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Human Rights

A Few Thoughts on Eugene Kontorovich’s Response to My Post

by Kevin Jon Heller

Eugene has graciously responded to my earlier post; you can find his new post here. It’s well worth a read. I just want to offer a few  thoughts on Eugene’s response, because I think it fails to address the core of my critique: that it is incorrect to claim, as Eugene did in his first post, that Europe’s opposition to the juvenile death penalty is based on the idea that “minors are not really responsible for their actions.” I argued that, on the contrary, Europe’s opposition to the juvenile death penalty is part and parcel of its opposition to the death penalty itself.

Eugene’s new post provides no support for his original thesis. Here is what he argues, in order:

The EU’s position is that the death penalty is wrong under any circumstances; however, the juvenile death penalty is even wronger. And this distinction could presumably only be due to the reduced decision-making capacity of juveniles.

Thus in their amicus brief in Roper, the EU did not argue that the death penalty was unconstitutional – though they stated their opposition – rather, they argued the juvenile death penalty was unconstitutional even if the death penalty itself were constitutional. (As amici, they were in no way limited to the facts of the case, and could have submitted a much broader argument.) The EU’s opposition to the juvenile death penalty repeatedly points to an “international consensus” against it, reflected in various treaties and U.N. documents. These instruments specifically do not bar the death penalty, but do prohibit the juvenile death penalty. Thus the consensus which the EU pointed to is itself based on a belief in a fundamental distinction between juvenile and adult death penalties.

It is true that there is an international consensus against the juvenile death penalty. And it is highly likely that some of the states that are part of the international consensus oppose the juvenile death penalty because they believe juveniles have a “reduced decision-making capacity.” But nothing in the EU amicus brief suggests that European states oppose the juvenile death penalty because of the diminished moral capacity of juveniles. As I noted in my earlier post, Europe opposes the death penalty for everyone, adult and juvenile, because — in the words of the Council of Europe — “everyone’s right to life is a basic value and that the abolition of the death penalty is essential to the protection of this right and for the full recognition of the inherent dignity of all human beings.” Yes, Europe would be more than willing to argue that “the juvenile death penalty was unconstitutional even if the death penalty itself were constitutional.” But that is because the international consensus against the juvenile death penalty is much stronger, not because Europe believes juveniles “are not really responsible for their actions.” In other words, the EU’s amicus brief does not care why some states permit the adult penalty but permit the juvenile death penalty (which may well reflect a view of juvenile moral capacity); it simply cares that even those states still reject the juvenile death penalty.

To be sure, if the EU thinks the juvenile DP to be even worse, it will not be reflected in its internal policies – but it would be reflected in its external ones. An indeed, in dealing with third countries, the EU makes a fundamental distinction between the juvenile and adult death penalty. As spelled out in the EU Guidelines on the Death Penalty, Europe will provide aid and have good relations with countries that practice the death penalty, Europe’s position is that where the death penalty exists, it should always be subject to certain “minimum standards”:

Where states insist on maintaining the death penalty, the EU considers it important that the following minimum standards should be met: … iii) capital punishment may not be imposed on … Persons below 18 years of age at the time of the commission of their crime;

Eugene does not quote the EU’s minimum standards in full, and the text he does not quote complicates his argument that Europe views the juvenile death penalty as “worse” than the adult death penalty because of the “reduced decision-making capacity of juveniles.” Here is the paragraph in full, with the omitted text in bold:

Capital punishment may not be imposed on:
• Persons below 18 years of age at the time of the commission of their crime;
• Pregnant women or new mothers;
• Persons who have become insane.

The EU’s suggested ban on executing the insane clearly does reflect the idea that insane persons have a ”reduced decision-making capacity.” But the ban on executing “pregnant women or new mothers” doesn’t. Their decision-making capacity is not reduced — yet the EU insists that death-penalty states not execute them, either. So which category are juveniles closest to — the insane (who should not be executed because they are not responsible for their actions) or pregnant women and new mothers (who shouldn’t be executed because it’s inherently wrong to execute them)? There is no way of knowing from the EU’s Guidelines on the Death Penalty — which means that the Guidelines don’t support Eugene’s argument that Europe views the juvenile death penalty as worse than the adult death penalty because ”minors are not really responsible for their actions.”

