Georgia Law marks decades-old intlaw tradition – & UN Charter’s 70th birthday

Rusk Library Rededication PosterFINALThe UN Charter turns 70 this week, and we at Georgia Law are honored to be joining in the global celebration – not least because it’s also the 38th birthday of our Dean Rusk International Law Center.

UN 70th Anniversary logo_English_CMYKOn Monday, October 26, from 4-6 p.m., we’ll rededicate the Louis B. Sohn Library on International Relations in its new home, our renovated Center unit. An alum, Dr. Kannan Rajarathinam (LLM88), Head of Office, UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, Basra, will speak on a critical topic: “The United Nations at 70: Pursuing Peace in the 21st Century.”

asil_logoAlso giving remarks – on Georgia Law luminaries like Professors Sohn, Professor and former U.S. Secretary of State Rusk, Professor Gabriel Wilner, and Professor Sigmund Cohn – will be Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge, Professor Harlan Cohen, alums Dorinda Dallmeyer (an IntLawGrrls contributor) and Ken Dious, and myself.

Our event is honored by multiple cosponsors: the American Bar Association Section of International Law, the American Branch of the International Law Association, and the American Society of International Law, for which Professor Sohn served, respectively, as Chair, Vice President, and President. Those titles signal the influAbilaence of Professor Sohn, who, inter alia, helped draft the UN Charter, advised UN agencies, and chaired the conference that led to conclusion of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Sponsors among the Georgia Law community include the Alexander Campbell King Law Library, whose staff have contributed immensely to the move of Sohn’s 5,000-volume personal collection to its new space in our Center. Cosponsoring student organizations are the Asian Law Students Association, the Davenport-Benham Chapter of the Black Law Students Association, the Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law, the Georgia Society for International & abasectionintlawComparative Law, the Hispanic Law Students Association, the Jewish Law Students Association, the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition team (that’s Georgia Law’s 1990 Jessup world champions in the poster at top), and the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot team.

Details here. If you are in our area on the day, please join us. If you can’t be there in person, feel free to watch the livestream.

(Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann)

Why international law matters in outer space – Part 2: because, military!

In the first part of this blog post yesterday, I described the extent to which we are dependent on space technologies for our daily activities, and the role of international law.  But what about military activities? Right from the beginning of the space race between the USSR and the USA in the 1960s military technology has been at the forefront, and until recently it was what drove most innovation in space. Indeed, GPS was a US military invention, and they decided to share it’s benefits for civilian use. Intelligence gathering by remote satellite imaging, as well as communications, GPS for aviation and marine operations, and many drone and weapons technologies are highly dependent on high-tech satellite networks. How does international law apply to this 21st century environment?

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The notion of “space warfare” may not be something that belongs to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away; in fact many people refer to the Iraq war in the 1990s and the US-led “Operation Desert Storm” as the first space-led war. There was a significant reliance on satellite imaging and telecommunications as an integral part of that operation. These days most Western naval, air and army units rely on multiple forms of space technology, as do Russia and China. In the last year the US has increased it’s “big data” reliance , making such satellites very precious assets.  Recently, North Korea has been launching objects which many worry are not just rockets, but rather anti-satellite weapons. Where space used to be considered the ultimate military “high ground”, it is now accessed by many more States, and if these space assets can be targeted by adversaries, dependence can lead to vulnerability during a conflict.

Worryingly, a recent report on 60 Minutes titled “The Battle Above” painted a fairly dire picture of outer space as a “wild west” when it comes to military activities, asserting that there is essentially no law regulating this new potential battlefield and that it is every country for itself. And even when speaking to people who specialise in “space security”, I have heard many express the concern that military activities in outer space take place in a legal vacuum.

I would beg to differ, and thankfully I am not alone.

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Why international law matters in outer space – Part 1

Most of us don’t think about outer space when we think of international law, but the technologies that allow us to expand our exploration and use of our space environment also drive our modern global society, and international law is at the cross section.  Our daily activities, from email, phone calls and Facebook to every automatic bank transaction you make, are dependent on satellite technologies. When you take a plane, the air traffic control is dependent on GPS. Even disaster management is dependent on satellite imaging.

In this two-part blog post, I want to introduce the key aspects of why international law matters in outer space, the first part focusing on civilian and commercial activities in space, and the second on military activities.

The space environment is often described as increasingly “congested, contested and competitive“, as was reported to the UN General Assembly’s First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) in 2013.

Congested because there are more and more States becoming “space faring nations”, and more and more satellites are launched each year. Currently there are about 1,200 operational satellites orbiting above us, as well as half a million pieces of “space junk”, including debris from various collisions and left-over rocket pieces, but also decommissioned satellites that have run out of fuel. The film “Gravity”, for all its shortcomings, painted the scenario for us of the risks involved with space debris. Our propensity to trash our natural environment has spread out into space.

