Author Archive for
Peggy McGuinness

Call for Papers from Greg Gordon: Central States Law Schools Association

by Peggy McGuinness

Our friend and OJ guest contributor Professor Greg Gordon passes along the following call for papers — for international law scholars and other subject areas for the Central Law Schools Association 2010 meeting. Full announcement after the jump:

Life Sentences for Two Genocide Convictions at ICTY

by Peggy McGuinness

The news out of The Hague today is the genocide convictions of Popovic and Beara, both of whom the ICTY trial chamber found to be key leaders of the Srbrenica massacre of 1995.  Each was sentenced to life imprisonment, among the longest sentences for the ICTY. Lesser convictions and sentences were handed down to five other former Bosnian Serb officials. Here’s the AP story and an excerpt from the ICTY news release:

Seven former high-ranking Bosnian Serb military and police officials were today convicted by Trial Chamber II of a range of crimes committed in 1995 in relation to the fall of the enclaves of Srebrenica and Žepa, eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Vujadin Popović, the Chief of Security of the Drina Corps of the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) and Ljubiša Beara, Chief of Security in the VRS Main staff were found guilty of genocide, extermination, murder and persecution and sentenced to life imprisonment. Drago Nikolić, the Chief of Security in the Zvornik Brigade, was found guilty of aiding and abetting genocide, extermination, murder and persecution and sentenced to 35 years’ imprisonment. Ljubomir Borovčanin, Deputy Commander of the Special Police Brigade of the police forces was convicted of aiding and abetting extermination, murder, persecution and forcible transfer (Judge Kwon dissenting) under Article 7(1) of the Statute and, as a superior, of murder as a crime against humanity and as a violation of the laws of customs of war under Article (3). He was sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment. Radivoje Miletić, the Chief of the Administration for Operations and Training at the VRS Main Staff was found guilty of murder by majority, persecution and inhumane acts (forcible transfer). He was sentenced to 19 years’ imprisonment. Milan Gvero, the Assistant Commander for Moral, Legal and Religious Affairs of the VRS Main Staff, was found guilty of persecution and inhumane acts and acquitted of the two counts of murder and that of deportation. He was sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment. Vinko Pandurević, Commander of the Zvornik Brigade, was found guilty of aiding and abetting murder (Judge Kwon dissenting), persecution and inhumane acts. He was acquitted of charges of genocide, extermination and deportation. He was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment.


Today’s judgement concerns the largest trial to date held before the Tribunal and deals with a wide range of crimes committed by the Bosnian Serb forces against Bosnian Muslims during and following the fall of the former UN protected zones of Srebrenica and Žepa in July 1995.

The full text of the court’s summary of the judgment is here.

ILA Biennial Conference in The Hague, August 15-20, 2010

by Peggy McGuinness

The International Law Association’s 2010 Biennial Conference, “De Iure Humanitatis: Peace, Justice, and International Law” takes place August 15-20 in The Hague.  Early reduced-fee registration ends tomorrow, May 15. It looks to be great a program, hosted by the Dutch Branch of ILA, with some fun side events in and around The Hague.  (You may even see a couple of the OJ regulars in attendance!)  Here is a full description via Professor John Noyes, President of the American Branch of ILA:

New International Organizations Blog: Eye on IOs

by Peggy McGuinness

Professor David Bosco has started a new blog focusing on international organizations, “Eye on IOs.” I like his subtitle — “A blog on the progress and pitfalls of international organizations.”  It reminds me of a chapter I wrote addressing “progress and paradox” in international security cooperation. (It is nice to have company as a moderate on questions of international institution building!)

Professor Bosco has  posted a comment on the Beth Simmons/Allison Danner study of ICC membership (“Credible Commitments”) published in the recent International Organization, in which they try to sort out the puzzle of why ICC membership is high among both peaceful “rule of law” states and conflict-prone states that lack strong rule of law. Bosco notes:

[Simmons and Danner's] explanation is that states that have experienced recent conflict are using ICC ratification as a way of signaling (mainly to a domestic audience) their commitment to ratchet down violence by, in essence, tying their own hands:

This exposure to prosecution by an independent international institution acts as an implicit promise by governments that they will foreswear particularly heinous military options, and it endows that promise with a credibility that such governments would otherwise lack.

