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The International Law Commission Embarks on the Second Reading of Draft Articles on the Responsibility of International Organizations

Published on April 30, 2011        Author: 

Jean d’Aspremont and Christiane Ahlborn  are both at the Amsterdam Centre for International Law

On 26 April 2011 the UN International Law Commission (hereafter ILC) began its second reading of the draft Articles on the Responsibility of International Organizations for Internationally Wrongful Acts (hereafter DARIO). It is well-known that the ILC has been continuously confronted with a lack of clear practice since it began its study on the law of the responsibility of international organizations in 2002. As a result thereof, the Special Rapporteur has often been – mistakenly in our view – accused of yielding to the temptation to proceed on the basis of analogies with the 2001 Articles on the Responsibility of States for International Wrongful Act (hereafter ASR) [see for example, previous EJIL:Talk! Commentary here]. International organizations in particular have been among the most virulent protesters, as they have continuously emphasized the necessity to resist any overgeneralization informed by the ASR and the need to recognize the institutional diversity of the international society. Navigating amid these criticisms, the ILC, under the wise guidance of its Special Rapporteur, has nonetheless managed to adopt a first set of draft articles on first reading in 2009 which strikes a reasonably astute balance between institutional heterogeneity and the need for overarching secondary rules governing the responsibility of all institutional subjects of international law.

The DARIO and the ASR

It is our impression that the DARIO, as adopted on first reading, only partly mirror the ASR; in fact, the differences between the DARIO and ASR are too often underestimated.  The ILC did not only omit or add specific provisions from and to the DARIO (examples are the missing Article 3 of the ASR and the new Articles 16 and 60 of the DARIO, respectively) but also included more subtle changes in the text and structure of the DARIO. In light of the continuing critique during the drafting process, it is interesting – if not paradoxical – that the comments made by international organizations and States in reaction to the whole set of DARIO on first reading especially zero in on those draft provisions that do not or only party resemble the ASR(see here). Read the rest of this entry…

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UN Panel of Experts Report on the Sri Lanka Conflict

Published on April 26, 2011        Author: 

The report of the Panel of Experts appointed by the UN Secretary-General to investigate the circumstances of the conclusion the Sri Lanka war has been made public today – full report here, BBC News article here. The report was disclosed to the Sri Lankan government a few weeks ago; regrettably and quite predictably, the government already dismissed it as incorrect and biased. As in many other cases of conflict and atrocities inspired by ethnic nationalism, several competing versions of reality have already emerged. While the government claims that it pursued a policy of zero civilian casualties, the Panel report paints a very different picture, finding widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian law on both sides, but particularly on that of the government.

On the legal side of things, one of the appointed experts was the well-respected international lawyer Steve Ratner, professor of international law at the University of Michigan Law School. The report’s discussion of the applicable law and legal findings, at p. 52 et seq, seem to me to be more or less watertight. There are no flights of fancy here; even when broad or progressive, the legal findings are appropriately cautious when caution is warranted (e.g. as to whether non-state actors are bound by human rights, at para. 188).

The Panel has recommended that the Secretary-General establish an independent international investigative mechanism; he has refused to do so absent the consent of the Sri Lankan government or action by other member states. The Sri Lankan conflict has been overshadowed by other events and the international community has been remarkably passive with regard to the war crimes committed in its conclusion. Hopefully this report will not be the end of the matter.

(I would have quoted a number of paragraphs from the report, but whoever made that PDF disabled the copy and paste functions, which is really stupid beyond belief. I do hope somebody fixes that.)

UPDATE: Dov Jacobs has most helpfully created a quotable version of the report, which is available here:


Call for Papers for The Military Law and the Law of War Review

Published on April 23, 2011        Author: 

The Military Law and the Law of War Review / Revue de Droit Militaire et de Droit de la Guerre is a journal specialised in matters of interest for both civilian and military legal advisors as well as legal scholars and academics.  It is among the oldest publications at the international level in the areas of military/security law and the law of war.  For decades, the Review has been an important forum of discussion for scholars and practitioners from all over the world.

On the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of its foundation, a dedicated issue of the Review’s 2011 Volume will deal with ‘The Role and Responsibilities of Legal Advisors in the Armed Forces: Evolution and Present Trends’. Another issue of the 2011 Volume will mostly concern the current military operations in Libya.

The Role and Responsibilities of Legal Advisors in the Armed Forces: Evolution and Present Trends

Articles related to this topic should in principle be between 2500 and 6000 words long (footnotes included) and should be submitted by 15 July 2011 at the latest.  The Editorial Board welcomes in particular contributions from current/former civilian/military legal advisors who have experience in this field.  Contributions should focus on legal questions associated with the conduct of operations (taking jus in bello and international human rights law, as applicable, duly into account) and may embrace one or more of the strategic, operational, or tactical level perspectives.

