Archive of posts for category
Other Issues

Engaging the Writings of Martti Koskenniemi

by Duncan Hollis

MK2r_hollis (2)

Last Spring, Temple Law School was pleased to host a two day workshop on the scholarship of one of international law’s true giants – Martti Koskenniemi (simply put, I’m a big fan). Organized by my colleague, Jeff Dunoff, it was a great event with a wide-ranging conversation launching off Martti’s works in international legal theory, international legal history, fragmentation, interdisciplinary scholarship, ethics and the future of international law.  

Given how great the workshop was, I could not be more pleased to note that the accompanying papers have now been compiled and published in a single volume of the Temple International and Comparative Law Journal (vol. 27, no. 2). The full table of contents for the Symposium Issue can be found here

The papers include Jeff Dunoff’s framing introduction, a fascinating paper by Martti on the historiography of international law, and a slew of papers by renowned scholars, including Kim Scheppele, Tomer Broude, Sean Murphy, Mark Pollack, Rob Howse and Ruti Teitel, Samuel Moyn, Jan Klabbers, Andrew Lang and Susan Marks, Frédéric Mégret, and Ralf Michaels.  These papers address a number of themes that run through Koskenniemi’s work, including international law and empire; the fragmentation of international law; interdisciplinary approaches to international law; reading – and misreading – the tradition; and the international lawyer as ethical agent.  Both individually and collectively, the papers represent a significant effort to engage, explore, and extend the ideas found in Koskenniemi’s writings.

The special symposium issue is the first of what will be a tradition of yearly Symposia that will be organized by Temple faculty and published in the Journal.  As such, the Symposia marks a new form of collaboration between Temple faculty and students, and represent an experiment in academic publishing designed to provide students the experience of editing papers on cutting-edge research, and at the same time injecting faculty expertise into the selection and substantive editing of papers.

A Seriously Not Cool Phishing Email

by Kevin Jon Heller

I normally find scam emails amusing — especially the one where Ban Ki-moon wants to give me “scam compensation” in the amount of $500,000 on behalf of the “World Bank/United Nations Assisted [sic] Programme.” But the one I received today is just sick:

Dear Friend,

I know this email will surprise you. Please accept my offer for charity plans. My name is Mrs. Halima Izar. I am a rich Syrian woman of 66 years. I was married to the director of (IZAR SEAFOOD LTD) located in China and Cambodia. I am seriously suffering from the chemical gas attack that affected us in August in Damascus. My entire families died by that attack. My condition is hopeless to survive. Nobody to call for help. I am using my doctor’s android phone to send you this email. I want you to take over my funds in Cambodia for charity plans and humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees, and motherless, less privileged, widows in your country. I pray Allah to help us. I have $10,800.000.00 in my Bank. I will offer you 12% for your commitment. My lawyer in Cambodia will direct and arrange the release of the funds to you. I have informed him of my intension to appoint you receive this funds. His contact is below:

Barrister. Toek Sreymao
E-mail: toeksreymao [at] gmail [dot] com
TEL- +855-883994742

May God Bless You.

Mrs Halima

Using chemical-weapons attacks in Syria to try to cheat naive people out of their money is revolting. I hope God does something to “Mrs Halima” other than bless her.

Welcome to the Blogosphere AJIL Unbound

by Duncan Hollis

I’m pleased to flag the fact that the American Journal of International Law has recently launched its own blog — AJIL Unbound.  Interested readers can find out more about the project and the Journal‘s interest in reader feedback here.  In the meantime, AJIL Unbound is currently hosting an on-line discussion of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. in concert with the Journal‘s print-based Agora on that same case in its October 2013 issue.  I look forward to reading these posts and also to seeing how AJIL Unbound develops and evolves in the weeks and months ahead.

Omit Needless Words

by Roger Alford

Watching my youngest son draft and redraft his high school essays under the watchful eye of his English teacher, who is smitten by the inerrant wisdom of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, I was curious how the best legal scholarship in the country fares by classic rules of writing.

