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EJIL Debate: A whale or a weasel? The Antarctic Whaling case, and a reply to Professor d’Aspremont (Part I)

Published on January 15, 2018        Author: 
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Part I of a two-part post opening the discussion of Jean d’Aspermont’s article, ‘The International Court of Justice, the Whales, and the Blurring of the Lines between Sources and Interpretation‘.

The article by Professor Jean d’Aspremont, ‘The International Court of Justice, the Whales, and the Blurring of the Lines between Sources and Interpretation‘, is directed to the decision of the International Court of Justice in the case of Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan; New Zealand intervening) but is, in a number of ways, an unexpected commentary on that decision. The author concentrates his attention on what would seem to be a rather minor aspect of the controversy between the parties, and leaves aside all other elements of the case. He then builds on that point, an analysis of the parties’ arguments, and of the Court’s conclusions on the point, which, one suspects, both the parties and the Court would have great difficulty in recognizing as their own. The result is that Professor d’Aspremont appears to be criticising a wholly suppositious thesis, a chimera of his own construction, rather than the judgment actually delivered.

This criticism centres around what in the title of the article is called a ‘blurring of the lines between sources and interpretation’. In fuller terms, the distinction is between, in the first place, the ‘doctrine of sources’, which is ‘what allows norms and standards to be formally anchored in a legal order and generate therein the highest form of legal effect – that is, bindingness’ (p.1028). Against this, Professor d’Aspremont identifies a ‘doctrine of interpretation’: ‘legal relations between subjects of an international order can also be affected by interpretative effects’, which result from ‘an act of interpretation that is constrained not by the doctrine of sources but rather a doctrine of interpretation’(ibid.). This formulation, apparently unobjectionable, subsequently proves, however, to generate unnecessary problems, to be examined below. Read the rest of this entry…

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EJIL Debate: Jean d’Aspremont’s Article on the Blurring of Interpretation and Sources in the ICJ Case on Whaling in the Antarctic

Published on January 15, 2018        Author: 
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The blog is happy to announce that over the next few days, we will host a discussion of Jean d’Aspremont’s article, ‘The International Court of Justice, the Whales, and the Blurring of the Lines between Sources and Interpretation‘. The debate will open this afternoon with Professor Hugh Thirlway’s reaction to  d’Aspremont’s article. We will continue the discussion tomorrow with Jean d’Aspremont’s response. On Wednesday, Maiko Meguro will bring the debate to a close with her reaction to the argumentative framework of ‘logic of interpretation’ and ‘logic of sources’ put forward by Professor d’Aspremont in his EJIL article and discussed by Hugh Thirlway in his rebuttal.

d’Aspremont’s article, which was published in the European Journal of International Law in November 2017, argues that the idea that the doctrine of sources enjoys a monopoly on the tracing of bindingness and does not directly constrain the interpretation of those standards and norms that it validates has been seriously eroded by the International Court of Justice in its 31 March 2014 judgment concerning Whaling in the Antarctic. d’Aspremont contends that the Court comes very close to calibrating the interpretive effects of the resolutions of the International Whaling Commission through the doctrine of sources. He explains, how this blurring between sources and interpretation is most unsettling given the efforts that the Court had invested, over the years, in consolidating two distinct doctrines – the doctrine of sources and the doctrine of interpretation.

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.

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A Further Note on Civility and the Moderation of Comments on EJIL: Talk!

Published on November 17, 2016        Author: 
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In a recent Editorial EJIL reconfirmed its commitment to a robust policy of freedom of speech and academic freedom. A few weeks ago I also noted that:

We welcome robust and critical analysis and comment — including the slaughtering of Holy Cows. We welcome both the harsh and the whimsical. But it has always been the policy of EJIL that we endeavor to maintain a tone that does not offend good taste and that in interpersonal exchanges — in our debates in EJIL and in comments on EJIL Talk — disagreements are expressed in a non disagreeable manner.

One’s commitment to the freedom of speech and academic freedom is tested when confronted with speech with which one strongly disagrees and might even consider offensive. The ability to respond, contest and debate, on equal footing and in the same forum, is often time the best form of dealing with these issues — which is the default policy of EJIL in all its outlets — the Journal itself with its policy of EJIL Debates, EJIL Talk! and EJIL Live.

There are limits to all freedoms, especially when they conflict with other equally fundamental values such as dignity or reputation – though where exactly these limits lie is an issue itself hotly contested. Our tendency is to err on the side of academic freedom and freedom of expression. In the libel suit against EJIL we vigorously defended a contested book review, but as we stated there, had we considered that the contested book review had crossed the line into defamatory territory we would have withdrawn the book review. The French judiciary confirmed our assessment that the line had not been crossed, offensive and painful as the author of the book in question found the review.

Censoring the substance and material content of a position is thus something that should be done with great caution and only in extremis, no matter how offending one finds the contested opinion.

EJIL: Talk draws another line, that of civility of discourse, particularly pertinent, given the nature of the forum – unedited, non-refereed, comments – and the habits and customs of unbridled talkbacks rife on the net. We would feel such is inappropriate on the blog of a scholarly journal as we understand ourselves.

The comments in response to the recent post on the future of the SOGI mandate give rise to these issues. To judge from some emails I received, some of our readers considered that the substantive content of some of the views expressed were unacceptable for publication. I do not think that they reached that level. I have placed this type of question on the agenda of the next meeting of the full Editorial Board so that it can be addressed with the necessary deliberation and gravitas.

But on one element in that exchange it is our duty to take a position right now. We are aware that in the passion of a debate on strongly held beliefs, the line might be crossed inadvertently. Be that as it may, the ad personam characterization of Mr Vitit Muntarbhorn  as a “a political ideologue [rather] than a serious human rights lawyer,” crosses, in all the circumstances of the case, the limits of civil discourse to which EJIL aspires. Not surprisingly other similar personal characterizations followed.

In writing to me some readers used very similar characterization of the authors of these comments –  but such views would be equally unacceptable for publication in EJIL Talk!

I have therefore decided, in consultation with the Editors of the Blog, in light of the unfortunate turn in the tone of discussion in the comment thread to the post on the SOGI mandate, to close the thread for further comment. The editors of the blog do not wish to engage in substantive censorship, but incivility will not be tolerated and infringing comments will be moderated as appropriate under the circumstances.

I repeat yet again: We welcome robust and critical analysis and comment — including the slaughtering of Holy Cows. We welcome both the harsh and the whimsical. But it has always been the policy of EJIL that we endeavour to maintain a tone that does not offend good taste and that especially in interpersonal exchanges disagreements be expressed in a non-disagreeable manner. Critical in content, civil in expression.

I have asked the Editors of the EJIL Talk! to be vigilant in ensuring the continued civil tone of the blog. We expect contributors to the blog to respect its sensibilities.

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A Note on Civility from the Editor in Chief

Published on October 30, 2016        Author: 
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As Editor in Chief of EJIL I also hold overall responsibility for EJIL Talk and EJIL Live — all part of the EJIL Community. I want to post a reminder about our policies in all EJIL publishing vehicles: EJIL, EJIL Talk! and EJIL Live. We welcome robust and critical analysis and comment — including the slaughtering of Holy Cows. We welcome both the harsh and the whimsical. But it has always been the policy of EJIL that we endeavor to maintain a tone that does not offend good taste and that in interpersonal exchanges — in our debates in EJIL and in comments on EJIL Talk — disagreements are expressed in a non disagreeable manner.

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