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Emerging Voices: The Contribution of International Criminal Tribunals and Courts to the Development and Promotion of International Human Rights Law

by Clare Frances Moran

[Clare Frances Moran is a teaching fellow in law at Abertay University, and is due to submit her PhD thesis at the University of Glasgow in late 2014.]

In the eight years since Cesare Romano’s assertion that the ‘season’ of international criminal law was coming to an end, the season appears to have turned into an Indian summer. During this summer, the focus of international criminal law has evolved. The formative debates on the significance of the idea of aggression and the conceptual boundaries of genocide have developed into a discussion on how to use such concepts in order to protect individuals, regardless of traditional concerns such as a state link or sponsorship of the violence. This shift in focus indicates a continued interest in the idea of international criminal law, and the aim of creating a system of international criminal justice, but with greater attention to the protection of individuals. As such, the reason for continuing interest in international criminal law can be explored in relation to two strands of reasoning: the fading of the State requirement, and the shared purpose of international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law.

The law of the initial international criminal tribunals – those of Nuremberg, Tokyo, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia – focused on criminal conduct committed by those acting on behalf of States. Even the name of such tribunals gives away their aim: punishing those who have committed crimes while acting in official positions. Although the International Criminal Court looked a likely successor to these tribunals, it has taken a different direction with its prosecutions. Not a single defendant convicted or tried by the International Criminal Court to date has been affiliated to a state; the focus of the Court has shifted to the most serious situations, rather than those linked to acts on behalf of a State or committed by those representing a State. This premise represents a true departure from the origins of international criminal law in national military tribunals and the internationalised tribunals of Nuremberg and Tokyo. The trial of such individuals utilises the silence by the Statute on what may constitute an ‘organisational policy’ in the context of a crime against humanity. Many international lawyers would, in a similar vein, read into article 8 on war crimes the idea that the criminal activity was backed by a State, or at least that the State was complicit. However, this article is similarly restrained on mentioning the idea of a link to a State.

The lack of direct prosecutions against State officials is interesting, and the arrest warrants issued for certain Heads of State indicate that the idea has not yet faded into obscurity. There is substantial difficult, however, apparent in organising such prosecutions. Laurent Gbagbo, former President of the Ivory Coast, remains the first and only Head of State to be detained by the ICC. His arrest warrant was issued in 2011 and initial hearing to confirm the charges was adjourned in February 2013, with the charges against him confirmed only recently in June 2014. In postponing the hearing in 2013, the Court clearly stated that the seriousness of the charges underpinned its decision to give the prosecution more time, and invariably it seems that trying Heads of States and the decision-makers of the piece is more complex. This again demonstrates the priority that the Court is giving to the seriousness of the crimes, rather than the link between the State and the individual.

The number of prosecutions which have been raised against individuals who are part of groups which are non-state actors further indicates a shift away from the traditional focus on the State. The reduction of the number of States which engaged in armed conflict with one another makes it less likely that States ought to be the central focus of the Court, and that its mission to prevent impunity would be better served by ensuring that those who breach international criminal law and international humanitarian law are prosecuted. The recent crimes committed by Boko Haram in Nigeria and ISIS in the Middle East indicate that the discipline is evolving with the world. (more…)

Emerging Voices: The Preliminary Examinations in Iraq: A Net Loss for the ICC’s Political Capital

by David Benger

[David Benger is the Course Assistant for the Brandeis University in The Hague intensive summer school in International Criminal Law. He may be reached at dabenger [at] gmail [dot] com.]

The International Criminal Court, an ostensibly purely legal organization, is nevertheless plagued by a wide variety of political pressures. For example, the attempt to balance The Court’s relationship with The African Union (widely considered to be deteriorating) and its relationship with the United States (widely considered to be improving) is an important thorn in the side of the Court’s daily operations. This post will examine the re-opening of the preliminary examination of British soldiers in Iraq through the lens of the potential political fallout of that decision. The re-opening of the preliminary examination in Iraq is not a signal of sufficient substance to appease the African anti-ICC lobby. Unless and until there are actual trials of European commanders in The Hague (not likely in the near future), the characterization of the ICC by African leaders as a neo-imperialist Western tool is not likely to dissipate based on a mere preliminary examination. With regard to the United States, however, the impact of this decision will almost certainly resonate. Though many observers of the USA-ICC relationship subscribe to the narrative of a steadily improving rapport between the two, this post will argue that this is not quite the case. In fact, the relationship between the Court and the USA is in a decidedly precarious position, and the re-opened Iraq investigation may have a decisive and damning impact on America’s potential support for The Court.


Emerging Voices: The Rights of Women in Armed Conflict

by Jens Iverson

[Jens Iverson is a researcher at the Law Faculty of the University of Leiden.]

Imagine there is a potential peace agreement that would end a civil war, but only at the cost of leaving portions of the country in question in the hands of a group that systematically violates the human rights women and girls.  The government is backed by a foreign state who, in the past, effectively occupied the country.  Some policy considerations are obvious – continued armed conflict can be devastating to most involved, but resolving the armed conflict with a solution that denies at least half of the population their rights is deplorable.  But is this a purely pragmatic, policy question?

In this post, I assert that foreign states may be obliged to push for peace agreements that protect the rights necessary for a modern democracy, not only on the basis of a general concern for human rights but also based on a more ancient legal and ethical tradition.  The obligation emerges from a source one might not expect—the logic behind the exception to the prohibition of transformative occupation, and ultimately on self-interest.

