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A Second Brexit Referendum – What Makes You Think They Will Have You Back?

Published on November 26, 2018        Author: 
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The call for a second Brexit Referendum is still alive, some say more than ever. It is probably unlikely and, even if it were to take place, there is no certainty that the Remain camp would win. But it is somehow based on the assumption that if such a referendum were held, and the Remainers would win (probably a narrow victory) and that if, as a result, the UK Parliament were to change its mind and elect to remain, that on the basis of this unilateral decision of the UK the status quo ante would be restored and British membership of the Union would continue unabated.

This is very unlikely to be the case.

First there is the legal issue regarding such a unilateral withdrawal of the Article 50 notice.

As is well known, a Preliminary Reference from Scotland will be decided this month in an expedited procedure and before a plenary forum of the ECJ, trying to clarify the legal parameters of a British change of mind whether through a referendum or otherwise.

The Reference definitely has some elements of an Affaire Bidon but I predict the ECJ will not opt for inadmissibility in this case. On the merits it is likely that it will  reject the two ‘bookend’ arguments and instead go for the centre. It is most unlikely that it will hold that once Article 50 notice has been served the process is irreversible and that the only way back, even before the deadline for formal exit arrived, is an Article 49 admission procedure. It is, in my view, equally or even more unlikely that it would hold that the UK could unilaterally withdraw its notice and that, with no more, its Membership would continue unabated. The UK drives everyone crazy for close to three years and then, oops, just as the Clock Strikes One, the Mouse is to run down as if nothing happened?

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Publish and Perish: A Plea to Deans, Faculty Chairpersons, University Authorities

Published on November 8, 2018        Author: 
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Item: EJIL and I.CON, like most of their peers, used to classify article submissions into three categories: Accept, Revise and Resubmit, and Reject. In recent times, a good few years now, we have added what we call ‘Category 4’. It happens increasingly that on the first screening of an article we come to seemingly contradictory conclusions. On the one hand, the piece may be striking in any number of ways: the choice of topic, the originality of the principal argument, the novel empirical data therein. On the other hand, our accumulated experience tells us that it will never pass peer review, not even the Revise and Resubmit threshold. It is simply too rushed and hence too raw. That’s why the Category 4 was invented. An encouraging letter is sent to the author indicating that we believe there is much promise in the piece but it requires a general overhaul before the specific road map, which is the hallmark of a good Revise and Resubmit peer report, can take place: more research, more depth in developing arguments, more attention to counter arguments, more care in expressing them, etc.

Item: In preparing a tenure review report, or assisting in an entry-level appointment process I read the file – a dozen articles or so. One is strikingly good. A handful, truly mediocre. One or two, real garbage. From the same hand, from the same mind. How so uneven? We cannot be at our best in everything we put out, but I am talking discrepancies that go beyond that standard distribution.

Item: I’m a commentator in our post-doc workshop. I later meet with the young scholar to give detailed comments and suggestions for the work. You’ll need, I say, a good few months, maybe half a year’s more work to produce what could become a splendid piece. The post-doc looks at me forgivingly: ‘It won’t happen. My dean expects us to publish seven pieces (!) in two years. I have to move on.’ This ‘quota’ may be at the higher end but is not atypical. I later see the piece, in its original form, on SSRN and eventually in some journal. Read the rest of this entry…

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EJIL Vol. 29 (2018) No. 3: In This Issue

Published on November 7, 2018        Author: 
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This issue of the European Journal of International Law features prominently the theme of ‘Perpetrators and Victims of War’.

We open the issue with a series of articles focusing on International Criminal Law. Sofia Stolk starts off by shedding light on the construction of an ‘ideal perpetrator’ – a ‘sophisticated beast’ in international criminal law trials – to allow both accountability and condemnation. A complementary perspective is put forward by Christine Schwöbel-Patel, who analyses the social, political and legal construction of the ‘ideal victim’. Following, Line Gissel scrutinizes Africa’s support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) between 1993-2003. Alexandra Adams concludes this section with an examination of the legacy of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and their contributions to the intricate definition of rape.

In the next section, we feature the penultimate instalment of our Symposium on International Law and the First World War, focusing in this issue on the end of the War. Randall Lesaffer retraces the development of aggression as a concept of international law, showing that a long history of thought on use of force law preceded the Versailles Peace Treaty. Markus M. Payk analyses the Paris Peace Settlement after the Great War, examining the impact that notions of law, justice and legality had on the negotiations leading to the Settlement in the Allies’ quest to establish the ‘reign of law’.

