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Jacob Katz Cogan Is Back!

by Kevin Jon Heller

Readers will be delighted to know that Jacob has restarted International Law Reporter, your one-stop-shopping center for all new international-law scholarship.  And I’m delighted to learn that Jacob’s new essay, entitled “The Regulatory Turn in International Law,” is now forthcoming in the Harvard International Law Journal, which has recently partnered with our blog.  The essay looks fascinating; check it out here.  Congrats to Jacob!

Call for Papers — The Eichmann Trial at 50

by Kevin Jon Heller

Because the “Untold Stories” symposium that Gerry Simpson and I organized was such a success, we are organizing another one.  Here is the call for papers:


A two-day international symposium to discuss one of the most important trials of the 20th Century

Melbourne Law School

14-15 October 2011

Presented by The Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law, Melbourne Law School, and supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project Grant

Organizers: Kevin Jon Heller & Gerry Simpson


Deadline for Abstracts: 15 June 2011

On 11 April 1961, the trial of Adolf Eichmann began in the District Court of Jerusalem. The trial was broadcast internationally, the first televised trial in the history of television, drawing millions of viewers around the world. Eight months later, after the testimony of nearly 100 witnesses had changed perceptions of the Holocaust forever, the court convicted Eichmann and sentenced him to death. Five months after that, Eichmann was hanged and his ashes were scattered at sea, bringing to a close one of the most important trials of the 20th century.

2011 marks the 50th anniversary of the Eichmann trial. The trial has had a profound impact on a variety of academic disciplines – law, philosophy, literary theory, political science, and history, to name only a few – yet scholars in those disciplines have rarely interacted with each other. The goal of symposium is to bridge that gap by bringing together scholars who have nothing in common other than a shared interest in the trial. The organizers thus encourage proposals from any discipline on any topic related to Eichmann.

The symposium will be held over two days.  We regret we cannot offer travel or accommodation expenses, but lunches and teas (morning and afternoon) will be provided.  A speakers’ dinner will be held on the evening of the 14th and an informal dinner on the 15th for those who remain in town.

The symposium is the third of four symposia being held as part of the Australian Research Council-funded project “Invoking Humanity: A History of War Crimes Trials.” The organizers intend to publish a selection of papers presented at the symposium as an edited book, although there will be no obligation to publish. Conversely, the organizers are happy to consider contributions to the book from scholars who are unable to attend the symposium.

If you are interested in presenting a paper at the symposium or contributing to the planned book, please send a 300-500 word abstract and a short C.V. no later than 15 June 2011 to Kevin Jon Heller, c/o James Ellis (j [dot] ellis [at] student [dot] unimelb [dot] edu [dot] au).  Doctoral students are welcome to submit abstracts. Participants will be selected by July 1 to facilitate travel plans.

Questions about the symposium should be directed to Kevin at kheller [at] unimelb [dot] edu [dot] au.

I hope some Opinio Juris readers will be interested in attending!

More From the Department of False Equivalences

by Kevin Jon Heller

Not surprisingly, conservatives and the Obama administration are falling all over themselves to praise Paul Clement for his brave willingness to represent the House of Representatives at the low, low rate of $520.00 per hour — practically pro bono.  The idea that zealous representation is an end in itself, regardless of client or cause, is one of the most basic tenets of the legal profession, a useful myth that allows skilled lawyers to convince themselves that getting rich defending polluters, companies that manufacture defective products, and banks who throw people out of their homes not only contributes to the public welfare, but is in fact an act of selflessness deserving of moral praise.

The false equivalence between Clement and lawyers who actually work pro bono on unpopular causes (conservative or progressive) or who make $35,000 per year providing legal services to the poor and powerless is offensive enough.  Even worse is witnessing Jonathan Adler, one of the bloggers at Volokh Conspiracy, describe the Human Rights Campaign’s pressure on King & Spalding to drop the defense of DOMA as the “new McCarthyism” (emphasis added):

Clement’s decision to represent Congress and defend DOMA was controversial in some circles, and understandably so. Although DOMA was enacted with broad bipartisan majorities and signed into law by President Clinton, it prevents federal recognition of same-sex marriages, even when sanctioned by state law. For supporters of same-sex marriage, that’s a tough pill to swallow.

