While I’ve no insights into why the government finally permitted current Guantanamo detainee Mohammedou Slahi to publish the diary he hand wrote in English back in 2005, several years into his captivity, published it now is, subject to relatively minor redaction. The diary is a remarkable read in many respects; my longer take and a summary of Slahi’s account can be found in my review for the Washington Post this past week. Slahi, a Mauritanian national who holds a degree in electrical engineering, describes brutal beatings and other forms of torture not only in detention while in Jordan, but also at length at Guantanamo itself. A federal district court in Washington ruled in 2010 that Slahi’s petition for habeas corpus be granted; on appeal, that decision was remanded (for the application of a different standard of who can be considered “part of” Al Qaeda), and there it continues to sit. Diary publication notwithstanding, Slahi remains at Guantanamo today.
Your weekly selection of international law and international relations headlines from around the world:
- Top Ugandan rebel commander Dominic Ongwen is due to make his first appearance at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague today to face war crimes charges.
- United Nations experts warned that Sudan’s remote western territories could become a breeding ground for radical Islamists as violence in the country’s conflict-torn Darfur region rages at an alarming level.
- Boko Haram has launched a major offensive in Nigeria’s northeastern city of Maiduguri and the town of Monguno, engaging in fierce battles with the military.
Middle East and Northern Africa
- At least 16 people have been killed in clashes in Cairo between police and protesters on the fourth anniversary of the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak. Additionally, a BBC reporter in Cairo has accused police forces of threatening to kill her while covering protests by Muslim Brotherhood supporters commemorating the 2011 uprising.
- At least seven people have been killed in rocket attacks in Damascus, with at least 53 rockets fired on several neighborhoods in the heaviest attack the Syrian capital has witnessed in recent years.
- The United States and its coalition partners have launched another round of air strikes against Islamic State, conducting 25 strikes, 13 in Iraq, since early Thursday.
- Moroccan authorities said on Sunday they arrested a suspected Algerian member of the militant group responsible for kidnapping and beheading French tourist Herve Gourdel east of Algiers in September.
- Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has been summoned before parliament to explain his recent public stroll with US Secretary of State John Kerry during nuclear negotiations, according to a report by the country’s official IRNA news agency.
- The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has reportedly demanded the release of an Iraqi woman detained in Jordan in exchange for a Japanese national they are holding captive, following the group’s apparent killing of another Japanese citizen, which the Japanese have harshly condemned.
- North Korea called on Thursday for the top United Nations human rights body to investigate allegations of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) torture in the George W. Bush era, that were contained in a recent Senate report.
- A group calling itself “Official Cyber Caliphate” said it hacked the official website of national carrier Malaysia Airlines, but the airline said its data servers remained intact and passenger bookings were not affected.
- North Korea on Friday demanded the lifting of sanctions, imposed by South Korea after a 2010 attack on one of its naval vessels, as a condition for resuming dialogue.
- Spain will start talks with the United States about further increasing the number of U.S. troops at an air base in the south of the country, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said on Friday.
- France’s top court ruled on Friday it was possible to strip the nationality of a Franco-Moroccan man naturalized as French who was convicted on terrorism charges, paving the way for more dual nationality jihadists to lose their passports.
- Pro-Moscow rebels, backed by what NATO says is the open participation of Russian troops, pressed on with their offensive on Sunday after restarting the war in eastern Ukraine with the first all-out assault since a truce five months ago.
- Senior figures in the European Union brandished a threat of new sanctions against Russia over the weekend violence in eastern Ukraine, with one blasting what he called “appeasement” of Moscow.
- The European Union on Friday suspended some budget assistance to Guyana on the grounds that President Donald Ramotar’s 2014 suspension of parliament has left the nation without adequate supervision of state spending.
- US Secretary of State John Kerry says the US is prepared to do more to help Nigeria fight Boko Haram.
- President Barack Obama on Sunday defended his administration’s drone-based counter-terrorism strategy against al Qaeda militants in Yemen, saying the alternative would be to deploy U.S. troops, which was not sustainable: “It is not neat and it is not simple, but it is the best option that we have,” Obama told reporters at a news conference in New Delhi.
