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Those Who Live in Glass Houses….

Published on November 8, 2017        Author: 

The European Commission launched an infringement procedure against Poland over measures affecting the judiciary a day after the publication in the Polish Official Journal of the Law on the Ordinary Courts Organization on 28 July 2017. Though the infringement procedure is formally distinct from the ongoing ‘Rule of Law Dialogue’ and the recommendations issued just a few days before commencement of such procedure, it comes under the latter’s penumbra; both form part and parcel of the Commission Press Release (IP-17-2205). If the concern was ‘The Rule of Law,’ at least in some respects there is more bang than buck. The President of Poland blocked the most controversial parts of the new judicial regime in Poland, so that the infringement procedure was left with just two violations.    

The first concerns a different retirement age for male and female judges. It is not clear if this distinction in the Polish law is by design or inertia but the infringement seems clear: what is sauce for Sabena (RIP) cabin attendant geese should be sauce for judicial ganders. But important as any form of gender discrimination is, this item in the Polish legislation does not directly concern the more troublesome aspects of political control over the judiciary and its independence. Should Poland not correct this anomaly, it should be an easy case for the Court.

The second item in the infringement procedure is far more serious. In the Letter of Formal Notice (the first stage in infringement procedures) the Commission raises concerns ‘…that by giving the Minister of Justice the discretionary power to prolong the mandate of judges who have reached retirement age, as well as dismiss and appoint Court Presidents, the independence of the Polish Courts will be undermined’ (id.), allegedly contravening a combination of Article 19(1) of the TEU and Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – a legal basis which is creative but not specious.

If indeed the prolongation of the mandate of a judge reaching retirement age rests in the hands of a Minister, the government of which he or she is part and acts and/or legislation issuing from which might be subject to judicial scrutiny by said judge, it may well consciously or otherwise impact, for example, his or her conduct prior to retirement or, no less importantly, give the appearance of lack of independence. I think this is indeed a serious matter impinging on the independence and appearance of independence of the judiciary. It is one thing to have scrutiny and approval of judges by democratic bodies at the moment of appointment. But once appointed, the independence of the judge from political actors must be as absolute as possible, and this dependency described in the letter of intent clearly compromises such.

But there is an irony in this complaint; some might even think a ticking time bomb. At least on two occasions proposals were put to various Intergovernmental Conferences to amend the Treaties so that the appointment of Judges to the Court of Justice of the European Union should be for a fixed period of time – say nine years – as is undoubtedly the Best Practice in Europe among higher courts where appointments are not until the age of retirement. Ominously in my view, the proposals were rejected. So that now we live under a regime where the prolongation of Members of the Court(s) (Judges and Advocates General) rests in the hands of national politicians whose decisions and legislation may come before such judges. Read the rest of this entry…

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EJIL: In this Issue (Vol. 28 (2017) No. 3)

Published on November 7, 2017        Author: 

This issue opens with three articles addressing trade and investment in international law from different perspectives. In a valuable and timely contribution to the literature on the interpretation of investment treaties, Andrew Mitchell and James Munro consider whether the use of a third-party agreement in interpretation constitutes an erroneous application of the customary rules of treaty interpretation in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Gracia Marín Durán then explores the respective responsibility of the European Union and its member states for the performance of World Trade Organization obligations, proposing a ‘competence/remedy’ model to help untangle this delicate question. And Sergio Puig and Anton Strezhnev investigate the legitimacy of international investment law, based on an experimental survey of 266 international arbitrators, concluding that there is strong evidence that arbitrators may be prone to the ‘David Effect’ – a relative bias to favour the perceived underdog or ‘weaker’ party when that party wins, through reimbursement of their legal costs.

