Happy New Year from IntLawGrrls!

As we end 2013 and look forward to 2014, as Editors of IntLawGrrls, we reaffirm our commitment to discussing and exploring developments within international law that form a foundation for a just international society, including in the areas of human rights, trade law, environmental law, refugee and immigration law, international criminal law, etc.

2013 ends with images of Syrian refugee men, women, and children left to languish in camps unable to resettle abroad in spite of the destruction of their nation. Some states have offered generous humanitarian assistance to address this situation. Further, they are cooperating to destroy the chemical weapons. We hope that, in 2014, these states will go a step further and follow the example provided by Sweden which has taken in some 14,700 asylum seekers from Syria and has guaranteed future protection.

We have also witnessed in 2013 the signing of a Global Arms Trade Treaty (ATA) and progress toward its implementation. The ATA creates common standards and rules to improve the control by states of the flow of arms that lead to the carnage that we see in Syria, and so many other states around the world.

In Pope Francis’ words: “The ever-increasing number of interconnections and communications in today’s world makes us powerfully aware of the unity and common destiny of the nations. In the dynamics of history, and in the diversity of ethnic groups, societies and cultures, we see the seeds of a vocation to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another. But this vocation is still frequently denied and ignored in a world marked by a ‘globalization of indifference’ which makes us slowly inured to the suffering of others and closed in on ourselves.”

The ongoing challenge of the international community is to demonstrate greater consistency in the pursuit of social justice, at home and abroad. Key to attaining this goal is support for sustainable development, human rights, and an international society built on the principle of solidarity, including protection of its most vulnerable communities.

We hope that, through our posts, IntlLawGrrls will continue to engage in exposing the challenges presented by globalization while pointing to the core values which have the potential to support the path towards a more humane world.

Happy New Year!

Cecilia, Andrea, Sital, Elizabeth, Jaya & Milena

On the Job! Physicians for Human Rights, DRC Coordinator

PHR - Physicians For Human Rights

Physicians for Human Rights, a US-based international human rights organization, has recently posted a job listing for a Democratic Republic of Congo (“DRC”) Coordinator as part of the Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones Program.  This position is based in Bukavu, DRC.

PHR launched the Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones Program, a multi-year training and advocacy initiative, in 2011, with the aim of forging coalitions among regional medical, law enforcement, and legal experts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, and Central African Republic. The goal of the Program is to increase local capacity for the collection of court-admissible evidence of sexual violence to support local and international prosecutions for these crimes.

Among a number of other qualifications, a successful candidate for this position will have an advanced degree in international relations, medicine, public health, law, social sciences, education, or a related field;  5 years of experience in the NGO sector in Africa; 3 years of experience in a management position; and be fluent in French.

For more information on this position, click here.

To apply, send a cover letter (with compensation requirements) and resume to resumes@phrusa.org. Please include the job title you are applying for in the subject line of your email.

Upcoming symposium: Restitution and Repatriation: The Return of Cultural Objects

DePaul’s Center for Art, Museum & Cultural Heritage Law will bring together lawyers, museum professionals, representatives of indigenous communities, and other scholars and experts in the field to examine the repatriation of cultural artifacts. The symposium will be held at DePaul University College of Law on November 14, 2013 and will address the underlying legal, ethical and moral reasons and policies behind the return of cultural objects. Participants will discuss the justification for repatriation requests, evidence concerns, researching provenance, museum issues and the conflicting ethical concerns that confront in-house museum attorneys and other attorneys when a restitution claim is received.

The event is the vision of Distinguished Research Professor Patty Gerstenblith, director of the Center for Art, Museum & Cultural Heritage Law, and of Assistant Professor of Anthropology Morag Kersel, affiliated faculty member of the Center for Art, Museum and Cultural Heritage Law. Gerstenblith and Kersel are moderating the symposium, in addition to Julie Getzels, Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary of The Art Institute of Chicago.

Among the confirmed speakers are Jane Levine, Worldwide Director of Compliance for Sotheby’s; Victoria S. Reed, Curator for Provenance at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston;  Lori Breslauer, Acting General Counsel, Legal Affairs Director at the Field Museum of Natural History; Rebecca Tsosie, Willard H. Pedrick Distinguished Research Scholar and Professor of Law at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and Susan Taylor, director at the New Orleans Museum of Art.

More information is available at the symposium’s website.

