- In the latest twist on the case, Guatemala’s highest court has overturned the May 10th genocide conviction against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt and reset his trial back to when a dispute broke out a month ago over who should hear the case.
- North Korea has released a Chinese fishing boat after having taken it from waters between the two nations.
- Pakistan’s presumptive prime minister has called for peace talks with Taliban fighters at war with the government. Foreign Policy offers a piece about why negotiating with the Taliban may be a good idea.
- Qatar’s emir said that the emergence of ‘people power’ from the Arab Spring uprisings had put Arabs in direct confrontation with Israel and made a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more pressing.
- Justice in Conflict has a post regarding Indonesia and the ICC entitled Indonesia and the false promise of international justice.
Professor Stefan Talmon of the University of Bonn and St. Anne’s College in Oxford offers one of the first serious attempts to defend China’s position on the UNCLOS arbitration brought by the Philippines. In an essay published by the Global Times, China’s hawkish state-owned daily paper, Professor Talmon argues that all of the Philippines’ claims against China fall outside of the jurisdiction of the UNCLOS arbitral tribunal.
For example, the claim that China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea based on the so-called nine-dash line are invalid, the claim that China has unlawfully claimed maritime entitlements beyond 12 nautical miles around certain insular features and has prevented Philippine vessels from fishing in the waters adjacent to those features, and the claim that China has unlawfully interfered with the exercise by the Philippines of its right to navigation and other rights cannot be decided without touching upon China’s claim to historic title and rights within the area of the nine-dash line.
In addition, any measures taken by China against the Philippine vessels may also be subject to the “law enforcement activities” exception with regard to fisheries matters or may be excluded as an exercise of China’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction provided by UNCLOS.
The claim that China unlawfully occupies certain low-tide elevations in the South China Sea cannot be addressed without dealing with the question of sovereignty or other rights over these insular land territories.
Finally, declarations that certain submerged features form part of the continental shelf of the Philippines, that China has unlawfully exploited the living and non-living resources in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, and that China has interfered with the Philippines’ right to navigation and other rights in areas within and beyond 200 nautical miles of the Philippines cannot be made without engaging in sea boundary delimitations.
I have to admit I am not very persuaded by this analysis. In Prof. Talmon’s defense, the essay is very short and not an attempt to provide a deep legal analysis of the problem. But the idea that any challenge to the nine-dash line is excluded from UNCLOS arbitration is hardly obvious to me, since the basis of China’s nine-dash line is very murky anyway. It is not an historic bay. I suppose it could be an “historic title” within the meaning of Article 298, but that is hardly obvious. Under Prof. Talmon’s reading, any claim of historic title, even if it undermines all of the other principles of UNCLOS, are outside the jurisdiction of the UNCLOS tribunal.
Similarly, when the Philippines argues that something is a “rock” and not an “island” under the definition of UNCLOS, I don’t see how that requires a sea boundary determination?
Most importantly, I can’t see how Prof. Talmon can avoid the question of why China is not even bothering to make these jurisdictional arguments in the UNCLOS tribunal. It is an oddly disrespectful move, to say the least, for China to essentially boycott the tribunal. Does Prof. Talmon think the Philippines case is so weak that ignoring the arbitration is justified?
Still, it is worth exploring these questions, since the arbitral tribunal will likely do so. I would hope Prof. Talmon has a longer version of his views posted somewhere, and if not, he is welcome to do so here at any time!
[Jonathan Horowitz is writing in his personal capacity. He is the Associate Legal Officer at the Open Society Justice Initiative’s National Security and Counterterrorism Program.]
When assessing the legality of drone strikes, attention is often focused on the State that carries out the strike—usually the United States. On May 8th, for example, the U.S. Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace and Security Taskforce held a hearing on the United States use of weaponized drones abroad and heard testimony that detailed specific incidents of civilian harm and encouraged transparency, after-action investigations, accountability, and greater fidelity to traditional understandings of international law. (Harold Koh, the former Legal Advisor to the U.S. Department of State, made similar pleas around transparency during his May 7 speech at Oxford.)
