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Jus Post Bellum Symposium: Peace Agreements as a Framework for Jus Post Bellum

by Jennifer S. Easterday

[Jennifer Easterday is a researcher for the Jus Post Bellum Project at the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Faculty of Law, Leiden University.]

In my chapter of this volume, I suggest that jus post bellum should be considered as a broad, holistic concept that includes different functions: jus post bellum as providing a body of norms, as an interpretive framework, as a site of coordination, and as a site of discourse. I argue that a multi-faceted concept of jus post bellum can be informed by the norms and practices associated with developing and implementing post-conflict constitutions that arise out of peace agreements (“constitutional peace agreements”). Here, I will focus on jus post bellum as an interpretive framework, and how examining constitutional peace agreements can inform that function.

Constitutional peace agreements seek to transform conflict to peace by shifting violent conflict into political discourse. These agreements shape the environment in which jus post bellum operates. They provide a legal framework for a given situation and influence how the laws and norms of jus post bellum would be applied. They can serve as useful indications of the most important issues at the root of the conflict and provide a normative framework for the transition to a sustainable peace. Moreover, the processes of negotiating, drafting, and implementing constitutional peace agreements, and the law of peacemakers—or the “lex pacificatoria”—suggest important practices that could shape jus post bellum as an interpretive framework.

Considered broadly, constitutional peace agreements attempt to transform conflict to peace by (1) transforming societal norms; (2) bargaining and negotiating over solutions to the underlying causes of conflict; (3) creating a space for peaceful discursive conflict resolution; and (4) creating new state institutions. In undertaking these transformative steps, the study of peace agreements indicates the need for common norms and an interpretive frame that can help foster sustainable peace. Constitutional peace agreements can go further in addressing wider notions of justice and issues critical for peace than international law. Using peace agreements as a guide, jus post bellum could more adequately address issues of justice, social truth, and the needs of victims of conflict.

Peace agreements translate between the different spheres and regimes that jus post bellum must navigate, including domestic/international, legal/political, and war/peace. Constitutional peace agreements navigate a “messy” middle way to peace, a tactic that could be useful for a flexible, context-specific jus post bellum. As argued by Christine Bell in the volume, it is important to leave these “messy” spaces of contestation and negotiation, in order to best maneuver what she calls the “dual commitment” of understanding both what justice requires and the evolving ideas of what justice means. In order to approach the transition from conflict to peace from a holistic point of view, jus post bellum will need to be able to accommodate changing priorities. In turn, through its holistic focus on sustainable peace, jus post bellum can provide interpretive principles or considerations as to how these priorities should be balanced throughout the transition.

Jus post bellum can also draw on our developing understanding of the shortcomings of constitutional peace agreements. Peace agreements are limited by who sits at the table and can result in counter-productive political arrangements. Indeed, the importance of inclusion is one of the biggest lessons jus post bellum might learn from constitutional peace agreements. The inclusion of multiple voices and the balancing of competing priorities can influence the potential success (or failure) of the constitutional peace agreement. In practice, jus post bellum will also face similar issues with respect to inclusion and balancing interests—peacebuilders will need to take special consideration of interests that might historically be under-represented, even if they have not been immediately party to the conflict or represented in the constitutional peace agreement.

Furthermore, constitutional peace agreements can be difficult to implement and risk being undermined by spoilers, giving rise to a fragile normative basis for peace. They also leave gaps and silences with respect to critical issues, such as gender equality, that can undermine peace efforts. (Although, as I argue in the volume, jus post bellum’s focus on sustainable peace could help fill those gaps.) With international involvement, constitutional peace agreements may reflect neo-colonialist tendencies or be further weakened by imposed timelines and competing priorities of international interveners.

This last point is a critical one, given the prevalence of international interveners in peace agreement negotiation, drafting, and implementation. According to an analysis of a UN peace agreement database, peace agreements nearly always have some type of international involvement. Studying the successes and failures of constitutional peace agreements suggests that jus post bellum should include principles for international interventions that reflect the following:

  • transparency (especially about certain non-negotiable policies that might arise during consultations, such as amnesties for international crimes)
  • accountability (e.g. adhering to the same human rights standards they are promoting)
  • having a base knowledge of the language and culture of the country
  • acting collaboratively with all segments of society
  • prioritizing the interests of society over those of interveners
  • taking a long-term, holistic view to normative and practical issues
  • taking a unified and coherent approach to balancing competing goals
  • ensuring there is sufficient time for outreach and public education about peacebuilding processes
  • maintaining a limited and legitimate international influence over the process; and
  • the inclusion of women’s interests and traditional concepts of justice as peacebuilding priorities, amongst others.

These principles could form the basis of a jus post bellum interpretive framework, in which the application of laws or implementation of peacebuilding projects is undertaken in an effort to maximize, for example, inclusion, local ownership, and coherence. They could form a practice-oriented basis for the jus post bellum “ethics of care” called for by Carsten Stahn elsewhere in this symposium.

Based on an examination of the practice and particularities of drafting peace agreements and post-conflict constitutions, it seems that rather than prescribe hard-and-fast rules for liberal institutional design, it is critical for jus post bellum to include a set of flexible standards that aim to optimize sustainable peace within a framework that can function in specific contexts. I argue that jus post bellum should not be limited to rigid rules or laws. Jus post bellum can—and should—be fluid and context-specific and involve the larger polity of a conflict state.

Jus Post Bellum Symposium: Towards an Alternative Paradigm–Jus Post Bellum as Transitional Justice

by Ruti Teitel

[Ruti Teitel is the Ernst C. Stiefel Professor of Comparative Law, New York Law School, Visiting Fellow, London School of Economics, www.securityintransition.org.]

I am delighted to participate in the discussion regarding Jus Post Bellum: Mapping the Normative Foundations.  The book’s publication on the 100th anniversary of World War I and its aftermath set out in the Treaty of Versailles reflects the growing appreciation of the importance of the area of the law of war known as jus post bellum.  Yet the relationship of law to conflict today is a complex one, and contemporary circumstances hardly reflect utopianism. There are important changes in post bellum expectations beyond the return to the status quo ante and I regard these as best captured by a more comprehensive concept and vocabulary associated with these periods of political flux: transitional justice.

Getting Beyond the Restoration of the Status Quo Ante

What is owed to Iraq or to other peoples who are the ‘beneficiaries’ of wars of supposed liberation? This is the burning question of the last decade in Iraq, Afghanistan, and most recently Libya. With the end of the Cold War we have seen a return to wars of intervention, with implications for the scope and character of jus post bellum. Where a war is justified on humanitarian grounds, i.e., a just war, what are the implications of this justice in the ad bellum for jus post bellum?  Might the injustice of a war’s beginning imply greater post-war duties? Or does the logic work the other way around? In the event that a war is initiated for humanitarian reasons might that well imply added duties, whether during or after the conflict? Just how does post-war justice relate to the broader questions concerning the meaning and direction of the justice of war?  And to what extent does the contemporary iteration of the just war tradition, its principles and values guide the question of what must be done following a conflict?

