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Remote Attack and the Law

Published on November 7, 2012        Author: 

Dr William BOOTHBY Dr Bill Boothby, the former Deputy Director of Legal Services for the Royal Air Force, published through OUP his doctoral thesis on Weapons and the Law of Armed Conflict in 2009; he has now published his second book, again through OUP, on The Law of Targeting.

This post looks at three modern forms of distance attack, by autonomous unmanned platforms, by cyber means and in outer space, and asks whether they challenge, or are challenged by, contemporary law.  It concludes that in any challenge the law is likely to prevail, and suggests the extent to which, and conditions on which, such novel and increasingly controversial technologies may indeed prove to be legally compliant.

On 29 November 2011, The Guardian, discussing US drone strikes in Pakistan, asserted that the US military makes deadly mistakes all the time.  Al Jazeera has reported that during the period May 2011 to March 2012 about 500 people, many of them civilians, were killed in US drone strikes to push Al Qaeda from the Arabian Peninsula.  And yet, CNN recently reported New America Foundation research showing a markedly reduced civilian proportion of casualties in US drone strikes in Pakistan (from about 50 percent in 2008 to close to zero) which the researchers attribute inter alia to a presidential directive to tighten up target selection, the use of smaller munitions, longer linger periods over targets and congressional oversight.

So is new technology challenging the law, or is it the other way round?

There is nothing new about the idea of fighting at a distance.  The heroic Homeric tradition of the phalanx and of the hoplite fighting at close quarters was already in ancient Greek times called into question by the use of the bow, artillery and catapults, and the process of remote attack has continued to develop in succeeding centuries and millennia, spurred on by the evident military advantage such methods yield. But the Homeric objections persisted, for example during the Kosovo conflict in the form of objections to the NATO 15,000 feet bombardment policy.

And yet since World War II, the capacity to deliver ordnance from the air with precision has developed apace –the statistics are startling in terms of the reduced number of sorties required to get a bomb delivered from high altitude to within a given distance of a hypothetical target. So, and forgive a degree of over-simplification, the lay assumption that the closer the pilot is to the target the better has been trumped by technological innovation.

Is there anything qualitatively different about future developments in the realm of remote attack?

Read the rest of this entry…

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Job Announcement: Glasgow

Published on November 6, 2012        Author: 

The University of Glasgow School of Law is looking to hire a professor or a reader in international law and international security – details here.

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Welcome to the New EJIL:Talk!

Published on November 5, 2012        Author: 

It is now nearly four years since we launched EJIL:Talk! in December 2008. We are delighted that what, at the time, seemed to be an experiment and a journey into an unknown world has been tremendously successful. We kept the look of the blog the same but over the past few months we have felt that the blog needed some updating. So we decided to refresh the “look and feel” and to add some new technical features as well.

Welcome to our new look! We very much hope you like it. For quite some time, readers have asked whether there is a way in which they can get email updates of new posts. We have now added this feature and readers are invited to subscribe (on the right) for email updates. Readers can, of course, continue to subscribe through an RSS feed reader (e.g. Google Reader).  In addition, you will now find us on Twitter and Facebook, providing alternative ways in which you can get updates. Our presence on these forms of social media is something of an experiment. If they prove to be valuable to readers, we will keep them, if not, we will have a rethink.

Readers will notice that on the right (towards the bottom of the page) we now have a list of categories within which our posts fall. This should make it easier for you to search for previous posts or indeed simply to browse what we have been writing in particular areas. We have categorised all of our previous posts. We are indebted to Michelle Wilkinson (my former graduate student at Oxford) for going through every single post for us and putting them into a category. Readers may also wish to search for posts by author or by date and we have drop down menus for those lists. We have added a “From The Archives” box which will remind readers each week of previous posts we’ve published.

