Applying the death penalty to drug dealers is never ‘appropriate’. It violates international law.

On Wednesday, March 21, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo implementing President Trump’s plan to “get tough” on the opioid epidemic: the death penalty for drug dealers. Session’s memo “strongly encourage[s]” prosecutors to seek the death penalty in drug cases “when appropriate.” While this strategy comes as no surprise from a president who has lauded Philippine President Duterte’s approach to drug policy, it’s not “appropriate”. And it violates international law.

Lots of ink has been spilled arguing that Trump’s proposal will violate the Constitution, drive drug use underground, benefit large-scale drug dealers, and grind the federal judicial system to a halt. Less has been said about the international legal implications of the proposal.

Article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the United States is a party, limits the application of capital punishment to the “most serious crimes.” The UN Human Rights Committee emphasizes that this category must be “read restrictively,” and the Economic and Social Council of the UN cautions that its “scope should not go beyond intentional crimes with lethal or extremely grave consequences.” Further clarifying the category, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions explained that the death penalty can only be imposed when “there was an intention to kill which resulted in the loss of life.”

According to Harm Reduction International (HRI), 33 of the 55 states that retain the death penalty apply it to drug-related offenses. These statistics, it might surprise you, already count the United States as one of those 33 countries. Though the United States has never executed anyone under the provision, 18 U.S.C. §3591(b) authorizes the death penalty for trafficking in large quantities of drugs and remains in force according to the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide.

This might be less surprising when one realizes that the United States reserved the right “to impose capital punishment on any person [. . .] duly convicted under existing or future laws” when it joined the ICCPR. This reservation does not give the U.S. the right or ability, however, to opt out of existing customary international law. And that is precisely how international human rights lawyers and scholars increasingly view the abolition of the death penalty, particularly for drug-related offenses. Giving credence to this view, of the 33 countries that retain the death penalty for drug offenses, 17 of them have never executed anyone pursuant to those laws.

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Nuevo libro para abogados hispano- y angloparlantes/New Book for Lawyers Who Speak Both Spanish and English

(English version follows)

Tres mujeres y profesoras de derecho: S.I. Strong de la Universidad de Missouri (Estados Unidos), Katia Fach Gómez de la Universidad de Zaragoza (España) y Laura Carballo Piñeiro de la Universidad de Santiago de Compostela (España) tenemos el honor de presentar el libro Derecho comparado para abogados anglo- e hispanoparlantes: Culturas jurídicas, términos jurídicos y prácticas jurídicas/ Comparative Law for Spanish-English Speaking Lawyers: Legal Cultures, Legal Terms and Legal Practices  (Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., 2016). Este trabajo supone una plasmación por escrito de algunas de las características más relevantes de nuestras carreras profesionales: trayectorias académicas y de práctica de la abogacía internacional desarrolladas en español e inglés, y en estrecho contacto con las comunidades jurídicas latinoamericana, europea y estadounidense. En consonancia con ello, la obra que hemos elaborado permite que abogados y estudiantes de derecho que hablan inglés y español adquieran fluidez jurídica en un segundo idioma. Realizar dicho esfuerzo es extremadamente importante no sólo para abogados especializados en derecho internacional, sino también para abogados dedicados al derecho nacional pero que tratan con clientes cuya lengua materna es un idioma extranjero.

La forma en que “Derecho comparado para abogados anglo- e hispanoparlantes” involucra a abogados y estudiantes de derecho en la práctica jurídica bilingüe es única por diversos motivos. En primer lugar, y dado que la mayoría de los abogados bilingües trabajan con otros abogados y con clientes que cuentan con unos orígenes legales y culturales muy variados, el libro no se limita a analizar unas jurisdicciones concretas. Por el contrario, el libro ofrece información sobre diversos países hispanoparlantes (fundamentalmente, España y México) y angloparlantes (fundamentalmente, Estados Unidos y Reino Unido). En segundo lugar, la monografía contextualiza la información, no sólo ubicando el nuevo vocabulario y los principios legales en el contexto lingüístico apropiado –el libro es completamente bilingüe-, sino también ofreciendo abundantes comparaciones con la legislación y la práctica de otras jurisdicciones. En tercer lugar, este tipo de análisis permite que los abogados y estudiantes de derecho aprecien las diferencias existentes en las culturas jurídicas, empresariales y sociales relevantes. Ello ayuda a los lectores a no incurrir en ofensas que puedan derivarse de problemas de comunicación involuntarios. El libro también explica por qué existen dichas diferencias y cuál es su fundamento en un contexto jurídico determinado.

