Write On! Melbourne Journal of Int’l Law

backlit_keyboardThis installment of Write On!, our periodic compilation of calls for papers, includes calls to submit papers to the Melbourne Journal of International Law, as follows:

►The Editors of the Melbourne Journal of International Law (‘MJIL’), Australia’s premier generalist international law journal, are now inviting submissions for volume 19(1). The deadline for submissions is January 31, 2018MJIL is a peer-reviewed academic journal based at the University of Melbourne which publishes innovative scholarly research and critical examination of issues in international law.

Submissions and inquiries should be directed to law-mjil@unimelb.edu.au. For more information please click here.

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Lebanon and the Origins of International (Refugee) Law

I’ve spent most of these past years researching the situation of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, culminating in a series of recent articles which among others can be found here and here. Today, Lebanon hosts the highest number of refugees in the world in proportion to its population size of about six million. Many of these live in deep social and legal precarity, with an estimated 60 per cent of Syrian refugees living irregularly in the country and thus subject to extremely harsh and marginalized conditions.

From an international law perspective, however, Lebanon is a fascinating country. It takes pride in its contribution to some of the earliest international human rights instruments, including the participation of Charles Malik in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and his chairing of the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1951-1952.

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Catalan Independence Referendum and the Kosovo “Precedent”

On October 1, the people of Catalonia voted to separate from Spain in an independence referendum which has been declared illegal by Spain.  According to numerous news reports, Spanish police and government forces attempted to interfere with the referendum and engaged in tactics which some have criticized as repressive and “shocking.”  The European Union (EU) however failed to condemn the Spanish government and instead insisted that the referendum was an internal matter for Spain and that the Spanish Constitution and rule of law should be respected.

The Catalan referendum brings back memories of the Kosovo situation in 2008.  Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic, has criticized the EU for its “hypocrisy” because of the EU’s seemingly different stance vis-a-vis the recent Catalan independence vote and vis-a-vis Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008.  Vucic stated, after meeting with the Greek President, “How come you’ve [EU] declared Kosovo’s secession from Serbia legal, violating international law and the foundations of European law.”  In other words, the EU had essentially “blessed” the Kosovar secession from Serbia while it has, in this instance, supported Spain and failed to recognize that Catalan “right” to an independence referendum.  Are the situations in Catalonia and Kosovo drastically different? What does international law say about the subject-matter of secessions?

First, the situations in Kosovo and Catalonia may be different because their respective mother states are different.  Kosovo had been a part of Serbia, which, while under the rule of Slobodan Milosevic, had engaged in brutal tactics to suppress an independence-seeking rebellion brewing within Kosovo.  Thus, the international community got involved – through the 1999 NATO-led air strikes and subsequently through various NATO and EU-led administrative, security-based, and civil missions.  When Kosovo declared independence in 2008, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described Kosovo as “sui generis,” in part because of the international community’s strong involvement in this region.  The Catalan had expressed their desire for independence and had held other independence referenda in the past, but the Spanish government had never engaged in human rights violations in Catalonia and the situation has remained peaceful.  The international community itself has never been involved in Catalonia and it may be that factually, Catalonia remains an internal matter.  If Catalonia is an internal matter, then, like in Scotland and in Quebec, any potential secession would need to be worked out through peaceful negotiations and a constitutional framework.  If Spain says no, then Catalonia would not have the right to unilaterally secede.  This is the factual argument, not based in international law.  This leads me to my second point – what does international law have to say about the Catalan secession?

Second, international law is silent on secession.  Almost all international law scholars would agree that international law does not entail a “right” to secession, and that secession may be tolerated in international law in  rare instances, like in Kosovo, or in Bangladesh.  We know from the 2010 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on Kosovo that international law does not specifically prohibit unilateral declarations of independence, and that international law only condemns declarations of independence procured through an illegal use of force.  We also know that international law contains the right to self-determination, but, as I recently wrote in the context of the Kurdish independence referendum, it is unclear whether the right to self-determination ever applies in the non-decolonization paradigm, and whether this right can ever lead to remedial secession.  It is unclear that the Catalan can invoke the right to self-determination in order to justify secession from Spain – the right to self-determination in this instance may entail simply a right to autonomy within the larger Spanish state.  The Kurds may have a much stronger self-determination-remedial secession argument than the Catalan, as the former may be able to demonstrate much more easily that their mother state is not representative of their interests.  Spain is a democratic nation which respects human rights, and the international law-recognized right to self-determination (leading to remedial secession) has never been invoked in this type of context before.  Thus, international law, at best, begrudgingly tolerates secession in extreme and rare instances, where the mother state is not a democratic nation which respects human rights.  The Catalan do not have a sound international law-based argument, and despite Spanish interference with the Catalan independence referendum, the Catalan cannot claim a particular legal right to secede.

