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EJIL Talk! Book Discussion: Some Considerations on Intervention Against Non-state Actors in Foreign Territory

Published on May 31, 2017        Author: 

This post is part of our book discussion on Djemila Carron’s “L’acte déclencheur d’un conflit armé international“.

Dr. Djemila Carron has penned a significant book devoted to international armed conflicts. The great merit of Djemila Carron is to have exclusively focused on the notion of international armed conflict while nowadays most of the publications tend to examine mainly the concept of non-international armed conflict. In the recent years, legal literature has paid little attention to international armed conflicts. Dr. Carron rectifies this trend and brings back to the forefront of the legal discussion the notion of international armed conflict. This is all the more important as contemporary belligerency shows that, more and more, current situations are characterized by the intervention of third states, multinational forces or coalition of states in pre-existing armed conflicts. This inevitably raises questions about their characterization for the purposes of IHL.

Many issues covered by Djemila Carron’s book could have been the subject of legal discussions but within the framework of this brief post (which cannot do justice to the numerous legal issues raised in the book), I would like to focus on one particular aspect of the analysis conducted in this deep and thorough research: transnational armed conflicts against non-state armed groups and their potential classification as international armed conflicts.

To sum it up in a few sentences, Djemila Carron establishes first a presumption according to which the unconsented-to armed intervention of a state in the territory of another constitutes an international armed conflict but qualifies this presumption as rebuttable. She then argues that the presumption can be rebutted in three distinct circumstances, one of them being when resort to armed force by the intervening state is exclusively carried against a non-state organized armed group in the territory of another State. In such scenario, and in the absence of direct confrontation between the armed forces of the intervening State and those of the territorial State, the situation would only qualify as a non-international armed conflict according to Djemila Carron even when the territorial State has not consented to the third State’s military intervention. In this regard, Djemila Carron’s position echoes those recently put forward by Terry Gill, Kenneth Watkin and Sean Watts. Read the rest of this entry…

 

EJIL Talk! Book Discussion: L’acte déclencheur d’un conflit armé international – Introductory Post

Published on May 30, 2017        Author: 

This post is part of our book discussion on Djemila Carron’s “L’acte déclencheur d’un conflit armé international“.

Introduction

During the night of Thursday April 6 and Friday April 7 2017, the United States carried out airstrikes on a Syrian military base that had allegedly been used by the Syrian authorities to launch a chemical attack against its own population. As those airstrikes were, to the best of my knowledge, the first ones conducted by the United States that directly and deliberately targeted Syrian positions in Syria, the question that arose for many scholars, humanitarian actors and members of the military was the following: are the United States and Syria in an international armed conflict (IAC)? Or were they already engaged in such a conflict since the United States had been using force on the territory of Syria against the Islamic State since 2014? If there was no previous IAC between the United States and Syria on April 6, did those attacks add an IAC to the preexisting non-international armed conflict (NIAC) between the United States and the Islamic State? Did they transform (‘internationalize’) this preexisting NIAC into a IAC? Or should the attacks of April 6 and 7 fall outside the scope of international humanitarian law (IHL)?

Answering these questions, and more generally classifying hostilities, is crucial in international law. Indeed, rules applicable to an IAC – including the Geneva Conventions (GC), the first Additional Protocol (AP I), other treaties and provisions of international (and national) law and rules of customary law – create a legal framework significantly different from the one applicable in a NIAC or in the absence of a conflict. L’acte déclencheur d’un conflit armé international explores what act or acts might trigger an IAC. It uses Article 2 common to the GC as its starting point since this provision states that each of the four GC:

“shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them”.

The notion of IAC being the main entry point for the application of the core treaties of IHL, and the concept of NIAC being closely linked to the one of IAC, means that understanding the triggering act of such a conflict is a preliminary question to almost any application of IHL. Read the rest of this entry…

 

Book Discussion on Djemila Carron’s “L’acte déclencheur d’un conflit armé international”.

Published on May 30, 2017        Author: 

The blog is happy to announce that over the next few days we will host a discussion on Djemila Carron’s book, “L’acte déclencheur d’un conflit armé international“. 

Djemila Carron is a lecturer at the Law Clinic on the rights of vulnerable people at the University of Geneva. She will kick off the discussion this afternoon with an introductory post about her book. Comments by Julia Grignon (Professor of the Faculty of Law at Laval University (Quebec)) and Dr. Tristan Ferraro (Senior Legal Advisor at the ICRC (HQ Geneva)) will follow. Djemila will then bring the discussion to a close with a response to the comments.

We are grateful to all of the participants for agreeing to have this discussion here. Readers are invited to join in – comments will of course be open on all posts.

