IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium, 20-25 June 2016, Oslo

PluriCourts, Center of Excellence for the Study of the Legitimacy of International Courts and Tribunals at the University of Oslo, will host the 14th Annual Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law.

This event with the topic “The Environment in Court” will be held in Oslo, the capital of Norway, 20-25 June, 2016.

For more information, please see: http://iucnael2016.no/about/

Deadline for abstracts is 15 January 2016: http://iucnael2016.no/call-for-abstracts/

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Historic climate agreement adopted

Yesterday evening, delegates from 195 states adopted a universal climate agreement. The adoption of the agreement marks a new era of multilateralism, bridging the divide between developed and developing countries and uniting them in the common fight against climate change and its adverse effects.

The agreement builds on the notion of diversified differentiation between countries based on different national circumstances. Accordingly, all Parties shall communicate national climate plans (so-called nationally determined contributions) every 5 years and increase their ambition over time according to a new legal principle of “progression”. 

Importantly, all Parties will employ their highest possible level of ambition – a notion resonant of a due diligence standard in international law.

Further, the agreement establishes a transparency system according to which Parties’ efforts will go through a system of reporting and review in accordance with common methodologies (which still need to be established).

For lawyers, attention should also be drawn to the establishment of a mechanism to promote compliance with and facilitate the implementation of the provisions of the agreement. The mechanism will funtion through a committee with 12 members. 

This post is not exhaustive in its description of elements in the Paris agreement. Especially, the articles on the privision and mobilization of financial support, adaptation, loss and damage, response measures etc. would merit deeper legal analysis.

Having been in plenary Le Seine at the UN conference center at Le Bourget last night, feeling the world keeping its breath for a moment, hearing the gavel go down to the thundering applaus of hundreds of delegates, I feel deeply grateful to all those that relentlessly put their efforts behind this cause.

It truly is victory of multilateralism, making the collective effort greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Christina Voigt

Legal advisor to the Norwegian delegation

Schabas outlines Gaza Commission work

schabas3

Readers no doubt are well aware that in July the U.N. Human Rights Council resolved to set up

an independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Soon after, the Council’s President, Ambassador Baudelaire Ndong Ella of Gabon, announced appointments to the Gaza Commission: as finally constituted, the commission comprises a chair, Professor William A. Schabas of Canada, who holds academic posts at inter alia London’s Middlesex Law and the Netherlands’ Leiden Law, along with 2 members: Dr. Doudou Diène of Senegal, who has served in the past as the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and also as its Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire; and Mary McGowan Davis of the United States, formerly a state trial judge and federal prosecutor in New York.

The appointment of Schabas, my longtime colleague, was met with astounding commentary from some sectors. In the 9-minute video pictured above and available here – an interview broadcast yesterday on CNN – Schabas responds to that critique. He further outlines the work of the commission going forward, as well as its potential interrelation with the work of the International Criminal Court.

(Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann)

IHL Dialogs: Prosecutors’ International Criminal Law Round-Up

I had the pleasure of attending the 2014 IHL Dialogs last week in lovely Chautauqua, NY.  The event—co-hosted by IntLawGrrls, the Robert J. Jackson Center, the American Bar Association, and the American Society of International Law (among others)—is an annual gathering of international criminal law professionals, government officials, and academics in a relaxed setting to take stock of the field, evaluate recent developments, and think about how the international justice system will and should develop in the future.  We’ve covered prior Dialogs in the past on these pages (see here and here).

The Gambia Trialprosecutors IMG_6580

The event began with a fascinating discussion at the Robert H. Jackson Center about one of the first efforts at hybrid justice: the 1981 trials of would-be coup leaders in the Gambia.  The coup, staged by local actors, was rumored to be part of a Pan-African Marxist conspiracy spearheaded by Muammar Gaddafi.  In response, the Gambia invoked a mutual defense pact with Senegal, whose troops helped to quickly oust the rebels.  Thousands of people were detained in connection with the uprising. Fearing that key members of the government and judiciary had been involved in the attempt, the Gambia established special tribunals staffed by lawyers and judges from the British Commonwealth to assess the legality of the detentions and prosecute those who were deemed most responsible.  All told, 45 people were tried in 4 years.