The next set of articles in this issue focuses on human rights, with particular attention to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Merris Amos examines the continued value of the ECtHR to the United Kingdom, illustrating what might happen if the UK were to withdraw from the Court. Susana Sanz-Caballero investigates the scope of applicability of the nulla poena sine lege principle before the ECtHR, looking especially at the decisions in Kafkaris and del Río Prada to highlight the Court’s increasingly flexible approach to the concepts of penalty, foreseeability and enforcement of penalty. Oddný Arnardóttir argues that the Court has effectively used the margin of appreciation to engender an erga omnes effect for its judgments through the principle of res interpretata. Vera Shikhelman offers a fresh, empirical look at the work of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, exploring whether geographical, political and cultural considerations correlate with the voting of committee members. Lastly, Thomas Kleinlein addresses an important development in the ECtHR jurisprudence, positing that the Court’s legitimation strategy – comprising European consensus and the new procedural approach to the margin of appreciation – enhances the potential for democratic contestation and deliberation.

Roaming Charges in this issue takes us to the Negev Desert in southern Israel, where the photographer, Emma Nyhan, poignantly captures the ‘outsideness’ of a cultural minority, the Bedouins.

This issue features a lively EJIL: Debate!, centring on an article by Jonathan Bonnitcha and Robert McCorquodale, which addresses the concept of ‘due diligence’ in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The authors criticize the uncertainty caused by two different concepts of due diligence invoked by the principles and suggest an interpretation of the Guiding Principles that clarifies the relationship between these concepts. John Ruggie (the author of the Guiding Principles) and John F Sherman, III, respond to the article, questioning the interpretive approach adopted by Bonnitcha and McCorquodale. The authors then offer a rejoinder. Read the rest of this entry…

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New Issue of EJIL (Vol. 28 (2017) No. 3) – Out Next Week

Published on November 6, 2017        Author: 

The latest issue of the European Journal of International Law will be published next week. Over the coming days, we will have a series of editorial posts by Joseph Weiler – Editor in Chief of EJIL. These posts will appear in the Editorial of the upcoming issue. Here is the Table of Contents for this new issue:

Editorial

Those Who Live in Glass Houses …; In this Issue

Articles

Andrew D. Mitchell and James Munro, Someone Else’s Deal: Interpreting International Investment Agreements in the Light of Third-Party Agreements

Gracia Marín Durán, Untangling the International Responsibility of the European Union and its Member States in the World Trade Organization Post-Lisbon: A Competence/Remedy Model

Sergio Puig and Anton Strezhnev, The David Effect and ISDS

Focus: Human Rights and the ECHR

Merris Amos, The Value of the European Court of Human Rights to the United Kingdom

Susana Sanz-Caballero, The Principle of Nulla Poena Sine Lege Revisited: The Retrospective Application of Criminal Law in the Eyes of the European Court of Human Rights

Oddný Mjöll Arnardóttir, Res Interpretata, Erga Omnes Effect, and the Role of the Margin of Appreciation in Giving Domestic Effect to the Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights

Vera Shikhelman, Geography, Politics and Culture in the United Nations Human Rights Committee

Thomas Kleinlein, Consensus and Contestability: The European Court of Human Rights and the Combined Potential of European Consensus and Procedural Rationality Control

Roaming Charges

Emma Nyhan, A Window Apart

EJIL: Debate!

Jonathan Bonnitcha and Robert McCorquodale, The Concept of ‘Due Diligence’ in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

John Gerard Ruggie and John F. Sherman, III, The Concept of ‘Due Diligence’ in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: A Reply to Jonathan Bonnitcha and Robert McCorquodale Read the rest of this entry…

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Announcements: CfP Cambridge International Law Conference; Immunity of State Officials Lecture

Published on November 5, 2017        Author: 

1. Call for Papers: 7th Annual Cambridge International Law Conference. The Cambridge International Law Journal is pleased to announce the call for papers for the 7th Annual Cambridge International Law Conference. The Conference will be held at the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, on the 3rd and 4th of April 2018. This year’s theme is ‘Non-State Actors and International Law’.  We welcome academics, practitioners and research students in presenting papers at the Conference. Prospective speakers are invited to submit abstracts of not more than 500 words in length, in addition to their CVs. The deadline to submit abstracts is Friday, 8 December 2017Registration for the Conference will open in January 2018. Please see here for further information. 

