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Announcements: CfP New Security Challenges – Organized Crime and Urban Conflict in the Americas; CEILA Annual Lecture; UNIJURIS Conference

Published on March 18, 2018        Author: 
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1. Call for Papers: “New Security Challenges: Organized Crime and Urban Conflict in the Americas”. Universidad del Pacifico Law School announces a Call for Papers for its conference “New Security Challenges: Organized Crime and Urban Conflict in the Americas” to take place 24 – 26 October, in Lima, Peru. The conference will explore the human rights challenges posed by militarization of responses against organized crime and seek to offer concrete steps and policy options for Latin American governments. Details for the event can be found here. The full call for papers is available here. The deadline for submitting abstracts is 15 May 2018.

2. CEILA Annual Lecture. On Wednesday 28 March 2018 (18.00-19.30), the Centre for European and International Legal Affairs (CEILA) Annual Lecture will be delivered by Professor Tulio Treves and is entitled “The EU and the Law of the Sea – An Assessment”. The lecture will be chaired by Professor Malgosia Fitzmaruice (Queen Mary University of London).  The event is free but there is a registration requirement. For more information, see here

3. UNIJURIS Conference 18 June 2018. Since 2013, a research project has been run at Utrecht University on ‘unilateral jurisdiction and global values’ (UNIJURIS), headed by Prof. Cedric Ryngaert. The project will present its results at a conference in Utrecht on 18 June 2018. The project has systematically mapped and critically analysed assertions of state (and EU) jurisdiction with an extraterritorial dimension, from a public international law perspective. The project has examined jurisdictional assertions in a considerable number of issue areas, in particular fisheries, marine pollution, business and human rights, climate change, anti-corruption, data protection, and cybercrime. The eight researchers involved in the project will present their findings, after which academic experts and practitioners will comment.  See here for more information on the project. To attend, please register by emailing Secretariaat.IER {at} uu(.)nl. The conference takes place from 8:30-17:10 at Pauzhuize, Kromme Niewegracht 49, 3512 HE Utrecht. For the full programme, please visit the event site here.

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The Use of Nerve Agents in Salisbury: Why does it Matter Whether it Amounts to a Use of Force in International Law?

Published on March 17, 2018        Author: 
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Over the past few days, there has been discussion of whether the attempt to murder Sergei Skripal and his daughter, in the UK, by the use of a nerve agent amounts to an unlawful use force by Russia in breach of Art. 2(4) of the United Nations Charter and customary international law (see posts by Marc Weller, Tom Ruys, and Ashley Deeks). There is agreement that if the action was attributable to Russia, it would amount to a breach of at least some obligation under international law. Marc Weller, points out that the act would amount to an unlawful intervention and a violation of the territorial sovereignty of the UK. Marko argues that these acts would also be a violation of the human rights of the individuals concerned. However, the British Prime Minister characterised the act as an unlawful use of force. What I wish to do in this post is to ask why this categorisation might matter in international law. What exactly are the implications, as a matter of law, of characterising the act as a use of force? This was an issue that was raised in the comments to Marc Weller’s post and some of the points I make below have already been made in that discussion though I expand on them. As discussed below, this characterisation might have far reaching implications in a number of areas of international law, extending beyond the possibility of self-defence, to the possibility of countermeasures, the law relating to state responsibility, the qualification of a situation in the law of armed conflict, and international criminal law. I accept that many of the points discussed below are not clear cut, and some are even contentious. However, I think that having a catalogue of the possible consequences of the arguments relating to the use of force helps us to see more clearly what is at stake when we make these arguments.  

Read the rest of this entry…

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The Salisbury Attack: Don’t Forget Human Rights

Published on March 15, 2018        Author: 
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It is fascinating to observe how international law has provided the frame for the escalating political dispute between the UK and Russia regarding the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a nerve agent in Salisbury. The dispute is of course primarily factual. In that regard, both states generate their own facts, and the dispute revolves primarily on whom one chooses to trust – what does the average citizen (or international lawyer) know, after all, about the Novichok-class of nerve agents, their deployment, properties and effects? The attribution of the attack will thus inevitably depend on the credibility of the relevant experts, investigators and intelligence officials.

But again – note the framing effect of international law on this dispute. We saw how Theresa May chose her language very carefully when she accused Russia of an unlawful use of force (but not necessarily an armed attack). Both the UK and Russia have accused each other of failing to abide by the Chemical Weapons Convention. Russia has challenged the credibility of the UK’s investigation, asking for the involvement of the OPCW as an independent, expert and competent third party. The UK itself has engaged with the OPCW, asking it to verify its forensic analysis. The debate in the Security Council yesterday was replete with references to the Convention and OPCW specifically and international law generally. So was the debate earlier in the day in the British Parliament (Hansard transcript).

