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Emerging Voices: The International Olympic Committee’s Accountability for Human Rights – Learning From the World Bank

by Ryan Gauthier

[Ryan Gauthier is a PhD Candidate at the Erasmus University Rotterdam.]

Mo’ Sporting Events, Mo’ Problems

In June, the 2015 European Olympic Games took place in Baku, Azerbaijan. Did you watch? You might not have even been aware of them! This first edition of the European Olympic Games is a symbol of the growing number of sports mega-events, joining the Olympic Games, the Fédération Intenationale de Football Association (‘FIFA’) World Cup, and others, on an ever-crowded sporting calendar. However, all is not positive. Just before the 2015 Games began, the Netherlands declined to host the 2019 edition of the European Olympic Games, citing the almost €60 million price tag as too much.

Sports mega-events have expanded not only in number, but also in geographic scope. Baku 2015 is an example of sports mega-events being held in developing countries. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), and countries such as Argentina and Qatar have hosted the world’s premier sports mega-events (Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, Commonwealth Games) since 2008.

Unfortunately for the citizens of these countries, these events have also been prime examples of the worst problems caused by sports mega-events. Families have been evicted from their homes (sometimes forcibly), ecologically sensitive areas have lost their protected status so that infrastructure such as ski runs or golf courses can be constructed, labour rights abuses have run rampant on infrastructure projects, and civil dissent has been quashed. To add insult to injury, the same old negative legacies of ‘white elephants’, such as unused or half-empty stadiums, deserted parks, unused hotel rooms, and public debt have reared their head.


My PhD research focuses on the accountability of international sporting organisations for the worst outcomes of their events. What I hope to do with this blog post is outline one aspect of accountability, the use of a monitoring mechanism. I will outline the problem of an absent state and a weak mandate. I will then discuss a comparison with the World Bank, and lessons that might be learned by international sporting organisations.

Where Does the Buck Stop?

Many organisations are involved in putting on a sports mega-event. As a start, international sporting organisations such as the IOC and FIFA hold the intellectual property rights to the event. However, these organisations do not directly engage in preparations for the event, but instead provide varying levels of financial and logistical support. The actual preparation is carried out by a local organising committee (which may be public or private), who hires contractors for construction, and so forth. The state government also supports the preparations.

When things go wrong, no party is held to account. This is due in part to the multiplicity of organisations involved, creating a ‘problem of many hands’. This situation is exacerbated because the state, the one organisation which is expected to provide a backstop to guarantee that its citizens are not harmed, is often unwilling or unable to hold anyone else to account. In some cases, particularly in regards to the eviction of individuals, and allowing construction in environmentally-sensitive areas, the government is actually complicit in the harm. Thus, with an absent state, my research examines how the international sporting organisations should be accountable, and should hold others to account, for the harms caused by hosting their sports mega-events.

Baby Steps

As part of its response to this situation, (more…)

Emerging Voices: The Role of Attribution Rules Under the Law of State Responsibility in Classifying Situations of Armed Conflict

by Remy Jorritsma

[Remy Jorritsma (LL.M.) is a lecturer in public international law at the Department of International and European Law of Maastricht University. In September 2015 he will join the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg as a Research Fellow/PhD candidate. Contact at r [dot] jorritsma [at] maastrichtuniversity [dot] nl.]

Armed conflicts involving e.g. Ukraine/Russia, Israel/Palestine, and the self-proclaimed Islamic State demonstrate legal ambiguities with regard to State responsibility as a result of the State exercising control over organized armed groups. Under customary international law an act by a non-State actor is attributable to a State if, inter alia, the latter exercises a certain level of control over the former.

However, it is unclear how much control is required for attribution. Equally unclear is the exact function of attribution in relation to the application of international humanitarian law (IHL). At stake is the issue whether the secondary rules of attribution may assist in classifying the armed conflict, thereby determining the framework of primary rules in which hostilities take place: the rules of international armed conflicts (IACs) or non-international armed conflicts (NIACs). The line of case law responsible for this debate is often characterized as a conspicuous example of “fragmentation” of international law (see here, here; but see with more nuance here).

In the Nicaragua case the ICJ assessed whether the acts of the contras could be attributed to the US for the purpose of State responsibility. The Court set the required level of control as follows:

‘[Even decisive participation] in the financing, organizing, training, supplying and equipping of the contras, the selection of its military or paramilitary targets, and the planning of whole of its operation, is still insufficient [. I]t would in principle have to be proved that that State had effective control of the military or paramilitary operations in the course of which the alleged violations were committed.’ (§115, emphasis added.)

The Nicaragua test did not convince the ICTY Appeals Chamber when it had to ascertain the nature of the armed conflict between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, acting after 19 May 1992 through the Bosnian Serb Army. The Appeals Chamber considered when an organized armed group fighting in a prima facie NIAC acts on behalf of another State – or ‘belong[s] to a Party’ in the sense of Article 4(a)(2) of Geneva Convention III – with the result that the conflict is internationalized and thus subject to IAC law. It held this to be the case if that State exercises…

‘overall control, going beyond the mere financing and equipping of [organized armed] forces and involving also participation in the planning and supervision of military operations. [It is not required] that such control extend to the issuance of specific orders or instructions relating to single military actions.’ (§145)

The next round of this ‘dialogue des sourds’ (Simma 2009, p.280) came when the ILC cited with approval the Nicaragua test in its Commentary (§5) to Article 8 of the Articles on State Responsibility, apparently discarding the overall control test. Later in the Lubanga Confirmation of Charges Decision the ICC approved (§211, later endorsed in the Lubanga Judgment at §541) the overall control test for the purpose of determining the nature of the conflict. Finally, the stamp of approval for the effective control test comes when the ICJ in Bosnian Genocide explicitly rejects (§403) the Tadić test of overall control for the purpose of State responsibility. Oddly, and perhaps even merely as a ‘gracious concession to the ICTY’ (Cassese 2007, p.651), the Court in Bosnian Genocide somehow purports (§405) to conceal this conflict by suggesting that the level of control required for the internationalization of a NIAC can ‘without logical inconsistency’ differ from the degree of control required for attribution in terms of State responsibility. The Court thus leaves open the possibility that the less-demanding test of overall control may be used to bring about an international(ized) armed conflict.