These are all critical points that Congress and others should be hearing, but I would like to shift the focus—away from U.S. responsibilities and on to the responsibilities of the States that consent to the use lethal force on their territories. This is part of the “drone” discussion (or, to be more accurate, the “extraterritorial use of lethal force outside an active battlefield” discussion) that has not received enough attention. Yet, it is worth exploring how the legal responsibilities of the consenting State interact with the notion of what I’ll call “transnational non-international armed conflict (NIAC) targeting.”
“Transnational NIAC targeting” occurs when a State, which is engaged in a NIAC in one country, targets with lethal force an enemy fighter who happens to be in another country. Or, to quote John O. Brennan when he was Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, it is based on the notion that, “[t]here is nothing in international law that …prohibits us from using lethal force against our enemies outside of an active battlefield, at least when the country involved consents or is unable or unwilling to take action against the threat.” (i.e., an Al Qaeda commander who is fighting the United States in Afghanistan but has traveled to Yemen seeking recruits and cash for arms.)
First, I should make clear that lethal targeting outside an active battlefield is, in certain circumstances, permissible under international law…
- A senior Pentagon official told a Senate committee last week that the U.S. would be at war with al-Qaeda for 15 to 20 more years and said the military could target terrorists anywhere under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed in 2001 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
- After France won some goodwill throughout Mali during the five-month offensive against al-Qaeda fighters, the European country is now pushing its luck with some allies by pursuing a political settlement with a separate group of Tuareg rebels.
- North Korea has launched short-range missiles again today, following three such launches yesterday.
- A senior judge for the Judiciary of England and Wales partially upheld Foreign Secretary William Hague’s request to withhold certain information from the investigation into the 2006 death of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.
- Lebanese Hezbollah militants attacked a Syrian rebel-held town alongside Syrian troops on Sunday and Israel threatened more attacks on Syria to rein the militia in.
- Over at Lawfare, a guest post discusses law, ethics and the Guantanamo hunger strike.
[Ingrid Wuerth is Professor of Law and Director of International Legal Studies at Vanderbilt University Law School.]
Yes, this is another post on foreign official immunity, prompted in part by the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Samantar. It responds to Professor Bill Dodge’s post here and contributes to the growing blog commentary on this topic summarized in my earlier post here. I am grateful to Opinio Juris for hosting this discussion.
In this post, I focus on just one issue. The Fourth Circuit’s decision in Samantar reasoned that jus cogens violations are not “private acts” but instead can constitute “official conduct” that comes within the scope of foreign official immunity. Bill disagrees, arguing that conduct violating jus cogens can never be official for immunity purposes, but is instead always private. Facts on the ground, State practice, and the purposes of immunity all suggest that the Fourth Circuit was correct.
As other commentators have emphasized, the perpetrators of human rights abuses do not generally operate privately, but instead “through the position and rank they occupy.” It is their official position which allows them to “order, instigate, or aid and abet or culpably tolerate or condone such crimes as genocide or crimes against humanity or grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.” (Antonio Cassese, at 868). Thus even for many people who strongly favor accountability in international fora (like the late Professor Cassese), it is hard to view jus cogens as somehow inherently private; one might call this a flies-in-the-face-of-reality argument. (Dapo Akande & Sangeeta Shah, at 832 (further citation omitted)). The House of Lords itself – in an opinion directly counter to Bill’s position –rejected the argument that jus cogens violations are not official acts for immunity purposes. Jones v. Saudi Arabia ¶ 19 (Lord Bingham) (“I think it is difficult to accept that torture cannot be a governmental or official act..”) id. at ¶ 85 (rejecting “the argument that torture or some other contravention of a jus cogens cannot attract immunity ratione materiae because it cannot be an official act.”) (Lord Hoffman).
