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Alter Book Symposium: Welcome to the New World of Comparative International Courts

by Roger Alford

Let me join others in heaping praise on Karen Alter’s new book. It marks a growing trend of studying international law from an institutional rather than substantive perspective. My favorite aspect of the book is the lateral thinking that occurs when one examines international tribunals across disciplines. International law scholars typically labor in their own vineyards, missing opportunities for grafting new vines onto old roots. Alter steps back and examines world history from the perspective of new international courts and tribunals. It is a welcome addition.

Her book is a voice for the younger generation, who did not grow up studying international law “during the Cold War when power politics mattered more than law, and when most international legal institutions were virtual entities that barely met and rarely said anything of political or legal consequence.” (p. xix). A younger generation of scholars embraces the cornucopia of international tribunals in all their variety, and will soon treat international dispute resolution as a separate and distinct transubstantive body of international law. We are moving in that direction with the development of the emerging field of global administrative law. But future decades will witness a greater emphasis on procedural rather than substantive international law, and comparative international courts will be a new specialty. Today it is rare to take a course entitled “International Courts and Tribunals.” Today we do not compare across international courts questions such as jurisdiction, standing, evidence, judicial selection, remedies, and enforcement of judgments. Future generations will. The New Terrain of International Law is a major contribution in that direction.

Of course, there are problems with Alter’s book. Her choice of tribunals borrows from the Project on International Courts and Tribunals’ typology, which excludes international tribunals that are not permanent. She concedes that excluding temporary international tribunals is rather arbitrary, (p. 76), but nonetheless limits her typology to only twenty-four permanent international tribunals. Given the magnitude of the task set before her, this is understandable. But I fear that her work will continue an ill-advised trend of excluding tribunals that are not permanent. Rather than including permanency as a threshold requirement, it is far preferable to address it as a variable, similar to geographic reach or private initiation of disputes. Many temporary international courts are simply too important to ignore. Just as any historical analysis would never exclude the temporary tribunals such as the Jay Commission, the Alabama Commission, the PCIJ, or the Nuremberg or Tokyo Tribunals, one should never claim that a comprehensive study of modern courts and tribunals is complete without including tribunals such as the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal, the United Nations Compensation Commission, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission, or the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Excluding such tribunals, but then including other temporary tribunals (the ICTY and the ICTR) as well as relatively insignificant permanent tribunals such as ECCIS, EFTAC, and WAEMU only underscores the arbitrary nature of PICT’s and Alter’s typology. Even her case studies belie the problem, for she studies several of the temporary tribunals in her case studies, but then she does not include those same tribunals in her typology.

As an expert on international investment arbitration, let me also address another fundamental mistake in the book. Alter identifies ICSID arbitral bodies as administrative tribunals. She justifies this because the “investor dispute system can give rise to costly litigation and awards, to the point that litigation threats by investors can have a chilling effect on the local regulatory politics.” (p. 202). She suggests that ICSID tribunals function in a “morphed and perhaps unintended administrative review role.” (p. 211). All of this is correct, but it is purely incidental. At their core investment tribunals are focused on the economic consequences of state action. In reality, ICSID tribunals function as international economic courts akin to the WTO. Like other international economic courts, the subject matter of investment arbitration is limited to economic issues such as trade, foreign investment regulation, contract disputes, intellectual property rights, and business law (p. 85). The basic template of an ICSID tribunal is distinct from both the WTO and ECJ models discussed in the book (p. 90), allowing private initiation of disputes before supranational courts without a preliminary ruling mechanism. But an ICSID tribunal is no more of an administrative review court than the ECJ or the WTO, which as she notes, also function as systems of administrative and constitutional review challenging community acts in front of supranational courts (p. 90). In my view it is better to categorize international tribunals based on their core objectives rather than their incidental effects.

Karen Alter deserves hearty congratulations for her excellent work. If you read the book, you will be introduced to an increasingly important field of international law. You will be ushered into the new world of comparative international courts.

Guest Post: The ICC Changes Its Mind on the Immunity from Arrest of President Al Bashir, But It Is Wrong Again

by Paola Gaeta

[Paola Gaeta is a Professor at the Law Faculty of the University of Geneva, Adjunct Professor, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and the Director of Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.]