2. Melland Schill Lecture – The UN International Law Commission: Lessons from the Topic Immunity of State Officials. Manchester International Law Centre has the immense privilege of welcoming Sir Michael Wood to deliver this year’s Melland Schill Lecture, with the title: “The UN International Law Commission: Lessons from the topic Immunity of State Officials”. The lecture is on 21 November at 17.30 in University Place, Lecture Theatre A. The lecture will be followed by a reception at 19.00 in the ground floor foyer of University Place. Please register for this event here

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The European Arrest Warrant against Puigdemont: A feeling of déjà vu?

Published on November 3, 2017        Author: 

On 2 November 2017, the Spanish State Prosecutor asked Carmen Lamela, a Spanish judge, to issue a European Arrest Warrant against Carles Puigdemont and four of his former ministers following the vote of secessionist Catalan MPs to declare independence. They face potential charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds. Carles Puigdemont, who arrived in Brussels a few days before the news of the warrant was made public, called in a Belgian lawyer to defend his case. The Spanish authorities may not be thrilled by his choice.

The Basque precedent

In 1993, Spain issued an extradition warrant against two Basque secessionists who fled to Belgium, Moreno Ramajo and Garcia Arrantz. They were accused of participating in an unlawful association and an illegal armed band. The Court of Appeal of Brussels issued an Advisory Opinion according to which, the warrant was founded on political crimes and therefore, the extradition request should not receive a favourable response. The Belgian Ministry of Justice nevertheless ruled in favour of the extradition. In the meantime, Moreno Ramajo and Garcia Arrantz lodged an asylum application in Belgium, which was received admissible for further consideration. The extradition procedure was put on hold until a final decision to reject their asylum applications was made in 1994 on the grounds that despite the fact that cases of abusive behaviours of Spanish authorities towards Basque secessionists existed, these were isolated cases. Therefore, the argument was that there was no reason to believe that the Spanish justice system would fail to provide them with a fair trial. Thus, the extradition request was pursued and accepted. Following this decision, the couple submitted a procedure of extreme urgency before the Belgian Council of State in order to stop their extradition. This was successful and their extradition did not proceed(E. Bribosia and A. Weyembergh, ‘Asile et extradition: vers un espace judiciaire européen?’ (1997)  at 73-77).

What happened after that? Read the rest of this entry…

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Repressing Migrant Smuggling by the UN Security Council and EU Naval Military Operation Sophia: Some Reflections on Jurisdiction and Human Rights

Published on November 3, 2017        Author: 

On 5 October 2017, the UN Security Council through S/RES/2380 (2017) renewed for the second time the enforcement powers that S/RES/2240 (2015) granted to states in order to fight migrant smuggling and human trafficking off the coast of Libya.

In a previous blog post that I wrote here in October 2015, I concluded by wondering what the effects will be of S/RES/2240 (2015) and by questioning, from several standpoints, the use of military action against migrant smugglers and human traffickers and in the overall management of the migrant crisis.

These UN Security Council resolutions provide the legal basis for the EU naval operation mandated with the task of disrupting the business model of migrant smugglers and human traffickers in the Southern Central Mediterranean: EU NAVFOR MED Operation Sophia. Established in 2015 by Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/778, its mandate has been renewed until 31 December 2018.