What State practice does support the not-official-acts argument? (more…)
Calls for Papers
- The Centre on Human Rights in Conflict is organising a workshop on Law, Faith and Historical Memory to take place in London (Stratford Campus, University of East London) on June, 12. More information is here
- The University of Wisconsin is inviting internationally acclaimed women scholars and advanced PhD candidates to the second conference on the Creation of International Law: Exploring the International Law Components of Peace, on April 4-5, 2014 as part of its Wisconsin International Law Journal annual symposium. The intention is to continue and expand the network of women scholars and practitioners that was launched in 2009 in Norway to support their engagement in public international law. The deadline for submission of abstracts is October 1, 2013. More details are here.
- The Canadian Bar Association’s International Law Section is organizing its 2013 International Law Conference on Friday June 7th in Ottawa. The title of this year’s conference is: Emerging Issues in International Corporate Social Responsibility, Corruption and Compliance. Socially responsible business practices and strict adherence to anti-corruption measures are increasingly required of Canadian businesses and organizations. This one-day conference will examine the pertinent legal issues in a holistic way and give participants tips and skills to deal effectively with them in practice. Registration is available here.
- TDM Journal has released a special issue on Corruption and Arbitration. The issue analyses new trends, developments, and challenges respecting the intersection between, on the one hand, allegations, suspicions or findings of corruption and, on the other hand, decisions by arbitral tribunals regarding jurisdiction, admissibility and the merits of commercial and investment disputes.
I want to call readers’ attention to a remarkable new report on international criminal justice authored by Daniel McLaughlin, a former legal officer at the ECCC, for Fordham’s Leitner Center for International Law & Justice. As the introduction states, the report is an attempt — a very successful one — to visualize information about the criminal tribunals:
There is wide awareness, though little true understanding, of the work of the international criminal tribunals.
International prosecutions of high-ranking civilian and military leaders, including former heads of state, on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, represent for many the ultimate condemnation of these individuals’ past actions and a measure of their fall from power. Yet, despite the tribunals’ grasp on the popular imagination, they are the subject of significant misconceptions and confusion. Much of the media coverage dedicated to their work remains superficial, at best, and largely muddles over key distinctions between various tribunals, past and present. Conversely, the more informed scholarship is largely confined to specialty publications that remain inaccessible to most. In truth, many lawyers and non-lawyers alike lack a clear understanding of the role and functioning of these increasingly-pivotal international institutions.
This publication seeks to redress this knowledge gap by providing well-researched and accessible information for those wishing to more fully understand the international criminal tribunals and the conflicts over which they have jurisdiction. An informed public is an engaged public — and the issues that animate these tribunals, including delivering justice for victims of some of the world’s worst atrocities, are too significant to be discussed solely by a small cadre of international criminal law specialists.
Notably, this publication was created in partnership with graphic and information designers so as to reach a broader public. The designers’ visualizations present information regarding the tribunals and their underlying conflicts in a direct and accessible manner to a wide range of viewers, including those without a legal background. Beyond this democratizing function, information visualization also serves to reveal important data and trends that might otherwise go unnoticed in a more conventional format. Ideally, the following information, which is current as of January 2013, would be integrated into a continually updated interactive webportal dedicated to engaging a global public on issues of international justice.
In sum, this publication aims to facilitate a broader discussion of the international criminal tribunals’ notable accomplishments, as well as ongoing shortcomings.
I can’t do the amazing graphics justice, so just click through and download the report for yourself! It’s a must read — a must look? — for anyone interested in the tribunals.
This week on Opinio Juris, Kevin was surprised by an unexpected dissenter in Kenya’s request to the Security Council to terminate the ICC’s Kenya cases. He also analysed whether the ICC has jurisdiction over Israel’s attack on the Mavi Marmara and particularly whether the flotilla attack qualifies as a “situation”. He followed up with a post asking why the Comoros are represented by Turkish lawyers in their referral request and why the referral request was only filed now. He also examined whether the PTC could review an OTP decision not to investigate a situation referred to it.
Kevin called on the ICC to keep its website updated, and listed four errors in the description of NBC’s upcoming series Crossing Lines on the ICC Police Unit, poignantly illustrating why outreach by the ICC itself is important to avoid a distorted public understanding of the ICC.
