REDRESS NEDERLAND CONFERENCE: “Justice for Victims and Accountability for Torturers”


REDRESS is pleased to announce the conference ‘Justice for victims and accountability for torturers: past, present and future strategies’, which will take place from 2 to 6 pm, on 29 September 2016, at The Carlton Ambassador Hotel in The Hague, the Netherlands.

The conference will reflect on a range of approaches taken to afford justice to victims and to hold those responsible for torture to account, and to identify potential strategies for the way forward.

It draws on experiences in several countries and situations, and brings together lawyers and other experts with direct knowledge and experiences of regional, hybrid and domestic efforts and mechanisms.

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Role of “commentaries” key to significance of ICRC project

The role of “commentaries” in the shaping of contemporary international law proved a recurring question in the just-concluded morning public plenary of today’s conference, “Humanity’s Common Heritage: 2016 Commentary on the First Geneva Convention.”

img_0266First broaching the issue was the keynote, Jean-Marie Henckaerts (right). A Georgia Law alumnus, he’s the Legal Adviser at the International Committee of the Red Cross who’s leading the ICRC’s multiyear effort to produce 21st C. commentaries on the meaning of the core instruments of international humanitarian law; that is, the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their subsequent Protocols Additional. Joining him were participants in the panel that followed: speakers Major-General Blaise Cathcart, Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Armed Forces, NYU Law Professor Ryan Goodman, Emory Law Professor Laurie R. Blank, and Oxford Law Professor Dapo Akande, plus the moderator, yours truly, Associate Diane Marie Amann. I’ve the honor of serving as director of the Dean Rusk International Law Center at the University of Georgia School of Law, which is sponsoring the event along with the ICRC and the Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law.

Soon to appear in print, the 2016 Commentary is available online here. At that website, the 2016 Commentary is situated alongside an earlier version, published in the 1950s by ICRC jurist Jean Pictet – and there’s a rub.

“Commentaries are not unusual,” Henckaerts remarked, adding that tomes exist commenting on nearly all the world’s treaties. Though true, the observation pretermits the sui generis status of the author of the 2016 Commentary – the ICRC, since 1863 a Geneva-based private organization that has led developments related to the shaping and compliance with international humanitarian law.

The earlier volumes “are ‘capital C,’ or maybe all caps,” Blank said. Others agreed, pointing not only to the ICRC’s unique status, but also to the fact that the Pictet commentaries  occurred when the intentions of the negotiating states parties – to quote Goodman, “what the framers had in mind” – were well within memory. Continuing her analogy, Blank said she regarded the 2016 effort as a “small c” commentary –  an extraordinary collection of expert analysis, but not exactly the same thing” as the Pictet effort.

Akande broadened the conversation, examining the ICRC commentaries within the context of public international law and treaty interpretation. Pictet’s work may enjoy “unjustifiable authority,” he said, adding that the constitutive nature of the new effort might outweigh any resulting loss of authoritative status. He then called upon the ICRC consistently to be “upfront” about how and why it arrived at its interpretive conclusions.

The points provoked multiple questions: How are treaties to be interpreted? What individuals or entities have authority to engage in interpretation? What weight do interpretations of states parties deserve – and with regard to universally ratified treaties like these, which states parties? What weight to a private organization like the ICRC? Nongovernmental organizations? And what about the victims of armed conflict – do their voices matter in this interpretive effort, and if so, how can victims be given voice?

The search for answers to these and many other questions continued this afternoon. In 3 consecutive closed sessions, about 2 dozen experts (including IntLawGrrl Shana Tabak, pictured at right) discussed: (1) theg: (1) the Common Article 1 obligation to “ensure respect” for the Geneva Conventions; (2) protection of the wounded, sick, and other specially protected persons; and (3) classification of armed conflict.

(Cross-posted from Exchange of Notes blog)

Protecting the Safety of Journalists: the Role of the African Court

On 10 September, the African Court and UNESCO convened a seminar on “Strengthening judiciary systems and African Courts to protect the safety of journalists and end impunity” in Arusha, Tanzania. Attended by some 100 participants, the seminar was the first of a series of events leading up to the commemoration of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, which takes place on 2 November. As was highlighted by the former President of the Court, Mr Ramadhani, the event also took place in the context of the 10-year anniversary of the African Court and the African year of human rights.

The seminar consisted of three main panels, focusing on African jurisprudence and international standards, the capacity of judicial actors at the national level, and the Protocol and declaration of the Court.

The first panel, on African jurisprudence and international standards, had a very optimistic tone. Panelists provided an overview of the various treaty provisions, declarations, and resolutions protecting free speech across the continent, including the sub regional human rights systems, after which the focus fell on the relevant jurisprudence. The African Court’s decisions in the Zongo and Konaté cases were consistently referred to as having set a positive standard for the protection of journalists. Other cases that helped shape the legal framework for the protection of journalists that were discussed included the Hydara, Chief Manneh, and Saidykhan cases, decided by the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice.

