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Introduction to the Symposium on ‘the UN Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees: The Twin Peaks?’

Published on February 27, 2019        Author: , , and
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Editor’s note: EJIL:Talk! is happy to announce that starting today, the blog will host a symposium on The UN Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees: The Twin Peaks?. In their contribution to this series, five members of the ESIL Interest Group on Migration and Refugee Law will engage with overarching and cross-cutting topics in the context of the recently adopted Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and Global Compact on Refugees.

We thank the authors for their contributions, and for the interesting discussions this symposium is sure to generate!

In this blog symposium, the ESIL Interest Group on Migration and Refugee Law focuses on the recently adopted two United Nations (UN) instruments aiming at reinforcing the (legal) structures of global governance on migration and asylum: the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) as well as the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR). Human migration has been a constant in the history of the world and a defining reality of our time. International migration has been coined as a global “megatrend” by the International Organization for Migration. In this context came the Global Compacts, which are the outcomes of a two-year negotiation process in different formats and settings. After several rounds of inclusive preparatory talks within the UN in New York, the Marrakech Intergovernmental Conference, held on 10-11 December 2018, formally adopted the Global Compact on Migration, which was later endorsed by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on 19 December 2018 (with 152 States voting for it). The Global Compact on Refugees has been prepared in a less transparent way by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), then was presented to the UN General Assembly in September 2018, and was subsequently also endorsed by the UNGA in December last year (181 countries voted in favour of it). Read the rest of this entry…

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ICJ Delivers Chagos Advisory Opinion, UK Loses Badly

Published on February 25, 2019        Author: 
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Earlier this afternoon the ICJ delivered its Chagos advisory opinion. Briefly, the Court found that the separation of the Chagos archipelago from the British colony of Mauritius was contrary to the right to self-determination and that accordingly the decolonization of Mauritius was not completed in conformity with international law. As a consequence, the Court found that the UK’s continuing administration of the archipelago, which includes the largest US naval base in the Indian Ocean, Diego Garcia, is a continuing internationally wrongful act, which the UK was under an obligation to cease as soon as possible. The Court was almost unanimous – its decision not to exercise discretion and decline giving an opinion was made by 12 votes to 1, while its findings on the merits were made by 13 votes to 1 (Judge Donoghue dissenting). The AO and the various separate opinions is available here.

Here are some key takeaways.

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The Post-TTIP Transatlantic Cooperation on Trade: Stepping up Conformity Assessment

Published on February 25, 2019        Author: 
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On 18th January 2019, the European Commission published the draft negotiating mandates for its trade talks with the United States, which followed the US-EU Joint Statement on stepping up the bilateral cooperation summing up the Trump and Juncker’s meeting in July 2018. Putting the idea of an ambitious trade deal to the side, the mandates cover two areas where the prospects of the agreement seem less contentious – eliminating tariffs on industrial goods and stepping up conformity assessment (CA) cooperation. The latter is chosen to serve one of the main negotiating objectives of both sides to remove non-tariff barriers (NTBs) that are estimated to have even a more profound effect on trade than tariffs in some areas and thus being of particular concern to the bilateral trade relations. Stepping up CA is also listed as one of the US Negotiating Objectives recently published by the USTR, since the US identifies European CA among main trade barriers to the EU market in its 2018 Foreign Trade Barriers report.

The CA cooperation, however, as this blog clarifies, does not imply cooperation on the content of regulatory disciplines and does not go further than recognition of certificates/ testing/ approvals issued by each Party’s regulatory authorities, making it a less ambitious mechanism than as had been initially intended under the TTIP (“Regulatory cooperation chapter”). However, despite being a “low hanging fruit” in comparison to regulatory cooperation, it still might be difficult to accomplish as the previous efforts on mutual recognition between the US and EU demonstrated. Over the years, though, the CA cooperation models have been stepped up, which is very well manifested in the recently negotiated CETA that might serve as a positive example for the future US-EU cooperation in the area of CA. Read the rest of this entry…

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Lingering Asymmetries in SDGs and Human Rights: How Accountable are International Financial Institutions in the International Accountability Network?

