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AfricLAW Blog

Published on April 3, 2012        Author: 

Our friend Erika de Wet sends the following notice: AfricLAW — the new blog on advancing the rule and role of law in Africa — is up and running. Find it at www.africlaw.com.

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Cambridge Journal of International Law Conference: “Agents of Change: The Individual as a Participant in the Legal Process”

Published on March 30, 2012        Author: 

The Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law  will be holding a conference – “Agents of Change: The Individual as a Participant in the Legal Process” – on 19 and 20 May 2012. The keynote addresses at the conference will be delivered by  Judge Antonio Augusto Cancado Trindade (on which see recent commentary here and here on this blog) and Professor James Crawford SC. Other highlights include a welcome address by Sir Elihu Lauterpacht CBE QC and a special talk by Professor Philippe Sands QC.

In addition, the Journal will be launching its first two issues at the conference and every delegate will receive a complimentary copy. For a full programme of events and to register, visit the journal’s website.

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Call for Proposals – Collective Redress in the Cross-Border Context

Published on March 26, 2012        Author: 

Large-scale international legal injuries are becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s globalized economy, whether they arise in the context of consumer, commercial, contract, tort or securities law, and countries are struggling to find appropriate means of providing collective redress, particularly in the cross-border context.  The Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law (HiiL), along with the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS), will be responding to this new and developing challenge by convening a two-day event on the theme “Collective Redress in the Cross-Border Context:  Arbitration, Litigation, Settlement and Beyond.”  The event includes two different elements – a workshop on 21-22 June 2012 comprised of invited speakers from all over the world as well as a works-in-progress conference on 20-21 June 2012 designed to allow practitioners and scholars who are interested in the area of collective redress to discuss their work and ideas in the company of other experts in the field.  Both events are organized by the Henry G. Schermers Fellow for 2012, Professor S.I. Strong of the University of Missouri School of Law.

Persons interested in being considered as presenters for the works-in-progress conference should submit an abstract of no more than 500 words to Professor S.I. Strong at strongsi {at} missouri(.)edu on or before 1 May 2012.  Decisions regarding accepted proposals will be made in early May, and those whose proposals are accepted for the works-in-progress conference will need to submit a draft paper by 4 June 2012 for discussion at the conference.  All works-in-progress submissions should explore one or more of the various means of resolving collective injuries, including class and collective arbitration, mass arbitration and mass claims processes, class and collective litigation, and large-scale settlement and mediation, preferably in a cross-border context.  Junior scholars in particular are encouraged to submit proposals for consideration.

Persons presenting at the works-in-progress conference will have to bear their own costs, since there is no funding available to assist with travel and other expenses.  The works-in-progress conference will be held on 20 and 21 June 2012 at NIAS, Meijboomlaan 1, 2242 PR Wassenaar, The Netherlands.  Wassenaar is approximately 20 minutes from The Hague by car.  The workshop of invited speakers will be held on 21 and 22 June, also at NIAS. Both the Schermers workshop and the works-in-progress conference are open to the public, although advance registration is required.  More information on both events is available at the HiiL website (www.hiil.org) or from Professor Strong at strongsi {at} missouri(.)edu.

Contact:  Prof. S.I. Strong at strongsi {at} missouri(.)edu

Deadline for proposals:  1 May 2012

For more on the Henry G. Schermers Fellowship at HiiL/NIAS, see:  http://www.hiil.org/organ-bios/prof-s-i-strong

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From the North Sea to the Bay of Bengal: Maritime Delimitation at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

Published on March 23, 2012        Author: 

Last week, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea delivered its judgment in the Dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal (Bangladesh/Myanmar). Although Bangladesh and Myanmar started negotiations for the delimitation of their maritime boundaries since 1974, when Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan, the boundary had still to be settled by 2009, when Bangladesh initiated the proceedings. The dispute was fuelled in 2008 when, following the discovery by Indian and Myanmar of gas deposits, Myanmar authorised exploration in the contested area. Bangladesh replied by sending its warships in the disputed area. Luckily, conflict was avoided following intense negotiations between the parties and the dispute has now been solved peacefully by having recourse to the dispute settlement provisions (Part XV) of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The decision established the boundary of the territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf [including the area of continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles (nm) from the baselines], between the two States in the Bay of Bengal. It also addresses navigation in the territorial waters of Bangladesh by vessels of Myanmar and discusses the rights and duties of the parties in the area where the continental shelf of Bangladesh beyond 200 nm overlaps with the water column within 200 nm from the coast of Myanmar.

This case is the first to be decided between the two initiated by Bangladesh for the delimitation of its maritime boundaries with its neighbouring States, Myanmar and India. As Dapo has already reported, delimitation of the Bangladeshi-Indian boundary has been submitted to arbitration. It is to be expected that, following the decision on the boundary, Bangladesh and Myanmar will now start exploitation activities in the bay of Bengal.