Traditionally, radical transformation of the laws of occupied territory was prohibited.  There is, however, an exception to this rule, dating at least back to Immanuel Kant.  An occupying power is not obliged to protect a legal system that is itself geared towards war—it is acceptable to create a less war-like constitution for an occupied nation.  This is not a human rights argument, nor an argument based on sparing a civilian population, nor a purely pragmatic public policy argument.  Rather, the legitimate transformative role of an occupying power responds to the traditional justifications for going to war (satisfying the justa causa of the war).  If the war is being fought in response to aggression that has disrupted international peace, then the justa causa may be to restore a system of international peace.  But what does that have to do with the rights of women that would be protected in a modern democracy?

The general modern form of the hypothesis that democracy, including non-discrimination, is important for peace is the “democratic peace hypothesis.”  This hypothesis states that as the democratic nature of the two states increases, the probability for substantial armed conflict between those states during a given year decreases.  If this hypothesis is accurate, and should protecting and promoting the rights of women be an important component of the democratic nature of the state, then promoting and protecting the rights of women is not only important for its own sake but also because of the positive correlation with the sustainability of the peace.

Considered under this analysis, protecting the rights of women is not a side-issue or epiphenomenon that can be considered once the “primary” issues of national security and inter-state relations are resolved—rather such protection can be determinative as to whether the war was justified in the first place.

There are, of course, strong reasons to protect the rights of women based purely on a human rights analysis, and powerful points to be made in favor of protecting women’s interests purely on ethical and humanitarian grounds.  The argument in this post is not intended in any way to undermine such arguments or impugn their moral force.  It does suggest that there is a supplementary analysis that should be helpful in addressing the gap between the ideal of respect and promotion of women’s human rights in the transition to peace and the reality.  This supplementary analysis requires an analysis of the moral and legal justification of the foreign military intervention as a whole.  It is essentially rooted in a traditional framework for public international law-the legal relationship between sovereign states.

Protecting the rights of women during the transition out of armed conflict is critical for establishing a just and sustainable peace.  This is not a new insight.  The UN Security Council has passed several resolutions on women, peace, and security (UNSC Res. 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009), and 1960 (2010)). These resolutions provide evidence of the seriousness of the issue, and provide but have proven unsuccessful in fully addressing the problem.  Women are frequently victimized during armed conflict, underrepresented at the peace table, and disserved by the peace.

So why is this need not being fully addressed?  One difficulty may be the foundations upon which efforts to protect the rights and interests of women are typically built.  During conflict, the main foundation is International Humanitarian Law.  During early peace, there is an increasing role for human rights law and public policy.  International Humanitarian Law has numerous protections for civilians generally and in certain cases for women in particular, but many of those interests are short-term, often simply avoiding death or damage.  Human rights concerns and public policy concerns may be at their weakest when the terms of the new peace are being resolved.  There is a need for an additional rationale that would align the long-term self-interest of powerful actors (such as foreign states) with the self-interest of those placed in an unequal situation by systematic discrimination.

This logic does not, of course, limit itself to women.  Protecting the human rights of children, religious minorities, ethnic minorities, and other minorities is important if the armed intervention is to be justified, and the peace is to be democratic and durable.

Sometimes grasping an immediate, imperfect peace will be ethically and legally preferable to ongoing armed conflict, even if continued conflict comes with the hope of a better peace later.  There is a rationale to say that a foreign state should be reluctant to get in the way should local elites desire peace.  But too often, the foreign state has been too ready to consolidate a peace around a new government that does not respect human rights.  Foreign states, if they continue to have any role, should weigh the obligations they have based on their prior acts, and not jump too quickly to compromise the rights of women.

Emerging Voices: Sexual Violence As War Crime: Controversial Issues in the International Criminal Court

by Rosemary Grey

[Rosemary Grey is a PhD Candidate at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales.]

The case of The Prosecutor v Bosco Ntaganda, which is currently before the International Criminal Court (ICC), is the latest of several cases in the ICC and Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) to address the issue of sexual violence against female child soldiers by members of their own group.

The accused, Ntaganda, is the alleged former commander of the Union des Patriotes Congolais-Forces Patriotiques pour la libération du Congo (UPC-FPLC), an armed group which in 2002 and 2003 was involved in the non-international armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

On 9 June 2014, Pre-Trial Chamber II confirmed the charges against Ntaganda, including charges for the rape and sexual slavery of female child soldiers in the UPC–FPCL by their commanders and fellow soldiers, which the ICC Prosecutor characterized as war crimes under Article 8(2)(e)(vi) of the Rome Statute. This was the first time that Article 8(2)(e)(vi) had been used to prosecute sex crimes committed against child soldiers by members of the same armed group.

I recently discussed the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision on Beyond The Hague; here I will focus on the parties’ interpretation of Article 8(2)(e)(vi), and highlight some important gender issues raised by this case.

Emerging Voices: The Old Woe of Contemporaneity and Cartographic Evidence in a New Bottle

by Arpita Goswami

[Arpita Goswami currently serves as an Assistant Editor to China Oceans Law Review, and is a Graduate Assistant at the South China Sea Institute, Xiamen University, P.R. China. The views expressed here are her own and have no connection whatsoever to the above mentioned organizations.]

The recently concluded Bay of Bengal Maritime Arbitration Case between India and Bangladesh offers interesting insights into the application of the judicial pronouncements to the factual situation contemporaneous with it for determining the boundary lines and the usage of cartographic evidence in the same. This post examines the section of the Award delimiting the riverine boundary between the two States. The reasoning given by Tribunal in this case makes an interesting read regarding the technicalities of demarcation of boundaries, challenges in the contemporaneous applications and the validity of cartographic evidence in such an application.

Background (para. 50-55 of the judgment)

The Indian Independence Act, 1947 of the United Kingdom, partitioned from India, the states of West Pakistan and East Pakistan. East Pakistan was carved out of the Bengal Province, with West Bengal remaining in India. In order to demarcate the boundary between East Pakistan and West Bengal, the Bengal Boundary Commission was set up in 1947 which was chaired by Sir Cyril Radcliffe. In Aug. 1947, the Commission submitted the report describing the boundary, and is known as “Radcliffe Award”. However, in 1948 the Indo-Pakistan Boundary Dispute Tribunal was set up by India and Pakistan to address the disagreement in the application of the Radcliffe Award. In 1950, the above mentioned Tribunal gave its Award, known as the “Bagge Award”.