Finally, how does one reconcile the seemingly different results (as of now) in Kosovo, Catalonia, and Kurdistan? Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and within a short period of time, it was recognized as a new state by many in the international community (although not by Spain – understandably so).  Interestingly, almost no states among those supporting Kosovo advanced international law-based rationales for the Kosovar secession from Serbia; instead, such states continued to distinguish Kosovo as a unique situation, sui generis, a special case which should somehow not create any type of precedent in international law.  Catalonia and Kurdistan have held independence referenda which have not been supported by almost any states in the international community.  Many states have referred to these referenda as illegal because contrary to the wishes of their respective mother states, or as internal matters, or as not representative of any particular “rights” in international law.  Accepting the argument that international law is silent on secession and does not regulate secession, it would appear that secessions are matters of domestic law. If this is the case, it appears that the international community may accept such a role of domestic law in cases where the mother state is a democratic nation or an emerging democracy whose sovereignty is deemed worth-while.  This manner of reconciling different referendum results is not based in international law, but it rather reflects geo-political interests of other powerful states.

 

WILNET’s Call to Young Woman International Lawyers

Founded by women researchers of the Manchester International Law Centre, WILNET aims to provide a professional community for women international lawyers at any stage of their career. One of WILNET’s main purposes is to give women in the international law forum a voice. To that end, we are launching a new post series where young woman international lawyers and students can talk about their work or research and discuss it with their peers. This will provide a new platform to young women to share their research agenda, raise the main issues they discuss in their study or work and receive comments. This will also allow students who work on similar topics to get in contact and eventually share opinions with each other. The piece does not necessarily have to reflect on the whole of the research or work, but might raise the main problems that the thesis or the research is dealing with, or raise a particularly controversial part of the study which would benefit from comments by WILNET readers.

We call all young woman international lawyers and especially postgraduate women students [masters or PhD], whose subject area is related to international law, to write a piece no longer than 1500 words to be published on our website. We hope that this new series will create a constructive platform for all young woman international lawyers and postgraduate students to showcase their work and provide a forum for lively discussion.

You can send your piece to wilnet@manchester.ac.uk. Please also add a short bio to your email. Do not hesitate to email us if you have any questions. We look forward to receiving your contributions and reading about your research and work!

(cross-posted from WILNET)

Alexander Prize Nominations Sought

Santa Clara University School of Law is seeking nominations of outstanding lawyers who might be candidates for the Alexander Law Prize, given annually by the Law School. Now in its 11th year, the “Katharine and George Alexander Law Prize” is intended to bring recognition to lawyers who have used their legal knowledge and skills to help alleviate injustice and inequity. It is named after its two benefactors: George Alexander, Dean Emeritus of the Law School and a Professor of Law for 34 years, and Katharine Alexander, who practiced law for 25 years as a Santa Clara County Attorney. In establishing this Prize, the Alexanders aim to inspire young lawyers to heed the call of the public interest. It is also hoped that the recognition of such individuals will improve the image of lawyers around the world.  The winner of the Alexander Prize receives a substantial cash award to be used as the individual chooses. The winner will be brought to Santa Clara University to be honored at a ceremony in early 2018.
Nominees must be lawyers who have used their skill, knowledge and abilities in the field of law to correct injustice. Selection criteria may include factors such as the:
  • Innovative nature of the programs or other activities undertaken
  • Courage and self-sacrifice required
  • Sustainability of the programs the nominee has implemented
  • Number of people benefited

In particular, they are seeking nominees who are committed in both heart and mind to alleviating injustice and inequity.  Nominations should be submitted here. The deadline is October 1, 2017.

A number of exceptional human rights lawyers have been honored with the Prize in years past:

► 2008 Award Winner: Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, where he and his colleagues have helped reduce or overturn death sentences in more than sixty cases.

► 2009 Award Winner: Mario Joseph, one of Haiti’s most influential and respected human rights attorneys and Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), which uses prominent human rights cases and a victim-centered approach to force open the doors of Haiti’s justice system for the country’s poor majority.

► 2010 Award Winner: Shadi Sadr, an Iranian lawyer who has risked her life in her efforts to protect the human rights of women, activists, and journalists, and who launched the “End Stoning Forever” campaign and Raahi, a legal center for women which has been forced to close since Ms. Sadr has been in exile.

► 2011 Award Winner: Paul Van Zyl, former Executive Secretary of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, co‐founder of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), and now the CEO of PeaceVentures.

► 2012 Award Winner: Almudena Bernabeau, formerly of the Center for Justice and Accountability and founder of Guernica37, a new human rights law firm litigating on behalf of victims of human rights abuses.

► 2013 Award Winner: Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese civil rights attorney who, although he is blind and had a broken leg at the time, managed to escape house arrest in China. He was targeted for his human rights campaigns, including against forced abortion while China’s one-child policy was in place.

► 2014 Award Winner: Hossam Bahgat, founder and former Executive Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, whom I featured here when he was detained again for advocating on behalf of the freedom of speech and assembly in Tahrir Square.

► 2015 Award Winner: Martina E. Vandenberg, founder and president of The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center.

► 2016 Maria Foscarinis, founder and executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (2016).

► 2017 Paul Hoffman, partner in Schonbrun Seplow Harris & Hoffman, LLP and ace litigator under the Alien Tort Statute/Torture Victim Protection Act.