Let me add another point of Belgian inconsistency. Allowing minors to take their lives, or have them been taken, necessarily makes assumptions about their capacity that is at odds with many liberal features of international law. International treaties, including the Rome Statute of the ICC, make the recruitment of child soldiers a crime, and European countries have been active in promoting the expansion of these norms.

Being a child soldier (under 15) is not a crime, only enlisting them. Crucially, the consent of the child, her parents or any psychologists is not a defense. Indeed, consent is presumed, as the crime covers accepting voluntary enlistees. As the Special Court for Sierra Leone put it:

The act of enlisting presupposes that the individual in question voluntarily consented to be part of the armed force or group. However, where a child under the age of 15 years is allowed to voluntarily join an armed force or group, his or her consent is not a valid defence.

But is this still a far cry from euthanasia? Not if the underlying issue is one of capacity to make life-imperiling decisions. And it is important to point out 15 year old may join armed conflict in when the defeat of their side would lead to the massacre or oppression of them and their families and the destruction of their way of life. Yet international law still prohibits their recruitment. This does not mean it can never be rational for a child to join armed forces, but rather that we make a categorical judgement that even if it is sometimes rational, they lack the judgement to make decisions that imperil their lives.

The emphasis is mine — because I think Eugene’s argument actually proves my point, not his. Eugene’s claim is that the prohibition on the recruitment of child soldiers, which European states have enthusiastically supported, reflects Europe’s view that juveniles have a ”reduced decision-making capacity.” But the bolded text, which I completely agree with, indicates that, on the contrary, international law prohibits the recruitment of child soldiers because it is wrong to let juveniles engage in combat, even if they are capable of making a rational decision to do so. Differently put, international law presumes that child soldiers consent to recruitment because recruiting child soldiers is wrong even when consensual, not because juveniles can never rationally decide to become child soldiers.

The bottom line is this: there is nothing inconsistent about Belgium’s legalizing juvenile euthanasia while rejecting the juvenile death penalty and opposing the recruitment of child soldiers. Belgium simply believes that executing juveniles and recruiting child soldiers is inherently wrong, while permitting terminally ill children to make an informed decision to end their own lives is not. Those are normative positions, and Eugene is free to think they are unwise. But they are not based on an inconsistent view of whether juveniles are responsible for their actions.

Eugene Kontorovich’s Problematic Attack on Roper v. Simmons

by Kevin Jon Heller

I’m currently in Belgium, teaching an intensive course on international criminal law at Katholieke University Leuven. So I was struck by Eugene Kontorovich’s most recent post at the Volokh Conspiracy, in which he uses a new Belgian law permitting euthanasia for minors to criticize the Supreme Court’s abolition of the juvenile death penalty in Roper v. Simmons. Here is the crux of his argument (emphasis mine):

Aside from its inherent significance, Belgium’s move requires us to revisit Roper v. Simmons, the 2005 Supreme Court case that ruled it inherently unconstitutional to apply the death penalty to anyone under 18. European nations had long waged a moral campaign against America’s allowance of the death penalty for 16-18 year olds, which they called barbaric and savage. After all, minors are not really responsible for their actions. America was labelled a human rights violator, an international outlier.

Finally, in Roper, the Court caved in to this pressure. Indeed, it cited the European position as support for its conclusion – other countries do not allow for such a thing.

Why can a 17 year-old rapist-murderer not face capital punishment? Because, as Justice Kennedy wrote in a 5-4 decision, science has shown that minors, even 17-year-olds, are too immature to truly understand the consequences of their decisions, or the meaning of life and death. Juveniles are prone to “impetuous and ill-considered actions” that they should not be made to lose their life for, even if the action involved taking the life of another.” Moreover, juveniles are susceptible to peer pressure, Kennedy wrote. (Of course, one of the concerns in allowing euthanasia is external pressure from doctors, parents and others.)