Roaming Charges features a photograph of the stunning relief found in Wroclaw by the local sculptor Eugeniusz Get Stankiewicz: ‘The Crucifixion – Do It Yourself’. We are all perpetrators is one lesson one may take from this work of art. Read the rest of this entry…

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Black Lies, White Lies and Some Uncomfortable Truths in and of the International Trading System

Published on July 25, 2018        Author: 
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The international trading system is not just about trade in which the only calculus of its worth and importance can be measured in the growth (or otherwise) of aggregate welfare, economically speaking. Since trade, in goods and services, is the principal modality of transnational intercourse, the international trading system and the legal system which undergirds it, reflects and constitutes the concomitant principal modus operandi of peacetime international relations. It is based on a respect for multilateralism and the rule of (international) law. That modus operandi radiates into other spheres of international cooperation, contributing ultimately to stability and peace. For some, on both right and left, it greases, too, the wheels of ‘globalism’, ‘the reign of capital’ (‘capitalism’ as an expression is somewhat out of fashion) and I have even seen the spectre of ‘international financiers’ being resurrected. But be as it may your view of these assorted alleged vices or virtues, I think there is a broad consensus that one should be careful not to throw the baby – multilateralism and the rule of law – out with whatever dirty bathwater within the system is not to your liking.

However, it is just this that is unfolding in front of our eyes. In trying to redress what he believes are ‘horrible’ terms of trade to which his country, the USA, had given its consent and enshrined in binding international legal instruments, Mr. T. and his crew seem almost more interested in throwing the baby out than cleansing what he considers is the dirty bath water.

Thus, for example, the WTO dispute settlement is slowly being asphyxiated by an American strategy of blocking appointments to the Appellate Body – the de facto World Trade Court. The by now infamous imposition of tariffs on certain steel products and the threats of doing likewise on trade in automobiles (there will be no Mercedes Benzes on 5th Avenue! – not such a bad outcome if it means their replacement by the ever fresh Fiat 500) is illustrative. In both cases the formal justification offered is ‘national security’. This is a black lie if ever there was one. Yes, legal terms, like beauty, are often as elastic as the beholder wishes them to be. And with that reasoning just about any weakening of the trading position of a state may be reducible to a threat to national security. I will not waste my and your time in explaining that this is not what the national security clause is about, though I feel some compassion for the young lawyers in the American government service who were required to write learned disquisitions and briefs trying to justify this legal construct. We all know what it is really about. Read the rest of this entry…

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Authors of EJIL – Customer Care

Published on July 24, 2018        Author: 
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Try as hard as we may, it often takes months to get a publishing decision from EJIL. The bottleneck is, in most cases, the peer review process of which you have read my laments on more than one occasion. Let me say straight away that peer reviewing is a fundamental and immensely valuable part of journal publishing. It not only helps us in our publication decisions but our authors receive constructive comments, which enable them to improve their articles and for which they are, without exception, grateful. We, in turn, are incredibly grateful to our colleagues in the international law community who regularly or irregularly take on the somewhat thankless task of peer reviewing (though perhaps seeing a significantly improved piece in print does provide a measure of thanks).

As important and valuable as peer reviewing is, the process is often as unpredictable as the weather in spring. It might take weeks before we manage to assemble the peer reviewers (we get many refusals; and potential peer reviewers do not always reply instantly to our request) and then, as you know from your own experience, good intentions come up against the realities of academic life one constant of which is always to be late in submitting something promised. Have you not sometimes thought that the flows of our professional life resemble managing a perennial overdraft in the bank?

We have revised our procedure in one small but critical sense which, we hope, will be welcomed by our authors. As I have explained on more than one occasion, the first step in considering a manuscript is a careful read by the ‘in-house’ editorial team, who decide whether or not the submission should be sent to peer review. As I have also explained more than once, there can be many reasons apart from quality that may underlie a decision not to send out to peer review. EJIL is a general interest IL journal and we build our issues with the aim of appealing to a wide readership. Each article we publish means the rejection of another article which could be of similar intrinsic quality. For example, we may not wish to publish in one year five articles on, say, customary law, or proportionality, or investment arbitration, even if each of the five would be of publishable quality. Read the rest of this entry…

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EJIL Vol. 29 (2018) No. 2: In This Issue

Published on July 23, 2018        Author: 
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This issue of EJIL opens with a selection of articles that share a focus on human rights. Itamar Mann analyses the infamous trope of ‘legal black holes’ and deploys it to examine the ignominious failure to end mass drownings of migrants and refugees. In his view, the apparent rightlessness of maritime migrants is fundamentally different from other forms of rightlessness since it is not brought about by a violation of international law but is rather created by and deeply entrenched in it.

