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International Security

Terrorism Is Dead, and Britain Has Killed It

by Kevin Jon Heller

No, not actual terrorism, “[c]riminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons, or particular persons for political purposes.” That’s still going strong. I’m talking about the concept of terrorism, which has officially lost all meaning whatsoever:

British authorities claimed the domestic partner of reporter Glenn Greenwald was involved in “terrorism” when he tried to carry documents from former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden through a London airport in August, according to police and intelligence documents.

Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, was detained and questioned for nine hours by British authorities at Heathrow on August 18, when he landed there from Berlin to change planes for a flight to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

After his release and return to Rio, Miranda filed a legal action against the British government, seeking the return of materials seized from him by British authorities and a judicial review of the legality of his detention.

At a London court hearing this week for Miranda’s lawsuit, a document called a “Ports Circulation Sheet” was read into the record. It was prepared by Scotland Yard – in consultation with the MI5 counterintelligence agency – and circulated to British border posts before Miranda’s arrival. The precise date of the document is unclear.

“Intelligence indicates that Miranda is likely to be involved in espionage activity which has the potential to act against the interests of UK national security,” according to the document.

“We assess that Miranda is knowingly carrying material the release of which would endanger people’s lives,” the document continued. “Additionally the disclosure, or threat of disclosure, is designed to influence a government and is made for the purpose of promoting a political or ideological cause. This therefore falls within the definition of terrorism…”

Terrorism: now defined as any act that a government finds inconvenient. Actually, check that: now defined as any act that a good government finds inconvenient. Similar acts committed against a bad government like Iran — and even real acts of terror, like assassinating scientists – are called ”promoting freedom.”

RIP, terrorism. I thought the Americans would kill you, but it turns out the British beat them to it. Regardless, we mourn your untimely passing.

The Nationalists Strike Back: The “No-Spy” Agreement Solution to the NSA Spying Scandal

by Julian Ku

I agree with Peter that there is a move to universalize (through accretion) a norm against spying via Article 17 of the ICCPR.  But unlike Peter, I think it will get nowhere.  Instead, I was struck by how the German complaint against the NSA program has not really been phrased in terms of how it violates international norms or laws.  Rather, it seems that the Germans (and French) are really hurt because they don’t have a “no-spy” agreement with the U.S. like Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand do (The so-called “Five Eyes” or AUSCANNZUKUS)

In other words, the problem is not that spying itself is illegal or morally wrong, but that it is illegal and morally wrong to spy on your allies and friends.  Spying on other countries might very well be morally and legally justified (e.g.: North Korea, Iran, China, Russia).  A universal anti-spying norm could very well be the opposite. Indeed, it seems unlikely that Germany and France would seriously support a universal anti-spying norm that would constrain their own very robust spying efforts.

With this in mind, it is worth considering whether and how the U.S. should adopt new “no-spy” agreements, something President Obama seems willing to consider.   I actually think a “no-spy” agreement is a better approach than unilaterally disarming in the spy wars.  Do we really think the French will stop trying to spy on the U.S. once the U.S. pledges to stop spying on France?  Better to at least commit the French to a deal.

From a foreign relations law perspective, “no spy” agreements are curious.  They are sole executive agreements and they may or may not have a binding character under international law. Certainly, they are not formal treaties.  The U.S. Congress probably has incomplete knowledge of exactly what is in these agreements and how they are operating.

Stewart Baker is already up with congressional testimony (dated today) on criteria for any new “no-spy” agreements.  Interestingly, the main thrust of his testimony is that Congress should start exercising a little oversight, at least if the U.S. starts buying off allies with new “no spy” agreements.  He has some pretty stringent requirements (a cooling off period for any new agreements that must all be submitted to Congress for review, a report on compliance,etc).  He doesn’t go so far as to require Congressional approval for any new no-spy agreements, but he might as well.  I doubt Congress would go that far, and I think there will be some questions over whether Congress has the legal authority to constrain these kinds of executive agreements.

In any event, my prediction is that the fallout from the latest NSA scandal will be a flurry of “no-spy-on-you” promises and then a series of new “no spy agreements” for certain favored “allies”.  I think Germany will talk about a universal anti-spying norm, but this initiative will eventually die largely because no large nation really wants it.