Yet now we see Belgium thinks kids are responsible enough; the Netherlands similarly allows euthanasia as young as 12. These countries may be the way of the future, as they have been in other areas of progressive mores. Roper misread their belief system. It is not one of paternalistic concern for youth.

Eugene does not provide a link for his assertion that Europe opposes the juvenile death penalty because “minors are not really responsible for their actions.” But I don’t think that’s surprising, because Europe’s opposition to the juvenile death penalty is not based on that idea. Europe has abolished the juvenile death penalty because it rejects the very idea of the death penalty itself, not because it believe minors are not responsible for their actions. After all, no European state other than Belarus permits the death penalty for anyoneIt is thus irrelevant for Roper‘s purposes that Belgium and the Netherlands believe that minors are capable of making an informed decision to end their own lives; that in no way undermines their opposition to the juvenile death penalty. To sustain Eugene’s argument, he would have to identify a state that (1) permits the death penalty for adults while prohibiting it for juveniles on the ground that juveniles, unlike adults, are not responsible for their actions, but (2) allows juveniles to take their own lives on the ground that they are capable of making an informed decision to do so. Belgium and the Netherlands don’t qualify.

It’s also worth noting that, in his zeal to level a “gotcha” at Roper, Eugene misstates Belgian criminal law. Here is what he says about Belgium’s rejection of the juvenile death penalty (emphasis mine):

It is not one of paternalistic concern for youth. Rather, a system that permits the euthanasia of innocent 12 year-olds but not the punishment of guilty 17-year-olds is one that exalts autonomy without culpability.

Of course, with the juvenile death penalty, only a small fraction of minors who committed capital crimes would be sentenced to death. On a case by case basis, hosts of psychologists, jurors, and judges would have to be convinced that the particular defendant truly knew what they were doing.

So it comes out that the juveniles cannot really make accountable decisions when it comes to killing people, unless it is themselves. Or to put it differently, Belgium will not hold children responsible when they hurt others, but gives them free license to hurt themselves. Perversely, in Belgium, the youths who are considered grown up enough to be euthanized have not done anything wrong at all, unlike Simmons, who tied up his victim and thew him off a bridge.

This is simply false. Belgium most certainly holds juveniles criminally responsible for their actions — it simply doesn’t permit executing them. In Belgium, children between the ages of 12 and 15 can be prosecuted in juvenile court and imprisoned until they are 20. And children who are 16 and 17 — the latter being the age that Eugene singles out — can be prosecuted for murder in the Court of Assize and sentenced to a maximum of 30 years in adult prison. Eugene may think a 30-year sentence for a 17-year-old who commits murder is too lenient, but he cannot seriously contend that Belgian criminal law does not permit “the punishment of guilty 17-year-olds,” that it is based on the idea that “juveniles cannot really make accountable decisions when it comes to killing people,” or that it “will not hold children responsible when they hurt others.”

I often agree with Eugene on issues other than Israel (piracy and universal jurisdiction in particular). But his attempt to use Belgian criminal law to attack Roper is fatally flawed.

When Acquittal Is Small Consolation…

by Kevin Jon Heller

Although the ICTY’s recent high-profile acquittals have been getting all the attention, it’s worth noting that the ICTR Appeals Chamber has just acquitted two high-ranking defendants, Augustin Ndindiliyimana, the former chief of staff of the Rwandan paramilitary police, and François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, the former commander of a military reconnaissance battalion, on the ground that the Trial Chamber erred in concluding that they had effective control over gendarmes suspected of participating in the 1994 genocide. The acquittals are obviously notable in themselves, but what’s particularly striking — and more than a little disturbing — is that Gen. Ndindiliyimana was originally sentenced to time served because he had spent 11 years in pre-trial detention:

Mr. Ndindiliyimana, who was arrested in Belgium in 2000, was convicted in 2011 of genocide, extermination as a crime against humanity and murder, and he was sentenced to 11 years. He was freed after time served.

