Read On! The Construction of the Customary Law of Peace:Latin America and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

I am happy to announce the publication of my book. It traces the evolution of peace as a normative value within the region. It examines challenges presented by structural inequality, corruption, and exclusionary practices made evident by recent protests. I interviewed the judges of the Court who explained the pluralistic nature of peace and their quest to provide a sustainable gendered peace through innovative reparation orders and recognition of the justiciability of socio-economic rights.

Cecilia Bailliet’s book is an insightful view on the relationship between peace, as the core value of international law, and regional human rights law in Latin America. Her meticulous analysis of legal doctrine, international norms, history, and current human rights challenges, coupled with first-hand knowledge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, brings to light new understandings of how the Court articulates regional norms and principles on peace and human dignity. Anyone interested in Latin American human rights law should read Bailliet’s work.’
– Jorge Contesse, Rutgers Law School, US

https://www.e-elgar.com/shop/gbp/the-construction-of-the-customary-law-of-peace-9781800371866.html

CEPAZ/UPEACE Webinar on the Role of the Security Council and other UN bodies in the Venezuelan situation


The United Nations Security Council has the primary responsibility of maintaining international peace and security pursuant to the powers granted in Chapters VI, VII, and VIII of the Charter. At the core of this competence to decide on non-coercive and coercive measures is the construction of what constitutes a threat to international peace and security according to Article 39 of the Charter. Although initially threats to international peace and security referred almost exclusively to conflicts between states, currently it could also refer to situations within states, including civil wars, humanitarian crises, and coups d’état. Nevertheless, there is still difficulty in conceptualizing the role that the international community can have, especially through the action of the Security Council, when atrocities occur at the hands of a government within state borders without a nexus to an armed conflict.
The response given by the Security Council and other UN political bodies to the situation in Venezuela serves as an example of these contentious issues. Venezuela is currently suffering one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. The country has experienced 7 years of economic contraction, hyperinflation, political polarization and institutional challenges, which have caused large-scale human suffering. OCHA has estimated that there are 7 million people in need in the country, and according to ACAPS this number reaches more than 13 million. The severity Index of the Venezuelan crisis has been estimated at 4.1/5, which is considered as very high and is similar to the index of other crises which have gotten a stronger response by the international community, namely Syria (4.9), Myanmar (3.5), Libya (4.2) and Yemen (4.6). In spite of the gravity and complexity of this crisis, there has not been an appropriate response from the international community. The 2020 Venezuelan Human Response Plan was one of the world’s lowest funded.

Importantly, the Security Council and other political bodies of the United Nations have failed to play an important role in its resolution. The Council has met nine times to discuss the situation in Venezuela but has not managed to provide a unified response to support Venezuelans in finding a solution to the crisis. This lack of response may be partly given to the fact that the situation is understood primarily as a domestic issue where the principles of sovereignty and non-interference trump the responsibility to protect even in the face of mass atrocity crimes. An ineffective response from the international community in the face of a humanitarian crisis and gross human rights violations has a direct impact in exacerbating the situation. States continue to commit atrocity crimes if they calculate that they will be protected from a strong response by international actors and that the cost of breaching human rights is bearable.
The seminar addressed the concepts and theoretical analysis which would allow the understanding of the humanitarian and political crisis in Venezuela as a threat to international peace and security. The event was moderated by Mariateresa Garrido and included presentations by Professor Cecilia M. Bailliet, University of Oslo, Norway, Adriana Salcedo, UPeace Costa Rica, and Richard Gowan, UN Director, International Crisis Group. The webinar is available here

Interview with Jaime Todd-Gher (Part-1)

Jaime Todd-Gher is a human rights lawyer specializing in issues of gender, sexuality, and health. She is working as an Independent Consultant and a Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Fellow with the University of Toronto, International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, Faculty of Law. She recently worked as a Legal Advisor and Strategic Litigation Specialist with Amnesty International. She has also worked as a Human Rights Advisor and Programme Officer with the WHO and UNAIDS, and in the Global Legal Program with the Center for Reproductive Rights. Jaime regularly engages in human rights litigation and advocacy before United Nations and regional human rights bodies. She has also served on the Board of Directors for the AIDS Legal Referral Program and the National LGBT Bar Association and is currently a sitting Board Member for Women Enabled International.

Jaime holds an LL.M. in International law and gender from American University, Washington College of law, a J.D. from the University of San Francisco, School of Law, and a B.A. in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. I had the honor of interviewing her. I thank her for this meaningful conversation. The interview is transcribed below.

Question: As per your observation, do you feel women in today’s time are more aware and vocal about their sexual and reproductive rights? What do you think led to this change?