- A senior U.S. diplomat in Cuba for negotiations on restoring long-frozen diplomatic relations met a group of dissidents on Friday, seeking to underline Washington’s concern over human rights but irritating the island’s communist government.
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper denied on Thursday that Canadian military advisers in Iraq would be dragged into combat against Islamic State militants despite a recent clash but said Canada’s forces would kill anyone who attacked them.
- Conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott has awarded Australia’s highest honor to Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth, sparking a barrage of criticism across the country on its national day of celebration. The award grated with republicans who want to sever ties with Britain and appoint an Australian president.
- Australia called on Indonesia on Friday to reconsider its decision to execute two Australians convicted of drug offences, a move that is likely to strain already fragile ties between the two neighbors.
- The United States has agreed that Australian David Hicks, jailed on terrorism charges for five years at Guantanamo, is innocent, his lawyer said on Friday.
- A new round of U.N. talks between rival Libyan factions will take place in Geneva on Monday, the United Nations said, even as gunmen kidnapped the deputy foreign minister of the recognised government.
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) has admitted that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa revealed “inadequacies and shortcomings” in how it responds to crises.
[Nimrod Karin is a J.S.D. candidate at New York University School of Law. From 2006 to 2012 he served as a legal adviser to the Israel Defense Forces at the International Law Department of the Military Advocate General’s Corps’ HQ, and from 2012 to 2013 he was the Deputy Legal Adviser to Israel’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations.]
Thanks so much for the kind words, Kevin, and even more so for the interesting push-back. I confess that a reader of an early draft of my post cautioned me against using the term “lawfare,” although for different reasons than those Kevin noted. Now I realize I should’ve given this comment more thought, but at the same time I’m very pleased to have helped generate the side-discussion over Kevin’s use of the term “bravery,” which is fascinating in itself.
In my original post I wrote that “lawfare” is a Palestinian prerogative, and therefore I clearly think that it’s both politically and legally legitimate, and so I can’t think that it has such negative connotations as Kevin apparently thinks I do. In fact, I did mean “lawfare” in the sense Kevin’s discussants (Dov, el roam, and Mendieta) are using it: “lawfare” as strategic utilization of the law, which for me isn’t negative but rather value-neutral, and this is why in the post I contrasted it with “the quest for justice” or “embracing the law.” Strategy is simply neither of those, just as it isn’t “good” or “bad” – Strategy is only successful or unsuccessful. And as my original post indicated, to me the only plausible strategic role for the ICC in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is as “the (legal) straw that broke the camel’s (political) back”. Only time will tell whether this is in fact a successful strategy for the Palestinians.
As with most strategies, this latest Palestinian move carries risk, not only of failing but also of backfiring, exactly as Dov put it. And this is what Kevin apparently deems to be “bravery,” and that’s because (1) the ICC process is uncontrollable and (2) it is likely to implicate Hamas as well. At first blush I thought that in this context Kevin’s use of “bravery” stands for selfless, non-strategic risk-taking, on behalf of some higher or noble cause. This would mean Kevin does see the Palestinian ICC bid as primarily driven by “justice” or “rule of law” considerations, in which case Kevin and I substantively disagree. However now I think that Kevin’s using “bravery” in its dictionary form, i.e. doing something incredibly risky (for whatever reason), perhaps even unreasonably dangerous given the possible reward, and maybe even a “Samson Option” type of last resort (as melodramatic as it may sound). I think this meaning of “bravery” conforms to the value-neutral charchter of the “lawfare” definition, which means Kevin and I agree on the principle, and then we can ask whether the Palestinian move is strategically sound given the well-known thinness of the line separating bravery and stupidity.