On 9th April, Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (‘the ICC’ or ‘the Court’) issued another decision concerning the lack of compliance by a State party with its request to arrest and surrender Sudanese President Al Bashir. The decision thus adds to others on the same matter and all involving African member States of the ICC. This time the State concerned is the Democratic Republic of Congo (‘DRC’), which did not arrest President Al Bashir during an official visit to the country and despite a specific request to that effect by the Court.

The DRC argued, among other things, that it was not obliged to execute the request for arrest and surrender of Al Bashir on the basis of Article 98 (1) of the Rome Statute. This provision provides that the Court may not proceed with a request of cooperation or assistance whenever the requested State, in order to execute such a request, would have to breach –with respect to a third State—its international legal undertakings in the area of immunities, including personal immunities. In such cases, the Court may issue a request for assistance or co-operation to a member State only after obtaining a waiver of the relevant immunities from the third State concerned. Since the Court had not obtained the waiver of immunities, the DRC contended that it was not obliged to comply with the request of the Court.

The Pre-Trial Chamber rejected this argument. Surprisingly, it did not do so by referring to the two decisions of 2011 (against Malawi and Chad, respectively) that had already tackled the matter. Not at all: the Pre-Trial Chamber did not dedicate one word to this case law, as if these two decisions were never delivered. True, the Court is not bound by its own decisions, as Article 21(2) of the Rome Statute makes clear in providing that the Court ‘may apply principles and rules of law as interpreted in its previous decisions’. Nevertheless, this provision certainly does not mean that the Court can change its jurisprudence without even clarifying the reasons why. This is particularly true when the criminal responsibility of an individual accused of very serious international crimes is at stake. But it is also true with respect to a highly sensitive issue such as that of immunities of Al Bashir as head of State of a State not party to the Rome Statute, and the more so in light of the stand taken by the African Union on that matter on multiple occasions. The highly political tension between the African Union and the Court on this and other matters is far from being settled and the jurisprudence of the Court, which is not impeccable, certainly won’t help to alleviate it.

I do not want to say that the 2011 Pre-Trial Chamber decisions on the question of immunities of Al Bashir were convincing. Quite the contrary:  as correctly emphasized by Dapo Akande in a post on EJIL Talk! those decisions adopted a stand which made Article 98 (1) of the Rome Statute redundant, something which is ‘contrary to a basic principle of treaty interpretation’.

Unfortunately, this last of Pre-Trial Chamber II is not more convincing than those issued in 2011. This decision correctly recognizes that Article 98 (1) of the Statute directs the Court to secure the cooperation of a State not party to the Rome Statute for the waiver or lifting of the immunity of its Head of State. This in order to prevent ‘the requested State from acting inconsistently with its international obligations towards the non-State party with respect to the immunities attached to the latter’s Head of State’. However, according to the Chamber, the Court does not need to obtain the cooperation of Sudan to remove the immunities of Al Bashir. This is so because the Security Council, in obliging Sudan to cooperate fully with and provide any necessary assistance to the Court and the Prosecutor’, eliminated ‘any impediment to the proceedings before the Court, including the lifting of immunities’. For the Chamber, any other interpretation would be ‘senseless’. The Chamber thus concludes that the requirement under Article 98(1) of the Statute was already ensured by the relevant Security Council’s Resolution, by virtue of which it ‘implicitly waived the immunities granted to Omar Al Bashir under international law’. Consequently, for the Chamber the DRC was obliged under the Rome Statute to arrest and surrender Al Bashir, which it failed to do and hence violated its obligations as a State party to the Rome Statute.

It appears clear to me that the reasoning followed by the Pre-Trial Chamber is based on a wrong interpretation of Article 98(1) of the Rome Statute. This provision is not concerned with whether a State that is not party to the Rome Statute is obliged to cooperate with the Court. Article 98(1) says that the Court may not proceed with requests of cooperation which would put the requested State in the position to act inconsistently with its obligations on immunities vis-à-vis third States ‘unless the Court can first obtain the cooperation of that third State for the waiver of immunity’ (emphasis added). The question here is not the existence of a legal obligation upon the third State to cooperate, but the actual cooperation that the Court must obtain from the third State to waive the immunity.