Answer: Yes, I do think that women in many contexts are more mobilized today. More and more women are completing primary, secondary and collegiate education, which is a significant source of empowerment. We are also seeing a rise in progressive movements. There is a collective energy around making change. However, what I really see as a key factor leading to an increase in mobilization is the retrenchment of women’s rights that we are witnessing around the world. This is compelling women to take to the streets, to file lawsuits, to go to the media, and to demand their rights. So, in essence, a lot of our mobilization is reactionary, which of course is necessary.

We are also seeing a rise in nationalism and anti-gender movements that ascribe to the notion that gender diverse individuals are destroying the nuclear, heteronormative family, a re-assertion of women’s purported “rightful role” as mothers and caretakers, and law and policy reform explicitly aimed at restricting access to contraception, abortion, and comprehensive sexuality education. All of this leads to a collective feeling of women’s rights being under attack. I really think that this has given women, especially younger women, a motivation to push back because this is not happening in just one country or one region, but worldwide. So, despite all the positive developments we have seen over the years, I do think there is a retrenchment of women’s rights which is significant, so we must stand up!

Question: Do you think the international norms and standards around sexual and reproductive health and rights are up to mark?

Answer: I certainly think that there has been a remarkable evolution of international norms and standards around sexual and reproductive health and rights in the past few decades. We are light years ahead, in terms of seeing an explicit articulation of sexual and reproductive rights as core human rights issues that implicate a wide range of states’ international legal obligations. But, of course, there is always room for improvement. Given that women’s rights were not originally conceived as human rights within the original treaties and instruments of the UN human rights system, it continues to be an uphill battle to convince people that sexual and reproductive rights are human rights. This is just the reality we are working in.

While progress has been made, a lot of gaps remain. For example, we still do not have an explicit recognition of personal, decisional and bodily autonomy in the realms of sexuality and reproduction. Our strongest human rights hooks continue to be the rights to health, life, freedom from torture and other ill-treatment, privacy, and equality and non-discrimination. These are useful and compelling advocacy frames, but women’s rights movements will be stronger and more powerful once we can gain widely accepted recognition that women, girls, and all people who can become pregnant have full autonomy over their bodies, sexualities, and reproduction. Until that time, we still have a lot of work to do.

Question: Unsafe abortions are a public health issue. Why is there a level of insensitivity among policymakers and politicians around this issue?

Answer: Unsafe abortions is a significant health and human rights issue. It is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality and morbidity, as well as preventable infertility. Unsafe abortion leads to significant physical and mental harm. One of the most unjust aspects of unsafe abortion is that pregnant individuals are often compelled to resort to unsafe abortions due to restrictive abortion laws around the world, and in many contexts, they can be thrown in jail for years for having an abortion. The same restrictive abortion laws can even lead to women who have suffered miscarriages and stillbirths to being arrested and prosecuted – based on the presumption that they had an abortion.

It is baffling to me that law and policy makers – many of which are men who have never experienced and will never experience an unwanted pregnancy – continue to address abortion with such great insensitivity. I still try to wrap my head around it, but I tend to believe that it boils down to a complete lack of valuing of women’s lives and bodies. I am also astonished by the mental gymnastics that people undertake to think that a pregnant woman and her fetus are separate entities pitted against each other, when, that is just not the case. Only a pregnant person can know and understand whether they are able to bear, birth and raise a child—something that has lifelong implications for their life, and the lives of their partners and families. It is also a matter of patriarchy, sexism, and a dehumanization of pregnant people, which translates to controlling people who do not want to be pregnant because they are “committing a moral wrong”.

Interview with Jaime Todd-Gher (Part-2)

Question: As per your understanding, what could be done so that national governments take the issue of reproductive rights and sexual health more seriously?

Answer: I think, foremost, we need large-scale law and policy reform to remove the vast number of restrictions imposed on the bodies, sexualities, reproduction and lives of all women, children and people who can become pregnant. If we look at the disproportionate number of restrictive laws and policies that dictate our bodies, health, and reproduction, it is outrageous. There is also a need for structural reforms that work against patriarchy which accords greater value and trust to men and boys. By contrast, women, and girls, and really all people who transgress gender norms, are accorded less value and not trusted. Also, like the structural reform that needs to take place to address systemic and institutionalized racism, sexism must be tackled at all levels.

I further believe that community change initiatives to transform gender norms is essential. We can no longer live with the status quo where women’s bodies and lives continue to be the subject of public debate and law and policy making. We are all humans and as a community, men, women, and any person should not be restricted in terms of how they act, live, work, express themselves, etc. We need to think about how we can flourish as a community where everyone’s strengths, interests, health, and rights are equally valid and valued. Along these lines, I think a lot needs to happen in terms of information and education provision, and sensitization around gender. I really believe that we all are born with different attributes, interests, and skills, and that we cannot be compelled to fit into specific boxes and categories, and that should be okay.

