20 Years of VAWA

Twenty years ago, on September 13, 1994, President Clinton signed into law a bill that included the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The Act afforded greater protections to victims, brought the issue out of the private sphere and into the public domain, and resulted in a 64% drop in the intimate partner violence rate. Yet, recent news reports have once again thrust the issue front and center here in the United States, where domestic violence accounts for 0ver 20% of all violent crime.

The occasion of the twentieth anniversary of this vital legislation provides an opportune time to consider these sobering global statistics:

Legislation like VAWA is a powerful tool for combating violence against women domestically, and organizations working to prevent this violence and address root causes also effect change. International treaties including the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Comabating Violence Against Women, which entered into force just last month on August 1, the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence Against Women, and numerous other documents together evidence the depth and breadth of the global support regarding the right for women and girls to live without violence. Change happens slowly, but with all these instruments at our disposal, we have reason to believe it will happen.

Go On! Sept. 18 New York Symposium on Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities to feature distinguished speakers

New York Symposium on the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities

This Thursday, the Raoul Wallenberg Legacy of Leadership Project, an initiative of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, will present a panel of distinguished keynote speakers in partnership with the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Program at the Cardozo School of Law, the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, and the Swedish Consulate in New York.

Speakers: Jan Eliasson, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General

Luis Moreno Ocampo, First Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC)

Irwin Cotler, Canadian Member of Parliament and former Minister of Justice

The event “will celebrate the life and legacy of a man who faced evil with courage and who carried out true acts of heroism.” An honorary citizen of the United States, the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg is renowned worldwide for his successful efforts to save the lives of tens of thousands of Jews from the Nazi persecution during the Second World War and was posthumously awarded the US Congressional Gold Medal in 2014.

This symposium is part of a series of public events taking place this fall in New York, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto, through which The Raoul Wallenberg Legacy of Leadership Project aims to increase awareness of Raoul Wallenberg’s legacy and its importance for contemporary mass atrocity prevention, echoing the indispensable message that every individual can make a difference in standing up against mass atrocities.

Date: September 18, 2014

Time: 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Location: Moot Court Room, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, 55 5th Ave New York, NY 10003

For more information, and to register, visit http://www.raoulwallenberglegacy.org.

Go On! ASIL, NYLS to Host Panel on Need for a Disability Rights Tribunal in Asia/Pacific Sept. 29

The American Society of International Law International Courts and Tribunals Interest Group and the Disability Rights Interest Group will be hosting a luncheon Panel Discussion on “The Need for a Disability Rights Tribunal in Asia and the Pacific” on Monday, September 29, 2014, from noon to 2 pm at the New York Law School, 185 West Broadway, New York, New York 10013.


There is no question that the existence of regional human rights courts and commissions has been an essential element in the enforcement of international human rights in those regions of the world where such tribunals exist. In the specific area of mental disability law, there is now a remarkably robust body of case law from the European Court on Human Rights, some significant and transformative decisions from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and at least one major case from the African Commission on Human Rights.

In Asia and the Pacific region, however, there is no such body. The lack of such a court or commission has been a major impediment in the movement to enforce disability rights in that area.

The need for such a body has further intensified since the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). In order for the CRPD to be more than a mere “paper victory,” it must be enforced. Only then can we begin to be optimistic about the real-life impact of the CRPD on the rights of persons with disabilities in Asian and the Pacific region.

The creation of a Disability Rights Tribunal for Asia and the Pacific (DRTAP) would be the first necessary step leading to amelioration of the deprivation of civil rights of this population. It would also be, ultimately, a likely inspiration for a full regional human rights tribunal in this area of the world.

This panel will consider the existence and role of regional human rights tribunals in regions other than Asia, some of the important disability rights cases litigated in those tribunals so as to demonstrate how regional tribunals have had a significant impact on the lives of persons with disabilities, the need for a body like DRTAP, focusing specifically on the gap between current domestic law on the books and how such law is practiced in reality, as well as the importance of what is termed the “Asian values” debate, and why the creation of the DRTAP is timely, inevitable, and essential if the CRPD is to be given true effect.


The following individuals will be on the Panel:

  •  Eva Szeli, former director of European Operations for Mental Disability Rights International, and co-author of International Human Rights Law and Comparative Mental Disability Law: Cases and Materials (Carolina Academic Press 2016)
  • Maya Sabatello, lecturer on human rights and co-author of Human Rights and Disability Advocacy (U. of Pennsylvania Press)


  • Michael Stein, Harvard Law School & William and Mary Law School; co-director. Harvard Law School Project on Disability


Moderator: Prof. Michael L. Perlin, New York Law School, Director, International Mental Disability Law Reform Project.