Following, Leora Bilsky and Rachel Klagsbrun focus on another form of egregious rightlessness: genocide. While the original conception of this crime was essentially cultural, the Genocide Convention does not reflect this. The authors examine the factors that led to the exclusion of cultural genocide from the Convention and outline its countermeasure – cultural restitution.

David Kosař and Jan Petrov shift the perspective from open wounds and scars of international law to issues of compliance. Using the Czech Republic as an object of analysis, they present valuable insights on factors determining compliance and non-compliance with international human rights rulings as well as variable levels of their implementation.    

Devika Hovell concludes this section by focusing on the fundamental question of universal jurisdiction. She strips away the often obfuscating technical aspects of jurisdiction to reach the very essence of this concept by examining both its sources as well as its legal-political dimensions. Read the rest of this entry…

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A Court that Dare Not Speak its Name: Human Rights at the Court of Justice

Published on May 7, 2018        Author: 
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Editor’s Comment: The adequacy of the ECJ jurisprudence in the area of human rights has been the subject of extensive critical comment in recent times, not least since its much commented upon decision in Opinion 2/13. I have invited one of the most authoritative, knowledgeable and sober voices in the EU law interpretative community, Daniel Sarmiento to contribute a Guest Editorial on this topic. We are honoured to publish it in this issue. 

‘We are not a human rights court.’ This phrase has been repeated over and again by judges and advocates general of the Court of Justice of the EU for many years. To the question of why does the Court not rely more on Strasbourg case law on human rights in the field of, say, competition, the reply was a classic: ‘we are not a human rights court’. If the Court was accused of ignoring international human rights instruments in cases with a strong tie with international law, the response sounded familiar: ‘we are not a human rights court’. If human rights were put aside or restricted in the name of free movement rules, the explanation was always ready to go: ‘we are not a human rights court’.

Indeed, the Court of Justice was not designed in its early days to be a human rights court, but its current role as the lead player of the European judicial landscape has put it in an unprecedented situation. There is no area of policy that escapes the scrutiny of the Court of Justice: the digital world has found in the Court an uncompromising upholder of private life that will not tolerate intrusions in the sphere of individuals’ privacy; the effectiveness of asylum policy depends on the Court’s readiness to interpret asylum rules as procedural or substantial guarantees in light of human rights; consumers throughout the continent rely on the Court’s judgments to rule on how banks, digital titans or retailers treat their clients; criminal procedures have come under the umbrella of EU harmonization instruments, putting the Court in a privileged position to set standards and guarantees of criminal procedure in all Member States.

These are only a few examples of how the Court has been transformed from a modest international jurisdiction into a supranational hegemon, whose decisions have a direct and significant impact on the rights and lives of millions of Europeans. Read the rest of this entry…

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Vital Statistics; Time for Change – With Thanks to Guy Fiti Sinclair

Published on May 6, 2018        Author: 
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Vital Statistics

Each year we publish statistics on the state of our submissions: where submissions originated, which were accepted, and which were published in EJIL during the previous 12 months. We do this to observe and understand any changes that may be taking place in submission and publication patterns in our Journal and to keep our authors and readers informed of such.

The final selection of articles published in EJIL is determined by two principal considerations: quality is, naturally, one of these. All published articles go through our double-blind peer review process. We do not put the finger on the scale when it comes to national or geographic origin of the article, gender and other such factors. We look for excellence: articles we hope will be read, recalled, referred to and cited in years to come.

The second consideration is curatorial. EJIL is not a mere refereeing service. We publish between 40-60 articles per year. We receive anywhere between 5-10 articles per week. We receive many more excellent articles that are worthy of publication than we are able to publish, given considerations of space. Choices have to be made. Our curatorial decisions aim to produce issues of interest to a wide variety of readers, covering different areas of international law, different approaches to scholarship, and the like. EJIL Talk! is an integral part of EJIL and its coverage is part of the mix we consider. Thus, in the initial screening by the editorial office we may reject articles simply because we have published recently on the topic, or there might be something in the pipeline and other similar considerations. We also engage in some ‘agenda setting’ by initiating debates and from time to time commissioning symposia generated by our own Boards or accepting symposia proposed by others. Finding the right balance is always a delicate curatorial decision and the figures are fluid. In recent years we have privileged unsolicited articles, given the growing number and quality of submissions. In 2017 we published fewer commissioned symposia in our four issues than in previous years: unsolicited manuscripts accounted for 76 per cent of our published pages, whereas in previous years it had been around 65 per cent. Read the rest of this entry…