The new site should be more mobile-device friendly making it easier to read EJIL:Talk! on the go.  For those of you who want to read on the go but in hard copy (!) another feature we have introduced is a print button. This should make it easier for you to print posts in a nice format, if you wish. This might seem like a strange thing for a blog. No doubt most of you simply read online. However, we are aware that a number of you do print these posts. It has been interesting to me to bump into people at conferences and the like (or indeed on a bus in Israel!) who happen to be reading printed material from EJIL:Talk!

We would be pleased to get comments from you on how we can continue to improve.

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Blog Revamp and Downtime

Published on November 3, 2012        Author: 

We are happy to report that we will shortly be launching a revamped, visually and technically much-improved version of the blog. The launch will most likely happen on Monday, and readers can expect a couple of hours of downtime.

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The Copenhagen Process: Principles and Guidelines

Published on November 3, 2012        Author: 

Jacques Hartmann is Lecturer in Law, Dundee Law School, Scotland.

On 20 October the Danish Government published a set of ‘Principles and Guidelines’ on the handling of detainees in international military operations. The Principles addresses uncertainties surrounding the legal basis for detention and the treatment of detainees during military operations in non-international armed conflicts, such as current operations in Afghanistan or Iraq. An impressive 22 States, including the P5, have expressed support. Human rights organisations, on the other hand, have expressed dismay. The following provides a short background to and comments on the non-legally binding text.

The Principles and Guidelines are the outcome of a five-year long process that was initiated by the Danish Government in 2007 – the so-called ‘Copenhagen Process’. The process was initiated in recognition of the fact that bilateral or ad-hoc solutions to detention during international military operations often led to unacceptable differences in the handling of detainees, which, according to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), are not only unsatisfactory in relation individual protection but at times also constitute a hindrance to effective military cooperation. Read the rest of this entry…

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Antonio Cassese Initiative for Justice, Peace and Humanity

Published on November 2, 2012        Author: 

It is still hard to believe that Antonio Cassese, one of the leading and most influential international lawyers of our time, and one of the founders of the European Journal of International Law passed away almost exactly a year ago (see here, here and here). Nino Cassese was a distinguished jurist and scholar, an illustrious judge and an inspirational teacher, who will be remembered for his profound humanity and generosity of spirit. In order to continue his legacy, the Antonio Cassese Initiative for Justice, Peace and Humanity has recently been founded.

The mandate of Antonio Cassese Initiative is to promote global education, learning and training (particularly in developing countries and countries facing political transtion) in the disciplines to which Antonio Cassese dedicated his professional life. These include human rights, peace, international justice, transitional justice and development. The Initiative will conduct its work mainly through the global network of experts, friends and admirers of Antonio Cassese. Operating from its base at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, all activities of the Antonio Cassese Initiative will be infused with the spirit of humanitarianism and public service that characterized the life and work of Antonio Cassese. As a teacher, jurist and statesman, Antonio Cassese believed passionately in the power of law as a force for good and change; he believed in using the law to achieve justice, peace and humanity. Antonio Cassese strived to make learning egalitarian and accessible to all and he sought to empower and liberate through his teaching and his books, but also by dedicating his life work to effect practical changes.

The Antonio Cassese Initiative will also rely on the pro bono efforts of its network. If you wish to apply to be included in the roster of experts and instructors to offer your specific expertise to the various activities sponsored by the Initiative, click here. If you wish to become a supporter or a sponsor of the Initiative, click here.

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Announcement from the Hague Academy

Published on November 2, 2012        Author: 

Programme : Centre for Studies and Research in International Law and International Relations

The Centre is designed to bring together young international lawyers of a high standard from all over the world, to undertake original research on a common general theme which is determined each year by the Academy. The research work undertaken at the Centre may be included in a collective work published by the Academy.

There are between 20 and 24 participants, half in the English-speaking section and half in the French-speaking section.