In 1971, East Pakistan declared independence from West Pakistan, and succeeded as a new state of Bangladesh to the territory of East Pakistan and its boundaries.

The boundary between India and Bangladesh runs across the Sunderban Delta region. The southern section of the land boundary lies in the riverine features, which fall in the Bay of Bengal. Among its tasks of finding the land boundary terminus anddelimiting the territorial sea, EEZ and continental shelves between the two States, the present Tribunal also had to concern itself with delimiting the boundary river between the two, which will be discussed in the passages below.

Delimitation of the Boundary River


Emerging Voices: Responsibility of the Netherlands for the Genocide in Srebrenica–The Nuhanović and Mothers of Srebrenica Cases Compared

by Otto Spijkers

[Otto Spijkers is an Assistant Professor of Public International Law at Utrecht University.]


This post compares the recent judgment of the District Court in The Hague in the case of the “Mothers of Srebrenica” with the judgment of the Dutch Supreme Court of last year in the Nuhanović case. I will try not to repeat what Kristen Boon wrote about the case in an earlier post.


Both judgments deal with the legal responsibility of the Netherlands for the death of (some of) the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995. When the so-called “safe area” of Srebrenica fell into the hands of the Bosnian Serbs, the Dutch UN peacekeepers all left the area. Hasan Nuhanović was permitted to leave with them, because he had worked for the UN, but the UN peacekeepers refused to take the relatives of Hasan Nuhanović as well. Hasan’s brother and father were subsequently killed, together with thousands of other Bosnian Muslims. Most of the victims were situated outside the compound over which the Dutch peacekeepers exercised effective control. Even those Bosnian Muslims that managed to enter the compound, just before the fall of Srebrenica was a fact, were later surrendered by the Dutch peacekeepers to the Bosnian Serbs. Almost all of them were killed.

Legal Question

Nuhanović argued that the refusal of the Dutch UN peacekeepers to save his relatives constituted a wrongful act, attributable to the State of the Netherlands. The Mothers of Srebrenica argued that the refusal of the Dutch UN peacekeepers to save all Bosnian Muslims within the so-called “mini safe area” constituted a wrongful act, attributable to the Netherlands. This is the area where most people fled to after the city of Srebrenica had fallen into the hands of the Bosnian Serbs. This mini safe area consisted of the compound in Potočari and the surrounding area, where deserted factories and a bus depot were located (para. 2.35 of Mothers of Srebrenica judgment).


In Nuhanović, The Dutch Supreme Court held that the same conduct could in principle be attributed both to the Netherlands and to the United Nations. In reaching this decision, the Court referred to Article 48 of the ILC’s Articles on the Responsibility of International Organizations (2011, DARIO). In the Mothers of Srebrenica case, the District Court reached the same conclusion (para. 4.34)

Since the UN was not party to the Nuhanović-proceedings, the Supreme Court could look only at the rights and responsibilities of the Netherlands. The Mothers of Srebrenica initially involved the UN in the proceedings as well, but the Organization effectively relied on its immunity (this led to some landmark judgments by the Dutch Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights), and thus the case continued without the UN. In Mothers of Srebrenica, the District Court explicitly rejected the position of the Mothers that, given the immunity of the UN, the rules on attribution should be interpreted more “broadly,” as otherwise the Dutch UN peacekeepers would be placed “above the law” (para. 4.35). At the same time, one cannot help get the feeling that it played a role.

With regard to attribution, the Supreme Court in Nuhanović based its decision primarily on Article 7 DARIO. This provision states that the conduct of an organ placed at the disposal of an international organization by a State must be considered to be the conduct of that international organization, when the organization has effective control over the conduct. The Netherlands argued that Article 6 DARIO was the relevant provision, and not Article 7. Article 6 DARIO states that the conduct of an organ of an international organization is attributable to that international organization. The argument of the State was thus that the peacekeepers were a UN organ. This is also the view of the UN itself. But the Supreme Court followed the ILC Commentary to DARIO, according to which a battalion of peacekeepers is not a UN organ, because the battalion to a certain extent still acts as an organ of the State supplying the soldiers. Important in this assessment is the fact that the troop-contributing State retains disciplinary powers and criminal jurisdiction over its peacekeepers.

Interestingly, the Dutch Supreme Court also referred to Article 8 of the ILC’s Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts (2001, ARS). Strictly speaking, Article 7 DARIO says nothing about the attribution of conduct of an organ placed at the disposal of an international organization by a State to that State. The Article deals exclusively with the responsibility of international organizations, such as the UN. All it says is that, if the international organization does not have effective control over the conduct of the organ, then it is not responsible for that conduct. But that does not mean that, by definition, this makes the State responsible in such cases. In theory, it could very well be that neither of the two is responsible. And so to complete the picture, the Dutch Supreme Court relied on Article 8 ARS. According to this provision, the conduct of a group of persons shall be considered an act of a State if the group is in fact acting under the effective control of that State in carrying out the conduct. This provision was meant to make it possible to attribute acts of persons not formally part of the State system to the State in exceptional circumstances.

One may wonder why the Supreme Court did not instead make use of Article 4 ARS, according to which the conduct of any State organ shall be considered an act of that State. If peacekeepers are not UN organs, then it would be logical to consider the peacekeeping force as a State organ instead. Peacekeepers are not the mercenaries, militants or bands of irregulars for which Article 8 ARS has been designed. But if we follow the Dutch Supreme Court, the peacekeepers are nobody’s organ; and whoever happens to be in effective control of them at the relevant time, is responsible for their actions.


