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Home Articles posted by Alexandra Hofer

Sanctioning Qatar Continued: The United Arab Emirates is brought before the ICJ

Published on June 22, 2018        Author: 
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On 11 June, Qatar initiated proceedings (“Application”) against the United Arab Emirates (“the UAE”) at the International Court of Justice under the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and requested provisional measures. This step is yet another episode in the diplomatic standoff that took the world by surprise last year when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt (“the Quartet” or “Gulf States”) adopted a series of stringent measures against the oil-rich kingdom. When the crisis first erupted the Qatari foreign minister alluded to a violation of the principle of non-intervention when he claimed that the genuine motive behind the sanctions was “about limiting Qatar’s sovereignty, and outsourcing [its] foreign policy”. Rather than resort to retaliatory sanctions Qatar has turned to diplomacy, lobbying and various dispute settlement mechanisms. It has seized the United Nations, notably the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (“OHCHR”), and the International Civil Aviation Organization (see also here and here) in search for support in condemning the coercive measures as unlawful. Qatar added pressure to the sanctioning States when it filed a request for consultation before the WTO’s dispute settlement body in August 2017 but ultimately decided to only pursue the complaint against the UAE. As noted by Johannes Fahner (see here) the proceedings before the WTO could lead to a GATT Article XXI case, which States have tended to avoid. By engaging the ICJ Qatar is taking its dispute against the UAE to the next level. Unlike the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt adopted reservations to the ICJ’s jurisdiction under Article 22 of the Convention upon ratification.

In its Application, Qatar claims the expulsion of Qatari nationals from the UAE’s territory violates General Recommendation 30, adopted by the CERD Committee in August 2004 (para. 59), and have led to human rights violations:

“including the rights to marriage and choice of spouse, freedom of opinion and expression, public health and medical care, education and training, property, work, participation in cultural activities, and equal treatment before tribunals”

solely on the basis of their nationality contrary to CERD Article 5 (para. 63). The Application further lists the travel embargo – which closes off air, sea and land to and from Qatar – among the discriminatory measures as well as the shutting down of local Al-Jazeera offices and the blocking off of transmissions from Al-Jazeera and other Qatari-based media outlets. In addition, Qatar alleges the UAE has encouraged rather than condemned discrimination by:

“allowing, promoting, and financing an international anti-Qatar public and social media campaign; silencing Qatari media; and calling for physical attacks on Qatari entities”

in violation of CERD Articles 2 and 7 (paras 57 and 61 to 63). The UAE is also said to be responsible for breaching CERD Article 4 and inciting hate speech (para. 60). According to Qatar it has “fail[ed] to provide effective protection and remedies to Qataris to seek redress against acts of racial discrimination through UAE courts and institutions” in violation of Article 6 CERD (para. 64). Read the rest of this entry…

 

Sanctioning Qatar: Coercive interference in the State’s domaine réservé?

Published on June 30, 2017        Author:  and
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On 23 May, the Qatar News Agency published content attributing statements to Qatar’s Emir which laid bare simmering regional sensitivities and quickly escalated into a full-blown diplomatic row between Qatar and other regional Powers.

Indeed, on Monday 5 June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt adopted what has been dubbed a ‘diplomatic and economic blockade’ (to the annoyance of some). Not only did these States close their land, naval and aerial borders for travel and transport to and from Qatar, the three Gulf States also appeared to expel Qatari diplomats and order (some) Qatari citizens to leave their territory within 14 days. In addition, websites from the Al Jazeera Media Network, as well as other Qatari newspapers, were blocked and offices were shut down in several countries. At the end of a feverish week, on Friday 9 June, targeted sanctions were furthermore adopted against Qatari organizations and nationals believed to have links to Islamist militancy.

In justification of the measures, the sanctioning States invoked the Gulf Cooperation Council’s 2013 Riyadh Agreement and its implementation mechanisms as well as the Comprehensive Agreement of 2014. Although the contents of these agreements are not public, it is believed that the Gulf States expected Qatar to curtail its support to groups that purportedly pose a threat to the region’s stability, such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Read the rest of this entry…

 

Russia’s Unilateral Suspension of the 2013 Agreement on Nuclear Cooperation with the United States

Published on October 27, 2016        Author: 
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Amidst the breaking-down of cooperation between the USA and Russia in addressing the war in Syria, the continuation of the Ukrainian crisis and the US charges against Russia for its alleged interference in the American Presidential elections, the sanction tit-for-tat between the two Powers continues. The most recent episode occurred during the first week of October, when the Russian Federation decided to suspend – and in one case terminate – various nuclear-related agreements between itself and the United States of America. Russia’s unilateral decisions raise several questions, notably with regard to the law of treaties; however it is Russia’s justification for suspending the 2013 Agreement on Cooperation in Nuclear and Energy Related Scientific Research and Development (hereafter the ‘2013 Agreement’) that caught my attention and on which I wish to comment. It so happens that the Kremlin justified the suspension as a countermeasure in response to the American sanctions against it.

The 2013 Agreement‘s aim is to provide a stable and reliable framework within which the USA and Russia can cooperate in fields of research and development regarding the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Because of the vague wording of the 2013 Agreement, it is difficult to determine what the exact obligations of the parties are and whether their fulfilment allows more leeway. Under these circumstances, one could consider Russia’s suspension as simply symbolic and another indication of the cooling of relations with the USA. Nevertheless, in a document published by the Russian State, the suspension is claimed to be a countermeasure against the sanctions adopted by the US, implying that Russia views its own action as wrongful. By invoking the magic word ‘countermeasures’, the Russian government is summoning a circumstance precluding wrongfulness. As is well known, in order for Russia to justifiably adopt such measures, the (main) condition that needs to be respected is the commission of a wrongful act by the United States against the Russia Federation. It follows that the legality of Russia’s suspension (or the preclusion of the wrongfulness of that act) would depend – in part – on the legality of the American sanctions that Russia is objecting to.

Russia claims that, as a result of the sanctions against it, the US is responsible for a ‘substantial violation of the terms of the [2013] Agreement’ and specifically Articles IV(3) and X(1). This breach would result from a letter sent in April 2014 by:

‘the US Department of Energy Bureau at the US Embassy in Moscow (…) announcing the suspension of nuclear energy cooperation in connection with the events in Ukraine’ and the subsequent cancellation of ‘bilateral meetings and events related to nuclear energy’.

Hence, the sanctions would have directly ‘affected the areas of cooperation under the Agreement’. In Russia’s view, the continuation of the US sanctions – which includes the violation of the Agreement – ‘requires the adoption of countermeasures in relation to the US’ (all the above quotes are taken from the Russian government decision). In another comment, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated that ‘Russia will consider the possibility of reversing its decision to suspend the Agreement when the United States reaffirms its willingness to fully restore compliance with the Agreement’. Read the rest of this entry…