This line of case law reveals a fundamental difference of opinion as to if, and how, questions on State responsibility and conflict classification can be answered through a process of attribution of conduct. Two specific points of conflict can be observed: (1) disagreement as to the level of control required for State responsibility, and (2) disagreement as to whether conflicts can be classified by “borrowing” from the law on State responsibility. Bosnian Genocide creatively seeks to avoid the appearance of an all-out confrontation with the ICTY by acknowledging its subject-matter expertise and by approving of its approach in matters of conflict situation. However, what was meant to avoid or minimize the appearance of fragmentation actually ended up exacerbating it. There are three possible ways of looking at the overall/effective control debate (cf. Report of the Study Group on Fragmentation, §43-50):

  • As involving a conflict between two different interpretations of international law: effective control versus overall control for State responsibility;
  • As involving a conflict between the general law and a particular rule that claims to be the lex specialis exception to it: effective control for State responsibility but overall control for State responsibility in situations of armed conflict;
  • As involving no conflict at all, because the cases can be distinguished on basis of facts: Nicaragua/Bosnian Genocide concerned State responsibility, whereas Tadić concerned classification of armed conflict.

Particularly the ICJ’s disconnection between State responsibility and classification of conflict by differentiating between various functions of attribution is problematic for a number of reasons.

First, the ICJ’s suggestion that State responsibility is conceptually distinct from conflict classification appears to depart from its earlier practice in Nicaragua. Here the Court held that the actions of the contras in relation to Nicaragua, not imputable to the US, were subject to the law of NIACs, whereas the actions of the US itself (e.g. issuing a guerrilla warfare manual to the contras) were subject to the law of IACs. Without explicitly saying so, Nicaragua suggested a close link to exist between attribution of conduct and classification of armed conflict, making it unlikely to maintain that these questions are very different in nature. The lack of attribution through effective control meant that the conduct of the contras was de facto and de jure their own. Conversely, should the Court have found that the contras’ acts were legally attributable to the US, it is expected that their actions be assessed in light of the rules of IACs (cf. § 215 and 254).

Second, the primary rules of IHL also demonstrate a clear connection between attribution, State responsibility, and classification of conflict. An IAC subject to the rules of IHL exists whenever there is an armed conflict between States, whereas NIACs are armed conflicts in which at least one of the belligerent parties is not a State. In the Bemba Confirmation of Charges Decision the International Criminal Court held (§223) that an IAC exists ‘in case of armed hostilities between States through their organs or other actors acting on behalf of the State.’ Having in mind that conflicts are distinguished by the parties involved (Zegveld 2002, p.136), it becomes clear that ‘a determination of attribution will affect the classification of conflict’ (Somer 2006). The legal process of attribution in armed conflict situations defines who the belligerent parties are, and this in turn determines the applicable law in light of which the lawfulness of the belligerent parties’ behaviour must be assessed. This interpretation of IHL by reference to general rules of international law (Art. 31(3)(c) VCLT) arrives at a solution that is the most coherent when looking at IHL as such, and at IHL within the wider system of public international law.

Third, more generally, attribution rules are relevant to ‘define the conditions upon which the primary rules applies’ (Gaja 2014, p. 989). They are ‘transsubstantive’ rules (Caron 1998, p.128) which permeate the content and scope of primary rules. Primary rules may be addressed to specific legal subjects only and secondary rules of attribution rules then serve to determine whether the conduct complained of can be imputed to the addressee of the norm. This, of course, only unless a special law determines otherwise (cf. Art. 55 ARSIWA). If a State exercises control over a non-State actor this triggers the application of fields of law made to regulate State behaviour.

The ICJ’s separation of control for conflict classification from control for State responsibility rigidly adheres to a strict separation between primary and secondary rules. By suggesting to agree on a minor point with the ICTY the ICJ actually obscured the bigger picture and created more legal uncertainty. Also, a less-demanding test for conflict classification being distinct from State responsibility opens the door for States to fight a proxy IAC without being responsible towards the victims for possible violations committed in the course of that conflict. This is unacceptable in light of IHL’s emphasis on responsible command and at odds with the general structure of the law on State responsibility which logically places attribution before establishment of a breach or legal consequences.

At the end of the day, the ICJ and ICTY/ICC’s diverging approach towards the function of State control over a non-State actor may just as well be regarded as a case of concealed confrontation, or at the very least a judicial dialogue that feigns some agreement in order to downplay the actual extent and form of fragmentation.

Emerging Voices: The Law of the Sea as a Tool for Stability and Progress in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea

by Nikolaos Ioannidis

[Nikolaos A. Ioannidis is a PhD candidate in Public International Law (University of Bristol).]

On the verge of the 21st century, the discovery of “Noa”, a gas field offshore Israel, reinvigorated the Eastern Mediterranean (East Med) states’ interest in the sea. Additional hydrocarbon deposits were found in the sea waters adjacent to Israel, Gaza, Cyprus and Egypt, while the United States Geological Survey estimated that the Levant Basin alone contains 1.7 million barrels of oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. These developments made the regional states realize that, in order to avail themselves of the immense underwater wealth, they should first demarcate their maritime space in conformity with the law of the sea rules. This post analyses the maritime boundary delimitation agreements concluded so far in the East Med. It should be pointed out that these are the first EEZ delimitation agreements to have been signed in the Mediterranean Sea. Perhaps the most noteworthy features of these arrangements is the use of the median line and the adherence of Israel to the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC or the Convention) rules on the EEZ and maritime delimitation, despite the fact that it is not a state-party to the Convention.

In particular, four East Med states proceeded with the conclusion of bilateral maritime boundary delimitation agreements; the first delimitation agreement between Egypt and Cyprus in 2003 was followed by another two between Lebanon-Cyprus in 2007 (pending ratification by Lebanon); and Israel-Cyprus in 2010. All three agreements are concise and comprise five virtually identical articles each. Undoubtedly, maritime boundary delimitation is a pivotal function within the realm of the law of the sea. As the Arbitral Tribunal in the Bangladesh/India Award stressed:

“The importance of stable and definitive maritime boundaries is all the more essential when the exploration and exploitation of the resources of the continental shelf are at stake… the sovereign rights of coastal States, and therefore the maritime boundaries between them, must be determined with precision to allow for development and investment (emphasis added).”