Contested because although space is big, our near-Earth environment where satellites can fall into useful orbital paths, is limited. Every space object that is launched must be registered according to the 1974 Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space, and in order to “claim” an orbital slot and a frequency band on which to send it’s signals back to earth, and claim a right to non-interference with that slot, satellites must be registered with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). But the most interesting orbits for internet and communications are geostationary, meaning that a satellite orbits the Earth at the same rate as the spin of the Earth, so that it looks like it’s stationary above one point. These orbits are focused around the equator, but obviously it has not been the Equatorial States who have been launching satellites over the last few decades. Since 1976 these and other developing nations have been protesting that their potential access to space is extremely limited by the over-use of limited natural resources, namely the orbital slots and radio frequencies, by a small number of Western States.

Competitive because as you may have noticed it’s no longer just States launching things into space, and attempting to outdo each other with high value technologies, there are now lots of commercial entities entering the space market. Elon Musk’s visionary SpaceX company has already shuttled supplies to the International Space Station and hopes to shuttle astronauts as well; Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic enterprise hopes to take tourists into zero-gravity; Google bought a start-up satellite company called Skybox which it intends to use to provide continuous global internet access everywhere on the planet, partly in response to the garnering success of a company called O3B (Other Three Billion), which aims to provide internet to remote and less affluent parts of the world. Telecommunications companies procure, launch and operate satellites at huge costs and with huge insurances to cover possible liability if something goes wrong. Moreover, there are entities showing interest in potential technologies like mining asteroids or the moon for precious resources, and we’re not too far off that becoming a reality.

With technologies developing so rapidly, and the so-called “democratization of space”, how does international law regulate this congested, contested and competitive environment?

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This Tuesday (5/5): UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay at Stanford

For those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area on May 5, Stanford University’s WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice is pleased to present its Inaugural Public Lecture on Human Rights with Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. She will address The Protection and Promotion of Human Rights: Achievements and Challenges at 5:30 p.m. on May 5 in CEMEX Auditorium at Stanford University (641 Knight Way).

The address will cover Ms. Navi Pillay’s work as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on prevention of human rights violations and implementation of human rights principles, as well as the activities of the UN Human Rights mechanisms such as the Human Rights Council, Treaty Bodies, and Special Procedures. She will also share her insights on future human rights challenges.

Navi Pillay served at the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008 to 2014. Her tenure was marked by a focus on addressing discrimination on all grounds, including against previously unaddressed groups such as migrants, LGBT people, people with albinism, and caste-based discrimination. She oversaw the 2011 launch of Free & Equal, an unprecedented global public education campaign to promote greater respect for LGBT rights, and the Secretary-General’s endorsement of the Rights Up Front policy, which ensures that every UN department, regardless of mandate, is committed to advancing the protection of human rights.

A native of South Africa, Pillay was the first non-white female judge of the High Court of South Africa, and previously served as a judge at the International Criminal Court and President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda where she oversaw groundbreaking jurisprudence on rape as genocide, and on issues of freedom of speech and hate propaganda.

Attendees can kindly RSVP to Jessie Brunner at jbrunner@stanford.edu. We hope to see you there!

A note about the Handa Center:

The WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice is dedicated to promoting the rule of law, accountability, and human rights around the world, in post-conflict settings, developing countries, and in societies grappling with difficult legacies from a historical period of violent conflict. Through research and international programs, the Handa Center supports and helps improve the work of domestic courts, international tribunals, and human rights commissions around the world. Relying on a small core group of lawyers, scholars, student interns, and volunteers, the Center concentrates its resources where it can make a real difference helping people make sense of the past, come to terms with periods of violent social upheaval, and build institutions that will promote justice and accountability. The Center is further committed to increasing awareness and raising the level of discourse around new developments in the fields of human rights and international law. To this end, the Handa Center has dedicated itself to becoming a major public resource center for the study of war crimes and human rights trials, where students, scholars, and legal practitioners can take advantage of new technologies to access unique archival resources from World War II through contemporary international criminal trials. The Handa Center succeeds and carries on all the work of the University of California at Berkeley’s War Crimes Studies Center, which was established by Professor David Cohen in 2000.

Work On! UN Peacekeeping recruiting senior women

We are actively looking for qualified senior women to join our staff.

(UN Photo/Fardin Waezi) UNAMA’s human rights chief, Georgette Gagnon, takes questions from the media in Afghanistan.