Why Is Britain Intentionally Using Weapons of Mass Destruction?

by Kevin Jon Heller

I refer, of course, to the British Navy’s use of the music of Britney Spears to scare off Somali pirates:

In an excellent case of “here’s a sentence you won’t read every day”, Britney Spears has emerged as an unlikely figurehead in the fight against Somali pirates.

According to reports, Britney’s hits, including Oops! I Did It Again and Baby One More Time, are being employed by British naval officers in an attempt to scare off pirates along the east coast of Africa. Perhaps nothing else – not guns, not harpoons – is quite as intimidating as the sound of Ms Spears singing “Ooh baby baby!”

Merchant naval officer Rachel Owens explained the tactics to Metro: “Her songs were chosen by the security team because they thought the pirates would hate them most. These guys can’t stand western culture or music, making Britney’s hits perfect. As soon as the pirates get a blast of Britney, they move on as quickly as they can.”

This is an unconscionable tactic, one that does not befit a country that considers itself civilized. Need I remind the British Navy that torture is illegal under both international and UK law?

The British Navy should also be aware that international law does not completely forbid belligerent reprisals. If the Somali pirates begin to fight back by blaring One Direction at oncoming British ships, the Navy will have no one but themselves to blame.

Hat-Tip: the BBC’s Kate Vandy.

My Talk in London Defending the Specific-Direction Requirement

by Kevin Jon Heller

I had the privilege last week of speaking in London at a superb Chatham House/Doughty St. Chambers symposium on the ICTY’s recent high-profile acquittals in Perisic, Gotovina, and others. My co-panelists were John Jones, QC, Saif Gaddafi’s ICC-appointed lawyer, and Elies van Sliedregt, the Dean of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Chatham House’s Elizabeth Wilmshurst was the moderator. I don’t believe the symposium was recorded, so I thought I would post the detailed outline of my remarks. My talk was, not surprisingly, a defence of Perisic‘s specific-direction requirement; it developed and systematized the thoughts I’ve articulated in a series of posts here on Opinio Juris. I was particularly keen to explain why criticizing the requirement for lacking a foundation in customary international law – as the SCSL did in Taylor – fundamentally misunderstands the difference between criminal-law doctrines that expand criminal responsibility (which must have a customary foundation, because of the nullum crimen principle) and those that narrow it (which do not have to have a customary foundation, because they do not implicate nullem crimen).

The outline of my remarks can be found here. As always, reader comments most welcome!

Appeals Chamber Ensures Ruto & Kenyatta Won’t Cooperate with the ICC

by Kevin Jon Heller

In a unanimous decision, the Appeals Chamber has reversed Trial Chamber V(a) and held that Ruto is required to continuously attend his trial, with exceptions to be granted only in exceptional circumstances. The decision is limited to Ruto, but it clearly applies to Kenyatta, as well, whom Trial Chamber V(b) has also excused from continuous presence.

It’s decisions like these that make me despair for the long-term viability of the Court. From a policy perspective, the decision is a disaster — it basically ensures that Ruto and Kenyatta will stop cooperating with the Court. Even worse, the decision will almost certainly engender considerable sympathy for the two men; after all, whether the ICC likes it or not, Ruto and Kenyatta were democratically elected to run a state critically important to African security. They are not Omar al-Bashir, who came to power in a coup and maintains power through fraudulent elections. Nor are their crimes as grave or their guilt as obvious.

Unlike the Trial Chambers — especially in the Kenyatta case — the Appeals Chamber seems completely oblivious to the obvious implications of its uncompromising position. Here is its list of rationales for requiring continuous participation (para. 49):

The accused person is not merely a passive observer of the trial, but the subject of the criminal proceedings and, as such, an active participant therein. It is important for the accused person to have the opportunity to follow the testimony of witnesses testifying against him or her so that he or she is in a position to react to any contradictions between his or her recollection of events and the account of the witness. It is also through the process of confronting the accused with the evidence against him or her that the fullest and most comprehensive record of the relevant events may be formed. Furthermore, the continuous absence of an accused from his or her own trial would have a detrimental impact on the morale and participation of victims and witnesses. More broadly, the presence of the accused during the trial plays an important role in promoting public confidence in the administration of justice.