Question: You have a wide experience spanning different geographies. Which countries have the most developed legislation related to sexual and reproductive rights? Which countries need to consider this issue more seriously? (It would not require any specific answer in the form of any country’s name if that is not possible. A mention of certain geographical regions or continents would also be helpful.) 

Answer: Legislation related to sexual and reproductive rights can come in many forms, whether it explicitly focus on sexuality and reproduction or whether it has a direct or indirect impact on one’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. One thing I can say for sure is that no one country has gotten it right. Every country has a legal framework that, to some extent, infringes on sexual and reproductive health and rights. There are some countries that more explicitly recognize the autonomy of women and girls to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, including some countries in Europe, Latin America, and parts of North America. However, even in these countries, there are laws, policies and practices that create barriers to individuals exercising their sexual and reproductive rights.

Let us consider, for example, Canada where abortion has been fully decriminalized and removed entirely from the penal code. Even there, women and girls still face obstacles to accessing abortion services due to costs, geographic location, race, ethnicity, age and/or Indigenous identity. It is not enough to simply change one law. You must look at the entire legal and policy framework, and its interplay with social, economic, and cultural factors, to assess actual access to abortion services. There are also countries in Europe that have policies that seem quite liberal and call for subsidizing access to contraception and family planning to promote women’s and girls’ control over their fertility, but when you look closer you see that the policy also includes a provision that excludes migrants and refugees from its protections and support, thus having a discriminatory impact on these populations.

I also wanted to mention that we should not simply think about sexual and reproductive rights. Rather we should frame our advocacy and litigation in terms of reproductive justice – which conceives of enabling and empowering individuals to create and nurture the families that they want in conditions where they can thrive. At present, we have legal and other systems that promote reproduction of certain people (often married, heterosexual couples of a certain socio-economic status), while at the same time these systems dissuade or actively work against other individuals from reproducing and forming families, including the poor, the criminalized, black, brown, and Indigenous people, LGBTQ individuals, and people with disabilities (to name a few). So, I think we can miss a lot of human rights issues when we solely focus on ensuring that people can control their fertility. We also need to look at people who are being oppressed and/or prevented from having children as they are not seen as worthy of reproducing, and the structural conditions that prioritize certain individuals and groups in our societies and devalues others.

Question: Recently, the Duchess of Sussex shared that she suffered the miscarriage of her second pregnancy. It has again brought forth an observation that there are very few public conversations about it. Do you think it is high time we stop considering miscarriage as a taboo?

Answer: It is absolutely high time to talk about miscarriage more openly! A vast majority of women around the world experience miscarriages. It is both a common phenomenon and yet a traumatic one. We see people suffering miscarriages alone in silence, not reaching out to their friends or loved ones for support. To make matters worse, as I mentioned before, women and girls can be thrown in jail in some countries for suffering a miscarriage. Its inhumane! I recall facing the tremendous grief of my own miscarriages and then imagining what it would feel like if my life and liberty were also threatened because of my pregnancy loss. I cannot even fathom how difficult that would be.

I also think that there is a fine line between abortion and miscarriage. In essence, they are both a termination of pregnancy. The medication used to induce an abortion is the same medication used to manage a miscarriage in many cases. Abortion and miscarriage are both fraught with sadness, confusion, fear and, in some cases, relief. In both of these closely connected experiences, women and girls continue to suffer alone.

Whether a person is facing an abortion or a miscarriage they deserve to be supported and treated with dignity and respect. We should be talking about these experiences openly so that we can find ways to destigmatize pregnancy loss and termination of pregnancy, to provide better support women and girls and their partners and families, and to ensure that people are no longer facing the pain alone.

Go on! 2020/21 CELI Peace Talks “International Law OUTSIDE THE BOX”

Reading and Reimagining Equality, 20 November 2020

2020/21 CELI Peace Talks “International Law OUTSIDE THE BOX”

Reading and Reimagining Inequality is the first seminar of International Law Outside the Box, the 2020/2021 CELI Peace Talks, the Annual Series of Leicester Law School’s Centre for European Law and Internationalisation. The seminar features a stellar panel of speakers: Professor Gerry Simpson (LSE), Professor Vasuki Nesiah(NYU), Dr Francesca Haig (University of Chester) and Dr Loveday Hodson (University of Leicester). The panel shall discuss the value of literary approaches to international law and social justice, looking at how literature and literary approaches to the world can offer insight into in/equality, including poverty of the (international legal) imagination.