The question therefore becomes just how risky the Palestinian ICC bid really is, and how risky the Palestinians thought it was when they made it, and we can only speculate with regard to both of these questions. My educated guess here is that the ICC bid isn’t that much of a risk for the Palestinians, or at least that it’s not perceived as such by the Palestinians, least of all by the relevant decision-makers, i.e. Abbas and his concentric power circles of PA-PLO-Fatah. I think that by now it’s more than obvious that for that side of the Palestinian internal conflict the best possible scenario is an international cop stepping in to take care of Hamas. If Hamas leaders ever get indicted by the ICC, Abbas would be finally free of the whole unity charade, and at absolutely no internal political cost for him, because Abbas wouldn’t face the dilemma of whether or not to extradite suspects or accept external investigation – Abbas has no de facto authority or control whatsoever over either the suspects or the actual “scene(s) of the crime(s)”. This means that the “Abbas side” is not only strategically superior in this respect, but a free-rider; and as I mention in the post, this might not have been so easy for the “Abbas side,” if the new ad hoc declaration had stuck to the July 1, 2002 date for retroactive temporal jurisdiction – because this might have put some PA/PLO/Fatah leaders in the path of the ICC due to their activities during the Second Intifada.
The way I see it, the only real backfire risk for the (relevant) Palestinians comes from Israel, where possibilities are endless when it comes to overreaction. I can’t tell of course if the Palestinians are simply dismissive of this risk, or if they’re fully aware and think the possible reward outweighs the risk (perhaps only in the cynical sense of cutting off the nose to spite the face), or if the Palestinians are realistic with respect to both risk and reward, but also truly desperate, as el roam seems to think. I guess that it’s a mix of all three.
Call for papers
- International Colloquium – Current Issues of Agricultural Law in a Global Perspective, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna Pisa, September 17-18, 2015. The Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna and the Institute of Law, Politics and Sustainability are pleased to announce the First Edition of the International Colloquium on Current Issues in Agricultural Law in a Global Perspective. The Colloquium is intended to be an opportunity for Post Docs and Ph.D Candidates to present and discuss their research results and methodological approaches in a supportive environment. The aim is to build a community of early career researchers interested in agricultural law and its intersections with other legal areas. We welcome both theoretical and empirical papers as well as studies on issues at the local, regional and international levels. The main topics include: Natural Resources and Environmental Protection at the cross-roads with Agricultural Law; Agricultural models and People’s Rights; Agri-Food Production: Tradition and Technologies; International Trade Agreements, Investment Law and Agriculture. Those interested should submit a short CV and 400 word abstract to colloquium [at] sssup [dot] it no later than April 3, 2015. For full details, including information about application processes, please see the official Call for Papers
ALMA and the Radzyner School of Law of the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya would like to invite you to next session of the Joint International Humanitarian Law Forum. The session will be held on Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 18:30 in room C110 (Arazi-Ofer Building, 2nd floor) at the IDC. In this session Adv. Efrat Bergman-Sapir, the Director of the Legal Department of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel will discuss: Torture under the Protection of the Law? From HCJ to CIA (following the release of the U.S. Senate Torture Report). Following the presentation, there will be an open round table discussion. Please note that the session will be conducted in Hebrew. The meeting is free and open to the public. If you wish to attend the meeting please register in advance via forum [at] alma-ihl [dot] org.
Our previous events and announcements post can be found here. If you would like to post an announcement on Opinio Juris, please contact us with a one-paragraph description of your announcement along with hyperlinks to more information.
This week on Opinio Juris, we hosted a symposium on International Law as Behavior, following a workshop at the University of Georgia in late 2014. Elena Baylis discussed the methodological, theoretical and conceptual questions that need to be grappled with when studying international law as behavior, while Galit Sarfaty provided insights from anthropology for the study of international law behavior. More specific issues were dealt with in posts by Jean Galbraith, who reflected on the use of deadlines in international law, Tim Meyer, who described instances of epistemic cooperation as a way of encouraging states to coordinate their behavior, and Harlan Cohen, who addressed the puzzling phenomenon of precedent in international law. Tomer Broude applied behavioural theory to the ongoing negotiations on the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), and Harlan Cohen closed the symposium with reflections on the agenda for the study of international law as behavior.
The Palestinian ratification of the Rome Statute and its article 12(3) declaration was the subject of extensive commentary. Kevin disagreed with Nimrod Karin’s posts on Just Security that these steps amount to “lawfare”. He also argued why an investigation into Arafat’s death would be problematic. The issues of settlements in the West Bank was discussed in Ido Rosenzweig’s guest post and by Kevin who explained why the Palestinian Authority cannot use an ICC investigation as leverage to freeze settlement construction.