Julian put the spotlight on the confusing legal background of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute, and discussed whether California’s Armenian Genocide Law can be struck down on the basis of “field pre-emption”.
Have a nice weekend!
As Bill Schabas noted in his recent post, the Comoros referral raises interesting questions concerning the Pre-Trial Chamber’s power to review a decision by the OTP not to open a full investigation into a situation. Most people who don’t keep a copy of the Rome Statute in their back pocket probably believe that the OTP has complete discretion concerning such declinations. In fact, that is not the case. Here, in relevant part, is Art. 53 of the Rome Statute (emphasis mine):
Article 53 Initiation of an investigation1. The Prosecutor shall, having evaluated the information made available to him or her, initiate an investigation unless he or she determines that there is no reasonable basis to proceed under this Statute. In deciding whether to initiate an investigation, the Prosecutor shall consider whether:
(a) The information available to the Prosecutor provides a reasonable basis to believe that a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court has been or is being committed;
(b) The case is or would be admissible under article 17; and
(c) Taking into account the gravity of the crime and the interests of victims, there are nonetheless substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice.
If the Prosecutor determines that there is no reasonable basis to proceed and his or her determination is based solely on subparagraph (c) above, he or she shall inform the Pre-Trial Chamber.
3. (a) At the request of the State making a referral under article 14 or the Security Council under article 13, paragraph (b), the Pre-Trial Chamber may review a decision of the Prosecutor under paragraph 1 or 2 not to proceed and may request the Prosecutor to reconsider that decision.
(b) In addition, the Pre-Trial Chamber may, on its own initiative, review a decision of the Prosecutor not to proceed if it is based solely on paragraph 1 (c) or 2 (c). In such a case, the decision of the Prosecutor shall be effective only if confirmed by the Pre-Trial Chamber.
It is clear that Comoros would have the right under Art. 53(3)(a) to ask the Pre-Trial Chamber to review a decision by the OTP not to open a full investigation into the attack on the flotilla. And that would be true regardless of the OTP’s rationale for the declination: (1) lack of evidence that the attack involved a crime within the ICC’s jurisdiction; (2) admissibility concerns — which would turn on whether crimes allegedly committed during the attack were adequately grave and, if so, whether Israel was willing and able to investigate and prosecute those crimes itself; or (3) the interests of justice.
But here is where things get interesting. If Comoros asked the PTC to review a decision by the OTP not to investigate the attack on the flotilla, thereby triggering Art. 53(3)(a), the PTC would have only one remedy if it disagreed with the OTP’s assessment of the merits of the referral — to “request the Prosecutor to reconsider that decision.” It could not order the OTP to open a full investigation into the attack. So if the OTP reconsidered its decision and again concluded that a full investigation was not warranted, that would be the end of the story.
Art. 53(3)(b), by contrast, would appear to put the PTC in a much more powerful position…
Will the Supreme Court Revisit Dormant Foreign Affairs Preemption in California’s Armenian Genocide Law?
Armenian-American groups are up in arms over the U.S. government’s decision to file an amicus brief against a California law allowing claims against insurance companies by “Armenian genocide victims.” But they shouldn’t be. The law really involves an ongoing constitutional powers debate between the states and the federal government over foreign affairs, and the U.S. government is siding (not surprisingly) with its own powers. What is more interesting about this case, in the wake of Kiobel, is how human rights groups will increasingly support state autonomy in foreign affairs (to allow human rights lawsuits) and how business and conservative groups will likely oppose it.
The California law had been struck down by a unanimous Ninth Circuit en banc panel on the grounds that it was preempted by federal government policies and constitutional powers over foreign affairs. The law extended a statute of limitations on insurance claims against insurance companies that do business in California for residents or non-residents who are found to be “Armenian genocide victims.” Both the district court and the initial appellate court panel had found at least some parts of the law could survive a federal preemption challenge (as Roger described here), so the unanimous en banc panel decision was quite surprising.