It’s a fascinating conclusion and their argument is well supported. But I wonder if there isn’t an alternative explanation in many cases: that states at high-risk for ICC scrutiny have chosen to “appease” the ICC by joining and, in some cases, even referring themselves to the court (as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda have done) rather than “confront” it by refusing to join. After all, as these countries well know, refusing to ratify the Rome Statute doesn’t immunize them; the Security Council can always expand the ICC’s jurisdiction to cover states not party to the statute, as it has done in the case of Sudan.

Professor Bosco’s alternative explanation sounds right — perhaps more so if measured against the relatively low short-term domestic political cost for conflict-prone states for joining an untested and slow (in comparison with alternative actions that could be taken) international institution.

Check out the full blog. And welcome to the blogosphere “Eye on IOs”!

Opinio Juris Book Discussion: “The Art and Craft of International Environmental Law,” by Daniel Bodansky

by Peggy McGuinness

International Law Weekend 2010: Call for Panels

by Peggy McGuinness

The American Branch of the International Law Association has posted a call for panels for the 2010 International Law Weekend, which will take place in New York October 21-23. This year’s theme is “International Law and Institutions: Advancing Justice, Security and Prosperity.” ILW is always a fun event — with lots of student and NGO, IO and private practitioner participation.  Full call for proposals after the jump.

Is the U.S. Public Both “Realist” and “Uninformed?”

by Peggy McGuinness

Dan Drezner’s take at Foreign Policy on the latest Pew Research Poll on U.S. foreign policy attitudes uses a more provocative term than “uninformed,” but the point is the same.  Can the public be “realist” in its attitudes to the world when those attitudes are based on factual assumptions that don’t exactly align with reality? Lots of interesting comments over at Drezner’s post.

Also at FP, check out the survey of their “top 100 thinkers” for a different take on world events than the Pew “wisdom of the crowd” approach.

Council on Foreign Relations Publishes “Public Opinion on Global Issues”

by Peggy McGuinness

The just-released CFR web publication “Public Opinion on Global Issues” offers one-stop shopping for those looking for public opinion surveys across a range of transnational policy issues.  The overview explains how CFR and the Univ. of Maryland consolidated all publicly available opinion polls and provides a few significant findings:

The international community confronts a daunting array of transnational threats and challenges that no country can hope to resolve alone. As political leaders in the United States and abroad grapple with this global agenda and seek to forge international partnerships in addressing it, for a variety of reasons they must consider the opinions of those from whom they represent. But what, precisely, do citizens in the United States and abroad think about such matters?

To answer this question, the International Institutions and Global Governance program has produced Public Opinion on Global Issues, a comprehensive digest of existing polling data on U.S. and global public attitudes on the world’s most pressing challenges — and the institutions designed to address them. Developed in partnership with the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, the digest consolidates global and U.S. public opinion across ten major issue areas: elements of world order, international institutions, violent conflict, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, climate change, energy security, the global economy, economic development, and human rights.

[snip]

What We Found

[snip]

Views on World Order: Publics around the world — including in the United States — are strongly internationalist in orientation. They believe that global challenges are simply too complex and daunting to be addressed by unilateral or even regional means. In every country polled, most people support a global system based on the rule of law, international treaties, and robust multilateral institutions. They believe their own government is obliged to abide by international law, even when doing so is at odds with its perceived national interest. Large majorities, including among Americans, reject a hegemonic role for the United States, but do want the United States to participate in multilateral efforts to address international issues.

The United Nations: Globally, national publics believe that the United Nations plays a positive international role, although they are often disappointed by the UN’s actual performance and support its reform. Majorities in most countries — including the United States — regard the UN Security Council as the premier institution for conferring legitimacy on the use of armed force. Publics around the world believe the UN Security Council has not only the right but also the responsibility to prevent or end gross human rights abuses such as genocide. Majorities or pluralities in all nations polled want the UN to actively promote human rights — and they reject the argument that this would be improper interference in sovereign affairs. There is strong popular support for adding new permanent members to the Security Council and (even among publics of most permanent members) for giving the Council the power to override a veto by a permanent member.