When discussing the issue of enforcement, there was consensus amongst the panelists that this was mainly a political process; as was expressed by the African Court and ECOWAS judges on the panel, the matter was out of their hands once judgment had been handed down. The follow-up by Burkina Faso on Zongo had been positive, and the criminal defamation laws had been amended following Konaté (implementation of the reparations judgment is still pending), but enforcement of the ECOWAS Court’s judgments in the cases against The Gambia had been fully absent. Sanctions for non-implementation, even where available, were often not used due to a lack of political will. The role of civil society in the implementation was crucial: national human rights institutions and NGOs had to actively pursue implementation at both the national level and international level, including at fora such as the UN Human Rights Council’s UPR process and State reporting to the African Commission. Further strategies that were mentioned were “naming and shaming” and the need to create better access to the jurisprudence created by the courts on the continent.


The African Court and UNESCO organized the seminar at the Court’s seat in Arusha, Tanzania. Picture source: UNESCO


The main question addressed in the second panel, which looked at the capacity of judicial actors at the national level, was how to reinforce capacity within the national judicial systems regarding freedom of expression issues. Challenges flagged focused on the lack of both knowledge and proper use of freedom of expression standards. As one of the panelists commented: “if lawyers don’t make the right freedom of expression arguments, the judges’ hands are tied”. Another problem identified was that there were only very few people who were well-versed in freedom of expression rights. This created a high-risk situation: if the few lawyers defending all the free speech cases became unavailable, there was no one to pick up the work. Training was a possible solution for this, but it was agreed that this should focus on a wide range of actors, including prosecutors and law enforcement, and that one-off trainings would not suffice.

An important point was made in that criminal defamation was not the only problem journalists faced. Sedition, false news, insult and anti-terrorism laws equally posed a threat to free speech. Moreover, civil defamation could pose a significant risk due to the high damages awarded, often without grounds, that could bankrupt an individual or a news outlet.

In the third session, panelists looked at strategies to increase the ratification of the Protocol and the number of declarations made under Article 34(6) of the African Court Protocol. After all, the African Court’s ability to protect journalists is dependent on whether or not it has jurisdiction. With 30 ratifications and 7 declarations, there was still some way to go towards universal ratification. Some of the reasons mentioned for non-universal ratification of the protocol were lack of political will, confusion on the various protocols establishing the various courts, especially the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, and a degree of negligence on the part of AU Member States. The panelists discussed the various efforts undertaken by the Court, the Commission and others to increase the number of ratifications, which had had some results, but not to the extent that universal ratification had been achieved. Some of the reasons identified for this failure was a lack of resources to undertake proper follow-up, for example for the African Court to follow up after a sensitisation visit. It was suggested that possible new strategies to increase the number of ratifications and declarations should focus on involving actors other than only States and the AU: NGOs, civil society and also other inter-governmental organisations, such as the UN and its treaty bodies.


Guy Berger, UNESCO’s Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development and Sylvan Ore, African Court President. Picture source: UNESCO


Rwanda’s withdrawal of its Article 34(6) declaration was also discussed, a subject which has been discussed here, here and here. It was acknowledged that this certainly was not a positive development, but that it was difficult to assess the impact at this stage. Most notably, one of the panelists mentioned that Rwanda had indicated that it might re-deposit the declaration at a later stage.

The overall conclusion of the discussions of the day was that currently a decent tool-set to defend journalists is in place: a legal framework comprising both hard norms, such as the various treaties, and soft ones, such as the UNESCO framework, solid jurisprudence from the Court, and the eagerness of the different actors to make it work. Given the current state of play for press freedom in Africa, what now needs to be done is to figure out how these tools can be used better.

This has been cross-posted from The ACtHPR Monitor

‘The EU Social Market Economy: Challenges and Opportunities’


The EU Social Market Economy: Challenges and Opportunities

Date: Friday September, 23th 2016

Time: 9.30 am-4 pm (registration at the venue from 8.30)

Venue: Renehan Hall, South Campus, Maynooth University

The Department of Law is pleased to announce the conference ‘The EU Social Market Economy: Challenges and Opportunities’, which will take place on Friday September, 23th 2016.

Speakers include: Prof. Sybe De Vries (University of Utrecht), Prof. Dagmar Schiek (Queen’s University Belfast), Dr Egle Dagilyte (Anglia Ruskin University), Prof.  Blanaid Clarke (Trinity College Dublin), Dr David Mangan (City University London), Dr. Clemens Rieder (Lancaster University), Dr. J. Jorge Piernas Lopez (University of Murcia).

Attached to this email you can find the full programme of the event.

The full programme will also be available at

The conference will be convened by Prof. Michael Doherty and Dr Delia Ferri, and attendance is welcomed and encouraged from researchers, academics, practitioners and postgraduate students.

