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Home Archive for category "Occupation"

Opening the Floodgates, Controlling the Flow: Swedish Court Rules on the Legal Capacity of Armed Groups to Establish Courts

Published on March 10, 2017        Author: 

 

A Swedish District Court (SD Court) has recently ruled that non-state armed groups have the capacity under international law to establish courts and carry out penal sentences, but only under certain circumstances. While the issue has been widely debated by legal scholars over the past decade (Somer, Sivakumaran, Hakimi), this may very well be the first time that any domestic or international court has made a definitive ruling.

The implications at stake are as clear as the facts of the case. A member of an armed group admits to executing enemy detainees, but argues his actions were lawful as he was carrying out a sentence to punish war criminals as a result of a fair trail of a legitimate (but non-state) court. Notwithstanding the veracity of the claim, does this act amount to summary execution or the execution of justice?

International Humanitarian Law (IHL) prohibits the passing of sentences without fair trail guarantees for acts or omissions related to an armed conflict. For armed groups, this poses two existential challenges to the establishment of criminal courts. First, common article 3 to the Geneva Conventions requires courts to be ‘regularly constituted’. Second, the due process principle of legality (nullum crimen sine lege) requires that criminal offenses be established ‘under the law’.

The SD Court quite remarkably rules that armed group may establish courts in principle, but then seemingly aware of the vast public policy implications of this decision, attempts to rein it in by imposing conditions on armed group trials that seem more attuned to the court’s policy concerns than sound legal reasoning. Read the rest of this entry…

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Turkish Military Intervention in Mosul: A Legal and Political Perspective

Published on January 27, 2017        Author: 

In October 2016, Turkey deployed hundreds of its armed troops to the Iraqi town of Bashiqa, 12 kilometers northeast of Mosul held by Islamic State. Meanwhile, Iraqi officials have called for Turkey to withdraw its forces from Iraq’s territory. Relevantly, one of the most important questions is whether Turkish military intervention in Northern Iraq has a legal basis.

First of all, it should be noted that, although there have been serious violations of human rights (mainly sectarian and ethnic divisions within the area) during the internal armed conflicts in Iraq, legally any reason cannot be accepted as a justification for military interventions and violations of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a State. From this point of view, Turkish intervention in Iraq is a violation of the principle of respect for territorial integrity and political independence of the States which includes the inviolability of the territory of the State. As stated by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) (for example in Accordance with International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence of Kosovo, Advisory Opinion, 2010, para. 80), the principle of territorial integrity, which is underpinned by the prohibition of the use of force in customary international law  and Art. 2(4) of the United Nations Charter is an important part of the international legal order and its scope is confined to the sphere of relations between States. By the way, although the recent Turkish military intervention in Mosul is not its first-time violation in Iraq –it has consistently attacked PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê) militants in Iraq since 2003– it should be noted that the justification given by Turkey for the violation of the principle of territorial integrity that it has just conducted in Northern Iraq, is self-defense against Islamic State and the PKK. Read the rest of this entry…

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Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016) and its Legal Repercussions Revisited

Published on January 20, 2017        Author: 

Security Council 2334 (2016), adopted by the Security Council on December 23, 2016 with 14:0:1 votes, the United States abstaining, and dealing with the issue of Israel’s settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territory, and the broader issue of the international legal status of the West Bank and East Jerusalem will, just like Security Council resolution 242 (1967) beforehand, probably become one of those seminal Security Council resolutions every international law professor will have to deal as part of his or her international law class since, apart from its immediate context and its political repercussions, it by the same token raises, and relates to, fundamental issues of international law.

While various of those issues, and namely the question of its binding effect have already been dealt with here, there still remain quite a number of open issues that require further clarification, some of which will be discussed hereinafter.