The most obvious response is this: Ruto and Kenyatta will play no role at all in “promoting public confidence in the administration of justice” if they do not show up for trial. But beyond that, the Appeals Chamber’s rationales are either irrelevant or equally compatible with a more flexible approach to presence. Presence at trial is indeed important for an accused’s ability to understand the evidence against him — but it’s not the Court’s role to make sure the accused make smart strategic choices. There is no relationship at all between confronting an accused with the evidence against him and creating a comprehensive record, especially given that he cannot be forced to testify against his will (Art. 67(g) of the Rome Statute). And although it’s certainly possible that an accused’s absence may have a detrimental impact on the morale of victims and witnesses, I imagine most are more concerned with a conviction (and at least some would probably prefer not to have to give evidence in front of their victimizer).

These are policy concerns, of course, and the Appeals Chamber was faced with a legal issue — whether the Rome Statute requires an accused to be continuously present at trial. Indeed, I would have respected the Appeals Chamber if it had adopted the OTP’s argument and simply held that Art. 63(1) means what it says: “The accused shall be present during the trial.” An absolute presence requirement is obviously consistent with Art. 63(1) — and is generally if not unequivocally supported by the drafting history of the provision.

But that is not what the Appeals Chamber did. Instead, it tried to have it both ways — rejecting an absolute presence requirement and denying Trial Chambers the discretion they need to fashion a presence requirement that will ensure Ruto and Kenyatta show up for trial. Here is the key paragraph:

62. From the foregoing, the following limitations on the discretion of the Trial Chamber to excuse an accused person from presence during trial may be derived: (i) the absence of the accused can only take place in exceptional circumstances and must not become the rule; (ii) the possibility of alternative measures must have been considered, including, but not limited to, changes to the trial schedule or a short adjournment of the trial; (iii) any absence must be limited to that which is strictly necessary; (iv) the accused must have explicitly waived his or her right to be present at trial; (v) the rights of the accused must be fully ensured in his or her absence, in particular through representation by counsel; and (vi) the decision as to whether the accused may be excused from attending part of his or her trial must be taken on a case-by-case basis, with due regard to the subject matter of the specific hearings that the accused would not attend during the period for which excusal has been requested.

This is the worst of both worlds — the kind of mushy, divorced-from-the-text-of-the-Rome-Statute approach to Art. 63(1) that makes the Court seem callow and capricious. Indeed, the Appeals Chamber’s decision sends precisely the wrong message to Kenyatta and Ruto: “hey guys, it’s true that the Rome Statute doesn’t require your continuous presence. But it requires it more often than the Trial Chamber thinks it does. So you’ll just have to hope that the Trial Chamber will apply the test we pulled out of thin air in a manner that doesn’t make it impossible for you to both run Kenya and cooperate with the Court.” I think we know how that will turn out.

Once again, the ICC has shot itself in its foot. Deferral by the Security Council is looking like a better option by the day.

Russia, Moldova, and the EU: Realpolitik as Normative Competition

by Chris Borgen

Today’s New York Times has an overview of Russia’s power politics towards its “near abroad,” countries that used to be part of the USSR.  Some of these countries, such as Armenia, Moldova, and Ukraine, have been debating internally whether to become more integrated with the EU or to rebuild close ties with Russia. Armenia made the news recently for setting aside years of negotiations with the EU and, under considerable pressure from Moscow, announcing that it would join the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union. While the New York Times article focuses on the foreign policy and economic issues involved, these situations also exemplify the importance of law (both domestic and international) in international relations, because high politics in the ”near abroad” is not about the formal acquisition of territory, but the adoption of norms. (For more on this theme see, also, this.)

The New York Times article uses the case of Moldova as an example of how Russia pressures its neighbors: threatening energy cut offs, banning key exports from Moldova, even bringing religion into play. In the case of Moldova, Russia also supports a separatist group that has seized control of Transnistria, the eastern-most section of the country. (As readers of this blog may know, I was part of a group of lawyers from the NY City Bar who wrote a report on the legal issues related to the Transnistrian conflict and, last year, part of an Open Society Foundations supported study comparing the conflicts in Moldova and Cyprus.)