Françoise Burhenne-Guilmin: In Passing

ImageSadly, Françoise Burhenne-Guilmin has died. She was a tremendously influential figure in international environmental law, through her work on international agreements, her many years as Head of the IUCN Environmental Law Centre, and her contributions to capacity building in this field. From the IUCN tribute:

Françoise was instrumental in drafting and elaborating a number of international conventions, agreements and instruments, such as the African Convention for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora –CITES; the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals; the World Charter for Nature; the ASEAN Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources; and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Her real passion was the development of technical capacities through access to information on environmental law and policy. That is why already in the 1970s, she initiated the Environmental Law Information System (ELIS), presented at the Stockholm Conference, which over the years evolved into the far more sophisticated online information system ECOLEX, the Gateway to Environmental Law.

Military Intervention in Syria: The International Law Framework

Amid reports that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against civilians in a recent attack, the United States government has been leaning toward the likelihood of a military intervention in Syria.  Secretary of State John Kerry stated on Monday that there was “undeniable evidence” that Syrian government had used chemical weapons against its own people.  Kerry called for “accountability” in light of this type of attack, which he called a “moral obscenity.”  Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told the BBC that U.S. forces were ready to carry out a strike against Syria, and that such a strike could take place within several days.  Senior U.S. officials also stated that strikes could be carried out as early as Thursday (August 29).  Finally, President Obama held telephone talks with the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the French President Francois Hollande, in order to potentially lay out the groundwork for a near-future military strike.  In addition to the United States’ government’s recent assertions that a military strike against Syria may be in the works, other countries followed suit and expressed similar sentiments, highlighting the possibility of a joint military action against Syria by the United States and some of its allies, namely Great Britain and France.  David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, recalled members of Parliament from vacation and announced that lawmakers would vote on Thursday on any proposal for action.  Cameron characterized the alleged attacks as “absolutely abhorrent,” called for action from the international community, and stated that Great Britain was considering a proportionate response.  Both the UK Foreign Minister and the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius hinted that a military action without United Nations Security Council authorization may occur, because of great humanitarian need.  It is thus possible that the United States, Great Britain, and France would engage in some type of presumably limited military action against Syria without Security Council approval, in what could constitute a true humanitarian intervention (because both Russia and China seem to oppose any type of military intervention against Syria, it is highly likely that these countries would block any proposed Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force in Syria).

Does international law authorize states to use force against other states in instances other than self-defense and Security Council authorization? Some have suggested that the 1999 NATO-led military intervention in Kosovo constitutes a precedent for humanitarian intervention, and that this precedent could apply to the Syrian situation. However, Kosovo was referred to as “sui generis” by the United States’ officials, who were at the time quick to point out that Kosovo could not be used as precedent for the assertion that states may use military force against other states based on humanitarian need and without Security Council approval.  In addition, scholarly opinion is at best mixed on the subject of whether humanitarian intervention has become an international norm authorizing the unilateral use of force.   It is thus doubtful that the case of Kosovo can serve as strong legal precedent for the Syrian situation today.  It will be interesting nonetheless to follow academic debate on this subject, and we hope that more Intlawgrrls will post on the topic in the near future.

Does the fact that Syrian authorities have likely used chemical weapons somehow change the legal analysis about the use of force? In other words, would countries such as the United States, Great Britain, and France have a better legal argument to justify their potential military intervention in Syria without Security Council authorization just because chemical weapons seem to have been used by Assad? Not necessarily.  As Kevin Jon Heller pointed out on Opinio Juris:

Why is the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians with chemical weapons unacceptable, but not the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians with ordinary weapons? Why should the US be willing to intervene if chemical weapons kill 1,000 civilians, but not if ordinary weapons kill tens of thousands?

In other words, the use of chemical weapons, as well as indiscriminate attacks against civilians, are terrible and violate international humanitarian law; however, they do not influence the legal analysis about the unilateral use of force…. unless one can prove that humanitarian intervention has risen to the level of a binding customary norm, constituting thereby an exception to the ban on the use of force absent self defense and Security Council authorization.

