Home 2009 July

The Law Lords’ Final Judgments

Published on July 31, 2009        Author: 

Yesterday the House of Lords delivered its last judgments as the final court of appeal in England and Wales. For many, many, many years (as with all thing English), the House of Lords had a dual function, sitting as both a part of the legislature and the judiciary. From 1 October this year, the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom will be sitting on Parliament Square, comprised of twelve current Lords of Appeal in the Ordinary.

Among the various domestic high courts, the Law Lords were probably without peer in their application of international law, particularly human rights law. It is thus fitting that they went out with a bang, rather than a whimper. Among their final judgments is Purdy v. DPP, where their Lordships unanimously held that the Director of Public Prosecutions (who as in other common law system has a discretion, rather than an ex officio duty to prosecute), had to publish a clear statement of policy as to when and under what circumstances he would prosecute persons assisting their terminally ill loved ones in going to a clinic in Switzerland to obtain euthanasia. Their Lordships based their decision on the legal predictability requirement under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In parting, one could only say that if some of the other European states (you know who they are) had a judicial system that was even only half as effective as is the English judiciary, and the House of Lords in particular, in the protection of individual rights under the Human Rights Act (and make no mistake about it, the HRA was truly a moment of fundamental constitutional change in the UK, requiring an enormous amount of adjustment and good will from the judiciary), then the case load of the Strasbourg Court would not be as unmanageable, nor would there be all the Protocol 14s, 14bis and other restrictions on the right of individual petition, which are ultimately only stop-gap measures that lead to nowhere. Nor would, for that matter, the Court itself be the bloated, bureaucratic, basically almost entirely Registry-run institution that it is today. (As the readers might have guessed, I have a truly Kafkian horror story or two to tell in regard of a client that I’ve represented, but I’ll refrain from doing so to avoid the stereotype of a complaining loser).

Anyway, as the saying goes, nothing lasts forever…


Ecuador Denounces ICSID: Much Ado About Nothing?

Published on July 30, 2009        Author: 

Much has been made of Ecuador’s recent withdrawal from the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (‘ICSID’). The notice has the effect of terminating the jurisdiction of the Centre effective 7 January 2010. The most reported justification for this move is the perception in many Latin American countries that international investment arbitration is biased towards investors (see comment entitled ‘International Investment Arbitration: Poisoned at the Root?‘), and more specifically, outstanding international investment claims against Ecuador in the range of $10 to $12 billion US.

However, on review of Ecuador’s international legal position, and, more specifically, international legal obligations generated by her outstanding bilateral investment treaties, it seems that withdrawal from ICSID, whilst perhaps remaining a poignant political statement, offers less than might first be thought in terms of radical change with respect to the country’s exposure to investment claims.

Read the rest of this entry…

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Fools Gold? Legitimate Expectations as Understood in Glamis Gold v USA

Published on July 29, 2009        Author: 

The recent decision of Glamis Gold v USA constitutes a leap forward in the articulation of norms of international investment law.  Paragraphs 1 through 9 contain an admirable description of the role of ad-hoc international investment tribunals in the determination of claims, a description that is articulate, precise, accurate and well measured. Such a development is to be welcomed, and was much needed. However, in addition to this, the decision is notable in its contribution to the development of the doctrine of legitimate expectations in the context of international investment law.

The obligation on the host State to respect the legitimate expectations of the investor constitutes what has been variously referred to by tribunals as a ‘facet’, ‘component’, or ‘sub category’ of the fair and equitable treatment provision commonly found in a number of bilateral and multilateral investment treaties. This provision has been elaborated by international investment tribunals over the course of the last four decades, and, in addition to legitimate expectations, has been found to include an obligation to not act in an arbitrary manner, to afford justice and due process to foreign investors, and to act transparently.

In Glamis, the investor argued that a violation of NAFTA’s fair and equitable treatment provision (Article 1105) had been occasioned by the failure of the United States (through its competent agencies) to respect its legitimate expectations. Ultimately, the Tribunal concluded that the claim was not made out. In reaching this conclusion, it introduced two interesting developments to the debate:

(1)    an unambiguous statement that legitimate expectations can only be based on a ‘quasi-contract’; and
(2)    the suggestion that expectations can be reasonable but not legitimate.

This comment will both outline and consider these two developments. Read the rest of this entry…

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EJIL:Talk! Welcomes Tolga Yalkin as Guest Blogger

Published on July 28, 2009        Author: 

We are happy to announce that over the next few days Tolga Yalkin will be posting on EJIL:Talk! a series of pieces dealing with aspects of international investment law. Readers will remember that, last month, Tolga posted a piece on EJIL:Talk! titled “International Investment Arbitration: Poisoned at the Root?”  (which was discussed over at Opinio Juris)

Tolga is a graduate student at the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford and is the President of Oxford Pro Bono Publico, a public interest law program of the Oxford Law Faculty. His Oxford thesis considers the international minimum standard of treatment in international investment law.


