Recent Posts

Emerging Voices: Incorporation of Plural Realisations of Justice within the ICC System

by Justin Yang

[Justin S. Yang, PhD Researcher at King’s College London; LL.M at Leiden University.]

The International Criminal Court (ICC) projects a legal framework that is unique from the prior expressions of international criminal justice. In the construction of its Statute, in particular through the system of complementarity, the Court embodies the potential to actualise a horizontal and communitarian system of justice; rather than mandating a singular perspective of law in a vertical hierarchy, the ICC framework is designed to accommodate the inherent plurality of its international membership.

Tracing the development of international criminal justice institutions in the 20th century has illustrated that this project has been in oscillation between peak periods of heightened inter-state cooperation and trough periods of resistance to encroachments on Westphalian sovereignty. The respective institutions that were established following World War I, World War II, and the Cold War have predominantly reflected the interests of only the particularly powerful states, albeit under international communitarian rhetoric.

Prior to the ICC, exercises in international criminal justice were exclusively facilitated first by the key multinational states of the post-war Allies, and later by the P5 of the UN Security Council. Rather than devising a new justice system that could be compatible with sovereign equality and the multiplicity of legitimate legal systems on the international plane, the post-war multinational bloc opted to adopt the vertical trial-based nature of Western domestic criminal systems. In other words, these judicial institutions, acting on behalf of the multinational leadership, presided at the apex of their respective scope of adjudication, in the same way a sovereign reigns supreme in its domestic system. Mirroring the capacities of the sovereign, these international judiciaries were unchallengeable, and arbitrarily made claims to various laws, as understood and accepted by them, onto diverse heterogeneous situations. In this penetrative hierarchy, sovereign boundaries and the indigenous legal systems of the subject state were explicitly disregarded and disapplied by the adjudicators. Therefore, diverse circumstances, local peculiarities, and contextual relevancies, all of which could materially affect the process of adjudication and determination of culpability, failed to be considered. The crimes were analysed solely through the perspectives of the multinational victors.

The ICC marks a departure from this tradition of vertical justice. The democratic legitimacy inherent in its treaty-based creation, and its central tenets of independence and impartiality has, in theory, separated criminal adjudication from overarching political agendas, including that of the UN Security Council. The symbiotic relationship between the Court and its member states, within the complementarity regime, has allowed for a horizontal, stateless, and impartial system of justice to exist over the global community. Being complementary to national systems means that the Court preliminarily defers to a state’s sovereign prerogatives to exercise criminal jurisdiction over international crimes. This prerogative is perceived as a duty of every state (Rome Statute, Preamble). Upon failing this duty at a standard deemed acceptable by the Court, the case may then be admitted into the ICC docket. State proceedings are therefore inherently underpinned by the implicit threat of the Court ‘seizing’ the case, if the framework of preventing impunity (Rome Statute, Article 17) is not satisfactorily upheld. Continue reading…

Events and Announcements: August 9, 2015

by Jessica Dorsey

Events

  • The International Colloquium – Current Issues of Agricultural Law in a Global Perspective (2015 AgLaw Colloquium), will be held at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna Pisa, September 1718, 2015. The Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna and the Institute of Law, Politics and Sustainability are pleased to announce the First Edition of the International Colloquium on Current Issues in Agricultural Law in a Global Perspective. The Colloquium is intended to be an opportunity for Post Docs and Ph.D Candidates to present and discuss their research results and methodological approaches in a supportive environment. The aim is to build a community of early career researchers interested in agricultural law and its intersections with other legal areas. We welcome both theoretical and empirical papers as well as studies on issues at the local, regional and international levels. The main topics include: Natural Resources and Environmental Protection at the cross-roads with Agricultural Law; Agricultural models and People’s Rights; Agri-Food Production: Tradition and Technologies; International Trade Agreements, Investment Law and Agriculture. For those interested in participating as auditors, the Programme (.pdf) is now available.