Eleven years in pre-trial detention at an international tribunal is simply unacceptable. And Ndindiliyimana’s acquittal on all charges after 11 years in pre-trial detention simply adds insult to injury. All in all, a bad day for the ICTR’s reputation.

Vasiliev on the Relationship Between Perisic and Sainovic

by Kevin Jon Heller

Sergey Vasiliev, an excellent young ICL scholar, has posted at the Center for International Criminal Justice a superb — and very long — analysis of the relationship between Perisic and Sainovic entitled “Consistency of Jurisprudence, Finality of Acquittals, and Ne Bis in Idem.” I agree with almost everything Sergey says, although I don’t think we should consider the Perisic AC’s adoption of the specific-direction requirement to be “clear error” (a basic requirement of any argument that the Appeals Chamber should reconsider the judgment) simply because the Sainovic AC says that it was. As Bill Schabas notes in his recent post, the legal issue can hardly be considered settled by Sainovic, given that the judgment was not unanimous, was decided by different appeals judges and the two dissenters (on the specific-direction point) in Perisic, and included a judge who was inexplicably in the majority in both Perisic and Sainovic. I also find it odd that Sergey doesn’t like my claim that the OTP’s motion for reconsideration belongs in the dustbin, given that he unequivocally rejects — on ne bis in idem and human-rights grounds — the idea that the OTP should be given what it wants: namely, Perisic’s acquittal overturned and a conviction entered.

But those are minor points. The post is must-read for anyone interested in the specific-direction requirement or the sudden implosion of the ICTY’s Appeals Chamber.

Schabas on the OTP’s Attempt to Reconsider Perisic

by Kevin Jon Heller

It’s an excellent post, well worth reading in its entirety. I just want to flag two particularly important points. The first concerns whether, in light of Šainović, Perišić can really be considered fundamentally flawed. Schabas compellingly argues no:

But the Prosecutor is not claiming that any ‘new fact’ has been discovered. Rather, the Prosecutor is arguing that the law has changed as a result of the legal basis of the acquittal of Perišić being ‘unequivocally overturned’. But was it?

First, there was a dissenting opinion in Šainović. Under the circumstances, the word ‘unequivocal’ is probably not appropriate. Second, Judge Ramaroson, who sat in both Perišić and Šainović agreed with the majority judgment in both cases. I would not use the word ‘unequivocal’ to describe such a strange situation. Judge Ramaroson might have enlightened us with a separate opinion to explain the change of heart. Third, the Appeals Chamber cannot ‘overturn’ the Appeals Chamber. It may seem paradoxical, but by refusing to follow the finding in Perišić the judges in Šainović may inadvertently have undermined the authority of their own judgment. Who is to say that yet another five-judge panel of the Appeals Chamber will not ‘overturn’ Šainović, perhaps restoring Perišić or possibily setting out a third vision of aiding and abetting? It seems more accurate to describe what has happened is that four judges of the Appeals Chamber disagree with four other judges of the Appeals Chamber (really, three judges, because one of them disagrees with herself).

The second point concerns the human-rights implications of “reconsidering” Perišić’s acquittal 11 months after it became final. I considered mentioning the issue in my previous post, but ultimately didn’t. Here is what Schabas says:

The real problem with the Prosecutor’s motion concerns the rights of the accused. According to article 14(7) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ‘No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he has already been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country.’ The same rule is formulated slightly differently in article 4 of Protocol No. 7 to the European Convention on Human Rights:

1. No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again in criminal proceedings under the jurisdiction of the same State for an offence for which he has already been finally acquitted or convicted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of the State.

2. The provisions of the preceding paragraph shall not prevent the re-opening of the case in accordance with the law and penal procedure of the State concerned, if there is evidence of new or newly discovered facts, or if there has been a fundamental defect in the previous proceedings, which could affect the outcome of the case.