The conversation at the Jackson Center involved Hassan Jallow (ICTR Chief Prosecutor) and Fatou Bensouda (ICC Chief Prosecutor), who were young Gambian professionals working in the judicial system at the time, and Sir Desmond Da Silva (United Kingdom) who, as an expert on the 1351 English Treason Act, was seconded to help with the trial. Jallow covers the event in more detail in his recently-published memoire, Journey for Justice.

Ambassador Tiina Intelmann on the Worrisome State of International Justice

Ambassador Tiina Intelmann (Estonia), President of the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties (ASP), gave a sobering keynote address at the Chautauqua Institution about the state of international justice.  (The YouTube video is here). Intelmann observed that the security situation in the world changed dramatically over the summer, suggesting that Francis Fukuyama was prematurely optimistic in his essay, The End of History.  She noted that the ICC was established during the peek of global optimism and unanimity about the prospects of international justice, but surmised that such an effort would fail if it were attempted today.  Although the number of cases before the Court (21), the range of situations being referred to the Court (8), and the number of requests for the Court to get involved in conflicted areas around the world (1000s) have reached unprecedented levels, support for the Court is waning in some circles.  This is true most notably among certain members of the African Union, who have indicated that maintaining cooperation and a positive attitude toward the Court mayTiina IMG_6507 generate economic and political problems.  She cautioned that this ambivalence is not limited to Africa, however.  Even though one European country has annexed part of another European country, some European states—including long-time supporters of the Court and of international law—are “remaining neutral” and raising concerns about the local impact of the sanctions that have been imposed.   She observed that when complicated situations come closer to home, states start thinking more parochially about their own national interests.

Ambassador Intelmann also argued that while Article 27 of the ICC Statute—withholding immunities traditionally enjoyed by heads of state—was a major achievement in Rome, the Kenya and Darfur situations reveal that prosecuting sitting heads of state is not something the international community is very good at.  She lamented the fact that the ASP, which was designed as an administrative body to deal with budgetary and other more quotidien issues, turned itself into a political body at its last session when considering proposals to undo Article 27 and limit the Court’s ability to prosecute heads of state.  These proposals remain on the table and will likely appear on the ASP’s agenda again soon.

Prosecutors’ Roundup

A highlight of the IHL Dialogs is always the prosecutors’ roundup, which is followed by a year-in-review offered by a leading ICL academic.  Professor and Dean Valerie Oosterveld of Western Law in Ontario, Canada, delivered the 2014 ICL Year in Review.  The material below is a composite of several panels convened over the course of the Dialogs that covers some highlights of the year’s events.   Continue reading

Go On! Registration ends 12 Sept. for Institute for Global Law and Policy 2015 Workshop in Doha, Qatar

The Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP) at Harvard Law School invites you to apply to participate in its 2015 Workshop in Doha, Qatar, from January 2-11, 2015:

At the 2015 Workshop (January 2-11) we will continue to seek ways to deepen the network of collaboration among our Workshop alumni as well as continue to strengthen and renew our core program with new themes and new participants. Our aim is to build on the momentum of our first five Workshops as we strive to develop the premier site for networked innovation in the fields of global governance and economic policy among young scholars and policymakers from across the world. The full program for the 2015 IGLP Workshop, including Workshop Streams, will be announced soon.

IGLP: The Workshop is an intensive residential program designed for doctoral and post-doctoral scholars and junior faculty. This initiative aims to promote innovative ideas and alternative approaches to issues of global law, economic policy, and social justice in the aftermath of the economic crisis. Our aim is to strengthen the next generation of scholars by placing them in collaboration with their global peers as they develop innovative ideas and alternative approaches to issues of global law, economic policy, social justice and governance.

The IGLP is pleased to announce that we are currently accepting Participant applications for the 2015 IGLP Workshop, which will be held in Doha, during the first week of January 2015. We particularly encourage those who have not previously participated in the IGLP Workshop to apply as Participants.

