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Home Archive for category "International Tribunals"

Of Babies, Bathwater, and List B Judges at the International Criminal Court

Published on November 13, 2019        Author: 

 

The Open Society Justice Initiative recently released an excellent report on the selection of judges at the International Criminal Court (“Raising the Bar”). It is a detailed and thoughtful report combining often eye-opening interviews and desk scholarship. It makes a number of very important recommendations about improving the process by which ICC judges are nominated and elected. In this post, however, I wish to take issue with one of the report’s key recommendations. It is only one recommendation, but it is an idea which is increasingly frequently put forward in various fora as a sine qua non of effective International Criminal Court reform.

This is the suggestion that the only criterion for appointment to the ICC judiciary should be excellence in the practice of criminal law. Thus, the suggestion goes, the statutory provision that judges may be elected either on the basis of expertise in criminal law and practice (the “List A” judges) or expertise in relevant areas of international law and practice (the “List B” judges) should be abolished.

The Open Society Justice Initiative report certainly lends significant credence to the view that the List B route to the ICC bench has on occasion been used to appoint lawyers who have spent their career as diplomats and not prosecutors, defenders, judges, or scholar-practitioners.

However, the idea that a significant number of the Court’s woes would be corrected if only it were properly staffed with solid criminal law judges is, I think, overstated. Let’s briefly consider a few of the decisions of the Court which have been most maligned in recent commentary. Read the rest of this entry…

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Provisional Measures in Ukraine v. Russia: From Illusions to Reality or a Prejudgment in Disguise?

Published on November 8, 2019        Author: 

 

On 19 April 2017, the ICJ rendered an Order dealing with Ukraine’s request for provisional measures concerning the alleged violations by Russian Federation of both the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (‘ICSFT’) and International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (‘CERD’).

In assessing the request for provisional measures, the Court moved from requiring plausibility of rights to requiring of plausibility of claims. The latter constitutes a higher threshold compared to the former eloquently described by Judge Abraham in his separate opinion appended to the Pulp Mills judgment and consistently followed by the ICJ as discussed below.

This new test requires the Court, at the provisional measures stage, to consider aspects of the merits, which relates to the probability of the claim’s success, and goes beyond a pure jurisdictional analysis. This post examines the limits of Court’s assessment of the merits of a dispute in the context of a request for provisional measures, in the light of the binding nature of such measures and the need for balance between prejudgment and the protection of adjudication’s consensual nature. Does a requirement of factual plausibility disturbingly blur the distinction between merits and incidental proceedings? Read the rest of this entry…

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An Arusha-based World Court on Human Rights for African States?

Published on November 7, 2019        Author: 

 

The Arusha-based African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR) enjoys a distinctively broad contentious jurisdiction extending to ‘all cases and disputes submitted to it concerning the interpretation and application of the Charter, this Protocol and any other relevant Human Rights instrument ratified by the States concerned’ (Article 3(1) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR)). The ACtHPR’s striking feature sets it apart also from most international courts. One may even argue that, as far as African States are concerned, the ACtHPR functions as a world court on human rights by consolidating human rights obligations of State parties under the auspices of a single judicial body on a regional level. In this post I will offer a few, brief thoughts on some of the legal issues pertaining to the material jurisdiction of the ACtHPR. For a detailed analysis of these matters see my recent article in the Human Rights Law Review.

The ACtHPR’s approach

The ACtHPR has proved itself willing to exercise its material jurisdiction to the fullest possible extent. It systematically applies, and finds violations of, other human rights treaties, including regional, sub-regional and UN treaties, and it orders the respondent States to comply with their respective obligations. Some scenarios on how applicants submit complaints are:

  1. bringing a case claiming a violation of a right which is not protected under the ACHPR but is protected by another treaty ratified by the State concerned;
  2. alleging a breach of a right which, although included in the ACHPR, is formulated in another treaty in a manner that ensures a higher level of protection (see, Lohé Issa Konaté);
  3. claiming a violation of a human right which is protected in the same way under both the ACHPR and another treaty, but no mechanism is envisaged or is available to the applicant under that other treaty to bring an individual complaint (see Tanganyika Law Society);
  4. choosing to bring a complaint before the ACtHPR (instead of, or in addition to, another international body) as a litigation strategy (e.g., physical proximity to a forum, litigation costs, avoidance of stricter admissibility criteria before UN human rights bodies).

New designs and old anxieties Read the rest of this entry…

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The Other Poisoned Chalice: Unprecedented Evidentiary Standards in the Gbagbo case? (Part 3)

Published on November 6, 2019        Author: 

In this three-part series I seek to draw attention to legally-unprecedented and epistemologically-unsound evidentiary standards emerging at the ICC, particularly in the Gbagbo case.  The mainstream reaction to the Gbagbo case has been to accept the narrative that the problem lies entirely with evidence.  However, when the majority derides the “questionable quality of much of the evidence” (§1608), it speaks from a lens of Cartesian standards. If one reads the judgment instead through the lens of more typical legal standards, the evidence is harrowing.  Thousands of diverse items of evidence – eye-witnesses, videos, insiders, experts, and forensic and documentary evidence – attest to hundreds of instances of killing, wounding, raping, torturing and burning of civilians by police and other pro-Gbagbo forces.