  1. Relationship of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) with prior Security Council resolutions, in particular Security Council resolution 242 (1967)

The claim has been made that Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), as adopted, is incompatible with the content of Security Council resolution 242 (1967) (see here) given that Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) in its preambular paragraph 5, as well as in its operative paragraph 3, takes as a starting point for any final territorial arrangements between the parties to the conflict the 4 June 1967 lines, i.e. the so-called ‘Green line’, any changes to which would require a negotiated agreement between the two sides. Read the rest of this entry…

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Legal Bindingness of Security Council Resolutions Generally, and Resolution 2334 on the Israeli Settlements in Particular

Published on January 9, 2017        Author: 

As I have read commentary on the recently adopted resolution by the U.N. Security Council (Resolution 2334) addressing Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, I’ve noticed a number of commentators who appear to assume that, since this resolution was not explicitly adopted in exercise of the Council’s Chapter VII powers, therefore all of its operative provisions are per se legally non-binding. Orde Kittrie, writing over at Lawfare, seems to make this assumption clear when he writes:

“Resolution 2334 was not adopted under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter and is not legally binding. The resolution does not create additional legal requirements on Israel, nor does the resolution require (or even explicitly encourage) U.N. member states to impose sanctions on Israel in response to Israeli settlement activity.”

I thought this would be a good opportunity to write briefly to clarify that the legal obligation for U.N. Charter states parties to comply with the decisions of the Security Council, contained in Article 24 and 25 of the Charter, is not contingent upon the Council’s acting in exercise of its Chapter VII powers. Any decision of the Security Council is legally binding upon all U.N. member states, whether or not the text of the resolution explicitly references Chapter VII.

Rather, the key question for determining whether a particular provision of a Security Council resolution is legally binding on member states (i.e. whether the provision is a “decision” of the Security Council), including the specific addressee of the resolution, is whether the Council has chosen to use words within the provision indicating its intent to create a legally binding obligation.

The International Court of Justice made these points clear in its 1971 Namibia advisory opinion, in Paragraphs 108-114. Read the rest of this entry…

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Trade Agreements, EU Law, and Occupied Territories (2): The General Court Judgment in Frente Polisario v Council and the Protection of Fundamental Rights Abroad

Published on December 11, 2015        Author: 

This is a follow-up to my July post on Action for Annulment Frente Polisario v Council (Case T-512/12), a case before the General Court of the European Union (GC) in which Frente Polisario – the National Liberation Movement for Western Sahara – seeks the Annulment of the EU Council decision adopting the 2010 EU-Morocco Agreement on agricultural, processed agricultural and fisheries products. The GC delivered its judgment yesterday, both recognizing the standing of Frente Polisario and granting the (partial) annulment of the decision, with implications for EU-Morocco relations and for EU external relations law more broadly.

(1) Standing of Frente Polisario under Article 263 TFEU

As regards standing, the most striking aspect of the judgment is that the Court accepted the Frente’s entitlement to plead as a ‘moral person’, with the ‘necessary autonomy’ to challenge a decision of the EU legislator (paras. 50-53), without reference to the sui generis character of Frente Polisario or to the unique situation of Western Sahara. This would seem to open the door for other ‘autonomous entities’, even those with no claim to international legal personality, to challenge EU decisions under Article 263 TFEU.

By the same token, the Court fell short of recognizing the Frente’s legal personality under international law. Read the rest of this entry…

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The ICRC’s Position on a Functional Approach to Occupation

Published on November 18, 2015        Author: 

It is always interesting to observe the evolution of the (infrequent) public official positions that the International Committee of the Red Cross adopts on controversial questions of international humanitarian law. The particular position I’d like to flag is the one on a functional approach to the end of belligerent occupation. This position is clearly of particular importance to the question of whether Gaza continues to be occupied by Israel, which I’ve looked at here on the blog a couple of times before (see here and here).

Some years ago the ICRC held a series of expert meetings on various issues arising out of the law of belligerent occupation, including the beginning and end of occupation. The 2012 report on the meetings is available here. The issue of the end of occupation proved to be controversial, especially on the example of Gaza. Some degree of consensus emerged that the legal criteria for ending an occupation should be the same as for establishing the occupation, but that the evidentiary factors to be taken into account may differ. Thus, an occupation would end if the occupant lost effective control of the territory or obtained valid consent from the sovereign of the territory to its presence there.