Foreign affairs law issues came up in Peter’s discussion of the constitutionality of Boehner’s invite to Netanyahu in light of precedents where the Logan Act was invoked, Julian’s argument that President Obama needs congressional approval to lift the trade embargo on Cuba, and Julian’s analysis whether a US-Iranian nuclear deal should take the form of an article II treaty with its requirement of congressional approval.
In other posts, Fox News came under fire from Kevin for its report on Paris’ “no-go” zones and from Deborah over its factual inaccuracies in reports on Muslims in the UK and France. Kristen updated us on the Haiti Cholera case where the SDNY upheld the UN’s immunity, and Kevin posted a youtube video of a protest song on Australia’s detention centre on Manus Island
Many thanks to our guest contributors and have a nice weekend!
Just Security has published two long guest posts (here and here) on the ICC and Palestine by Nimrod Karin, a J.S.D. candidate at New York University School of Law who was previously Deputy Legal Adviser to Israel’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations. There is much to respect about the posts, which are careful, substantive, and avoid needless hyperbole. And I agree with Karin on a surprising number of issues, particularly concerning the institutional reasons why (for better or worse) the ICC is likely to avoid opening a formal investigation into the situation in Palestine.
I disagree, though, with Karin’s insistence that Palestine has engaged in “lawfare” by ratifying the Rome Statute and using Art. 12(3) to accept the Court’s jurisdiction retroactive to 13 June 2014 — the day after the kidnapping and murder of the three young Israelis. Here is what he says in his second post (emphasis in original):
To readers who are utterly unsurprised by the dating of the ad hoc declaration I would simply add – likewise. It’s an example illustrating the strategic nature of the Palestinian multilateral maneuvering, which is squarely within their prerogative, acting as any other self-interested political entity would. But then maybe we should dial down the discourse depicting this as an idealistically motivated move – striking a blow for international criminal justice, or placing a conflict under the umbrella of law – and come to terms with the fact that the Palestinians are practicing lawfare by any other name, even at the expense of the values supposedly guiding their march to the ICC.
I wince whenever I see the term “lawfare,” because it is normally just short-hand for “I disagree with X’s legal actions.” Even if the concept has meaning, though, I don’t see how it can be used to describe what Palestine has done. To begin with, as Karin acknowledges, Palestine did not pluck the June 13 date out of thin air — it’s the same date that the Human Rights Committee selected for the beginning of the Schabas Commission’s mandate. Perhaps that was a political decision by the HRC, but Palestine can hardly be faulted for following its lead, especially given that it could have gone much further back in time (its first Art. 12(3) declaration purported to accept jurisdiction from 1 July 2002) — something for which Karin curiously gives Palestine no credit whatsoever.
I also don’t understand what is so troubling about the June 13 date. To be sure, the kidnap and murder of the three young Israelis was a horrific act. But it’s anything but clear whether Hamas leadership was responsible for their kidnapping and murder. It’s not even clear whether they were killed late on June 12 or early June 13 — the latter date within Palestine’s grant of jurisdiction. So how can Palestine’s choice of June 13 be some kind of devious move to maximise Israel’s criminal exposure while minimising its own?
More fundamentally, though, I simply reject the basic premise of Karin’s argument: namely, that taking a dispute to an international criminal tribunal with general jurisdiction can be seen as lawfare. Perhaps it’s possible to view tribunals with a one-sided mandate (de jure or de facto) as lawfare — the IMT prosecuting only Nazis, the ICTR prosecuting only Hutus. But the ICC? The ICC investigates situations, not specific crimes. By ratifying the Rome Statute and filing its Art. 12(3) declaration, Palestine has taken both Israel and itself to the ICC, not Israel alone. Palestine thus no longer has any control whatsoever over which individuals and which crimes the OTP investigates. That’s not lawfare, that’s bravery — especially given that, as I’ve pointed out time and again on the blog, the OTP is quite likely to go after Hamas crimes before it goes after Israeli crimes. In fact, the only lawfare being practiced in the context of Operation Protective Edge would seem to be by Israel, which has responded to the OTP’s preliminary investigation — which it opened as a matter of situation-neutral policy, not because of some kind of animus toward Israel — by condemning the ICC as a “political body” and launching a campaign to convince member states to stop funding it (which would be a clear violation of their treaty obligations under the Rome Statute).
