilian oversight of the armed forces—in particular the spread of inquiries, the extension of civilian duty of care standards and the constant threat of litigation—have begun to undermine the warfighting ethos of the military and restrict commanders’ freedom to act. A series of legal developments have contributed to this change. However, Tugendhat and Croft direct their fiercest criticism against the European Convention on Human Rights, which they describe as the ‘main weapon used in the legal challenge against the [UK Ministry of Defence]’ (p. 17). In their view, the extension of ‘a civilian understanding of duty of care and rights guaranteed by the ECHR’ to combat operations represents a ‘legal intrusion into decisions made in a time of war’ (p. 28).

It is important to stress that ‘The Fog of Law’ does not advocate the complete exemption of the armed forces from the rule of law. The Report makes abundantly clear Tugendhat and Croft’s view that the problem is not the imposition of legal constraints on the armed forces as such, but the extension of civilian law to the military. Indeed, their entire discussion seems to be predicated on an underlying assumption that civilian law and military law are distinct normative regimes and that their respective spheres of application can, and should, be neatly separated from one another. Civilian law and oversight are thus depicted as alien forces which ‘intrude’, ‘assault’ and ‘intervene’ into the military sphere, ‘encircling’ it and ‘encroaching’ upon its autonomy. This is the stuff of high drama, but the accuracy of the picture painted is open to question. The assumption that there is law for civilians and law for the military seems to mistake both the nature of the problem and its solution. Read the rest of this entry…

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Syria and the Semantics of Intervention, Aggression and Punishment

Published on September 19, 2013        Author: 

untitledCarsten Stahn is Professor of International Criminal Law and Global Justice and Programme Director, Grotius Centre of International Legal Studies, University of Leiden

As I have tried to argue in a draft paper to be published in  the Journal of International Criminal Justice (Vol. 11, Issue 5) one of the most striking features of discussion concerning the legality of strikes against Syria has been the mixture of semantics relating to intervention. The justification of intervention in Syria has been replete with references to notions of accountability, deterrence and punishment. For example, US Secretary of State John Kerry linked the moral legitimacy of the proposed response to the idea that ‘there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people’.  Also, the United Kingdom Legal Memorandum speaks of the objective of ‘deterring or disrupting the further use of chemical weapons’. Section 2 of the Resolution of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee invokes three rationales of the authorization of military intervention: (i) ‘respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction by the Syrian government’; (ii) ‘deter Syria’s use of such weapons’; and1 ‘degrade Syria’s capacity to use such weapons in the future’.

This language associates military intervention with notions of ‘retribution’ and  ‘punishment’. The justification seems to be predominantly linked to the ‘gravity’ of the violation. The Obama Administration has translated this imagery into the notion of the ‘red line’. The  metaphor seems to suggest that such a breach of international law is so severe that it cannot be tolerated by the international community and warrants a repressive response. The concept that certain acts might trigger international responsibility and are of concern to the ‘international community as a whole’ is of course well-known (ICJ,  Barcelona Traction) and reflected in the ILC Draft Articles of State Responsibility (Art. 48).

The use of chemical weapons against civilians is both a violation of customary law and an international crime (UK Legal Memorandum, para 2).  But the consequence of this approach, i.e., the idea to ‘punish’ a regime for unlawful action under jus in bello through resort to the use of force, is highly controversial. There are other competing, and at least similarly important ‘red lines’ that require respect, i.e., Articles 2 (1) and (4) of the UN Charter, the prohibition of aggression and the viability of the collective security system, as argued by others.

The policy case in favor of intervention mixes two levels of discussions that have been separated in past decades: state responsibility for an international wrongful act, and individual criminal responsibility for international crimes. The idea that another state (rather than individuals) might be ‘punished’ has been banished from contemporary international law, in contexts such as sanctions, the ban on reprisals against civilians or the prohibition of collective punishment in international criminal law (e.g., Article 4, paragraph 2(b), of Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions), since it has an indiscriminate effect. The current discourse on intervention appears to re-open this principle. Read the rest of this entry…

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Dutch Supreme Court Affirms that Dutchbat Acted Unlawfully in Srebrenica

Published on September 8, 2013        Author: 

Tom Dannenbaum is a Visiting Lecturer in Law and Robina Foundation Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School and a PhD candidate at Princeton University.

In a couple of posts in 2011, I discussed two nearly identical Hague Court of Appeal judgments on the liability of the Netherlands for the actions of Dutchbat at Srebrenica (see here and here). On Friday, the Dutch Supreme Court upheld both of those judgments. In what follows I’ll reference the Nuhanović decision.

