magnify

Grand Chamber Judgment in Al-Dulimi v. Switzerland

Published on June 23, 2016        Author: 

This week the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights delivered a major judgment in Al-Dulimi and Montana Managment Inc. v. Switzerland, no. 5809/08. This is the latest in a long and complex line of cases dealing with the negative human rights impact of sanctions mandated by the UN Security Council, raising inter alia the legal effects of the supremacy clause in Article 103 of the UN Charter. For background, see these two earlier posts on the Al-Jedda and Nada cases, and Anne Peters’ excellent post on the Chamber judgment in Al-Dulimi.

By 15 votes to 2 (judges Ziemele and Nussberger dissenting), the Grand Chamber found a violation of Article 6(1) ECHR, because Swiss courts did not provide meaningful judicial review of the applicants’ listing by the Sanctions Committee of the Security Council. The size of the majority belies the amount of disagreement among the judges; of the 15 judges in the majority, 6 concurred in the result but not in the reasoning – in other words, the line of reasoning that the Court ultimately followed was in fact adopted by the barest of majorities, 9 votes to 8.

So what did the Court decide? It essentially pushed to its very limits the presumption it established in Al-Jedda, para. 102, ‘that the Security Council does not intend to impose any obligation on member States to breach fundamental principles of human rights. In the event of any ambiguity in the terms of a United Nations Security Council resolution, the Court must therefore choose the interpretation which is most in harmony with the requirements of the Convention and which avoids any conflict of obligations. In the light of the United Nations’ important role in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights, it is to be expected that clear and explicit language would be used were the Security Council to intend States to take particular measures which would conflict with their obligations under international human rights law.

The Court held in Al-Dulimi that because the relevant SC resolutions did not exclude domestic judicial review expressis verbis, the resolutions, when properly interpreted, left the door open for such review, which was required by Article 6 of the Convention. However, that review would be relatively minimal, ensuring that the listing of the person in question was not arbitrary. In so doing, the Court avoided (yet again!) ruling on whether Article 103 of the Charter is capable of displacing the Convention in the first place, in case there is a genuine norm conflict. Here are the key paragraphs of the Court’s reasoning:

Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly
 

Arbitral Controls and Policing the Gates to Investment Treaty Claims against States in Transglobal Green Energy v. Panama and Philip Morris v. Australia

Published on June 22, 2016        Author: 

Investor-State arbitral tribunals are increasingly policing the gates to investment treaty claims against States. The initiation of investment treaty claims against States remains subject to a high threshold of good faith against possible abuse of process by investors, as recently stressed by arbitrators Dr. Andres Rigo Sureda (President), Professor Christoph Schreuer, and Professor Jan Paulsson, in their 2 June 2016 Award in Transglobal Green Energy LLC and Transglobal Green Panama S.A. v. Republic of Panama. The Tribunal upheld Panama’s objection to jurisdiction on the ground of “abuse by Claimants of the investment treaty system by attempting to create artificial international jurisdiction over a pre-existing domestic dispute.” (Transglobal Award, para. 118). The Transglobal Award was issued six months after another tribunal in Philip Morris International v. Australia [composed of arbitrators Professor Karl-Heinz Böckstiegel (President), Professor Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler, and Professor Donald M. McRae] issued its landmark 17 December 2015 Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility, declaring that: “the commencement of treaty-based investor-State arbitration constitutes an abuse of right (or abuse of process) when an investor has changed its corporate structure to gain the protection of an investment treaty at a point in time where a dispute was foreseeable. A dispute is foreseeable when there is a reasonable prospect that a measure that may give rise to a treaty claim will materialize.” (Philip Morris Award, para. 585.) While to date there is scarcely any doctrinal unanimity over what comprises abuse of process, abuse of rights, or bad faith institution of investor-State claims [see for example Eric De Brabandere, Good Faith, Abuse of Process, and the Initiation of Investment Treaty Claims, 3 Journal of International Dispute Settlement 3, pp. 1-28 (2012), these recent arbitral decisions provide concrete guidance of factors that tribunals have taken into account to determine whether investor-claimants instituted investment treaty arbitration proceedings in good faith.

Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly
 

Protecting Public Welfare Regulation Through Joint Treaty Party Control: A ChAFTA Innovation

Published on June 21, 2016        Author: 

Anthea%20Roberts%20PhotoIf countries wish to protect legitimate and non-discriminatory public welfare regulation from investor-state claims, what options do they have? This post highlights an innovative feature in the recent China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) that goes well beyond existing safeguards for protecting the regulatory autonomy of states by providing a mechanism for joint treaty party control. In doing so, ChAFTA evidences a new and controversial step in efforts to recalibrate interpretive authority between arbitral tribunals and the treaty parties acting collectively.

Richard BraddockNewer-style investment treaties often seek to protect countries’ regulatory autonomy by reaffirming the importance of public welfare regulation in the preamble; refining and clarifying core investment protections; and sometimes including general exceptions clauses. These approaches are useful but have limits. Preambular provisions are non-binding. Substantive clauses are binding, but states may not wish to allow arbitral tribunals to second-guess the permissibility of sensitive public welfare measures. Even if respondent states ultimately prevail, they are likely to expend considerable resources in time and money in defending claims.

Faced with these concerns, China and Australia broke new ground in ChAFTA by including a mechanism that protects public welfare measures through joint treaty party control. ChAFTA provides that, “Measures of a Party that are non-discriminatory and for the legitimate public welfare objectives of public health, safety, the environment, public morals or public order shall not be the subject of a claim” by an investor (Article 9.11.4). If an investor challenges a regulatory measure, the respondent state is permitted to issue a “public welfare notice” specifying why it believes that the measure falls within this exception. The arbitration proceedings are then suspended and a 90-day consultation period with the other treaty party is triggered (Article 9.11.5-9.11.6).

If the treaty parties agree that the challenged measure fits within the scope of the carve-out, the decision is binding on any investor-state tribunal and any decision or award issued by such a tribunal must be consistent with that decision (Article 9.18.3). Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly
 
Tags:

Announcements: PluriCourts Conference; ASIL and Yale Call for Abstracts; Maastricht University Essay Competition; Human Rights in the MENA Region

Published on June 19, 2016        Author: 

PluriCourts Conference on Adjudicating International Trade and Investment Disputes. The PluriCourts Centre of Excellence at the University of Oslo will host a two day conference on “Adjudicating International Trade and Investment Disputes: Between Interaction and Isolation” on Thursday and Friday, 25-26 August 2016. This conference will focus on the relationship, interactions and comparisons between the international trade and investment regimes in the context of adjudication of disputes. The conference will present research from the disciplines of law and political science relating to three themes: 1) the new mega-regionals; 2) comparisons and practices; and 3) cross-fertilization and learning. The final programme and registration information is available here. For more information, please contact Daniel Behn, PluriCourts (d.f.behn {at} jus.uio(.)no).

American Society of International Law and Yale Law School Call for Abstracts. The American Society of International Law’s Dispute Resolution Interest Group and Yale Law School’s Center for Private Law are hosting a workshop for junior scholars. The workshop will be a safe space in which aspiring academics, post-docs, doctoral students, fellows, VAPs, other non-tenure-track academics, and pre-tenure professors can get feedback through group discussion on academic works in progress in international dispute resolution. The workshop will be held at Yale Law School on the afternoon of Friday 28 October 2016. We are unfortunately unable to fund travel but will host a dinner in the evening. 500-700 word abstracts may be submitted by midnight Eastern Time, 15 July 2016. Any topic related to international dispute resolution will be considered. Submissions must be works in progress and should not have been submitted for publication. More details are available here.

Maastricht University Essay Competition. The deadline for this essay competition on the sovereignty dispute over the Falklands (Malvinas), organised by Maastricht University is 30 July 2016. The competition is open to bachelor’s and master’s students of universities from the EU and EFTA, and offers very attractive awards. For further information see here.

BIICL Event on Human Rights in the MENA Region. On Wednesday 13 July 2016, the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) will hold an event titled “Human Rights in the MENA Region”. This event will discuss the implementation of international human rights law within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, with an emphasis on the norms that protect education. Speakers will discuss the role and implementation of international human rights law within MENA in general, the interaction between Islamic law and international human rights law, the implementation of legal norms protecting education within certain MENA States (Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon) and the protection and provision of education in response to the Syrian conflict. Details of this event and how to register can be found here.