At Nuremberg, Robert Jackson warned that giving the defendants an unfair trial would be a poisoned chalice for the tribunal itself.  My concern is that opposite extreme is also a poisoned chalice.  An exclusive focus on the interests of the accused, to the exclusion of all other considerations, leading to rarified and ungrounded standards, will also collapse the system.  If unchecked, these standards can only lead to repeated collapses of investigations and prosecutions.  We are at an interesting moment, because scholars are rightly warning against ‘crisis narratives’, and I myself have appealed for less alarmism.   Nonetheless I think that evidentiary standards are now one of the most crucial topics for study and reform.

The previous two posts (see Part I here and Part II here) gave only a cursory outline of problematic approaches to evidence and examples thereof. I will now touch on two related points, (1) evidentiary expectations for crimes against humanity and (2) investigative criticisms that overlook the applicable legal regime, and then I will conclude. Read the rest of this entry…

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The Other Poisoned Chalice: Unprecedented Evidentiary Standards in the Gbagbo Case? (Part 2)

Published on November 6, 2019        Author: 

My aim in this three-part series is to start a conversation about unusual and problematic evidentiary standards emerging at the ICC.  These standards flow from a commendable impulse to uphold the highest standards, but they entail an unprecedented and unattainable exactitude. In my view, if these standards take hold, they will result in the repeated crashing of complex cases, making them especially poorly suited for precisely the types of cases the ICC is mandated to deal with. 

In my view, the more common and appropriate approach, seen in national and international practice, is even-handed, holistic, experiential and practical.  The experiential approach draws on human experience.  It employs sound methods of reasoning, such as triangulation, extrapolation, interpolation, and inference to best explanation, and thus it is can work judiciously with patterns and inferences.  It is also practical: it bears in mind feasibility and procedural economy.

For brevity, I will call the alternative, emerging approach the “Cartesian” approach. I introduced its features in part 1 of this series, such as its hyperscepticality, atomism, and fixation with certainty and speculative doubts.  In this post I will give some additional examples of problematic evidentiary approaches as seen in the Gbagbo trial decision.  As the judgments are over 1300 pages, I am only able to outline some of the concerns and some examples in the most general and cursory.  My hope is to trigger an invigorated discussion of international criminal evidence law.

Read the rest of this entry…

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The Other Poisoned Chalice: Unprecedented Evidentiary Standards in the Gbagbo Case? (Part 1)

Published on November 5, 2019        Author: 

The aim of this post is to start a conversation about unusual evidentiary standards emerging in some judgments at the ICC.  Although the underlying impetus is commendable, these standards pose legally unprecedented and epistemologically unsound demands.  Remarkably, these novel evidentiary approaches, which depart significantly from national and international practice, have not yet triggered much conversation.  As recent cases (such as Gbagbo) have ended in acquittals, the Court-watching community has largely simply echoed the judicial criticisms of the evidence, and hence blamed inadequate investigations.  While investigative improvements are likely part of the solution, any serious effort to repair the ICC has to consider these evidentiary standards.  These standards will significantly increase the costs and delays of ICC proceedings.  In cases of any complexity, the standards can only result in failed cases.  An invigorated sub-discipline – international criminal evidence law – is urgently needed.

In this three-part series of posts, I will focus on the Gbagbo acquittal judgment.  Douglas Guilfoyle’s thoughtful ‘tale of two cases’ advances a hypothesis that the different outcome between the Gbagbo acquittal and Ntaganda conviction is because the latter focused on an easier, smaller case.  That may be true, but I want to place alongside that another hypothesis, that the difference between the two outcomes may in part be the very different approaches by the judges.

I open with a word of sympathy for judges.  At an earlier stage of international criminal law, Tribunal judges were often criticized by academics (including me) for adopting approaches that were too pro-conviction and that overlooked rights of the accused.  Hence it is entirely understandable that judges and legal officers may have lurched in the other direction, with an eagerness to demonstrate their unparalleled care for the accused. 

The problem is when the zeal for impeccable standards swings too far, and produces a method that is so rigid, formalistic, and hypersceptical that it loses sight of substance and feasibility. Read the rest of this entry…

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The International Court of Justice Releases New Rules of Court

Published on November 4, 2019        Author: 

On 21 October 2019 the International Court of Justice released a series of amendments to its Rules of Court. This is the first substantive change to the Rules since 2005 and marks the fifth time the Rules have been amended since the creation of the Court (discounting the PCIJ years, on which more will be said in a moment).

The 2019 amendments are of interest because they come at a time when practical and academic interest in the Court’s procedure is at an all-time high. I say this not only because it is the focus of my own PhD research. Questions of International Law hosted a conference on procedure in May of this year; the International Law Association Committee on the Procedure of International Courts and Tribunals is in its final year and will be reporting in 2020; and the Max Planck Institute released last month a new encyclopedia dedicated to matters of procedure.