For those familiar with maritime delimitation, a quick glance at the map of the region will bring immediately in mind the geography of the North Sea continental shelf cases, decided by the ICJ in 1969. There are indeed at least three similarities between the two cases. Read the rest of this entry…

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Call for Papers: International Human Rights Law Review

Published on March 19, 2012        Author: 

The International Human Rights Law Review is a bi-annual peer-reviewed journal edited at Brunel Law School published by Brill/Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. It aims to stimulate research and thinking on contemporary human rights issues, problems, challenges and policies. It is particularly interested in soliciting papers, whether in the legal domain or other social sciences, that are unique in their approach and which seek to address poignant human rights law and policy concerns of our times. The journal is aimed at academics, students, government officials, human rights practitioners, and lawyers working in human rights, as well as individuals and organisations interested in the areas of human rights law and policy. The Editorial Board welcomes at anytime critical articles that consider human rights law, policy and practice in their various contexts, at global, regional, sub-regional and national levels; book reviews; and an up-to-date appraisal of important jurisprudence and practice of the United Nations and regional human rights systems including those in the developing world. For further details see ‘Call for Papers‘ and ‘Information for Authors’.

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ICC Delivers Its First Judgment: The Lubanga Case and Classification of Conflicts in Situations of Occupation

Published on March 16, 2012        Author: 

On Wednesday, the International Criminal Court delivered its first ever judgment. The Trial Chamber in the Lubanga Case delivered a judgment of over 600 pages by which it convicted Thomas Lubanga of the war crime of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities. It has taken nearly a decade for the Court to reach the point where it has finally completed a trial (though expect an appeal). That is quite a long time to get to this point and the course of this particular trial has, at times, been particularly unfortunate.

As I haven’t read the entire judgment I am not in a position  to provide comprehensive comments on it at this point. I really want to focus on two issues. The first issue is the length of the judgment. It is a shame that the ICC has followed the trend of other international criminal tribunals in issuing these excessively long decisions. I fail to see why the decisions of these tribunals need to be as long as they are. I would be grateful if someone can explain why the judgments are so long. Sure, these tribunals deal with complex cases. However, domestic courts, at least the ones that I’m familiar with, do not issue judgments anywhere near this length and they do deal with complex matters as well. I agree completely with Dov Jacobs point on his blog when he says:

The Lubanga Judgment, including the separate opinions is over 600 pages. For one accused, and essentially one count! One can only have nightmares at the thought of having to read the judgment in the Katanga and Chui case, with two accused and some 10 counts, or an hypothetical Bashir Judgment with its long list of charges… Something needs to be done about this judicial logorrhea. What is amazing is that I’ve heard some of the staff of these tribunals justify the length of judgments for reasons of pedagogy. Of course. It makes total sense that a layperson is more likely to read a 600 page judgment than a 200 page judgment…

The second, and main, issue I want to deal with is the way in which the Trial Chamber dealt with the classification of the armed conflict. Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the ICC sets out different lists of war crimes depending on whether an armed conflict is international or non-international. In general, an international armed conflict is one that takes place between States. In addition, the law regarding international armed conflicts applies to the occupation by a State of the territory of another State. But how should conflicts which take place in occupied territory and which involve non-State group be classified? In the Lubanga case, the question was whether Uganda’s occupation of the Ituri region in the Democratic Republic of Congo was relevant to the classification of the conflicts involving Lubanga’s militia – a militia that was found not to be under the control of any of the State’s fighting in that area. Where one State is in occupation of the territory of another State, should that fact mean that an armed conflict that takes place in the occupied territory is classified as an international conflict, even if that conflict relates to hostilities against or between non-State groups? On this point, the Trial Chamber disagreed with the view that the Pre-Trial Chamber had taken at the confirmation of charges stage of this same case. Read the rest of this entry…

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R v Mohammed Gul: Are You a Terrorist if You Support the Syrian Insurgency?

Published on March 14, 2012        Author: 

Dr Kimberley N. Trapp is lecturer in law at Newnham College, University of Cambridge.

In its recent decision in Regina v Mohammed Gul[1], the Court of Appeal held that there is nothing in international law which requires the broad definition of terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2000, as amended,[2] to be read so as to exclude acts of war committed during an armed conflict.

Mohammed Gul, then a law student at Queen Mary, had posted videos on YouTube that “showed attacks by Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other proscribed groups on military targets, including those in Chechnya and Coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, [and] the use of IEDs against Coalition forces […].”[3]  He was prosecuted for supporting terrorism as defined under Section 1 of the Terrorism Act, found guilty and sentenced to 5 years in prison.  The principal issue considered by the CA was whether the trial judge’s response to jury questions had been correct in law.  After having retired, the jury asked whether “an explosives attack on Coalition forces in Iraq is a terrorist attack” within the meaning of the Terrorism Act 2000. The judge told them that it was, and the Court of Appeal has agreed.  In this post, I want to take serious issue with that conclusion.