Even though the East Med states maintain variant positions on maritime affairs, they have perceived the utility of the law of the sea apparatus in facilitating hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation, hence they decided to act within its ambit and collaborate with a view to gaining multiple profits from the energy windfall.

Legal analysis of the agreements

In the Preambles of these instruments, the contracting parties set forth the desire for cooperation, note the importance of EEZ delimitation “for the purpose of development” and recall the relevant LOSC provisions. The invocation of the LOSC in the Israeli-Cypriot agreement is of utmost significance as it not only illustrates the universal application of the Convention, but, most importantly, highlights the willingness of Israel to act in conformity with the LOSC, despite not being a party to the Convention, at least in terms of the provisions relevant to the EEZ. In any event, the EEZ concept forms part and parcel of customary international law, thus, even non-member states to the Convention are entitled to use and are obliged to observe the relevant rules [Continental Shelf (Tunisia/Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) (Judgment) [1982] ICJ Rep. 18, para. 100; Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary in the Gulf of Maine Area [1984] ICJ Rep. 246, para. 94; Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriyia/Malta) (Judgment) [1985] ICJ Rep. 13, para. 34].

Perforce Article 1(a) of each agreement, the maritime limit between the contracting states is the median line, namely a line “every point of which is equidistant from the nearest points on the baselines of the two Parties” (Article 15 LOSC). The mutual acceptance and use of the median line evinces the establishment of a regional practice in the East Med favouring this method, contrary to the efforts of Turkey, which has diachronically been rejecting the median line/equidistance principle; instead, Turkey has been advocating the vague equitable principles/relevant circumstances method, which provides that all relevant factors should be considered so as to reach an equitable result. Paragraphs b-d of Article 1 address the definition of the coordinates of the maritime boundaries.

Furthermore, (more…)

Emerging Voices: Excuse in International Law

by Arthur Kutoroff

[Arthur Kutoroff is a graduate of Cornell Law School. He can be reached at Kutoroff [at] gmail [dot] com.]

There is a fundamental asymmetry between the treatment of individuals and the treatment of states within international law: individuals may claim excuses for their violations of legal obligations, but states may not.

Philosophers and lawyers distinguish between justifications and excuses: an action is justified if it is morally good or right (or at least not bad or wrongful); an action is excused if it is wrongful but the actor is not culpable for the wrongful action. This distinction affects the rights of third parties as well: third parties may lawfully assist a justified action, but may not assist an excused action because excuses are personal to the excused.

This distinction has been widely influential in domestic criminal law, as many jurisdictions clearly distinguish between justifications such as self-defense and excuses such as insanity. International criminal law seems to recognize excuses as well. The Rome Statute provides defenses such as duress, insanity, and intoxication for defendants before the ICC, although the Rome Statute is not entirely clear about which defenses are justifications and which are excuses. Moreover, in the Erdemovic case the ICTY recognized duress as a defense, albeit in limited circumstances.

International law does recognize defenses for states that breach their international obligations, but it does not clarify which defenses are justifications and which are excuses. For example, in the 1838 Caroline affair, British forces entered United States territory to destroy an American ship that was supplying Canadian rebels during the Upper Canada Rebellion. In response, United States Secretary of State Daniel Webster argued in a letter to the British government that the British failed to meet the standard of self-defense, which requires “necessity of self-defense, instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation.” This definition combines elements of excuse and justification. The requirement that an exercise of self-defense is necessary suggests that self-defense is a justification, since jurisdictions generally recognize that a necessary action is justified. Yet, as George Fletcher and Jens Ohlin explain, the requirement that one could not do otherwise invokes the idea of self-preservation, which is more an excuse than a justification. Moreover, that requirement that one has no moment of deliberation invokes the idea of provocation, which is arguably a partial justification and a partial excuse.

Yet more recently international law has abandoned the language of excuse. The United Nations Charter authorizes the use of force if Security Council approves the use of force, and also maintains “the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.” In both of these circumstances, the use of force is justified, not merely excused: a state using force with UN Security Council approval or in self-defense has not committed a wrongful action.

Since World War II, international law has continued to recognize defenses to breaches of international obligations, but it has not clearly distinguished between justifications and excuses. Yet defenses in international law seem more like justifications than like excuses. As an illustration, consider the Draft Articles on State Responsibility, which provides a set of defenses to breaches of international law. Consider the defense of necessity, which was described in the Draft Articles and recognized by the ICJ in the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Project case. The Draft Articles describe necessity as “a ground for precluding the wrongfulness of an act not in conformity with an international obligation,” which invokes the language of justification rather than excuse. Recently the UN General Assembly has commended the Draft Articles (now just “the Articles”), further solidifying their place in international law yet further entrenching the ambiguity between justifications and excuses.

International law should consider recognizing excuses for states, as the theories that warrant the provision of excuses for individuals may apply to states as well. As an illustration, consider H.L.A. Hart’s theory of excuses: agents should be punished for their actions only if they have “the normal capacity, physical and mental, for doing what the law requires and abstaining from what it forbids, and a fair opportunity to exercise these capacities.” Hart considers various excuses, such as duress, mistake, and insanity, and notes that in these circumstances the defendant “could not have done otherwise.” There are other theories besides Hart’s: scholars have advocated alternative theories of excuse grounded in causation, choice, character, utilitarianism, and other considerations as well. But given H.L.A. Hart’s influence, his theory is a useful starting point.

Hart’s capacity and opportunity theory of excuse seems to apply to states as well as to individuals. Consider the prospects of a duress defense for states. States may be subject to coercive pressure from other states, and such coercive pressure may undermine the normal capacity of a government to act in conformity with international law. Moreover, coercive pressure from other states may deny a state a fair opportunity to conform their conduct to the requirements of international law.

To an extent, international law already recognizes duress, as the Draft Articles recognize coercion as a defense. Yet international law should clearly recognize duress or coercion as an excuse, not a justification. The moral significance of coercion is not that coercion justifies an otherwise wrongful action, but rather that it transfers culpability to the coercive third party. Were international law to recognize duress as an excuse, it would open the conceptual space to condemn wrongful conduct without condemning those who lacked the opportunity and capacity to follow their obligations.

As illustration of the effect of duress on state conduct, (more…)

Emerging Voices: What’s in a Mandate? Protecting Civilians in South Sudan

by Bart Smit Duijzentkunst

[Bart L. Smit Duijzentkunst recently received his PhD in international law from the University of Cambridge. He will be teaching international law at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, in the 2015 fall semester.]