There is, however, one part of international law that has been largely and unjustifiably missing from this debate, and that is human rights. The attempted killing of Mr Skripal and his daughter is not simply  a violation of the UK’s sovereignty, as set out in today’s joint statement of the UK, US, France and Germany. It is a violation of these individuals’ right to life. In that regard, while I think the discussion that Marc Weller and Tom Ruys have so ably led about the de minimis thresholds (if any) of the concepts of the use of force in Article 2(4) and armed attack in Article 51 of the UN Charter is both interesting and very important, it is in my view somewhat distracting, as is the focus on chemical weapons. It is these two people (and others incidentally affected) who are the main victims here, not the British state. It is their rights in international law that we should primarily be concerned with, not those of the British state (or for that matter Russia). It is their life that was endangered, not that of the British state. And their right to life would have been no less harmed if they were simply shot or stabbed or even poisoned a bit more subtly by an FSB agent.

I am thus struck by the absence of public references to the violation of Skripals’ right to life. That, too, is I think calculated. The Prime Minister has repeatedly referred to the event as a (presumably domestic) crime; the UK ambassador to the UN has also said that ‘[t]he reckless act in Salisbury had been carried out by those who disregarded the sanctity of human life.’ But neither the Prime Minister nor the ambassador directly accused Russia of failing to comply with its obligations under human rights law. Why? Because if they did so, they would effectively be arguing that Russia’s obligations under say the ICCPR and the ECHR extend extraterritorially to a killing in the UK. And that, recall, is not what the British government wants to do, because it does not want to have to comply with these obligations if it used kinetic force abroad to kill an individual in an area outside its control, say by a drone strike.

Here, in other words, we can also see how international law shapes the arguments that are used, or not used. I have long argued that the 2006 killing of Alexander Litvinenko was – as far as the extraterritorial application of human rights was concerned – not legally distinguishable from cases of aerial bombardment a la Bankovic. The same goes for last year’s macabre killing of Kim Jong-nam in Malaysia, at the orders of his half-brother, the North Korean dictator. And the same is true here. Those arguing for a restrictive application of human rights – as the US and UK governments have both done – must be aware of the consequences of doing so. That argument necessarily implies that the interests of individuals like the Skripals, attacked so brutally by a hostile state, are not protected at all in international law. That vision of international law, in which individuals are the mere objects, and not subjects, of its regulation, is not terribly attractive, even – especially even – in 2018. And so I say: when talking about Salisbury, whether it is this Salisbury or some other Salisburys, don’t forget human rights.

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An International Use of Force in Salisbury?

Published on March 14, 2018        Author: 
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In the afternoon of Sunday, 4 March, Mr Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found slumped on a park bench in Salisbury. Mr Skripal is a former Russian agent convicted of espionage for the West, exchanged in a spy swap and brought to live in the UK. He, his daughter and a number of individuals who had attended to them were found to have been exposed to a nerve agent known as Novichok. At the time of writing, both remained in critical condition in hospital, with uncertain prospects of recovery. One of the first responders, Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, was also kept in hospital in a serious condition.

On 12 March the British Prime Minister addressed the House of Commons. She claimed that it was ‘highly likely’ that the government of the Russian Federation was responsible for the action. She asserted that ‘either this was a direct action by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.’ She demanded a ‘credible response’ by Russia within a day, indicating that, failing such a response, the UK would conclude that this action ‘amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom.’ [The Prime Ministers statement can be viewed at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43377856.]

The responsibility for the action was placed on the Russian Federation by the UK government in view of its previous suspected involvement in the assassination in the UK of former Russian security operative Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 using the similarly exotic means of radioactive polonium, instances of politically motivated killings allegedly undertaken by Moscow elsewhere, and Moscow’s perceived generally aggressive attitude towards the West, and the UK in particular, especially after its purported annexation of Crimea in 2014.

The Russia government dismissed the allegations and requested samples of the nerve agent in order to mount its own investigation, ignoring Ms May’s deadline. Moscow instead offered cooperation through the relevant mechanism of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). While Russia’s responsibility for the action will evidently remain contested, this post considers the claim of the UK government that it amounts to a ‘use of force’.

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Active Hostilities and International Law Limits to Trump’s Executive Order on Guantanamo

Published on March 13, 2018        Author:  and
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In his State of the Union speech on January 30, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his signing of a new executive order aimed at keeping open the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as approving its repopulation. This post considers how the law of war governing detention in armed conflicts constricts the ability of the U.S. to hold persons in military prisons at Guantanamo in the manner suggested by this new order.

