Work On! International Law Weekend 2019

Work On! is an occasional item about workshops, roundtables, and other fora that do not necessarily include publication:


The American Branch of the International Law Association welcomes panel proposals from academics and practitioners for its International Law Weekend. It will take place October 10-12, 2019 in New York City. The theme is The Resilience of International Law.

In recent years, the international legal system has been challenged at home and abroad. Growing nationalism, shifts in geo-political power, deepening economic inequality, climate change, and a global migration crisis have generated cracks in the established international order. These schisms have been exacerbated by other factors, including the power of private corporations over speech platforms and personal data and the rapid progression of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. Even our discipline and profession are challenged with growing calls for inclusivity of diverse voices. Can the international legal system adapt to address these profound developments?

ILW 2019 will address the resilience of international law. The conference will explore international law’s capacity to preserve the rule of law, promote both peace and justice, and maintain stability in the face of growing fault lines. The world is changing. ILW 2019 seeks to answer whether its theme—The Resilience of International Law—is a question or an affirmation.

Deadline to submit panel proposals is May 15, 2019 and can be done through this portal.


The ICC’s Afghanistan Decision and the Interests of Justice

A week has passed since the International Criminal Court’s (“ICC”, “Court”) Afghanistan decision (“Afghanistan decision”, “decision”) dropped. The internet has been aflame with commentary on Pre-Trial Chamber II’s (“PTC”) complete rejection of the Prosecutor’s request for the authorization of an investigation into the Situation in Afghanistan, a decision it reached after concluding that proceeding with the investigation would not be in the interests of justice. The PTC’s interests of justice argument and analysis are astounding in their shallowness, especially as the consequence will be to deny the Afghan people the chance at international justice. Given the argument’s weakness, and the amount of suffering endured by the people in Afghanistan, this argument is unacceptable.

According to the request, “The information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that members of the Taliban and affiliated armed groups are responsible for alleged crimes committed within the context of the situation [… against] civilians perceived to support the Afghan Government and/or foreign entities or to oppose Taliban rule and ideology.” (para. 4) This implies that the investigation would not only be focused on crimes against those who challenge the U.S.-led invasion of 2001; the alleged crimes that constitute part of the reason and justification for opening an investigation befell those who may have been perceived as opposing the Taliban and its ideology. For the purpose of examining state interests and cooperation, the statement above does not appear to support a conclusion that the Prosecutor’s intent was to single out or focus on the United States or one of its allies.

In the decision, the PTC defines the interests of justice as: “the effective prosecution of the most serious international crimes, the fight against impunity and the prevention of mass atrocities. […] an investigation would only be in the interests of justice if prospectively it appears suitable to result in the effective investigation and subsequent prosecution of cases within a reasonable time frame.” (para. 89) It concludes by arguing that granting the Prosecution’s request would not be in the interests of justice, (para. 96) due to the amount of time that has passed since the conflict’s beginning, (paras. 92-93) political changes in Afghanistan and important states, (para. 94) and the Court’s limited resources. (para. 95) It is true that the Court’s limited resources may be an obstacle to future investigative and prosecutorial attempts. It is also true that the security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated since 2015, that the United States has not supported the ICC’s efforts, and that a great amount of time has passed since the invasion. However, these reasons do not justify slamming the door on the entirety of the Prosecutor’s efforts to fight impunity for alleged crimes committed in Afghanistan, and it is especially tenuous an argument when based on the interests of justice criterion. A more nuanced, specific consideration of the current context in Afghanistan in relation to the interests of justice criterion may have resulted in a different outcome.

The April 12th decision is notable in the brevity of its interests of justice analysis, which is limited to ten paragraphs, considering that the request is 181 pages. This is also notable considering that much has happened since Operation Enduring Freedom began in October 2001, that the scale of the crimes alleged is enormous, (See Request, VII, etc.) and that the ramifications of the decision will reverberate in political, legal, and academic echo chambers.