But the heart of the matter is whether Moldova will become more fully integrated into “European” institutions (the EU, first and foremost) or reintegrate with revamped “Russian” institutions (the Eurasia Customs Union, for example). At times a state can be on one side or another of a normative border: Poland is part of the European normative order, Belarus is in Russia’s. In such cases, when normative boundaries coincide with national boundaries the situation is relatively clear. But the issue of which way Moldova will face is still being contested, somewhat within Moldova (particularly by the Transnistrian separatists) and more so by Russia. Thus, Moldova and certain other states in Russia’s near abroad (such as Ukraine) are borderlands between two normative systems, each state containing aspects of both.

When normative systems overlap and jostle within a country, the result can be normative friction. This can relate to domestic laws, such as whether a particular conception of property rights or of human rights will be adopted. It can also concern international legal norms, such as to which treaties a state will become a signatory, which international organizations a state may join, the recognition of national borders, and issues of non-intervention. Any issue that seems to favor one set of normative system over another can become symbolic of a larger struggle. Even when you put up and take down Christmas decorations can turn into a political crisis.

Although this has been the case in Moldova, Armenia, and Ukraine for years, Russia is increasing its pressure now because… (Continue Reading)

Guest Post at Just Security About “Belonging to” and Associated Forces

by Kevin Jon Heller

Just Security has been kind enough to post my reply to an excellent post by Ryan Goodman. Here is the introduction:

In a recent post here at Just Security, Ryan Goodman offered a novel – and characteristically intelligent – defense of the US position that it is involved in a non-international armed conflict (NIAC) not only with al-Qaeda, but also with al-Qaeda’s “associated forces.” According to Ryan, the US is involved in a NIAC with al-Qaeda’s associated forces because they “belong to” al-Qaeda for purposes of the rules of IHL governing targeting and detention. Here is what he said, nominally in response to Christof Heyns’ assertion in his recent UN report on extrajudicial killings that an associated force must “form part” of al-Qaeda for its members to be targetable and detainable:

Nevertheless, the law of armed conflict stipulates that members of armed groups (e.g., AQAP) with a particular relationship to a party to a conflict (e.g., al-Qaeda) are legitimate targets. Specifically, Article 50(1) of Additional Protocol I states that a person cannot be considered a civilian (e.g., for the purpose of lethal targeting) if he is a member of an organized armed group with such an association. That association is defined in Article 4(a)(2) of the POW Convention: “members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict.”

In short, “belonging to” a party to the conflict is a form of an associated group, which renders its members subject to lethal force and detention.

I disagree with Ryan that the concept of “belonging to” can be applied in non-international armed conflict (NIAC). In this post I explain why.

Because Just Security does not have a comment system, interested readers should feel free to leave comments here.

Guest Post: The Truth About Criminal Jurisdiction Over U.S. Troops in Afghanistan: Questions for Secretary of State Kerry, the Loya Jirga… and National Public Radio

by Chris Jenks

[Chris Jenks is an assistant professor of law and directs the criminal justice clinic at the SMU Dedman School of Law. He previously served as Chief of the U.S. Army’s International Law Branch, where he was responsible for the Department of Defense’s foreign criminal jurisdiction program. This post expands and revises  comments published by Al Jazeera America.]

Beware the U.S. expressing “great respect” for a State’s sovereignty.  You’re likely to find what follows more akin to the opposite — of both respect and sovereignty.

Such is the case with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his recent misstatements on foreign criminal jurisdiction over U.S. service members and the US Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA).  Under the terms of the BSA, the U.S. would retain exclusive jurisdiction over any and all criminal offenses U.S. service members commit in Afghanistan. Secretary Kerry claimed on more than occasion that this is the same jurisdictional framework utilized wherever U.S. forces operate. It is not.

On October 12th, Sec Kerry, at a press conference in Afghanistan and while standing next to President Karzai, made a series of statements concerning the BSA’s criminal jurisdiction.  Among them,

[w]ith respect to the jurisdiction issue, we have great respect for Afghan sovereignty. And we will respect it, completely. And that is laid out in this agreement. But where we have forces in any part of the world, and we unfortunately have them in a number of places in the world – in Japan, in Korea, in Europe, in other parts of the world, Africa. Wherever our forces are found, they operate under the same standard. We are not singling out Afghanistan for any separate standard. We are defending exactly what the constitutional laws of the United States require.

Despite valiant Department of State attempts to “clarify” the Secretary’s remarks, the Washington Post initially awarded Sec Kerry “two Pinocchios”, meaning his statements at the Afghanistan press conference contained significant omissions and/or exaggerations.