When, in December 2013, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) opened its gates to thousands of civilians fleeing violence in the wake of an alleged coup, it also opened a new chapter on the UN’s commitment to the protection of civilians. Two decades earlier UN troops had received vague orders to protect “safe areas” in Bosnia and Rwanda—with disastrous consequences. Today UNMISS is explicitly authorised to use “all necessary means” to protect civilians. Yet while the language of UN mandates has evolved, so have developments on the ground. UN policy-makers originally envisioned protection of civilians measures as short-term, localised interventions to ensure the physical safety of persons in acute emergency situations. In South Sudan, however, 18 months after the outbreak of hostilities almost 140,000 people continue to reside in so-called “protection of civilians sites” across the country. As a result, UNMISS peacekeepers are not simply called upon to protect against external threats, but also to maintain public safety and security within protection of civilians sites. But does their mandate cover these activities? This post briefly discusses the evolution of peacekeeping mandates before offering some reflections on UNMISS’ authority.

Protection of civilians mandates emerged in UN Security Council practice on the eve of the new millennium. In “traditional” mandates, the protection of civilians had been an afterthought, the fortuitous consequence of other peacekeeping objectives. For example, the mandate of UNPROFOR, operating in the Balkans in the mid 1990s, merely called upon the mission to deter attacks on so-called “safe areas”, to monitor cease-fires and to promote the withdrawal of military and paramilitary units from these areas. UNPROFOR could only take “all necessary measures”, including the use of force, in self-defence. Similarly, when UNAMIR in Rwanda was authorised to establish “secure humanitarian areas” in 1994, the UN Security Council recognised that the mission might be required to take action in self-defence to protect the areas, but did not explicitly authorise it to use force to do so.

Propelled by the failures in Bosnia and Rwanda, and encouraged by the emerging idea that the international community held a “responsibility to protect” vulnerable populations, in 1999 the UN Security Council started to explore the protection of civilians as an objective of peacekeeping. It began passing dedicated resolutions and included protection of civilians clauses in operational mandates. These “robust” mandates reflect a recognition by the Security Council that impartiality of UN peacekeeping operations “is not the same as neutrality or equal treatment of all parties in all cases for all time” and that in certain circumstances “peacekeepers may not only be operationally justified in using force but morally compelled to do so.”

In the same year, the UN Security Council vested certain missions with far-reaching administrative powers. UNMIK in Kosovo and UNTAET in East Timor were tasked to provide administrative functions while developing domestic institutions. In line with their “executive” mandates, these missions were empowered to draft local laws, implement domestic policies and administer justice, including arresting and sentencing alleged criminals, until these powers were transferred to local governments (in 2008 and 2002 respectively).

With these differences between traditional, robust and executive mandates in mind, let’s return to the situation of UNMISS. Following South Sudan’s independence on 9 July 2011, UNMISS’ initial mandate focussed on state-building and conflict resolution efforts; the protection of civilians was buried deep in its sub-clauses. These political ambitions went up in flames with the outbreak of violence on 15 December 2013, when an alleged coup triggered a civil war between Government forces, led by President Salva Kiir, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army – In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), headed by former vice-President Riek Machar.

In light of the persistent fighting and the massive influx of internally displaced persons and refugees onto UNMISS premises, the UN Security Council revised UNMISS’ mandate in November 2014 to make the protection of civilians its top priority. The new, robust mandate removes references to “imminent” threats, simply authorising UNMISS to “use all necessary means” to “protect civilians under threat of physical violence, irrespective of the source of such violence”. While housing, food and sanitation are principally provided by humanitarian organisations, UNMISS is in charge of “maintain[ing] public safety and security within and of UNMISS protection of civilians sites”.

This is not the first time that the UN has provided shelter to civilians on its premises: from East Timor to Palestine, over the last decades civilians have flocked to UN bases in the face of violence. The UN has developed various policies to deal with these situations, which range from setting out general principles to providing specific guidelines on civilians seeking protection at UNMISS sites (the latter drafted prior to December 2013). All these documents stress the exceptional and temporary nature of these measures: they speak of protection in terms of hours or days, not weeks or months. Yet as the conflict in South Sudan persists and peace remains elusive, what might have seemed a temporary measure at first has turned into a prolonged situation with few prospects of resolution.


Emerging Voices: Powers of the Security Council to Make Determinations Under Article 39 of the Charter in Case of Cyber Operations

by Janos Ferencz

[Janos Ferencz, LL.M., is a Visiting Research Fellow at The Minerva Center for the Rule of Law under Extreme Conditions at the Faculty of Law and Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Haifa and a Legal consultant at Panteia, the Netherlands.]

The rapid proliferation of malicious cyber operations in recent years has underlined a growing concern about the risks presented by cyber space to international peace and security. The UN General Assembly noted in Resolution 69/28 (2014) the increasing concerns about the use of information technologies “for purposes that are inconsistent with the objectives of maintaining international stability and security” (UN Doc. A/Res/69/28, 2 December 2014, preambular para. 9). The importance of understanding when cyber operations represent a threat to international peace and security lies in the Security Council’s Chapter VII powers. Under Article 39 of the Charter, its powers to adopt non-forceful and forceful measures can only be activated once there is a determination that a cyber operation is a “threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression.” The academia has paid only limited attention so far to analysing the conditions under which cyber operations can reach this level. This post aims to fill this gap by assessing whether, and if so, under what conditions can cyber operations trigger the applicability of Article 39 of the Charter.

Cyber operations and the threshold of Article 39

A cyber operation must be understood as a broad concept, incorporating “the employment of cyber capabilities with the primary purpose of achieving objectives in or by the use of cyberspace” (Tallinn Manual, para. 2, p. 15). The Tallinn Manual experts unanimously agreed that the Security Council possesses the authority to determine that a cyber operation constitutes a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression (Tallinn Manual, Rule 18). The question remains, however, what are the prerequisite circumstances for such an operation to attain the level of gravity required by Article 39?