Angered over Clement’s decision, the Human Rights Campaign launched a campaign against King & Spalding, seeking to punish the firm because one of its partners dared represent a controversial client. According to HRC, the representation was “a shameful stain on the firm’s reputation.” In reality, what’s really shameful is HRC’s McCarthyite attack on Clement and King & Spalding — particularly given the nation’s sorry history of efforts to prevent effective legal representation of marginalized groups and unpopular causes.

As I noted yesterday, I think pressuring law firms to drop clients is generally a very bad idea.  To describe the HRC’s efforts as “McCarthyism,” however, is ridiculous.  Joseph McCarthy was a United States Senator who used the power of his position to destroy the lives of dozens, if not hundreds, of innocent people.  The HRC is a civil-rights group that is attempting to shame King & Spalding for accepting a client whose cause is antithetical to the firm’s own values, given its long history of support for LGBT rights. It is certainly reasonable to argue that the HRC is playing a dangerous and counterproductive game by trying to convince King & Spalding clients to leave the firm; I’m inclined to agree with that position.  But there can be no comparison — none at all — between grassroots campaigns and state-sponsored persecution.

When the government passes a law disbarring lawyers who represent conservative causes, we can talk.

DOMA, Gitmo, and False Equivalences

by Kevin Jon Heller

At Lawfare today, Ben Wittes criticizes King & Spalding for refusing to help the House of Representatives defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court.  His argument turns on an analogy between representing the House and representing Gitmo detainees:

Sometimes, the politically unpopular client is the House of Representatives, not a Guantanamo detainee. Sometimes, the contested legal questions are not ones related to counterterrorism but involve marriage and equality and tradition. But good counsel is still critical to ensuring that tribunals have access to the best arguments and most rigorous factual presentations before making crucial decisions. When interest groups pressure law firms to drop such representations, they are still demanding adjudications stripped of a full record–or objecting to the right of their opponents to have adjudications at all. And if major law firms will buckle under such political pressures before defending a (rightly, in my view) disfavored federal statute, can anyone really imagine that they will not also abandon other disfavored clients?

Paul is a friend. I do not know his personal views on DOMA and would never ask them. But I ask readers to consider whether we would consider what King & Spalding did in this matter honorable had the firm done it to a different firm client–say, Mohammed Al Adahi–and how we would consider a lawyer who resigned in protest if it did.

I think Ben’s point that law firms should be very wary of letting interest groups pressure them into dropping clients is a good one, and in that regard the analogy to the horrific attacks on lawyers who represented Gitmo detainees is appropriate.  That said, I think Ben’s argument otherwise relies on a fundamentally false equivalence between Paul Clement and lawyers who represent Gitmo detainees.  Lawyers in the latter category are representing powerless, indigent clients who are faced with criminal charges or — worse still — a lifetime of indefinite detention.  Paul Clement is representing one part of the legislative branch of the United States government, a client that is not faced with the deprivation of liberty and is not even trying to defend a constitutional right.  The Constitution doesn’t define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, nor does it impose an obligation on the executive to defend laws (in contrast to enforcing them) that it believes are unconstitutional.

I have no problem with Clement choosing to represent the House in its attempt to defend the DOMA legislation, although I think Ted Olson deserves far more credit for using his legal skills to promote the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians.  But analogies like Ben’s simply reinforce one of the most destructive ideas perpetuated by legal education — namely, that a “good” lawyer is nothing more than a mercenary, willing and able to zealously promote the interests of whomever is capable of paying his or her fees.  Lawyers should always be free to represent whomever they want, but we should not pretend that there is no moral difference between civil-rights attorneys and attorneys who represent tobacco companies, weapons manufacturers, and polluters.  And we should certainly not pretend that there is no moral difference between representing individuals facing a lifetime in prison and representing right-wing congressmen facing a world in which they are no longer able to legislate hate.

ADDENDUM: Many critics of King & Spalding’s decision, including Ben, emphasize that the adversary system only works when both sides have quality representation.  That’s a lovely ideal, but in the real world quality representation is almost always the prerogative of the wealthy.  With the exception of indigent criminal defendants, who are provided overworked and under-resourced public defenders (whose funding is constantly under attack by conservatives), society has no problem either not providing the poor with any representation at all or providing them with substandard representation — tenants, the victims of mortgage fraud, employees discriminated against because of age or race or gender, people harmed by defective products, etc.  Such individuals have to rely on overworked and under-resourced legal-aid offices (whose funding is constantly under attack by conservatives) or plaintiff’s attorneys who work on contingency (whose work is constantly under attack by conservatives).  So please, spare me the crocodile tears for the poor House of Representatives.  When the government adequately funds public defenders’ offices and legal-aid societies, I’ll take the quality-representation argument seriously.