About the CELI Peace Talks:

What is the role of public international law and public international lawyers in contemporary society and across the globe? Is international law “fit for purpose” to address the contemporary challenges to its capacities, authority, ambit, relevance and vision in the 21st century? To many of the worlds’ inhabitants, human and non-human, it seems as if “the “world is on fire” – whether the cause of this impression be inter alia the pandemic, climate change, war, persecution, poverty, fascism, displacement or occupation. In light of the ubiquity of oppression and suffering on the planet, do traditional positivist or black-letter approaches to international law need to be revisited, rethought or refashioned, and if so, to what extent, and to what end(s)? 

This Annual Speakers Series hosted by Centre of European Law and Internationalisation (CELI) at Leicester Law School (UK) explores answers to these pressing questions by thinking about international law “outside the box”. Throughout 2020-2021, we will hold a series of panels of leading scholars and practitioners offering “Outside the Box” thinking about international law. The “Outside The Box” theme will offer innovative ways to rethink and reimagine international law in light of contemporary challenges, including re-examining the actors, practices, sources, institutions, purposes, effectiveness and enforcement of international law. 

The series will host six panels the following salient themes of international legal scholarship and practice: 

1) food, the right to sustenance, and the distribution of resources; 

2) racism, postcolonialism, and the inherent whiteness of mainstream international law; 

3) “inclusion”, “diversity” and the quest for representation; 

4) literature and literary approaches to international law-making; 

5) international relations its interplay with international law; 

6) assassination and the role of violence in the development and maintenance of international law. 

Each panel will be carefully curated and open to questions from the audience. By offering non- orthodox readings and understandings of international legal subjects, issues and approaches based on their experience and scholarship, our speakers will lead the audience outside the often hidden boxes in the field and practice of international law.

Date and time: Friday, 20 November 2020, 18:00-19:30 (GMT)

Venue: Online on Microsoft Teams

The event is free of charge and open to all, but prior registration is required. You will be sent a link to join the event upon registration.

To Book: Please register at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/reading-and-reimagining-equality-tickets-127030338161

Contact: For further information please email the convenors, Dr Vidya Kumar and Dr Paolo Vargiu.

High Court of Australia dismisses private prosecution of Aung San Suu Kyi for alleged crimes against humanity

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Source: By Alex Proimos from Sydney, Australia – High Court of Australia, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25649423

The High Court of Australia (HCA) recently dismissed a private prosecution of Aung San Suu Kyi – the State Counsellor of Myanmar – for alleged crimes against humanity against Rohingya people in contravention of the Australian Criminal Code. The judgment sheds light on the shortcomings of Australia’s domestic implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute) and raises important questions about the future of prosecutions of international crimes under Australian law.

Background

On 16 March 2018, Mr Taylor, a private citizen of Australia, lodged an application in the Registry of the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court alleging that Aung San Suu Kyi had committed the crime against humanity of the forcible transfer of population in contravention of section 268.11 of the Australian Criminal Code. Under section 268.121, the prosecution of these types of international crimes may only proceed with the consent of the Australian Attorney-General. Section 268.121 provides that:

(1) Proceedings for an offence under this Division must not be commenced without the Attorney-General’s written consent.

(2) An offence against this Division may only be prosecuted in the name of the Attorney-General.

Accordingly, Mr Taylor requested the consent of the Australian Attorney-General to commence the prosecution. The Attorney-General refused consent based on Australia’s observation of the principle of head of state immunity, which renders Aung San Suu Kyi “inviolable and immune from arrest, detention or being served with court proceedings”.

On 23 March 2018, Mr Taylor brought an application in the original jurisdiction of the HCA arguing that the Attorney-General erred in refusing to provide consent to the prosecution and requested the HCA to quash the Attorney-General’s decision. Specifically, the plaintiff submitted that, by ratifying the Rome Statute, “Australia took upon itself, as a matter of international obligation, not to recognise immunity based on official capacity for Rome Statute crimes in domestic criminal proceedings”. This is because article 27 of the Rome Statute removes immunity based on a person’s official capacity (e.g. Head of State).

The parties agreed to a set of special questions to be determined by the HCA, including whether the Attorney-General’s decision to refuse consent was erroneous by virtue of Australia’s ratification of the Rome Statute. However, the plaintiff failed to overcome the threshold issue of whether a private prosecution may be brought without the consent of the Attorney-General. The HCA, by a narrow four to three majority, therefore found it unnecessary to answer the remaining special questions regarding the current status of the principle of head of state immunity for international crimes before domestic courts and under principles of customary international law.