A breach of the peace is generally characterized by armed hostilities between States, while an act of aggression manifests through the direct or indirect use of force. The concept of “threat to the peace” is the broadest and most frequently used one by the Security Council. From a cyber perspective, the two former scenarios, although theoretically possible, remain less likely to occur in practice since the Security Council has yet to make a determination that an event amounted to an act of aggression, and only a handful of situations were found to have breached the peace (e.g. the invasion of South Korea or Kuwait). For this reason (and taking into account also spatial limitations) this post focuses on the circumstances qualifying cyber operations as a threat to international peace and security.

The Security Council has broad discretion under Article 39 to conclude that any kind of conduct or situation amounts to a threat to international peace. Finding the lowest common denominator across the Council’s past practice falls beyond the scope of this post but suffice it to say that a “threat to the peace” is deemed a political concept (Tadić Decision on Interlocutory Appeal on Jurisdiction, 2 October 1995, para. 29) that builds on the Council’s interpretation of the concept of “peace”. Although the early practice of the Council has shown a narrow interpretation of this concept, viewing “peace” as the absence of use of force between States (J. Frowein, ‘Article 39’ in B. Simma (ed.) The Charter of the United Nations: A Commentary (2nd edn., OUP, 2002), at p. 720), the recent practice of the Council indicates its willingness to broaden that interpretation. This is best evidenced by the Council’s acknowledgement that the HIV/AIDS pandemic can pose a security threat (SC Res. 1308, 17 July 2000) as well as the determination on the existence of a threat to international peace and security in West-Africa due to the outbreak of Ebola (SC Res. 2177, 18 September 2014). Nonetheless, the Council has always been careful to consider the impact of an internal situation upon regional or international stability. This criterion is common across all Article 39 determinations, and entails that any event or phenomena that undermines regional or international stability by creating a risk for unrest or hostilities in the short or medium term could fall within the purview of Article 39.

Thus, a cyber operation will amount to a threat to peace within the meaning of Article 39 when it creates the threat of jeopardizing regional or international stability. Cyber operations targeting the critical infrastructure of a State will likely fulfill this threshold. Similarly, the US DoD concluded that “computer network attacks that caused widespread damage, economic disruption, and loss of life could well precipitate action by the Security Council” under Article 39 (US DoD, An Assessment of International Legal Issues in Information Operations, May 1999, p. 15).

The cyber operation itself need not be a violation of international law per se for it to fall within the ambit of Article 39. This raises interesting questions about the exploitation of cyberspace for the purposes of espionage, which is, in principle, not prohibited by international law. This question is particularly relevant in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s revelations regarding the NSA’s surveillance programme in 2013.

In my view, there are two main approaches to assessing cyber espionage under Article 39. Firstly, relying on the threshold set out above, cyber espionage could represent a threat to international peace and security when it creates destabilizing effects on regional or international stability to the extent that a potential risk of unrest and hostilities between States will arise. One example would be recourse to dual-use malwares that not only steal information but also produce widespread destructive or disruptive effects. However, it is unlikely that data breaches on their own would fall within the scope of Article 39 unless there is a prospect for hostilities as a result of the breaches. Furthermore, due to the threat of veto by any permanent member of the Security Council, it remains unlikely that in the near future cyber espionage incidents will be formally declared a threat to international security.

The alternative approach is to (more…)

Emerging Voices: Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Global Financial Order

by Tsung-Ling Lee

[Tsung-Ling Lee, (S.J.D (Georgetown)), is a post-doctoral fellow at  National University of Singapore.]

“…I think we screwed up.” Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright‘s response to the Obama administration’s refusal to join the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the China-led initiative for financing infrastructure projects from Myanmar to Russia, suggests a deep anxiety about the world financial order. While many operational aspects and details about governance structure of the AIIB are yet to be publicly expressed, many commentators speculate that the AIIB may mark a new global economic order, particularly when viewed as part of Beijing’s broader economic agenda: the creation of new regional and global economic institutions, including the New Silk Road initiative and the BRICs-led New Development Bank, institutions which arguably will challenge the monopoly of the World Bank and the IMF — the two major international financial institutions within the Bretton Wood system.

The AIIB, which came into existence after China’s frustration at the slow reform process of the International Financial Institutions (IFIs), set out as its goal to finance developmental projects in Asia, with China providing the majority of capital. The IFI reform stagnates largely due to the resistance from the US Congress, refusing to support the change of the Banks’ shareholder voting system currently privileges the US. Many critics thus perceive the Bank as a channel for the first world to promote and embed neoliberal orthodoxy abroad. The AIIB initiative highlights a shifting role of the Bank in an increasingly crowded international economic landscape. Some commentators even go further and suggest that the US’s sphere of influence in the global policy domain of finance is diminishing decisively, evident by the diplomatic success of China in attracting many of the US’s key allies in joining the AIIB. This blog post analyzes the AIIB through the lens of the Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL).

The IFIs’ Development Model

Historically, TWAIL scholarship has been hostile towards IFIs, which are perceived as instrumental in protecting the interests of the first world at the expense of the third world. Critical TWAIL scholar B.S. Chimni, for instance, argues that the IFIs, as part of a growing network of international institutions, constitute a nascent global state that serves the interests of transnational capital and powerful states at the expense of third world states and peoples. Professor Makau Mutua, for example, argues that under the guise of sovereign equality, international law and institutions perpetuate existing structural inequality in furthering the interests of the first world. Despite that in theory both the IMF and the Bank are explicitly prohibited from engaging in any political affairs of its member states, in practice they have evolved from existing purely as apolitical institutions to having considerable powers in influencing economic policies of the developing countries.

One notable example of the IFIs’ penetrative power beyond global economic life is the Bank’s widely criticized Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) in the 1990s. As a condition of borrowing, countries that sought the IFIs’ financial assistance were required to embark upon radical economic reform: reducing government spending, privatizing state-own enterprises, liberalizing trade and foreign investment.

However, the neoliberal view embraced by the IFIs tends to neglect the specific social, economic, cultural and political contexts of the recipient state. The neglect has seen a widening of social inequalities, in addition to the apparent failure of SAPs in achieving its promised economic success. With many recipient states driven into debt, devastated by increased food and fuel prices, intensified unemployment, and crumbling of health services, the SAPs had worked in the interests of the first world, who are also the majority shareholders of the IFIs. With many recipient states worse off than they were initially, the uneven distribution of benefits and costs as consequences of the SAPs became a salient point of contention for critics of the IFIs, most vocally among TWAIL scholars. This is primarily because the IFIs reproduced the colonial experience for recipient states; they also relocate the decision-making process from recipient states to international civil servants. The latter is even more worrisome from a legal perspective, because the process occurred without an external check-and-balance, where the IFIs are hold responsible for their hegemony policies that have further disadvantaged weak states.