To express your interest or to RSVP please email Dr. Delia Ferri at

OLYMPE: Call for Contributions on “Queering International Law”



As pre-announced in a previous post, OLYMPE is happy to inform the IntLawGrrls crowd of the release of a call for contributions to its second collective opus on the exciting topic of “Queering International Law: From LGBT Rights to a Transversal Critique”. The resulting collective volume will be the first publication on the topic in French. Unfortunately and while OLYMPE does not have any funding for translation, it encourages non-Francophone scholars to submit proposals if they have resources to translate the final paper themselves, or to team up with a Francophone colleague in order to draft a paper in French. OLYMPE values transdisciplinary, and hence translinguistic, approaches while supporting feminist and gender research in international law and relations.

For the call in English | Pour l’appel en français

The call was issued on September 1. The deadline to submit a proposal is 1 November 2016. All relevant information is included in the call. For any queries (and to submit your proposal following the call’s guidelines), please write to

Hoping that a number of International law Grrls will consider submitting a proposal and/or sharing the call around them!



“Humanity’s Common Heritage”: Friday Georgia Law-ICRC conference on Geneva Conventions Commentaries


Humanity’s Common Heritage – norms codified in international humanitarian law treaties to which all countries of the world belong – will be the topic of a conference this Friday, September 23, at the University of Georgia School of Law in Athens, Georgia.

The conference title derives from this observation about those treaties, the four 1949 Geneva Conventions, by Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross:

“We know that the values that found expression in the Geneva Conventions have become an essential part of our common heritage of humanity, as growing numbers of people around the world share a moral and legal conviction in them. These contradicting realities challenge us to act: to react to the suffering and violations of the law, and to prevent them from occurring in the first place.”

At the core of this daylong event will be the Commentaries on which the ICRC is now working. Published online earlier this year was the initial Commentary, covering the Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, as well as the articles common to all 4 Conventions. (Prior posts here, here, and here.) Experts will examine this 2016 Commentary and its role in the development, promotion, and implementation of contemporary international humanitarian law.

thumbnail_p1130913We’re honored that the Georgia Law alumnus leading that project, Geneva-based ICRC legal adviser Jean-Marie Henckaerts (LLM 1990), will keynote our conference, and also that the ICRC is cosponsoring the conference, along with our Center and our Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law. This student-run review, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this year, will publish papers by the assembled experts and Georgia Law student rapporteurs.

akandeDr. Henckaerts will be part of a public panel from 9:15 a.m.-12 noon in Georgia Law’s Hatton Lovejoy 0042401-14ABCourtroom. Speaking in that morning session will be: Oxford Law Professor Dapo Akande; Emory Law Professor Laurie R. Blank, an IntLawGrrls contributor; Major-General Blaise Cathcart, Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Armed Forces; New York University Law Professor Ryan Goodman; and the cathcartmoderator, yours truly, Diane Marie ryan_goodman_photo_horizontalAmann, Associate Dean for International Programs & Strategic Initiatives and Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law at Georgia Law, and also the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s Special Adviser on Children in & affected by Armed Conflict.

Joining them in closed sessions during the afternoon will be additional international humanitarian law experts experts: Georgia Law Professor Harlan G. Cohen; Houston College of Law Professor Geoffrey S. Corn; American University Law Professor Jennifer Daskal; Jonathan Davis, a University of Georgia international affairs graduates and U.S. Department of State Attorney-Advisor; IntLawGrrl Kathleen A. Doty, our Center’s Director of Global Practice Preparation; Julia Grignon, Université Laval Law; Rutgers Law Professor Adil Haque; Christopher Harland, Legal Adviser at the ICRC’s Washington, D.C., office; Eric Jensen, U.S. Department of Defense; Michael Meier, U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps; Naz K. Modirzadeh, Harvard Law; Nicholas W. Mull, U.S. Marine Corps Judge Advocate General Corps (ret.); Vanderbilt Law Professor Michael A. Newton; Sasha Radin, U.S. Naval War College; Professor James K. Reap (JD 1976) of the University of Georgia, who’s just been named to the State Department’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee; IntLawGrrl and Georgia State Law Professor Shana Tabak; and Creighton Law Professor Sean Watts.

Full description and details about the conference here.

(Cross-posted from Exchange of Notes, the Dean Rusk International Law Center blog)

Women in International Law Network welcomes Judge Xue Hanqin

Women in International Law Network welcomes Judge Xue Hanqin

The Manchester International Law Centre welcomed Judge Xue on the 5 of May 2016 to deliver the Annual Melland Schill lecture. Her lecture, entitled “Cultural Element in International Law”, illustrated how culture, especially languages, traditions and historical heritage affect the way we understand and apply international law.

The Women in International Law Network launched its website and interviewed her Excellency some key questions about her pathway into international law.  WILNET  states that “She generously shared with us some words of wisdom that should be of interest to all women international lawyers, and indeed aspiring international lawyers in general”.  The interview is available here.