Print Friendly
Filed under: Announcements and Events
 

Belgium’s Article 51 Letter to the Security Council [UPDATED]

Published on June 17, 2016        Author: 

On 7 June, the government of Belgium sent an Article 51 letter to the President of the Security Council, justifying its military action on the territory of Syria against ISIS by way of collective self-defense. The ODS link to the letter is here (S/2016/523), and here is the key paragraph articulating Belgium’s legal position:

ISIL has occupied a certain part of Syrian territory over which the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic does not, at this time, exercise effective control. In the light of this exceptional situation, States that have been subjected to armed attack by ISIL originating in that part of the Syrian territory are therefore justified under Article 51 of the Charter to take necessary measures of self-defence. Exercising the right of collective self-defence, Belgium will support the military measures of those States that have been subjected to attacks by ISIL. Those measures are directed against the so-called “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant” and not against the Syrian Arab Republic.

Interestingly, this paragraph is taken almost word-for-word from the letter Germany had sent to the Council on 10 December 2015, S/2015/946:

ISIL has occupied a certain part of Syrian territory over which the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic does not at this time exercise effective control. States that have been subjected to armed attack by ISIL originating in this part of Syrian territory, are therefore justified under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations to take necessary measures of self-defence, even without the consent of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic. Exercising the right of collective self-defence, Germany will now support the military measures of those States that have been subjected to attacks by ISIL.

Note, however, some of the differences: Belgium calls this an exceptional situation, somewhat diplomatically removes the reference to the lack of any need for Syria’s consent, even though that’s implicit in its invocation of Article 51, and adds a sentence saying that measures taken in self-defence are directed at ISIS rather than against Syria (even if Belgian airplanes are flying in Syrian airspace and discharging weaponry on Syrian territory without its consent). Both Germany and Belgium endorse a position whereby action against a non-state actor operating from the territory of another state is permitted without that state’s consent if the state lost effective control over the relevant area – this is very close to, but not necessarily exactly the same thing, as the ‘unwilling and unable’ test.

UPDATE: Many thanks to everyone contributing in the comments. I’d say that perhaps the most valuable lesson to be learned from this discussion is how all of these states are strategically using ambiguity in their various letters to the Council. They know perfectly well that the formulations that they have chosen are open to several possible interpretations, and they were deliberately chosen precisely with that in mind – not simply as a matter of diplomacy, but in order to create legal cover for what they want to do today while keeping their options open for the future. Nothing less could be expected, of course, when we bear in mind that the Council’s ISIS resolution 2249 is itself a masterful example of such a use of ambiguity. But ambiguity of this kind is also obviously detrimental when it comes to solidifying a clear position with regard to self-defence against non-state actors on the basis of state (and UNSC) practice.

In that regard, a kind reader also let me know that Norway has also sent a letter to the Council, dated 3 June, S/2016/513. The three key paragraphs are quoted below the fold – note how simply wonderful Norway is in saying nothing, beyond simply stating that it is exercising the right to collective self-defence without directing its actions against Syria.

Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly
 

Three New ICJ Cases Filed, Including Iran v. United States

Published on June 16, 2016        Author: 

In some ten days the International Court of Justice got three new cases on its docket. First, on 6 June Chile instituted proceedings against Bolivia with regard to a dispute concerning the status and use of the waters of the “Silala River system.” The jurisdictional basis of the case is the compromissory clause in the Pact of Bogota, and the cases raises issues of international watercourses and environmental law.