3. No derogation from this Article shall be made under Article 15 of the Convention.

Can the Prosecutor argue that when Perišić was acquitted by the Appeals Chamber there was ‘a fundamental defect in the proceedings’? There is not much in the way of judicial interpretation on this expression. Recently a Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights held that there was such a ‘fundamental defect’ where an acquittal was based upon an amnesty (Marguš v. Croatia, no. 4455/10, § 74, 13 November 2012). The case is currently pending before the Grand Chamber. But four judges disagreeing with four judges cannot be described as a ‘fundamental defect in the proceedings’.

The rule against double jeopardy (ne bis in idem) is part of a larger norm known by the term res judicata. It is almost certainly a general principle of law in the sense this expression is employed by article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice. There is something profoundly troublesome about reconsideration of a final acquittal because a new judicial finding concerning legal interpretation is at variance with an earlier one.

I have nothing to add to Schabas’s points. I completely agree with them. We can only hope, for the sake of the ICTY’s legitimacy, that the Appeals Chamber does as well.

AJIL Symposium: Response to comments on “A New International Human Rights Court for West Africa”

by Karen Alter, Larry Helfer and Jacqueline McAllister

[Karen J. Alter is Professor of Political Science and Law at Northwestern University, Laurence R. Helfer is the Harry R. Chadwick, Sr. Professor of Law at Duke University, and Jacqueline McAllister is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Kenyon College (as of July 2014).]

Many thanks to Solomon Ebobrah, Kofi Kufuor, and Horace Adjolohoun for their challenging and insightful comments our AJIL article, A New International Human Rights Court for West Africa. We are pleased to have provoked a debate about the drivers of legal integration in Africa and to see this debate linked to a larger set of literatures.  We hope that this symposium will encourage others to investigate the forces that have shaped regional integration projects around the world and to use evidence from ECOWAS to inform regional integration theory in general.

Our article attempts to stay on firm empirical ground and to generate as complete and accurate an account of the ECOWAS Court’s transformation as one can have at this moment in time.  But here is the rub—what does it mean to say “at this moment of time?”

There were many questions that we could not answer in research conducted only a few years after the events in question. For example, we did not interview the member state officials who debated the expansion of the Court’s jurisdiction.  This was in part due to a lack of time and money, but also because doing so was unlikely to yield different or more complete information.  The decision to extend the Court’s jurisdiction is recent and still contested.  This makes it tricky to interview participants, whose answers may be colored by or speak to the sentiments of the day.

Someday, African scholars may write a version of the recent book The Classics of EU Law Revisited, which examines foundational ECJ rulings fifty years later. The passage of time allowed EU historians to access personal archives and analyze the views of key individuals, and thereby reconstruct what happened before, during, and after these rulings.  We look forward to the day that our account of the ECOWAS Court is similarly dissected.  For now, here are our tentative answers to some of the questions raised in this symposium.

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AJIL Symposium: Can the ECOWAS Court Revive Regionalism Through Human Rights?

by Horace Adjolohoun

[Dr. Horace S. Adjolohoun is a Senior Legal Expert at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. He recently completed his LLD thesis on Giving Effect to the Human Rights Jurisprudence of the ECOWAS Court of Justice: Compliance and Influence at the University of Pretoria.]

I agree with Alter, Helfer and McAllister that progressive judicial lawmaking may be risky, particularly in an environment where domestic politics are not in favor of a supranational court that limits the sovereignty margin of state organs. In the context of the ECOWAS Court of Justice (ECCJ), an interesting question could therefore be whether, by a purposive adjudication, the Court could read community law through its human rights mandate. The Court has repeatedly given a negative answer, and many have warned of the related risks, particular bearing in mind the fall of the SADC Tribunal. An association of factors makes me suggest that the chance could be worth taking.