 

Facts, Alternative Facts, and International Law

Published on May 29, 2017        Author: 

On October 3, 2015, at 2:08a.m., a U.S. Special Operations AC-130 gunship attacked a Doctors Without Borders [Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF] hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, with heavy fire. Forty-two people were killed, mostly patients and hospital staff members. Dozens of others were injured, and the hospital building was severely damaged and subsequently closed. When the dust finally settled, the question that pre-occupied the press and most pundits was whether this was a war crime.

Attempts to answer this question prompted discussions about the relevant laws and their proper interpretation, which, in turn, fueled disputes about specific facts relevant to these laws. Recent news stories about the Trump administration’s plan to relax some of the battlefield rules further intensified the legal controversies. Unfortunately this focus on questions of law, guilt, and blame divert attention from the more basic questions of what actually happened, why it happened, and what might be done to prevent similar incidents in the future.

The attack on the Kunduz hospital and the controversy that followed it exemplify a broader phenomenon. Legal fact-finding reports set to resolve factual disputes often trigger more controversies, and are poorly equipped to mobilize domestic sanctioning and condemnation of war criminals by their societies. People are motivated to believe what they already know, and to reject facts that are inconsistent with their prior beliefs and political ideology. Legal fact-finding reports are susceptible to social biases just as any other source of information. Therefore, they often fail to create a shared understanding of ‘what happened’ or to combat denialism of crimes. They also lack the emotional appeal, participatory value, and social cues that moral expressions or other types of social truth-telling entail. Read the rest of this entry…

Filed under: EJIL Analysis, War Crimes
 
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Announcements: Lectureships at Maastricht University Faculty of Law; CfP Workshop on Transformative Constitutionalism in Latin America and International Economic Law

Published on May 28, 2017        Author: 

1. 5 Lectureships at Maastricht University Faculty of Law. The Maastricht Law Faculty is advertising 5 teaching-intensive lectureships in international and European law. At least three successful candidates will be required to teach in both Dutch and English, while arrangements can be made for up to two new lecturers to teach only in English. While the Faculty particularly encourages qualified Dutch-speaking candidates to apply, applicants without any prior knowledge of Dutch will also be considered. Prospective applicants are advised that these are teaching and not research positions. Successful applicants will hold a good advanced degree in law (although not necessarily a PhD). For more information see here and here.

2. Call for Papers: Workshop on Transformative Constitutionalism in Latin America and International Economic Law – Avoiding Conflict and Fostering Dialogue. This expert workshop on Transformative Constitutionalism in Latin America and International Economic Law – Avoiding Conflict and Fostering Dialogue is jointly organized by the Fundação Getulio Vargas and the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law. It will be held in Rio de Janeiro 28 and 29 August 2017.  The deadline for the submission of proposals is 12 June 2017. See here for more information.

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Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Unlawful Death Gets a New Life

Published on May 26, 2017        Author: 

The Revised Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death has just been published. It sets out the international human rights and criminal justice standards applicable to national investigations into alleged summary executions and other suspicious deaths, while also providing detailed advice on crime scene investigation and forensic methodology.

The document is highly relevant for human rights lawyers and criminal justice practitioners.  As I also discuss here [pp. 204ff], human rights cases dealing with suspicious killings regularly turn on the quality of the national criminal investigation into the crime. If the investigation was done properly, international human rights mechanisms will typically defer to its findings; if not, they will find a procedural violation of the right to life, even if state responsibility for the killing itself cannot be proven.

The original Minnesota Protocol was prepared in 1991 by a small group of lawyers from that icy state and later published by the United Nations Secretariat. Formally also known as the United Nations Manual on the Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, the document has been cited with approval by the Inter-American and European human rights courts.

The just published version of the Minnesota Protocol/U.N. Manual maintains the established brand names. But the text has been completely overhauled by the drafting team around outgoing U.N.  Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions, Christof Heyns (note: the author was not involved). A biopsy of the old and new versions of the Minnesota Protocol goes to show how far human rights law has advanced over the last quarter century. Read the rest of this entry…

 
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The Right of Self-Defence Against Imminent Armed Attack In International Law

On 11 April 2017, the Australian Attorney-General, Senator the Hon. George Brandis QC, delivered a public lecture on “The Right of Self-Defence Against Imminent Armed Attack In International Law”, at the T C Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland. The text of the speech has just become available and is posted below. This talk follows on from an earlier talk given by the United Kingdom’s Attorney-General, the Rt Hon. Jeremy Wright QC MP on “The Modern Law of Self-Defence,” which was also posted on in EJIL: Talk!