Faculty Positions at Melbourne Law School

by Kevin Jon Heller

My school is once again advertising for new faculty at all levels, from Lecturer to Professor.  Note the short deadline: applications must be in by April 27.  Here is the job description:

Melbourne Law School, Australia’s first all-graduate law faculty, invites applications for continuing appointments from creative legal scholars committed to educational innovation.

We continue to seek new colleagues at all ranks (levels B to E) and across all sub-disciplines who share our commitment to a highly collegial, research-intensive professional life. We specifically encourage applications from current or aspiring academics with a clear understanding of the value of cross-disciplinary and comparative analysis, who are able to integrate teaching with research and community engagement activities, and who are prepared to contribute to the vibrant communal life and culture at the Law School and within the University of Melbourne as a whole.

Melbourne Law School was the first faculty in Australia to teach law and awarded this country’s first law degrees. We were the first to move to the global standard Juris Doctor degree. Coupled with the unrivalled excellence of the Melbourne Law Masters and our internationally renowned Research Higher Degree programmes, we offer a unique opportunity to integrate scholarship and teaching. Colleagues are encouraged to affiliate with one or more of the Law School’s dozen research institutes, centres and groups, and to take full part in the University of Melbourne’s rich intellectual life – all in the heart of one of the world’s most liveable cities. Full details of appointment possibilities may be found at, under the job category ‘Law’.

Melbourne Law School is an equal opportunity employer, and welcomes applications from scholars able to enrich the diversity of our community. In particular we encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to apply.

All enquiries to Professor Carolyn Evans, Dean, at law-academicpositions [at] unimelb [dot] edu [dot] au, tel. + 61 3 8344 6172. Applications (consisting of a curriculum vitae and a cover letter addressing the selection criteria) must be submitted online at

You can find more information here.  As always, interested readers should feel free to email me.

Guest-Post: Nuclear Trafficking as an International Crime?

by Kevin Jon Heller

The following is a guest-post written by Orde Kittrie, a professor at ASU’s law school, and Sandy Spector, the deputy director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.  They very much want input from OJ’s readership, so please post your thoughts.  Our thanks to Orde and Sandy for contributing the post!

Seven years after A.Q. Khan publicly confessed to his illegal nuclear dealings, and 35 years after he fled the Netherlands with a cache of stolen nuclear blueprints, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program (and Iran’s) has yet to pay a significant price for his transgressions.

How might the next A.Q. Khan be more successfully prosecuted or deterred? Does it make sense to try to turn trafficking in nuclear materials (e.g., enriched uranium) and nuclear commodities (e.g., nuclear equipment and technology) into an international crime? If so, how? This will be a major topic of discussion at an April 4-5 conference in Washington, DC sponsored by the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability and the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace (see here for more information about the conference). We thought it might be interesting to pose these questions for brainstorming by the collective expertise of Opinio Juris readers.

In the rest of this post, we will briefly 1) describe what has been suggested would be the ideal (but possibly unattainable) new legal instrument for combating nuclear smuggling; 2) describe the major current relevant legal instruments and their flaws; and 3) identify several potential options, short of the ideal, for making nuclear trafficking an international crime. We welcome your comments on all aspects of this analysis, including which one or more of the potential options might make the most sense to pursue. We also welcome any other ideas you might have for maximizing the international community’s chances to prosecute and/or deter the next A.Q. Khan.

What Is The Ideal New Legal Instrument for Combatting Nuclear Smuggling?

It has been suggested that the ideal would be a new treaty, adhered to by all relevant states, that would: make nuclear material and nuclear commodity trafficking an offense under its terms; require all parties to enact laws making nuclear trafficking a high-penalty criminal offense domestically; give parties broad jurisdiction to bring traffickers to justice, by providing jurisdiction over persons on their territory, over their nationals who committed offenses abroad, and over any individual who injured a national of the state party; and include strong mutual legal assistance provisions, requiring all parties to extradite or prosecute and to support prosecutions in the courts of other parties.