Finally, it is interesting to highlight recent commentary on the Syrian situation by Richard Haass, president of the Council of Foreign Relations and former high-level government official.  Haass had been a proponent of the so-called “involuntary sovereignty waiver” theory in the 1990’s – the idea that countries which engage in reprehensible actions, such as harboring weapons of mass destruction, promoting terrorism, or committing atrocities against their own people lose their sovereignty and thereby invite intervention by other countries (such as the United States) (Professor Michael Kelly and yours truly have written about the involuntary sovereignty wavier theory in law review articles as well as a recent book).  While Haass seemed to embrace the idea that law-abiding nations could legally intervene in unilateral military fashion against “rogue” states, his response to the Syrian catastrophe seemed more nuanced. Haass stated that while military action may be needed against Syria to prevent a further use of chemical weapons, any such military action should be carefully calibrated to avoid another prolonged military conflict.

While military action may be needed and necessary in Syria, it is uncertain whether international law in its present state truly authorizes countries to engage in unilateral military action against Assad’s regime.  If the United States, Great Britain and France decide to launch a military offensive, their actions may constitute the first instance of humanitarian intervention and may lead toward the development of new customary norms of international law.

Upcoming Conferences: Maritime Piracy

On September 6, 2013, an international conference entitled “End Game! An International Conference on Combating Piracy” will take place at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.  The conference description reads as follows:

For the moment pirate attacks are down, but piracy continues to present a major threat to world shipping. Even with greatly expanded patrolling by international navies and increased use of private security forces, there have been 48 pirate attacks, 448 seamen were held hostage by pirates, and global economic losses due to piracy topped 5 billion dollars in the last twelve months. Meanwhile, renewed political turmoil in Somalia and Yemen is sowing the seeds for a fresh generation of pirates with increasingly deadly tactics. This conference brings together two-dozen of the world’s foremost counter-piracy experts to analyze the novel legal challenges and options related to this new phase in the fight against piracy.

This exciting conference will feature panels on current trends in combating piracy, the treatment of juvenile pirates, new ideas on combating financing piracy, as well as legal and operational issues in combating piracy.  The conference will reunite some of the most prominent experts from the field of maritime law, including law professors, prosecutors and judges from piracy-prosecuting nations, such as Kenya and Mauritius, NGO representatives, government officials, and international organizations members.  The key note lecture will be delivered by Canadian Senator Romeo Dallaire, founder of the Child Soldier Initiative at Dalhousie University and a prominent author and advocate.  Last but not least, Intlawgrrls participating at the conference include Laurie Blank and yours truly

The conference is open to the public (seating is limited and registration is required), and it will also be available via webcast. 


Best and Worst Places for Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean

Women selling in market (IITA Image Library)

Women selling in market
(IITA Image Library)

The Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund (IDB/MIF) has issued a study which ranks Latin American and Caribbean countries based on risks to and support for women entrepreneurs. Highlights of the study presented in this slideshow rank the countries from first to twentieth place in this slideshow.

Jamaica, my country of origin, was ranked 20th. To persons who are familiar with the prevalence of women in all areas of Jamaican business and society, this low ranking will seem surprising. Women, for example, comprise 70% of the country’s university students and 50% of its workforce; they occupy management positions at various levels of society, including a female Prime Minister who is serving for the second time.

So, if visibility of women is not enough to secure top ranking, what are the other factors that the study authors considered? I have divided them into three categories:

Category 1: Societal Conditions

  • Overall strength of the economy, as measured by fiscal conditions, level of investor confidence,
  • Political factors, such as degree of political and institutional stability and the presence of good governance
  • Degree of corruption

Category 2: Support for Micro & Small Entrepreneurs

The majority of women entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean (indeed developing and emerging countries as a whole) operate micro and small to medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and so the availability of the following factors can play a huge role in determining success:

  • Ability of MSMEs to access credit
  • Access to technology and to technical support by MSMEs
  • Favorability of tax rates for MSMEs
  • Legal structure supporting MSMEs
  • Costs of starting and expanding a business

Category 3: Support for Women in Business

The following factors can speak volumes about the level of support that exists for women entrepreneurs:

  • Extent of access to business associations and enterprises
  • Levels of female enrolment in vocational programs
  • Extent of crime and security risks
  • Extension of property rights to women
  • Access to and/or level of spending on social services, i.e. child support and for taking care of the elderly

While a country need not have all of these factors in place to be ranked highly as a good place for women entrepreneurs, it must be able to provide evidence of societal support across all three categories. This was clearly evident in Chile, which ranked #1 for the following reasons: (1) good fiscal conditions, political and institutional stability, strong investor confidence, and perceptions of good governance; (2)  high access to technology; and (3) good security conditions and adequate access to social services.