Emerging Voices: Cyber Operations and the Prohibition of the Threat of Force

by Francois Delerue

[François Delerue is Ph.D. researcher in International Law at the European University Institute (EUI – Florence, Italy) and visiting scholar at Columbia University (fall term 2014)]

Article 2(4) of the UN Charter was revolutionary in its extension to the explicit prohibition of the threat of force, alongside the prohibition of the use of force. No cyber operation has ever been qualified as a threat or use of force by any States or international organizations; commentators are more nuanced and some consider certain cyber operations as likely to qualify as actual uses of force (see generally: Tallinn Manual p. 45; Marco Roscini pp. 53-55; Duncan Hollis). Most of the literature applying Article 2(4) to cyber operations focuses on the use of force and, therefore, the threat of cyber force remains understudied.

In this blog post I endeavor to fill this gap by analyzing inter-state cyber operations according to the prohibition of threat of force. My main argument is that for most inter-state cyber operations the qualification as the threat of force is arguably more suitable than trying to qualify them as an actual use of force at any cost. I will develop successively the two main forms of threat of force: open threat of prohibited force and demonstration of force.

A Threat of Prohibited Cyber Force As a Prohibited Threat of Force

The International Court of Justice, in its Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, confined the prohibition of the threat of force to the prohibition of the threat of the use of the prohibited force (para. 47). In other words, an unlawful threat is a conditional promise to resort to force in circumstances in which use of force would itself be unlawful. This form of threat of force is the most obvious one and can be implied directly from the wording of the UN Charter. Formulated by Ian Brownlie in 1963 (p. 364), this approach is nowadays the prevailing one on the threat of force.

Applied to cyber operations, a threat of cyber force will violate the prohibition of Article 2(4) only if the threatened cyber force amounts to an unlawful use of force in the same circumstances. This is the contemporary leading approach among scholars and is, for instance, the approach followed by rule 12 of the Tallinn Manual:

A cyber operation, or threatened cyber operation, constitutes an unlawful threat of force when the threatened action, if carried out, would be an unlawful use of force.

Is a general threat to resort to force enough to constitute a violation of the prohibition of Article 2(4)? The answer is unequivocally yes. Most verbal or written threats of force constitute a general threat of force, without specification on which kind of force might be use. It seems most likely that threat of force will remain mainly general, and cyber force will be one of the possible options to be used by the threatening State.

Demonstration of Cyber Force As a Prohibited Threat of Force

Demonstration of cyber force constitutes the second form of threat of force. In contrast to an open threat of force, a demonstration of force is constituted by acts instead of words performed by a State. Force may be demonstrated in many ways: notably in military acts – such as deployment of troops, manoeuvres, nuclear arms build-ups or testing – showing the readiness of a State to resort to force against another. In the literature on the threat of cyber force, demonstration of force is sometimes analyzed but remains for the most part neglected and understudied.

Most cyber operations fail to qualify as an actual use of force; however, could they constitute a demonstration of force amounting to a prohibited threat of force? I will use recent examples of cyber operations to answer this question.

Large-Scale Distributed Denial of Service Attacks As a Demonstration of Force

A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack is a cyber attack, which aims to make a machine or network resource unavailable by flooding it with requests from compromised systems. Could such a large-scale DDoS attack amount to a demonstration of force? The answer seems to be positive under certain conditions.

In April 2007, Estonia faced violent street protests by a minority group of Russian descent objecting to the removal of World War II bronze statue of a Soviet soldier. Simultaneously, the country experienced multiple cyber operations, notably large-scale DDoS attacks on the websites and servers of private and public institutions. The Estonian government accused Russia of the cyber attacks; Russia, however, denied any involvement. As Estonia is highly connected and extremely dependent on its computer infrastructure, these cyber operations were able to paralyze a large part of the Estonian economy, media and government. Could these cyber operations constitute a use of force? Estonia explored initially the possibility to invoke Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty and thus to treat these cyber operations as an ‘armed attack’[1] triggering ‘the right of individual or collective self-defence’; however, this solution was quickly ruled out (see e.g. Mary E. O’Connell pp. 192-193; see also: here and here).

While neither Estonia nor other States considered those cyber operations as a use or threat of force, could these cyber operations constitute a credible threat of force? Their consequences resulted in the partial paralysis of the State, limiting the ability of the country to respond in case of military action. Moreover, they occurred in fractured relations between the targeted State and the presumed threatening State, rendering any threat of force more credible. It seems, as a result, that those cyber operations could be considered as potential preluding measures to a use of force. They could thus be considered as a demonstration of force violating the prohibition of threat of force of Article 2(4).

The Estonian example demonstrates that a large-scale DDoS attack against an Internet-dependent State could constitute a threat of force. However, not all DDoS attacks might be that easy to qualify as a demonstration of force. In the case of similar cyber operations faced by Georgia before the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, the conclusion might be more nuanced. Unlike Estonia, Georgia is not highly dependent on the Internet; therefore the consequences of cyber operations were limited and resulted mainly in the inability for the Georgian Government to access its websites and use them to communicate. As a result, the qualification of a threat of force seems difficult and probably excessive for this situation. (more…)

Emerging Voices: Extraordinary Exceptions at the ICC–What happened with Rule 134quater?

by Abel Knottnerus

[Abel S. Knottnerus is a PhD Researcher in International Law and International Relations at the University of Groningen.]

In November 2013, the Assembly of States Parties adopted Rule 134quater. Under the pressure of African States, the ASP agreed that the Trial Chamber should be able to excuse an accused from continuous presence at trial, when the accused “is mandated to fulfil extraordinary public duties at the highest national level”.