There is a need to rethink the earlier classical approach to post-war justice as being fundamentally restorative. Posing the question today of what values and related principles regarding rights and duties should apply, as this book does, jus post bellum inevitably constitutes a departure from a focus on restoration (which takes implicitly or explicitly the pre-war status quo as a decisive normative benchmark). Historically, this area was dominated by a preoccupation with unjust wars and the settlements that followed those wars, focusing on restraining or regulating the punishment of the aggressor for disrupting the status quo ante.

This view of post bellum is in historical or retrospective terms – where what is at stake is responsibility in a backward-looking way, as guided by the justice of the war purpose itself and the goal of returning to pre bellum conditions.

In this context, victors were free to punish, within determined constraints – limits on collective punishment, spoils of war, plunder, return of prisoners of war, occupied territory, etc. This was often complemented by amnesties and reparation schemes animated by restorative objectives. The post-World War I settlement at Versailles, the current anniversary of which we are currently marking, was widely regarded as an instance of failed justice and, even worse, as having the effect of promoting the return of war.

Now, however, we can see that we are moving away from this traditional approach to jus post bellum in a number of ways: first, there is a move away from the dominant concern of jus post bellum conceived as a backward-looking, often retroactive enterprise, and as restraint on retribution, to a broader framework involving a host of duties that relate not just to the past but also to an often protracted present, as well as forward-looking goals for a peaceful future. The aegis or subject of post bellum norms has become greatly expanded.

Many questions today concerning what obligations attend aftermaths are being raised in the context of transition, sometimes following conflict, often not.  For a number of reasons, this view increasingly overlaps with conflict. At a time of persistent smaller conflicts, i.e., of pervasive violence, often of ongoing internal conflicts where there is no clear end, and which are not even clearly about state-building or democratization, this inquiry leads to a questioning of the meaning of ‘post bellum’ in jus post bellum. As some of the authors in this volume concede, the parameters of post bellum have become murky.

Moreover, there is a related shift in our understanding of responsibility away from the state-centric view as the singularly relevant subject of jus post bellum, as the older view of restoration assumed the state to be the relevant object of restoration. At the same time, there has been a move away from collective sanctions levied upon a state or its people. Individualized punishment is clearly on the rise, most dramatically through international criminal justice.

Towards an Alternative Paradigm: Jus Post Bellum as Transitional Justice

In the current context, one can see that justice considerations enter the picture from the outset, taking into account that humanitarian considerations have been invoked as a justification for war itself. In today’s wars of liberation, internal ethnic conflicts are often involved; the issue is as much or more to do with settling scores with fellow citizens as punishing a foreign aggressor. Clearly, this brings transitional justice to the fore.

Insofar as the new wars are often conflicts animated by the values of liberalization, freedom, and so on, we can see ways in which the aegis of jus post bellum overlaps with the aims of transitional justice. Justice is not conceived as strictly punishment oriented, as assumed in the legalist paradigm. Nor is it confined to restitution and the restorative dimension implied by the earlier understanding of post-war justice. Indeed, it could well take in the full context and modalities of transition and transformation. The issue is being reconceived in terms of justice as security. Within the evolving framework, there is a concern to identify responsibility beyond the state to private actors as well. There are duties that follow even when a war is just.

Thus, ‘post bellum’ seems too limited or inappropriate today because of the unstable or undetermined boundaries between conflict and post-conflict situations. Transitional justice is arguably more capacious because it allows for advancing goals beyond those associated with a war’s beginning, such as transformation, namely purposes going beyond retributive or restorative justice.

I invoked the term ‘transitional justice’ in 1991 to represent a move away from the discourse that associated such phenomena purely with the law of conflict. The idea was that the aims of such processes were in part forward-looking – involving democratization – and not merely backward-looking and enmeshed with war. Moreover, the use of the term ‘transitional justice’ also addressed the central issue of the time: the extent to which the relevant democratization processes seemed less revolutionary and more gradual, more transitional, often taking decades, for example in post-dirty war Latin America. We now have a rich set of illustrations from the post-Soviet bloc, Asia, and the Middle East.

The increasingly pervasive involvement of courts and tribunals in matters of post- conflict justice demands a conception of proportionality that is not simply political but also jurisprudential. This is far from being limited to criminal trials. One also thinks of Alien Torts Claims actions in the United States and the role of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights in post-conflict accountability. We can see that justice today has gone from a prerogative of the victor, which needs restraining, to a shared international obligation. This development in and of itself informs the meaning of the new proportionality.

With renewed demands for military intervention, interest in post bellum justice has never been greater. Given the human rights revolution, to be sure, interventions are being justified on human security grounds but also waged in the context of new constraints, of human rights and international humanitarian law, as well as democratization. This goes some way to explaining the extraordinarily high demands for post bellum justice, which has now expanded to cover a broader period associated with conflict and to address the security, not just of states, but of persons and peoples.

Jus Post Bellum Symposium: Contrasting Transitional Justice and Jus Post Bellum

by Jens Iverson

[Jens Iverson is a Researcher for the ‘Jus Post Bellum’ project and an attorney specializing in public international law, Universiteit Leiden.]

I would like to thank Opinio Juris for the opportunity to discuss the contrast between Transitional Justice and Jus Post Bellum.  This is a subject I have explored in Jus Post Bellum: Mapping the Normative Foundations, in the International Journal of Transitional Justice, and in Jens David Ohlin’s blog, Lieber Code.

I begin with basic definitions of each term, and then briefly discuss the application, goals, and future of each term.

The most useful definition of Transitional Justice

In Transitional Justice Genealogy, Ruti Teitel defines Transitional Justice “as the conception of justice associated with periods of political change, characterized by legal responses to confront the wrongdoings of repressive predecessor regimes.”  This is, of course, not the only definition of Transitional Justice, but I think it is one of the best.

Subsequent definitions tend towards vagueness.  The UN defines Transitional Justice as “the full range of processes and mechanisms associated with a society’s attempts to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale past abuses, in order to ensure accountability, serve justice and achieve reconciliation.”  This lacks any specific mention of political change.  The International Center for Transitional Justice describes Transitional Justice as “an approach to achieving justice in times of transition from conflict and/or state repression.”  This lacks not only an emphasis on political change, but does not require state wrongdoing for the notion to apply, including also transition from conflict.

The main substantive emphasis of Transitional Justice should be on justice for human rights violations in the context of political change.  Armed conflict is unnecessary for the concept to apply.  The goals of Transitional Justice are fundamentally tied to the aspiration of transition, both towards justice for past violations and towards a cementing of a new political order that will prevent the old order, with its attendant human rights violations, from returning.