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Who Uses the European Court of Human Rights, and Who Wins? Evidence from New Studies

Published on July 27, 2009        Author: 

Gabriel Swain is Research Associate, School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent.  Previously, he worked as a researcher for the Council of State Governments, a US-based public policy think tank, where he wrote on topics including climate change, natural resource policy, energy policy and federalism.

The margin of appreciation doctrine of European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) gives states flexibility in their interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention). States also have the freedom to decide how they implement judgments finding violations against them. This means that individuals in each Council of Europe (CoE) member state experience rights protection and abuse in often quite different ways. The JURISTRAS project, which began in 2006 with a grant from the EU Sixth Framework Programme, has sought to shed light on that variation by analyzing the various relationships between the ECTHR and domestic human rights actors (both governmental and non) in CoE member states.

 Our research initially focused on the protection of the core civil liberties (i.e. ECtHR Articles 8-11 & 14: right to private and family life; freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom of expression; freedom of association; freedom from discrimination), but was expanded to include any situation in which an individual’s inclusion in a minority or vulnerable group caused her rights to be infringed. Research questions that drove the initial research design included:  How are judgments that find a country in violation of the Convention implemented in that country? What factors influence the effectiveness and speed of judgment implementation? Which groups have experienced rights abuses in the most direct ways? Which groups, if any, have been able to use the ECtHR as a tool, and have litigated strategically in order to bring about policy reform?

 A number of interesting issues arose with an analysis of the United Kingdom’s protection of the rights of minority and other vulnerable groups. Perhaps most interesting is the extent to which various groups are (or are not) successful in winning cases, which factors contribute to that success, and which groups are likely to see violations translated into policy reforms that favour their group’s interests, and why. There is a substantial variation in the answers to those questions, and to highlight the difference and help explain the reasons behind it, we can first look at cases brought against the UK by homosexuals and transsexuals, who have managed to use the Court to change discriminatory policies that directly affect them. We can then turn our attention to victims of wrongful death and illegal imprisonment in Northern Ireland and gypsies in the UK as examples of groups that have been largely unsuccessful at utilizing the Court to their advantage. Read the rest of this entry…

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Has North Korea Terminated the Korean Armistice Agreement?

Published on July 24, 2009        Author: 

Seunghyun Sally Nam is 3rd Secretary for the Korean Peninsula Peace Regime Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Republic of Korea. She is writing in her personal capacity and her views do not necessarily represent those of the South Korean government.

In his recent post, Dapo Akande refers to a recent article by Gordon Chang in which Mr Chang argues that North Korea’s announcement that it is no longer bound by the 1953 Armistice Agreement means that the Korean War has resumed as a matter of law. The issue comes down to whether North Korea’s announcement that it ‘will not be bound by the armistice’ terminates the armistice or not. Gordon Chang makes his assertion based on the idea that the Korean armistice agreement is subject to termination by the announcement of either party. However, Article 62 of the Armistice Agreement states that the Armistice agreement is effective until it is expressly superseded either by mutually acceptable amendments and additions or provision in an appropriate agreement for a peaceful settlement. Article 61 also states that ‘amendments and additions to this Armistice Agreement must be mutually agreed by the Commanders of the opposing side’.

Gordon Chang mentions in his article that the U.N. Command, a signatory to the armistice, responded to North Korea’s argument by insisting that the Armistice is in force and by referring to the termination provision. However, the Korean Armistice Agreement does not have a termination provision. The two provisions which I mentioned in the above are the only provisions which regulate any ‘amendments and additions’ to the agreement. Read the rest of this entry…


The Korean War has Resumed !! (Or so we are told)

Published on July 22, 2009        Author: 

Readers may wonder how they missed such a momentous event as the resumption of the Korean War. Don’t go scurrying to the TV or start clicking on those news sites just yet! There has been no use of force on the Korean Penninsula. However, it has been claimed that, as a matter of law,the Korean War has resumed. The argument was made in the Wall Street Journal, earlier this month, by Gordon Chang, an American  lawyer who writes on Chinese and Korean issues. Chang’s argument is that North Korea’s announcement on 27 May this year that it will no longer be bound by the 1953 Armistice Agreement which ended the Korean War (1950-53) means that the armistice is ended and that “North Korea . . . has resumed the Korean War.”

He makes this argument in order to provide legal justification for the US to circumvent UN Security Council Resolution 1874 (adopted after North Korea’s nuclear test in May) and to take a more robust approach to inspecting North Korean vessels. Chang’s argument is a dangerous one since if it were correct, it would not only justify the acts suggested by Mr Chang but would justify a broader use of force against North Korea.  In some ways, the argument is reminiscent of the arguments used to justify the legality of the 2003 Iraq War. There has been a breach of an agreement and so a prior war is on again! The argument was wrong then (when applied to breach of a Security Council resolution) and one is wrong now (when applied to a declaration of termination of an armistice). Read the rest of this entry…

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Investment Treaties and EU law

Published on July 21, 2009        Author: 

Piet Eeckhout is Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for European Law at King’s College London.