Published on February 22, 2019        Author: 
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The recent US nomination (and thus de facto appointment) of well-known World Bank critic and US Treasury official, John Malpass, as the new World Bank President following the abrupt resignation of Jim Yong Kim (former Dartmouth College president who announced he was leaving the World Bank for opportunities in the private sector) brought a slew of criticisms (see here, here, and here) against the United States’ traditional prerogatives of appointing the World Bank President, in tandem with the European Union’s counterpart prerogatives in appointing the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  The tradition arises from a “gentlemen’s agreement” struck at Bretton Woods at the inception of the World Bank and IMF.  Neither the IMF Articles of Agreement or the World Bank Group’s Articles of Agreement contain any whiff of this gentlemen’s agreement – but they are effectively carried out because of the United States’ overwhelming voting power at the World Bank and the European Union’s counterpart voting power at the IMF.  In any event, contestations over power and leadership of the Bretton Woods institutions are not exactly new – they are precisely the same matters that have impelled rival geopolitical powers such as China and Russia to set up new international financial institutions (IFIs) where their influence and leadership can be more palpable, as seen from the BRICS New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Leadership contests at the IFIs – often between one hegemon and other fellow hegemons in the international system – do not, however, scrutinize the real nature of accountability of IFIs under their development mandates, as to the populations for whom such mandates were created to begin with.  During his presidency at the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim was heavily criticized for soliciting private funders in Wall Street to finance the Bank, sourcing capital infusions beyond the traditional donations of governments.  World Bank staff challenged him for his managerial style and the lack of strategic direction, that was alleged to be inconsistent with the Bank’s actual development mandate.  

Even as the IFIs continued to tout “inclusive growth” at the November 2018 G20 meetings – a goal which the World Bank defines as “growth that allows people to contribute to and benefit from economic growth” – it is quite remarkable to this day that IFIs shirk from openly embracing their own member States’ human rights treaty obligations as the normative template for their development mandates, preferring to refer strictly to their internal mandates under their respective Articles of Agreement.  (On this point, see the interesting 2017 article by Thomas Stubbs and Alexander Kentikelenis).  It may be recalled that the UN Independent Expert for a Democratic and Equitable International Order, Mr. Alfred de Zayas, formally called on the World Bank in September 2017 to align their articles of agreement with human rights, and to ensure that development projects with Members’ own international human rights commitments, all the more so because the World Bank could not afford to be a “human rights-free zone”.  

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The Global Pact for the Environment – What Would the Right and the Duty to Environmental Protection Change for EU law?

Published on February 21, 2019        Author:  and
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From the perspective of international environmental law, there is already a lively debate about the proposed Global Pact for the Environment, including this blog. The contributions appear more limited on the topic of the Pact’s potential impact on EU environmental law, and it is on this issue we are particularly interested. In this post, we will discuss the right and the duty to environmental protection. In our opinion, both would introduce new elements into EU environmental law, but the changes would not be radical. Accordingly, ratification by the EU should not face overwhelming obstacles. Our remarks will be based on the preliminary draft of a Global Pact for the Environment, as proposed by the Group of Experts under the leadership of Mr. Fabius.

Under Article 1 every person has the right to live in an ecologically sound environment adequate for their health, well-being, dignity, culture and fulfilment.

Article 2 provides that every State or international institution, every person, natural or legal, public or private, has the duty to take care of the environment. To this end, everyone contributes at their own levels to the conservation, protection and restoration of the integrity of the Earth’s ecosystem. Read the rest of this entry…

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Canute’s Kingdoms: Can small island states legislate against their own disappearance?

Published on February 20, 2019        Author: 
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It was recently drawn to my attention that Tuvalu and Kiribati have in recent years passed legislation, following a relatively common scheme, that removes reference to the low tide line as the baseline for measuring maritime zones and replaces it with a system of fixed geographic coordinates. (The Marshall Islands has taken a somewhat similar approach.) On its face, this may constitute a claim that their maritime baselines are permanently fixed. That is, they will not retreat or be redrawn with rising sea levels.

This might seem a small matter in the range of legal issues implicated by climate change – it is not.

As every public international lawyer probably recalls, at least after the South China Sea arbitration, an island (within the meaning of article 121 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) generates a full suite of maritime zones but must be more than a mere rock incapable of sustaining human habitation or a maritime feature which is only above water at low tide. Imagine your national territory is composed of a series of islands, some of them quite small but generating extensive maritime zones. Long before you risk becoming completely “de-territorialised” by rising sea levels you might lose much of your national livelihood if islands previously generating exclusive economic zones become mere low tide elevations.

So the question becomes, can a state freeze the baselines from which its maritime zones are projected? Read the rest of this entry…

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‘Open for Business’: The Special Criminal Court Launches Investigations in the Central African Republic

Published on February 8, 2019        Author: 
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On 22 October 2018, the Special Criminal Court (SCC) held its inaugural session in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR). Several weeks later, the Special Prosecutor, Col. Toussaint Muntazini, announced his long-awaited prosecutorial strategy. Coming three years after Parliament initially requested a specialist ‘war crimes’ tribunal for CAR, these two acts mark a watershed in the country’s fight against impunity. After providing some background on the SCC, this post examines the prosecutorial strategy and the prospects of accountability in CAR.

The Legal Framework

Established by domestic legislation in June 2015, the SCC is a hybrid tribunal fully integrated into the Central African justice system. It is staffed by national and international prosecutors and judges, and relies on logistical and technical support from the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR. Funded by voluntary contributions, the SCC is functionally independent from both the United Nations and CAR government. Its five-year mandate, which officially began on 22 October 2018, is renewable.