The most useful definition of Jus Post Bellum

The most useful definition of the term jus post bellum is the body of legal and ethical norms that apply to the the transition from armed conflict to a just and sustainable peace.  Jus post bellum must be understood in the context of its sister terms, jus ad bellum and jus in bello.  All of these terms are concerned with the use of armed force as a matter of primary, central importance.  Collectively, they seek to describe the constraints, capacities, obligations, and rights regarding whether armed force may be used at all, related to the use of armed force during armed conflict (how it may be used), and with respect to the transition from armed conflict to a just and sustainable peace.

In contrast to Transitional Justice, the substantive emphasis of jus post bellum is broader than human rights violations.  It also includes post-conflict restitution including restitution for property loss, violations of the laws of armed conflict that tend to affect the subsequent peace, environmental law (including legal access to natural resources and regulating the toxic remnants of war), state responsibility outside of the realm of human rights, recognition of states and governments, laws and norms applicable to peace treaties and peace agreements, peacekeeping, occupation, and post-conflict peace building.  It includes both applicable international law and the specific domestic laws.  It involves the application of both persistent areas of law that apply both during the transition to peace and during other periods (e.g. human rights, international criminal law, state responsibility, investment law, refugee and asylum law) and non-persistent areas of law that only (or mainly) apply during the transition to peace and not at other times (lex pacificatoria, the creation and immediate application of amnesty, post-conflict lustration, post-conflict reconstruction).  Jus post bellum is rooted in these legal concerns, and also in the tradition of considering the ethics of war known as the Just War tradition.

Contrasting the Application of Transitional Justice and Jus Post Bellum

While jus post bellum is substantively broader than Transitional Justice in many respects, jus post bellum is also clearly inapplicable in many scenarios where Transitional Justice is applicable.  Following a peaceful, non-violent revolution or regime change, the principles of jus post bellum may apply by analogy, but not directly.

Similarly, one can imagine a change in regime in which no significant human rights violations were perpetrated by the previous regime, deposed by armed conflict.  Armed conflicts happen without massive human rights violations.  Additionally, armed conflicts occur without regime change.  In these instances, Transitional Justice would tend not to apply, but jus post bellum would.

Contrasting the Goals of Transitional Justice and Jus Post Bellum

Just as jus post bellum is necessarily connected to an armed conflict, to the degree that jus post bellum has an aspirational character, it must relate in part to questions of war and peace.  One would think that jus post bellum is tied to the contemporary aspirational character of jus ad bellum and jus in bello: to constrain the use of armed force.  A just and sustainable peace is a central aspirational norm of jus post bellum, following a long but not uncontested tradition in international law.

The goals of Transitional Justice, in contrast, are tied to a transition in the human rights regime.  This is not to say that human rights norms are not central to jus post bellum—they are.  The supposed tension between different maximands such as peace and justice or truth and justice is frequently overblown.  Discovering the truth about human rights violations and achieving justice for those violations is widely-recognized as important in building a positive peace.  But there will be responses to human rights violations that are not properly the concern of jus post bellum.

The Future of Jus Post Bellum

Whether Transitional Justice and jus post bellum continue to grow and endure as useful concepts depends in part on whether these terms are defined with sufficient rigor.  Because both terms deal with complex phenomena and benefit from scholarly interest from disparate fields and traditions, coming closer to a consensus on the definition of these terms is difficult.  Since Transitional Justice and jus post bellum will often (but not always) apply simultaneously, it is all the more important to attempt this difficult task—to define both terms clearly and develop them in accordance with contemporary realities.  It is important to recognize that multiple maximands will co-exist, rooted in the separate but related traditions, sometimes in tension, but hopefully almost always carried forward with good will.

Jus Post Bellum Symposium: Omission Liability and Jus Post Bellum

by Jens David Ohlin

[Jens David Ohlin is a Professor of Law at Cornell Law School; he blogs at LieberCode.]

In the following post, I want to explore why jus post bellum is controversial in some quarters, and why its legal content has not been more quickly or more wholeheartedly embraced by our legal system.  Of course, the term jus post bellum is an expansive one, covering different legal and philosophical doctrines.  Drawing my inspiration from the contributions in the new book edited by Carsten Stahn, Jennifer Easterday, and Jens Iverson (Jus Post Bellum: Mapping the Normative Foundations), I will take the core elements from some popular jus post bellum arguments, and show that our intuitions about omission liability constitute a major obstacle to a more thorough adoption of jus post bellum principles.

As Eric De Brabandere explains in his highly critical chapter, the legal responsibilities associated with belligerent occupation are triggered by a purely factual element: the existence of an occupation.  At least in law, the lawfulness or justness of the original invasion has no bearing on the responsibilities attributed to an occupying power. Illegal invaders and legal invaders alike are subject to the same responsibility.  Although an asymmetry of responsibilities based on the justness of the invasion (jus ad bellum) might be philosophically attractive in the context of Just War Theory, it would be problematic from the perspective of international law which regards jus in bello and occupation responsibilities as being wholly disconnected from jus ad bellum concerns.

Furthermore, the law of occupation only imposes its obligations if the power actually engages in an occupation.  If the invading force immediately leaves, and does not occupy the territory, then the machinery of the law of occupation is never brought to bear on the situation.  Under this body of law, there is no affirmative duty to occupy a territory — only conditional obligations on belligerent powers that decide to occupy a territory.

Here is where jus post bellum can do its work: it can confer a responsibility on belligerent forces to occupy, under a theory that there is a duty to fix the civil infrastructure destroyed by war, re-constitute a commitment to the Rule of Law, and restore human rights.  For some philosophers, an attacking force’s unjust invasion would heighten those responsibilities.  Either way, the idea is that the belligerent force might be morally or legally responsible for its decision not to occupy the country and deploy the necessary resources to restore it.  The belligerent force would be liable for its omission: failing to fix the post-conflict society.

The reason this is controversial, and constitutes an argument de lege ferenda, is because the law is generally hesitant about imposing liability for omissions.  Generally speaking, omissions only generate liability if there is a pre-existing duty to act, and the law is rather stingy about imposing affirmative obligations.  Of course, different legal systems and legal cultures have varying degrees of tolerance for omission liability.  The standard line, somewhat exaggerated, is that common law systems rarely impose an affirmative duty to act, while civil law jurisdictions are much more comfortable imposing such duties, e.g. a duty to rescue.  Although this summary is simplistic and reductive, there is a grain of truth to it.

International law is also somewhat hesitant about imposing affirmative obligations from which an omission could trigger obligations, though I think civil law trained international lawyers are generally speaking more comfortable with the idea than common law trained international lawyers.  Even the split between the ICCPR and ICESCR in human rights law can be viewed through this lens.  The ICCPR imposes negative duties to refrain from certain conduct, while the ICESCR imposes positive duties to act, although even in that case there is a plausible account of why the government has an affirmative duty to care for its own citizens – from which an omission would trigger some liability under the law.