Also in 2012, the ICRC legal advisor dealing with the occupation issue, Tristan Ferraro, published an academic article on the beginning and end of occupation in the International Review of the Red Cross. Like most pieces written by ICRC legal advisors, the article includes an initial footnote which specifies that the ‘article was written in a personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ICRC.’ In the article Ferraro argues in favour of a functional approach to occupation, where the end to an occupation should not be seen as an all or nothing switch.

With regard to the Gaza controversy in particular, the ICRC took the position (shared by many humanitarian NGOs) that Gaza remains occupied by Israel. In 2014, writing in the Israel Law Review, the ICRC president noted (p. 179) that ‘In the view of the ICRC, Israel continues to be bound by obligations under occupation law that are commensurate with the degree to which it exercises control.’

Last week, the ICRC published its challenges to IHL report (available on Just Security), written for the forthcoming ICRC conference in December (see also Gabor Rona’s post on the report here). And here, on pp. 11-12, we have an extensive articulation of the ICRC’s official position:

Read the rest of this entry…

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Trade Agreements, EU Law, and Occupied Territories – A Report on Polisario v Council

Published on July 1, 2015        Author: 

Speaking of occupied territories, an interesting judgment should soon come from the General Court of the European Union (GC) in Action for Annulment Frente Polisario v Council (Case T-512/12), a case with fascinating international law aspects. I attended the hearing last week and think it warrants a report.

Frente Polisario is a national liberation movement (NLM) that claims sovereignty for Western Sahara – the area between Morocco and Mauritania that has been on the UN list of non-self-governing territories since 1963, and in 1975 was the subject of a fairly inconclusive ICJ Opinion. The Frente sees Morocco as an occupying power, and challenges the EU Council decision approving the 2010 EU-Morocco Agreement on agricultural, processed agricultural and fisheries products. Given that the 2010 Agreement is a development of the 2000 EU-Morocco Association Agreement, the decision will have significant implications for the application of the latter agreement, and may thwart negotiations of the so-called “Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement”.

These agreements are all silent on the question of what constitutes Moroccan territory. However, Frente Polisario claims, de facto Morocco has been applying the 2000 Association Agreement to Western Sahara. If applied the same way, the 2010 Agreement will facilitate the export to the EU of agricultural products grown in Sahrawi land and fish caught in Sahrawi waters. If Morocco’s control of Western Sahara is illegitimate, this would violate the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination and to permanent sovereignty over their natural resources.

The case raises a number of interesting questions:

Standing of NLMs

Read the rest of this entry…

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Palestine v. Israel: 1:0? Palestine, Israel and FIFA: What Are the Laws of the Game? Part II

Published on June 25, 2015        Author: 

This is Part II of a two-part post. See Part I here.

Suspension of membership

A second category of FIFA membership issues related to international law relates to possible suspension of membership. Under Art. 14 FIFA Statute, it is the FIFA Congress that is responsible for suspending a member association, such suspension requiring a three-quarter majority of the Members present and eligible to vote. In case of a positive vote on such suspension, other FIFA member associations may for the duration of the suspension no longer entertain sporting contacts with the suspended member.

Although not constituting a suspension in the technical sense, it is worth noting that after World War II even after the German Football Association (DFB) had been refounded, it took until 1950 that its full FIFA membership rights were reinstated at the 1950 Bruxelles FIFA congress.

The first time suspension from FIFA stricto senso came up was in the 1950s vis-à-vis South Africa after a FIFA emergency committee had found in 1955 that the South African Football Association (SAFA), representing only white minority football clubs, did not constitute a national association within the meaning of relevant FIFA rules. It thereby somewhat foreshadowed the practice of the Credentials Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, which, as is well-known, ever since 1974 had considered that representatives of the white minority regime in South Africa could not represent South Africa for United Nations purposes. On 26 September 1961, at the annual FIFA conference, the South African football association was then formally suspended from FIFA, which suspension was however lifted in January 1963, albeit only for a short time. Soon thereafter, namely in 1964, and given the increased representation from African and Asian soccer associations within FIFA, the suspension of South Africa’s football association’s membership was re-imposed before South Africa was then, in 1976, formally expelled from FIFA. Finally, the South African association was re-admitted in July 1992 in the wake of the fundamental political changes then taking place in South Africa. This demonstrates how the policy of FIFA and its member associations was, if not influenced, by then at least parallel to, the concurrent development of modern international law related to the prohibition of racial discrimination.