The apparent failings of the neoliberal development model endorsed by the IFIs had seen an eruption of political discontent that prompted a sharp policy turn within the IFIs. Beginning in the 1990s, the Bank embraced a governance paradigm that relies on stable institutional environment as a foundation to equitable distribution of wealth and to remedy poverty. This had seen the IFIs engaged in law reform in many recipient countries under the rubrics of “technical assistance”. The shift to the governance model also occurred as part of the IFIs’ attempt to salvage their institutional credibility. The Bank’s focus on governance has opened a greater space for structural intervention. The Bank now embarks on reform projects with greater emphases on improving environmental sustainability, embedding the rule of law, and enhancing participation in the decision-making process. The World Bank Institute’s Worldwide Governance Indicators and Doing Business, for instance, provide quantitative assessments on the openness of the regulatory environment for business. While both projects are not binding on the state, they are widely seen as authoritative, and increasingly are used as a proxy for the quality of a legal system.

In the TWAIL view, the law reform projects undertaken by the Bank, which focus specifically on the ability of legal system to facilitate market transaction, further entrench a capitalist order. Problematically, for TWAIL scholars, the economic integration of market occurs without much political contestation from the affected community. Thus, not only the governance model masks the Bank’s actual reach beyond its legitimate realm of economic regulation, such reach is arguably barred under Article IV(10) of the Bank’s Article of Agreement, which explicitly prohibits the Bank from interfering in the political affairs of its member states.

AIIB: Ending IFI hegemony? (more…)

Emerging Voices: The Right to a Remedy in Armed Conflict–International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights Law and the Principle of Systemic Integration

by Vito Todeschini

[Vito Todeschini (LL.M.(Ferrara University); E.MA (EIUC, Venice)) is a PhD Fellow at Aarhus University, Denmark.]

In 2013, the German Federal Constitutional Court and the Regional Court of Bonn issued their judgements in two cases ‒ Varvarin and Kunduz respectively ‒ concerning Germany’s participation in the NATO-led operations in Serbia/Kosovo and Afghanistan. These judgments confirm and exemplify a general trend in domestic case law, which denies that victims of violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) have a right to bring claims directly in the domestic courts of the allegedly responsible State (Gillard, pp. 37‒38). This finding is mainly based on the lack of an obligation on States under IHL to provide individuals with enforceable remedies against violations. Domestic courts, however, tend to overlook the complementary role that human rights law (HRL), the other legal framework governing armed conflicts, may play in this context.

This contribution explores this possibility, arguing that HRL may supplement IHL with regard to the right to a remedy. The analysis assumes the perspective that IHL and HRL are complementary legal frameworks. It further employs the principle of systemic integration, codified in Article 31(3)(c) VCLT, to interpret IHL in light of HRL. An alternative interpretation will be proposed, namely that victims of IHL violations should be allowed to bring claims in the allegedly responsible State’s courts on the basis of the right to a remedy under HRL.

The Right to a Remedy: HRL v. IHL

The right to a remedy is enshrined in several human rights treaties (inter alia, Articles 2(3) ICCPR; 13‒14 CAT; 13 ECHR; 25 ACHR; 7(1)(a) ACHPR), under which States Parties have an obligation to establish domestic remedies capable of finding and redressing human rights violations. The concept of remedy generally presents two dimensions: procedural and substantive. The procedural aspect regards the right to have access to a competent body, which may be judicial or administrative depending on the seriousness of the violation. The substantive dimension concerns the right to reparation, which includes restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and guarantees of non-repetition (Shelton, p. 7). Effectiveness is the distinctive element characterising a remedy. To be effective, a remedy must be accessible, enforceable, and provide redress if a violation is found (HRCtee GC31, paras. 15‒16). A final feature of remedies is their dependency on the previous infringement of another right.

The situation differs radically with regard to IHL. According to Articles 3 HC IV and 91 AP I, a State must provide compensation for the IHL violations it is responsible for. This rule is considered to be customary and applicable in both international and non-international armed conflicts. The drafting history of Article 3 HC IV shows that its objective is to provide victims of violations with the right to bring a claim directly against the responsible State (Kalshoven, pp. 830‒837). Yet, post-WWII domestic case law has generally departed from this original construction and interpreted such provision as conferring on States, not victims, the right to claim compensation (CIHL Study, pp. 544‒545; Zegveld, pp. 507‒512; Henn, pp. 617‒623). Additionally, there is no specific rule in IHL providing how a victim can enforce the right to reparation. It can be concluded that, at best, victims of IHL violations have a substantial right to reparation but not a procedural right to a remedy. In this respect, the question is whether HRL, which also applies in armed conflicts, may provide individuals with a procedural remedy for unlawful harm suffered in war time.

Systemic integration between IHL and HRL

The relationship between IHL and HRL may be considered from two perspectives: competition and complementarity. Generally, whenever two rules belonging to the different regimes are both applicable and in competition, human rights treaties are interpreted taking into account IHL rules (ICJ Nuclear Weapons, para. 25; HRCtee GC31, para. 11). For instance, the human rights to life and personal liberty in armed conflicts may be modified in light of IHL rules on targeting and internment (ICJ Nuclear Weapons, para. 25; ECtHR Hassan, paras. 102‒106). On the other hand, IHL and HRL rules are not always in competition. Despite being designed to pursue very different objectives ‒ conduct of warfare (IHL) and protection of individuals and groups (HRL) ‒ these bodies of law are also complementary and mutually reinforcing. They share certain common purposes, such as ensuring humane treatment of individuals at any time (HRCtee GC31, para. 11; IAComHR Abella, paras. 158‒160; Hampson and Salama, paras. 6‒8).