To simplify my task, I have chosen one rule that is easily quantifiable. In discussing elementary principles of composition, Strunk and White admonish writers to omit needless words:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts…. Many expressions in common use violate this principle…. In especial the expression “the fact that” should be revised out of every sentence in which it occurs.

So how do the top law journals perform under the microscope of William Strunk and E.B. White? In the countless hours of drafting and editing, do the top scholars and top student editors adhere to this elementary principle of composition?

The results are not encouraging. (Alas, I too plead guilty in my own scholarship). A ten-year search of the number of occurrences “the fact that” appeared in the flagship journals of the top law schools reveals the following:

Harvard Law Review: 869
Michigan Law Review: 496
Yale Law Journal: 459
Columbia Law Review: 436
Chicago Law Review: 431
NYU Law Review: 428
Penn Law Review: 408
California Law Review: 406
Stanford Law Review: 388
Virginia Law Review: 364

So on average the top journals misuse this phrase almost fifty times a year, and the Harvard Law Review misuses it over eighty times a year.

In our obsession with rankings, we can take solace in “the fact that” the Harvard Law Review is the best among the best at using this needless expression.

Emerging Voices: Teeth but No Bite–Can SADC Curb Election Fraud in Zimbabwe?

by Drew Cohen

[Drew F. Cohen is a law clerk to the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.  He is also a contributing columnist for US News and World Report where he writes about comparative constitutional law, international human rights and global legal affairs.]

Recently, Botswana called on the South African Development Community (SADC) to open an investigation into voting irregularities in the recent Presidential election in Zimbabwe where the incumbent Robert Mugabe won with 61-percent of the total votes amid voluminous allegations of ballot fraud.  Two members of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, concerned with voting irregularities, have already resigned.  And Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the major opposition party, is currently gearing up to legally challenge the election results.

Botswana’s request for SADC to intervene is an intriguing one.  One the one hand, Botswana stressed that any initial inquiry should be limited to fact-finding (i.e. an independent audit) out of fear that launching a more invasive investigation into the alleged voting irregularities would hamper relations between the two countries.  On the other hand, SADC has been gaining traction in the region as an sharp, effective check against state-sanctioned human rights abuses as well as a mechanism to uphold the rule of law.

A bit of background about the SADC Treaty – which provides a binding framework to adjudicate disputes amongst Member States – is useful to understand how the organization could be deployed to ferret out, remedy and, in the future, prevent instances of election fraud.

SADC was constituted under a Treaty signed in Windhoek in August 1992 by a number of Southern African states, including Zimbabwe and Botswana.  The treaty was ratified by the signatory states and came into force in 1993.  The Preamble of the Treaty states that its Members are committed, inter alia, to ensuring “through common action, the progress and well-being of the people of Southern Africa.”  Article 4 of the Treaty, in turn, requires SADC and its Members to act, broadly, in accordance with the principle of “human rights, democracy and the rule of law”.  To give effect to that principle, SADC can create “appropriate institutions and mechanisms,” pursuant to Article 5(2)(c).  This provision, in conjunction with Article 4 of the Treaty, would presumably provide the legal basis for Botswana’s proposed commission to investigate Zimbabwe’s presidential election results.

In the event that Member States are unable to resolve their disputes through internal executive and legislative institutions…

Emerging Voices: The Joint Obligation to Protect Witnesses in the Fight against Transnational Organized Crime

by Laura Salvadego

[Laura Salvadego is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Law, University of Ferrara. This work has been developed during a research stay at the New York University School of Law - Center for Research in Crime and Justice, funded by Unicredit bank and by 5 per thousand contributions given to the University of Ferrara in 2010]

The need to ensure appropriate protection of witnesses plays a crucial role in the fight against transnational organized crime both at the universal level and in the European context. Rules concerning cooperation among states in this context suggest the existence of a joint obligation to protect witnesses that is functional to punishment of the authors, which in turn is perceived as a goal of the international society as a whole. Indeed, criminal networks of organized crime originate a threat to the entire international society (cf. Report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, at 2), particularly because of their transnational ramifications. The global nature of threat requires that states’ efforts are integrated in a common and coordinated repressive project of multilateral nature (Kramer, at 4).