The Solicitor General’s brief focuses mostly on the “field preemption” theory developed most recently in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in American Ins Association v. Garamendi. Field preemption describes a conflict between a state’s actions and the federal government’s “field”, such as foreign affairs. Conflict preemption focuses on the idea that the federal government has made an express legal determination with which the state law conflicts (e.g. through a statute or treaty, or maybe an “executive foreign policy”). Where the federal government’s policy on the Armenian genocide is a fairly complex muddle, I don’t think there is much of a case for conflict preemption.
- The UN General Assembly has voted to pass a resolution condemning the Syrian government for human rights violations and call for a transitional government.
- International donors pledged 3.25 billion euros ($4.22 billion) to help Mali recover from a conflict with al Qaeda-linked Islamists.
- A suicide bomber in a car targeted two vehicles carrying foreign forces in Kabul, Afghanistan.
- Three people were killed when the ceiling of a warehouse fell in at a shoe factory in Cambodia, adding to concerns about safety standards at Asian factories producing cheap clothing.
- Foreign Policy has a post about the geopolitics of Google’s autocomplete algorithm.
As Peter noted yesterday, the recent tragedies in Bangladesh factories have resulted in a major breakthrough with the signing of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. Thus far, leading retailers such as H&M, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Benetton, and Calvin Klein are on board. Notably absent from the list are leading U.S. retailers such as Wal-Mart and Gap.
As noted in my previous post, I have been arguing for years that international arbitration could serve as an important procedural tool for promoting human rights in global supply chains. I applaud the commitment of these retailers to join with leading labor rights groups and enter into a binding agreement to improve working conditions in Bangladesh factories.
I do take issue with the drafting of the arbitration agreement, which clearly could have benefited from a quick review by a lawyer with international arbitration experience. Here’s the relevant language:
Any dispute between the parties to, and arising under, the terms of this Agreement shall first be presented to and decided by the SC [seven-member Steering Committee], which shall decide the dispute by majority vote of the SC within a maximum of 21 days of a petition being filed by one of the parties. Upon request of either party, the decision of the SC may be appealed to a final and binding arbitration process. Any arbitration award shall be enforceable in a court of law of the domicile of the signatory against whom enforcement is sought and shall be subject to The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (The New York Convention), where applicable. The process for binding arbitration, including, but not limited to, the allocation of costs relating to any arbitration and the process for selection of the Arbitrator, shall be governed by the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration 1985 (with amendments as adopted in 2006).
Note the peculiarities. There is no governing law clause, no arbitration seat, and no arbitration rules. If a party refuses to arbitrate, there will be no obvious court for the petitioner to file a motion to compel arbitration. Instead the arbitration proceedings are to be governed by the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration as a sort of free-floating “anational” governing clause. I suppose that makes the UNCITRAL Model Law the chosen arbitration rules, but I’ve never seen the Model Law function in this fashion. If that’s what the clause does, then any court where an action is brought can compel arbitration and the arbitral panel will be empowered to fill in most of the gaps, including determining the arbitration seat, the governing law, and the scope of its jurisdiction (See Articles 8, 16, 20, 28). Not ideal, but it may do the trick.
Second, the arbitration clause has a peculiar scope. Only disputes “arising under” the Agreement are subject to arbitration, apparently limiting the scope to breach of contract and excluding disputes relating to third-party injuries that relate to the agreement. The scope appears to be further limited by the fact that arbitration is an appellate function only, which may mean that the arbitral tribunal is limited to reviewing legal or factual errors of the Steering Committee.
Third, there is a question as to whether decisions of the Steering Committee are subject to enforcement pursuant to the New York Convention. It appears that only the arbitration awards rendered following an appeal of the Steering Committee decision are subject to such enforcement. This may mean that an appeal is necessary simply to create a binding mechanism for enforcing the parties’ obligations.
My hunch is that despite these errors, if a dispute arises from this agreement the parties will muddle through and find a way to make the dispute resolution clause work. Perhaps in the near term they can clarify these ambiguities when they develop the Implementation Plan mandated by the agreement.
So it’s probably not a pathological arbitration clause, but it could have benefited from a good scrubbing.