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International Law Movies

by Kristen Boon

After attending a great panel at ESIL in 2014 on International Law and Film, I’ve been thinking about how to integrate film into my public international law class. I’ve compiled a list of international law films (with help from colleagues and fellow bloggers) that make for excellent viewing.  In a subsequent post, I’ll offer some thoughts about teaching international law through film.

Dramatizations

Zero Dark Thirty (Bin Laden)

Team America (Terrorism, North Korea and WMDs) (not on the serious side of international law movies!)

The Interpreter (filmed in the UN)

Argo (Iran Hostage Crisis)

The Reader (War Crimes Trial in Germany)

Battle of Algiers (Algerian War of Independence)

Hotel Rwanda (Genocide in Rwanda)

Woman in Gold (Nazi Art Theft, FSIA)

The Whistleblower (Post-War Bosnia)

Captain Phillips (Piracy)

Blood Diamond (Conflict Diamonds)

Lord of War (Arms Dealing)

War Witch (Child Soldiers)

Star Wars (Trade Dispute prompts Armed Conflict in Outer Space) J

Bridge of Spies (Cold War)

The Constant Gardener (Diplomacy, Pharmaceuticals, British High Commission in Kenya)

Judgment at Nuremberg (Nuremberg Trials)

Documentaries

The Reckoning (The ICC)

Last Station before Hell (UN peacekeeping)

Sons of the Clouds:  The Lost Colony (Western Sahara)

The Gatekeepers (Shin Bet)

Taxi to the Darkside (Torture, Afghanistan)

All Rise (Jessup Competition)

 

An alternate list of international law films compiled by Lyonette Louis-Jacques at the University of Chicago Law Library with more foreign / older content available is here.

Do you have additional movie ideas?  Please add other titles using the comments box below.

Weekly News Wrap: Monday, January 11, 2016

by Jessica Dorsey

Here’s your weekly selection of 2016 of international law and international relations headlines from around the world:

Africa

  • Mali’s chief prosecutor said on Saturday that it has evidence that jihadist al-Qaida splinter group Al Mourabitoun, led by veteran leader veteran militant leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, was behind a November attack on a luxury hotel that killed 20 people.
  • Dozens of Ethiopian and Somali migrants died in the waters off the breakaway Somalia region of Somaliland when their vessel failed mechanically in the course of the voyage and drifted in the sea, a regional Somaliland official said.

Middle East and Northern Africa

Asia

Europe

Americas

Oceania

  • A “new deal” blueprint for sweeping reform of Australia’s environment laws that puts climate change at the centre of ­future economic decision-­making is being prepared by a coalition of 40 leading conservation groups in the wake of the Paris climate meeting.

UN/World

  • Iran’s foreign minister has complained to the United Nations about Saudi Arabia’s “provocations” toward Tehran, as a diplomatic crisis between the region’s two major powers entered its second week.

Events and Announcements: January 10, 2016

by Jessica Dorsey

Announcements

  • The Centre of Excellence for International Courts (iCourts), Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen and PluriCourts (Centre for the Study of the Legitimate Roles of the Judiciary in the Global Order) are hosting a high-level summer school for PhD students working on international courts in their social and political context. We particularly welcome students who are writing up a PhD thesis that involves a strong focus on methodology. The course is offered free of charge but the participants carry out expenses relating to travel and accommodation.