Formally speaking, Trump’s executive order repeals a critical portion of President Obama’s 2009 order calling for the Guantanamo prison site to be closed “as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order.” The 2018 order also provides that the U.S. may “transport additional detainees” to the facility “when lawful and necessary to protect the nation.”

On the one hand, this executive order simply makes explicit what has already been President Trump’s de facto Guantanamo policy since taking office. While the Obama Administration worked to reduce the Guantanamo population considerably, resettling 197 of the 242 detainees remaining at the facility, President Trump has resettled none — not even five detainees cleared for release by the Department of Defense prior to Trump’s taking office. On the other hand, the order reflects a radical shift in policy. Read the rest of this entry…

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Do We Need Another Database of International Law Documents?

Published on March 12, 2018        Author: , and
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Online databases and repositories appear to be the new golden calf of law publishers which have invested a lot of money in these new academic products. Some publishers secured an early lead position in this market while others are now catching up. From the perspective of the academics that contribute to the developments of such tools, the market still appears to be in development and below saturation. Yet, it cannot be excluded that the continued development of databases ends up cannibalizing publishers’ other, more traditional, products, such as reference books and law reports. This is however a debate for another day. For now, it suffices to note that users — whether students, researchers, practitioners — seem to value international law databases; at least as long as their institution can afford to provide them with access thereto.

It is against this backdrop that the recent launch of Oxford International Organizations (OXIO) – which was celebrated on the occasion of a well attended event hosted by the Graduate Institute in Geneva – raises the question of what epistemic and practical gaps which this new database of documents and annotations specifically dedicated to international organizations can potentially fill. This is why, in the following paragraphs, we inquire into some of the disciplinary assumptions upon which the development of such a product rests, especially in relation to the law of international organizations (1), as well as the concrete benefits which users can draw from OXIO (2).

Consolidating the Law of International Organizations? Read the rest of this entry…

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Announcements: CfP Military Law and the Law of War Review; Conference on International Investment Law and NCD Prevention; CfP German Yearbook of International Law; CfP Groningen Journal of International Law; CfP Unpacking Economic and Social Rights; UN Audiovisual Library of International Law

Published on March 11, 2018        Author: 
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1. Call for Papers: Military Law and the Law of War Review. The Military Law and the Law of War Review / Revue de Droit Militaire et de Droit de la Guerre is a journal specialised in matters of interest for both civilian and military legal advisors as well as legal scholars and academics. The Review is published under the auspices of the International Society for Military Law and the Law of War. It features original and challenging articles, case notes, commentaries of the latest legal developments, as well as book reviews. As a distinct trait, it accepts contributions in six languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Dutch. For its coming issue (vol. 56/2), the Review’s editorial board welcomes submissions that come within the broader scope of the Review (including military law, law of armed conflict, law on the use of force, as well as international criminal law and human rights law (inasmuch as related to situations of armed conflict)). The deadline for submission is 30 April 2018. Submissions should be sent to brussels {at} ismllw(.)org and will be subject to double-blind peer review. Articles should normally not be longer than 15.000 words (footnotes included), although longer pieces may exceptionally be considered. Inquiries as to whether a possible submission comes within the scope of the Review can be sent to the abovementioned e-mail address. Selected papers will be published online on the Review’s website in advance access (in a non-downloadable and non-printable form) as well as on Hein Online following editing and type-setting. The print version of the issue is scheduled to come out in Autumn 2018.

2. Conference on International Investment Law and NCD Prevention. The Law & NCD Unit of the University of Liverpool is organising a conference in London on 10 and 11 May 2018. The conference will explore the relationship between international investment law and policies for preventing non-communicable diseases. The full call for papers and further details can be found here. The deadline for submitting abstracts is 15 March 2018.

3. Call for Papers: Volume 61 (2018) German Yearbook of International Law (GYIL). The GYIL is published annually by the Walther Schücking Institute for International Law at the University of Kiel and contains contributions on topics addressing all aspects of public international law. The Editors are pleased to call for contributions to the “General Articles” section of Volume 61 (2018) of the GYIL. Prior to publication, all manuscripts are independently peer-reviewed by a board of renowned experts. Submissions from all areas of public international law are welcome. The paper should be 10,000-12,500 words inclusive of footnotes and conform with the house style of the GYIL (which is available on our website). Submissions, including a brief abstract, statement of affiliation, and confirmation of exclusive submission, should be sent by 1 September 2018 to the Assistant Editors of the GYIL via e-mail: yearbook {at} wsi.uni-kiel(.)de. Read the rest of this entry…