In addition, I do not see how the obligation of cooperation imposed on Sudan by the Security Council can modify the powers and competence of the Court, including the powers of the Court vis-à-vis member States in the matter of judicial cooperation. The Court is an international organization, created by a treaty and exercising, as all international organizations, the powers and competences attributed to it by its member States. The obligations set forth by the Security Council upon a UN member State with a binding decision under Chapter VII of the UN Charter cannot affect the rights and powers of another international organization, in this case the ICC, as they are regulated in the respective constitutive instrument of such other international organization. The decision of the Security Council on the obligation of Sudan to cooperate cannot relieve the Court from the necessity to implement a requirement for the correct exercise of a power as it is the case of Article 98 (1) of the Rome Statute.  The Court has not obtained the cooperation of Sudan for the waiver of immunity of Al Bashir, as Article 98 (1) provides. To the best of my knowledge, the Court has not even attempted to obtain from Sudan such a waiver. The fact that Sudan would be legally obliged to comply with such a request – should the Court decide to submit one to Sudan – does not imply that the terms of Article 98 (1) are respected, should Sudan refuse to provide the waiver of immunities.

Finally, I do not understand how the Pre-Trial Chamber could claim that the obligation of Sudan to cooperate with the Court, by virtue of the relevant resolution of the Security Council, would be ‘senseless’ if not interpreted as implying the waiver of immunities of the Head of State of Sudan. The fact that Sudan is obliged to cooperate with the Court is not deprived of sense if one recognizes that its head of State is protected by immunities under international law in the territory of foreign states.  After all, extradition treaties are not deprived of sense simply because, as the ICJ has clarified, a state may not even circulate internationally an arrest warrant against a foreign sitting head of state or government, or ministers for foreign affairs.

Commentators who have argued that the Security Council’s decision has a bearing on the matter of immunities have been not so naïve to claim that the inapplicability of Article 98(1) of the Rome Statute stems from the obligation of Sudan to cooperate with the Court. They have been much more sophisticated than the Pre-Trial Chamber. For instance, in a paper published in the JICJ, Dapo Akande argues that whenever the Security Council triggers the jurisdiction of the Court (as in the case of Darfur, Sudan), States that are not members of the Rome Statute become bound by the latter since the referral by the Security Council ‘is a decision to confer jurisdiction on the Court (in circumstances where such jurisdiction may otherwise not exist)’. Therefore Sudan, and other non-member States of the ICC, would be obliged to accept that the Court exercises its jurisdiction in accordance with the Statute. Sudan would therefore be obliged by Article 27(2) of the Rome Statute, and its State officials would not be entitled to personal immunities before national jurisdictions that could therefore arrest and surrender incriminated officials to the ICC to comply with its request.

I do not find this argument convincing. I contend that the referral of a situation to the Court by the Security Council constitutes just one of the conditions for the exercise by the Court of its criminal jurisdiction, and does not constitute the source of the jurisdiction of the Court. This applies also when the Security Council refers to the Court a situation where the crimes are committed in the territory or by a national of a state not party to the Rome Statute. This is however not the point here. The point is that the Court cannot take the luxury of changing its mind on a sensitive issue such as that of the immunities of Al Bashir without even saying why; and in addition to issuing another unconvincing decision on the matter.

I have personally no sympathy for President Al Bashir. I do hope, as many do, that sooner or later he will be brought before the Court, or at least induced to surrender, to respond to the serious allegations brought against him. I do not believe, however, that the Court is making justice to international law by delivering decisions that, at least with respect to issue of the obligation of States parties to arrest Al Bashir, are, with all due respect, frankly wrong.

Alter Book Symposium: Comment by Tonya L. Putnam

by Tonya L. Putnam

[Tonya L. Putnam is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science at Columbia University]

I’m very pleased to have been asked to contribute my thoughts on Karen Alter’s The New Terrain of International Law. Alter’s cogently argued new book exemplifies what well-executed interdisciplinary scholarship can achieve. It puts into productive dialogue several core preoccupations of political scientists, international lawyers, and practitioners as they relate to the growing universe of international courts (ICs). Not only does the resulting analysis map the outputs of, and relationships between intensively studied ICs like the ECJ, the ECtHR, and the WTO panel system, and more recently created, and less well-known, ICs and court-like bodies, it simultaneously theorizes the political interactions that create, sustain, confound, and (at times) transform their activities. From it we gain a compelling picture of how new-style ICs are using international law to reshape political interactions spanning the interstate to the local level around issues from property rights to human rights.

The contributions of The New Terrain of International Law are too many to enumerate in detail. In the space I have here, therefore, I focus on two areas where future scholars can benefit from the foundation Alter lays in this volume. I then propose a set of questions about whether further proliferation of ICs may begin to complicate international affairs.