Rule 134quater

1. An accused subject to a summons to appear who is mandated to fulfill extraordinary public duties at the highest national level may submit a written request to the Trial Chamber to be excused and to be represented by counsel only; the request must specify that the accused explicitly waives the right to be present at the trial.

2. The Trial Chamber shall consider the request expeditiously and, if alternative measures are inadequate, shall grant the request where it determines that it is in the interests of justice and provided that the rights of the accused are fully ensured. The decision shall be taken with due regard to the subject matter of the specific hearings in question and is subject to review at any time.

While this amendment was welcomed by the international community – and most notably by the UK, the US and the AU – several commentators questioned its consistency with the Statute, and in particular with Articles 27.1 (“irrelevance of official capacity”) and 63.1 (“the accused shall be present during the trial”). An amendment to the Rules of Procedure and Evidence (RPE) may not extend the scope of Statute (Articles 51.4 and 51.5), but that is exactly what Rule 134quater seemed to do by deviating from the conditions that the Appeals Chamber (25 October 2013) had laid down for the Trial Chamber’s discretion to excuse an accused from continuous presence at trial. For this reason, Kevin Jon Heller predicted that the new Rule would “probably not” survive judicial review.

So what happened? Did Rule 134quater pass the scrutiny of the Court’s Judges?

Submission Prosecution

Almost immediately after the ASP, Ruto submitted an excusal request under the new Rule, which essentially said that the Trial Chamber should excuse him for as long as he would be Vice-President. Rule 134quater would allow the Chamber to excuse an accused who fulfils extraordinary public duties from all trial hearings, because it would omit a restriction to the duration of an excusal.

The Prosecution responded by questioning the consistency of this interpretation of Rule 134quater with the Statute. Remarkably, the Prosecution did not challenge the validity of the amendment, but argued that the new Rule could not “overrule the Appeals Chamber’s interpretation” (para. 30). In applying Rule 134quater, the Trial Chamber would have to respect all the conditions that the Appeals Chamber had listed, including that an excusal must be limited to what is strictly necessary.

In addition, the Prosecution claimed that Ruto’s interpretation of Rule 134quater would be inconsistent with the equal treatment principle, which is set down in Articles 27.1 and 21.3 (the Statute shall be interpreted and applied “without any adverse distinction”). If the new rule would allow an accused to skip all hearings for as long as he or she is (Deputy-) Head of State, it “would create a regime under which two accused seeking the same relief … would be treated differently, based only on official capacity” (para. 3). The Prosecution argued that Rule 134quater would only be consistent with the equal treatment principle, if the amendment would be read as emphasizing the duties of the individual instead of the office that the accused fulfils.

Finally, the excusal request would fail to distinguish Ruto’s extraordinary public duties from the “normal, day-to-day duties” that the Kenyan Vice-President has to perform. The Prosecution maintained that dealing with the aftermath of a terrorist attack (like the Westgate Mall bombing) would be an extraordinary public duty, but “opening new roads or welcoming a foreign dignitary would not be” (para. 41).

For all these reasons, the Trial Chamber would have to decline Ruto’s request for a “blanket excusal” (para. 38).  (more…)

Emerging Voices: Horizontal and Vertical Dimensions of International Law in U.S. Courts

by Zachary Clopton

[Zachary Clopton is the Public Law Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School.]

For decades, scholars and practitioners of international law in the United States have focused on the federal courts.  The combination of diversity, alienage, federal question, and Alien Tort Statute (ATS) jurisdiction largely justified this focus.  But in the wake of decisions such as Morrison and Kiobel, some of these scholars and practitioners have turned to state courts and state law to vindicate international norms (1, 2).  To give one example, New York state courts are adjudicating foreign-law claims against the Bank of China arising from its alleged facilitation of Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad attacks in Israel.

The attention to states may prove to be a positive development, but notably it has tended to rely on judicially created rights—common law claims under state or foreign law, or customary international law.  What about state political branches?  Is there is a role for governors and state legislatures, and should internationalists spend some of their energy lobbying these state-level political actors?

From a policy perspective, as well as from a doctrinal and constitutional one, international litigation in U.S. courts raises both horizontal (separation of powers) and vertical (federalism) questions.  Although some judges and scholars object to international law in all of its forms, and others applaud any expanded role for international law, acknowledging the independent horizontal and vertical dimensions opens up more nuanced options.


Emerging Voices 2014 Kicking Off Today

by Jessica Dorsey

Last year’s inaugural Emerging Voices symposium was a big success, so today we’re kicking off our second annual edition. Through mid-August, we will be bringing you a wide variety of posts written by graduate students, early-career practitioners and academics.

Tune in over the next several weeks if you’d like to read more about litigation of international law in domestic courts, interstate arbitration, statelessness, and rape as a war crime–to name just a few of the topics some of our contributors will cover. Please feel free, as usual, to weigh in on the discussion. Thanks for following us here on Opinio Juris–we hope you enjoy this second edition of our Emerging Voices Symposium!

NYU JILP Symposium: Response to the Commentary on Property Rights, Labor Rights and Democratization

by Jedidiah Kroncke

[Jedidiah J. Kroncke is currently Professor of Law, Fundação Getulio Vargas Law School at São Paulo.]

This post is part of the NYU Journal of International Law and Politics Vol. 46, No. 1 symposium. Other posts in this series can be found in the related posts below.

I want to again thank the editors at NYU JILP for their work organizing this symposium, and express my gratitude to Cynthia Estlund, John Ohnesorge, and Eva Pils for their efforts to engage my article. The following only incompletely addresses their many insightful comments.

1) Who Should Promote Legal Change in China?

Professor Pils points to a possible agnosticism in my paper as to who should be advocating for legal change in China. I agree it is crucial to clarify.