It is clear that after decades of foreign invasion, occupation, life under the Taliban, and de facto lawlessness, the international community has not yet succeeded in meeting Afghanistan’s need for justice and accountability for alleged heinous acts that may have been committed within its borders. It is necessary to ponder the following question: was the decision fair to the most important people affected, the Afghan people?

Work On! 2019 Migration Summer School


Work On! is an occasional item about workshops, roundtables, and other fora that do not necessarily include publication:

The 3rd Migration Summer School (MIGSS): Moving Beyond Crisis? will be taking place in Athens, Greece on July 22-27, 2019. This summer program is carefully designed and developed to provide participants with a comprehensive understanding of issues regarding the integration of immigrants and refugees in Europe.

The week-long course will be taught by academics and experts from European and international universities, institutions and research centers. To register, send a CV and a letter of motivation in English to For more information, click here.

Write On! Melbourne Journal of Int’l Law, Tel Aviv Univ., & Univ. of Hamburg


This installment of Write On!, our periodic compilation of calls for papers, includes calls to submit papers to the Melbourne Journal of International Law, the Tel Aviv Univ. Buchmann Faculty of Law, and the Univ. of Hamburg Faculty of 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 20(2). The deadline for submissions is July 1, 2019. 

MJIL is a peer-reviewed academic journal based at the University of Melbourne and publishes innovative scholarly research and critical examination of issues in international law. Submissions and inquiries should be directed to For more information, please click here.

► The Tel Aviv University Buchmann Faculty of Law is pleased to invite submissions to its for its 5th Annual TAU Workshop for Junior Scholars in Law.

The workshop provides junior scholars with the opportunity to present and discuss their work, receive meaningful feedback from faculty members and peers and aims to invigorate the scholars’ active participation in the community of international junior scholars in law. The workshop will take place on November 17-19, 2019 at the university. The deadline is May 10, 2019. For more information, click here.

► The Institute for International Affairs at the University of Hamburg Faculty of Law is calling for papers for its 3rd Hamburg Young Scholars’ Workshop in International Law.

The workshop brings together promising doctoral students and postdocs with a background in international law and neighboring disciplines. It will be held from September 20-21, 2019. The deadline for submissions is June 10, 2019. For more information, click here.

Call for Papers: ‘Protection of the Environment in relation to Armed Conflict- Beyond the ILC’

The Goettingen Journal of International Law (GoJIL) has published a call for papers for a Special Issue on ‘Protection of the Environment in relation to Armed Conflict – Beyond the ILC’. The GoJIL, a student-run law journal, is based on a double-blind peer review process and is available open access.

The objective of the special issue is to review the work of the International Law Commission (ILC) on the topic up until now but also looking beyond the Commission’s work to search for legal avenues on how to consolidate the protection of the environment. The ILC included the topic ‘Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflict’ in 2011 on its future program of work. The Commission is now in the stage of finalizing the project by drafting principles that address environmental protection from a temporal approach, i.e. the phases of pre-conflict, during conflict, and post-conflict in light of different fields of international law. The ILC has been focusing on, inter alia the laws of armed conflict, human rights law and international environmental law.

The special issue includes papers discussed during a workshop co-organised by the Law Faculty of Lund University and the Law Faculty of University of Hamburg in March 2019, but is also open for other submissions. Contributions should address one (or several) of the three conflict phases with regard to environmental protection. Submissions can also zoom out of the three phases and look at different actors and affected groups, for instance, and how they are impacted by the environment and armed conflicts. Contributions are not limited to legal views but can include other perspectives on the topic as well.

The deadline for the submission of abstracts is 1 June 2019 and the final paper needs to be submitted no later than 1 August 2019. The special issue is scheduled to be published early 2020. For more information on how to submit a paper, please consult the call (below).

CfP Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflict – Beyond the ILC

Work On! Academy of European Public Law


Work On! is an occasional item about workshops, roundtables, and other fora that do not necessarily include publication:

The European Public Law Organization will host the Summer Academy of European Public Law on August 26 – September 14, 2019 at the European Public Law Organization’s premises in Athens and Sounion in the Attica region of Greece. This is a three week summer study session for those interested in furthering their knowledge on the philosophical backdrop of different European national public law systems. Applicants should be proficient in English and have a degree in law or political science, European studies, international affairs, or another related field. Deadline to register is June 29, 2019. Details here.