What Are The Major Current Relevant Legal Instruments And Their Flaws?

The International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (entry into force 2007) contains many of the elements of the “ideal new treaty” discussed above. But it makes only trafficking in nuclear materials an offense, not trafficking in commodities of the type provided to North Korea, Iran, and Libya by the A.Q. Khan network or the commodities being illicitly acquired today by Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea. Moreover, it has only 76 parties.

The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material(entry into force 1987) has 145 parties, but is also limited to nuclear material trafficking, and indeed, covers only nuclear material in peaceful uses, not that in military programs.

UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540 requires all states to control nuclear materials and commodities (termed “related materials”) and to adopt and enforce civil and criminal penalties against the export, trans-shipment, and financing of transfers that would contribute to proliferation. But the resolution does not itself criminalize such activities, nor does it establish the robust jurisdictional and mutual assistance rules of the nuclear material treaties.

Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on North Korea and Iran establish quasi-criminal penalties (asset freezes and travel bans) on any individual whom the Security Council, or the committees established by the Security Council to oversee implementation of the North Korea and Iran sanctions, “designates” as being engaged in, directly associated with or providing support for North Korea or Iran’s proliferation sensitive nuclear activities, including persons or entities acting on their behalf or at their direction. This formulation does cover both those involved in nuclear material trafficking and illicit procurement of nuclear commodities, as well as those directing such efforts. To date, however, virtually all those subjected to these sanctions have been North Korean and Iranian individuals (usually officials); very few individuals situated elsewhere who are involved in procurement efforts on behalf of these governments have been targeted. Moreover, the resolutions cover only North Korean and Iranian nuclear trafficking, not that by others.

The Guidelines of the 46-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) also fall short. The NSG is a voluntary international arrangement, whose members by consensus develop certain export licensing principles and lists of nuclear materials and commodities whose transfer is to be controlled. All members then adopt and implement these guidelines voluntarily. The guidelines do not establish trafficking as an offense, per se, stating only, “Suppliers should have in place legal measures to ensure the effective implementation of the Guidelines, including export licensing regulations, enforcement measures, and penalties for violations.” Nor do the Guidelines provide for any form of mutual legal assistance to enforce the parallel export control rules that all members are implementing.

What Are Some Options For Making Nuclear Trafficking an International Crime?

Ad Hoc Coalitions or Existing Groupings — It may be possible to reinforce the network of mutual legal assistance and extradition treaties for an ad hoc coalition or an existing grouping such as U.S. security partners or the NSG. For example, if a group included only parties to the Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, all members of the group could jointly agree to apply the robust mutual legal assistance and jurisdictional rules in that convention not only to nuclear material trafficking as the convention provides, but also to nuclear commodity trafficking.

Security Council — In addition, the Security Council could reinforce the international criminal law aspects of UNSCR 1540 by, in a new resolution, encouraging or requiring states to incorporate robust jurisdictional and mutual assistance rules in their laws criminalizing all types of nuclear smuggling. Or, the UNSCR 1540 Committee could perhaps issue an interpretation of the resolution to encourage this.

Rome Statute — Some have suggested amending the Rome Statute to extend the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court to cover the most egregious acts of nuclear trafficking, such as providing a nuclear weapon or the ability to manufacture one to a non-state group or transferring particularly sensitive nuclear technology, such as a nuclear weapon design, to a non-nuclear-weapon state party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Customary International Law — A final possibility would be to accelerate the evolution toward customary international law in this area. All of the international instruments noted above are moving toward greater participation. Both the Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material are gaining additional adherents and states’ implementation of UNSCR 1540 is steadily improving. As this web grows stronger, perhaps certain components will evolve to the point of becoming so generally applied, out of a sense of legal obligation, as to reach the level of customary international law, which would make them binding on all states.

Which of these routes towards making nuclear trafficking an international crime do you think it would make the most sense to pursue? Are there other feasible routes?