Calls for Papers

  • International Criminal Justice: Theory, Policy and Practice, Socio-Legal Studies Association Annual Conference, Lancaster University. This proposed stream contains four panel sessions and invites submissions on all areas of substantive international criminal justice, whether on theory, policy or practice. Empirical work would be particularly welcomed and papers based on “works in progress” will be considered so long as the work is sufficiently developed. Both individual papers and panel submissions (of three related papers) can be submitted for consideration. Postgraduate students are also encouraged to submit abstracts. Selected papers from the conference will be published. Details of which will be available shortly. For an informal discussion please email the convenor, Anna Marie Brennan at Anna [dot] Marie [dot] Brennan [at] liverpool [dot] ac [dot] uk Abstracts may only be submitted via EasyChair. For more information on the submission process see here. Abstracts must be no longer than 300 words and must include your title, name and institutional affiliation and your email address for correspondence. The deadline for the submissions is Monday 18 January 2016.
  • The ILA British Branch Spring Conference 2016 on “Non-State Actors and Changing Relations in International Law” will be held at Lancaster University on 8-9 April 2016. This conference will examine the changing role of non-state actors in international law and their impact on law-making, obligations, responsibility and dispute settlement. We welcome papers on this subject, which might include, but are by no means limited to: (1) the nature and position of non-state actors within the international legal system; (2) their role with respect to the sources of international law, which may include their role in the formation of custom and in the conclusion of treaties; (3) the source and scope of obligations for particular non-state actors, such as businesses or corporations (e.g. sanctions, human rights, modern slavery), sporting bodies and organised armed groups; (4) the potential responsibility of these actors and its relationship to state responsibility; (5) the position of these actors in dispute resolution and enforcement mechanisms, whether judicial institutions, organs of international organisations or treaty regimes; (6) the special roles of non-state actors in particular areas of international law, such as international environmental law, international economic law (including investment law), the international law of armed conflict, international human rights law and international criminal law, amongst others. For further details see the website here. Abstracts of no more than 500 words and a C.V. should be submitted to j [dot] summers [at] lancaster [dot] ac [dot] uk by 31 January 2016.
  • A reminder that the Polish Yearbook of International Law (PYIL) is currently seeking articles for its next volume (XXXV), which will be published in June 2016. Authors are invited to submit complete unpublished papers in areas connected with public and private international law, including European law. Although it is not a formal condition for acceptance, we are specifically interested in articles that address issues in international and European law relating to Central and Eastern Europe. Authors from the region are also strongly encouraged to submit their works. Submissions should not exceed 15,000 words (including footnotes) but in exceptional cases we may also accept longer works. We assess manuscripts on a rolling basis and will consider requests for expedited review in case of a pending acceptance for publication from another journal. All details about submission procedure and required formatting are available at the PYIL’s webpage. Please send manuscripts to pyil [at] inp [dot] pan [dot] pl. The deadline for submissions is 31 January 2016.
  • Call for papers for the second joint meeting of ASIL Interest Group on International Courts and Tribunals (ASIL ICTIG) and ESIL Interest Group on International Courts (ESIL ICTIG). The joint meeting will take place in Washington, D.C. during ASIL’s annual meeting (30 March-3 April 2016). Exact time and date are still being determined, however, we wish to share that three members of the interest groups will have the chance to present works in progress at the meeting, and receive feedback. If you would like the opportunity to present a work in progress, please submit an abstract describing unpublished works on the theme of  “Regional Approaches to International Adjudication.” Current (2016) members of either ASIL ICTIG and ESIL ICTIG, at any level of their careers, are invited to submit abstracts. The works submitted are to be original and on-going research. Three papers will be selected on the basis of the submitted abstracts. Abstracts must not exceed 500 words, and must be submitted to the following email addresses: geir [dot] ulfstein [at] jus [dot] uio [dot] no and ngrossman [at] ubalt [dot] edu. The deadline for the submission of the abstracts is February 1, 2016. Authors of selected papers will be notified byFebruary 15, 2016.  Authors of selected papers are requested to submit drafts of their works-in-progress by March 15, 2016. Along with the abstract, please include in your submission:
    – The author’s name and affiliation
    – A short author’s CV
    – Whether the author is an ESIL ICTIG member or an ASIL ICTIG member, or both.
  • The Utrecht Journal of International and European Law is issuing a Call for Papers on ‘General Issues’ within International and European law. The Board of Editors invites submissions addressing any aspect of International and/or European law. All types of manuscripts, from socio-legal to legal technical to comparative, will be considered for publication. The Board of Editors will select articles based on quality of research and writing, diversity and relevance of topic. The novelty of the academic contribution is also an essential requirement. Prospective articles should be submitted online and should conform to the journal style guide on our website. Utrecht Journal has a word limit of 15,000 words including footnotes. For further information, or for consultation on a potential submission, you can email the Editor-in-Chief at utrechtjournal [at] urios [dot] org.