Second, on 14 June Equatorial Guinea instituted proceedings against France with regard to the immunity from criminal jurisdiction of its Second Vice-President in charge of State Defence and Security, and the legal status of the building which houses its Embassy in France. The Guinean Vice-President is under investigation for corruption offences by French authorities, on the basis that he invested the proceeds of that corruption in France. French prosecutorial and judicial authorities have held that he has no claim to immunity. The building in question was first bought by the Vice-President and then sold by him to the Guinean Embassy; French authorities assert that it is not protected by immunity since it was bought out of the proceeds of the offences for the which the Vice-President in being prosecuted for, and is not part of the diplomatic mission. The jurisdictional basis for the case is the compromissory clauses in the protocol to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

Finally, yesterday Iran instituted proceedings against the United States in a dispute concerning alleged violations of the 1955 Treaty of Amity, and on the basis of the compromissory clause in that Treaty. The case essentially concerns the alleged US failure to respect the immunity of the Iranian Central Bank/Bank Markazi and other Iranian entities, as well as other rights conferred by the Treaty (the Court will not have jurisdiction for violations of customary international law directly, but only insofar as these rules are referred to or assist in the interpretation of the provisions of the Treaty). Enforcement proceedings have been brought in the US against these Iranian entities for Iran’s involvement in terrorist activities; see more on the whole affair the previous post by Victor Grandaubert.

Print Friendly
 

Back to the Lawless Jungle? The Vulnerability of EU Anti-Dumping Measures against China after December 2016

Published on June 15, 2016        Author: 

In a previous post, I argued that the European Union would violate its WTO obligations under the WTO Anti-Dumping Agreement (ADA) if EU anti-dumping investigators will continue to apply ‘non-market economy’ (NME) treatment of Chinese exports in AD investigations under the EU Anti-Dumping Regulation (ADR) after December 11, 2016. It is on that day that Art.15(a)(ii) of China’s Accession Protocol (CAP) expires. Until that date, Art.15(a)(ii) provides WTO members with the right to use non-standard price comparison methodologies to determine whether and to what extent Chinese exports have been ‘dumped’ onto a third country market. The provision has served as a legal basis for a highly effective trade defense remedy that allows for the imposition of extraordinarily steep anti-dumping duties against Chinese exports, and Chinese exports of steel products and solar panels in particular. After the expiration of the said provision, the adoption of EU AD measures against China that are based on the use of non-standard price and cost comparison methodologies will be highly vulnerable to legal challenge in WTO Dispute Settlement (DS) proceedings in Geneva. This conclusion, however, does not prejudge the legality of AD measures that the EU has (or will have) adopted against Chinese producers prior to the December deadline. The question about the post-2016 legality of already existing EU AD measures that are “not based on a strict comparison with domestic prices or costs in China” (Art.15(a)(ii) CAP), is particularly relevant in context of the rising amount of new EU AD measures and investigations against Chinese producers of steel and solar panels that the EU has imposed and initiated in the last 18 months. It is this very question that is subject to analysis in this post.

Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly
 

UN Human Rights Committee Finds that Ireland’s Abortion Ban Violates the ICCPR

Published on June 13, 2016        Author: 

Last week the UN Human Rights Committee delivered an important decision in Mellet v. Ireland, finding that, as applied to the claimant, the Irish ban on abortion violated several articles of the ICCPR. This was because the ban extended even to pregnancies, like the claimant’s, where the foetus was diagnosed with a fatal abnormality, so that it would either die in utero or shortly after delivery. The claimant was thus forced by Irish law to choose between carrying the baby to term, knowing that it would inevitably die in her womb or immediately after birth, or having to travel to the UK to get an abortion. The claimant chose the latter option, at great personal expense and with a lot of pain and indignity along the way, including having the ashes of her baby unexpectedly delivered to her by courier a few weeks after the abortion.

The Committee was unanimous on the bottom line of the case, which is that the abortion ban, as applied to the claimant, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in violation of Article 7 of the Covenant, as well as a violation of her right to privacy under Article 17 of the Covenant. While the reasoning of the Committee is at times laconic (as is unfortunately the norm with its views), the basic idea behind the decision was essentially that even if the claimant’s rights were subject to an implicit or explicit balancing exercise, in light of the fact that her unborn child would inevitably die there was nothing to balance with the intrusions into her own interests. In other words, Irish law forced her to endure significant suffering for no real purpose, since the unborn child would die anyway.