The ECCJ is the official judicial body in which ECOWAS has vested the mandate to oversee the interpretation and application of norms adopted under the aegis of the Community (‘original’ Community law). I suggest that the African Charter has acquired the status of Community law because of its ‘constructive’ incorporation in ECOWAS instruments, particularly the 1993 Revised Treaty and the 2001 Governance Protocol. On the basis of the 2005 Court Protocol, the ECCJ has confirmed that status through its successive human rights judgments, starting from the first one in 2005. Article 31(1) VCLTTreaty law commands that interpretation of conventions should follow the ordinary meaning and not expand beyond the initial intention of the parties. Particularly, in the framework of regional integration arrangements, the ‘agency’ doctrine suggests that the Agent (here the ECCJ) may not usurp legislative functions by either interpreting the silence of the law in a particular direction (which I argue the ECCJ did in the Ugokwe case) or – and thereby – generating new norms that were not expressly formulated by law-makers (here, state parties)  (see Stone Sweet, 10-15). Some of the authors of the lead article support that approach in a previous work.

I agree that the silence of the 2005 Protocol regarding the well established international customary law rule of exhaustion of domestic remedies is as plain as was the lack of direct access for private litigants in the Afolabi era. Despite this, the ECCJ’s judges espoused purposive – and, in my view, ‘progressive’ – judicial lawmaking regarding exhaustion. The ECOWAS human rights ‘regime’ borrows from the African Charter-based system, which poses seven admissibility requirements for complaints to be accepted by the African Court and Commission. In the practice of the Commission, the rule of exhaustion is by far the one that attracts more contention. The 2005 ECCJ Protocol provides for ‘non-anonymity’ and ‘non-pendency’ as the two admissibility conditions.

From the foregoing, it is surprising that, in the course of lawmaking, ECOWAS states provided expressly for two ‘minor’ conditions, and remained silent for a ‘major’ condition, which has always attracted dispute. (more…)

AJIL Symposium: Regional Courts, Regionalism, Critical Junctures and Economic Integration in Africa

by Kofi Kufuor

[Dr. Kofi Oteng Kufuor is a Professor at the University of East London, UK.]

In November 2013 the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice threw out a case brought before it by Nigerian traders seeking a judgment that Ghana’s investment legislation which discriminated against ECOWAS nationals was inconsistent with ECOWAS law. The decision by the Court was surprising not only on account of it being a setback to the ECOWAS goals of a single economic market but it was also a blow to the supranational regime that the members created with the adoption of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty. Moreover, this decision was even more astonishing as it went against ECOWAS law and related protocols on the free movement of persons, right of residence and establishment.

The decision was also surprising in the wake of the efforts by the Court, carefully outlined in the paper “A New International Human Rights Court for West Africa: The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice” by Alter, Helfer and McAllister (AHM), to extend its power. The research by AHM states that in the early stages of the Court’s power grab, economic union was sacrificed for the protection of human rights. At the core of the paper by AHM is that a constellation of actors, driven by a variety of interests, came together at a critical juncture in ECOWAS politics – there was widespread concern about the respect for human rights and humanitarian law – and this meeting of persons and policy space created an opportunity for the Court to expand its reach into the realm of human rights.

However, if we accept the core arguments of public choice theory then the Court could have exploited the petition before it to seize more power for itself. Thus public choice theorists studying international organizations will be surprised to see that this supranational moment has slipped especially with regard to an organization that still has compliance and legitimacy problems.

AHM assert that the decision to allow private interests to bring human rights suits before the ECOWAS Court was done at the expense of the Court serving as an engine for realizing the economic integration objective. The inference from this is that while a critical juncture appeared and thus an opportunity seized in the name of human rights, a similar opportunity is yet to come into existence for economic interests. However, looking at the rejection of the traders’ suit from a non-economic “irrational” point of view, the ECOWAS Court has struck a blow for re-connecting markets to society by abating neoliberal economic openness that subordinate Ghana’s investment law to ECOWAS law. Was the Court able to do so because the kind of interests that birthed the Court’s rights moment did not exist at the regional level? Inferred from AHM’s work the answer seems to be yes.