In the field of inter-state regulation, however, states have few positive duties towards other states that could trigger omission liability.  The Responsibility to Protect (RTP) Doctrine, examined in Carsten Stahn’s chapter, is one such example.  Under RTP, the world community has a responsibility to protect foreign civilians from the horrors of war, thus generating a corresponding right of intervention.  The basic structure of the doctrine is the old philosophical adage: ought implies can.   Since states ought to protect civilians from atrocity, they have the right to do so (up to and including crossing international borders if necessary under some versions of the doctrine).

The structure of the RTP doctrine is the same; it imposes a soft form of moral liability for states’ failure to act — their omissions.  At least it does if you take seriously the idea that there is a responsibility to protect.  If a state violates this responsibility, then it is responsible for its omission.  This is precisely why RTP is also controversial.  It imposes affirmative obligations that can generate omission liability – obligations that international law has generally avoided codifying.

An underlying theme in this entire debate is the split between legal and philosophical discourses.  While lawyers are usually hesitant about imposing affirmative duties giving rise to omission liability, philosophers are far more comfortable with the idea. In particular, they are comfortable positing affirmative duties to moral agents who are capable of alleviating a great harm to others without enduring a significant burden.  In the alternative, some philosophers are comfortable with imposing a negative duty on agents to alleviate the harms associated with their actions.

Gregory Fox, in his chapter on the Unilateral/Multilateral Divide, gestures in this direction when he cites the environmental law principle of Common but Differentiated Obligations (CDO), which impose higher obligations on developed states under the theory that they have a responsibility, sounding in corrective justice, to remediate the environmental degradation caused by their historical actions.  However, Fox then goes on to note that “this claim has little application to jus post bellum; the history of the actors involved has little bearing on how they should conduct themselves in post-conflict states.”  This is right insofar as international law is hesitant to link jus post bellum obligations with jus ad bellum violations, but I do think international lawyers are more comfortable imposing omission liability when it violates a pre-existing duty triggered by a state’s past conduct (use of force whether lawful or not).

It is this last idea that contains the most promising element of the jus post bellum framework.  For states that engage in military action, they might have a negative duty to mitigate the harm associated with their military action.  Of course, De Brabandere is worried about linking these obligations to jus ad bellum considerations.  Some jus post bellum obligations might be imposed on states that engage in military force in violation of jus ad bellum.  But rather than view this as collapsing the distinction between jus ad bellum and jus in bello, proponents of this approach view it as a sanction associated with the jus ad bellum violation; states that violate the UN Charter are required to mitigate the consequences of that illegality.  Although this is conceptually sound, I agree with De Brabandere that international law should probably avoid this approach. Making jus post bellum requirements symmetrical for just and unjust attackers alike will be easier to enforce in international law and will ultimately make jus post bellum a more successful and influential legal framework.

Jus Post Bellum Symposium: Jus Post Bellum–The Value of an Interpretive Conception

by James Gallen

[James Gallen is a Lecturer in the School of Law and Government at Dublin City University.]

Jus Post Bellum: Mapping the Normative Foundations provides an important assessment of the potential of international law to shape post-conflict societies in a space of competing and fragmented debates. I agree with Eric de Brabandere’s contribution to this symposium that if jus post bellum is to add real value, it must demonstrate an advantage beyond existing approaches in areas such as peace-building or transitional justice. However, I am more optimistic that distinctive value can be added by an interpretive conception of jus post bellum.

The need for an interpretive approach to the concept arises from the considerable diversity of post-conflict societies, the range of international actors involved and the numerous areas of existing international law and policy relevant to post-conflict issues. These factors, among others addressed in this book, render questions of justice after conflict highly complex, but it remains glib not to query whether that complexity can be clarified and conquered.

I argue for the use of Dworkin’s concept of integrity to construct a coherent interpretation of this complexity in a jus post bellum framework. To pursue integrity analytically, Dworkin distinguishes between “fit” and “justification.” The former is concerned with providing an interpretation that matches the existing practice and body of law. The latter seeks to identify the best justification for this practice. The task of jus post bellum as integrity is to therefore offer a description of the existing international law, policy, and theory as applied to specific societies and to coherently justify this description by reference to its value goals. To guide this interpretation, I argue the principles of stewardship, proportionality and accountability are necessary but insufficient conditions for a coherent account of actions taken in the aftermath of conflict.

My intention for jus post bellum is to encourage states and international organisations to justify incoherence between their stated commitments in post-conflict societies and the absence of a coherent and consistent approach to those commitments. This intention seeks to address Roxana Vatanparast’s concerns in this volume that jus post bellum could be appropriated by neo-colonial interests and damage the legitimacy of its values. For instance, an interpretation that pursues integrity could challenge the present, largely fragmented, approach to accountability in international law. The United Nations seeks to promote accountability for gross violations of human rights after armed conflict, yet also is subject to considerable criticism of impunity for the sexual misconduct of its own personnel and the allegations that its peacekeepers brought cholera to Haiti. An approach predicated on integrity requires this contradiction to be justified or reconciled.

But so what? Eric de Brabandere questions the value of adding this layer of jus post bellum to the range of rules and norms that already operate in a post conflict arena. Eric rightly identifies that each of these principles can be found in general public international law. This is especially so for proportionality, which finds widespread expression in international courts and tribunals.

The added value of an interpretive approach to jus post bellum depends on one’s approach to interpretation in general. Interpretation necessarily involves normative non-legal, interpretive values that an interpreter brings to the project. In the absence of any further interpretive principle, those who apply substantive principles of jus post bellum may accept the existing pattern of their application including inconsistencies or contradictions. Moreover, some theories relevant to post-conflict environments, such as Ruti Teitel on transitional justice argue that a trade-off of values is inevitable. Larry May’s work suggests that he prefers a view of value that permits the existence of incommensurable moral goods.

A distinct case therefore needs to be made that an approach predicated on the unity of value and the desirability of integrity in interpretation should be preferred. Three reasons present themselves. First, post-conflict processes are more legitimate if forming part of a coherent whole. The aftermath of conflict presents several social conditions, including an absence of the rule of law, civic trust or social recognition of human dignity, which are shared pre-conditions in areas relevant to jus post bellum such as peace-building, transitional justice, security sector reform. Such areas face enormous and challenging tasks because of these conditions and struggle to offer an ideal conception of justice in that context. In these non-ideal circumstances, Pablo de Greiff has argued measures that are weak in relation to the immensity of their task are more likely to be interpreted as justice initiatives if they help to ground a reasonable perception that their coordinated implementation is a multi-pronged effort to restore or establish anew the force of fundamental norms. Jus post bellum as integrity can recognise these mutually dependent conditions and constitutes a legitimate and coherent non-ideal conception of justice in the aftermath of war and conflict.