Profundizar en la comprensión a través de barreras nacionales, sociales y culturales es un objetivo esencial de un mundo cada vez más pluralizado. Derecho comparado para abogados anglo- e hispanoparlantes es una herramienta muy útil para aquellos que trabajan cruzando fronteras lingüísticas. Como este libro de 700 páginas demuestra, no hay que temer a las diferencias, sino que hemos de alegrarnos de que la diversidad jurídica y lingüística exista.

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unnamedThree law professors – S.I. Strong of the University of Missouri, Katia Fach Gómez of the University of Zaragoza and Laura Carballo Piñeiro of the University of Santiago de Compostela – have the honor of presenting their new book, Comparative Law for Spanish-English Speaking Lawyers: Legal Cultures, Legal Terms and Legal Practices / Derecho comparado para abogados anglo- e hispanoparlantes: Culturas jurídicas, términos jurídicos y prácticas jurídicas (Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., 2016).  This work reflects some of the characteristics that are most relevant to our professional careers as academics and practitioners working in both English and Spanish, and involving jurisdictions in Latin America, Europe and the United States.  Consistent with that, the book that we have written helps lawyers and law students who speak Spanish and English become legally fluent in their second language.  This effort is extremely important not only for specialists in international law, but also for domestic lawyers whose clients speak different languages.

 

Comparative Law for Spanish-English Speaking Lawyers: Legal Cultures, Legal Terms and Legal Practices / Derecho comparado para abogados anglo- e hispanoparlantes” introduces lawyers and law students to bilingual legal practice in several ways.  First, the book does not focus solely on single jurisdictions, since most bilingual lawyers work with clients and co-counsel from a variety of legal and cultural backgrounds.  Instead, the book offers information on several English-speaking nations (primarily the U.S. and the U.K.) and Spanish-speaking countries (primarily Spain, Mexico and Argentina).  Second, the text seeks to contextualize the information, not only by placing the new vocabulary and legal principles in the appropriate linguistic setting (the book is entirely bilingual) but by providing extensive comparisons to the law and practice of other jurisdictions.  Third, the discussion helps lawyers and law students appreciate differences in the relevant legal, business and social cultures, thereby helping them avoid giving offense through any inadvertent miscommunications, and explains why those differences arose and why they make sense in that particular legal environment.

 

Increasing understanding across national, social and cultural lines is an important goal in our increasingly pluralistic world, and Comparative Law for Spanish-English Speaking Lawyers provides a useful tool for those who work across linguistic lines.  As this 700+ page text shows, legal and linguistic differences need not be feared but can instead be celebrated.

 

Write On! Call for Papers from Toronto Group for the Study of International, Transnational and Comparative Law (note deadline: 9 February)

The Toronto Group for the study of International, Transnational and Comparative Law (TG) invites graduate students to present their work at the 7th Annual Conference of the TG, a collaborative project between graduate students at Osgoode Hall Law School and the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto.

The theme of the conference is “Law Beyond the State.” It will be held in Toronto, Ontario on Friday, May 2, 2015 at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Participants are invited to conceptualize, criticize and examine the status of law from various perspectives. While much of Western legal thought has conceptualized the existence and operation of law as arising from a state paradigm, this year’s theme provides participants an opportunity to examine instances of law that is not dependent on the state. Please refer to the attached call for abstracts for complete details on the Call for Proposals.

The deadline for submission of conference abstracts is February 9, 2015.

For more information about the Toronto Group, conference and accommodation options in Toronto, visit http://torontogroup.wordpress.com.