In two parallel decisions of March of this year (Case C-249/06 Commission v Sweden and Case C-205/06 Commission v Austria) the European Court of Justice ruled that Sweden and Austria are in breach of their EC Treaty obligations by maintaining bilateral investment treaties with third countries which may interfere with the EU’s powers to restrict capital movements.  This is the Court’s first venture into the booming international investment law field.  It should be seen in its broader setting. The Treaty of Lisbon purports to extend the scope of the EU’s common commercial policy to matters of “foreign direct investment”.  Perhaps in anticipation of this significant expansion of Community competence, the Commission is becoming active in this area.  It considers that bilateral investment treaties between Member States and third countries are incompatible with Community law, in so far as they contain a clause on the free transfer of payments connected with an investment.  Such a clause, whilst in principle compatible with the free movement of capital between the Community and third countries, could create problems were the Community to introduce restrictions pursuant to Articles 57(2), 59 and 60(1) of the EC Treaty.  There is as yet no relevant legislation under any of these Treaty provisions, but the Commission is concerned that the future exercise of Community competence could be hindered.

The Commission therefore brought proceedings against Sweden and Austria, referring to a series of investment treaties which they have concluded.  Those treaties come within the scope of Article 307 EC, pursuant to which (a) rights and obligations arising from agreements, concluded before accession, between Member States and third countries are not affected by the EC Treaty, and (b) Member States shall take all appropriate steps to eliminate any incompatibilities with the EC Treaty.  Sweden and Austria were alleged not to have removed the incompatibility between their investment treaties and EC law.  What the Commission would like to see is a so-called Regional Economic Integration Organisations clause in these agreements: a clause which allows and safeguards EC measures. Read the rest of this entry…


Command Responsibility at the ICC and ICTY: In Two Minds on the Mental Element?

Published on July 20, 2009        Author: 

Professor Robert Cryer is Professor of International and Criminal Law at the University of Birmingham Law School, UK. He is the author of Prosecuting International Crimes: Selectivity and the International Criminal System (Cambridge, 2005) and co-author of An Introduction to International Criminal Law and Procedure (Cambridge, 2007). 

One of the most interesting decisions of the International Criminal Court on confirmation of charges has passed by with little comment so far. Whilst the Al-Bashir Arrest Warrant decision has received very considerable attention (for example – shameless self-promoter that I am – in the symposium in the most recent Journal of International Criminal Justice), the lesser-known  confirmation of charges decision in the case against former Congolese Vice-President Bemba (in relation to alleged crimes in the Central African Republic) raises some extremely interesting issues deserving of comment. For example, the decision (Prosecutor v Jean-Piere Bemba Gombo, decison of June 15, 2009) has interesting things to say in relation to definitions of crimes, their contextual elements, and the mental element as provided for in Article 30 of the ICC Statute. Indeed far too many matters to deal with in any meaningful way in a post of this nature.

 As such, this post will concentrate on only one aspect of the decision, command responsibility, as this is the first time this principle of liability (and I call it as such deliberately) has been the subject of significant comment by the ICC. Its decision on point is important, not only for the comments the Pre-Trial Chamber make directly on the issue, but also because it is indicative of the extent to which the ICC is looking, whilst showing considerable respect at times to the jurisprudence of the ICTY and ICTR, to create a separate regime of what might be termed ‘Rome law’. Whether this is a good idea or not, or whether we might see a problematic fragmentation of international criminal law from the multiplicity of Tribunals applying different definitions of international criminal law will be (briefly) returned to at the end. Read the rest of this entry…

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Editorial: EJIL Vol. 20:2

Published on July 16, 2009        Author: 

Gaza – From Warfare to Lawfare.

For many years I taught a Seminar on the legal aspects of the Arab Israeli conflict at Harvard Law School. It was unlike any other of my courses or seminars. The participants, students and researchers, were more passionate and engaged than normal. As expected, there was always a group of passionate pro-Israelis (mostly but not exclusively Jewish). There was always a group of passionate pro-Arabs, or, at times it felt, anti-Israelis (mostly but, of course, not exclusively Jewish) Sure, they came to learn, but mostly how to sharpen the arguments for ‘their’ side in the conflict. “Lawfare” – the continuation of warfare through other means – well describes the gestalt. There were, of course, also a few  who came to learn, understand, disentangle myth from reality, sort out the facts and, normatively, seek a modicum of truth and justice in a conflict which often seems to pit right against right, and wrong against wrong. But not once did this latter group constitute a critical mass.

Law is so Janus-like: There is the advocacy face, especially in the Anglo-American tradition (in the development of which the importance of lay juries surely played a role), which passionately advocates for one side or another under  the problematic theory that adversarial arguments will lead to truth. But there is also the dispassionate face of law which privileges the disinterested, so-far-as-possible objective and clinical examination of fact and legal argument (and please, spare your breath, I, and most readers of this Journal, are all aware of indeterminacy, the conceptual and empirical problems with the notion of objectivity etc.)  There was a tug of war between these two approaches, but the first habitually crowded out the second. Read the rest of this entry…

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