Professor Orde F. Kittrie, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University

Leonard “Sandy” Spector, Esq., Deputy Director, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies

ASIL 2011

by Kevin Jon Heller

I’m in Los Angeles, on my way home to Melbourne.  I had not attended an ASIL conference in five years, since I was teaching at Georgia, and I’m very glad I attended this one. I met a number of interesting people, including some with whom I’ve had a virtual friendship for a number of years.  (I still have not met my co-blogger Julian Ku face to face!)  I was particularly impressed by two panels.  The first was on the Kosovo advisory opinion; I learned a great deal about the legal aspects of secession and independence, and I also learned that Marko Milanovic — current lecturer at Nottingham, future President of Serbia — is as funny as he is brilliant.  The second was on Israel’s attack on the Turkish flotilla.  Although the representative of the Israeli government simply parroted Israel’s talking points (the government must have macros for them on all its computers, accessible by various functionaries at the push of a button), I was very impressed with the presentations by Naz Modirizadeh of Harvard’s superb Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research and by Sari Bashi, the Executive Director of Gisha, an invaluable Israeli NGO that protects the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially those that live in Gaza.  Sari was simply brilliant, managing in a short 12 minutes to show — often using quotes by the Israelis themselves — how Israel’s blockade of Gaza is illegal even if we accept the Israeli government’s legal characterization of the blockade.  (Which, of course, we shouldn’t.)  I also greatly enjoyed the lunchtime talk given by Fatou Bensouda, the deputy prosecutor of the ICC, although I had to listen to it through the door of the conference room because I forgot to purchase a ticket.  Bensouda’s talk, which demonstrated both her legal acumen and her deep humanity, reaffirmed my belief that she would be an ideal replacement for Moreno-Ocampo in 2012.

The very best part of the conference, however, was meeting so many Opinio Juris readers.  At least 20 people came up to me and told me how much they liked the blog.  (That they liked my blogging was less common.)  It is incredibly gratifying to know that the blog remains a vital part of the international-law conversation after so many years.  I can only hope that the next five years will involve more of the same.

The New Cover

by Kevin Jon Heller

Here it is:

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My thanks to all of our readers who provided me feedback on earlier covers.  Note that the dust jacket now provides a short description of Ben Shahn and the painting; particular thanks to readers who suggested the description!  I hope you can read the text on your screen.

East Coast Travels (Updated)

by Kevin Jon Heller

I don’t get to the East Coast of the U.S. very often these days, so I thought I’d mention that I will be in Boston and DC next week, in case any Opinio Juris readers want to meet up.  I will be giving a lecture on the Karadzic trial (with a bit of discussion afterward about the ICC and Libya) at Harvard Law School on Tuesday the 22nd.  The lecture, which will take place in Hauser 102 at noon, is open to the public.  I will then be in DC from the 22nd to the 26th. On the 23rd, I plan on attending this event on Darfur from 10-11:30 and this roundtable on IHL from 1:00-3:00.  I’ll then be milling about aimlessly at the ASIL conference for the next few days, with plenty of time for coffee.

I also want to add that Oxford University Press will have bound proofs of my book available for inspection at ASIL.  The book looks beautiful, as OUP’s books always do; I will try to post a new image of the dust jacket in the next couple of days. But by all means check the proofs out if you are at the conference!

UPDATE: Here is a link to the talk at Harvard Law School.

Celebrating the Legacy of Louis Henkin at Columbia Law School

by Kevin Jon Heller

Our friends at Columbia Law School have asked us to announce a one-day conference celebrating the legacy of the late Louis Henkin.  The conference will be held on March 28 in Jerome Green Hall:

4:00-5:00 pm        A Commemoration of the Life and Legacy of Louis Henkin, JGH 104

Judge Rosemary Barkett, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Sarah Cleveland, Louis Henkin Professor in Human and Constitutional Rights; currently Counselor on International Law, Office of the Legal Adviser,U. S. State Department
Lori Damrosch, Hamilton Fish Professor of International Law and Diplomacy;Henry L. Moses Professor of Law and International Organization
David W. Leebron, President, Rice University
Peter Rosenblum, Lieff Cabraser Clinical Professor in Human Rights Law; Co-Director of the Human Rights Institute

Reception to follow in Drapkin Lounge

6:30-8:00 pm         Louis Henkin: A World of Ideas and Action, JGH 104

Moderated by: Sarah Cleveland

Andreas Lowenfeld, Herbert and Rose Rubin Professor of International Law Emeritus, New York University School of Law
Andrew Nathan, Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University
Gerald Neuman, J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law, Harvard Law School; Member, UN Human Rights Committee
Catherine Powell, Director, International Law and the Constitution Initiative, Fordham Law School; currently Office of Policy Planning, U.S. State Department
Sir Nigel Rodley, Professor of Law and Chair of the Human Rights Center, University of Essex; Member, UN Human Rights Committee

Dinner and refreshments will be provided.