I have little doubt that Palestine would be delighted if the ICC prosecuted only Israelis for international crimes. But it has to know how unlikely that is. Instead of condemning its decision to ratify the Rome Statute and submit an Art. 12(3) declaration as “lawfare,” therefore, we should be celebrating its commitment to international criminal justice. Indeed, if a state can practice lawfare by giving an international criminal tribunal the jurisdiction to investigate its own crimes as well as the crimes committed by its enemy, the concept has no meaning at all.
Does President Obama Need Congress’s Approval to Sign a Nuclear Deal with Iran? Can Congress Force Him to Get Their Approval?
The fight between President Obama and Congress over Cuba policy is nothing compared the brewing struggle over a U.S.-Iran agreement over Iran’s nuclear program. I noticed this little foreign affairs law nugget today from the WSJ’s report of this ongoing struggle (emphasis added):
In the Senate, Mr. Menendez, of New Jersey, is co-author of a bill that seeks to impose new, escalating sanctions on Tehran if negotiators fail to conclude an agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear program before the end of June, the diplomatic deadline.
A second piece of legislation, promoted by the committee’s new chairman, Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), seeks to give Congress the power to either approve or reject any nuclear agreement reached with Tehran.
Senior administration officials who testified before the committee said the White House would oppose both bills.
Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the White House doesn’t view an agreement with Iran as a treaty that requires Senate approval, but a matter of “executive prerogative.”
In general, I think the President has broad discretion under U.S. statutes to impose or lift sanctions on Iran, and although I haven’t looked at the Iran sanctions in detail, I bet the President has broad powers to waive sanctions without going back to Congress. The White House is certainly acting like that’s the case, although the devil is in the details.
Not surprisingly given where I perch on the political spectrum, I love protest songs. One of my favourite jogging playlists is a disparate collection of classics — Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction,” Country Joe and the Fish’s “I Feel Like I’m Fixin to Die Rag,” Paul Revere and the Raiders’ “Indian Reservation,” Phil Och’s “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” (the greatest anti-war song ever), and a bunch of others.
I’ve now added a new song to my playlist: Peter Joseph Head’s “I Cannot Recall (Ballad of Manus Island),” a very unusual jazz/spoken-word hybrid about Australia’s horrific detention centre in Papua New Guinea. Manus Island has been much in the news lately, because the refugees detained there have gone on a hunger strike — and tried to kill themselves by swallowing razor blades and laundry detergent — to protest their confinement and living conditions. Here is the YouTube video; the spoken words seem to be based on the transcript of a lawsuit involving the detention centre:
Listen. Read. Learn.
H/T: Bianca Dillon.
John Boehner has invited Bibi Netanyahu to address Congress. There’s a modern tradition of foreign leaders appearing before the legislature (list here). I’m willing to bet that every single one of those appearances was pre-cleared with the State Department or White House in advance.
I’m no student of Middle East politics, but it’s seems pretty clear that the the White House and the congressional GOP leadership are at loggerheads on US policy here and that the Boehner invitation is meant to advance the GOP (and Israeli) position on Iran. In the past, when members of Congress have gone freelance on foreign policy there’s been a tradition of waving around the Logan Act, which provides:
Private correspondence with foreign governments.
Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
It happened most prominently when Jim Wright played footsie with Nicaragua’s Sandinista regime in the 1980s. It was suggested as a problem as recently as 2007 when Nancy Pelosi visited Syria against Bush Administration wishes. As conservative commentator Bob Turner argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed (“Illegal Diplomacy“):
consider this statement by Albert Gallatin, the future Secretary of the Treasury under President Thomas Jefferson, who was wary of centralized government: “it would be extremely improper for a member of this House to enter into any correspondence with the French Republic . . . As we are not at war with France, an offence of this kind would not be high treason, yet it would be as criminal an act, as if we were at war . . . .” Indeed, the offense is greater when the usurpation of the president’s constitutional authority is done by a member of the legislature — all the more so by a Speaker of the House — because it violates not just statutory law but constitutes a usurpation of the powers of a separate branch and a breach of the oath of office Ms. Pelosi took to support the Constitution.
No intent here to compare Netanyahu and Assad, but the logic of presidential control applies in both cases. (This isn’t about actual prosecution under the Logan Act. No one is ever actually prosecuted under the measure; it’s more a focal point for highlighting structural aspects of foreign relations.) In both cases, presidential powers are “embarrassed” in the terms of Curtiss-Wright. Will the Wall Street Journal take Boehner to task for his move? Somehow I doubt it. (For that matter how could constitutional originalists square this with the Framers’ intent? No head of a foreign state appears to have addressed Congress prior to 1919.)
The White House has called the Boehner move a breach of protocol. If this were happening beyond the political anomalies of the Middle East, I wonder if it might be using some stronger language. In any case the episode will set a precedent for congressional bypass of executive branch foreign policy in interacting, fairly formally, with foreign government leaders. (Will the Speaker host something like a state dinner for Bibi?)
Mind you, I’m not sure it’s a bad precedent (again, leaving aside policy particulars of the ME situation). It’s a fact of life that governmental components are now semi-autonomous foreign policy players in a way that would have been unimaginable in the 18th century. The constitutional custom, norms, “protocols” — whatever you want to call them — are catching up to those realities. Presidents will just have to learn to deal with the new tools of foreign policy dissent.
[Adv. Ido Rosenzweig is the chairman of ALMA –Association for the Promotion of International Humanitarian Law; Director of Research – Terror, Belligerency and Cyber at the Minerva Center for the Rule of Law under Extreme Conditions in the University of Haifa; and a PhD candidate at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.]
Recently the Palestinians submitted (for the second time) a declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in accordance with article 12(3) of the Rome Statute, thus providing jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court over their territory starting with June 13th, 2014. This was conducted alongside the Palestinian accession to the Rome Statute. That act was described as a political storm, a very aggressive and game changing move by the Palestinians who decided to throw their most important card into the game. That move gave rise to many different questions about its legality and the possible legal and political implications for Israel. In this short comment I address some of these issues and provide my own point of view on them.
What’s at stake here? Currently the ICC has jurisdiction over three types of crimes – war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. It could be argued that with regard to most crime allegations Israel will have the option of raising the complementarity argument in accordance with article (article 17(1)(a) of the Rome Statute). Israel will most likely base her complementarity argument on the outcomes of the 2nd Turkel Report and the ongoing investigation process. However, even if the Israeli complementarity claim stands, there’s still one issue which complementarity won’t resolve, and that’s the settlements.
Where’s the problem? The wording of article 8(2)(b)(viii) goes:
“The transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory;”
There’s a legitimate argument claiming that the settlements and more precisely, the government’s support of the settlements and the transfer of people from Israel to the West Bank, are strictly prohibited and amount to war crimes under the Rome Statute article (“the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”). Moreover, since the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that the Israeli policy regarding the settlements is not justiciable (for example see HCJ 4481/91 Bargil v. GoI), it seems that in this case Israel could be considered as “unwilling and unable” to exercise its jurisdiction with regard to the settlements (or some aspects of that policy).
Will the ICC investigate the Settlements? This question brings us to the other barriers of the ICC admissibility (besides complementarity). The first barrier is gravity (article 17(1)(d)) – the ICC will only deal with severe violations. The interpretations assigned to the population transfer prohibition vary in such way that some from a prohibition to forcibly deport local population into occupied territory, which probably doesn’t include the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, to other interpretations which could include the situation of the settlements.
