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Home Human Rights Archive for category "Freedom of Expression" (Page 4)

In the Dock, in Paris

Published on January 25, 2011        Author: 

My entire professional life has been in the law, but nothing had prepared me for this. I have been a tenured faculty member  at the finest institutions, most recently Harvard and NYU.  I have held visiting appointments from Florence to Singapore, from Melbourne to Jerusalem. I have acted as legal counsel to governments on four continents, handled cases before the highest jurisdictions and arbitrated the most complex disputes among economic ‘super powers.’

Last week, for the first  time I found myself  in the dock, as a criminal defendant. The French Republic v Weiler on a charge of Criminal Defamation. The setting could not have been grander.  As I entered the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris, the French Old Bailey, my lawyer whispered: ‘Emile Zola was tried here.’ Vive la difference: This was no Dreyfus Affair but the stakes for Academic Freedom and liberty of expression are huge.

As Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of International Law and its associated Book Reviewing website, I commissioned and then published a review of a book on the International Criminal Court. It was not a particularly favorable review. You may see all details here.  The author of the book, claiming defamation, demanded I remove it. I examined carefully the claim and concluded that the accusation was fanciful. Unflattering? Yes. Defamatory, by no stretch of imagination. It was my ‘Voltairian’ moment. I refused the request. I did offer to publish a reply by the author. This offer was declined.

Three months later I was summoned to appear before an Examining Magistrate in Paris based on a complaint of criminal defamation lodged by the author. Why Paris you might ask? Indeed. The author of the book was an Israeli academic. The book was in English. The publisher was Dutch. The reviewer was a distinguished German professor. The review was published on a New York website.

Beyond doubt, once a text or image go online, they become available worldwide, including France. But should that alone give jurisdiction to French courts in circumstances such as this? Does the fact that the author of the book, it turned out, retained her French nationality before going to live and work in Israel make a difference? Libel tourism – libel terrorism to some — is typically associated with London, where notorious high legal fees and punitive damages coerce many to throw in the towel even before going to trial. Paris, as we would expect, is more egalitarian and less materialist. It is very plaintiff friendly. Read the rest of this entry…

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Philippine Supreme Court Silencing Dissent?

Published on November 9, 2010        Author: 

Given the wide coverage of the Calvo-Goller/Weigend/Weiler saga, EJIL Talk readers will be well aware of the topic of challenges to academic freedom. This post seeks to draw readers’ attention to another instance involving risks of an altogether different degree, and to raise awareness for what seems to be a worrying attempt, by a court, to silence dissent among academics: the Court in question is the Philippine Supreme Court, which is threatening 37 members of the University of Philippine’s College of Law with disciplinary sanctions for contempt – a charge that may eventually result in the loss of their bar licenses. This is only the latest twist in legal proceedings that from the outside seem altogether surreal, but that involve risks of a very real nature to some of our colleagues. So what is it all about, and why should we care?

What it’s about

The contempt proceedings have their origin in the proceedings of Isabelita Vinuya et al. v. Executive Secretary et al., in which the plaintiffs sought an order requiring the Philippine government to seek reparations from Japan for the mistreatment of Philippine “comfort women” during World War II. The Supreme Court declined the request, and in the course of its decision discussed concepts such as jus cogens and obligations erga omnes. Its discussion was curious because it quoted passages from works by Dr Mark Ellis, Professors Evan Fox-Decent and Evan Criddle and myself without properly attributing them, and, it seems, without really having understood them – hence attempts to apply jus cogens or obligations erga omnes meaningfully were presented as evidence of their questionable status.

Read the rest of this entry…

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JHHW to Stand Trial in France for Criminal Libel – Refusal to Remove a Bookreview which Displeased the Author of the Reviewed Book

Published on February 11, 2010        Author: 

The latest issue of EJIL is now out. The Table of Contents is posted below, but we wanted to draw EJIL: Talk! readers’ attention to the Editorial, which concerns an attempt in France to prosecute EJIL’s Editor in Chief for criminal libel. A link to the full editorial is posted below.

Editorial 20 4

The below Table of Contents is available online at: http://ejil.oxfordjournals.org/content/vol20/issue4/index.dtl

Editorial

JHHW
Editorial: Book Reviewing and Academic Freedom
Eur J Int Law 2009 20: 967-976; doi:10.1093/ejil/chp114 [Full Text] [PDF]   

EJIL: Debate! Anniversary Edition

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