History of International Law

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The Myth and Mayhem of ‘Build Back Better’: Human Rights Decision-Making and Human Dignity Imperatives in COVID-19

Human rights were already under siege everywhere around the world before COVID-19.  But there is also a dawning race now against reaching the ‘twilight of human rights law’, due to: 1) authoritarian regimes’ dismissal of the relevance of human rights while using this pandemic to expand and consolidate their power, such as to silence speech, quash dissent, dismantle media, or execute mass arrests, detentions, or shootings; 2) the growing prevalence of utilitarian reasoning that instrumentalizes human rights as just a set of ‘costs’ that can only be met by a privileged few; and 3) the resurgence of the age-old relativist attacks on ‘universal’ human rights, seeking to recast the latter as mere forms of ‘Western neo-imperialism’ against today’s new hegemonic powers such as China. The latter claims had long been debunked in Steve L.B. Jensen’s excellently researched historical and archival analysis rejecting the putative exclusivity or dominance of ‘Western’ authorship of international human rights instruments, stressing evidence of the crucial role in the 1960s of Asia, Africa,…

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Concluding Rejoinder: The Art of International Law and Altruism of International Lawyers

In the introductory essay, I sought to apply The Art of Law in the International Community as a response not only to military force and other ills, but to the COVID-19 pandemic. Four colleagues have contributed on how they believe the book works and could work better. They have done so at a time of extraordinary challenge and…

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The Art of International Law-Making: Musings on The Art of Law in the International Community

The new book of Mary-Ellen O’Connell, The Art of Law in the International Community, has a number of merits. One merit is to have placed extra-positive approaches to law-making back at the centre of the stage. A second merit is to consider their role to explain the rise of two pillars of contemporary international law, namely the…

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Quo Vadis? The Future of International Dispute Settlement through the Art of Law in the International Community

Reading Professor O'Connell's latest opus, The Art of Law in the International Community, one cannot help but see its (deliberate or unintended?) twinning with Hersch Lauterpacht's The Function of Law in the International Community. O'Connell argues for a reimagination of modern international law through three propositions, which respond to and further engage Lauterpacht's  limitations on the…

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The Nightmare and the Noble Dream: An International Law Edition

Mary Ellen O’Connell’s sweepingly ambitious The Art of Law in the International Community is fueled by a sense of urgency: in a world facing a “‘piecemeal’ World War III’, (p. 15), international law, which was intended as a tool to save mankind from itself, is itself in a state of crisis.

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