Criticisms of Operation Sophia are widespread and concerns over its failure to meet its objectives and its human rights implications are no secret (see among others Meijers Committee and Not so Humanitarian after All). On the occasion of the second renewal of the S/RES/2240 (2015), it’s time to take a closer look at Operation Sophia’s results, at the legal shortcomings of the web of legal instruments regulating its actions, and the various consequences these have had. Read the rest of this entry…

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Guantanamo Surrealism

Published on November 2, 2017        Author: 

The surrealism of the moment defies description. Who would have thought, even only a short while ago, that on a nice November morning a US military commission judge in Guantanamo would be holding a Marine general and chief defense counsel for the commissions in contempt, sentencing him to 21 days of confinement in, well, Guantanamo? Who would have thought that on that same day the President of the United States would be deriding the US criminal justice system as a “joke” and a “laughingstock,” while suggesting that the “animal” who perpetrated a deadly vehicular terrorist attack in New York City be sent to that same Guantanamo, with its oh-so-successful, cost-effective military commissions? That he and his White House would, in 2017, be calling this individual an “enemy combatant”?  That he would be joined in doing so by prominent US senators, lamenting the fact that the individual concerned has not yet been shipped off to Gitmo, despite the fact that he essentially committed his crime in full public view and on camera, so that the likelihood of his acquittal before any regular civilian court would effectively be nil? 

Surrealism is by definition unexpected. Slippery slopes  are not. They can often be seen from a very, very long way off. And many of us have spent years warning some of our US colleagues of the dangers of some of the theories they have been advancing in the pursuit of the global conflict against terror. Just a few weeks ago we had just such an “IHL party” on the blog, provoked by a post of Ryan Goodman on Just Security. I pointed out in that discussion that while there was a measure of agreement on the geographic scope of application of IHL, that issue was part of a broader package, and that some items in that package – above all the definition of the relevant armed conflict and the classification of individuals with a nexus to that conflict – continued to attract controversy, inter alia because of the manifest possibility of abuse of some of the lines of argument put forward and their lack of basis in conventional and customary IHL.

So I therefore have a question for our American colleagues, including my friends on Just Security and Lawfare – let us assume that the facts about the New York terrorist continue to be as we know them today, i.e. that he essentially self-radicalized by looking at ISIS materials on the Internet and that he, beyond professing allegiance to ISIS, was at no point subject to the chain of command of that armed group fighting in Iraq and Syria. On these facts, are we in agreement that there is no way that this individual could be qualified, under the relevant rules of international law, as a fighter in any IHL-cognizable armed conflict? I am not asking what consequences this would have under US domestic law, including the AUMF; I am only interested in IHL. Under IHL, it seems to me that there is not even a remotely plausible, let alone genuinely persuasive, argument that this individual has a nexus to any armed conflict/was a member of a non-state armed group engaging in hostilities in such a conflict. He is not an “enemy combatant” in any international legal sense of the word; he is only a (vicious) criminal. This is not a hard or difficult case – it’s an easy, obvious one, again assuming the facts as we know them today. Do we agree? 

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The Continuing Utility of International Human Rights Mechanisms?

Published on November 1, 2017        Author: 

Can a convincing case still be made that the pursuit of international human rights mechanisms leads to efficacious results? The challenges to, and criticisms of, human rights systems in recent years are legion. Their legitimacy has been questioned (leading in some instances to the threat of state withdrawal, such as the case of Russia within the Council of Europe, complaining that it no longer has a role in electing judges to the European Court of Human Rights). It is also said that human rights mechanisms are inefficient and overloaded and that decisions are not implemented. Litigation can of course set bad precedents, resulting in regression, and even progressive decisions can lead to backlash – as a response, legislation may be introduced which is aimed at narrowing or reversing the positive effects. It remains very difficult to measure the impact of strategic litigation: governments seek to deny any impact; there may be a range of legal, social and political dynamics at play; and a lack of baseline data or analysis.

Their effectiveness relies on a minimum level of good faith shown by the executive and sufficient political will to lead to positive change. How viable is that when increasingly we are faced with the perilous position of the executive taking control of the judiciary, as is already the case in countries like Azerbaijan, and as we are seeing in Venezuela and Poland? It is also suggested that there is an over-legalisation of the human rights movement, which is not capable of addressing complex social problems, as a result of its distance from grass roots and the inadequate contextualisation of human rights issues at the national or local levels.