The customary  law nature of article 62 of the 1986 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties

The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, commonly referred to as Brexit, was the first of many unexpected developments in British politics over the course of the last three years. In the last few days, international lawyers have been surprised by the attempt to invoke article 62 of the Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties in order to facilitate the passing of a third vote by the UK Parliament of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Several commentators have explained the flaws inherent to the application of a provision requiring a fundamental change of circumstances that cannot be foreseen (see the excellent blog by Marko Milanovik here, including comments by Alessandra Asteriti & Aoife O’Donogue),  and for which an extraordinarily high threshold was established by the International Court of Justice in the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Project case (commentary by Philippe Sands who represented Hungary before the Court here). In successive tweets Matin Paparinskis has unearthed the historic opposition of the UK to the doctrine of fundamental change of circumstances and suggested that arguments based on the doctrine of necessity may provide better legal grounds for the unilateral termination of a treaty.

The applicability of article 62 underlines every analysis I have encountered so far. Commentators refer to the Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties without specifying whether they are referring to the 1969 Convention only applicable to treaties between states, or the 1986 Convention for treaties between States and International Organisations (the latter not yet into force). This is not an oversight. The clarification seems unnecessary because article 62 is presumed as a codified expression of customary international law that applies to any treaty, whether concluded between States or between States and international organisations.

The International Court of Justice has supported this view on several occasions. In its admissibility decision on the Qatar v Bahrain case, the Court applied the definition of treaty enshrined in article 2 of the 1969 Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties, despite neither Qatar nor Bahrain being parties to the Convention. The Court did not justify its approach implicitly suggesting that the definition contained in the Vienna Convention had customary law status, a conclusion categorised as ‘surprising’ by Jan Klabbers ‘given the fact that it is, after all,  but a definition, and, moreover, a definition for purposes of the Vienna Convention only’ (page 366). The Court was forced into a more explicit approach in Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros because Hungary argued that the Vienna Convention was not applicable to the concerned agreement, suggesting that the Court should establish ‘the conformity of the prescriptions of the Convention with customary international law’ on a case-by-case basis (paragraph 43). The International Court resolved the issue in a sweeping statement only substantiated by its own jurisprudence (paragraph 46):

“The Court has no need to dwell upon the question of the applicability in the present case of the Vienna Convention of 1969 on the Law of Treaties. It needs only to be mindful of the fact that it has several times had occasion to hold that some of the rules laid down in that Convention might be considered as a codification of existing customary law. The Court takes the view that in many respects this applies to the provisions of the Vienna Convention concerning the termination and the suspension of the operation of treaties, set forth in Articles 60 to 62 (see Legal Consequences for States of the Continued Presence of South Africa in Namibia (South West Africa) notwithstanding Security Council Resolution 276 (1970), Advisory Opinion, I.C.J. Reports. 1971, p. 47, and Fisheries Jurisdiction (United Kingdom v. Iceland), Jurisdiction of the Court, Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1973, p. 18; see also Interpretation of the Agreement of 25 March 1951 between the WHO and Egypt, Advisory Opinion, I.C.J. Reports 1980, pp. 95-96).”

The International Court of Justice has repeatedly been unwilling to support its statements referring to the existence of customary law, using state practice and/or evidence of opinio juris (for a recent criticism referring to the Chagos case, see Milanovic here). International lawyers should be careful in adopting the same method when it is difficult or impossible to corroborate the existence of a customary rule. Reference to the jurisprudence of the Court does not suffice because the Court has failed to engage, for the most part, with proper analysis in this area. The fundamental change of circumstance’s clause, where acceptance of the validity of the rule can be derived from general consensus of opinion among states rather than state practice, might fit better the categorisation of general principle of international law.