I have been a past user and fan of the U Maryland PIPA data sets, and this comprehensive digest is very useful indeed (and the kind of thing CFR should be doing more of to reach out to students and academics).  Click here, for example, to see a summary of global opinion on climate change, and here, to see U.S. public opinion on climate change.

Remembering the Other 9/11: Nov. 11, 1989 and “Walls Come Tumbling Down”

by Peggy McGuinness

Like many of you over a certain age, I have been thinking a lot about where I was when the Berlin Wall fell:  driving with a friend from Montreal to my parents house in New Jersey, listening to dispatches from Berlin over the radio.  My father was glued to the television set when we finally pulled in sometime in the late evening.  It seemed so surreal at that moment to see history unfolding live.  The feeling that is hard to replicate, with 20/20 hindsight, is how unlikely it had seemed to me — to us all, really — in early 1989 that the Cold War would end in my lifetime. And here we are, twenty years later.

Only two years before the wall fell, I had taken a study trip to Berlin and done all the requisite American student exploration of the wall and East Berlin: transiting through Checkpoint Charlie, trying in vain to spend the East German marks that we had been required to exchange (and finally succeeding at the Communist Party bookshop on Friedrichstrasse where we picked up copies of Das Kapital and the writings of Lenin in German), chatting with the VoPo officers in front of the Soviet embassy on Unter den Linden, taking pictures in front of the Marx statute at the Volkspalast, and having one of the world’s worst lunches (with service to match) in a depressing East Berlin coffee shop. Little did I know that day that in 24 months the wall would be gone and just seven years later I would be serving as a U.S. diplomat in a reunited Berlin and Germany.

My friends and I capped off that day in 1987 spray painting some “profound” words on the west side of the wall, a quote from one of our favorite bands of the time, Style Council (hey, I still like Paul Weller):

You see things can change –
Yes an’ walls can come tumbling down!

Governments crack and systems fall
’cause unity is powerful –
Lights go out – walls come tumbling down!

Full video of the song here. Boy, does it bring back the 80s and memories of the twilight of the Cold War.  For those of you celebrating in Berlin tonight, enjoy!

Obama at the Security Council: “International law is not an empty promise….”

by Peggy McGuinness

It’s a great day to be teaching the powers of the Security Council to my international law class!  President Obama presided this morning over the Security Council meeting on non-proliferation, securing a 15-0 vote for UNSC resolution 1887, which aims to bolster the nuclear non-proliferation regime through strengthening the NPT, enforcing existing resolutions on North Korea and Iran, and reaffirming the role of IAEA in promoting peaceful nuclear programs and enforcing compliance with the NPT.  Here are some excerpts from AP of his address to the Council:

The full video of Obama’s intervention can be seen here.  The full text of his remarks is here.

The quote of the day:  “International law is not an empty promise, and treaties will be enforced.”

Yes, this is a public speech with a lot of political rhetoric and an aspirational tone.  But with each address to international audiences, Obama is forwarding his new policy ofreengagement with the UN and other multilateral institutions.  But it is not speech-making solely for the symbolic impact, but a way of putting the full force of his presidency behind new multilateral initiatives.  Yesterday’s speech before the GA laid out the broad outlines of this new approach, clearly demarcating the break from the Bush administration. (For one of the best analyses of the speech, read DavidRothkopf’s take over at Foreign Policy.) Today we saw the president engaging in multilateral law making.  It is a rare occasion when heads of state meet at the Council; even rarer when they pass a resolution (unanimously) that forwards an agenda item that is central to international security.  Perhaps it is not compelling viewing, but, much as C-Span coverage of congressional committee meetings shows how law is made at home, this is the stuff of international law.

The White House Press release summarizing res. 1887 is after the jump. I’ll post the full text of the resolution shortly.

How is the UN Security Council Doing?

by Peggy McGuinness

On the eve of President Obama taking the chair at the Security Council, David Bosco takes on a few of the common assumptions about the Council over at Foreign Policy.  I largely agree with Bosco’s quick (and yes, Ken, “breezy” – it seems to be a quality FP is promoting these days!) take on the central themes: (1) the Council does a lot more and is a great deal busier than the average observer gives it credit for, and despite the demands of deliberation, moves much faster now than during the Cold War; (2) Obama may (or may not) rely on the Council more than Bush (this point is largely contingent on the success of Obama’s broader reengagement with the UN; (3) the question of “legal” powers of the Council to regulate the use of force is largely irrelevant; (4) the question of reforming the veto is also irrelevant since the veto is here to stay; and (5) expansion of Council membership will not necessarily increase its legitimacy.