Acknowledgments

Thank you very much indeed, Sarah. Might I also begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet, the Turrubul peoples, and by acknowledging you, Professor Derrington, in your role as Dean, T C Beirne School of Law. Members of the Faculty of this Law School, of other faculties of the University of Queensland and the faculties of other law schools who I gather have come here this evening. We are honoured by the distinguished presence among us this evening of Justice Edelman of the High Court, and of Justices Greenwood, Logan and Derrington of the Federal Court, and Dr Christopher Ward SC, the Australian President of the International Law Association. Other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Introduction

It is a great pleasure to return tonight to my old law school, be it not physically within the law school precincts. May I congratulate the Dean, Professor Derrington, and the members of the faculty, on all that they have done to propel UQ into the front rank of Australian law schools. I note that the 2017 QS ranking places this law school among the top 50 in the world – a distinction enjoyed by no other law school in Queensland and by only six others in Australia. No doubt your new policy of limiting the undergraduate intake to fewer than 200, which means that new entrants are likely to come only from a cohort students who achieve an OP 1, will reinforce its position as one of Australia’s elite law schools. And that intellectual excellence has recently been complemented by a physical manifestation: the very handsome new Law Library and facilities which were opened only last month by Chief Justice Kiefel.

As a student, tutor and lecturer, my association with this law school spanned more than 15 years, from 1975 to 1991, so it is more than 25 years ago that I last gave a lecture here. That was when, for some eight years, while in my early days at the Bar, I taught a unit of the Jurisprudence course called “Recent Developments in the Theory of Justice”. My focus was primarily on John Rawls, as well as such other scholars as Robert Nozick, Ronald Dworkin and Bruce Ackerman. Read the rest of this entry…

 

Evacuation of Civilian Populations and Criminal Complicity: A Critical Appraisal of the February 2017 Report of the Syria Commission of Inquiry

Published on May 24, 2017        Author: 

In its February 2017 Report (A/HRC/34/64), the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria made the bold statement that the evacuation of the civilian population from Eastern Aleppo, pursuant to an agreement between the Syrian government and the armed groups “amounts to the war crime of forced displacement” since it was made “for strategic reasons” and “not for the security of civilians or imperative military necessity.” (para. 93). A – perhaps unintended – consequence of this proposition would be that staff of NGOs or other non-state actors who assisted in this evacuation may be criminally liable as accomplices in this war crime.

I will argue here that this proposition is incorrect for basically two reasons. First, the Report does not make a persuasive argument that a war crime has been committed and thus there is no criminal conduct to which other individuals could have been contributed. Secondly, even if, arguendo, one assumes that the evacuation amounted to a war crime, to provide assistance in the evacuation of civilians does not constitute criminally relevant complicity.

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A Proposal for a Multilateral Border Carbon Adjustment Scheme that is Consistent with International Trade Law if the Trump Administration withdraws from the Paris Agreement

Published on May 22, 2017        Author: 

On the campaign trail, President Trump repeatedly promised to “cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of US tax dollars to UN global warming programs”. He had previously called global warming a “hoax” and a “con” numerous times, and “a concept created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.” Although Trump quietly dropped his pledge to cancel the Paris Agreement from his 100-day “Contract with the American voter”, and has since said that he “has an open mind” on the Paris Agreement, there remains at present a fierce debate within his administration on whether to withdraw, with no final decision expected before the end of the G-7 summit on May 26 and 27.

The essential thesis of this blog post, which summarizes a longer paper available on SSRN, is that international trade law will permit border carbon adjustments (BCAs) on products from the US, if the Trump Administration withdraws from the Paris Agreement, so long as these schemes are well-designed to avoid the World Trade Organization (WTO) prohibitions on arbitrary or unjustified discrimination and on disguised protectionism, as interpreted by the WTO’s Appellate Body in its US–Shrimp report and US–Shrimp 21.5 decision. This post proposes a multilateral border carbon adjustment scheme (MBCA) that other countries could agree to impose on the US should it withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

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Announcement: New Additions to the UN Audiovisual Library of International Law

Published on May 21, 2017        Author: 

New Additions to the UN Audiovisual Library of International Law. The Codification Division of the UN Office of Legal Affairs has added new lectures to the UN Audiovisual Library of International Law website, which provides high quality international law training and research materials to users around the world free of charge. The latest lectures were given by Professor Philippe Gautier on “1996-2016 : 20 ans de jurisprudence internationale relative au droit de la mer”, Dr. Jean Ho on “State Responsibility for Breaches of Investment Contracts”, and Professor Michael Ewing-Chow on “Coherence in Trade and Investment Law”.

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