The second reason relates to the effectiveness of a conception of justice or peace after conflict. Eric de Brabandere has argued jus post bellum literature seeks to enhance the effectiveness of establishing of a just and enduring peace through international law. The existing approach remains ineffective, with Paul Collier noting more than 50% of armed conflicts reverting to violence within a 10 year period. However, persisting with the present approach to principles such as proportionality, trusteeship and accountability, will not without more address any patterns of their unprincipled inconsistent application to improve the empirical enhancement of a just peace. Prosecuting more war criminals after a conflict would not address the inconsistent application of a principle of accountability to peacekeepers or UN staff; nor does the greater use of proportionality in international courts and tribunals address its use to evaluate the moral and political choices made by a society emerging from conflict in non-judicial settings. To the extent that existing international law represents and inconsistent and incommensurable pattern of trade-offs, it disavows the inter-connected nature of the social norms and conditions which are the starting point for areas relevant to jus post bellum. Finally, interpretation is presently feasible. A further Geneva Convention for jus post bellum is a worthwhile long term goal, but at present a focus on clarifying interpretive practices of officials and civil society actors involved in a post-conflict space is a more pressing priority. An approach based on integrity is therefore a particular form of interpretation, that has normative and empirical dimensions.

Jus post bellum is presently the matter of academic discourse, but could constitute moral or policy guidance for international actors involved in the aftermath of conflict. The volume under discussion at this symposium constitutes an element of that guidance. In future, an interpretive approach may provide the basis of a genuinely inter-disciplinary practice of jus post bellum, which recognises that a more legitimate and effective account of justice after war may be given by embracing the interconnected and interdependent nature of the social conditions after conflict.

Jus Post Bellum Symposium: A Normative Critique of Jus Post Bellum in International Law

by Eric de Brabandere

[Eric De Brabandere is Associate Professor of International Law at the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies and a Member of the Brussels Bar.]

My contribution to Jus Post Bellum: Mapping the Normative Foundations, edited by my colleagues Carsten Stahn, Jennifer Easterday and Jens Iverson critically examines the usefulness and accuracy of jus post bellum (JPB) as a legal concept and argues that the concept presents either a challenge to the objectivity of the post-conflict phase or simply brings together already existing obligations. It also questions the oft-heard underlying assertions and assumptions of JPB theories, namely that there is a legal void to which the concept would (need to) respond by filling the ‘blind spots’, and that post-conflict reconstruction does not function because of a lack of effective implementation of existing law applicable in such situations which requires recourse to a ‘new’ concept. Indeed, and although this is not always clear in JPB discussions, the concept has an important normative agenda – namely that the current regulation of post-conflict situations is inadequate and should as a consequence be modified. This –often latent and also vague in terms of which norms should be added- normative agenda of course is necessary for JPB scholars, since the absence of normative propositions restricts JPB to a pure umbrella concept which in turn makes the whole idea legally useless. I have expressed my criticism in this respect previously (in the Vand. J. Transnat’l L. and the Belgian Review of International Law). I will therefore focus in this post primarily on the recent idea of seeing JPB as an interpretative framework.

JPB as an interpretative framework is developed in detail by James Gallen in this contribution to the volume, but also is present in the chapters by Dieter Fleck and Christine Bell. The main idea behind this theory is to view JPB as a normative set of principles rather than substantive rules which would give guidance in the application of the existing rules governing post-conflict reconstruction. This understanding of JPB is considered to be important because of the need to interpret uniformly the various norms, rules and practices applicable in post-conflict reconstruction. Under such an understanding of JPB, the alleged ‘legal void’ somewhat becomes irrelevant, since the objective is not to add new rules, but rather to use existing principles and where possible interpret these rules in function of the identified overarching principles. It essentially functions to ‘solve’ the second main ‘problem’ of post-conflict reconstruction namely the lack of effective implementation of international law in such situations.

Even if one perceives JPB as an interpretative framework, grouping principles that are already of application in post-conflict situations –which undoubtedly is the case for the principles discussed- under a new notion, makes the question of the usefulness of jus post bellum persist. At the same time, this may be the only viable avenue for JPB. Roughly three principles are usually considered to part of this ‘interpretative legal framework’: the principle of proportionality, the accountability of foreign actors, and the principle that post-conflict reconstruction efforts should be for the benefit of the population (trusteeship, fiduciary type of authority, or stewardship). These principles are discussed in total or in part in the contributions of Gallen, Bell and Fleck in the JPB volume, but also elsewhere. Although these principles have been used in the context of the substantive content of JPB as well (when it is used a normative framework) the difference in their use here is the fact that the objective is not necessarily to ‘create’ new substantive rules applicable to post-conflict reconstruction -e.g. by ‘imposing’ trusteeship in all aspects of post-conflict situations-, but rather to use these principles to interpret the existing legal norms applicable in post-conflict reconstruction. They would then function as overarching principles which may guide foreign actors involved in post-conflict reconstruction to interpret their mandate, either under the laws of occupation or under Security Council resolutions, and the general obligations they have under, for example, human rights law, the laws of armed conflict and refugee law.

The main problem here again is that the identified principles (proportionality; trusteeship, and accountability) in fact are already very much present in general international law. This is without doubt the case for proportionality –a general principle of international law-, but also for the trusteeship principle -that post-conflict reconstruction efforts should be for the benefit of the population which is inherent in the laws of occupation, and in case of action taken by the Security Council-. The principle of ‘accountability’ also is already very much present in general international law and in the areas of law which are of specific relevance in post-conflict settings.

Secondly, these ‘principles’ vary substantially in nature and legal force. ‘Proportionality’ is a general principle of international law, applicable in various situations including in jus ad bellum, jus in bello and certain aspects of JPB. ‘Accountability’ on the other hand constitutes an ‘objective’ within a legal system. It has no or little legal force. ‘Trusteeship’ also is very different in nature in that it applies to situations of occupation, and implicitly to Security Council mandated missions, but the relevance of the concept outside these situations is almost inexistent. These principles, admittedly, indeed may serve to guide foreign actors involved in post-conflict reconstruction, for instance, in terms of setting up adequate mechanisms to challenge acts taken by these actors or in interpreting their mandate. The question very much is whether this is not already the case. Proportionality, fiduciary authority and accountability are either directly or indirectly already part of the applicable norms in post-conflict settings. The question thus remains whether, even in such a minimalist conception of JPB, it really is useful to group existing principles in the new concept. If, on the contrary the objective is more normative, e.g., to impose these existing principles on situations not already covered by these –which is not entirely clear and would in any event have a very limited effect-, the question remains how this would operate.

Jus Post Bellum Symposium: What’s in a Name? The Great Definitional Debate over Jus Post Bellum

by Kristen Boon

Carsten Stahn, Jennifer Easterday, and Jens Iverson’s new edited collection Jus Post Bellum: Mapping the Normative Foundations is a terrific contribution to the Jus Post Bellum field. The 26 chapters (one authored by myself) address a range of central issues, including interrogating the structure, content, and scope of the three separate pillars of jus / post / bellum. While the contributing authors reveal some fundamentally different and even opposing views on the essential building blocks of the enterprise, this discord is a sign of the area’s salience. The chapters in this volume indicate that the ongoing inquiry into the principles that should apply after war continues to be an issue area of great interest to practitioners, policy makers and scholars of various disciplines.