The HCA judgment Continue reading

The Legality of the United States’ Strike on Soleimani

On January 2, 2019, the United States carried out a drone strike at Baghdad airport in Iraq in which Qassem Soleimani, a high-level Iranian military leader, was murdered.  This post will analyze the legality of this particular United States’ use of force under international law as well as under U.S. domestic law.  Moreover, this post will discuss (negative) policy implications of this strike.

International Law

By launching an air strike on the territory of a sovereign nation (Iraq), which targeted a top-level military official of another sovereign nation (Iran), the United States used force against two other sovereign nations.  Such use of force is prohibited under Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter, and the United States thus violated its international law obligations under the Charter, unless the United States can demonstrate that the military strike was conducted pursuant to a Security Council authorization or in self-defense.  In this case, the United States acted alone, without seeking Security Council approval.  Thus, under international law, the only way that the United States could justify the drone strike and the resulting killing of Qassem Soleimani is through self-defense.

The traditional law of self-defense, as reflected in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, allows a state to use force in self-defense if it has been subjected to an armed attack.  Moreover, the use of force in self-defense must respect the requirements of necessity and proportionality.  In this instance, even assuming that Soleimani was planning activities which would have been harmful to the United States’ national security interests, the United States had not suffered an armed attack by Soleimani/Iran and cannot rely on the traditional law of self-defense.  More recently, scholars (for a good recap of the law of anticipatory and pre-emptive self-defense, see here and here) and some states (United States in particular) have advanced more aggressive variants of self-defense, including preventive self-defense, pre-emptive self-defense, and the “unable or unwilling” standard.  The George W. Bush administration argued that force could be used in self-defense in a pre-emptive manner, against both terrorists as well as countries which harbor terrorists.  The strike against Soleimani could potentially be justified under pre-emptive self-defense, especially if evidence demonstrated that Soleimani was engaged in activities which posed a threat toward the United States.  However, pre-emptive self-defense is not a widely accepted interpretation of the international law of self-defense; it is not part of treaty or customary international law; even subsequent United States’ administrations have adopted different views on self-defense.  Thus, pre-emptive self-defense remains a controversial interpretation of the international law of self-defense.  The Obama Administration adopted a different approach by arguing that the United States could use force in compliance with the international law of self-defense against a state which was unable or unwilling to control non-state actors operating from within its territory, if such actors posed an imminent threat to the United States. Under the Obama Administration view of the right of self-defense, the United States’ strike against Soleimani cannot be easily justified because, even if Soleimani posed an imminent threat to the United States (it remains to be seen whether Soleimani was presently engaged in activities which would have posed an imminent threat against the United States), he was not a non-state actor, but rather an Iranian military official. It is thus questionable that the strike was lawful under the Obama Administration paradigm of self-defense paradigm.  Finally, the United States could possibly claim that it was acting in collective self-defense pursuant to Iraq’s request for help- that Iraq had requested assistance from the United States in acting against Soleimani/Iran.  As of now, there is no evidence that this was the case.  The U.S. troops were in Iraq to lend support in the fight against ISIS, and it appears that the United States launched this attack without Iraq’s knowledge or approval.  In fact, in response to the Soleimani strike, the Iraqi Parliament has voted a resolution which would expel U.S. troops from Iraq.  Thus, the collective self-defense argument has no merit for now.  The only way in which the Soleimani strike can be possibly justified under self-defense would be through the Bush Doctrine/preemptive self-defense.  As argued above, pre-emptive self-defense is not part of well-accepted international law as of today, and the Soleimani strike is illegal under international law.

Domestic Law

Under United States’ law, the President can use force against another sovereign nation pursuant to his constitutional authority as Commander-in Chief, or pursuant to specific congressional authorization to use force.  Congress has not authorized the president to use force against Iran.  Congress did authorize the president to use force against those who planned the September 11 attacks in 2001 (2001 AUMF), as well as to use force against Iraq in 2002 (2002 AUMF).  It is very difficult to link Soleimani to Al Qaeda/Taliban terrorists who planned the 9/11 attacks.  It is equally difficult to claim that Soleimani was operating in Iraq, and that the strike against him would somehow support the U.S. troops present in Iraq pursuant to the 2002 AUMF. Thus, the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs did not authorize the president to use military force in this particular instance.  The relevant question therefore becomes whether the president had inherent constitutional authority to act.  Although considerable debate exists about the scope of presidential power regarding the use of military force without congressional authorization, the executive branch, through several Office of Legal Counsel memoranda, has argued that the president has the authority to use force when: 1) there is an important national security interest in doing so; and 2) the use of force falls short of “war” in the traditional sense.  The executive branch has thus advanced the view that “military operations will likely rise to the level of a war only when characterized by ‘prolonged and substantial military engagements, typically involving exposure of U.S. military personnel to significant risk over a substantial period.’” Pursuant to this view, the executive branch has opined that the U.S. military activities in Haiti in the 1990s, the military strikes in Libya in 2011, as well as in Syria in 2018, did not cross the “war” threshold.