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OTP Asks for Perisic Reconsideration — On the Basis of Nothing

by Kevin Jon Heller

Fresh from its victory in Sainovic, the ICTY Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) has now asked the Appeals Chamber to reconsider its final judgment in Perisic on the ground that it would be unjust to permit Perisic to remain acquitted. As the legal basis for such reconsideration 11 months after final judgment, the OTP cites…

Precisely nothing.

Which is not surprising, because nothing in the ICTY Statute actually permits such reconsideration. The only provision that deals with reconsideration of Appeals Chamber judgments is Art. 26, which is limited to the discovery of new facts:

Where a new fact has been discovered which was not known at the time of the proceedings before the Trial Chambers or the Appeals Chamber and which could have been a decisive factor in reaching the decision, the convicted person or the Prosecutor may submit to the International Tribunal an application for review of the judgement.

Even more problematic for the OTP, the Appeals Chamber specifically rejected reconsideration of final appeals judgments in Zigic, noting that the victims and the accused “are both entitled to certainty and finality of legal judgments.”

Lacking any legal basis for its request, the OTP does what it always does — invite the Appeals Chamber to engage in what Darryl Robinson has called “victim-centered reasoning” and reconsider Perisic anyway. In the OTP’s words, because Perisic was wrongly decided (according to one iteration of the Appeals Chamber), “the interests of justice for the tens of thousands of victims, substantially outweighs Perisic’s interest in finality of proceedings. Justice must be restored to the victims. Reconsideration is the only way to this end.” Put more simply: forget that inconvenient principle of legality. The demands of justice trump the text of the ICTY Statute.

It’s also worth noting a profound irony at the heart of the OTP’s request. It acknowledges Zigic is against it — so it argues that the Appeals Chamber should disregard Zigic in favour of its earlier decision in Celebici, which held, in another classic example of ignoring the text of the ICTY Statute in favor of its supposed “object and purpose” of combating impunity, that the Appeals Chamber’s “inherent jurisdiction” (of course) empowers it to reconsider any decision, no matter when decided, that “has led to an injustice.” In other words, the OTP is asking the Appeals Chamber to ignore a new decision (Zigic) that rejected an old decision (Celebici) in order to apply a new decision (Sainovic) that rejected an old decision (Perisic). Remarkable.

I would like to predict that the Appeals Chamber will consign this motion to the dustbin where it belongs. But who knows? As Marko Milanovic has pointed out, precedent no longer has much meaning for the Appeals Chamber. The outcome of an appeal now largely turns on which judges are randomly assigned to the panel.

I will be speaking soon on Perisic and Sainovic at a conference on the legacy of the ICTY. With each motion like this one, that legacy becomes a bit more tarnished.

UPDATE: Dov Jacobs adds some important points at Spreading the Jam.

AJIL Symposium: Comment on “A new International Human Rights Court for West Africa”

by Solomon Ebobrah

[Dr. Solomon T. Ebobrah is a Senior Lecturer at Niger Delta University.]

To date, ‘A new International Human Rights Court for West Africa: The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice’ authored by Karen Alter, Larry Helfer and Jacqueline McAllister is arguably the most eloquent scholarly exposition on the human rights jurisdiction of the ECOWAS Court of Justice (ECCJ) by observers from outside the African continent. This brilliant piece of work is to my knowledge, also the only one yet in existence to have taken a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of the ECCJ. Based on their very thorough and painstaking empirical investigation, the authors have successfully (in my view) supplied answers to some of the nagging questions that political scientists and lawyers would have regarding the budding human rights mandate of the ECCJ. As they point out in their opening remarks, intrigued (as the rest of us are) by the sharp but successful redeployment of the ECCJ from its original objectives of providing support economic integration to a seemingly more popular but secondary role as an international human rights court, the authors apply this article for the purpose trying understand and explain the rationale and manner of this transformation.