Events

  • The T.M.C. Asser Instituut in The Hague is hosting a Hague Initiative on Law and Armed Conflict (HILAC) Lecture by Dr. Katharine Fortin entitled: “The Accountability of Armed Groups Under International Law,” on 11 February 2016. The majority of the armed conflicts around the world today are between States and armed groups. This has heightened the imperative to clarify the obligations of armed groups under international law. In this lecture, Dr. Fortin will discuss the relationship between international humanitarian law and international human rights law when holding armed groups to account. She will also discuss when and how the practice of holding armed groups to account under human rights law, as opposed to international humanitarian law, is legitimate. The lecture starts at 7 p.m. Registration is not needed, but seats are available on a first-come first-served basis.

Our previous events and announcements post can be found here. If you would like to post an announcement on Opinio Juris, please contact us with a one-paragraph description of your announcement along with hyperlinks to more information.

National Security Challenges for the Next Administration: AALS Panel Discussion

by Jessica Dorsey

The Association of American Law Schools is hosting its 110th annual meeting, which starts today and goes through Sunday in New York City.

The program is vast, but one item of note takes place Saturday, 9 January, from 10:30am-12:15pm at the New York Hilton Midtown, Gramercy West, Second Floor. At this event, Deborah will be moderating a panel discussion entitled: “National Security Challenges for the Next Administration,” along with panelists John Bellinger, Gil Avriel, Marty Lederman, Hina Shamsi, and Dakota Rudesill. More information on the AALS meeting can be found here.

The description of the panel is as follows:

As the country embarks upon presidential election season 2016, this panel identifies and explores the most important challenges in national security law facing the next administration. While relatively discrete legacy issues from the U.S. response to the attacks of 9/11 remain, the emergence of new security threats from organizations such as ISIL has brought into sharp relief the broader unresolved questions surrounding the domestic and international legal framework for combating violent non-state and quasi-state actors. This panel assembles a distinguished group of experts on U.S. constitutional law, international law, and counterterrorism to consider which legal problem the next U.S. President should place highest on his or her to-do list – and what the President should do to address it.

Guest Post: Merry-Go-Round Justice–The Retrial of Stanišić and Simatović

by Wayne Jordash

[Wayne Jordash , QC, is a Managing Partner of Global Rights Compliance LLP and a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers. He served as counsel for Jovica Stanišić in the proceedings described in this post and has been temporarily assigned for the new proceedings.]

On the 15 December 2015, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (“ICTY”) Appeals Chamber ordered a retrial of Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović. The Appeals Chamber granted the Prosecution’s request that the decision to acquit be quashed because the Trial Chamber’s approach to joint criminal enterprise (“JCE”) and aiding and abetting were deficient. The retrial will take place under ICTY’s successor, the United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (“MICT”).

Before launching headlong into a discussion on the merits of the decision to order a retrial, it is worthwhile noting that intelligent minds often reasonably disagree on complex ICTY appellate issues. As the ICTY has learnt to its chagrin over the last few years, this is the nature of appeals and sometimes the storms must just be weathered. That said, in the final analysis, some minds might turn out to be more reasonable than others and the quality of the reasoning is as good as signpost as any of the true merits and bona fides of a decision and the prospects of it contributing to our understanding of the law. Accordingly, in the circumstances of the Stanišić and Simatović appeal, it is worthwhile beginning any discussion concerning the merits of the order for retrial with a discussion of the merits and reasoning of the substantive aspects of the appeal. It is instructive to contrast the arguable before moving to the indefensible.

First, for the JCE ground, the Majority of the Appeals Chamber concluded that the Majority in the Trial Chamber had made an error in the course of finding that Mr. Stanišić had not intended to pursue any criminal purpose. They argued that the Trial Chamber should have first considered whether the Serbian leadership had a plan to commit crimes in Croatia and Bosnia, what the scope of that plan was, who was involved and whether Mr. Stanišić’s acts contributed to the plan. They concluded that it was only by first reaching these definitive conclusions about the alleged criminal plan could Mr. Stanišić’s JCE intent be properly adjudicated. At first glance, this approach surely has a superficial attractiveness that warrants further consideration.