Moreover, the War Powers Resolution of 1973 imposes an additional limitation on the president’s authority to conduct military operations without explicit congressional approval.  The War Powers Resolution specifies that the president may introduce U.S. armed forces into hostilities only if there is a 1) declaration of war; 2) specific statutory authorization; or 3) a national emergency created by an attack against the United States.  The War Powers Resolution also requires that relevant military operations be terminated after a defined period of time (60 days), unless Congress specifically authorizes further military action, as well as that the president report to Congress within 48 hours of engaging in hostilities.  In this instance, the Trump Administration has actually provided a classified report to Congress under the War Powers Resolution, two days after the drone strike which killed Soleimani.  As of now, the report is classified and it is impossible to know what type of rationale the administration has provided to Congress. Presumably, the Trump Administration believes that the strike falls within the War Powers Resolution limitations on presidential authority to conduct military attacks as the Administration has provided a post-strike report to Congress.

In light of the above, the strike against Soleimani would be legal under U.S. domestic law only if the strike was in the U.S. national security interest, if the strike did not constitute “war,” and if the strike did not lead U.S. troops into “hostilities” under the War Power Resolution.   It is debatable whether the strike was in the U.S. national security interest now – although many experts agree that Soleimani had been a threat to the United States, it is unclear if he was presently involved in planning attacks against the United States.  Moreover, it is uncertain whether the strike falls short of “war.”  In addition to the executive branch test mentioned above (“prolonged and sustained military operations”), Office of Legal Counsel memoranda have suggested that the use of force may constitute “war” if such force is used against another sovereign nation without such nation’s consent, and if there is a high likelihood of escalation.  In this instance, the relevant question to ask is whether the strike is likely to lead U.S. troops to enter prolonged and sustained military operations with a high likelihood of escalation (the strike was clearly conduct4ed without Iraq’s consent).  If the answer to this inquiry is positive, then the president’s action would be illegal under U.S. law.  Finally, it is unclear whether the military strike against Soleimani constitutes a “hostility” under the War Powers Resolution.  The Obama and the Trump administrations have taken the position that providing aerial refueling and intelligence support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen falls short of introducing U.S. troops into “hostilities.” It may be argued that the killing of another nation’s military leader is an action much more likely to lead U.S. troops to enter “hostilities” than an action conducted to provide aerial refueling or intelligence support.  In sum, it is debatable whether the military strike which killed Soleimani is legal under domestic law.  In order to reach this determination, one would have to conclude that the strike was in the U.S. national security interest, that it did not amount to war, and that it would not lead U.S. troops to enter into hostilities.  In light of the ongoing crisis with Iran, and the fact that Iran is state with a strong military, as well as with developing nuclear technology, it is likely that the strike will lead to an escalating military conflict.  Thus, it is more than reasonable to conclude that the strike was not conducted pursuant to domestic legal authority, because the president did not seek requisite congressional authorization and did not have inherent constitutional authority to act.

Policy

Finally, even assuming that the strike was lawful under international and domestic law, the strike did not amount to good policy.  First, the strike may portray the United States as a rogue actor in the Middle East, willing to carry out assassinations against those whom its perceives as enemies.  This image of the United States may limit its ability to build strategic alliances with other countries in the Middle East as well as with other global partners.  Second, the strike may provoke revenge and retaliation by Iran.  Iran could attack Americans in the Middle East, could pursue attacks or other aggressive actions against Israel, an important U.S. ally, and could act through various proxies to destabilize the Middle East.  Iran will likely  re-initiate its nuclear weapons development programs, as it has already announced that it is abandoning the Nuclear Agreement which it had signed with the United States and several European countries; this will pose an additional threat in the region.  Third, the strike has already caused a backlash from other countries and non-state/terrorist actors.  As mentioned above, the Iraqi Parliament has voted to expel U.S. troops from Iraq.  United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed “deep concern” over the U.S. strike against Soleimani; Russia has condemned the strike, and several Americans were killed in a terrorist attack in Kenya.  Fourth, it is unclear how the strike furthers United States’ national security and foreign policy.  As mentioned above, there is no credible information to suggest that Soleimani was engaged in present-day terrorist activity against the United States, and his elimination does not protect the United States any further, nor does it advance any particular foreign policy in the Middle East.  In fact, the strike is likely to cause conflict in this already volatile region and to potentially drag the United States into another war.  In sum, the strike is illegal under international law, very likely illegal under domestic law, and definitely bad policy.