One aspect of the complementarity between IHL and HRL is that the provisions of one of these bodies of law may fill the gaps present in the other; for instance, as it is argued here, with respect to the right to a remedy. This operation is made possible by the principle of systemic integration codified in Article 31 VCLT, which provides that in the interpretation of an international norm “[t]here shall be taken into account, together with the context: [… ] (c) any relevant rules of international law applicable in the relations between the parties”. Systemic integration is a mandatory part of the interpretive process which demands that a rule of international law be construed taking into account all other international norms, deriving from any source, that are applicable in and relevant to a certain situation (ILC, paras. 413 ff.). The ICJ and human rights treaty bodies have, explicitly or implicitly, resorted to the principle of systemic integration when considering the concurrent application of IHL and HRL (d’Aspremont and Tranchez, pp. 238‒241). Since it allows to interpret one body of law in light of the other, the present analysis employs systemic integration as a legal-theoretical basis to provide remedies under HRL for violations of IHL.

Remedying violations in armed conflicts

In 2006, the German Federal Supreme Court (FSC) held in the Varvarin case that Articles 3 HC IV and 91 AP I do not grant individuals a right to claim reparation for IHL violations directly against a State, and that consequently victims must file any claims via their own government (paras. 10‒14). Although recognising the progressive acknowledgement of the international subjectivity of individuals that has occurred over time, the FSC denied that HRL had modified international law so as to grant individuals a general procedural right to bring claims for IHL violations in a foreign State’s domestic courts (paras. 7‒9, 14‒15). This interpretation has been confirmed in the aforementioned 2013 judgments by the German Federal Constitutional Court in the same case, and the Regional Court of Bonn in the Kunduz case.

It is submitted here that, while considering HRL as a relevant legal framework, the FSC failed to apply the principle of systemic integration in a satisfactory manner. The Court did not refer to the obligations to provided remedies contained in the treaties which Germany is party to, such as the ECHR or the ICCPR. A reasonable application of the principle would have at least required: a) taking into account the provisions on the right to a remedy included in the human rights treaties binding on Germany as well as relative treaty bodies’ jurisprudence; and b) considering whether these provisions have a bearing on the claims regarding IHL violations. Given that under IHL victims are entitled to reparation but have no procedural right to enforce it, it seems sensible for a domestic court to take into account the relevant provisions of HRL which oblige States to provide effective remedies against violations.

In this writer’s opinion, by resorting to the principle of systemic integration the FSC could have argued that the lack of an enforceable right to a remedy under IHL may be read in light of the obligation of States to provide an effective remedy under HRL. Accordingly, the Court could have filled such a gap by deciding that a victim of an IHL violation is entitled to bring a claim against the allegedly responsible State under the same procedures provided for to victims of human rights violations. In this perspective, whereas the breach of the norm would regard a substantive rule of IHL ‒ e.g., the prohibition to kill civilians ‒ the remedy, and therefore the enforcement of the right to reparation, would be exercised as provided for in HRL ‒ e.g., Article 2(3) ICCPR.

The principle of systemic integration is a mandatory part of the interpretive process. Its application to the relationship between IHL and HRL has marked the jurisprudence of several international bodies. This principle requires interpreting one body of law taking account of the other; hence, IHL may be read in light of HRL. Far from being a stretch of existing norms ‒ the reasoning draws on lex lata and not lex ferenda ‒ systemic integration may contribute to fill a major gap in IHL and give substance to the idea that IHL and HRL are, in certain respect, complementary. Besides, and most importantly, victims of IHL violations may be provided with a procedural remedy to enforce directly in domestic courts their right to reparation.

Emerging Voices: The Human Right to Water–Progress and Challenges for International Law and State Water Governance

by Scott McKenzie

[Scott McKenzie has a Juris Doctorate from the University of Iowa and is a PhD Student in Resource Management and Environmental Studies at the University of British Columbia.]

The human right to water has been making steady progress.  The right has become a fixture of international law and state constitutions frequently include the right.  Within a framework of legal pluralism, this post examines the relationship between the human right to water’s core obligation and specific normative goals and on-the-ground governance in two case studies.  Strong water governance is critical for residents who are dependent on state or private enterprise for the delivery of basic and essential services, meaning international law has a significant impact on daily habits for billions of people.  South Africa and Ireland want to provide water for their citizens but their approaches show striking differences.  South Africa constitutionally protects the right to water but implementation falls short, while Ireland’s new framework is beginning to reflect international guidelines but provides no domestic legal guarantee.  These experiences show value in a duel-track approach for international law, with expanded recognition of the human right at the global and state levels along with further detailed frameworks that solidify how citizens should experience these rights.

Many discussions concerning the human right to water focus on the international level.  This is important, but can miss nuance in governance. Legal pluralism recognizes multiple sources of law in addition to the state.  Pluralism has been defined as “a situation in which two or more legal systems coexist in the same social field.”  (link is to a .pdf) These systems come from different sources and have their own “foundations of legitimacy, validity, power and authority.”  This approach can be used to recognize the human right to water as a concept, and examine its implantation at various systemic levels as a means to improve the realization of the right in international law.

The Human Right to Water

A United Nations report found that worldwide, water related disease was responsible for 3.7 percent of all deaths. Despite agreement on the importance of access to clean water for human health and a diverse history of state and local scale implementation, the international legal and governance community has slowly addressed the right to water.

At the international law level, the human right to water can be divided into two elements: recognition of an obligation and a normative framework.  The obligation of the human right to water has been formulated in two ways. First, it has been “derived” from other codified rights such as health or quality of life because water is fundamental for the realization of those rights.  Second, it is mentioned explicitly in instruments such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child or United Nations Resolution 64/292 (“The General Assembly…Recognizes the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights”).

The normative framework of the human right was explained by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in General Comment 15.  This guidance for implementing the human right was not binding.  But, provides some structure for how the right should be realized; such as “in quantities…necessary” to meet basic needs or “affordable…for personal and domestic uses”.  However, fine-grained details such as the quantity necessary or the amount that can be charged are in debate and not clear in international law.  Some experts argue a lower quantity that covers basic human hydration, while higher estimates include hygiene, food-preparation, and sanitation.  Many experts gravitate towards 50 liters (L) per day. Similarity, affordability estimate range from 2-5% percent of household income but this aspect not yet settled.

South Africa – Constitutional protections fall short (more…)

Emerging Voices 2015: Call for Abstracts

by Jessica Dorsey

This summer we will host our Third Annual Emerging Voices symposium, where we invite doctoral students and early-career academics or practicing attorneys to tell Opinio Juris readers about a research project or other international law topic of interest.

