It’s my great pleasure to announce the book launch of Protecting Civilians in Refugee Camps: Unable and Unwilling States, UNHCR and International Responsibility. Through an analysis of the International Law Commission’s work on international responsibility, the book discusses responsibility for human rights violations taking place in refugee camps being administered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its implementing partners. It will be launched at the Bergen Resource Centre for International Development in Bergen, Norway, on May 22, 2014. Protecting Civilians is the first book in the International Refugee Law book series, edited by Dr David Cantor and published by Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. In the same series, the edited volume Refuge from Inhumanity? War Refugees and International Humanitarian Law will be out in September.
On May 29th, the International Law Commission (ILC) decided to include ‘protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts’ in its current programme of work, appointing Marie Jacobsson as the Special Rapporteur on that topic. In the past, the ILC has mainly addressed topics within the traditional international legal sphere, such as those concerning treaty interpretation and application. This work still constitutes an important part of the Commission’s programme, which covers issues such as subsequent agreements and subsequent practice in relation to the interpretation of treaties, the Most-Favoured-Nation clause, and provisional application of treaties.
The Commission, however, has made attempts to reform. In its 1997 Yearbook, the ILC expressed an ambition to consider topics “that reflect new developments in international law and pressing concerns of the international community as whole.” These less traditional topics can be found in the current work programme: the obligation to extradite or prosecute (aut dedere aut judicare), protection of persons in the event of disasters, and immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction. The latest topic to be included in ILC’s work programme – ‘protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts’ – is yet another sign of the ILC’s commitment to explore novel international law issues.
Concerns of the international community have changed over the years. The growing focus on the environment is but one example. Over the years, scholars have struggled to make sense of the fragmented and sometimes ambiguous international legal rules on the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflict. These rules often originate from different bodies of law, including international humanitarian law, international criminal law, international environmental law and human rights law. The ILC’s work will be valuable, then, simply in identifying the various legal issues around the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflict. This is also an opportunity for the ILC to continue work on two previous topics considered in the Commission: fragmentation of international law and effects of armed conflicts on treaties. The ILC has finalized its work on these topics, but further clarification is needed as many tricky questions remain. Hopefully, the Commission will be able to explore these questions in greater depth while at the same time addressing more novel concerns of the international community through its work on ‘the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts.’
The ILC has for a long time been an exclusive men’s club. It was not until 2002 that the Commission received its first female members. In that year, Paula Escarameia and Hanqin Xue, broke the record of exclusive male membership that had existed since 1949. By appointing Ms Jacobsson as the Special Rapporteur, the Commission is expanding the small group of female Special Rapporteurs. They are now two (!) in total with Concepción Escobar Hernández as the other female Special Rapporteur for immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction. Appointing a female Special Rapporteur to lead a dynamic and unconventional project at the ILC is a hopeful sign of new developments taking place in the man’s world of international law (see Naomi Burke’s recent blog post).
It’s our great pleasure today to welcome Britta Sjöstedt as an IntLawGrrls contributor. Britta has conducted legal studies at Lund University in Sweden and McGill University in Canada and completed her Master of Laws in 2009. At present, she is a doctoral student at Lund University. She has previously worked as an assistant at the International Law Commission in Geneva. Britta has also worked in Canada, Mauritania and Sweden.
Britta’s research project focuses on questions of protection of the environment during armed conflict from a fragmentation perspective. The main research focus is on the role of multilateral environmental agreements during armed conflict and how they may interact with and modify international humanitarian law. Britta also teaches at Lund University and at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute, mainly in international humanitarian law, general public international and peace and conflict resolution.
Her introductory post today discusses developments in the International Law Commission, examining small signs of progressiveness in dual meaning: both in terms of substance as well as from a gender perspective.
At work on a new article discussing the failures of international human rights law to adequately protect undocumented migrants, I was delighted to learn that the United Nations International Law Commission has been at work for nearly ten years on draft articles relating to the expulsion of aliens. Provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee in 2012, and drafted under the guidance of Special Rapporteur (and past ILC Chairman) Maurice Kamto, the articles represent a bold departure from important aspects of human rights law relating to undocumented migrants and immigration proceedings.
Even starting with the term “expulsion” proceedings rather than a euphimism such as “removal” proceedings or a more facially neutral “immigration” proceedings suggests a fresh take on the issue. Up front and center, draft article 1 notes that the draft articles apply with equal force to non-citizens lawfully and unlawfully present. Given that the text of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights distinguishes between non-citizens lawfully and unlawfully present (Art. 13) and that the text of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination explicitly permits”‘distinctions, exclusions, restrictions or preferences” between citizens and non-citizens (Art. 1(2)) (and therefore presumably between non-citizens lawfully and unlawfully present), this represents significant progress.