Read On! Research Handbook on International Law and Peace

I am pleased to announce the publication of the Research Handbook on International Law and Peace. Peace is an elusive concept, especially within the field of international law, varying according to historical era and between contextual applications within different cultures, institutions, societies, and academic traditions. This Research Handbook responds to the gap created by the neglect of peace in international law scholarship.
Explaining the normative evolution of peace from the principles of peaceful co-existence to the UN declaration on the right to peace, this Research Handbook calls for the fortification of international institutions to facilitate the pursuit of sustainable peace as a public good.
It sets forth a new agenda for research that invites scholars from a broad array of disciplines and fields of law to analyse the contribution of international institutions to the construction and implementation of sustainable peace. With its critical examination of courts, transitional justice institutions, dispute resolution and fact-finding mechanisms, this Research Handbook goes beyond the traditional focus on post-conflict resolution, and includes areas not usually found in analyses of peace such as investment and trade law. Bringing together contributions from leading researchers in the field of international law and peace, this Research Handbook analyses peace in the context of law applicable to women, refugees, environmentalism, sustainable development, disarmament, and other key contemporary issues. This volume includes the voices of several women scholars from a variety of disciplines: Kjersti Skarstad, Maja Janmyr, Cecilie Hellesveit, Vibeke Blaker Strand, Jemima Garcia-Godos, Cornelia Weiss, Azin Tadjini, Gro Nystuen, and Christina Voigt. The book aims to assist policymakers, practitioners, and academics in the fields of international law, human rights, jus post bellum, and development. It is available here: https://www.elgaronline.com/view/edcoll/9781788117463/9781788117463.xml



Calculus: Deal Doggedness and Human Rights Diplomacy

As the issue of denuclearization in the interest of global peace and security continues to be of pressing concern to the world, there is a growing tendency to prioritize such matters of international import above concerns around the problematic human rights records in countries like Iran and North Korea. However, concerns regarding the human rights situation within a country’s borders should not be relegated to the backburner while negotiating deals regarding international peace and security owing to two broad, interconnected reasons.

First, egregious violations of human rights within national borders – by their very nature – cut across these national borders and thus merit international anxiety. In particular, repressive regimes foster instability, dissatisfaction, violent conflict, and frequently, radicalization. While it is tempting to call for an emphasis on America’s “softer” side in response to human rights concerns beyond American borders, it may be prudent to acknowledge instead that the way a country treats its people can be of consequence to polities the world over. Accordingly, if Azadeh Moaveni’s conclusion that any substantial improvement in Iran’s human rights situation demands larger, structural reforms from within is accurate, any gains consolidated by finalizing deals such as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action are necessarily of limited value for international peace and security. In fact, regimes that mete out systematic repression to their own people, such as Iran and North Korea, are “inherently destabilizing”; their volatile internal dynamics, posited against the background of nuclearization, present huge risks to international security, which merit due investigation, analysis and response. In such a scenario, allowing horrific internal conditions to play second fiddle while negotiating sweeping arrangements for global peace is to miss the forest for the trees.

Secondly and more specifically, acknowledging that both these concerns are relevant to the all-pervasive ‘international security’ problem could also be helpful in selling negotiations and engagement with an adversary state such as Iran to domestic constituencies. By emphasizing its potential to raise Iran’s profile in the world order and bring economic relief within Iranian borders, President Rouhani, for instance, garnered some measure of domestic support for a deal which – on the face of it – seemed like a massive concession of sovereignty. In an increasingly polarized international order, where domestic forces operating within one of the negotiating parties may view the very act of approaching the negotiating table as an admission of weakness, acknowledging that there are costs to peace and security on both sides of the coin may be a wiser move.

Optimism about “Arcs of Global Justice” at London launch of our OUP essay collection honouring William A. Schabas

LONDON – “Optimism” was the byword for Friday’s magical conference launching Arcs of Global Justice: Essays in Honour of William A. Schabas, the just-published Oxford University Press collection coedited by Margaret M. deGuzman and myself.

The event took place in a Christmas-tree-lighted conference room at 9 Bedford Row, the London chambers where our honouree, Bill Schabas (above center), is a door tenant. Joining Bill and his wife, Penelope Soteriou, were several of the 35 women and men whose 29 contributions comprise the volume, many friends, colleagues, PhD students, and relatives.