Prosecutorial Strategy

Why did the SCC publicize its prosecutorial strategy? Other tribunals, for instance the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, never made their strategies public (to the extent such strategies existed). The SCC’s decision to ‘go public’ is more in line with the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s practice of adopting formal policies on a variety of matters. Read the rest of this entry…

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A Positive Take on the Legacy of the 1978 Judgment in Ireland v. United Kingdom

Published on February 7, 2019        Author: 
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In September 2018, a request by the Irish Government to refer the Ireland v. United Kingdom revision case to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) was refused, closing a door that had been reopened after forty years. The fact that the ECtHR arrived at a finding of inhuman and degrading treatment ‘only’ has been maligned. In this post, I’d like to highlight an alternative perspective and suggest that this judgment elevated the gravity of the ‘other’ forms of treatment and set in motion a pioneering approach to the interpretation of Article 3 ECHR.

Subsequent to the Chamber judgment in March 2018, there was much debate (including in this blog) about whether the ECtHR should have revised its 1978 finding of inhuman and degrading treatment in light of the additional evidence. Some have supported the ECtHR’s exercise of restraint in the use of its exceptional revision powers under Rule 80 of the Rules of Court, pointing out the need for legal certainty. Others have critiqued the Court’s approach to the new evidence or have lamented the Court’s failure to follow the European Commission on Human Rights’ finding of torture, opening the door to manipulation of the torture-versus-ill-treatment distinction. All have opined that the facts of the case would give rise to a finding of torture today.

A further commonality across the commentary is that all refer to the finding of inhuman and degrading treatment ‘only’. The 2018 judgment itself describes the applicant Government’s request for the Court to find that the ‘five techniques’ ‘amounted to a practice not merely of inhuman and degrading treatment but of torture within the meaning of Article 3 of the Convention’ (para. 8). In the context of these debates, and the revision request itself, the distinction between torture and inhuman and degrading treatment ‘only’ has been amplified. That is, there is a pervasive and implicit sense that inhuman and degrading treatment is in some way not as bad as torture. In 2018, as was observed in 1978, the Court’s failure to arrive at a finding of torture overshadowed the finding of inhuman and degrading treatment. Read the rest of this entry…

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Ruling of the Spanish Constitutional Court Legitimising Restrictions on Universal Criminal Jurisdiction

Published on February 6, 2019        Author: 
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A short history of universal jurisdiction in Spain

Last 20 December, the Spanish Constitutional Court (hereinafter, TC) issued a ruling rejecting an application made by more than fifty Socialist Members of Parliament to strike out a bill introduced by the Conservative Party in 2014. In practice, the aforementioned bill put an end to a law of 1985 which provided for one of the broadest universal jurisdiction regimes for criminal matters in the world. Spain had been at the centre of human rights litigation, with well-publicized cases against former presidents Pinochet and Jiang Zemin or top officials of the Israeli Government. Needless to say, such cases had caused a few diplomatic headaches to the Spanish Government, in the course of time. However, a former minister of justice had admitted that in twenty years there had actually been only one conviction in application of universal jurisdiction rules.

A first reform to restrict the extraterritorial jurisdiction of Spanish criminal courts came about in 2009 by an agreement between Socialists and Conservatives. Contrary to the original law of 1985, after 2009 the accused had to be found in Spain, the victim had to be Spanish or there had to be some other relevant connection with the forum. Subsequently, the abovementioned reform of 2014 granted jurisdiction for a larger number of crimes committed abroad but made it practically impossible to prosecute if the crime was completely unrelated to Spain. Read the rest of this entry…

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India’s Strange Position on the Additional Protocols of 1977

Published on February 5, 2019        Author: 
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After four decades of their adoption, India continues to have an ambivalent position on the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977, and the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), 8 June 1977. India has not yet become a party to the two Additional Protocols (APs). While it has not explained anywhere its position for not becoming a party, its recent clarification in the form of an answer in the Indian parliament does not provide any reasons for not becoming a party to the APs. This clarification came in the way of a response by the Minister of State for External Affairs to a question posed in the lower house of the Indian Parliament on 02 January 2019. The question posed by a Member of the Parliament sought clarification as to whether steps have been taken to ratify the APs and if not, what are the reasons for not becoming a party, if necessary, with reservations. The question posed by a Member of the Indian Parliament is as follows:

(a) whether steps have been taken to ratify the Additional Protocol I and II to the Geneva Conventions;

(b) if so, the details thereof and the steps taken to bring domestic laws in compliance with the Protocols; and  

(c) if not, the reasons for abstaining in spite of the availability of the option of ”ratification with reservations”?

Read the rest of this entry…

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