Bosco is, of course, right about the effect that daily consultation and deliberation among the world powers has on maintaining peace and security.  This is a “talk is good”/constructivist view of the Council:

[P]lenty of the council’s frenetic efforts have required tortuous negotiation, but as it turns out, talk is an important aspect of what the council does. Achieving consensus among the council’s five veto-wielding permanent members — the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China — is rarely easy. Each power has a unique set of interests and relationships that it seeks to protect. Even when the permanent five (P5) members can agree, they have to convince at least four of the elected council members in order to take formal action. Frustrating though it can be, that process — of the major powers talking to each other day after day — is one of the council’s principal contributions to international stability. Through sheer repetition, the Security Council has instilled a culture of great-power consultation and compromise that may be as important to international peace as any peacekeeping mission, sanctions regime, or war crimes investigation.

I was also struck by Bosco’s take on the question of legitimacy, legality and the politics of the use of force, which I have written about here and here:

Major powers (and plenty of minor ones) have taken military action again and again without the council’s approval. Plenty of these actions have been misguided, but others have been necessary. The United States itself used force without council approval under the Bill Clinton administration when it launched airstrikes in 1999 to force Serbia to relinquish the disputed province of Kosovo. Earlier this month, President Obama sent commandos into Somalia to hunt down suspected terrorists without stopping to ask for a council debate and resolution on the subject. Certain purists may insist that all these actions were illegal and illegitimate, but the actual practice of international relations matters more than legal doctrine. The Security Council is an important avenue to international legitimacy, but certainly not the only one. Regional organizations like NATO, the European Union, and the African Union will often be alternatives. The Kosovo operation, for example, was endorsed by NATO rather than by the Security Council.

I would add that the “actual practice of international relations” can become international law.  Bosco’s formulation of politics/international relations as separate from international law reflects, perhaps, some of the doctrinal walls that still exist between the two academic disciplines.  In the wake of these recent examples of non-UN-authorized operations, the struggle for both disciplines is finding an appropriate framework through which to reconcile “legitimacy” and “legality” of the use force.

UN General Assembly Week 2009: What to Watch

by Peggy McGuinness

My sympathies are with those who have to drive anywhere in Manhattan this week as the General Assembly gets underway.  In past years I have experienced the privilege of being inside the security cordon and also the inconvenience of being outside it.  But now we can all experience being inside the main public events through the UN Webcast!  The link is here (real player installation needed).  If you are wondering what to watch for, Mark Leon Goldberg has a useful guide over at Foreign Policy.  His top five: The climate change meeting today; President Obama presiding over the Security Council’s Thursday meeting on non-proliferation (the U.S. holds the SC presidency this month); Obama’s address to the GA on Wednesday; Muammar Qaddafi’s appearance at the GA (for antics-watching value, but also to see how Qaddafi fills Libya’s seat on the Council this week); and Hu Jintao’s presence at — indeed, the ubiquity of China’s engagement in — all the events of the week.

President Obama will be watched particularly closely, as it is his first UN GA meeting and the first full roll out of the administration’s UN policy. The “scene-setter” from U.S. UN Ambassador Susan Rice outlining U.S. objectives for the week and the administration’s re-engagement with the UN is here.  Ban-Ki Moon can also expect to be watched closely by both his critics and supporters — particularly for any signs of success at the climate change meeting, an issue on which he has staked a great deal of his political capital.

As Churchill famously said, it is better to “jaw-jaw” than “war-war.”  And there will be plenty of jaw-jawing this week — from the climate meeting, to the GA plenary, to the many bilateral, trilateral and multilateral meetings on the “margins” of the GA, to the G-20 summit opening in Pittsburgh on September 24. One of the core strengths of the admittedly flawed institutional architecture of the UN is its role as the global diplomatic forum.  There is no place in the globe or a date on the calendar that offers the U.S. — or any other state —  the ability to engage more efficiently in the art of face-to-face, high-level diplomacy than the General Assembly week.