The Court of Appeal started by accepting that there is a customary international crime of terrorism (at least in times of peace) on the basis of the decision by the late Judge Cassese in the Appeals Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon 2011 Interlocutory Decision on the Applicable Law.  Let’s leave that controversy to one side – much has already been said on the Special Tribunal’s decision already. The question the CA then asked is whether “international law has developed so that an attack by insurgents on military forces of a government is not terrorism” – or otherwise put whether international law excludes lawful acts of war (as governed by IHL) from the definition of terrorism.  The reason this question needed asking is that, at least prima facie, “the definition [of terrorism] in Section 1 is clear. Those who attacked the military forces of a government or the Coalition forces in Afghanistan or Iraq with the requisite intention set out in the Act are terrorists.”[4]  The CA therefore needed to know whether there was any international law reason why the Act should be interpreted more narrowly.

The CA focused on customary international law as the source of a potential military exclusion from the definition of terrorism. It examined what it referred to as state practice (some of it in the form of treaty practice of the OIC and OAU, plus the criminal codes of Canada and Australia) and concluded – despite the fact that three out of the four sources examined exclude military conduct from the definition of terrorism – that the “necessary widespread and general state practice or the necessary opinio juris to that effect has not yet been established.” It is hard to see how the CA could have concluded otherwise given the limited practice canvassed.

But it is unclear how the CA jumped from its conclusion that customary international law doesn’t exclude acts of war from the definition of terrorism (accepting for argument’s sake that custom does indeed define terrorism as an international crime) to its conclusion that “there is nothing in international law which would exempt those engaged in attacks on the military during the course of an insurgency from the definition of terrorism.”  Perhaps the CA might have considered other sources of international law? Perhaps a treaty to which the UK is a party?  The Terrorist Bombing Convention is clearly applicable to the facts of the case and speaks directly to the issue of whether the bombing of military targets by insurgent groups in Iraq and Afghanistan amount to an act of terrorism under international law.

Read the rest of this entry…

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Venice Academy of Human Rights 2012

Published on March 13, 2012        Author: 

Venice Academy of Human Rights

The Venice Academy of Human Rights will take place from 9-18 July 2012. The theme of this year’s Academy is “The Limits of Human Rights” (http://www.eiuc.org/veniceacademy/).

Online registration is open until 1 May 2012.

Faculty of the Venice Academy 2012
Professor Philip Alston, NYU
Professor Seyla Benhabib, Yale
Assistant High Commissioner Erika Feller, UNHCR
Professor Martti Koskenniemi, Helsinki
Professor Friedrich Kratochwil, CEU/EUI
Professor Bruno Simma, Ann Arbor/Munich
Professor Henry Steiner, Harvard

Key Facts
Participants: Academics, practitioners and PhD/JSD students
Type of courses: Lectures, seminars and optional workshops
Number of hours: 21 hours of compulsory courses (plenum), 16 hours of elective and optional courses (smaller groups)
Location: Monastery of San Nicolò, Venice – Lido, Italy
Fees: 500 €

The Venice Academy of Human Rights is a center of excellence for human rights education, research and debate. It forms part of the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation (EIUC). The Academy offers interdisciplinary thematic programmes open to academics, practitioners and doctoral students with an advanced knowledge of human rights.

A maximum of 55 participants is selected each year.

Participants attend morning lectures, afternoon seminars and workshops and can exchange views, ideas and arguments with leading international scholars and other experts. This includes the opportunity to present and discuss their own “work in progress” such as drafts of articles, chapters of doctoral theses, books and other projects.

At the end of the program, participants receive a Certificate of Attendance issued by the Venice Academy of Human Rights.

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Call for Papers: The ICC at 10

Published on March 13, 2012        Author: 

In 2012, the International Criminal Court (ICC) will celebrate the ten-year anniversary of its entry into force. The Grotius Centre is holding a conference to coincide with this anniversary. It will bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines and practitioners from within the broader international law community to reflect on the ICC as an institution, its jurisprudence, the impact of its activities and to critically assess future possibilities for the Court.

The conference organizers are currently seeking submissions for panel discussants. Interested participants should send a draft title and abstract of their proposal (500 words), written in English, together with a CV to pcj {at} cdh.leidenuniv(.)nl. Proposals are due no later than Monday, April 16, 2012. Submissions should be related to one of the conference themes, and should indicate under which theme their proposal is to be considered. Accepted submissions may be considered for publication in a volume with a leading international publisher.

More information about the conference is available here.

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JICJ Special Issue on Aggression

Published on February 29, 2012        Author: 

Our friends at the Journal of International  Criminal Justice have let us know that their first issue of this year – the Journal’s tenth anniversary, sadly in the absence of Nino Cassese – is now out. The special issue is dedicated to aggression after Kampala, and was edited by Claus Kress and Philippa Webb. All of the articles are available on the Oxford Journals website.

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