GQUAL Conference: Changing the Picture of International Justice

From October 3-5, the GQUAL Conference: Changing the Picture of International Justice will take place in The Hague, Netherlands, organized by GQUAL and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) along with the support of States, Foundations, and Partner organizations.

Women are under-represented across almost all international tribunals and monitoring bodies that play key roles in developing international law, human rights, international relations, and cooperation. For example, in 2017, only 18.1% of judges sitting on international tribunals are women. Within the United Nations Treaty Bodies, several Committees have less than 30% of female representation, among them the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR, 27%), the Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED, 10%) and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD, 6%). In response to this critical dearth of women serving across international justice, GQUAL was launched in 2015 at the UN Headquarters as a global campaign to achieve gender parity within these entities.

On its second anniversary of the campaign, the GQUAL Conference will convene, at the Hague, Vice-Presidents, high level representatives of States and members of international tribunals and organizations, international law and gender experts, academics, advocates and activists from all over the world to build on the work done over the past two years. The goal of the conference is to approve an Action Plan that will build upon the campaign’s three strategies outlined in the GQUAL Declaration. The conference will include a series of workshops where participants will discuss the multiple angles that influence the representation of women and possible avenues for improvement, at the national and international level.

Check out the event splashpage to RSVP and see the full program of the conference, the organizations and States supporting the initiative, and a preview of participating speakers at https://gqualconference.splashthat.com .  The Opening Ceremony will take place at The Peace Palace on October 3rd and will be live streamed starting at 5:00 PM (Netherlands) here: https://goo.gl/gbx97t .

For more information, please contact Alex McAnarney at amcanarney@cejil.org.

 

Sir Nigel Rodley Human Rights Conference: October 28-29, 2017

Nigel RodleySir Nigel Rodley Human Rights Conference
October 28–29, 2017
A conference in honor of the late Sir Nigel Rodley is being hosted by The Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights at the University of Cincinnati College of Law on October 28–29, 2017.  Co-sponsored by Paul Hoffman and Professor Bert Lockwood, director of the Urban Morgan Institute, the Conference will focus on the contributions of Sir Nigel to human rights and his areas of concern, as well as the challenges currently facing the international human rights community.  Registration and hotel information are here.  If you have any questions please email Nancy Ent at nancy.ent@uc.edu.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2017

9 am        Greeting from Prof. Bert Lockwood
Video Tribute to Sir Nigel Rodley

9:30–10:30 am      Nigel Rodley and Amnesty International
Chair: Paul Hoffman 
Panelists:
Chris Avery, Founder, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
Prof. Stephanie Farrior, Vermont Law School
Prof. David Petrasek, University of Ottawa

10:30–11:30 am       Nigel’s Scholarship
Chair: Prof. David Weissbrodt, University of Minnesota
Panelists:
Prof. Roger Clark, Rutgers Law School: Nigel’s Criminal Law Scholarship
Prof. Rebecca Cook, University of Toronto Faculty of Law: Nigel’s Feminist Transformations

11:30–12:30 am      Death Penalty
Chair: Prof. George Edwards, Indiana University
Panelists:
Christina Cerna, Former Attorney, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: Death Penalty Case
Prof. Sandra Babcock, Cornell Law School: Death Penalty Today
Prof. Connie de la Vega, University of San Francisco

Lunch Break    Boxed Lunches will be provided

1:30–2:30 pm     Torture
Chair: Prof. Terry Coonan, Florida State University
Panelists:
Prof. Juan Méndez, American University; Former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture
Felice Gaer, Vice-Chair, UN Committee against Torture
Curt Goering, Center for Victims of Torture

2:30–3:15 pm      The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
Chair
: Howard Tolley, University of Cincinnati
Panelists:
The Honorable Unity Dow, Minister of Education, Botswana; Former Chair of the Executive Committee, ICJ
Prof. Robert Goldman, American University; Acting President, ICJ

3:15–4:30 pm      Treaty Bodies
Chair: 
Prof. Dinah Shelton, George Washington University
Panelists:
Prof. Cees Flinterman, Maastricht University
Prof. Ruth Wedgwood, Johns Hopkins University
Prof. Douglass Cassel, University of Notre Dame

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2017

9–10:15 am      Economic and Social Rights
Chair: Prof. Stephen Marks, Harvard University
Panelists:
Prof. Paul Hunt, University of Essex; Independent Expert, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Prof. Tara Melish, University of Buffalo
Larry Cox, Kairos Center, Poor Peoples’ Campaign

10:15–11:15 am      Current Challenges, Part I
Chair:
Prof. Mark Gibney, University of North Carolina at Asheville
Panelists:

Prof. Michael  O’Flaherty: View from the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency
Christophe Peschoux: View from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Prof. Tom Farer, University of Denver: Minority Rights in the Age of Mass Migration

11:15–11:30 am      Break

11:30 am –12:30 pm    Current Challenges, Part II
Chair
: Dr. Bernard Dickens, University of Toronto
Panelists:
Prof. William Schabas, Middlesex University
Prof. John Packer, University of Ottawa
Sandra Coliver, Open Society Foundation

12:30 pm    Concluding Remarks
Paul Hoffman and Bert Lockwood