Kerry then stripped away language which could be mistaken for accurate in an October 17th National Public Radio interview, claiming that “[There] is the question of who maintains jurisdiction over those Americans who would be [in Afghanistan]. Needless to say, we are adamant it has to be the United States of America. That’s the way it is everywhere else in the world.”  This  streamlined version of untruth prompted the Post to elevate Sec Kerry to a  “three Pinocchios” award for “significant factual errors and/or obvious contradictions.”

Why Sec Kerry’s misstatements matter

  1. Sec Kerry’s false jurisdictional equivalency claims undermine his, and the U.S’. credibility, as well as Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s ability to explain the BSA to an upcoming Loya Jirga, whose approval is needed if U.S. troops are to remain in Afghanistan after 2014. Successfully concluding the BSA now depends on the Loya Jirga not realizing that any reliance on representations by the U.S. Secretary of State is misplaced. This bodes poorly for the agreement, and the strategic partnership between the two countries. (more…)

Jens Iverson Guest Post: The New Haven School on Syria–Observing Professors Koh and Stahn

by Jens Iverson

[Jens Iverson is a Researcher for the ‘Jus Post Bellum’ project at the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, part of the Law Faculty of the University of Leiden.]

The debate on the legality of a U.S. strike in Syrian territory is unlikely to produce consensus, in part because those involved in the debate take fundamentally different approaches to international law.  Unless the underlying commitments of each approach are brought to the foreground, contributors to the debate risk talking past each other.  As a result, an important opportunity will likely be lost.

Prof. Harold Hongju  Koh, formerly of the U.S. State Department and now back at Yale, argued in favor of the potential legality of a U.S. strike in Syrian territory, as outlined by the U.S. government before the plan was placed on indefinite hold.  Prof. Carsten Stahn of Leiden University critiques Koh’s argument, ultimately supporting the bar on the use of armed force absent self-defense or U.N. Security Council authorization.  Koh then responded to Stahn and others, largely reiterating his earlier points, and Stahn provided a further rejoinder.

I will not argue the merits of the debate, but rather highlight issues central to each scholar’s approach that merit further discussion by both sides.  Koh’s emphasis on the unacceptable results of a “rigid” approach is not likely to persuade a positivist focused on existing law.  Stahn’s exposition of possibilities and restrictions within the existing law may seem slightly beside the point for a reader who finds the likely results of restrictions on the (just) use of force intolerable.

For the debate to continue productively, a good first step would be to candidly recognize the potential limitations of both positions.  Restrictions on the use of force, necessary to limit international armed conflict, may result in the commission of atrocity crimes that cannot be deterred by non-violent means.  Loosening restrictions on the use of force, even with the best of intentions, not only increases the potential frequency and intensity of armed conflict, but also may weaken the authority and function of international law more generally.  These are issues that should be tackled head-on, not minimized.

I focus primarily on these blog posts by these two professors because I think they are exemplary in both senses of the word.  They are among the most well-argued pieces on the subject, and they demonstrate the strengths of their respective positions.

Koh’s Approach:

Koh’s emphases—normative values, connecting law and policy, and a lawyer’s duty to play a leading and constructive role in interpreting law—are no accident.  They are a direct outgrowth of his long and fruitful engagement with the New Haven School of International Law.  In Koh’s 2007 evaluation of the New Haven School, he identifies a number of commitments the School has made, including normative values and connecting law and policy.  He emphasized that competing schools of international law such as those espousing a commitment to a “new sovereigntism” hold a depressing vision of international lawyers as yes men or scriveners, rather than architects, public servants, or simply “lawyers as leaders.”  In Koh’s 2001 An Uncommon Lawyer, he lovingly recalls examples of lawyers as “moral actors” who “guide the evolution of legal process with the application of fundamental values.”  In one of the most cited international law articles of all time, Koh’s 1997 Why Do Nations Obey International Law, he notes that the New Haven School “viewed international law as itself a decisionmaking process dedicated to a set of normative values” in contrast to “a set of rules promulgated by a pluralistic community of states, which creates the context that cabins a political decisionmaking process.”   (He also, notably, critiques past failures of the New Haven School and notes the critiques of others, demonstrating his own intellectual flexibility.)  In Koh’s 1995 A World Transformed, he recalls the 1974 founding of Yale Studies in World Public Order (which later became the Yale Journal of International Law) and recalls the demand for an evaluation of an ethical World Public Order, refreshed through the decades by scholars, including Koh himself. (more…)

Guest Post: The OPCW Grows Up

by Faiza Patel

[Faiza Patel is the Co-Director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law]

In the decade that I worked at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, few people outside the arms control community knew about my employer. Now, of course, everyone is talking about the OPCW as its inspectors undertake the difficult and dangerous task of monitoring the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to this previously low-profile outfit has only piqued interest further.