Nearly twenty years ago I made my first trip to China as very unworldly teenager. Shortly after my return I had the chance to hear Chinese expat activist Harry Wu speak about his personal experience with and the continued reality of forced labor camps in China. After his talk, I confidently stood and told Wu that China’s progressive economic liberalization would soon bring about an inevitable tide of democratization. As such, his concerns about human rights were inherently ephemeral and shouldn’t undermine unrestrained US economic engagement with China. Wu graciously expressed that he was encouraged that young people in the US were taking such an interest in China. I still look back in half-belief and full-regret at the audacity of my comment that day.

At the time, I imagined my future as one of the US lawyers who would make a career bringing to China this self-gratifying blend of justice and profit. It would take several years before I questioned this faith, and accept the utterly tangential relationship of my intentions to China’s legal development. My turn to anthropology to complement my legal studies stemmed in large part from my desire to understand the continued pervasiveness of misconceptions about Chinese law and US lawyers’ role therein.

I recount this not simply out of contrition, but to make clear that my commitment to critical comparative law is an outgrowth of my firm belief that the true agents of change in China will be its own citizens. Further, more often than not the idea that China can be changed through outside expert interventions obfuscates at best and complicates at worst efforts by Chinese activists to engage with foreign interlocutors or learn from foreign legal experience. [See generally Jedidiah Kroncke, Law and Development as Anti-Comparative Law, 45 Vand. J. Transnat’l L. 477, 544–45 (2012).] In contrast, I believe that a genuine practice of comparative law can be a crucial practical and moral support to Chinese activists and intellectuals to whom we may feel sympathetic. And it is in this spirit that the paper was written.

2) Labor Law and Comparative Development

Professor Ohnesorge’s application of Putnam’s two-level game to the selection of international legal reform projects succinctly clarifies a dynamic I left only implicitly articulated in the paper. It helps drive home the point that whatever rhetorical support is given to democratization internationally and in the US is secondary to other priorities in engagement with China. It also make clears that if there is a foreign sponsored legal reform project in China, it has been judged non-antagonistic to the interests of the CCP, or at least taken as an experiment that can be revoked if later judged to be so. The fate of many once touted foreign funded reform projects have been subject to this dynamic.

Herein I hesitate to embrace Professor Estlund’s claim about the difference between the interests agitating against collective labor rights in China and the US. While unions are associated with the Democratic party in the US, I view both sets of interests as most fundamentally averse to “small D” economic democracy. This is perhaps why I also feel some discomfort with the explanatory power of claiming that China and the US are at difference phases of economic development. Unionization was an issue in the US from the very outset of industrialization, and certainly some economically developed countries continue to have strong unions. I think the commonalities of struggles over economic democracy are fairly universal to all non-subsistence economies.

Even so, teasing out a full comparative analysis of the relationship of unions to economic democracy would certainly require much more sensitivity to Professor Ohnesorge’s critical distinction between public and private sectors unions. My claim about the CCP’s fears about labor activism is grounded in labor’s political potential that is often complicated in the public sector because of its internal position to the regime. However, I am of also wary of Ohnesorge’s descriptive claim that private unionization necessarily undermines export competitiveness, though it potentially dampens the return on capital. Here I can connect Opinio Juris to the greater blogosphere frenzy over Thomas Piketty’s assertion of the growing intensity of r>g.

In the end, what Professor Estlund notes is certainly right – the CCP is observing legal developments in the US labor law and not for reasons we may find flattering. Following this insight, I look forward to the fruits of Professor Estlund’s recent turn to comparative engagement with Chinese labor. [Cynthia Estlund and Seth Gurgel, Will Labour Unrest Lead to More Democratic Trade Unions in China?, in CHINA AND ILO FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES AND RIGHTS AT WORK (ROGER BLANPAIN, ULLA LIUKKUNEN, & YIFENG CHEN, ed., 2014).]

3) The Relative Position of Labor and Property Rights in China

Professor Pils testing of the paper revolves around how I comparatively situate labor repression in China to property rights repression. I regret if my discussion of property rights gives the impression that I do not think expropriation is a very real site of massive injustice in China, or that there is not a great deal of committed Chinese activism and protest in reaction to this. I had hoped that the paper would convey how proactive Chinese citizens have been about challenging injustices on a number of fronts, and historically so, to counteract the still persistent idea that they are comparatively passive or anti-legal. I look forward to the publication of Professor Pils book on human rights lawyers in China [Eva Pils, CHINA’S HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYERS: ADVOCACY AND RESISTANCE (forthcoming, 2014)], and also heartily recommend Rachel Stern’s recent book on Chinese environmental activism. [Rachel Stern, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM IN CHINA: A STUDY OF POLITICAL AMBIVALENCE (2013).]

Further, Professor Pil’s citation of recent crack-downs on any form of Chinese activism reflects the new CCP administration’s recent inauguration of a systemic campaign against almost all activists such as Xu Zhiyong and the New Citizens’ Movement. In the haze of this crackdown, it can be hard to see any comparative claims of repression as meaningful.

And I certainly did not mean to argue that the CCP is “genuinely supportive of private property rights.” The Party sees property rights in strictly utilitarian terms and subordinate to policy objectives. [The best single paper on the topic is Frank K. Upham, From Demsetz to Deng: Speculations on the Implications of Chinese Growth for Law and Development Theory, 41 N.Y.U. J. Int’l L. & Pol. 551 (2009).] This is exactly why Chinese activists understand that genuine property rights are fundamentally a political issue in the current context.

Yet, I still hold that associative labor activism is most central to the CCP’s fears about political unrest. This is the lesson of Li Wangyang and the Tiananmen aftermath and powerfully articulated in Ching Kwan Lee’s tour de force Against the Law. [Ching Kwan Lee, AGAINST THE LAW (2007).] Pils is correct that the CCP has been willing to force workplace concessions on employers to help quell unrest, and that activists who focus solely on workplace issues without reference to organizing can channel discontent to elicit official responses. But no matter the official mood, no toleration ever has been extended to private union organizing.