The application deadline for the 2015 IGLP Participant application is September 12, 2014Click HERE to apply. 

To learn more, visit: http://www.harvardiglp.org/iglp-the-workshop/

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Expresses Concern Over Public Education in Chicago

by Brian Citro, Acting Director, International Human Rights Clinic, University of Chicago Law School and Bill Watson, PILI Fellow, International Human Rights Clinic, University of Chicago Law School

On August 13th and 14th in Geneva, Switzerland, an international committee of experts reviewed the United States’ compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). Four committee members separately questioned a delegation of U.S. officials about the racially disparate impact of last year’s Chicago public school closings—the largest wave of school closings in U.S. history. The closings were one of the most frequently cited specific instances of racial discrimination in the United States addressed during the review process.

CERD is one of only a few international human rights treaties the United States has ratified. Unlike U.S. constitutional law—which generally prohibits only intentional discrimination based on race—CERD prohibits any government action that has a disparate impact on a racial minority. Under CERD, the United States must therefore ensure equal enjoyment in practice of several political, economic, social, and cultural rights listed in the treaty, including “the right to education and training.” The treaty is binding on all levels of government—whether federal, state, or local—and requires the federal government to “review governmental, national and local policies, and to amend, rescind or nullify any laws and regulations which have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination.”

In advance of last week’s review, the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, the Chicago Teachers Union, the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights at the University of Chicago, the Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education, and Blocks Together (BT) jointly submitted a “shadow” report to the Committee. The report provided the Committee with sobering statistics on the racially disparate impact of the Chicago school closings. While African American students represent only 40 percent of Chicago students, 80 percent of the students impacted by the closings were African American. Moreover, roughly 90 percent of the closed schools had a majority African American student population, and 71 percent had a majority African American teaching staff.

Although the City claimed that all students displaced by the closings would receive a better education, its promise failed to materialize. Instead, 34 percent of students affected by the closings were moved to a lower performing school and more than 50 percent were forced to attend a school on probation for poor performance. Students remained surrounded by violence as they walked to school, and there were reports of altercations and tension in the receiving schools between new and old students. Moreover, in the build up to the school closings, the City largely failed to respect African American parents’ right to participate in public affairs, protected under CERD. Recommendations from parents and experts during public hearings prior to the closings were largely ignored: the City closed eleven of the thirteen schools that hearing officers recommended stay open.

Unfortunately, these problems exemplify issues of de facto segregation and racial disparities in achievement in public education across the United States; the Chicago school closings are merely a case study in government action exacerbating preexisting segregation and achievement disparities. The fact is that, as of 2010, 74 percent of African American students in the United States attended majority-minority schools. Many of these schools are underfunded and under-resourced, with a high proportion of uncertified or out-of-field teachers. High school graduation rates for racial minorities remain lower than for White students and only 56 percent of African American high school graduates enroll in postsecondary education, as compared to 72 percent of White graduates.

The ultimate result of the CERD Committee’s review will be a series of “concluding observations” that give an official interpretation of the United States’ compliance with the treaty. Concerns raised by the Committee about public education in the United States—and specifically Chicago—will very likely find their way into these observations. It will then be up to civil society to work to ensure the United States Government and the City of Chicago fulfill their obligations under CERD to ensure all students enjoy a quality education free from racial discrimination.

“Ferguson”: Caitlyn Clark’s poem to America, at John Legend concert

Stunned to listen to this poem by Caitlyn Clark, recited on stage at a John Legend’s Hollywood Bowl concert 2 days ago. It’s moving, heartfelt, raw, and real. She wants to make revolution not with the children who have been felled but with those who still live and can bring change to our troubled times. And, I am most proud to say, she is my cousin, daughter of my favorite first cousin, who, as she tells the world in this amazing video, did 6 months’ active duty at Bagram Prison, Afghanistan. ¡Brava, Caitlyn!

(Cross-posted by Diane Marie Amann)