However, a closer examination of the underlying premise of this ground reminds us that all that glitters is not gold. The reasoning of the Appeals Chamber appears to suggest that it is not possible for a Trial Chamber to take a holistic view of the evidence and recognise an accused’s consistent avoidance of crime in order to reach a conclusion that the accused did not make a significant contribution to any criminal plan and had no criminal intent. Instead, it seems, the Trial Chamber should painstakingly describe the criminal plan in all its florid detail – even though they are convinced from an examination of the accused’s established conduct that he was consistently engaged in conduct that did not advance or further crime.

Logic suggests that if Mr. Stanišić was alleged to have taken part in a robbery of a bank, a trier of fact would be well-equipped to acquit on the basis that he established a solid alibi that showed he was elsewhere, involved in lawful activity and made no contribution to the specific acts alleged to be within the robbers’ plan. On the Majority view in the Stanišić appeal, it was impossible to be satisfied that Stanišić was acting lawfully without describing all of the robbery, even though he was not there, did not contribute to any aspect of it and was shown to be contemporaneously pursuing legitimate purposes.

The fact that the Majority in the Appeals Chamber eschews this type of analytical discussion in favour of bald assertions that JCE intent may only be inferred through a rigidly linear, calculative approach tells us something about the merits of the conclusion, even if reasonable minds could agree or disagree about some of the arguable points. As does the fact, as pointed out by Judge Afanđe in his eloquent dissent, that such an approach is a departure from previous analytical frameworks employed in cases such as Popović, Pandurević, Milutinović and others and Prlić and others. Whichever way it is spun, and however arguable the issues are, it does seem a little late in the day to be overturning acquittals on the basis that unbeknownst there is only one way to assess JCE intent.

Moreover, the trenchant critique of their fellow judges, Judge Agius and Judge Alfanđe, tells us how the Majority got to where they wanted to go and why there may be little that resembles adequate explanation or express reasoning. As stated by Judge Agius:

[i]t is unfortunate that the Majority’s approach contains a number of shortcomings. Not only is it difficult to identify and understand the Majority’s reasons from the text of Judgment, but in its limited discussion, I respectfully submit that the Majority: (i) misstates the applicable law; (ii) fails to reconcile its analysis, in any meaningful fashion with the learned submissions advanced by counsel for the parties; and (iii) takes the practice of the Appeals Chamber dramatically out of context when applying it to the circumstances of this case.

He finds the “lack of transparency” in the Majority’s approach “particularly troubling, in light of its own obligation to provide a reasoned judgment in writing.” That irony was also not lost on Judge Afanđe, who, whilst discussing the flaws in the Majority’s approach, mused on the Majority criticising the Trial Chamber for failing to provide adequate reasoning for its decisions while doing precisely the same thing: a classic case of kettle calling the pot.

Considering the other aspect of the substantive merits, the decision to reverse the acquittals rested on the Trial Chamber’s analysis of Stanišić’s mens rea that was arguably assessed through the lens of the much-debated ‘specific direction’ requirement. Even if one can once again bemoan the lack of reasoning and legal engagement, as with the JCE ground, one can at least see how the Majority of the Appeals Chamber got to where it wanted to go, even if reasonable minds might have queried whether in the particular analytical circumstances the application of specific direction had any meaningful impact on Stanišić’s aiding and abetting acquittals. Nonetheless, as many stakeholders in the international criminal process learn to their cost, this is sometimes the way the die is cast: discretion is discretion and that is the day-to-day business of criminal courts. (more…)

Weekly News Wrap: January 4, 2016

by Jessica Dorsey

Happy New Year, OJ readers! Here’s your first weekly selection of 2016 of international law and international relations headlines from around the world:

Africa

Middle East and Northern Africa

Asia

Europe

  • Sweden has begun ID controls as part of the government’s efforts to limit the number of refugees entering the country.
  • Belgian investigators released three people on Friday after questioning them over an alleged plot to attack the capital on New Year’s Eve which forced the cancellation of the city’s annual fireworks display.
  • Poland could be open to compromise over British demands to limit the rights of European Union migrants if London helps it bolster the NATO presence in central Europe, Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told Reuters.
  • The head of a special team investigating alleged abuses by British soldiers in Iraq has said he’s confident there will be sufficient evidence for war crimes prosecutions.

