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Challenging abortion laws in Bangladesh: In need of a multi-pronged judicial strategy

In May 2020, a writ petition was filed with the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh challenging the constitutionality of Sections 312-316 of the Penal Code 1860, a legacy of the British colonial rule in the Indian subcontinent. Under Section 312, anyone who voluntarily causes a woman to miscarry, including the woman herself, is punishable for criminal offence. The only exception to this broad prohibition is where the procedure is carried out in good faith to save the woman’s life. What is remarkable is that while there is lengthy reference in the petition to Roe v Wade, the seminal 1973 US Supreme Court decision establishing women’s constitutional right to the procedure, there is no reliance on Bangladesh’s obligations under international human rights law. While the petition is still underway, and the Court is yet to decide on the constitutionality of the impugned sections, in this post, I argue that it could be precarious in the long run to rely solely on this comparativist approach. Should the Court decide the…

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Why I Can’t Sign the World Lawyers’ Pledge on Climate Action

Saskia Stucki and colleagues have invited the readers of this blog to sign the “World Lawyers’ Pledge on Climate Action”. I find myself unable to do so and I would like to share the reasons for this, in the spirit of civil academic debate that this blog has long promoted. The following raises…

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The pandemic, UN cyber negotiations and international law and norms

Bright winter sunlight flooded the non-descript conference room in the Palais des Nations, as delegates of the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on cyber took their seats. It was February 2020, and the 2-year multilateral process was still in its early days, with negotiations scheduled over the course of the next 18 months. While delegations did not…

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Attacking women’s rights and UN human rights mechanisms under the guise of principle

Grégor Puppinck’s response to critiques of the ECLJ’s report on financing for the UN human rights Special Procedures’ system is a masterclass in evasion. He entirely ignores Martin Scheinin’s analysis that shows the dishonesty and manipulation involved in the preparation of his report. His claim that my work as UN Special Rapporteur on extreme…

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Brexit, the Irish Protocol and the ‘Versailles Effect’

What does the Treaty of Versailles have to do with Brexit, you may be asking yourself? Quite a lot I would like to suggest. But a preliminary comment is necessary. In the current state of polarized societies  and, increasingly, a polarized academy, an old-style ‘Voltairian liberal’ like myself (of the ‘I disapprove of what you say, but…

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