Announcements

  • The International Criminal Court has posted a vacancy announcement for Visiting Legal Professionals. The posts are for three- to six-month periods and are funded. The Legal Professionals Programme is a new initiative aimed at bringing up to ten court representatives and professionals from situation countries (currently: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Central African Republic, Sudan, Kenya, Libya, Côte d’Ivoire and Mali) and countries under preliminary examination (currently: Afghanistan, Colombia, Nigeria, Georgia, Guinea, Honduras, Iraq, Ukraine and Palestine) who may not have the financial means to otherwise participate in the Visiting Professionals Programme. Participants in this programme will gain first-hand experience from and knowledge of the ICC and its procedures. This will allow participants to develop their legal skills and knowledge of the Rome Statute system, and to subsequently impart lessons learned and best practices to their home organisations. Witnessing the functioning of the only permanent international criminal court will enable participants to contribute to the development of national capacities in their home countries to investigate and prosecute crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC. The deadline is rather soon–16 August 2015. More information can be found in the vacancy announcement here.
  • The Minerva Center for the Rule of Law under Extreme Conditions at the Faculty of Law and Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Haifa invites researchers (graduate students at the MA/PhD levels, post-Doctoral researchers, scholars and practitioners) to submit research proposals on aspects of Cyber Regulation, Policy and Theory. As part of the Fellowship, Fellows will be provided with working space and accommodation in Haifa for periods of between one to twelve months. It is expected that Fellows will take part in the activities of the Center during their stay. The call is open to both domestic and international applicants. A combination of residency in Haifa (for a minimum of one month) and long distance collaboration will also be considered. The application deadline is 10 September. More information can be found here.

Calls for Papers

  • On  12-13  November  2015,  the  Research Unit in Law of the University of Luxembourg,  with  the  support  of  the  Fonds  National de la Recherche Luxembourg,  will be holding a conference on the settlement of tax disputes under international law, with the aim of analysing taxation issues through the lens of international law and its dispute settlement procedures, and bringing   together international  lawyers  and  tax  lawyers  to  do so. Confirmed speakers already include Prof. Mads Andenas (University of Oslo), Prof. Ilias Bantekas (Brunel University), Dr N. Jansen Calamita (BIICL), Dr Abba Kolo (CEPMLP Dundee), Dr Sébastien Manciaux (Université de Bourgogne), Dr  Luca  Pantaleo  (TMC  Asser  Instituut),  Prof.  Alexander Rust (Vienna University  of  Economics and Business) and Epaminontas Triantafilou (Quinn Emanuel). Part of the conference will be a roundtable discussion for junior scholars; giving  them  an opportunity to present their research on issues covered by the conference and to receive feedback from the conference speakers. Those selected  will  receive  a  bursary  to fund their travel and accommodation expenses, and may also have the opportunity to contribute to the conference proceedings, which will be published. We are now calling for applications to  present  a  paper  at  the  roundtable, and invite junior scholars (PhD candidates,  post-docs and fellows) with research interests in the field to apply by submitting an abstract (not exceeding 800 words) of their proposed paper, together  with  a  copy  of  their  CV,  to Prof. Matthew Happold (Matthew [dot] Happold [at] uni [dot] lu). The deadline for submissions is 5 September 2015.

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.

Goodbye to Torture at the APA

by Jens David Ohlin

Today, the American Psychological Association formally voted to end their enrollment in national security interrogations. This would seem to finally put an end to the organization’s involvement in post-9/11 torture against security detainees.

The vote comes on the heels of the Hoffman Report, which was prepared by attorney David Hoffman of Sidley Austin LLP.  Hoffman was hired by the APA to perform an internal investigation of the organization’s role in post-9/11 security interrogations that involved torture. The results of the report were damning. It was already common knowledge that psychologists were deeply involved in overseeing the interrogations that used torture, and that a few psychologists received millions of dollars from the CIA for their work. But the Hoffman Report conclusively established that key figures within the APA worked closely with administration officials (indeed colluded with them) to ensure that the organization’s ethical guidelines continued to permit the involvement of psychologists.

After the Report’s release, it was a little bit unclear what action the organization would take. Since much of the APA’s leadership was involved in the mess, reformers within the organization were seeking the removal or resignation of several officers. Some of those resignations happened in July.

Today comes the second part of the reform: a decision by the organization to ban its members from participation in all national security interrogations, whether or not they involve torture. Here is an excerpt from the resolution which passed overwhelmingly:

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, in keeping with Principle A (Beneficence and Nonmaleficence) of the Ethics Code to “take care to do no harm,”4 psychologists shall not conduct, supervise, be in the presence of, or otherwise assist any national security interrogations5 for any military or intelligence entities, including private contractors working on their behalf, nor advise on conditions of confinement insofar as these might facilitate such an interrogation6. This prohibition does not apply to domestic law enforcement interrogations or domestic detention settings where detainees are afforded all of the protections of the United States Constitution, including the 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination (“Miranda” rights) and 6th Amendment rights to “effective assistance” of legal counsel.