Americas

Oceania

UN/World

You Can Prosecute Animal Rights Activists But Not a Right-Wing Militia for “Terrorism”

by Kevin Jon Heller

Earlier today, a right-wing militia seized the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. The group, which is led by Ammon Bundy — the son of Cliven Bundy, who led an armed stand-off with federal agents in 2014 — is demanding that the federal government release Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond, two ranchers who are due to report to a California prison on Monday to serve out their sentences for arson. Bundy says the group intends to hold the building “for years” and refuses to rule out using violence if police try to remove them.

There is little question that the militia’s actions qualify as seditious conspiracy. 18 USC 2384 specifically criminalizes “two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspir[ing]… to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.” Seditious conspiracy is a very serious crime, one that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.

But what about domestic terrorism? Could the members of the militia be prosecuted as domestic terrorists once the seige is over?

Domestic terrorism is defined in 18 USC 2331(5):

the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

(B) appear to be intended—

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

At this point, the militia has probably not satisfied 18 USC 2331(5). Although their activities are clearly “intended… to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion,” it is difficult to argue that the militia has engaged in acts “dangerous to human life,” because the Wildlife Refuge’s headquarters was closed and unoccupied when the militia seized it.

The situation would be very different, of course, if the militia followed through on its threat to use force to repel an attempt by the police to retake the headquarters. Doing so would clearly qualify as domestic terrorism under 18 USC 2331. But here is the problem in terms of actual prosecution: as Susan Hennessy pointed out in an excellent post at Lawfare after the mass murders in Colorado and California, “[d]omestic terrorism does not exist as a substantive offense under federal law.” It is simply an element of other substantive federal offences, such as bribery affecting port security, 18 USC 226 (Hennessy’s example). And none of those offences would seem to cover the militia’s seizure of the Wildlife Refuge headquarters.

The bottom line, then, is that although we could call the members of the militia “terrorists” if they ever engage in acts dangerous to human life, they could not be prosecuted as terrorists. That’s perverse — especially when we contrast the absence of a substantive federal terrorism offence covering the militia’s actions with the existence of a substantive federal terrorism offence designed specifically to prosecute non-violent animal-rights activists: 18 USC 43, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). The AETA, which was adopted by Congress at the behest of the pharmaceutical, fur, and farming industries, is an absurdly overbroad statute that deems any actions that intentionally damage the property of an animal enterprise to be “terrorism”:

(a) Offense.—Whoever travels in interstate or foreign commerce, or uses or causes to be used the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce—

(1) for the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise; and

(2) in connection with such purpose—

(A) intentionally damages or causes the loss of any real or personal property (including animals or records) used by an animal enterprise, or any real or personal property of a person or entity having a connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise;

(B) intentionally places a person in reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to that person, a member of the immediate family (as defined in section 115) of that person, or a spouse or intimate partner of that person by a course of conduct involving threats, acts of vandalism, property damage, criminal trespass, harassment, or intimidation; or

(C) conspires or attempts to do so;
shall be punished as provided for in subsection (b).

The only “violence” the AETA requires is the violence of ripping up documents or opening up animal cages. Indeed, the AETA has been used to prosecute as terrorists four people who “chalked the sidewalk, chanted and leafleted outside the homes of biomedical scientists who had conducted animal testing” and two young men who “released about 2,000 mink from cages and painted the slogan ‘liberation is love’ in red paint over a barn.” The charges in the first case were thrown out for lack of factual specificity, but both of the defendants in the second case have pleaded guilty and are facing 3-5 years in prison.

It defies logic that there is a substantive federal terrorism offence covering non-violent activists who open mink cages but not one covering a right-wing militia that forcibly seizes a federal building, demands the release of prisoners, and threatens to kill anyone who tries to intervene. But there you have it.