Another barrier is the territorial jurisdiction of the Palestinians over the settlements. In their recent 12(3) declaration, the Palestinians provided jurisdiction to the court over “the Occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem“. However, it’s not legally clear over what territory the Palestinian are allowed to provide jurisdiction to the ICC. This is due to the fact that there’s no clear decision or ruling about what constitutes the territory of the Palestinians. In fact, the November 29th, 2012 General Assembly’s resolution 67/19 clearly stated that the issues of the Palestine refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, borders, security and water need to be resolved via negotiations. This can lead to three very important conclusions – (a) It is unclear if the territory where the settlements are located is under Palestinian jurisdiction and therefore if such jurisdiction can be granted to the ICC; and (b) since the very same resolution provided the Palestinians with the upgraded status also left the resolution of borders and settlements to negotiations, it is unclear if the ICC would be allowed to resolve such sensitive political questions through criminal procedures; (c) finally, it can also be argued that by leaving the settlements issue to negotiations, the international community doesn’t regard the transfer of population as a severe act which meets the gravity threshold that was mentioned above.
What’s next? This is where things get even more complicated. Since the questions of the borders and territory are important, they need to be resolved somehow. In my view there are (at least) six potential and interesting ways for these questions to be resolved:
- Another General Assembly resolution clarifying the situation and thus changing the requirement for negotiations in order to resolve those issues. I think that if the Palestinians were able to achieve that in the first place they would have done so. Therefore it seems that there won’t be a majority in the General Assembly for such a resolution.
- Security Council resolution on this issue. This is the most farfetched option, as it was the refusal of the Security Council to adopt a relevant resolution that led to the Palestinian Accession to begin with.
- Decision of the ICC with regard to its jurisdiction. While this could be the main road in this context – letting the ICC prosecutor and after that the Judges, decide on the Court’s jurisdiction, it’s a well known fact that the ICC doesn’t operate rapidly and I believe that the Palestinians won’t be willing to sit down and wait until the ICC issues a decision on that topic.
- Advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is probably the Palestinian’s next move. While it’s not a “win-win” situation for the Palestinians as the ICJ might decide against their claim for jurisdiction over the settlements’ territory, it is definitely a “win-no lose” situation where they can gain with a decision in their favor or remain in the same situation as they are now if the ICJ rules against their claim for jurisdiction.
- The Human Rights Committee, the professional body charged with the implementation and interpretation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which the Palestinians joined in their first round of ratification of treaties. When the Palestinians come before the committee, one of the decisions the committee will have to make will relate to the treaty’s territorial applicability, and to that end, the committee will have to decide whether Palestinian territory includes the settlements. I doubt that the professional committee will desire to deal with such a hot political and diplomat potato, and anyway, such a review is not scheduled for the upcoming year.
- Lastly, as was suggested here by my good friend and colleague, Sigall Horovitz, Israel has also the option of joining to the Rome Statute and submitting a declaration under article 124 with an attempt to gain a delay of seven years with regard to the ICC’s jurisdiction over any allegation of war crimes committed by Israel.
It seems that the already complicated Israeli-Palestinian situation just got more complicated, and while it’s unclear what the outcome will be, I’m just not sure that outcome of the Palestinian move was as aggressive as it seemed at first glance. The question of the settlements is obviously broader than the discussion presented above, and in this short comment I presented my thoughts on one specific aspect related to them following the recent developments.
It looks like a big showdown is brewing between the President and Congress over Cuba policy (Here comes 2016 presidential candidate Rubio!). Some legal commentators have argued, however, that President Obama already has the legal authority to lift all or most of the Cuba embargo without any further action by Congress. Robert Muse, a lawyer whose practice is all about Cuba sanctions law, has stated that the President has very broad discretion to lift most of the restrictions on trade with Cuba without further congressional action. Is he right?
I am not Cuba sanctions law expert, so it is possible I am missing something. Since the bulk of the Cuba sanctions are found in regulations issued by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control pursuant to the Trading with the Enemy Act, it would seem like President Obama could indeed lift those sanctions by simply withdrawing those regulations. The TWEA has never been read to require sanctions, and President Carter lifted similar sanctions on China without Congress in 1979.