Yet another development leading to the suspension of a national football association occurred during the Yugoslav crisis after the Security Council had, acting under Chapter VII, adopted resolution 757 (1992), and had thereby “[d]ecide[d] that all States shall (…) [t]ake the necessary steps to prevent the participation in sporting events on their territory of persons or groups representing the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)” (see para. 8 lit. b) of the text) Read the rest of this entry…

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Palestine v. Israel: 1:0? Palestine, Israel and FIFA: What Are the Laws of the Game? Part I

Published on June 24, 2015        Author: 

On 12 June 1015, the FIFA Executive Committee appointed former South African government minister Tokyo Sexwale to lead a monitoring committee to oversee issues related to the development of football in Palestine, and alleged interferences, by Israel, with such development. This committee was established on the basis of the decision by the 65th FIFA Congress in May 2015 after the Palestine Football Association had withdrawn its proposal to have the Israel Football Association suspended from FIFA. While this development has largely been overshadowed by the recent developments concerning alleged instances of corruption involving FIFA officials, and the ensuing announcement by the current FIFA’s President, Sepp Blatter, to resign from his position, it sheds light on the international law underpinnings of decisions made by FIFA when it comes to the status of contested territories in which a given national soccer association is based. What is more, it demonstrates how, over the years, the practice of FIFA has changed in light of developments of international law and what impact international law has when it comes to the current dispute FIFA is confronted with.

Membership in FIFA

During its early years, the FIFA Statute had simply provided that the organization consisted of “the Associations recognized by FIFA as the Associations controlling Association Football in their respective countries, provided that only one Association be recognized in each country” (see FIFA Handbook, 1st ed. 1927, p. 15; see also H. Homburg, FIFA and the ‘Chinese question’ 1954 – 1980: an Exercise of Statutes, Historical Social Research 2006, p. 69 et seq. (71)). Since 1937, FIFA had however already admitted “associations in a colony or dominion” which could then opt for directly joining FIFA whenever the “national football association of the mother country” [sic!] had signaled its consent (ibid., p. 71), thus being implicit evidence of the limited international personality of such dependent territories at the time. In the same vein, the FIFA 1937 Statutes had also provided that “[f]or countries placed under the protectorate of another country, the same principles as for dominions for colonies will be in force.” (ibid.).

As of today, Membership in FIFA is governed by its ‘Regulations Governing the Admission of Associations to FIFA’, Principle 1 of which currently provides that “[a]ny association that is seeking admission to FIFA must put forward an application that contains detailed information on its organisation, its sporting infrastructure and its territory”. Accordingly, each and every membership organization must provide data on the underlying scope ratione loci of its sphere of activities, which in case of territories, the status of which under international law is subject to dispute, might prove difficult. At the same time, Principle 3, para. 1, lit. a) thereof, dealing with the ‘Contents of application’, provides, apart from formalities, that any application for membership must include “[d]ocuments that show that the applicant represents a country in accordance with article 10 of the FIFA Statutes.” Art. 10 FIFA Statutes in turn, dealing with the admission of nationals soccer associations to FIFA, provides in its para. 1 that “[s]ubject to par. 5 and par. 6 below, only one Association shall be recognised in each Country”. For historical reasons, para 5 then provides that “[e]ach of the four British Associations [i.e. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland] is recognised as a separate Member of FIFA”, which thereby by the same token e contrario shows that these regions would otherwise not qualify as ‘countries’ for FIFA purposes. What is more is that Art. 10 para. 6 FIA Statute further provides that “[a]n Association in a region which has not yet gained independence may, with the authorisation of the Association in the Country on which it is dependent, also apply for admission to FIFA.” It is in light of these statutory provisions that football associations from ‘territories’ as divergent as Aruba, the British Virgin Islands, ‘Chinese Taipei’, Hong Kong, the Faroe Islands, as well as New Caledonia, are as of today all members of FIFA, the lack of statehood of the respective underlying ‘territory’ notwithstanding. Read the rest of this entry…

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