The judgments are important on their own terms, but they are also significant in their implications for the Mothers of Srebrenica litigation against the Netherlands, particularly following the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights this summer upholding the Dutch courts’ acceptance of UN immunity in that context. Coincidentally, Dapo and Manuel Ventura posted on the ECtHR’s decision in Mothers of Srebrenica within minutes of the Dutch Supreme Court’s Nuhanović judgment. I connect back to their post below.

The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal’s strong approach to dual attribution, holding that it was possible that both the Netherlands and the UN had effective control over the same wrongful conduct and that attributing the conduct to the Netherlands did not in any way determine whether the UN also had effective control (such that it, too, could be attributed with the wrongdoing). (para 3.11.2). Relatedly, the Court also affirmed the power-to-prevent standard discussed in the second of my earlier posts (paras 3.11.3, 3.12.2, 3.12.3). I have advocated this standard at greater length elsewhere (here and here).

The aspect of Friday’s judgment that did the most work in going beyond the reasoning of the Court of Appeal was the Supreme Court’s discussion of extraterritoriality. It elaborated on two points in this respect (acknowledging explicitly that its discussion on this amounted to obiter dictum).

Read the rest of this entry…

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Mothers of Srebrenica: The Obligation to Prevent Genocide and Jus Cogens – Implications for Humanitarian Intervention

Published on September 6, 2013        Author: 

Manuel J. Ventura is a Director of The Peace and Justice Initiative and Dapo Akande is editor of EJIL:Talk!

The June 2013 decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Stichting Mothers of Srebrenica and Others v. The Netherlands is the latest phase in the attempts by the relatives of those killed in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina to hold the UN (and/or The Netherlands) responsible for the inaction of the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) – made up of Dutch peacekeepers – who stood aside while Srebrenica was overrun in July 1995. The subsequent events at the Srebrenica ‘safe area’ and the deaths of between 7,000-8,000 persons are by now well known. In the underlying proceedings in the Dutch Courts, the complainants did not seek to hold the UN responsible for the commission of genocide, but rather for the failure, in the applicant’s view, of the UN’s duty to prevent genocide. The Dutch courts held that the UN had immunity from domestic suit, even in the face of violations of jus cogens norms. The ECtHR agreed with the Dutch rulings on the immunity of the UN. It followed the ICJ’s holding in Jurisdictional Immunities of the State (Germany v. Italy; Greece Intervening) that ‘[i]nternational law does not support the position that a civil claim should override immunity from suit for the sole reason that it is based on an allegation of a particularly grave violation of a norm of international law, even a norm of ius cogens’ [para. 158, ECtHR decision]. It also held that the recognition of immunity does not ipso facto constitute a violation of the right of access to a court [para. 164]. As a result, the ECtHR concluded that ‘the grant of immunity to the UN served a legitimate purpose and was not disproportionate.’ [para. 169]

However, the decisions of the Dutch courts and the ECtHR are unsatisfactory in one respect. They all ignore an important issue: the exact status of the obligation to prevent genocide in international law. These courts simply assumed that just as the obligation not to commit genocide is a rule of jus cogens, the obligation to prevent genocide is also a norm of jus cogens. The ECtHR simply stated (at para. 157) that: “The Court has recognised the prohibition of genocide as a rule of ius cogens  . . .” However to suggest that a jus cogens norm is involved simply because the prohibition of genocide is a jus cogens norm is a big legal leap that simply cannot be assumed. Otherwise we simply have jus cogens by association! To come to that conclusion, careful analysis was required as it is a proposition that is not at all clear from international law as it presently stands. Read the rest of this entry…

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Immunity ratione materiae from extradition proceedings: A rejoinder to Thiago Braz Jardim Oliveira

Published on September 5, 2013        Author: 

Roger O’Keefe is University Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director of the Lauterpacht Research Centre for International Law, University of Cambridge.

Before I engage with the substance of Thiago Braz Jardim Oliveira’s excellent reply to my British Yearbook of International Law casenote and Oxford talk (available here) on the Khurts Bat case, I would like to thank him for bringing both to the attention of a far wider audience than they have likely enjoyed until now. We all spend ages working on these things while others are stopping to smell the flowers, often only for the fruits of our labours to lie unread or unheard by all bar those on whom we pull a weapon. So muito obrigado, Thiago.

By way of rejoinder to what Thiago says, I will make only a few brief points.