Interest in the topic is illustrated by the graph on p. 544 of the book, which indicates the “rock star” status of the concept. Before 2002, there were virtually no references to jus post bellum in the literature. Since 2007, however, references to jus post bellum have jumped off the chart, indicating a growing concentration of scholarship that tranches the disciplines of law, political science, international relations, theology and philosophy. As someone who writes in the field, I see the following as key pillars of jus post bellum investigation: (i) the recognition that building a sustainable peace is important to stopping cycles of conflict; (ii) the UN’s regular engagement in post-conflict reconstruction (raising practical questions about what types of post-conflict activities are important, and what laws should inform and limit IO activities), and (iii) exploring how the jus post bellum principles relate to, add and alter our existing legal framework, particularly with regards to humanitarian law and doctrines like the Responsibility to Protect.

At the meta-level, there are polarized views on the definition of jus post bellum, and more centrally, the utility and enforceability of a jus post bellum framework. Some scholars see that disagreement as a source of potentially useful debate (see in particular, chapters by Vatanparast, Easterday and Bell), while others focus on the conceptual unclarity that flows from these differences of views, emphasizing the limitations from a gender perspective (Hi Aolain an Haynes), the importance of clarifying the relationship with existing bodies of legal doctrines (Fox), and the potential for politicization (Vatanparast).

I note, with some irony, that some of my own work on the subject, all of which is less than 10 years old, appears to be classified as a product of the “old guard” (Introduction at 4), in that I have advocated a restrictive definition of jus post bellum and the norms that might apply in conflict situations. For example, in a 2005 article available here I define jus post bellum as the justice of post-war settlements and reconstruction, and I focus exclusively on non-consensual interventions. Others in the volume, in contrast, argue for interpretive and functional definitions, which are classified as newer approaches to the field. While these approaches certainly merit exploration, I continue to defend, and see greater value in a narrow but deep definition of jus post bellum. One reason is that to the extent that jus post bellum can and will serve a regulatory function, perhaps one day even evolving into a new Geneva Convention, there needs to be practical guidance, on concrete issues, drawn from identified cases. There is a necessary and critical reflective process that is required to getting to those regulations. My approach doesn’t suggest that philosophical inquiries should be short-circuited or curtailed, or that there isn’t value in the dialogue. However, in my view, there are considerable benefits in moving the conversation towards concrete proposals that could have a daily impact on actors in the field, such as the UN. I believe this is most effectively done when we consider jus post bellum as set of legal principles that apply in the transition from conflict to peace, as opposed to a site for exploration.

Another reason I believe a narrow approach is preferable is that there may be greater legitimacy in a narrow set of accepted principles than broad and prescriptive tools that miss the nuances of particular situations. Indeed, a relevant analogy here might be the ILC’s 2011 Draft Articles on the Responsibility of International Organizations (RIO), which, many have argued, would have been more relevant if they were less ambitious. I outline some of the controversies over the RIO articles here. For example, if the ILC had taken on a few issues in areas where there was developing practice and a perceived need for common regulation, it may have resulted a set of proposed Articles with more buy-in from IOs. As it stands, the decision to tackle the wide range of topics developed in the context of State Responsibility, and try to apply them to all IOs writ large, left many feeling that insufficient attention was given to the fundamental differences amongst IOs.

My chapter in this book, titled Jus Post Bellum in Non-International Armed Conflicts, addresses the applicability of jus post bellum to Non-International Armed Conflict Situations (NIACs). Because internal conflicts are regulated by fewer norms than international conflicts, NIACs, which are statistically the most frequent forms of conflict today, raises the following question: should the scope of Jus Post Bellum be different for NIACs? I argue for a “bounded discretion” approach, which would uphold the applicability of universal values that are derived from human rights, international criminal law and international humanitarian law, while instilling deference to local law-makers on issues of rebuilding, reconstruction, and constitutional design. I use the examples of margin of appreciation and the doctrine of subsidiarity to support this approach, to show how multi-level governance theories are relevant to jus post bellum. I argue that in applying jus post bellum, there should be a preference for governance at the most local level, unless the norms are non-negotiable, such as those derived from human rights. The editors of the book have recently applied this concept to justify a principled deviation from peacetime standards.

A final reflection on the scope of jus post bellum comes from a related body of work I am engaged in on UN sanctions. In assessing the Security Council’s peacebuilding activities through the guise of sanctions, I have been struck by the extent to which the Security Council is an important player in the jus post bellum field. Although the Council’s actions are discretionary, sometimes inconsistent, and are not applied in a regular way to like-cases, the Council has, nonetheless, been involved in some way, with almost every most major international conflicts in the last 20 years, save perhaps, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Indeed, under the so-called sanctions for peace in Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire, the Council has brought about considerable transitions which fall within the jus post bellum framework, by, for example, mandating free and fair elections, an end to the incitement of violence and intolerance, management of natural resources, changes to the government’s administrative infrastructure, and cooperation with international courts and tribunals. I thus agree with Dieter Fleck’s observation on p. 62 that Security Council resolutions alone are not sufficient to create a jus post bellum framework, but there is no question that they provide distinctive areas to evaluate and should not be overlooked. Moreover, the Council’s references to peace agreements in sanctions resolutions, and its role in authoring and enforcing international norms, signifies its significant engagement in and influence over peace building and the jus post bellum. Stay tuned for a future post on this issue, which draws from an article I am writing on the topic.

I have little doubt this book will soon become essential reading for those interested in jus post bellum: it contains an incisive set of analyses on a range of important topics, and makes great inroads in continuing to map the field of jus post bellum. I am grateful both for the opportunity to have contributed to the volume, and for the chance to wear my other hat as an Opinio Juris blogger, to reflect on one of the central issues I saw emerging from the volume: the definition of jus post bellum.

Book Symposium: Jus Post Bellum–Mapping the Normative Foundations

by Jens Iverson

[Carsten Stahn is Professor of International Criminal Law and Global Justice and Programme Director of the Grotius Centre for International Studies, Universiteit Leiden. Jennifer S. Easterday is a Researcher for the ‘Jus Post Bellum’ project at the Universiteit Leiden and an international justice consultant. Jens Iverson is a Researcher for the ‘Jus Post Bellum’ project and an attorney specializing in public international law, Universiteit Leiden.]

As editors of Jus Post Bellum: Mapping the Normative Foundations, we are delighted and honored to be able to present the ongoing jus post bellum debate in this Opinio Juris symposium. The book was written as part of a four-year research project on jus post bellum. The concept is steadily gaining ground in emerging scholarship, and we hope the fantastic contributions to this symposium will push that scholarship even further. We are grateful to the contributors to the symposium, to those who post responses, and to the readers.