Events and Announcements: January 3, 2016

by Jessica Dorsey

Announcements

  • New additions to the UN Audiovisual Library of International Law: The Codification Division of the UN Office of Legal Affairs recently added new lectures to the UN Audiovisual Library of International Law website, which provides high quality international law training and research materials to an unlimited number of recipients around the world free of charge. The latest lectures include the Shabtai Rosenne Memorial Lecture by Professor John Norton Moore delivered at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 18 November 2015. It is the fifth in a series of Memorial Lectures commemorating Professor Rosenne’s unique contribution to the development of international law and its practice. The second lecture was given by Judge Theodor Meron on “The Mechanism: A New Model of International Criminal Tribunal”.
  • Di Tella University, from Argentina, is delighted to announce that the third issue of the Latin American Journal of International Law (Revista Latinoamericana de Derecho Internacional -LADI-) is now available online. The Journal, published in Spanish, is the first Latin American publication devoted to promoting the discussion of general topics of Public International Law from different perspectives in the region. LADI’s third issue includes articles by Marko Milanovic, Ariel Dulitzky, Mark Pieth and Liliana Obregón, amongst others, as well as interviews to Professor Alicia Yamin and UN Special Rapporteur Juan Méndez. The latest issue can be found here.  LADI has also launched its new multimedia section –LADI Conversations- with interviews to prominent international law scholars and practitioners on current peace talks in Colombia. LADI Conversations can be found here.

Calls for Papers

  • The University of Portsmouth School of Law, the European University Institute and the McCoubrey Centre for International Law of the University of Hull Law School are organising a two-day international conference on “Building Consensus on European Consensus” (EUI, Florence, 1st and 2nd June 2016). The conference aims to examine the meaning, mechanics and normative consequences of European consensus as a method of interpretation used by the European Court of Human Rights when it recognises the emergence of “new” rights within the Convention system, particularly in areas regarded as politically, socially of morally sensitive. In an attempt to study European consensus through an interdisciplinary lens, the conference will bring together scholars in Human Rights law, Constitutional law, Legal Philosophy and Public International law, as well as members of the European judiciary, with a keynote from Professor Conor Gearty (Professor of Human Rights Law, London School of Economics). To submit an abstract, please visit the conference’s webpage here.
  • The editors of the Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law (CJICL) welcome submissions for the CJICL 5th Annual Conference to be held at the University of Cambridge on 8-9 April 2016. Accepted papers will be considered for publication in a special issue of the Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law. Abstracts should be submitted on the basis that the subsequent paper will be available for publication if selected. The theme for the CJICL 5th Annual Conference is “Public and Private Power”. We are interested in doctrinal, theoretical, institutional and comparative perspectives from international, European and comparative law on the regulation of public and private power. Further details are available here.

Events

  • The 13th Otto-Riese-Lecture on occasion of the opening of the Academic year of the LLM Programme in International and European Economic and Commercial Law entitled: “Leading the reform of the global investment regime?” – The EU’s approach towards international investment law, will be given by Professor Markus Krajewski (University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany) who was the author of a report leading to the German Government’s proposal to include a permanent investment Court in the agreements concluded by the European Union on Thursday 25 February 2016 (16:00 – 17:15)  –  Internef UNIL – Dorigny  –  231. More information can be found here.

  • Workshop “International Commodity Law” In cooperation with FOKOS (University of Siegen), the Europa-Institute of the University of the Saarland and the Swiss Branch of the International Law Association, the LLM Programme in International Economic and Commercial Law at the Centre for Comparative, European and International Law of the University of Lausanne organizes a one-day event on legal aspects of international commodity trade and investment. Friday 26 February 2016 (9:00 – 17:00)  –  Internef UNIL – Dorigny  –  231. You can sign up from  04.01.16  to  19.02.16. Participation is free of charge but registration at llm [at] unil [dot] ch absolutely necessary. More information can be found here.

Our previous events and announcements post can be found here. If you would like to post an announcement on Opinio Juris, please contact us with a one-paragraph description of your announcement along with hyperlinks to more information.

UGA Invites Applications for New Chair in International Law

by Peter Spiro

This from friend of OJ Harlan Cohen. The chair is in honor of Gabe Wilner, a longtime professor of international law at UGA.