United Nations Peacekeeping is actively looking for “qualified senior women” to join their staff:

We are looking for senior qualified women with proven leadership skills, integrity, and commitment to the ideals of the UN Charter to create a ‘talent pipeline’ of Directors in UN Peacekeeping and Special Political Missions.

We seek seasoned managers who have worked in the areas of conflict management, governance, political analysis, media/strategic communication, law, amongst others, to compete for senior positions in our field missions. These roles are mostly at non-duty family stations in conflict or post conflict settings, at the D-1 and D-2 levels in the areas of:

  • Political/Civil Affairs
  • Public Information and Communication
  • Rule of Law and Security Institutions

Who is eligible?

Women with an advanced level university degree, with at least 15 years of relevant professional work experience in one of the areas listed above, and fluent in English and/or French and Arabic. French and Arabic speakers are highly sought because many of our field missions are in countries where these are the primary working languages. You do not need to have prior UN experience. We have asked Member States to help us identify women with the above eligibility criteria for the talent pipeline. Women staff members at the P-5 level and above in the Secretariat and the United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, as well as women in our partner intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations are also welcome to express their interest directly. This initiative is part of the Secretary-General’s effort to improve the representation and retention of women in the UN system.

Why would I want to join this initiative?

Members of the talent pipeline will benefit from regular updates on field mission vacancies for which they are qualified, as well as guidance on the application and assessment process. Note that being a member does not constitute an automatic offer to a post, and all members of the talent pipeline would apply to specific openings via the UN Careers website.

How do I express my interest?

Referrals or applications to the talent pipeline should include a cover letter and a curriculum vitae (or PHP) and be emailed to the Recruitment Section, Field Personnel Division, Department of Field Support, at TalentPipeline@un.org.

The Historic Journey to Respond to the Kim Regime’s Crimes Against Humanity

“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” Mahatma Gandhi

 A little over a year ago, history was made at the 25th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) when three UN commissioners released a report finding, based on a “reasonable grounds” standard, that “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, its institutions and officials.” The three commissioners had just spent the better part of a year carrying out their UN mandate to investigate potential human rights violations, per HRC resolution 22/13, as members of the new Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea (COI). The commissioners collected evidence and heard witness testimony of crimes committed by North Korean officials that “shocked the conscience of humanity.” They stated that based on the body of testimony and other information “crimes against humanity have been committed in [North Korea], pursuant to policies established at the highest levels of the State.”  The commissioners called on North Korea to undertake profound reforms to provide its citizens with basic human rights, including recommending that North Korea first “acknowledge the existence of human rights violations, including the political prison camps.” Undoubtedly, their work shined the spotlight brighter on one of the darkest places in the world and was instrumental in catalyzing international attention on the suffering of North Koreans under the Kim Family Regime.

One Year After the COI Report: On February 17, 2015, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), Yonsei University Center for Human Liberty, and The George W. Bush Institute co-sponsored an unparalleled conference in Washington, DC on “the road ahead” for North Korean human rights, which North Korea protested. The conference aimed to carry the momentum of the COI report, findings, and recommendations forward and commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Commissioners’ report.

Since this historic report, history continues to be made and a new path forged by all parties involved. For the first time, the issue of the human rights situation in North Korea, “without prejudice to the item on non-proliferation,” was put on the UN Security Council’s agenda for ongoing attention in a decision adopted 11:2:2 (with votes against from China and the Russian Federation). In addition to the perseverance demonstrated by civil society organizations in propelling human rights up front, a key COI recommendation calling on the UN to ensure “that the most responsible for crimes against humanity committed in [North Korea] are held accountable” played a vital role in creating this momentum. Although there has yet to be a Security Council referral to the International Criminal Court, the UN has moved many steps closer on the path toward accountability of the Kim Family Regime’s ongoing crimes against humanity.

Over the last year, the commissioners’ COI report has shown the international community that North Korea is increasingly more responsive and motivated to counter findings that its leader, in particular, could be held individually responsible for international crimes, specifically crimes against humanity. In addition, there have been good arguments, as noted by law firm Hogan Lovells in a report commissioned by Human Liberty, that North Korea’s State-controlled officials could be found to be committing genocide by targeting groups labeled as “hostile class,” Christians, and children of Chinese heritage.

Undoubtedly, the commissioners and their report laid the groundwork necessary for these historical milestones to occur, and they have also put other States with North Korea relations on notice that they could be aiding individuals responsible for crimes against humanity by supporting the State. It will be interesting to see how the current ten non-permanent Member States view the issue of North Korea’s human rights violations as related to international peace and security going forward.