The Editorial Board will select papers for publication in The Military Law and the Law of War Review by 31 August 2011.

Selected papers may also be circulated as background readings at the International Conference on Military Justice, to be held in Rhodes (Greece) from 28 September 2011 to 2 October 2011, organized by the International Society for Military Law and the Law of War.  This conference will see the organization of separate special panel on ‘The Role and Responsibilities of Legal Advisors in the Armed Forces’.  Selected authors will receive an invitation to attend this conference, including the special panel, and may be approached to present their paper to the participants.

This initiative is intended to be the starting point for a continuing global dialogue on the same topic, under the auspices of the International Society for Military Law and the Law of War, with a view to promoting the rule of law worldwide.  It is understood that this dialogue will also benefit from contributions addressing legal aspects of cooperation between armed forces and civilian government agencies as well as with private sector entities (such as contractors and non-governmental organizations).

Military Operations in Libya

Articles discussing legal questions associated with the current military operations in Libya should be submitted by 15 September 2011.  The Editorial Board welcomes brief contributions (about 3000 words – footnotes excluded) as well as larger contributions (about 6500 words – footnotes excluded) from practitioners and scholars.  Focus areas may include – but are not limited to – questions regarding the interpretation and application of Chapter VII of the UN Charter (e.g. the measures carried in the framework of the ‘No-Fly Zone Plus’ and the embargo operations), including in relation to the Responsibility to Protect (in the context of which recent UNSC Resolutions regarding Cote d’Ivoire may also be considered relevant); the manner in which Balkans/Rwanda Lessons Learned have been taken into account in the decision-making process concerning UNSCRs 1970 and 1973; the conduct of operations; and the legal ramifications of the recognition of and cooperation with the Libyan insurgency.

The Editorial Board will select papers for publication in The Military Law and the Law of War Review by 1 November 2011.

The Editorial Board may be contacted at: soc-mil-law {at} scarlet(.)be

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Interpreting and Applying the UNSC sanctions on Iran in the Admiralty Context: The Sahand [2011] SGHC 27

Published on April 22, 2011        Author: 

Seow Zhixiang is an officer in the Singapore Legal Service. The views here are his own.

 The High Court of Singapore has recently delivered its grounds of decision in a case which considers the impact of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran in an admiralty context. The Sahand [2011] SGHC 27 (available at Singapore Law Watch) involved three merchant vessels – the Sahand, the Tuchal and the Sabalan – which were owned by German companies and arrested in Singapore waters. The German companies were wholly-owned subsidiaries of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), the state shipping line of Iran. Certain IRISL entities are subject to the asset freeze imposed by the UNSC on Iranian entities, and the Sahand case illustrates the difficulties that may arise in interpreting the broad language of the relevant resolutions for the purposes of applying them to specific cases, and in identifying links to expressly sanctioned entities. The case also  gives an idea of the disruptive effect that sanctions may have on commercial activities, both by a sanctioned entity and those dealing with it.  These points are not only relevant to the UNSC resolutions on Iran, but also to other similarly worded sanctions.

Read the rest of this entry…


GoJIL: Student Essay Competition

Published on April 18, 2011        Author: 

Wanted Dead or Alive? The Use of Unmanned Drones in Current Conflicts as a Legal Challenge

Since his inauguration, US President Barack Obama has ordered over 120 drone attacks on Pakistani territory. Targeted killings and the use of drones by the US administration raise serious questions of international law. Are the killings covered by the right to self-defense under the UN Charter? Is the lack of a judicial trial justified under human rights law? Are states allowed to concede the right to kill to other states? These are just a few of the numerous questions you can address in your essay. We are looking forward to your ideas!

Deadline: 29 July 2011.
Max. word count: 3 000 words (without footnotes).

If you would like to write an article or are already working on the subject, send in your essay! The best article will be published in the Goettingen Journal of International Law – GoJIL 3 (2011). If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at info {at} gojil(.)eu!

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Third ILDC Colloquium on Domestic Courts as Agents of Legal Development

Published on April 14, 2011        Author: 

The Third ILDC Colloquium on ‘Domestic Courts as Agents of Legal Development’ is to be held in Glasgow on 19 and 20 May 2011. The Third ILDC Colloquium, part of COST Action 0602 on International Law in Domestic Courts, is organized by the Amsterdam Center for International Law of the University of Amsterdam and the School of Law of the University of Glasgow.