The authors have made very compelling arguments in support of their theoretical claim that international institutions, including international courts adapt to changing norms and societal pressures such that rational functionalist goals do not exclusively determine how a given international institution ultimately turns after its creation. While I find myself in agreement with much of the article, it is in relation to this claim and the evidence supplied by the authors in proof thereof that I find my first challenge. (more…)

AJIL Symposium: Introduction to “A New International Human Rights Court for West Africa: The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice”

by Karen Alter, Larry Helfer and Jacqueline McAllister

[Karen J. Alter is Professor of Political Science and Law at Northwestern University, Laurence R. Helfer is the Harry R. Chadwick, Sr. Professor of Law at Duke University, and Jacqueline McAllister is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Kenyon College (as of July 2014).]

The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice is an increasingly active and surprisingly bold adjudicator of human rights cases.  Since acquiring a human rights jurisdiction in 2005, the ECOWAS Court has issued more than 50 decisions relating to alleged rights violations by 15 West African states. The Court’s path-breaking cases include judgments against Niger for condoning modern forms of slavery, against Nigeria for impeding the right to free basic education for children, and against the Gambia for the torture of dissident journalists.

A New International Human Rights Court for West Africa: The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, recently published in AJIL, explains how a sub-regional tribunal first established to help build a common market was later redeployed as a human rights court.  We investigate why West African governments—which set up the Court in a way that has allowed persistent flouting of ECOWAS economic rules—later delegated to ECOWAS judges a remarkably expansive human rights jurisdiction over suits filed by individuals and NGOs. Our theoretical contribution explains how international institutions, including courts, evolve over time in response to political contestation and societal pressures.  We show how humanitarian interventions in West Africa in the 1990s created a demand to expand ECOWAS’s security and human rights mandates.  These events, in turn, triggered a cascade of smaller reforms in the Community that, in the mid-2000s, created an opening for an alliance of civil society groups and supranational actors to mobilize in favor of court reform.

The creation of a human rights court in West Africa may surprise many readers of this blog. Readers mostly familiar with global bodies like the ICJ, the WTO and the ICC, or regional bodies in Europe and the Americas, may be unaware that Africa also has active international courts that litigate important cases.  Given that ECOWAS’ primary mandate is to promote economic integration, we wanted to understand why its court exercises such far-reaching human rights jurisdiction.  Given that several ECOWAS member states have yet to accept the jurisdiction of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, the ECOWAS Court’s ability to entertain private litigant complaints—without first requiring the exhaustion of domestic remedies—is especially surprising.  We also expected that even if ECOWAS member states decided to create such a tribunal, they would have included robust political checks to control the judges and their rulings.

What we found—based on a review of ECOWAS Court decisions and more than two dozen interviews with judges, Community officers, government officials, attorneys, and NGOs—was quite different.  The member states not only gave Court a capacious human rights jurisdiction, they also rejected opportunities to narrow the Court’s authority.

Our AJIL article emphasizes several interesting dimensions of the ECOWAS Court’s repurposing and subsequent survival as an international human rights tribunal.

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Talk About the Imperial Presidency!

by Kevin Jon Heller

President Obama has issued the following memorandum concerning US participation in the UN’s Mali stabilisation mission:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and consistent with section 2005 of the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act of 2002 (22 U.S.C. 7424), concerning the participation of members of the Armed Forces of the United States in certain United Nations peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations, I hereby certify that members of the U.S. Armed Forces participating in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali are without risk of criminal prosecution or other assertion of jurisdiction by the International Criminal Court (ICC) because the Republic of Mali has entered into an agreement in accordance with Article 98 of the Rome Statute preventing the ICC from proceeding against members of the Armed Forces of the United States present in that country.

This is, of course, completely wrong. At most, the Article 98 agreement between the US and Mali would prohibit the ICC from asking Mali to surrender a US soldier wanted for war crimes. It would not in any way prohibit the Court from prosecuting a US soldier it managed to get its hands on without Mali’s help. (Or even if Mali decided its obligation under the Rome Statute took precedence over its Article 98 agreement with the US and handed a US soldier over despite the agreement.)

I realize Obama is a communist/marxist/fascist/socialist dictator, but he has not yet been crowned King of the ICC. Until he has, the Rome Statute remains more important than his presidential memoranda.