Questions about the conference should be directed to Greta Moseson at greta [dot] moseson [at] law [dot] columbia [dot] edu.

Call for Papers: Affective States of International Criminal Justice

by Kevin Jon Heller

On behalf of the organizers and the APCML, of which I am a part, I want to call readers’ attention to the following conference:

20 ‐ 22 July 2011

Melbourne Law School
Presented by Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law (APCML)
Institute for International Law and the Humanities (IILAH)
Supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project Grant

Convenors: Peter Rush (IILAH) and Gerry Simpson (APCML)


International criminal justice is repeatedly called upon to respond to events which overwhelm our common sense or explode the limits of the law, unsettling the settled frameworks through which law comes to know and act upon the world. In the midst of war crimes and atrocities, trials and tribunals, treaties and resolutions, analysis and advocacy, what binds international criminal justice as a community or field? And, how are we to understand our relations with the forms of knowledge and institutional practices of International criminal justice?

In this symposium, we want to bring together people interested in reflecting on, talking about and engaging with the emotional life that organises or informs or disrupts the distinctive but plural communities of international criminal justice. Many possibilities present themselves. Under the rubric of affective states, we might think of the communities of victims and of survivors (such as the Mothers of Srebrenica), those of the international legal profession (e.g. the office of the prosecutor, or the conscience of the judge, or the practice of the teacher), and those of the witnesses (eg their memorywork and advocacy). We might also think of the institutional forms and technologies through which emotions are harnessed and expressed or tamed and repressed; for e.g. criminal trials, truth commissions, Argentinian truth trials, apologies, amnesties and pardons, as well as executions and testimonial procedures. We might also consider the affective states which are prevalent in and give shape to international criminal justice: horror and revenge, pity and consolation, anger and aggression, sadness and outrage, joy and hate amongst others. Moreover, what are the intellectual and scholarly resources capable of addressing these emotions, passions and feelings of injustice: jurisprudence, doctrine, policy, literary trope (e.g. tragedy), psychology and psychoanalysis (for example, the idioms of trauma and memory), the language of the virtues (and vices), and the discourse of conscience (eg the UN, as well as advocacy groups, often present themselves as institutions of conscience).

Keynote speakers include Professor Jill Stauffer (Haverford College, USA) who will speak on resentment and reconciliation, and Professor Rob Cryer (University of Birmingham, UK) who will speak on monsters. The Centre for Contemporary Photography will present an exhibition in association with this event.

Expressions of interest in the form of a 300‐500 word abstract are to be received no later than 2 May 2011 by Vesna Stefanovski at IILAH vesnas [at] unimelb [dot] edu [dot] au.

It should be a great conference.  I hope some of our readers will submit abstracts!

At Least He Didn’t Use Conservapedia

by Kevin Jon Heller

So, you’re a state senator in the deep South.  You love freedom, which is why you’re a Republican.  You know that Shariah (aka Shari’ah) is the enemy of freedom.  You also know that, although Shariah currently plays no role in the law of your state, it will eventually supplant the Constitution (sometime in the next four decades, you estimate) unless you stop it.  So you decide to sponsor a bill that would prohibit  judges from relying on Shariah (and that icky freedom-hating international law) when making legal decisions.  There’s only one problem — how should you define Shariah?  After all, Muslim jurists have been struggling over a definition for centuries.  Then it hits you: the answer is obvious.  There is only one source that you can truly trust.

Wikipedia, of course:

Allen is the sole sponsor of SB 62, a bill that would ban Alabama courts from using Shariah law or international law in making legal decisions.

The bill defines Shariah as “a form of religious law derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: The divine revelations set forth in the Qur’an and the example set by the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.”

That definition is the same, almost word for word, as wording in the Wikipedia entry on Shariah law as it appeared Thursday. Allen said the wording was drafted by Legislative staff. A source on the staff at the Legislature confirmed that the definition was in fact pulled from Wikipedia.

Allen could not readily define Shariah in an interview Thursday. “I don’t have my file in front of me,” he said. “I wish I could answer you better.”

The good citizens of Alabama will sleep better tonight knowing that Gerald Allen’s watching out for them.