(more…)

Alter Book Symposium: The New Terrain of International Law

by Karen J. Alter

[Karen J Alter is Professor of Political Science and Law at Northwestern University and co-direcor at iCourts Center of Excellence at the Copenhagen University Faculty of Law.]

The New Terrain of International law: Courts, Politics, Rights uses the universe of operational permanent international courts (ICs), those with appointed judges that stand ready to receive cases, as a laboratory to explore the changing reach and influence of international courts in contemporary politics. In 1989 when the Cold War ended, there were six operational ICs. Today there are more than two-dozen that have collectively issued over thirty-seven thousand binding legal rulings. The New Terrain of International Law shows how today’s international courts differ fundamentally from their Cold War predecessors. Most ICs today have ‘new-style’ features, compulsory jurisdiction and access for non-state actors to initiate litigation, which scholars associate with greater independence and political influence. Most ICs today have a mandate that extends beyond inter-state dispute resolution. Chapters in the book chart the uneven jurisdictional landscape of ICs today, and offer an account of the proliferation of new-style ICs.

The book is first and foremost a social science treatment of the growing role of ICs in politics today. I argue that the trend of creating and using new-style ICs signals a transformation from international law being a breakable contract between governments towards a rule of law mentality. ICs are not, I argue, the vanguard of this political change.  Rather, the trend towards creating new-style ICs reflects the reality that international law increasingly speaks to how governments regulate national markets, treat their citizens and conduct war, and both citizens and governments want these increasingly intrusive international legal agreements to be respected. For the most part, ICs are doing exactly what governments tasked them to do. International judges are resolving questions about the law, and holding governments and international organizations to international legal obligations.

My primary objective is to understand how and when delegating authority to ICs transforms domestic and international relations. (more…)

Joint Opinio Juris-EJIL:Talk! Book Symposium this week

by An Hertogen

This week we are working with EJIL:Talk! to bring you a symposium on Karen Alter‘s (Northwestern) book The New Terrain of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights (Princeton University Press). Here is the abstract:

In 1989, when the Cold War ended, there were six permanent international courts. Today there are more than two dozen that have collectively issued over thirty-seven thousand binding legal rulings. The New Terrain of International Law charts the developments and trends in the creation and role of international courts, and explains how the delegation of authority to international judicial institutions influences global and domestic politics.

The New Terrain of International Law presents an in-depth look at the scope and powers of international courts operating around the world. Focusing on dispute resolution, enforcement, administrative review, and constitutional review, Karen Alter argues that international courts alter politics by providing legal, symbolic, and leverage resources that shift the political balance in favor of domestic and international actors who prefer policies more consistent with international law objectives. International courts name violations of the law and perhaps specify remedies. Alter explains how this limited power–the power to speak the law–translates into political influence, and she considers eighteen case studies, showing how international courts change state behavior. The case studies, spanning issue areas and regions of the world, collectively elucidate the political factors that often intervene to limit whether or not international courts are invoked and whether international judges dare to demand significant changes in state practices.

From our side, Tonya Lee Putnam (Columbia – Political Science), Bill Burke-White (UPenn – Law) and Jacob Katz Cogan (Cincinatti – Law) will provide comments, followed by Karen’s response.

Across the Atlantic, comments will be provided by Antonios Tzanakopoulos (Oxford) and Nico Krisch (IBEI).

As always, we welcome readers’ comments!

Weekly News Wrap: Monday, April 21, 2014

by Jessica Dorsey

Your weekly selection of international law and international relations headlines from around the world:

Africa

Asia

Middle East and Northern Africa

Europe

Americas

UN/Other

Supreme Court Takes Jerusalem Passport Case on the Merits

by Peter Spiro

NY Times dispatch here. The Supreme Court will now confront the question of whether Congress can force the Secretary of State to include the birthplace “Jerusalem, Israel” at a U.S. citizen’s option. This could be a huge case or a not-so-huge case. If the Court affirms the D.C. Circuit’s ruling below and strikes down legislation purporting to constrain the Secretary of State’s passport authority, the ruling would be important but hardly epochal. That would protect the president’s authority over foreign relations, and fit neatly into a doctrinal tradition dating back at least a century. It is something new for the Court to get to the merits of the question — that’s why the decision in Zivotofsky I itself marked something of a watershed. If the Court accepts expansive executive branch powers, the jurisprudential gun remains loaded but no shots get fired.