The idea that witnesses in criminal trials enjoy specific rights has gradually gained acceptance in international law (Fenwick, at 318), leading to the explicit acknowledgement of a positive obligation for states to adopt specific legislative and operative measures to assure witnesses’ self-determination and safety (Cf. Council of Europe, Rec. No. R (97) 13Council of the European Union, Res. No. 95/C 327/04 and, among others, Ecthr, Artico v. Italy, para. 33 ff.).

It is actually possible to construe an overall, coherent “statute” for witnesses under international law, drawing from the various rules set by a number of different instruments dealing with the matter. Thus, for example, the 2000 United Nations Convention on transnational organized crime and its Protocols, set forth innovative rules concerning measures to be adopted by Parties to provide for protection and assistance of witnesses subject to reprisals and intimidation (Article 24).

The extent of the required protection and the resulting burdensome obligations for states are justified by the particular vulnerability of this category of persons, whose protection from the trial is functional to the fight against transnational organized crime. In fact, adequate repression of criminal offences would be widely thwarted if the high risk of negative consequences for witnesses’ health and safety could influence their deposition in the trial and, as a consequence, the outcome of the criminal proceedings. Witnesses’ fact-finding contribution is essential to contrast transnational criminal networks; however their fruitful participation is extremely difficult to obtain without appropriate mechanisms to neutralize dynamics of intimidation largely widespread in this context.

Imposing to adopt “appropriate measures within its means” for the purpose of granting witness’ protection, the Palermo Convention sets up a particular due diligence obligation (see Pisillo Mazzeschi, “Due diligence” e responsabilità internazionale degli Stati, 1989) that is not easy to appreciate. In fact, no specific and analytical indication is given concerning the so called…

NASA Visualization of Temperature Anomalies, 1880-2010

by Kevin Jon Heller

Yikes.

Moving to SOAS

by Kevin Jon Heller

Yes, the twitter rumour is true: as of January 2014, I will be Professor of Criminal Law at the University of London, SOAS. (Formerly known as the School of Oriental and African Studies.) I am very excited about the move; SOAS is a superb law school with one of the most diverse and most interesting faculties in the world. It is also a law school in the midst of an exciting transition: SOAS as a whole is getting a new building in 2015, and I am one of seven new law hires, two at the professorial level, this year. The law school has justified ambitions of being every bit as good as UCL and the LSE; I hope I can play a role, however small, in helping SOAS realize those ambitions. And I look forward to being much closer geographically to the tribunals and to my many good friends and colleagues in Europe.

All that said, it is with considerable sadness that I leave Melbourne Law School. I have had the most amazing five years in Melbourne, and I will profoundly miss my colleagues and my students. I have been privileged to be part of one of the great international-law faculties in the world, and I will always sing Melbourne Law School’s praises to anyone who will listen. I also hope to remain formally affiliated in some way with the law school; what that affiliation will look like remains to be determined.

My thanks to Melbourne Law School for supporting me these past five years. And my thanks to SOAS for viewing me as part of the their next five years — and beyond.

Crossing Lines S01E03

by Kevin Jon Heller

Every week, for as long as the show survives, I’ll be blogging about Crossing Lines, the new NBC drama that features a team of detectives who work for the ICC. Today, my expert analysis of the second episode:

It’s about art thieves.

Really. It’s about art thieves.

I’m not kidding.

(And don’t get me started about how the team threatens to let a wounded man bleed to death if he doesn’t give them valuable information. Must have missed that provision in Art. 21(3) of the Rome Statute.)

Back again next week!

“Crossing Lines” Is Going to Be a Disaster…

by Kevin Jon Heller

Ever since my friends at Wronging Rights flagged the upcoming NBC series Crossing Lines, which is about an ICC police unit, I’ve been scouring the internet for more information about what will no doubt be an absolute train-wreck of a TV show. Tonight I found this:

Set in exotic locations around Europe, “Crossing Lines” follows a disgraced New York cop, played by William Fichtner, who finds redemption after joining an international police unit based at the Intl. Criminal Court in the Hague that investigates cross-border crimes and hunts down brutal criminals.