If you are a doctoral student or in the early stages of your career (e.g., post-docs, junior academics or early career practitioners within the first five years of finishing your final degree) and would like to participate in the symposium, please send a 200-word summary of your suggested post and your CV to opiniojurisblog [at] gmail [dot] com by May 31, 2015.

We’ll let you know by mid-June if you are invited to submit a full post. Submitted posts should be  between 1000-1500 words will then be reviewed by our editors. Final essays will be posted on Opinio Juris in July and August.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments or send us an e-mail at the address above.

Insta-Symposium on Scottish Independence Referendum

by Roger Alford

We have invited several academic luminaries to post here at Opinio Juris beginning early next week about the Scottish independence referendum that will be held next Thursday, September 18th. As we have done in the past with other symposiums, we also welcome other academics to submit guests posts for possible publication. We particularly welcome Scottish, British, EU and state succession experts. We will focus on the international legal aspects of the Scottish referendum, not the political or economic implications of the vote.

We can’t guarantee we will publish every post submitted, but we would love to broaden the discussion to include other voices. So if you want to write a 500 to 1500-word guest post for Opinio Juris about the Scottish independence referendum, please do so in the next few days and send it to Jessica Dorsey and An Hertogen (their emails are linked to the right). Our editorial team will review the posts and publish those selected.

On a personal note, given that the Alford clan hails from the town of Alford in Aberdeenshire, and my wife and I spent several glorious years in Scotland when I earned my LL.M. and she earned her Ph.D. at the University of Edinburgh, our family has been following the developments in Scotland closely.

There’s an old Scottish saying: “Scottish by birth, British by law, Highlander by the grace of God.” Next Thursday will put that maxim to the test.

Emerging Voices: Controversy on the Definition of the Cambodian Genocide at the ECCC

by Melanie Vianney-Liaud

[Mélanie Vianney-Liaud is a PhD Candidate in International Law at the Aix-Marseille University in France.]

Many international Human Rights authorities, including the United Nations General Assembly talked about the “Cambodian genocide” to designate the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. Yet, while the term “genocide” undoubtedly has considerable appeal, it turns out to be legally inappropriate to describe the massacre of 1.7 million of Cambodians from 1975 to 1979. At the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) – the court in charge of trying the Khmer Rouge – the indictment of the last surviving Khmer Rouge senior leaders, known as “Case 002”, includes very limited genocide charges, only with respect to crimes committed on two minority groups: the Cham and the Vietnamese. Predictably, this decision disappointed many victims.

The trial began in June 2011. However, in September 2011, the Trial Chamber decided to sever Case 002 into smaller trials and limited the scope of the first trial to the evacuation of Phnom Penh on 17 April 1975 and movements of population in other regions of Cambodia. The genocide charges were excluded from the scope of this first trial. On August 7, 2014, the Chamber found the Accused guilty to have committed the crimes against humanity of murder, political persecution and other inhumane acts through their participation in policies to forcibly displace people. It sentenced them life imprisonment.

The Accused are currently trying within a second trial whose scope includes the genocide charges. Since this trial has started on July 30, 2014, it seems appropriate to clarify some of the complexities of the crime of genocide, generated by the specificities of the Cambodian context and the legal framework of the ECCC.

Genocide has been defined in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Repression of the Crime of Genocide as requiring the intentional destruction of “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such”. The enumeration of specific protected groups implies that the perpetrators’ conception of the victim group bears some relation to one of these protected groups. The Khmer Rouge regime is known for its system of terror and arbitrariness. Conditions of living were so extreme that a substantial part of the population died without that seemed to be directly imputable to group-based persecutions. However, indications of the targeting of particular groups undeniably exist in the case of the Khmer Rouge. This is the case for example, and among others, of the group of educated people and city dwellers referred to as “new people” by the Khmer Rouge. Contrary to “base people,” “new people” did not join the Khmer Rouge revolution prior to April 17, 1975 when Phnom Penh fell into Khmer Rouge’s hands. Forcibly transferred from cities to countryside, “new people” members were often targeted based on this identity (Indictment, § 227). This group however, does not fall under the listed classification defined in the Genocide Convention as the distinction made by the Khmer Rouge was based on an individual’s socioeconomic background.

Thus, although the Khmer Rouge had policies of group discrimination, both in regard to ethnic minorities as well as with respect to groups identified within the ethnic Khmer- majority, the characterization of genocide within the definition of the Convention only applies to crimes committed on minority groups. Many victims have therefore seen the crimes for which they have suffered be excluded from the characterization of the “crime of crimes,” even though they are victims of crimes of the same gravity as those committed against the minorities.

The definition introduced by the Genocide Convention is too narrow to mirror the historical analysis of the Khmer Rouge criminal phenomenon. The fact that the Khmer Rouge targeted groups within the Khmer-majority population shows that the strict enumeration of protected groups is inappropriate. The question that arises then is whether it would be conceivable to have this definition evolved to correspond with the social reality of the “Cambodian genocide”.

Cambodia ratified the Genocide Convention in 1949. Consequently, since its entry into force in 1951, Cambodia has been submitted to the conventional obligation to “enact (…) the necessary legislation to give effect to the provisions of the Convention” (Convention, Article V). However, under the Khmer Rouge, the Convention had not been received into national law yet. This reception only occurred in 2001, with the creation of the ECCC. The 2003 international agreement between the United Nations and Cambodia and the 2004 amended domestic law which establish the court, provide both for its jurisdiction over the crime of genocide “as defined in the 1948 Convention.” However, and despite these provisions, the domestic law then gives a definition of the crime of genocide that differs in key points from the definition set out in the Convention.

A state is not prohibited by the 1948 Convention from adopting a broader definition of genocide. The Convention only adopted by a convention a principle which already existed in international customary law. Thus, the reception of the Convention into national legal orders has often resulted in a broadening of the definition of the crime. France, for instance, has gone further adding the “group determined by any (…) arbitrary criterion” to the groups protected by the Convention (French Penal Code, Article 211-1).

In the particular case of the ECCC however, the differences between the Convention and the Law have important implications for its subject-matter jurisdiction. In the English version of the ECCC Law, with regard to the list of underlying crimes, the Law indeed replaces the expression “any of the following acts” with “any acts” and the phrase ‘as such’ referring to “group” in the Genocide Convention with ‘such as’ but referring to “acts”. (more…)