But if the Court upholds the law, it will be a major departure from that tradition. The passport case implicates a genuinely sensitive issue of foreign relations. If the Court forces the State Department into something like formal acknowledgement of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, who knows what would follow on the ground. This isn’t a case like Medellin, which predictably upset Mexico at the same time that our relations predictably weathered any such upset. Nor would it play out like Bond, which even if it restricts the Treaty Power will hardly be noticed by foreign audiences. To use the vocabulary of the foreign relations canon, a Supreme Court ruling against the executive branch in Zivotofsky could severely “embarrass” the President in the conduct of foreign relations. Think unruly crowds outside U.S. embassies.

That would have been inconceivable 20 years ago. But foreign relations law is being normalized. (For an excellent take on the shift, see Harlan Cohen’s piece here.) Foreign affairs has long been immune to judicial activism; maybe no longer. The Court may still hesitate to the extent it sees some real, even uncabinable, damage to the Middle East peace process in siding with Congress on the question. The easier path would have been to duck the case altogether. By accepting review, it may already have tipped its hand in a new direction.

On Steve Vladeck’s Post-AUMF Detention

by Deborah Pearlstein

Nothing like spring break (yes, we break right before semester’s end) to do a little catch-up reading – starting this week with Steve Vladeck’s new essay grappling with one of the nation’s most intractable problems: closing Guantanamo. Among the many challenges associated with the prison’s continued existence, Steve highlights its role in preventing serious consideration of repealing the AUMF (the federal statute authorizing the use of military force against Al Qaeda and associated groups). The Gitmo detainees are held under the domestic authority of the AUMF; as long as the government wishes to continue to hold at least some of the Gitmo prisoners (as it does), Congress can’t repeal the law without risking their potential release. Despite the winding down of U.S. operations in Afghanistan, the serious weakening of core Al Qaeda, and the President’s announced desire to move the nation away from a permanent wartime footing – AUMF repeal is essentially impossible as long as we are concerned with maintaining the legality of the Gitmo prisoners’ detention under domestic law.

So how to keep Gitmo from becoming the detention tail that wags the wartime dog? Steve proposes that even without an AUMF, we could continue to hold the approximately 45 Gitmo detainees the executive sees as the intractable core (those the administration has designated unprosecutable but too dangerous to release) under the authority of another federal law: Section 412 of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001. Section 412 – which Steve notes has not been used once since its enactment in 2001 – requires the Attorney General to take into custody any alien he has reasonable grounds to believe is (for example) a member of a terrorist organization, or endorses or espouses terrorist activity, or “is engaged in any other activity that endangers the national security of the United States.” The alien may be detained for up to a week until the commencement of immigration removal proceedings or criminal prosecution, or for “additional periods of up to six months” if his “removal is unlikely in the reasonably foreseeable future,” and if release “will threaten the national security of the United States or the safety of the community or any person.”

Steve’s diagnosis of the relationship between Guantanamo Bay and the AUMF is spot on in some critical respects. The uniquely problematic nature of the Guantanamo detention program skews the current debate about the need for continuing use-of-force authority, just as surely as it has skewed broader debates about U.S. counterterrorism detention, trial, and interrogation policies for the past dozen years. For a host of reasons, the Gitmo population is singularly unrepresentative of the challenges that would be posed by counterterrorism detention or trial following the arrest of any terrorism suspect today: Gitmo detainees were denied basic Geneva protections (including any initial hearing about who these men actually were); some detainees were transferred there following periods of unlawful (even torturous) detention elsewhere; criminal counterterrorism laws that are today used for prosecution were much narrower extrajudicial scope in 2001; Congress maintains unprecedented restrictions on the transfer of detainees to the United States for any purpose; and so on. Indeed, as Steve recognizes, given all that has gone before, closing Gitmo now involves only bad options; the policy task is to choose which among these bad options is least worst under the circumstances.

Despite the low bar, I have to admit I’m still unconvinced that Section 412 is the least worst way to go. (more…)

Events and Announcements: April 20, 2014

by An Hertogen

Call for Papers

  • The European Society of International Law Interest Group on Peace and Security (ESIL IGPS) and the Research Project on Shared Responsibility in International Law (SHARES Project) organize a joint symposium to be held in conjunction with the 10th ESIL Anniversary Conference in Vienna, Austria, on September 3, 2014. The symposium is entitled “The Changing Nature of Peacekeeping and the Challenges for Jus ad Bellum, Jus in Bello and Human Rights” and it will discuss whether there indeed is a major shift in UN peacekeeping practice and will explore important questions of international law raised by these new practices. We would like to invite candidates to submit a 500 words abstract proposal via email to Prof. Theodore Christakis and Dr. Ilias Plakokefalos by May 4. The proposal should also include the author’s name and affiliation, the author’s brief CV and the author’s contact details, in a single pdf document. Successful applicants will be informed by May 15. More information is available here.

