International Human Rights Law

Although I was up at six, I think Julian must get up a lot earlier than I do, as he is regularly beats me to the punch on what's in the newspapers on drones.  I will post something more once Philip Alston's report is out next Tuesday and I have had a chance to read the text.  But here are a couple of comments per Charlie Savage's exceedingly interesting NYT piece. There are two ways of seeing a call for drone strikes to be turned over to the US military, rather than the CIA.  One is fundamentally grounded in the binary that all uses of force must be either law enforcement or else armed conflict - and if so, there is no room for the CIA to be conducting these strikes.  In that case case, the call to take the CIA out of it is a way of reasserting the basic binary.  This is problematic from the US standpoint, if it is a way of reasserting this fundamental binary, since the Legal Adviser's ASIL speech specifically preserves an independent ground of self-defense that is not a matter of armed conflict.  If CIA participation is unlawful because the binary holds, then the US has simply rejected the underlying premise - indeed, said that it has never accepted it, going back clear to the 1980s and beyond. The other way to see a call to take the CIA out of the activity is on the ground that because this is an armed conflict, uses of force must be undertaken by lawful participants, and the CIA, as a civilian agency, is not a lawful participant.  Insofar as this is offered as something that is not driven by the fundamental binary above, then it is essentially a claim about the CIA not meeting the requirements lawfully to engage in hostilities - some version of the claim that the war with Al Qaeda is an armed conflict, and the CIA are not privileged combatants.  This is a technically more complicated claim in the rules of war than much of the public discussion has treated it.  Much of the public discussion seems to revolve around the idea that if you are a civilian, you are not allowed to take part in hostilities; the legal point, rather, is that there are numerous categories of civilians that have varying roles in direct participation in hostilities and the point is not to say that their participation is unlawful, it is that - if they were facing a lawful foe - they are themselves lawful targets.  Whether they wear uniforms or not is a question of whether the circumstances in which they wear uniforms, or non-standard uniforms (e.g., special forces in Afghanistan), etc., is a question of whether they fail to distinguish themselves from the non-combatants.  Insofar as they do this from Langely in some cubicle, that does not really present a problem. As to the assertion that they have made themselves lawful targets - that would be true if engaged with a foe that could lawfully target anything.  In the case of a terrorist group - Al Qaeda, the IRA, ETA, etc., the automatic assumption that military lawyers sometimes make, that jus ad bellum and jus in bello are independent, is beside the point; these groups have no reciprocal right to target anything, irrespective of whether, in a lawful conflict, something or someone would be a target.  It is not the case that by flying a drone from Langley, the CIA operator is now a lawful target - he or she would be if flying it in a conflict with, oh, North Korea, but not Al Qaeda.  Al Qaeda has no belligerency rights jus ad bellum, just as it has no combatant privilege jus in bello.  To suggest that the CIA at Langley has put itself into an "equivalent" position is not correct.  If the CIA at Langley were fighting a lawful actor, its participants would be lawful targets - although not, merely in virtue of not wearing uniforms inside Langley, "unlawful combatants." But not as regards Al Qaeda.

[The following is a guest-post by Lt. Col. Jenks, the Chief of the International Law Branch in the Army's Office of the Judge Advocate General -- KJH] At a workshop held in Beirut earlier this month, officials from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) attempted to explain the basis for the tribunal's in absentia provisions.  At the same time, Judge...

The news coming out of China of ten suicide deaths at Foxconn industrial park is terribly distressing. All of the workers who committed suicide were recent high school or vocational training school graduates aged between 18 to 24. One of the fatalities, Sun Danyong, jumped to his death after being interrogated over a missing iPhone prototype. Foxconn,...

So, Alan Dershowitz has decided that international law needs to be "delegitimized," because it is unfair to Israel.  It is reasonable to consider, therefore, what Dershowitz believes a "fair" international law would allow Israel to do.  Here is one of his suggestions, from a 2002 Jerusalem Post editorial entitled "New Response to Palestinian Terrorism" (emphasis mine): In light of the...

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia has just held that JCE III, otherwise known as "extended" joint criminal enterprise, did not exist under customary international law during 1975-1979, the period over which the ECCC has temporal jurisdiction. The decision is a stunning rebuke to the ICTY, which invented -- literally out of thin air -- that form of...

I continue to believe that this is a terrible idea: Spain's top judicial panel had suspended Mr Garzon on Friday pending his trial on charges he exceeded his authority by ordering an investigation into mass killings by the forces of former dictator Francisco Franco. The suspension from his functions as a judge was widely thought in Spain...

As the smear campaign against Richard Goldstone gets ever more desperate, it seems opportune to provide a bit more information about Israel's support for apartheid, to which Goldstone's pales in comparison.  Here is Sasha Polokow-Suransky again, this time responding to attacks on Goldstone by the Speaker of the Knesset and Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister: Goldstone's apartheid-era judicial rulings are undoubtedly a...

A good editorial, one that provides important context.  Here's a snippet: From the beginning, the case against Garzon has seemed to be motivated by political and personal vendettas, and the timing of these decisions is no exception. Early in the week, Garzon had asked Spanish authorities for a seven-month leave to work as a consultant to the International...

Professor Schuck has graciously permitted me to post his response.  Here it is: I am grateful for the comments that have been posted about my op-ed, and believe that John correctly captures my position.  It is common for the law to permit finders of fact to draw inferences from conduct, including inferences that are contrary to the words used by the...

Ken has already flagged the editorial, in which Schuck -- a superb scholar who teaches at Yale -- argues that it would be constitutionally permissible to strip Faisal Shahzad's US citizenship because of his attempt to set off a car-bomb in Times Square.  I'm skeptical of Schuck's argument, so I thought I'd explain why.  Here are the key paragraphs: Revoking the...