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EJIL Vol.29 (2018) No. 1: In This Issue

Published on May 4, 2018        Author: 
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The overture for the 29th volume of EJIL is conducted by Eyal Benvenisti, whose Foreword article opens this issue. Benvenisti aims to determine the role of global governance today in view of the challenges presented by new information and communication technologies. In his view, the task has shifted, or rather expanded, from simply ensuring the accountability of global bodies to upholding democracy and protecting dignity. As with previous Foreword articles we have published, Benvenisti’s article takes stock of an important field of study in international law, and is sure to set the agenda for that field in the coming years.

The following articles in this issue share a retrospective dimension. Wolfgang Alschner and Damien Charlotin undertake the arduous task of analysing almost seven decades of jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice regarding its increasing self-referentiality. Intriguingly, they find that the growing complexity of the Court’s self-citation network is both a vice and a virtue. This empirically grounded and institution-centric endeavour is followed by an article by Hendrik Simon, which takes an almost deconstructivist approach in reexamining one of the most prominent and provocative doctrines in the history of international law. By shedding light on forgotten disputes in 19th-century international legal discourse on justifying war he demystifies the doctrine of liberum ius ad bellum. Ignacio de la Rasilla del Moral complements this section with aretro-introspection. Given the upcoming 150th anniversary of academic publishing in international law periodicals, he examines the history of international law journals from the mid-18th century until today, concluding with thoughts on certain contemporary features such as digitalization, linguistic monopolies and specialization.

The next set of articles focuses on International Economic Law. Sungjoon Cho and Jürgen Kurtz identify the distinctive historical paths and multiple intersections of international investment and trade law from a common origin to divergence and reconnection. In their view, this pattern of convergence and divergence is not limited to historical development but can also be traced to common challenges deriving from balancing market goals and public interest. Christopher Vajda explores mechanisms of dispute resolution in a variety of international economic agreements of the EU, and distils from this comparative exercise the importance of a direct effect whilst pointing to some deficiencies concerning the agreement with Canada.

Roaming Charges takes us to Manila where public transport can be unique experience.

In this issue, and over the next three issues of EJIL, we will mark the four-year centenary of the Great War with a four-part symposium on International Law and the First World War. Each part of the symposium will explore different aspects of international law’s relationship to the global conflict. We begin in this issue with ‘International Law before 1914 and the Outbreak of War’. Following Gabriela Frei’s Introduction on international law and the ‘great seminal catastrophe of the 20th century’, Jochen von Bernstorff explores the largely unregulated employment of violence and international law before 1914 by differentiating between order-related and ontological justifications.

This issue closes with two Critical Review articles. 

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Je Suis Achbita!

Published on February 19, 2018        Author: 
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Achbita, decided in March 2017 is not a run of the mill case. It raised what I think are hugely difficult conceptual legal issues. It also comes at a delicate moment in the social and political life of Europe, where the Court of Justice of the European Union is an important actor in shaping the climate and defining the moral identity in and of Europe. I do not believe the Preliminary Ruling of the ECJ comes even close to what one may expect from the supreme judicial voice of justice of our Union in a case of this nature.

The case concerned, as you will know, a Muslim woman whose employer insisted in the name of a neutrality policy of the Company that she may not wear the hijab (a head scarf) to work, and thus she lost her job. I think it is a fair reading of the ruling sent back to the referring Belgian Court that other than checking that the company, without overly burdening itself, could not find a place for Achbita in a back office which would not bring her into contact with the public, the Court had no major problems with the company’s policy compliance with the specific Directive bringing the case within the jurisdiction of European Law and the overriding human rights controlling norms such as the ECHR and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

I will present the case, for reasons which I will explain below, with a slightly different factual matrix.

Chaya Levi lives in Antwerp. She is part of the large Jewish Hassidic community in that town. She, like other members of that community, follows the strict norms of Orthodox Judaism. Some refer to them as Ultra-Orthodox. She works as a receptionist in a general services company which, inter alia, offers reception services to customers in the private and public sectors. As a receptionist she comes into contact with customers. No fault is found with her job performance. Chaya Levi falls in love and marries Moses Cohen of her community. Under Jewish law she now must wear a scarf covering her hair, not unlike the Islamic headscarf. In Antwerp this is an immediate tell-tale sign that she is an observant Jewess. Read the rest of this entry…

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