The University of Georgia School of Law invites applications for a fully endowed professorship in international law beginning August of 2016. Applicants should be able to join the faculty at the rank of full professor. They should have a J.D. from an accredited university or its foreign equivalent, superior academic credentials and demonstrated excellence in scholarship and teaching. Applications received by February 1, 2016 are assured of consideration. All interested persons should submit a curriculum vitae, including scholarly publications, with a letter of interest at http://facultyjobs.uga.edu/postings/527

The University of Georgia is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or protected veteran status.

The Washington Post Needs to Correct Its Syria Article

by Kevin Jon Heller

Karen De Young and Missy Ryan have a long article today in the Washington Post about internal USG debates over the rules of engagement in Syria. It’s a very interesting and generally excellent article, but it contain one major error:

International law allows for civilian casualties, even intentional ones, providing an action is within the bounds of distinction and proportionality, a somewhat subjective judgment that the military importance of the target is worth it.

No, international law does not allow intentional civilian casualties. Intentionally attacking civilians violates IHL’s principle of distinction and is a quintessential war crime. The sentence should read “international law allows for civilian casualties, even ones known to be certain, providing an action is within the bounds of proportionality…”

I have tweeted the authors of the article. I will update this post if they issue a correction.

Climate Change and the Syrian Civil War

by Chris Borgen

Scientific American has published an article by John Wendle on how climate change has spurred the conflict in Syria. Wendle writes:

Climatologists say Syria is a grim preview of what could be in store for the larger Middle East, the Mediterranean and other parts of the world. The drought, they maintain, was exacerbated by climate change. The Fertile Crescent—the birthplace of agriculture some 12,000 years ago—is drying out. Syria’s drought has destroyed crops, killed livestock and displaced as many as 1.5 million Syrian farmers. In the process, it touched off the social turmoil that burst into civil war, according to a study published in March in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. A dozen farmers and former business owners like Ali with whom I recently spoke at camps for Syrian refugees say that’s exactly what happened.

He tells a story of environmental degradation, ill-conceived agricultural and water-management policies, and their effects:

“The war and the drought, they are the same thing,” says Mustafa Abdul Hamid, a 30-year-old farmer from Azaz, near Aleppo… “The start of the revolution was water and land,” Hamid says.

But the story Wendle writes is about more than Syria:

The refugee crisis will eventually subside, [Richard Seager,a professor at Columbia University’s Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory] assumes, and the war in Syria will run its course. Nevertheless, he says, the region’s droughts will be more frequent and more severe for the foreseeable future. After closely studying dozens of climate models he and Kelley and their colleagues are convinced that continued greenhouse gas emissions will widen the Hadley cell, the band of air that envelops Earth’s tropics in a way that could further desiccate the lands of the eastern Mediterranean.

These past months many people have written about the Syrian civil war. Many have written about climate change. Wendle’s article considers both the perspectives of farmers who have become refugees and of scientists studying climate change. It is not only describes where we are, but how we got here, and what may be yet to come.

Highly recommended.

Weekly News Wrap: Monday, December 21, 2015

by Jessica Dorsey

Your weekly selection of international law and international relations headlines from around the world:

Africa

Middle East and Northern Africa

Asia

Europe

  • Belgian police have searched a home in the centre of Brussels and made two arrests in connection with the investigation into last month’s attacks in Paris, federal prosecutors said.
  • Legal experts at Germany’s lower house of parliament have serious doubts about the legality of introducing a cap on refugee numbers, according to a document obtained by German broadcaster ARD.
  • The head of the European Union’s border agency has said the large number of refugees entering Europe poses a security risk, with civil war making it harder to check the authenticity of Syrian passports.

Americas

  • As the United States negotiated this year’s nuclear pact with Iran, the State Department quietly agreed to spare the Gulf sultanate of Oman from an embarrassing public rebuke over its human rights record, rewarding a close Arab ally that helped broker the historic deal.
  • An air strike by the US-led coalition countering the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group may have led to the death of Iraqi soldiers, the US military said in a statement.

Oceania

UN/World