So what is the OPCW and what does it do?

The OPCW is an inter-governmental organization charged with making sure that countries comply with their obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention. For the past 16 years it has been doing so without much fanfare. As the Nobel committee made clear, the OPCW’s contribution to world peace is based on this long record, not just for stepping up in Syria.

The Chemical Weapons Convention, which came into force in 1997, is one of the most important achievements of the post-Cold War period. It is unique amongst arms control treaties because it bans not just the use, but also the stockpiling, of an entire category of weapons (In contrast, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty allows the five permanent members of the Security Council to maintain nuclear arsenals, although they are meant to be working towards eliminating them.) Countries that join the treaty are required to declare any chemical weapons they hold, as well as related facilities, and to get rid of them under international supervision. They must also undertake to never develop a chemical weapons capacity.

Under the treaty, countries were required to destroy their chemical weapons by 2012. Substantial progress has been made towards this goal, with approximately 80 percent of chemical agent stockpiles destroyed. Unfortunately, the two major possessor states, the United States and the Russian Federation, have not yet finished. They are, however, slated to finish up over the next few years and most experts are confident that both countries will eventually fulfill this commitment.

In addition to monitoring the elimination of chemical weapons, the OPCW has important non-proliferation mandate that will continue even after all weapons stockpiles are gone. Facilities producing dual use chemicals – such as Thiodiglycol, which is used to make ink but can also be used to produce mustard gas – are periodically inspected to ensure that toxic substances are not diverted to weapons uses. Since 1997, the organization has undertaken some 1900 of these types of inspections. Of course this represents only a fraction of the industrial facilities that deal in chemicals that could be turned into weapons, but the fact that countries allow inspections increases confidence that they are committed to the goals of the treaty.

Despite this impressive record, the OPCW faces a number of challenges as it embarks on the Syrian mission. (more…)

Carsten Stahn Guest Post: On Intervention, Narratives of Progress, Threats of force and the Virtues of Case-by-Case Assessment–A Rejoinder to Koh (Part III)

by Carsten Stahn

[Carsten Stahn is Professor of International Criminal Law and Global Justice at Leiden University and Programme Director of the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies. He is Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Leiden Journal of International Law, Executive Editor of the Criminal Law Forum and project leader of the Jus Post Bellum Project. An earlier post on this appears here.]

Harold Koh and Daniel Bethlehem deserve credit for having launched this important and timely debate. Koh has formulated an excellent reply to critiques to his post which stands in the best tradition of debate over the prohibition of the use of force. As we all known, Article 2 (4) has been declared dead and rejuvenated too many times. It is thus legitimate to have struggles as to the proper way forward. I see merit in the need to map ‘current law onto modern reality’.  But I would argue that some of the underlying elements of his existing proposition of an ‘affirmative defence are rooted in tensions that are unlikely to be solved through discourse over the creation a new substantive exception to the prohibition of the use of force. A case-by-case assessment may be ultimately better than an abstract rule to accommodate the problems inherent in a formulation of a doctrine that has been controversial for centuries.  I would like to highlight three aspects that may require deeper reflection in the debate: (i) narratives regarding ‘progress’, (ii) the relationship between ‘threat of force’ and ‘use of force’, and (iii) the choice of the appropriate methodology for the way ahead.  