Events

  • ALMA and the Radzyner School of Law of the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) invite you to the next session of the Joint International Humanitarian Law Forum on April 30, 2014, 18:30 in room C110 (Arazi-Ofer Building, 2nd floor) in the IDC. Prof. Eugene KontorovichDr. Daphne Richemond-Barak and Dr. Ziv Bohrer will discuss the Crimean Peninsula & IHL. Following the presentations, there will be an open round table discussion.
  • Professor Harold Koh will be giving this year’s Clarendon lectures at the University of Oxford, speaking about Law and Globalization. The lectures are open to everyone and will take place over three evenings: Tuesday May 6, 5-6:30pm in the Pichette Auditorium, Pembroke College, followed by a drinks reception in the foyer by the auditorium 6:30-7:30pm; Thursday May 8, 5-6:30pm, The Gulbenkian Lecture Theatre, Faculty of Law, St Cross Building: Tuesday May 13, 5-6:30pm, The Gulbenkian lecture theatre, Faculty of Law, St Cross Building.
  • The T.M.C. Asser Instituut is offering five different summer programmes this summer: June 2 – 25: Summer Law Program on International Criminal Law and International Legal Approaches to Terrorism; June 30 – July 4: Summer Programme on International Sports Law: Is Sport Playing by the Rule of Law?; August 25 – 29: Advanced Summer Programme on Countering Terrorism in the Post 9/11 World: Legal Challenges and Dilemmas; August 25 – 29: Summer Programme on International & European Environmental Law: Facing the Challenges?(New in 2014!); September 1 – 5: Summer Programme on Disarmament & Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction in a Changing World (Scholarships available!). More information is available here.
  • The Interest Group on Migration and Refugee Law of the European Society of International Law, the Centre for Migration Law of the Radboud University Nijmegen and the Amsterdam Center for International Law of the University of Amsterdam are pleased to announce Heading to Europe: Safe Haven or Graveyard?, a panel discussion on migration by sea in the Mediterranean. The panel discussion will be held on 16 May 2014 at the Radboud University Nijmegen. For more information and registration visit the website.
  • The Salzburg Law School on International Criminal Law, Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law (SLS) welcomes applications for its Sixteenth Summer Session, “International Criminal Law at the First World War Centenary – From Consolidation Towards Confrontation?”, Sunday 3 to Friday 15 August 2014. The SLS is a two-week summer programme aimed at postgraduate students, young academics and practitioners. This year’s session will scrutinize principles and procedures of international criminal law, their origins and contemporary challenges to their enforcement. In this context, there will be a special thematic focus on the principle of irrelevance of official capacity under international customary law and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as well as on controversies stemming from the Court’s cases against sitting heads of States, proposed changes to the Rome Statute and policy considerations determining the selection of situations and cases. Other topics include the Kampala amendments to the Rome Statute, the rights of the defence in international criminal proceedings, the role of international investigation commissions, as well as recent decisions and judgements of the ICC and the ICTY. Further information on the academic programme and a preliminary list of speakers are available here. The application period ends on Friday May 9, 2014.
  • The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights is offering an International Weapons Laws Course, in Geneva from August 4-29, 2014. More information is here.

Last week’s events and announcements can be found here. If you would like to post an announcement on Opinio Juris, please contact us.

Weekend Roundup: April 5-18, 2014

by An Hertogen

This fortnight on Opinio Juris, Julian examined whether the US could legally deny Iran’s new U.N. Ambassador a visa to New York and provided his take on the three main arguments in favor of the visa denial. In a rare instance, Kevin agreed with Julian and elaborated with a post on the security exception in the UN Headquarters’ Agreement.

David Rivkin and Lee Casey surprised Julian with their calls to deploy “lawfare” against Russia. More surprises for Julian arose out of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York’s decision to revive the In re South Africa Apartheid Litigation under the ATS.