Gillian Higgins (left), Head of the International Practice Group at 9 Bedford Row, opened with a warm message of welcome and congratulations. Then followed a celebration that combined lighthearted anecdotes with serious presentations of scholarship. Topics ranged as far and wide as Schabas’ multifaceted career, which includes current appointments as Professor of International Law at Middlesex University, London, Professor of International Criminal Law and Human Rights at Leiden University, and Emeritus Professor of Human Rights Law and Honorary Chairman of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway; service as a member of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission and as a consultant on capital punishment for the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime; and authorship of hundreds of books, chapters, and articles.

A sobering moment came in Birkbeck Lecturer Emma Sandon‘s discussion of Schabas’ role as an organizer of and speaker at human rights film festivals. Sandon (above) concluded with a clip from Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). All fell silent while watching the characters in the video courtroom watch actual footage from the Allied liberations of concentration camps like Buchenwald.

Also moving was the memorial that Northwestern University Law Professor David Scheffer gave on behalf of contributor Cherif Bassiouni, who died at age 79 in September, not long after finishing his chapter, entitled “Human Rights and International Criminal Justice in the Twenty-First Century: The End of the Post-WWII Phase and the Beginning of an Uncertain New Era.” (Bassiouni also penned a dedication for our conference programme, available in PDF here.) Scheffer described the essay in light of his own and Schabas’ writings, and concluded on a optimistic note regarding the future of human rights.

That same note sounded in Schabas’ own interventions throughout the day. On issues ranging from the International Criminal Court to abolition of the death penalty, he assured his audience that even in these times, when the day-to-day “weather” may seem grim, the overall “climate” offers much room for optimism.

Here’s order of the day (full PDF programme here; IntLawGrrls participating were Meg, Sandra Babcock, and me; additional contributors in attendance included Middlesex Law Dean Joshua Castellino and Cambridge PhD candidate Bruno Gélinas-Faucher):

Arcs of Global Justice:
Conference Launching Essay Collection in Honour of William A. Schabas
Friday, 8 December 2017, 9 Bedford Row, London

Opening
“Welcome” by Gillian Higgins, Head of the International Practice Group at 9 Bedford Row
“In Memoriam for Cherif Bassiouni” by David Scheffer, Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law and Director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, Chicago
“Introduction to Arcs of Global Justice” by coeditors Diane Marie Amann and Margaret M. deGuzman

International Law & Criminal Justice
“The Principle of Legality at the Crossroads of Human Rights & International Criminal Law” by Shane Darcy, Senior Lecturer at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway
“Criminal Law Philosophy in William Schabas’s Scholarship” by Margaret M. deGuzman, Professor of Law at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law
“Perspectives on Cultural Genocide: From Criminal Law to Cultural Diversity” by Jérémie Gilbert, Professor of International and Comparative Law, University of East London
“Toward Greater Synergy between Courts & Truth Commissions in Post-Conflict Context: Lessons from Sierra Leone” by Charles Chernor Jalloh, Professor of Law, Florida International University, and a member of the International Law Commission
Moderator: Kathleen Cavanaugh, Senior Lecturer at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway

Justice / Scholarship / Culture / Practice
“Bill the Blogger” by Diane Marie Amann, Emily and Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law and Faculty Co-Director of the Dean Rusk International Law Center at the University of Georgia School of Law
“Advocates, Scholars & Maintaining the International Criminal Law Momentum” by Wayne Jordash QC, international human rights and humanitarian lawyer and founding partner of Global Rights Compliance
“Law & Film: Curating Rights Cinema” by Emma Sandon, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television at Birkbeck, University of London, and a Research Fellow to the Chair for Social Change, University of Johannesburg
Moderator: Michelle Farrell, Senior Lecturer in Law in the School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool

Abolition of the Death Penalty
“International Law & the Death Penalty: A Toothless Tiger, or a Meaningful Force for Change?” by Sandra L. Babcock, Clinical Professor of Law at Cornell Law School and Faculty Director of the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide
The Right to Life & the Progressive Abolition of the Death Penalty by Thomas Probert, Research Associate, Centre of Governance & Human Rights, University of Cambridge (on behalf of himself & co-authors Christof Heyns & Tess Borden)
Moderator: Jon Yorke, Professor of Human Rights and Director of the Centre for Human Rights at Birmingham City School of Law

Closing
Introduction by John Louth, Editor-in-Chief of Academic Law at Oxford University Press
Remarks by William A. Schabas OC MRIA

Reception

With thanks to our host, 9 Bedford Row, & cosponsor, Oxford University Press

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Cross-posted at Diane Marie Amann. Tomorrow’s post: Details on Arcs of Justice: Essays in Honour of William A. Schabas (Margaret M. deGuzman and Diane Marie Amann, eds.) (OUP 2018) (The hardback may be ordered via OUP or Amazon, and the book’s also available on Kindle.)