On the other hand, Congress has also enacted two Cuba-specific statutes: the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 (CDA), 22 U.S.C. §§ 6001-6010 and the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996, 22 U.S.C. §§ 6021-6091 (“Helms Burton). The latter appears to codify” the OFAC regulations on Cuba that were initially issued under the TWEA. See Section 102(h) (“Codification of Economic Embargo.– The economic embargo of Cuba, as in effect on March 1, 1996, including all restrictions under part 515 of title 31, Code of Federal Regulations, shall be in effect upon the enactment of this Act, and shall remain in effect, subject to section 204 of this Act.”). Section 204 in turn “authorizes” the President to lift sanctions only after submitting a determination to Congress that a transitional government in Cuba exists and that the lifting of sanctions will contribute “to the stable foundation for democratic government.” There is also the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSRA), 22 U.S.C. §§ 7201-7211, which imposes further limitations on financial transactions with Cuba and allows no Presidential waiver.
It is worth noting that President Clinton expressed some reservations about the impact of Section 102(h) when he signed the Helms-Burton Act, stating that it”could be read to impose overly rigid constraints on the implementation of our foreign policy.” But Clinton didn’t suggest imposing conditions on when the President could lift sanctions actually violated the Constitution. Since I assume Congress is the source of the authority to impose sanctions in the first place, it seems reasonable that Congress could impose conditions on when those sanctions can be lifted. Any argument that those conditions themselves are unconstitutional would be a remarkably aggressive legal argument.
So I don’t think the calls from some quarters for a unilateral lifting of the embargo on Cuba is supportable as a legal matter. In fact, there are good reasons to doubt the legality of the loosening of sanctions already announced by OFAC. In any event, there will be lots of legal skirmishing over the next few months on this front. It will be interesting to see if President Obama ever pulls out the “presidentialist” card and tries to argue some of these sanctions laws violate his constitutional authority. I would doubt it, but then again I never thought he would engage in a separate war in Iraq and Syria with ISIS and change US immigration law without Congress either.
[Harlan Cohen is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Georgia School of Law]
What is the study of “International Law as Behavior”? At the workshop in November, Elena Baylis, Tomer Broude, Galit Sarfaty, Jean Galbraith, and Tim Meyer (whose chapters/presentations were described earlier) were joined by Kathryn Sikkink, who presented on the role of agency in constructivism, Ron Levi and Sungjoon Cho, who drew upon sociology to study the “fields” of international criminal law and international human rights practice and the social structure of the WTO, respectively, Adam Chilton, who presented on the potential of experimental methods for studying human rights, and Anne van Aaken, who explored behavioral law and economics’ implications for international legal theory. What, if anything, binds these ten projects together? Are there lessons to be learned about how these projects and methods can fit together into some greater whole? These will be topics discussed in the book arising out of this project, but for now, a few thoughts on ways forward.
It can be tempting to see these projects as puzzle pieces, which when assembled in the correct order, reveal a larger picture of the international order. Each brings its own insights: Rational choice sets up testable, generalizable hypotheses about how states might interact given express assumptions about state behavior. Sociology, anthropology, and behavioral law and economics can test those hypotheses against real world scenarios, explaining why specific situations diverge from those expectations, whether as a result of social structures, culture, or human psychology. Experimental methods can help identify the actual preferences of international actors. Constructivist accounts can build upon sociology, anthropology, and psychology to explain where state preferences come from and how they change. Focused primarily on different, overlapping units of analysis—individual actors, the communities in which they practice, the culture in which their embedded, the states on behalf of whom they act, and the larger structures in which those states are embedded, these approaches might seem like natural complements—snapshots taken from one angle, which when spliced together might provide a panoramic view of the international system. Together, these accounts might provide a more complex account of the different processes, preferences, beliefs, and incentives that might drive the vast array of actors who operate in international law, whether grass-root activists, transnational norm advocates, technocratic experts, politicians, bureaucratic careerists, or diplomats. Where these levers converge or diverge may help explain both the emergence of consensus over rules and continued contestation. Successful strategies for achieving particular international goals will flip all the right switches.
But imagining all of these accounts as different harmonies converging in one glorious tune is too simplistic and overly optimistic; (more…)