This post will set out a brief history of the Court’s Rules, speculate on the driving forces behind the 2019 amendments, and consider the implications of the new Article 79 on preliminary matters. Read the rest of this entry…

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Case Closed, but what about the Execution of the Judgment? The closure of Anchugov and Gladkov v. Russia

Published on October 30, 2019        Author:  and

 

 

In the beginning of October, EJIL: Talk! published a series of posts (here and here) by George Stafford, one of the co-directors of the European Implementation Network, who raised alarm about the status of execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (the ECtHR). Based on the available statistical data, George argued that the problem of non-execution is “far more widespread than many believe.” Our post continues to address the important issue of the execution of judgments of the ECtHR by focusing on a specific case, namely Anchugov and Gladkov v. Russia – a 2013 judgment concerning the disenfranchisement of prisoners in Russia. 

On September 25th, the Committee of Ministers (the CM) of the Council of Europe, which pursuant to Article 46(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights (the ECHR or the Convention) supervises the execution of judgments of the ECtHR, adopted a final resolution CM/ResDH(2019)240, which closed the supervision of Anchugov and Gladkov v. Russia. The closure of the case means that Russia has complied with Anchugov and Gladkov judgment, as per assessment of the CM.

Anchugov and Gladkov became a test case for the Russian Constitutional Court (the RCC) under the domestic mechanism introduced in 2015, which permitted the Russian authorities to refuse the execution of judgments of the ECtHR on the basis of the RCC’s assessment of non-compliance of such judgments with the Russian Constitution. The RCC’s 2016 ruling of 19 April 2016 finding that the execution of Anchugov and Gladkov judgment was “(im)possible” provoked strong criticism from legal scholars and became a symbol of Russia’s resistance to the authority of the ECtHR. Read the rest of this entry…

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The ECtHR on Disembarkation of Rescued Refugees and Migrants at Greek Hotspots

Published on October 25, 2019        Author: 

The storm-tossed question of disembarking rescued refugees and migrants

The pressure of mass migration in the Mediterranean on EU sea-border states calls for other member states to contribute to humanitarian efforts at sea that respect the human rights of refugees and migrants. Article 98 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC) codifies the maritime duty to rescue persons in distress and creates the complementary duty on coastal states to cooperate in operating search and rescue (SAR) services. Under the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR Convention) and the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS Convention) the relevant coastal state must ensure timely disembarkation of survivors at a ‘place of safety’ (see e.g. 1979 SAR Convention Annex ch. 3, 3.1.9). However, poor reception and detention conditions at Greek hotspots in the Aegean Sea raise the question of whether disembarkation at these EU assigned facilities will be in contravention of obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), in particular the Article 3 prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment.

Following an overview of the current conditions at the Greek hotspots, this study considers a number of decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) exploring extraterritorial liability for disembarkation and the relevance of the contexts of maritime rescue and mass migration to the overall assessment of Article 3. Despite problems such as severe overcrowding, Convention states may be able to disembark at Greek hotspots without triggering Article 3 liability. Read the rest of this entry…

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Could International Law Stop a No-Deal Brexit?

Published on October 16, 2019        Author: 

At the time of writing – less than 3 weeks until the current ‘Brexit day’ of 31 October 2019 –  all options relating to the UK’s departure from the European Union appear to be on the table. Leaving with a deal, ‘crashing out’, not leaving at all, or anything in between seem equally possible. Much attention has been paid to the UK’s constitutional requirements governing the executive’s actions in relation to Brexit, as well as the domestic legal consequences of flouting them. The possibility of Prime Minister Johnson going to jail for violating these requirements has even been considered. However, not much has been said about the potential international law consequences. Here I explore whether international law could prevent a No-Deal Brexit – or, more precisely, whether a failure to comply with domestic constitutional requirements may prevent the UK’s withdrawal from the EU from taking effect in international law. This discussion draws on my recent work exploring the role of domestic law in the international legal validity of treaty withdrawal more generally.

The starting point for this discussion is Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) – by now, likely the most famous treaty exit clause in legal history. Art 50 states, in part:

  1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

  2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. …

  3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

For our purposes,  Art 50(1) is the key provision. This, unusually, makes the triggering of withdrawal from the EU explicitly contingent on compliance with the State’s domestic constitutional requirements.  Thus, in principle, if there is a failure to comply with those constitutional requirements, the decision to withdraw is invalid according to the TEU. In the 2018 Wightman decision, the ECJ affirmed that “the decision to withdraw is for that Member State alone to take, in accordance with its constitutional requirements, and therefore depends solely on its sovereign choice” (at para. 50).

While a full dissection of the UK’s constitutional requirements for leaving the EU is not possible here, there are two clear domestic law limitations constraining the UK executive’s prerogative in relation to Art 50. Read the rest of this entry…

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