[snip]

“Fans of procedural crime shows will feel very much at home with this new team, but at the same time, the global setting will add a color and flavor to the show that will take audiences on a new and exciting ride.

“Crime has gone global like everything else in our lives and now there is a weekly procedural that dives into this world. At the end of the day, we’re all frightened and concerned about the same things and problems no longer tend to stay regionally contained for too long anymore.”

The series will tackle topical crimes and illicit global trades such as plutonium poisonings, serial killings, kidnappings, human trafficking and drug smuggling, added Bauer.

Where to begin? First, the ICC doesn’t have a police force, international or otherwise. (Perhaps the show should have been set in the OTP — which at least has investigators.) Second, international crimes do not have to be transnational. (Which is the whole point of genocide and crimes against humanity.) Third, the ICC does not have jurisdiction over poisonings (except in armed conflict), serial killing (unless its like Srebrenica), kidnappings (unless they’re like during the Dirty War), or drug smuggling (sorry, Trinidad & Tobago). Fourth, and finally, it will be a very chilly day in the bad place when the ICC investigates a crime committed in Europe.

Other than that, the show sounds completely accurate.

We Should Try This in the U.S. (Minus Donald Trump, Of Course)

by Kevin Jon Heller

I’ve seen some strange reality TV in my time, but (mock) picking the next Palestinian head of state?

The hit show, called simply The President, has grown out of widespread frustration among Palestinians at their own moribund politics in the real world.

The current president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, remains in office four years after his mandate expired.

His party, Fatah, rules over the West Bank while in Gaza, Hamas, the Islamist movement labelled a terrorist organisation by many countries in the West, reigns – also years beyond the mandate it won in 2006.

The Palestinian assembly hasn’t met for many months. The roster of leaders hasn’t changed for decades.

Part Apprentice part X-Factor, viewers are gripped by a show in which they get to chose who should be their next president.

Enter Raed Othman, the director general of the Ma’an broadcast network.

“I thought of this programme because we have to show that the Palestinian people understand and want real democracy. We want elections – real elections. But if we cannot have them then we can do our own,” he said backstage during the filming of the latest episode of his show which has whittled 1,200 potential presidents to 16.

He added:  “There are a lot of people who say we don’t have leaders, so we need to prove to them that there are a lot of leaders in Palestine. We want to teach the people that democracy is possible whenever we want”.

Contestants are filmed taking on tasks – being an ambassador to a European country for a day, running a major corporation, taking questions from foreign and local journalists, even how to inspect guards of honour.

They are then put through the ringer by a panel of judges, among them leading politicians like Hannan Ashrawi, a former spokeswoman for the Arab League. Viewers combine votes sent in by text message with the judges’ marks in early rounds.

The winner doesn’t actually become President; he or she just gets a car. Then again, considering the sorry state of Palestinian politics, that’s probably a more desirable outcome.

Cruel Window No More

by Roger Alford

With the publication by the Journal of Legal Education’s recent “Fiction Issue,” and the London Review of International Law announcing that they will include poetry with the goal of expanding and enriching the international legal conversation, I thought this poem was particularly timely. It is written by an anonymous friend for those who have suffered from human trafficking and for those who advocate on their behalf.

Cruel Window No More

Colored panes of glass, once collected,
Good and evil, gently refracted.

Purveyor of harm enters in,
muffled alarm, tragic din.

The deed is done, young soul plucked,
Life shattered, filthy muck.

Stained glass, broken body,
Nature’s law suspended.

Shards of life, colors bleed,
Love’s dance upended.

Corrupted inquisitor, shadow valley,
Rotten misery.

Timely advocate, verdant pasture,
Quenching remedy.

Shutters open, warm air,
Cleansing counsel, gentle care.

Broken glass reframed,
Child reborn, strengthened claim.

Colored pane restored,
Cruel window no more.