This is why I place Chinese developments in the context of the global experience of labor activism that emphasizes the essentially collective nature of workplace organizing. Associative labor rights address the basic structure of ongoing employment relationships that most all citizens are subject to. It is not a denigration, but simply a logistical reality that as widespread as property rights violations are, they are functionally episodic and based on the exclusionary logic of ownership. This is likely why property rights movements have not been to date highlighted as vectors of democratization via sustained movement solidarity. And I should add that activism on environmental issues, another possible source of widespread movement solidarity, has an ambivalent relationship to strong individual property rights.

Moreover, while the CCP’s experimentations with property rights may not be genuine from an ideal rule of law perspective, it does matter that they have taken specific legal form. The granting of long-term leases and the heated debate over their renewal, the formation of homeowner associations, and especially the ongoing issue of “minor property rights” all are real technical legal developments. The CCP could hypothetically abjure all elite and foreign property rights, but these developments still reflect the very real experimental process by which the CCP allows for regulatory diversity even if it ultimately decides to retroactively reject some such experiments.

In contrast, there is no such regulatory experimentation with associative labor rights. There is experimentation with non-associative labor rights, but only those that generate individuated claims. Tim Webster’s study of the limits of employment discrimination activism here is most telling, [Timothy Webster, Ambivalence and Activism: Employment Discrimination in China, 44 Vand. J. Transnat’l L. 643, 692 (2011)] as is Anita Chan’s prescient fear that employment law experiments will in fact sap life from associative labor organizing.[Anita Chan, Revolution or Corporatism? Workers and Trade Unions in Post-Mao China, 29 Australian J. Chinese Aff. 31, 52 (1993).]

The type of union election experimentation Professor Estlund discusses is one such experiment that sits on the razor edge of ACFTU unions as an instrument of government policy or as truly representative bodies. If such experiments prove unruly, the CCP will attempt to shut them down. But there is always a risk to social experiments. If the Chinese people continue to agitate and force a shift in the risk tolerance of the CCP for such reforms, the limits of the CCP’s containment strategy may be reached. Even so, I am happy to be proven wrong if such limits are breached by other areas of social activism, and it is notable that what fear the CCP has of the New Citizen Movement is not its ideas, but is potential for organizing.

4) Where to Go From Here?

The commentators all help demonstrate that there are few global bright spots for collective labor rights today. While hopeful moments can be seen in the US, China, or elsewhere, the truth remains that outside of a few outliers, the de-democratization of global labor regulation shows no sign of decline. [For a hopeful take see Alvaro Santos, Three Transnational Discourses of Labor Law in Domestic Reforms, 32 U. Pa. J. Int’l L. 123 (2011).] And the progress of individual employment rights, however desirable and justified in themselves, are at best tools within larger labor movements but insufficient for generating them.

Professor Ohnesorge’s citation of South Korea speaks to his own many comparative contributions using the Northeast Asian example [John K.M. Ohnesorge, Developing Development Theory: Law and Development Orthodoxies and the Northeast Asian Experience, 28 U. Pa. J. Int’l Econ. L. 219 (2007)], and the variety of configurations that unions can play even in non neo-liberal states. He expands on the arguments in my paper with the provocation that the renewed interest in state-led developmental models might, even in democracies, further complicate the global future of private unions. Developmental states do not tend to accommodate the pluralism and bottom-up bargaining inherent in wide-spread private unionization. Notably, a great deal of the burgeoning literature on comparative takings has also focused on the abuses of state-led developmental regimes. The fact that such regimes are often heralded as an alternative to the Washington Consensus does thus not necessarily establish that they will buck the global trend on labor regulation.

As Professor Ohnesorge also notes, it is not unrelated that I recently left the US to take a position at Direito GV in Sao Paulo, a new school uniquely committed to producing and indigenizing comparative legal knowledge in Brazil. Brazil possesses what many would consider a very strong system of mandatory sectoral union participation and contribution. Yet even after much recent progress, economic and political inequality are pressing national issues. The differences between Brazilian unionization, formally private but quasi-corporatist in operation, with both the US and Chinese models has already challenged my thinking on the relationship of unionization to economic democracy and development. It is a triangulation I am far from coherently working out, but one I hope will continue my growth as a comparativist. Early next year I will participate in a conference on the “Beijing Consensus” at the National University of Singapore by discussing how segments of Brazilian society differentially interpret the comparative lessons of China’s state-led developmentalism – and in doing so almost uniformly elide CCP labor regulation.

I am again very appreciative for the comments and look forward to drawing these insights into my future work. These are thorny topics that inspire great passion, and I am lucky to have had the opportunity to subject my work to such expert scrutiny.

NYU JILP Symposium: John Ohnesorge Responds to Jed Kroncke

by John Ohnesorge

[John Ohnesorge is currently Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin Law School .]

This post is part of the NYU Journal of International Law and Politics Vol. 46, No. 1 symposium. Other posts in this series can be found in the related posts below.

I completely agree with Professor Kroncke that the world of law and development, both scholarship and practice, has not paid enough attention to labor, and applaud him for addressing this deficit. Even defining development in purely economic terms, the regulation of labor is obviously relevant to GDP growth, as well as to how the economic pie is distributed. If one defines development to also include democratization, then the legal regime governing the ability of labor to organize and to participate in the political process is obviously important as well. As Professor Kroncke argues, labor has clearly been a force for democratization in some successful political transitions, and in established democracies organized labor generally plays an important role in determining economic and social policy. My response to Professor Kroncke’s fascinating paper is to offer some ideas about why labor issues seem so hard for the law and development regime to take on, and to suggest a framework for further research on that topic. The first part of my response focuses on the general issue of how legal fields get on the law and development agenda, and the second part suggests why labor issues may be especially likely to be excluded when countries are pursuing development strategies associated with the “developmental state” concept, which many are now doing.