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Ketamine under international law

Psychoactive substances or ‘drugs’, often associated with recreational use, are in fact commonly used for a variety of medicinal purposes. It is even less understood that the supply of more than 100 of these drugs is regulated by a complex system of international drug control underpinned by three United Nations treaties with near universal ratification. This post explores the relationship of drugs and international law, specifically international drug control law and international human rights law, using the topical example of placing ketamine under international control.

International drug control law

The legal framework of international drug control is shaped by three treaties: the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (as amended by the 1972 Protocol), the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 Convention against the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic or Psychotropic Substances. Scheduling is the process established by the treaties to bring certain psychoactive substances under a graded scale of international control. Scheduling a substance creates positive obligations for States to implement regulatory processes that meet or exceed requirements established by the treaties. In some overburdened health systems, this can lead to over-restrictive controls that inhibit medical access to essential drugs, well documented in the case of opioid analgesics.

Uses of ketamine

Ketamine’s unique properties make it one of the most important and widely used drugs in emergency and surgical medicine globally.   Where most anaesthetics require electricity for ventilators and gas masks, ketamine—an injectable anaesthetic—can be safely administered in settings without regular access to power, for example, war zones or impoverished rural areas. The analgesic properties of ketamine make its use during emergency surgery, such as for caesarean sections, indispensible for improving mortality outcomes in less-developed countries throughout the Global South. It is because of these properties that the World Health Organisation (WHO) placed ketamine on its list of essential medicines for both children and adults.

Outside of clinical settings, ketamine is used recreationally, although such use is mainly in more developed countries. China, in particular, views the illicit production of ketamine as an “increasingly serious” domestic issue and has repeatedly requested the substance be subject to international control. It is with this direction from China, that ketamine has made its foray onto the international legal stage.

Scheduling ketamine under international law

Established in 1946 by ECOSOC, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) serves as the principal policy-making body of the UN drug control system and under the three drug control treaties, it is mandated to oversee the scheduling system. China is currently one of 53 members of the CND, and is authorised under the treaties—in the case of ketamine, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances—to introduce substances of concern for scheduling consideration.  Procedurally, article 2 of the 1971 Convention requires the CND to submit scheduling recommendations to the World Health Organisation (WHO) for an evidence-based review to determine if the substance meets the criteria elaborated under article 2(4) to require scheduling (or not) and its degree of restriction under the graded scheduling system. Under article 2(5) of the 1971 Convention, the WHO’s recommendations are “determinative” when it comes to the “medical and scientific” basis for adding substances to a schedule.

This is not the first time China has requested ketamine be scheduled. The WHO’s review this year and each time before (see here and here) determined the public health risks associated with recreational use did not merit any measure of scheduling. The conclusive nature of this recommendation under the 1971 Convention has been subject to much interpretative debate. The current prevailing interpretation has placed the status of such a recommendation within broader considerations such as “economic, social, legal, [and] administrative” factors listed in article 2(5).

What this interpretation signals is that despite WHO’s determinative assessment that ketamine does not meet the criteria for scheduling under article 2(4), its scheduling may now be subject to a purely political process (a two-thirds vote by the CND would place ketamine under international control).

The control of ketamine and international human rights law

The impact the control of ketamine has upon human rights is a critical consideration. While human rights are not explicitly mentioned in the 1971 Convention, they are contained within the meaning of “legal” considerations as written in article 2(5), which States must take into account when deciding to add a substance to a schedule.

As mentioned previously, scheduling a substance creates regulatory barriers that have made essential medicines completely inaccessible for those most in need. These barriers result in on-going violations of human rights—most notably the right to health. The normative scope and content of the right is contained within article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and imposes upon States core obligations to be given immediate effect. General Comment 14 on the right to health elaborates further that amongst this minimum core is the obligation to provide medicines as indicated on the WHO’s essential medicines list. As such, ensuring ketamine is available, accessible, acceptable, and of sufficient quality forms part of a State’s core right to health obligations.

Should ketamine fall under the scope of international control, any restrictive measures a State subsequently imposes cannot interfere with current levels of access. The imposition of international control requirements would in many States, restrict current levels of access to ketamine and amount to a deliberate retrogressive action in violation of the right to health. This is relevant to any scheduling level under the 1971 Convention. While Schedule 1 imposes the most restrictive control measures, States can apply equally or more restrictive measures for any schedule level under article 23. As such, the same human rights assessment would apply as States with less complex regulatory systems often lump controls into one or two highly restrictive categories—see the example of phenobarbital, a Schedule 4 drug under the 1971 Convention.

As the vote fast approaches, a human rights framework offers States a powerful normative counterweight to the political pressure they face to place ketamine—an essential, life-saving medicine—under unnecessary international control.

Visit the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy for more resources.

Daily updates from the CND can be found here.