Theory of International Law

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Are sovereignty referendums but a tool to legitimize territorial claims of the powerful?

This is the impression one could be left with in the wake of the popular votes organized by Russia in the occupied Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia. This impression might be reinforced by the fact that, as recently shown by Sze Hong Lam on these pages, these were by far not the first referendums to be (mis)used to justify the reallocation of sovereignty. Invocations of popular self-determination to legitimize annexations of territories can be traced back to the time of the French Revolution. The wider picture Considering that more than 600 referendums on sovereignty have been held across the world, it can, however, hardly come as a surprise that some of them should have been manipulated by those with the power to do so. As with any other instrument, one cannot do justice to the sovereignty referendum by focusing exclusively on its misuses. That voters are forced at gunpoint to cast their ballot is the exception, not the rule. Instead of Donetsk, Kherson,…

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Is there a Right to be Protected from the Adverse Effects of Scientific Progress and its Applications?

An entitlement to access the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, particularly technology, is almost certainly settled content of the right to science. It has traditionally been interpreted from Article 15(1)(b) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, but probably inheres in a broader interpretation of Article 15, particularly following General Comment…

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Project 2100—Is the International Legal Order Fit for Purpose?

It is in the darkest moments that we must ask the hardest questions and peer through the gloom in an attempt to see the light. The events to the east of us raise stark questions—about the current world order; about the place and effectiveness of the United Nations; about what the U.S. long-term assessment of global…

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The Gender of Treaty Withdrawal: Lessons from the Istanbul Convention

In the early hours of 20 March 2021 the Turkish Official Gazette announced—in a one sentence statement that offered no explanation—that the President Erdoğan had decided to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe treaty on preventing and combating violence against women. Two days later, the Communication Directorate of the President offered this justification: “The…

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Democracy and the (Non)Statehood of Taiwan

Introduction Much ink has been spilled on Taiwan’s legal status since the Formosa Question first arose in the 1950s. Yet, after Taiwan gradually emerged as a free democracy through a series of constitutional reforms following the martial-law rule’s end in 1987, the question of Taiwan’s status in international law has been lent a new…

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