For more information, contact Michael Perlin at mperlin [at] nyls.edu.

Annual Conference on EU Asylum Law 2014

Annual Conference on EU Asylum Law 2014


This conference will provide asylum law practitioners with practical insight into the current challenges and changes affecting applications for asylum in the EU under the subsidiary protection regime. It will also analyse the recent case law of the European courts on asylum law.

Key topics

The concept of subsidiary protection
The scope and limits of Art. 15(c) Qualification Directive (‘indiscriminate violence in situations of international or internal armed conflict’)
Changes to subsidiary protection in the reformed Common European Asylum System
Update on developments in European asylum legislation
Recent case law of the CJEU and ECtHR in the area of asylum law and their incorporation into national law

It has long been recognised that individuals who do not qualify for refugee status may still be in a situation such that they should not be sent back to their country of origin. With the second-phase CEAS legislation, several aspects of this well-recognised concept of ‘subsidiary protection’ have been changed, not least making the protection afforded to such individuals equivalent to that which is guaranteed to those with asylum status under Directive 2013/32/EU on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection (from 2015 onwards).

Moreover, considerable uncertainty persists as to the scope of application of Article 15 of the Qualification Directive, in particular Article 15(c), in the light of jurisprudence from both national and European courts which often cannot be readily aligned with each other (e.g. Elgafaji, Sufi and Elmi, and HM and others).

There have also been some important recent rulings of the Court of Justice of the European Union on other aspects related to subsidiary protection, most recently in H.N. v Minister for Justice (C-604/12), which may have far-reaching effects, particularly with respect to the interplay between asylum law and fundamental rights, especially the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU (e.g. Art. 41 and 47 CFR).

Who should attend?
Staff of government bodies and national asylum authorities, asylum lawyers and judges in national courts, NGOs

Website for more information

Women in War and at War Conference 2014

The University of Warwick, Open University Law School and Aberystwyth University are hosting the Women In and At War Conference 2014 on 18th and 19th September at Scarman House (University of Warwick).

Women’s roles in war are complex and varied. During the Arab Spring, women took to the streets protesting against oppressive regimes in North Africa and the Middle East. We are also witnessing a significant rise in female political activism during conflict: many women increasingly find the Internet, blogs and social media to be a useful tool to fight oppression, advocate change but also to report from war zones. Women actively participate in combat, but also are more visible in peace processes. 
Over the past two years, some  steps and initiatives have been taken at national and international level to address this problem, including the recent End Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict Summit (June 2014). What impact have these measures had? Will they make a real difference? Have they had any impact on the way that armed conflict is conducted?

You can find more information about the conference, including the programme at www.warwick.ac.uk/womeninwar. If you are interested in attending you can register your interest online or contact Solange Mouthaan (s.mouthaan@warwick.ac.uk). Please note there is a conference fee.

We hope that you will join us at Warwick to discuss the cutting edge issues surrounding women and war and connect with many other researchers in this field!

The Legality of ISIS Air Strikes Under International Law

President Obama announced in his speech on September 10 that the United States would pursue expanded military (air) strikes against the Islamic State or ISIS terrorist group in both Iraq and Syria.  Many academics have already grappled with the issue of whether the President has authority for this type of military action under domestic law, with most arguing that the President did not have authority under the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) (see Deborah Pearlstein’s post on Opinio Juris and Marty Lederman’s and Jen Daskal’s posts on Just Security).  What I would like to focus on in this post is the issue of legality of the proposed military campaign under international law.

As we all know, Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter bans states from using force against the territorial integrity and political independence of other states.  The only legally recognized exceptions to this overall ban are instances where the Security Council authorizes the use of force or where the intervenor nation alleges self-defense pursuant to article 51 of the United Nations Charter.  In this instance, if the United States intervened in Iraq and Syria against ISIS, such use of military force would not be authorized by the Security Council, because the latter has been deadlocked over any use of force in the Middle East and because Russia would likely veto any future discussions of authorization to use force in this region.  Can the United States assert self-defense? Maybe.

The United States could argue either individual or collective self-defense.  If it argues individual self-defense, the United States would have to assert that it is fighting ISIS, a terrorist group and non-state actor in an area where the relevant state authority is unable or unwilling to intervene, such as in Syria or in Iraq.  While the United States has squarely adopted the position that the “unable or unwilling” test enables it to assert an individual self-defense rationale against a terrorist non-state actor operating out of another sovereign state, international law scholars have debated the legality of this approach and have been far from reaching a consensus on this issue.  Moreover, it appears that at least Syria asserts that it is willing and able to fight ISIS; the United States’ position vis-a-vis Syria on this issue is thus complex and has been summarized in a recent excellent post by Ryan Goodman on Just Security:

“What is the international law when a host state (Syria) is willing and able to deal with a nonstate group (ISIS) through military cooperation with the threatened state (the United States) but the latter (the United States) doesn’t want to associate itself with the host state for other potentially unrelated reasons?”