And yet….recent research suggests on the contrary that these legal mechanisms are indeed productive and viable, although we may need to do more to understand their various impacts and to develop different approaches to ensure we are getting the best out of them.

In her new book, Evidence for Hope, Kathryn Sikkink marshals a compelling argument that human rights laws and institutions have had positive impacts, especially in states undergoing political transition to greater democracy. She discerns both evidence of the socialisation of states taking place within these institutions, and also change from the bottom up: as a consequence of domestic social movements in repressive societies using legal tools. Sikkink suggests that the multiple accountability mechanisms (international and regional) address different kinds of impunity and serve to reinforce one another, and that strong domestic courts act to enhance the effects of states’ international commitments. Read the rest of this entry…

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Access to Remedy Under the UNGPs: Vedanta and the Expansion of Parent Company Liability

Published on October 31, 2017        Author: 

On Friday, 13 October 2017 the UK Court of Appeal handed down its long anticipated decision in Lungowe and others v. Vedanta Resources Plc and Konkola Copper Mines Plc [2017] EWCA Civ 1528 (“Vedanta”). The appeal was brought by UK-based Vedanta Resources Plc (“Vedanta Resources”) and its Zambian subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (“KCM”), against a decision dismissing certain jurisdictional challenges brought by each of Vedanta Resources and KCM.

The underlying claim was brought by a group of Zambian Villagers alleging that harmful effluent from the appellants’ Zambian copper mining operations had been discharged into the local environment, including waterways that were of critical importance to the livelihood of the claimants, and to their physical, economic and social wellbeing. Rejecting the appeal, the Court of Appeal found that the claim could proceed against the appellants in the UK.

The Vedanta litigation is a critical avenue for the claimants to pursue effective remedy as envisioned by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (“UNGPs”) and represents a significant development in the emerging doctrine of parent liability. Read the rest of this entry…

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Myanmar’s Rohingya Crisis and the Need for a Regional Response to Statelessness in Southeast Asia

Published on October 30, 2017        Author: 

Over the past two months, about half a million Rohingya people have fled from Myanmar (Burma) to neighboring Bangladesh. The immediate trigger for this mass exodus was a crackdown by Myanmar’s security forces against Rohingya insurgents and civilians, which reportedly included widespread torture, rape, and killing. However, the roots of this conflict lie far in the past.

The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority based in the western part of predominantly Buddhist Myanmar. Since the establishment of Myanmar in 1948, Rohingya leaders have made separatist claims, at times accompanied by a violent struggle by some insurgent groups. The government, on its part, has denied Burmese citizenship to the Rohingya people and refused to include them among the country’s 135 officially recognized ethnic groups. The government asserts that the Rohingya are illegal migrants from Bangladesh, whereas the Rohingya consider themselves to be indigenous people of western Myanmar. Neither Bangladesh nor any other country has been willing to grant citizenship to Myanmar’s Rohingya, and the vast majority of the group’s one million members have thus remained stateless.    

As a stateless minority, the Rohingya have suffered severe discrimination in Myanmar. They have been denied the right to participate in elections and have faced severe restrictions on movement, land ownership, family life, religious freedom, education, and employment. They have also been persecuted by extremist Buddhist groups without government interference. During the last decades, this reality has pushed tens of thousands of Rohingya to seek asylum in neighboring countries. The present crisis thus marks the culmination of the longstanding persecution of this stateless minority.

In this contribution, I argue that the adoption of a more effective regional response to the problem of statelessness is essential in order to ameliorate the plight of the Rohingya and other stateless groups in Southeast Asia. I begin by providing a brief factual background on statelessness in Southeast Asia. I then describe the existing international legal framework on statelessness, noting the limited impact that it has had in Southeast Asia. Finally, I present the justifications for adopting a new Southeast Asian regional approach to statelessness, and discuss the role that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should play in this respect. Read the rest of this entry…

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