Organisation : The Hague Academy of International Law

Topic: The Legal Implications of Global Financial Crises

Period: 19 August-6 September 2013

Venue : Peace Palace, The Hague Netherlands

Directors of Studies:

English-speaking section: Michael WAIBEL, Lecturer at the University of Cambridge

French-speaking section: Geneviève BASTID BURDEAU, Professor at Sorbonne Law School, Paris I University

Fee : free of charge, each participant receives a daily allowance of 35 euros according to the length of the stay and the reimbursement of half of the travel expenses, up to a maximum of 910 euros.

Application : online registration form, deadline to register : March 31st 2013 www.hagueacademy.nl

General information  Practical information  Registration form

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How to survive a PhD in international law

Published on November 1, 2012        Author: 

So, some time ago I wrote a post directed at those considering a PhD in international law. This post is aimed at those holding an acceptance letter in their hands. Congratulations: you’ve got into a doctoral programme, that’s no small achievement. However, let’s consider what’s ahead of you. My main themes here are: funding, timing, the emotional challenge, your relationship with your supervisor and a final word on the joys of the process. (Future posts will probably deal with questions of career planning and viva preparation.) Again, my aim is not to be off-putting but to highlight some of the things I think many PhD students don’t consider in advance.

Read the rest of this entry…

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Scottish Independence and the European Union

Published on October 31, 2012        Author: 

Matthew Happold is Professor of Public International Law at the University of Luxembourg 

Recent events in a number of European States have pushed the issue of secession up the political agenda.  In Catalonia, the ruling Convergencia i Unio party has announced its intention to hold a referendum on Catalan independence if it wins the forthcoming regional elections, despite the Spanish government’s claim that such action would be illegal.  In the United Kingdom, the Westminster and Edinburgh governments have agreed to the holding of an independence referendum in 2014. In neither case, however, does there seem to be a wish to combine independence with an exit from the European Union. The Scottish National Party (SNP), in particular, have long campaigned on the slogan ‘Independence in Europe’, seeking to persuade voters that they can have the best of both worlds: Scottish independence and EU membership.

In recent years, however, the SNP have quietly modified their position.  Instead of arguing that an independent Scotland would automatically be a member of the European Union, it now claims that it is ‘inconceivable’ that it would not become one.  This reflects a hard truth.  Although as a matter of politics, it may seem inconceivable that an independent Scotland -or an independent Catalonia – would not take its place as an EU member; legally there is no automaticity about the matter at all.  Succession to membership of international organisations (which the EU must, for these purposes, be classed as) is governed by international law.  International law provides that membership of international organisations is governed by the rules of each organisation.  And the Treaty on European Union does not provide for succession to membership.

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International Law Trivia: The Winners

Published on October 28, 2012        Author: 

Readers will recall that last month I had a series of posts asking trivia questions relating to international law (see here). Many of those questions related to the practices of international tribunals and the International Court of Justice in particular. The questions had a special focus on voting practices at international tribunals. Before I started the series, I promised a prize for one person who was successful in answering the trivia questions. The prize is a years free subscription to the European Journal of International Law. I apologize for not getting round to announcing the winner till now. In fact we have two prize winners!

Our first winner is Tamás Hoffmann (left) who is Lecturer in law at the Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary. Tamás has a PhD from ELTE Budapest and an LLM in Public International Law from King’s College London. He responded to most of my questions and got his answers correct. His depth of knowledge of ICJ and PCIJ cases is very impressive indeed.

Our second winner is Daniel Wisehart (right), licence en droit, First State Exam completed in 2012, who studied at the University of Potsdam and the Universié Paris Ouest La Défense. He is currently a PhD Candidate at the University of Potsdam and working as an associate with  Professor Robin Geiß on legal problems surrounding international drug control. Daniel also responded to most questions but we were particularly impressed with his response to my question on cases at the ICJ where no judge has issued an individual opinion (separate or dissenting). Not only was he able to give the answer with regard to the ICJ he also pointed out the position at the PCIJ, noting that in the 1920s most PCIJ decision were issued without individual opinions but that this changed in the 1930s. He then offered a reason why the practice might have changed. Tamas then followed up with a further explanation.

Congratulations to both of them!

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