The basic idea of jus post bellum emerged in classical writings (e.g., Alberico GentiliFrancisco SuarezImmanuel Kant) and has its most traditional and systemic rooting in just war theory. In this context, it is part of a structural framework to evaluate the morality of warfare, and in particular the ‘right way to end a war’, including ‘post-war-justice’ (Michael WalzerBrian Orend). Outside just war theory, jus post bellum is largely unexplored. The notion was used sporadically in different contexts over the past decade: peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction, transformative occupation,transitional justice, and the law of peace (lex pacificatoria) more generally. But the concept has lacked consistency; there are almost as many conceptions of jus post bellum as scholars, within and across disciplines.

In order to study the concept, we broke it down into its constituent parts: juspost, and bellum. Authors in the book—many of whom have contributed to this symposium—grappled with questions as diverse as the normative and moral meanings of justice, the intricacies of time and transition; and the very conception of armed conflict. Our main conclusion from the book is that it is helpful to think about jus post bellum in three different ways.

First, Jus post bellum may be said to form a body of norms and principles applicable to transitions from conflict to peace. It provides, in particular, substantive norms and guidance for the organization of post-conflict peace. But more law and abstract regulation do not necessarily suffice to address tensions arising in the aftermath of conflict. There may a greater need for a better application of the existing law, and its adjustment to context, rather than the articulation of new norms and standards. There may be promise in strengthening informal mechanisms and flexible principles.

A second and more ‘modest’ conception of jus post bellum is its qualification as a ‘framework.’ This conception emphasizes the functionality of jus post bellum, such as its capacity to serve an instrument to evaluate action (e.g., legitimate ending of conflict) and to establish a public context for debate. Jus post bellum might be construed as an ‘ordering framework,’ or as a tool to coordinate the application of laws, solve conflicts of norms, and balance conflicting interests.

Thirdly, jus post bellum may constitute an interpretative device. The concept might inform a context-specific interpretation of certain normative concepts, such as ‘military necessity’ or the principle of proportionality. It might, for instance introduce a novel end in relation to the conduct of hostilities, namely the objective not to defeat the goal of sustainable peace through the conduct of warfare.

Like many legal concepts, jus post bellum is not without contestation. But this is not necessarily a weakness. We conclude the book with a SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. We argue that some of merit of the concept lies in dialogue and contest with other concepts, such as Transitional Justice, the law of peace or the Responsibility to Protect.

We have tried to capture the essence of that dialogue in this symposium. We are delighted to have several authors from the book, as well as additional distinguished guests, join us in the on-going debate about the contours and merit of jus post bellum. Over the course of the next several days, they will engage with issues including: on Monday, useful definitions for jus post bellum; on Tuesday, its relationship to other related concepts; on Wednesday, peace agreements, constitutions, and environmental concerns; on Thursday, sovereignty and multilateralism; and on Friday, post-conflict responsibility. We hope that your find their contributions, and the discussion, as fascinating and thought provoking as we have.

PTC II to Defence Attorneys: You Are All Criminals

by Kevin Jon Heller

I’ve been remiss in my blogging lately for a variety of reasons, but I can’t let pass two interrelated decisions by Pre-Trial Chamber II (sitting as a single judge) in the criminal proceedings against Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo — Bemba’s lead defence attorney and case manager, respectively. The two men, who are currently in custody, are accused of tampering with witnesses and manufacturing evidence.

The decisions in question concern the requests by Kilolo and Mangenda for release pending trial. To justify denying a suspect pre-trial release, the PTC must find (1) that there are reasonable grounds to believe the suspect committed the crimes alleged by the OTP, and (2) that ongoing detention is necessary for one of the reasons set forth in Art. 58(1)(b) of the Rome Statute — namely, to ensure that the suspect appears at trial, to prevent the suspect from obstructing the OTP’s investigation, or to prevent the suspect from continuing to commit crimes.

In both cases, and essentially on exactly the same grounds, the PTC found that continued detention was warranted. I’m willing to accept the PTC’s conclusion regarding the first limb of the detention test; although I’m skeptical the OTP can prove the allegations at trial for a variety of substantive and procedural reasons, a judge could find that there are reasonable grounds to believe Kilolo and Mangenda tampered with witnesses and/or manufactured evidence. But I am appalled by the PTC’s approach to the second limb of the detention test, where it concludes that Kilolo and Mangenda are both flight risks and are likely to obstruct the OTP’s investigation. The PTC’s reasoning exhibits a truly breathtaking contempt for the role that defence attorneys and case managers play at the ICC. Here is what the PTC says about Kilolo being a flight risk (and the PTC makes the same argument for Mangenda) (emphasis added):

22. Whilst acknowledging the handing over of Mr Kilolo’s passport to the authorities of the Detention Centre, the Single Judge observes that this does not detract from the risks of flight which are inherent in the very connection of Aimé Kilolo to the network of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo and to the ensuing likelihood that he might be made available resources enabling him to abscond from the jurisdiction of the Court. Furthermore, it is to be noted that Mr Kilolo requests to be released in Belgium, i.e. in a country within the Schengen area, where travel is to a great extent possible without the need that identity documents be shown or relied upon.

[snip]

24. The Single Judge is likewise not persuaded that Aimé Kilolo’s withdrawal from his role as lead counsel for Jean-Pierre Bemba in the Main Case entails per se the severance of all of his ties to the latter’s vast network and hence to the concrete risk that resources be made available to him for the purpose of evading justice. The fact that “depuis le 6 décembre 2013, le requérant n’a plus de contacts privilégiés avec M. Bemba” (emphasis added) does not mean that the long-established relationship between Mr Bemba and Mr Kilolo by virtue of the latter’s role as lead counsel in the Main Case has ceased to exist. Contrary to what stated by the Defence the absence of documents witnessing to the existence of a “relation personnelle” between the two cannot be considered as mitigating or otherwise affecting this conclusion. Similarly, if it is true that assets pertaining to Mr Bemba and Mr Babala have been seized by way of implementation of the Chamber’s order, such assets obviously form but a small part of the assets which are or might be made available to the network as a whole, which comprises a number of individuals by far exceeding the suspects in this case.

Notice what the PTC is claiming here: Kilolo is part of Bemba’s “network” simply because he served as Bemba’s defence attorney. Kilolo is thus “inherently” a flight risk, despite not having been convicted of any crime — presumably the presumption of innocence still applies to the pending charges — because he has access to the vast resources of Bemba’s criminal organisation. In short: Bemba’s defence attorney is no different than Bemba’s henchmen and enforcers. He just plays a different role in Bemba’s organisation.