Any proceedings before a court are by definition judicial proceedings, whether or not they involve the adjudication of the legality of given acts. In those legal systems where a request for extradition is dealt with, at least at a preliminary stage, by a court (and I have always laboured under the belief that this was what made extradition ‘extradition’, as opposed to mere executive surrender of custody), extradition involves judicial proceedings. Where extradition involves judicial proceedings, these proceedings are of a criminal character—that is, they are heard by a criminal court, often in the form of a magistrate, rather than by a civil or administrative court. In short, extradition proceedings, where they take place, are criminal proceedings.

The fact that extradition may not involve judicial proceedings in every legal system (although, again, I had always thought that judicial involvement was the touchstone of extradition) does not mean that international law should not take those extradition proceedings that do occur for what they are, namely judicial proceedings, specifically criminal proceedings. In other words, with respect to states where extradition proceedings do take place, it stands to reason that international law should regulate the availability of those same procedural immunities whose availability it regulates in the context of other criminal proceedings. Read the rest of this entry…

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Foreign State Officials Do Not Enjoy Immunity Ratione Materiae from Extradition Proceedings: The Not So Curious Case of Khurts Bat – A reply to Dr. Roger O’Keefe

Published on September 4, 2013        Author: 

ThiagoThiago Braz Jardim Oliveira is a teaching assistant at the Faculty of Law of the University of Geneva and a PhD candidate at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.

On November 15th of last year, Dr. Roger O’Keefe (Cambridge University) gave a very interesting talk at Oxford University titled “Immunities and Extradition: The Curious Case of Khurts Bat”. I was not there, but benefitted from Oxford University’s excellent podcast system (podcast of talk available here). As Dr. O’Keefe explained, the talk developed views he had already expressed in a case note he had written for the British Yearbook of International Law. The case in question was Khurts Bat v Investigating Judge of the German Federal Court, [2011] EWHC 2029 (Admin). The case involved a request by Germany for the extradition, from the UK, of Mr Khurts Bat, head of the Office of National Security of Mongolia. He was sought on account of crimes he supposedly committed in Germany, particularly the kidnapping, imprisonment and questioning of a Mongolian national. In the extradition proceedings before the English court, Mongolia attempted to prevent the extradition of her official by invoking two types of immunity, both of which failed. First, Mongolia relied on personal/ status immunity or immunity ratione personae on the basis that defendant was said to be a member of a Special Mission sent by Mongolia to the UK and also by virtue of Mr. Bat’s position as “a very senior governmental officer.” Secondly Mongolia relied on subject-matter immunity or immunity ratione materiae, arguing that the acts in respect of which Khurts Bat was accused in Germany were committed on behalf of Mongolia.

It had been asserted before the English court that “[Mr. Khurts Bat was] entitled to immunity from criminal prosecution in Germany ratione materiae” (ibid., para. 63). Dr. O’Keefe considered this argument to be “wholly illogical”. For him, to focus on whether the defendant was immune, as a matter of international law, from the courts of the requesting State (Germany), as opposed to from the jurisdiction of the English courts was plainly wrong. The point was crucial because the court eventually held that, under international law, there was no immunity ratione materiae from the jurisdiction of a State with respect to acts done in that State. Since the acts were done in Germany and the English court considered immunity from German jurisdiction, it was held that Mr Khurts Bat did not benefit from immunity ratione materiae. As I explain below, I think the English court was right to treat the question as one relating to immunity from German jurisdiction and not from English jurisdiction. Read the rest of this entry…

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Iran’s (Non-)Compliance with its Non-Proliferation Obligations Revisited

Published on June 22, 2013        Author: 

A recent statement issued by the EU entitled ‘Common messages regarding EU sanctions against the Iranian nuclear programme’, posted on the websites of various EU embassies in Tehran (and translated into Farsi), attempts to sum up the reasons which have allegedly justified not only the sanctions on Iran decided by the UN Security Council, but also those adopted by the EU itself, which, as the document make clear, are ‘autonomous sanctions, beyond the ones imposed on Iran by UNSC Resolutions’. However, the recent EU statement, like others making allegations against Iran with respect to its nuclear programme, is vague and imprecise in terms of content of the obligations allegedly breached by Iran. It states that ‘[s]anctions are a response to Iran’s violations of its international obligations’, but it fails to give a precise indication of exactly what obligations would have been breached. In fact, it is noteworthy that the statement limits itself to pointing to the violation by Iran ‘of several resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and IAEA Board of Governors resolutions’, and does not state explicitly that Iran would have breached either its Safeguards agreement with the IAEA, or the NPT itself (which mandates in its Article III the implementation of such safeguards). I have shown previously (here and here on EJIL:Talk!) that it is very dubious that EU sanctions on Iran agreed in 2012, including the comprehensive oil and gas embargo and the freezing of assets of the Iranian central bank, actually comply with both procedural and substantive conditions applicable to countermeasures under the 2001 ILC Articles on State Responsibility.