Fn4 Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. (2002, as amended in 2010), American Psychologist, 57, 12, p. 3.

Fn5 For the purposes of this policy statement, “national security interrogations” refer to the interrogation of any detainee in the custody of any agency or subsidiary agency that reports to the Director of National Intelligence, the Secretary of Defense, the Director of Homeland Security, or the National Security Council, including joint elements such as the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group. This also includes any operations by those agencies with any allied governments or non-state actors, including private contractors. This does not include those detainees held under domestic law enforcement where Miranda Rights and the U.S. Constitution apply.

Fn6 Psychologists may provide consultation with regard to policy pertaining to information gathering methods which are humane so long as they do not violate the prohibitions of this Resolution and are not related to any specific national security interrogation or detention conditions.

Interestingly, the ban does not apply to domestic law enforcement interrogations.

Revisiting Warafi

by Deborah Pearlstein

As others have already noted, D.C. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth held last week that because “fighting continues” between U.S., Taliban and Al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo may still be detained under the domestic statute (AUMF) authorizing their detention. I’ve written here and elsewhere about the propriety of the underlying legal theory in the case so will try not to rehash those points here. But in addition to noting what I think the court got wrong in its analysis, I want to highlight the serious significance of what it got right.

What the court got wrong. Having rejected both parties’ erroneous position (more on which below) that the President’s view is determinative of whether or not a conflict sufficient to justify detention continues, the court then spends little more than a paragraph explaining why the AUMF should be understood to authorize the detention of prisoners captured by the United States in Afghanistan as long as any “fighting continue[s].” What should the court have said? One reasonable approach would have been as follows. First, that Congress, the Supreme Court (Hamdi), and the President have all recognized that the meaning of the AUMF is informed and controlled by the international law of armed conflict. Second, that the Supreme Court relied on the law of international armed conflict (GCIII, Art. 118) in interpreting the scope of the AUMF’s detention authority; and whether or not the Supreme Court was right in identifying Art. 118 as the relevant international law, the district court was bound by its judgment in that regard. Third, that Art. 118 requires that prisoners “shall be released and repatriated without delay after the cessation of active hostilities.” Fourth, that while there is some uncertainty what counts as “active hostilities” in an international armed conflict sense, it is inconsistent with the manifest purpose of Article 118 (made clear in Geneva Commentary to hasten the return of war prisoners given the hardship to all involved) to construe this provision as requiring conditions of zero violence before the repatriation obligation is triggered. Fifth, the continuation of “active hostilities” under Article 118 cannot be established merely by introducing official statements of the existence of hostilities, the presence of U.S. troops in country (which describes the relationship of the United States to dozens of countries around the world), the maintenance of a right of self-defense if attacked (which exists whether or not any hostilities are ongoing), or acts of violence between actors in country other than the parties to the armed conflict. What matters is evidence of actual, repeated, non-trivial incidents of violence between the parties to the conflict.

While I can imagine the court reaching the same result by this metric – i.e. that active hostilities in Afghanistan continue – and I can imagine other reasonable approaches to this analysis that reach varied conclusions (see here), the approach that Judge Lamberth took – ignoring international law altogether – is not one of them.

All that said, what the court got right here is, I think, a great deal more important. In a circuit notorious for embracing political question doctrine – the idea that certain questions of law are beyond the purview of the courts entirely – and contrary to the position taken by both the detainee and the government, the court was categorical in its determination that it is up to the court, not the President, to decide whether active hostilities exist. Citing Supreme Court decisions Hamdi and Boumediene in support, the court reasoned that “habeas rights that lived and died by the unexamined word of the political branches would be fatally flawed.” Rather, embracing the language of ordinary administrative law, what courts must look to is record evidence.

This case will be appealed. The facts on the ground in Afghanistan will continue to evolve. And it is now a great deal more likely than it was before Warafi was decided that a court will someday conclude as a matter of law that the authority to continue to hold some Guantanamo detainees has come to an end.