The Colloquium will address the function of domestic courts as agents for the development of international law, will aim to give a detailed account of domestic court influence on international law, and to help clarify the general problem of how to situate domestic courts within the international law-making process.

Registration is open, and those interested can find the Colloquium’s programme, as well as information about registration and accommodation on the Colloquium’s website.

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Research Project on Shared Responsibility in International Law (SHARES)

Published on April 14, 2011        Author: 

The Research Project on Shared Responsibility in International Law (SHARES) is pleased to announce the official launch of the SHARES website:

The website includes a detailed description of the SHARES project and its project members. The website also features news, events, publications, blog posts and resources on shared responsibility in international law.

The ambition of the SHARES project is to examine an unexplored and largely unrecognized problem: the allocation of international responsibilities among multiple states and other actors. It seeks to uncover the nature and extent of the problem of sharing responsibility in an increasingly interdependent and heterogeneous international legal order. SHARES will therefore offer new concepts, principles and perspectives for understanding how the international legal order may deal with shared responsibilities.

The SHARES project is a research project of the Amsterdam Center for International Law, led by Professor André Nollkaemper, and funded by the European Research Council.

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Demystifying the EJIL Selection and Editorial Process:

Published on April 12, 2011        Author: 

 EJIL receives hundreds of unsolicited articles each year. We welcome these submissions. They are an important part of who we are. They constitute the pool from which, alongside the pieces we commission ourselves, we build our individual issues. A few of the submissions are just awful. But most are good and, naturally, we receive many more fine articles than we are able to publish. We know it is disappointing for authors to receive a rejection letter. We truly hope that authors will not give up on us if they are not always successful with this or that submission.

In 21 years we have never laid bare our selection and editorial process. This is not exactly an apology: at one time or another I have sat on the Editorial, Advisory, Scientific and other such Boards of over 23 different journals and do not recall ever seeing another journal doing such. Be that as it may, I decided that both our authors and readers should know how the process works.

I also compiled some basic aggregate statistics on our authors over the first 20 years of EJIL – and slightly more detailed stats from the last two years. This made available in the post below. (Relax, nothing personal – country of submission, gender, etc.). We ourselves were surprised by some of the results. But first things first: How is the selection of articles for publication made? Read the rest of this entry…

Filed under: Editorials, EJIL

Who Gets Published?

Published on April 12, 2011        Author: 

The ‘European’ in the European Journal of International Law has multiple meanings. I refer you to the Editorial in our first issue 21 years ago, partly replicated in the Editorial to our first issue of the 20th Anniversary volume. Still, how European has our authors list been in the first 20 years of EJIL? (Note, we do not check passports or birth certificates. We are using the institutional affiliation of the author as a proxy for origin. This can lead at times to amusing anomalies. We published a piece by Gráinne de Búrca on Kadi. A European writing about a European case. But, given her current US institutional affiliation, that would have counted as a submission from the USA in the stats. For the most part, the anomalies cancel themselves out and the institutional nationality serves as a reliable proxy – most submissions from Italian universities are by Italian nationals.)

Over 20 years about 62% of our articles originated in EU countries, a further 7% in Council of Europe countries not belonging to the EU, about 20% from the United States and about 11% from the rest of the world. This is a 20-year average, which can change from year to year. In 2010 about 57% originated in the EU, a further 22% in Council of Europe countries outside the EU, 15% from the rest of the world and 6% from the USA. Read the rest of this entry…

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EJIL 21:2 – In this Issue

Published on April 12, 2011        Author: 

The latest issue of EJIL (Vol. 21, no. 1) has just been published. We open with a symposium on the The Human Dimension of International Cultural Heritage Law convened by Francesco Francioni of the Board of Editors, whose Introduction articulates its Raison dêtre. One interesting thread which links the views of the various contributors (Ana Filipa Vrdoljak, Thérèse O’Donnell, Lucas Lixinski, Federico Lenzerini, Siegfried Wiessner, Karen Engle, Gaetano Pentassuglia and Micaela Frulli) is a shift from object to subject: property is featured as a channel towards the recognition and protection of cultural identity in its rich human dimensions. This phenomenon can be observed in the various facets of international cultural heritage law, whether human rights law with its eternal tension between liberal and communitarian trends, or in the context of the law of war, both in its jus in bello and jus post bellum dimensions. The interest and importance of this symposium transcends its specific subject matter.

In this issue’s EJIL:Debate! Sandesh Sivakumaran (see articles here and here) and Gabriella Blum skirmish about the international law of internal armed conflict, addressing both its patchwork doctrinal landscape and its conceptual physiognomy. The exchange repays careful study.

The Last Page features another memorable poem, The Lion Pass, by international law scholar Gregory Shaffer.

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