A legal technical assistance effort, whether carried out by an organization like the World Bank or by an arm of a national government like USAID, will involve an international negotiation that can be modeled in terms of what Robert Putnam called “the logic of two-level games.” [Robert D. Putnam, Diplomacy and domestic politics: the logic of two-level games, 42(3) Int’l Org. 427 (1988).] The immediate actors on both the exporting and importing sides of the legal assistance negotiation will not be unitary free agents, but will instead be constrained by the contexts within which they operate. The image in Putnam’s classic article is of the negotiators each simultaneously being engaged in two games, one with each other, and one with their respective national constituencies. To succeed, legal reform initiatives must have made it to each side’s own list of desired reforms, and then have survived the negotiation process between the two sides.

Viewing expansive legal protections for organized labor through this lens, it should not surprise us if they often don’t survive the two-level game, while property rights or other reforms seem more likely to. From the point of view of the law reform exporter, even if the immediate actor, for example USAID under President Obama, wants to support organized labor abroad, the ability of USAID to pursue that position in international legal aid activities is likely to be constrained by the influence in U.S. domestic politics of business interests who do not favor the rise of organized labor in countries within which they produce. Law reform projects focusing on property rights or contract law are less likely to encounter opposition from the exporter’s local constituents, so for that reason alone are more likely to stay on the international agenda. Legal development projects of the World Bank or the IMF are not as sensitive to national politics, but they are constrained by the politics of their governance structures, which are themselves responsive to the wishes of national governments.

With respect to importing side of the game, even if international actors do decide to actively advocate for expansive labor protections, developing country governments may have reasons for not sharing that enthusiasm, even if they are generally in favor of promoting development, and even if they are democratic. The role of organized labor in the development context will depend on what general model of development a country follows, and that will depend on both the government’s own preferences, and the constraints the local political and social context places upon the government. If local forces are too strongly arrayed against organized labor it will not succeed as a law and development project, even if both the local government and the international actor would otherwise be in favor. On the other hand, if the developing country government and its local constituencies both favor strong protections for organized labor one might expect them to just enact them on their own, with no international involvement.

In addition, even if one feels strongly committed to organized labor, it is important to explore why even governments who sincerely favor development might approach it with caution. Here it will be helpful to consider Professor Kroncke’s critique of China’s corporatist labor regime in light of Northeast Asia’s “developmental states,” which were lauded by the World Bank as examples of “growth with equity,” [World Bank, The East Asian Miracle (1993).] and which are often cited in current attempts to theorize more state-centric, post-Washington Consensus approaches to development. China’s authoritarian corporatist labor regime is in some ways unique, but it is not so different from the approach followed by South Korea during it’s high growth era of the 1970s and 1980s, notwithstanding that China’s government purports to be of the Left, while South Korea’s was considered to be of the authoritarian Right. [On South Korea’s labor regime, see generally, James M. West, South Korea’s Entry Into the International Labor Organization: Perspectives on Corporatist Labor Law During a Late Industrial Revolution, 23 Stan. J. of Int’l L. 477 (1987).] Even if they are in favor of rapid, market-oriented economic development, it is not surprising that authoritarian governments such as China’s are attracted to state-dominated systems of corporatist labor regulation for purely political reasons. In my view, Professor Kroncke’s paper raises perhaps even more challenging issues for countries such as Brazil, where he now works, that wish to be “new developmental states,” to be vibrant democracies while also retaining a large role for the state in supporting and guiding economic development.

Professor Kroncke does not focus on the different implications that might follow from strong unions in the private versus the public sector, but while they both raise challenges for an erstwhile developmental state, the implications are different. Looking first at public sector unions, the East Asian developmental states were characterized by civil service bureaucracies known for being highly meritocratic and professionalized, yet also lean in the sense of not constituting a major drain on government resources. This was certainly part of the reason observers described the East Asian developmental states as “hard” with respect to social and political forces, able to enjoy a comparatively high level of autonomy and flexibility in implementing industrial policy. Strong public sector unions may be desirable for other reasons, but it seems clear that they contribute to a politicization of the bureaucracy, they introduce rigidities in policy implementation, and they may contribute to an expensive bloating of the public sector workforce. Any developing country interested in the developmental state model will have to grapple with how to maintain the insulation and technocratic expertise of its economic bureaucracy, and will also have to keep public sector spending under control so as to maintain fiscal discipline. Strong unionization rights in the public sector will be in some tension with these goals for any developmental state, even one strongly committed to democracy. An expansive role for private sector unions will be in some tension with another characteristic of the classic developmental state, which is the ability to keep wage growth roughly in line with productivity gains. This is important for the export competitiveness of local manufacturers, as well as for the attractiveness of the country for foreign direct investment. For a developmental state to be truly developmental wages must rise, but export-orientation and openness to FDI both require that wages remain globally competitive. A government that wishes to purse a developmental state model involving export orientation and attractiveness to FDI may be reluctant to share control over wages and other labor issues with truly independent unions, even if it is otherwise committed to democracy.

Although it would be quite an irony if true, the more free-market development strategies associated with neoliberalism might be able to accommodate strong unions as effectively as developmental state approaches that call for the state to be actively involved in administering industrial policy and maintaining national competitiveness. To neoliberalism, strong unions might be an unfortunate cost of doing business. To the developmental state model, however, strong unions present almost existential challenges, certainly in an authoritarian context such as China’s, but perhaps also in a democracy. Professor Kroncke’s paper challenges us to explore these important issues, and it will be interesting to see how they play out as more developing countries experiment with the policies of the developmental state.