The purpose of this post is to make two further points. First, the IAEA, in making findings (in Sept 2005) of non-compliance by Iran, has not applied properly applicable rules (both procedural and substantive) in its assessment of Iran’s conduct with respect to its obligations under Iran’s NPT Safeguards Agreement’ (CSA). This implies that the legal validity of such finding is, to say the least, very doubtful.

Second, an authoritative legal determination of the issue of Iranian compliance (or non-compliance) with the obligations assumed under the CSA, or a pronouncement on the existence and the materiality of a breach by Iran (in the meaning of ‘material breach’ under Article 60 of the Vienna Conventions) of the latter, has not yet been made and would indeed require the involvement of the ICJ or of an arbitral tribunal. Read the rest of this entry…

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A Shared Responsibility Trap: Supplying Weapons to the Syrian Opposition

Published on June 17, 2013        Author: 
Syran Opposition Flag (Source: Wikipedia)

Syrian Opposition Flag (Wikipedia)

Cross-posted at the SHARES Blog

In the last few weeks, a shared responsibility trap has arisen in relation to the conflict in Syria. On 4 June 2013, the Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic documented that anti-government forces have engaged in a wide range of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. At the same time, several States are inching towards openly supplying the Syrian opposition with arms. On 27 May, the Council of Ministers of the European Union decided not to renew the arms embargo against Syria. On 14 June, the United States announced that it plans to provide weapons in response to its finding that Syria has used chemical weapons.

 States that are now considering supplying weapons to the opposition forces in Syria run a risk of falling into a shared responsibility trap. They may have noble motives in seeking to save the population from atrocities. They may even consider that they should act in the spirit of the responsibility to protect, and should exercise a shared responsibility to protect individuals against the Assad regime. But there is a twist to such noble aims. States that provide weapons to the opposition will eventually share the responsibility for whatever the opposition does with those weapons. Read the rest of this entry…

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Sharing Responsibility for UN Targeted Sanctions

Published on February 14, 2013        Author: 

Cross-posted from the SHARES Blog

UN targeted sanctions, especially those related to terrorism, have had their fair share of the limelight lately, particularly in view of important decisions by the ECJ, the ECtHR, the UK Supreme Court and others in cases such as KadiNada, and Ahmed. Here, I try to look at this jurisprudence through the lens of the project on shared responsibility (SHARES). After introducing the relevant sanctions regime, I argue that the complex conduct of the UN and its member-states in designing, imposing, and implementing the sanctions leads to them sharing international responsibility for the resulting breach of aspects of the internationally protected right to a fair trial. This is so because states are ‘held responsible’ in their own domestic courts or in regional international courts, which then forces them to turn to the UN and seek to implement the organisation’s international responsibility. In this manner, the international responsibility for what is in effect ‘shared’ conduct is itself shared, in practice. Read the rest of this entry…

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Iceland not responsible for the liabilities of its deposit insurance scheme

Published on January 28, 2013        Author: 

In a landmark decision, the EFTA Court on 28 January 2013 dismissed all claims brought by the EFTA Surveillance Authority against Iceland in the Icesave case. The Authority had alleged that Iceland had breached its obligations under Directive 94/14/EC on deposit guarantee by failing to compensate Icesave depositors and had violated the prohibition on non-discrimination in the Directive and Article 4 of the EEA Agreement by prioritising payments to domestic savers. The court, referring to the collapse of the Icelandic banking system as an “enormous event” (para. 161), found that Iceland was not responsible for the liabilities of the Icelandic deposit insurance scheme that was overwhelmed with claims following the collapse of Iceland’s three major banks.

Icesave refers to two branches of the Icelandic bank Landsbanki that accepted deposits offering comparatively high interest rates in the UK and the Netherlands. Deposits in these branches were primarily the responsibility of the Icelandic Depositors’ and Investors’ Guarantee Fund (TIF). Following the wholesale collapse of Iceland’s banking system in October 2008, savers in the UK and the Netherlands lost access to their deposits on 6 October 2008. The Icelandic Parliament adopted emergency legislation on the same day to split Landsbanki into a good and a bad bank. By virtue of the same legislation, it gave priority to depositors as compared to other creditors (for further background on the Icesave dispute, including the unsuccessful negotiations between Iceland and the UK/Netherlands, see my ASIL Insight Iceland’s Financial Crisis – Quo Vadis International Law).

Read the rest of this entry…

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