1. Observational standpoints and narratives of progress

Firstly, it is important to clarify observational standpoints. Koh presents change to the rule a ‘progress’ and adherence to it as stalemate. I have doubt whether the debate can be adequately addressed, let alone resolved, based on the dichotomy between a progress-adverse ‘absolutist’ view, represented by the illegal per se rule, and a modern ‘reformist ‘view’ which would argue that the rule is not ‘black and white’. It is an oversimplification to divide scholarly opinion into these two camps. Most international lawyers would acknowledge that the Charter is a ‘dynamic instrument’. It is a given, and not a point of controversy’ that it should be interpreted in light of its objectives and purposes. There are cases in which Art. 2 (IV) does not prohibit the use of force, such as intervention by invitation which raises difficult issues of the legitimacy consent in the context of civil war (as noted by Jordan Paust). The ICJ recognized in Nicaragua (Judgment, 27 June 1986, para. 175) that conventional and customary law on the use of force are not necessarily identical in content.  Even proponents of a strict interpretation of Article 2 (4) recognize ‘shades of grey’ and options for development. There may thus more agreement than divide.

In my view, Koh takes a shortcut by criticizing international lawyers for having ‘become more comfortable stating rules than in figuring out how international law might help to push unfolding events towards the right resolution’. The roots of the controversy lie deeper. Koh’s position is based on a specific approach towards international law. His argument is based on the premise that international law is an instrument of problem-solving and a tool to facilitate decision-making processes over war and peace. This approach advocates different prerogatives than a more systemic vision of international law that regards norms and institutions as the centre of a normative system that protects collective interests and values and constrains behavior. This tension has been inherent in approaches to international law for decades.

The main problem with Koh’s position is not so much the normative content of the proposition, i.e. the claim that use of force may in some circumstances be in the spirit of Charter principles and help ‘protect human rights. The fundamental difficulty of Koh’s argument is that it reduces the options for accountability of military action.  It shifts the balance from a centralized enforcement system to a decentralized system where nations become the arbiters over the legality of their claims to intervention. This causes fears and anxieties among many UN members. Koh’s plea for new abstract regulation would give formal recognition to the claim that the Council is an option à la carte than can be turned on and switched off in ‘hard cases’ where there is no agreement. Giving up this constraint weakens leverage for compliance and the need to justify choices of behavior before a collective forum, in circumstances in which international law is most important in debate. This is a position that many nations will be reluctant to sacrifice for the gain of greater clarity on the rule.

One of the main dilemmas of ‘humanitarian intervention’ has been the question of ‘agency’, i.e. that action is carried out in the name of others. It has been inherent in humanitarianism since it its inception. R2P mitigated this dilemma through recourse to collective response schemes.  Koh’s suggested new rule turns a ‘blind eye’ to this. It fails to engage with the question how intervening nations could claim authority to speak for others/victims.  In the African Union, this dilemma has been mitigated by an institutional solution, i.e. consent under Articles 4 (h) and (j) of the Constitutive Act which recognizes

‘the right of the Union to intervene in a member State pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely; war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity’.

Koh’s suggested norm does not address such institutional safeguards.  It simply uses institutional support as one optional parameter to support the claim for legality. He suggests that the claim for exemption from wrongfulness would be  ‘strenghtened’ if intervening nations could demonstrate ‘that the action was collective’. This may simply not be enough. (more…)

PTC I’s Inconsistent Approach to Complementarity and the Right to Counsel

by Kevin Jon Heller

Pre-Trial Chamber I has granted Libya’s challenge to the admissibility of the case against Abdullah al-Senussi. This is obviously a major win for the Libyan government, especially given that the very same PTC denied its admissibility challenge regarding Saif Gaddafi.

There is much to like in the PTC’s decision. It takes a very broad approach to the “same conduct” requirement with regard to the definition of a “case” — something I’ve long advocated. (Indeed, I’ve advocated jettisoning the rule entirely.) It reaffirms that states are not obligated to prosecute international crimes as international crimes; ordinary crimes are sufficient. And it once again rejects the idea that the failure of a domestic proceeding to live up to international standards of due process makes a case admissible, rightly emphasizing that due process is relevant only insofar as the failure of a domestic prosecution to live up to national standards of due process threatens the viability of that prosecution.

That said, there is one very problematic aspect of the PTC’s decision in al-Senussi: its treatment of al-Senussi’s right to counsel is completely inconsistent with its decision in Gaddafi. In Gaddafi, PTC I held that Libya’s failure to provide Gaddafi with an attorney meant that it was “unable” to prosecute him within the meaning of Art. 17(3) of the Rome Statute (emphasis mine)…