In other posts, Kristen wondered how the current gap in international law on the protection of disaster refugees could be filled; Roger discussed the emerging trend of relying on investment arbitration to enforce international trade rights; Craig Allen contributed a guest post on the principle of reasonableness applied by ITLOS in the M/V Virginia G case; and Kevin shared his thoughts on Ukraine’s ad hoc self-referral to the ICC.

Duncan announced the Oxford Guide to Treaties he edited is now available in paperback, and welcomed the publication of a papers presented at a Temple workshop on the writings of Martti Koskenniemi.

As always, we listed events and announcements (1, 2) and Jessica wrapped up the news (1, 2).

Have a nice weekend!

Thoughts on the Ukraine Ad Hoc Self-Referral

by Kevin Jon Heller

As readers no doubt know, Ukraine has accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction on an ad hoc basis for acts committed between 21 November 2013 and 22 February 2014. The self-referral has already led to a good deal of intelligent commentary — see, for example, Mark Leon Goldberg’s discussion of the politics of an ICC investigation here and Mark Kersten’s convincing argument that Russia may not be particularly opposed to an ICC investigation here. I just want to add a few additional thoughts.

To begin with, I remain troubled by the insistence of Ukraine’s Constitutional Court that Ukraine cannot delegate its adjudicative jurisdiction to an international court. As it said in 2001:

Article 124 of the Ukrainian Constitution states that the administration of justice is the exclusive competence of the courts and that judicial functions cannot be delegated to other bodies or officials. The Constitutional Court noted that the jurisdiction of the ICC under the Rome Statute is complementary to national judicial systems. However, under Article 4(2) of the Rome Statute, the ICC may exercise its functions and powers on the territory of any State party, and under Article 17, the ICC may find a case to be admissible if the State is unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution. The Court concluded that jurisdiction supplementary to the national system was not contemplated by the Ukrainian Constitution. Hence, the amendment of the Constitution is required before the Statute can be ratified.

Parliament’s acceptance of the ICC’s jurisdiction, even on an ad hoc basis, seems specifically foreclosed by the Constitutional Court’s judgment. Ukraine’s President and Parliament clearly don’t care about that inconvenient fact; will the ICC? Martin Holtermann may be right — the ICC may simply defer to Ukraine’s President and Parliament. But I can help but think it would be unseemly for an international court like the ICC to simply ignore a clear judgment issued by the highest court in a state purporting to accept its jurisdiction. At the very least, Fatou Bensouda should take the Ukraine’s internal conflict into account when she decides whether to open a formal investigation — you can bet that any suspect wanted by the ICC would challenge the legality of the self-referral in Ukraine’s domestic courts, litigation that could make it very difficult for ICC proceedings to go forward.

Relatedly, I think it’s important to remind ourselves that Ukraine’s self-referral does not mean the OTP will open a formal investigation into the situation. Diane Amann writes today that the self-referral shows “Europe is on [the] ICC docket.” That’s true — but only in the formal sense. As Mark Kersten noted in February, Europe has been on the ICC docket for a long time in terms of preliminary investigations. After all, the OTP announced the Georgia investigation in August 2008 — nearly six years ago. (Its Afghanistan investigation has been plodding along even longer, since 2007.) That hasn’t quelled the voices that have been complaining — with justification — that the ICC has been overly obsessed with Africa. So unless and until the OTP decides to open a formal investigation into the situation in Ukraine, the country’s self-referral is unlikely to have any positive effect whatsoever on the Court’s African reputation.

Finally, a brief thought on the temporal limits of the self-referral. I don’t think the ICC will reject the referral on the ground that it is too carefully tailored to ensure only one side of the conflict. (A major problem with Comoros’s Mavi Marmara state referral.) The temporal limits, however narrow, make some sense — the referral begins when Yanukovych announced Ukraine was abandoning the agreement with the European Union and ends when Yanukovych fled the country. Should Ukraine have accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction for a longer period — most notably, to include Russia’s invasion of Crimea? I had an interesting twitter debate earlier today on that issue with a bunch of smart Court-watchers, including Ryan Goodman, Eugene Kontorovich, Mark Kersten, Martin Holtermann, and David Kaye. I pointed out that it’s difficult to see what international crimes Russia committed during the invasion, other than the non-prosecutable crime of aggression. Ryan replied that a longer self-referral could give the ICC an opportunity to address important issues in the law of occupation. (See also his post here.) That’s absolutely true — but only if Russia actually violates the law of occupation, which seems unlikely given the popularity (certainly not uniform) of the invasion and annexation within Crimea itself. The wildcard is the crime that Eugene mentioned during our discussion — the transfer of civilians into occupied territory. I have no idea whether Russia intends to directly or indirectly transfer Russians into Crimea; Eugene seems to think it does, and I will defer to his greater knowledge of the situation. But my position with regard to that possibility is the same as my position on Israel’s transfer of civilians into the West Bank: whatever the merits of the allegations, the war crime is legally uncertain and factually difficult to prove, especially when the transfer is indirect instead of direct — which it is in the West Bank and would almost certainly be in Crimea. In the absence of other violations of the law of occupation, therefore, I am not sure the OTP would get involved.