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New EJIL: Live! Interview with Catherine O’Rourke on her Article “Feminist Strategy in International Law: Understanding Its Legal, Normative and Political Dimensions”

Published on March 10, 2018        Author: 
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In this episode of EJIL: Live! the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal, Professor Joseph Weiler, speaks with Catherine O’Rourke, Senior Lecturer in Human Rights and International Law at the Transitional Justice Institute and School of Law at Ulster University. Her article “Feminist Strategy in International Law: Understanding Its Legal, Normative and Political Dimensions” appears in issue 4 of volume 28 of the Journal. Rather than taking a specific problem and refracting it through gender and feminist concerns, this article constitutes a reflection on the field itself.

The conversation deepens that reflection, whilst offering fascinating insights on how and why the article came into being, how the study underlying the article was conducted and what kind of general lessons may be gleaned from it. The conversation concludes with some thoughts on how scholars may weave a feminist sensibility into a general international law course. The interview was recorded at the European University Institute.

 

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New EJIL: Live! Interview with Yahli Shereshevsky on his Article “Does Exposure to Preparatory Work Affect Treaty Interpretation? An Experimental Study on International Law Students and Experts”

Published on March 10, 2018        Author: 
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In this episode of EJIL: Live! the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal, Professor Joseph Weiler, speaks with Yahli Shereshevsky, Michigan Grotius Research Scholar at the University of Michigan Law School, whose article “Does Exposure to Preparatory Work Affect Treaty Interpretation? An Experimental Study on International Law Students and Experts”, co-authored with Tom Noah, PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, appears in issue 4 of volume 28 of the Journal.

The conversation takes viewers behind the scenes of this experimental study, one of the first of its kind in the international law field, to provide a deeper understanding of the motivation behind the study and the methodology used by the authors. The conversation highlights the importance of the study, not only for its results but principally for its methodology and the potential it reveals for future studies. The interview was recorded at New York University.

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Turbulent Times for the International Rule of Law: A Reply

Published on March 9, 2018        Author: 
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Note from the Editors:  This post concludes our first EJIL:Talk! Contributing Editors’ Debate, where our distinguished Contributing Editors lent their views on broad themes of international law and the state of the art, science, and discipline of international law.  Our thanks to Andreas Zimmermann (Co-Director of the Berlin-Potsdam Research Group, ‘The International Rule of Law – Rise or Decline?’) for leading the charge with Monday’s post, and to Monica Hakimi (Tuesday posts here and here), Christian Tams (Wednesday’s post here), and Lorna McGregor (yesterday’s post here) for thought-provoking responses throughout this past week’s Debate.

I am grateful for the thoughtful comments this week by Lorna McGregor, Monica Hakimi and Christian Tams on my initial post. It is first worth noting that all three colleagues use in the headlines of their comments the notion of ‘turbulent times’ respectively ‘decline and crisis’ which indicates, at least in my view, that there is at least a certain intuition (as Christian Tams put it) that the international legal order (to use yet another maritime metaphor) currently has to navigate through heavy weather. This in and of itself seems to warrant the research agenda I have tried to lay out in my initial post.

Yet, while to some extent the comments have, at least partially, focused on what approaches or strategies are appropriate to eventually overcome any alleged ‘decline’ in the international rule of law, I continue to believe that the foremost question is, first, as to whether we indeed, if so to what extent, and in which areas of international law in particular, we currently face such decline.

In that regard I fully share the almost obvious position that any such determination requires much more research than what can even be hinted at in a short blog contribution like the one I have written. As a matter of fact such analysis must be nuanced (what areas of international are most concerned and why), multifaceted, interdisciplinary, and must focus, inter alia, on challenges for institutions that form the cornerstone of modern international law such as international organizations (providing for fora for interstate cooperation and the regulation of problems of international concern) and international courts and tribunals (providing for legally binding third party dispute settlement of international disputes).

Yet, it is certainly a truism that a mere quantitative approach does not suffice since, to paraphrase the example used by Christian Tams, one single withdrawal from the Rome Statute would probably at least be a more relevant sign than ten withdrawals from the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals (as important the latter is for the daily routine of cross-boundary traffic). In particular, as part of a more qualitative approach, one needs to have a look whether the current perceived ‘turbulences’ have also by now reached the more fundamental layers of international law, i.e. meta-rules such as the ones on sources, State responsibility, State immunity, treaty interpretation, or res judicata effect of international court decisions must be abided by the parties involved, to name but a few, the general acceptance of which is indispensable for a functioning international legal system. Read the rest of this entry…

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