Thus, it appears that the United States’ rationale for using force against ISIS in Iraq and Syria is shaky at best under international law, because of lack of consensus in the scholarly community about the “unable or unwilling” test and because of the test’s complex application  to the Syrian context (arguably, Iraq is “unable or unwilling” to fight ISIS).

Another possibility for the United States would be to argue that the recent beheadings of two American journalists by ISIS amount to an “armed attack” against the United States, within the meaning of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.  This interpretation of Article 51 is possible although it is likely that many in the scholarly community would disagree with it.  While it appears that most scholars and some states have embraced the view that states may assert a self-defense rationale when fighting against non-state (terrorist) actors, there is no consensus on what type of attack by a non-state actor against a sovereign state could trigger the latter’s right of self-defense.  9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States constituted an “armed attack” according to most, if not all scholars, but the beheadings of two American journalists, however gruesome they may have been, may not reach the same threshold.  Thus, the armed attack argument remains subject to debate in this context.

Finally, the United States could claim collective self-defense in order to justify its use of military force against ISIS.  In order to do so, the United States would have to make the argument that the governments of Iraq and Syria invited the American intervention.  This argument is easier to make with respect to Iraq than Syria, because the former may very well agree to the presence of American forces and may thus “invite” air strikes, while it is unlikely that Syria’s President Assad would so agree or make such a request.  The collective self-defense argument works better in the Iraqi context, but is weak when it comes to Syria.

I should also point out here that  although some scholars have argued in favor of a humanitarian intervention in the context of Syria, the latest American-announced air strikes do not fall in this category because they will be directed against a terrorist group and will not be aimed at easing humanitarian suffering.   Overall, it appears that the United States government is asserting an individual self-defense argument based on the “unable or unwilling “test for both its actions in Iraq and Syria.  These actions will hopefully prove useful in the global fight against terrorist groups such as ISIS; they will certainly continue to raise difficult international law issues.

Write On! Legalities and Legacies: The Past, Present, and Future of the Palestine Mandate in International Law

(Photo Credit: Premasagar Rose)


The Faculty of Law of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Columbia Law School invite the submission of written proposals for an international conference on the international law legacies of the Palestine mandate, to be held in Jerusalem on 21-22 June 2015, and for subsequent publication. From their call for papers:

Recipients of this call for papers are invited to submit proposals to present a paper at the conference. Some authors of proposals selected for the conference will be offered partial or full coverage of flight and accommodation expenses.


Deadline for Submitting 1-2 Page Proposal: 30 September 2014

Deadline for Submitting the Article (Selected Proposals): 15 April 2015


On 24 July 1922, the Council of the League of Nations confirmed the mandate for Palestine. On midnight, 14 May 1948, the mandate came to an end. Much that happened before, during and beyond these dates remain contested – and much remains uncharted.

This is particularly patent when it comes to the international legal aspects of the Palestine mandate. Conflict historians have long been captivated by that period; historians of Israeli law have focused on the law of mandatory Palestine for some time now. Yet, since the 1940s, little to none of that attention has been turned to the role international law has played in the Palestine mandate, or the role of the Palestine mandate in affecting the course of international law. International law practitioners, scholars, and historians, it seems, are occasionally willing to reengage with some of the old debates surrounding the Palestine mandate (such as the locus of sovereignty in mandate territories), as has the International Court of Justice in the Wall Advisory Opinion. Seldom do they engage in a broader reflection on the legal import of the Palestine mandate or on its legacies. The conference seeks to ponder on and rectify this glaring gap. By focusing on legalities and legacies of the Palestine mandate in international law, we intend to explore whether, today, there is more to the Palestine mandate than a crucial or futile contestation – legal or political (In 1925, the Supreme Court of Palestine, sitting as a High Court of Justice, entertained the view that the mandate was ‘a political and not a legal document … likely to contain expressions of good intention which are more easy to write than to read’)? – over historic rights, entitlements, and narratives. A convenient point of departure may be the League of Nations mandate system. Here, renewed interest by international legal and diplomatic historians could furnish fresh perspectives on how the mandate system, and the Palestine mandate, were conceived, enacted, theorized, practiced, and terminated. Equally, the Palestine and other mandates can provide new vantage points from which to gauge contemporary international law debates (e.g. the termination of belligerent occupation by fiat of an international organization resolution, or the legal framework(s) governing post-conflict governance and territorial administration.

Continue reading


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,377 other followers