I imagine we will have much more to discuss concerning the ICC and Ukraine in the weeks to come!

The Case That Won’t Die: U.S. Court Revives South Africa Apartheid Alien Tort Statute Lawsuit

by Julian Ku

So maybe the use of the Alien Tort Statute against corporations for overseas activities isn’t fully dead. Yesterday, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has revived In re South Africa Apartheid Litigation, a twelve-year-old litigation that just won’t die. A copy of the opinion can be found here.

Most of the opinion deals with whether a corporation may be sued under the Alien Tort Statute, an issue most thought was settled within the Second Circuit (the federal appeals circuit that includes New York). As a lower court within that circuit, the district court should have been bound to follow that court’s 2010 opinion Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell, which held that corporations cannot be sued under the ATS.  The lower court judge, Shira Scheindlin, decided that since the Supreme Court had ended up dismissing the Kiobel plaintiffs on other grounds (e.g. extraterritoriality), the Court had sub silentio reversed the original Kiobel decision’s ruling on corporate liability.  That is quite a stretch, and appears based almost solely on the Supreme Court’s reference to “mere corporate presence” as being insufficient to overcome the statutory presumption against extraterritoriality.  This language, and the Supreme Court’s decision not to otherwise mention the corporate liability issue, was enough for Judge Scheindlin to revisit the corporate liability issue.  I don’t really buy this sub silentio interpretation of Kiobel, but to give credit where credit is due, this argument was previewed in our Kiobel insta-symposium by Jordan Wells, a third year law student.  Let’s just say Judge Scheindlin really went out of her way to re-open this question.  

My views on the corporate liability issue haven’t changed since I published my full length attack on it back in 2010.  In my view, the Supreme Court’s decision in Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority, finding that the Torture Victim Protection Act does not allow torture claims against corporate defendants, provides an unappreciated boost to the policy rationale for limiting these kinds of lawsuits to natural persons.  But other circuits, and apparently Judge Scheindlin, refuse to agree with me (I know, I know, it’s hard to believe, but it’s true).

Putting aside the corporate liability issue, it is perhaps more surprising that Judge Scheindlin did not simply dismiss all of the defendants on Kiobel extraterritoriality grounds.  The Second Circuit appeals panel in this case held that all of the defendants (U.S. and foreign) should be dismissed because all of the alleged relevant conduct occurred in South Africa.  The U.S. corporate defendants (Ford and IBM) did not overcome the Kiobel presumption because the complaints only allege vicarious liability as parent corporations to their South African subsidiaries.   Yet Judge Scheindlin only dismissed the foreign defendants and will allow the plaintiffs to re-file their complaints against the US defendants to overcome the new Kiobel extraterritoriality presumption.  This means that she is willing to explore in greater detail the Kiobel requirement that plaintiffs’ claims “touch and concern” the territory of the U.S. with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritoriality.  Will knowledge by the US parent of the subsidiaries’ activities in South Africa be enough? Will receiving profits from the subsidiaries be enough? I assume that is the best the plaintiffs will be able to plead is knowledge by the U.S. parent.

I assume this is going back to the appeals panel in this case, and we should expect some rather testy reactions. Judge Jose Cabranes (the author of the appeals court panel decision) and Judge Scheindlin have recently tangled over a local NY case against aggressive police tactics resulting in the controversial removal of Judge Scheindlin from that case (Judge Cabranes was one of three judges involved in that removal order).  This latest Scheindlin order seems a double-insult at Judge Cabranes.  It “reverses” his earlier Kiobel decision on corporate liability (from a lower court no less!), and then it ignores his subsequent opinion holding that all defendants should be dismissed via a motion for judgment on the pleadings.   A little tension brewing at 40 Foley Square, perhaps?