The Committee’s views in this case are thus confined to its specific circumstances; it has not created a right to abortion on demand or asked Ireland to liberalize access to abortion fully, but to (at the very least) create an exception to its ban that would accommodate women in the claimant’s situation. The main problem here is that the Irish abortion ban stems from a constitutional provision, which was interpreted by the Irish Supreme Court as only allowing for an exception if there is real risk to the life, but not to the health, of the mother. Ireland can thus comply with the Committee’s recommendation only if the Supreme Court revisits the issue and carves out another exception, or if the Constitution itself is amended, which requires a popular referendum. In other words, this is one of those rare cases where domestic constitutional provisions as authoritatively interpreted by domestic courts are themselves violative of international human rights law; this does not change anything as a matter of international law, but clearly it creates specific political challenges for compliance (cf. the Sejdic and Finci judgment of the Strasbourg Court). See more on this point in this post by Fiona de Londras on the Human Rights in Ireland blog; this post by Mairead Enright has more analysis of the Committee’s decision.

Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly
 

Announcements: Vacancies for PIL Assistant Professors; Disaster Law Essay Contest; Society of International Economic Law Conference; Second Annual Lecture of the Human Rights Centre; Intensive Course on Social Rights; BIICL Brexit Event; BIICL Senior Research Fellow Vacancy

Published on June 12, 2016        Author: 
1. Leiden University Vacancies for PIL Assistant Professors. The Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies at The University of Leiden has two full-time vacancies for assistant professors in Public International Law. Further details can be found here and here. The application deadline is 21 June 2016.

2. Disaster Law Essay Contest. This annual contest is co-sponsored by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the American Society of International Law Disaster Law Interest Group (ASIL DLIG), and the International Disaster Law Project (IDL) of the Universities of Bologna, Pisa Sant’Anna, Roma Tre and Uninettuno. The contest is open to students enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program (as an LL.M. or PhD candidate) at any university at the time of submission. Essays may examine any issue related to law and disasters, but must do so either from a comparative or an international law perspective, or both. Submissions may range from 5,000 to 10,000 words. The deadline for submissions is 31 August 2016. For further info see here.

3. The Society of International Economic Law Conference. The Society of International Economic Law (SIEL) is organising its fifth Biennial Global Conference – International Economic Law in a Diverse World – on 7-9 July 2016 at the University of Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, South Africa. In addition to 24 panel sessions, poster presentations and a roundtable discussion, the Conference programme includes three keynote addresses: (1) Prof James Thuo Gathii “Africa and the Disciplines of International Economic Law: Taking Stock and Moving Forward”; (2) Prof Donald McRae “International Trade Law and International Investment Law: Sub-sets of International Law or Self-contained Regime?”; and (3) Prof Laurence Boisson de Chazournes “Dispute Settlement in a Diverse World”. The current (draft) programme is available here. To register for the conference see here. Current registration rates will only be in effect until 15 June.

Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly
Filed under: Announcements and Events
 

Honour for Professor Colin Warbrick

Published on June 11, 2016        Author: 

I am delighted to note that Professor Colin Warbrick, Emeritus Professor at the University of Birmingham and longtime Professor of International Law at the University of Durham has been appointed in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list as “Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George” (see here). So from now he is Professor Colin Warbrick CMG.Prof-Colin-Warbrick

For all who know Colin and who know his work, this appointment will immediately be recognised as a well deserved honour. Awards in the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George are for service rendered internationally or in a foreign country and in Colin’s case, he is appointed CMG “for services to international law”. Those services to international law are indeed considerable. He has written on a wide range of areas of international law with some of his best known and most influential work dealing with issues of statehood and recognition, the application of international law in domestic law, and human rights law. He is a co-author of Harris, O’Boyle and Warbrick, The Law of the European Convention on Human Rights (OUP) now in its 3rd edition. For many years he was editor of the “Current Developments: Public International Law” section of the International and Comparative Law Quarterly, contributing many insightful pieces himself to that section.  He is also a member of the editorial committee of the British Yearbook of International Law and has had joint responsibility for the “United Kingdom Materials on International Law 2013” section of the Yearbook for quite some years. In those roles in the ICLQ and the BYIL Colin has done more than most to bring to light the reality of how international law works and develops, as well as to subject the big issues of the day to powerful international legal analysis. In addition to his scholarship, Colin has also acted as a consultant to international organizations like the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and was a specialist adviser to the Select Committee on the Constitution of the House of Lords. Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly
Filed under: Announcements and Events