ASIL 2011

by Kevin Jon Heller

I’m in Los Angeles, on my way home to Melbourne.  I had not attended an ASIL conference in five years, since I was teaching at Georgia, and I’m very glad I attended this one. I met a number of interesting people, including some with whom I’ve had a virtual friendship for a number of years.  (I still have not met my co-blogger Julian Ku face to face!)  I was particularly impressed by two panels.  The first was on the Kosovo advisory opinion; I learned a great deal about the legal aspects of secession and independence, and I also learned that Marko Milanovic — current lecturer at Nottingham, future President of Serbia — is as funny as he is brilliant.  The second was on Israel’s attack on the Turkish flotilla.  Although the representative of the Israeli government simply parroted Israel’s talking points (the government must have macros for them on all its computers, accessible by various functionaries at the push of a button), I was very impressed with the presentations by Naz Modirizadeh of Harvard’s superb Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research and by Sari Bashi, the Executive Director of Gisha, an invaluable Israeli NGO that protects the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially those that live in Gaza.  Sari was simply brilliant, managing in a short 12 minutes to show — often using quotes by the Israelis themselves — how Israel’s blockade of Gaza is illegal even if we accept the Israeli government’s legal characterization of the blockade.  (Which, of course, we shouldn’t.)  I also greatly enjoyed the lunchtime talk given by Fatou Bensouda, the deputy prosecutor of the ICC, although I had to listen to it through the door of the conference room because I forgot to purchase a ticket.  Bensouda’s talk, which demonstrated both her legal acumen and her deep humanity, reaffirmed my belief that she would be an ideal replacement for Moreno-Ocampo in 2012.

The very best part of the conference, however, was meeting so many Opinio Juris readers.  At least 20 people came up to me and told me how much they liked the blog.  (That they liked my blogging was less common.)  It is incredibly gratifying to know that the blog remains a vital part of the international-law conversation after so many years.  I can only hope that the next five years will involve more of the same.

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