The PTC’s argument is disturbingly reminiscent of the post-9/11 demonisation of defence attorneys in the US who had the temerity to represent individuals accused of terrorism. Marc Thiessen, for example, (in)famously claimed that “[t]he habeas lawyers were not doing their constitutional duty to defend unpopular criminal defendants. They were using the federal courts as a tool to undermine our military’s ability to keep dangerous enemy combatants off the battlefield in a time of war.” Such despicable claims led to significant pushback from both progressives and (to their credit) many conservatives — and rightfully so. Yet now we witness the unseemly spectacle of an international judge engaging in precisely the same kind of demonisation.

Nor is that all. The PTC’s explanation of why Mangenda is likely to obstruct the OTP’s investigation is just as offensive (emphasis added):

As stated by the Prosecutor, Mangenda’s former role as case manager for Jean-Pierre Bemba entails that he is likely to know the identity of most of the potential witnesses; moreover, given the precise information disclosed to him, now he is even in a better position to obstruct or endanger the investigations. As regards the fact that the Prosecutor’s investigation is close to completion, it cannot be reasonably excluded that additional action might be taken, in respect of other evidentiary items which might still be outstanding, whether in relation to the Main Case or to these proceedings, in spite of the fact that some pieces of evidence are indeed in the possession of the Court or of the relevant national authorities and as such beyond the suspects’ reach.

Is it possible to imagine greater contempt for the role — absolutely critical, as any defence attorney knows — of a case manager? Of course Mangenda will obstruct the OTP’s investigation (now the presumption of innocence is jettisoned completely); after all, what member of Bemba’s “network” would be better placed to do so than his case manager, who has access to all kinds of insider information?

Again, the PTC’s contempt for the defence function is truly shocking. Unfortunately, it seems to be a pattern at the ICC — let’s not forget how the Court essentially abandoned and apologized for Melinda Taylor when Libya imprisoned her on the basis of truly ludicrous allegations. Defence attorneys and case managers, even those accused of serious crimes, deserve better.

Guest Post: Argentina v. NML Capital – Does the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act Mean More Than It Says?

by Michael Ramsey

[Michael D. Ramsey is the Hugh and Hazel Darling Foundation Professor of Law at the University of San Diego Law School. Professor Ramsey previously prepared an analysis of this case for the Judicial Education Project, for which he was compensated.]

The Supreme Court considered on Monday whether a U.S. court can order disclosure of Argentina’s worldwide assets.  Perhaps surprisingly, the answer should be yes.

The underlying facts of Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital are straightforward.  Argentina issued bonds, which were bought by private investors including NML, and then defaulted.  In the bond contracts, Argentina waived its sovereign immunity and consented to jurisdiction in New York.  After the default, NML sued Argentina in New York, as the bond contracts contemplated.

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) says that foreign governments can be sued in the U.S. only in circumstances listed in the statute.  One of those circumstances is when the sovereign waives its immunity by contract.  So there’s no question that NML could sue Argentina.

The question, rather, is what NML could do once it won (as it did) and Argentina still refused to pay (as it did).  The FSIA also says that creditors cannot execute on (seize) foreign sovereign assets in the United States to satisfy a judgment unless the assets are being used in a commercial capacity.  NML asked the trial court to order two New York banks that handle Argentina’s finances to disclose what they knew about Argentina’s assets (commercial or otherwise).  Argentina, supported by the U.S. executive branch, claims this violates the “spirit” of the FSIA.

It doesn’t.  The FSIA (Section 1609) specifically protects non-commercial sovereign assets only against “arrest attachment and execution.”  It does not say assets are immune from disclosure.  There’s a good reason it doesn’t: to figure out which assets are used for commercial purposes, and thus subject to execution, first one needs to know what assets exist.  It obviously won’t do to have Argentina – or Argentina’s bankers – make an unreviewable judgment as to which assets are commercial and not disclose the others.  And in other respects, the FSIA (Section 1606) says, a non-immune sovereign shall (subject to exceptions not relevant here) “be liable in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances.”

Thus, as a number of Justices appeared to recognize at oral argument, the key law isn’t the FSIA but Rule 69 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which govern ordinary litigation in federal court.  Rule 69 allows a federal court to order discovery in support of execution, which is what the trial judge did here.  The rule doesn’t have any limits on the type of property or the geographic limits – rather, its leaves the matter to the discretion of the court.  In private litigation, courts acting under Rule 69 routinely require disclosure of assets outside the jurisdiction or arguably not subject to execution.

At oral argument, some Justices seemed troubled that Argentina (or other sovereigns) might have to disclose the location of sensitive diplomatic or military assets.  It’s a fair concern, but no reason to make the FSIA say something it clearly does not.  First, district courts are adept at balancing all sorts of competing interests that arise in discovery disputes and in allowing only discovery appropriate under the circumstances; Rule 69 gives them plenty of discretion to do so.  Second, the only disclosures the trial court required here are of financial transactions (and the order isn’t even directed to Argentina, but rather to third-party banks); no one is asking Argentina to disclose the location of, for example, specific military assets.  And third, presumably disclosures could be made confidentially to the court as needed for particular assets.

Moreover, NML claims that Argentina has shown its willingness to abuse institutions like the Bank of International Settlements to shield its assets from creditor judgments.  That’s what NML’s attorney Ted Olson was speaking of when he said at one point during Monday’s proceeding that Argentina could slap an air-force label on a commercial airplane in order to shield that asset.  He wasn’t talking about NML attaching non-executable assets, he was simply pointing out the danger of creating loopholes in the discovery process that would allow Argentina to deny discovery on assets that creditors would be entitled to.

This goes to the heart of why NML has a need for the disclosures.  Argentina has openly refused to pay the judgment against it.  NML is entitled to execute on Argentina’s commercial assets in the United States, and may be able to execute on some non-commercial assets elsewhere (in jurisdictions that lack the U.S.’s commercial limit).  To do so, it needs to know what assets exist, and it cannot rely on Argentina’s self-reporting of which assets are commercial.

Ultimately the rule of law, especially in international transactions, depends on courts holding parties to their promises and providing a way to enforce judgments.  If Argentina didn’t want to be subject to U.S. court enforcement, then it should not have waived its immunity and consented to jurisdiction (but, of course, then it would have had much more difficulty selling its bonds).  Argentina could still avoid unwanted disclosures by doing what it is supposed to do anyway: pay the entirely valid judgment against it.

The rule of law also depends on courts reading statutes to mean what they say, and not more than they say.  Argentina is asking the Court to find an immunity in the FSIA that simply isn’t there.  Argentina’s protection instead comes from Rule 69 – but it’s a protection that rests largely with the lower court, which knows the case better and is better able to balance competing equities on an on-going basis than the Supreme Court.  It may be helpful for the Court to ask district courts to use careful discretion in managing disclosure requests directed at a foreign sovereign under Rule 69. For instance, the Justices could recommend that district court judges ask the sovereign to create a privilege log (or a similar mechanism) for those assets, such as military property, that are extra-sensitive. This would balance the interests of the sovereign and the creditors. But creating a blanket protection against disclosure of assets under the FSIA is contrary to both the statute and the needs of the international rule of law.

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) 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!

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!