Emerging Voices: Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Global Financial Order

by Tsung-Ling Lee

[Tsung-Ling Lee, (S.J.D (Georgetown)), is a post-doctoral fellow at  National University of Singapore.]

“…I think we screwed up.” Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright‘s response to the Obama administration’s refusal to join the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the China-led initiative for financing infrastructure projects from Myanmar to Russia, suggests a deep anxiety about the world financial order. While many operational aspects and details about governance structure of the AIIB are yet to be publicly expressed, many commentators speculate that the AIIB may mark a new global economic order, particularly when viewed as part of Beijing’s broader economic agenda: the creation of new regional and global economic institutions, including the New Silk Road initiative and the BRICs-led New Development Bank, institutions which arguably will challenge the monopoly of the World Bank and the IMF — the two major international financial institutions within the Bretton Wood system.

The AIIB, which came into existence after China’s frustration at the slow reform process of the International Financial Institutions (IFIs), set out as its goal to finance developmental projects in Asia, with China providing the majority of capital. The IFI reform stagnates largely due to the resistance from the US Congress, refusing to support the change of the Banks’ shareholder voting system currently privileges the US. Many critics thus perceive the Bank as a channel for the first world to promote and embed neoliberal orthodoxy abroad. The AIIB initiative highlights a shifting role of the Bank in an increasingly crowded international economic landscape. Some commentators even go further and suggest that the US’s sphere of influence in the global policy domain of finance is diminishing decisively, evident by the diplomatic success of China in attracting many of the US’s key allies in joining the AIIB. This blog post analyzes the AIIB through the lens of the Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL).

The IFIs’ Development Model

Historically, TWAIL scholarship has been hostile towards IFIs, which are perceived as instrumental in protecting the interests of the first world at the expense of the third world. Critical TWAIL scholar B.S. Chimni, for instance, argues that the IFIs, as part of a growing network of international institutions, constitute a nascent global state that serves the interests of transnational capital and powerful states at the expense of third world states and peoples. Professor Makau Mutua, for example, argues that under the guise of sovereign equality, international law and institutions perpetuate existing structural inequality in furthering the interests of the first world. Despite that in theory both the IMF and the Bank are explicitly prohibited from engaging in any political affairs of its member states, in practice they have evolved from existing purely as apolitical institutions to having considerable powers in influencing economic policies of the developing countries.

One notable example of the IFIs’ penetrative power beyond global economic life is the Bank’s widely criticized Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) in the 1990s. As a condition of borrowing, countries that sought the IFIs’ financial assistance were required to embark upon radical economic reform: reducing government spending, privatizing state-own enterprises, liberalizing trade and foreign investment.

However, the neoliberal view embraced by the IFIs tends to neglect the specific social, economic, cultural and political contexts of the recipient state. The neglect has seen a widening of social inequalities, in addition to the apparent failure of SAPs in achieving its promised economic success. With many recipient states driven into debt, devastated by increased food and fuel prices, intensified unemployment, and crumbling of health services, the SAPs had worked in the interests of the first world, who are also the majority shareholders of the IFIs. With many recipient states worse off than they were initially, the uneven distribution of benefits and costs as consequences of the SAPs became a salient point of contention for critics of the IFIs, most vocally among TWAIL scholars. This is primarily because the IFIs reproduced the colonial experience for recipient states; they also relocate the decision-making process from recipient states to international civil servants. The latter is even more worrisome from a legal perspective, because the process occurred without an external check-and-balance, where the IFIs are hold responsible for their hegemony policies that have further disadvantaged weak states.

The apparent failings of the neoliberal development model endorsed by the IFIs had seen an eruption of political discontent that prompted a sharp policy turn within the IFIs. Beginning in the 1990s, the Bank embraced a governance paradigm that relies on stable institutional environment as a foundation to equitable distribution of wealth and to remedy poverty. This had seen the IFIs engaged in law reform in many recipient countries under the rubrics of “technical assistance”. The shift to the governance model also occurred as part of the IFIs’ attempt to salvage their institutional credibility. The Bank’s focus on governance has opened a greater space for structural intervention. The Bank now embarks on reform projects with greater emphases on improving environmental sustainability, embedding the rule of law, and enhancing participation in the decision-making process. The World Bank Institute’s Worldwide Governance Indicators and Doing Business, for instance, provide quantitative assessments on the openness of the regulatory environment for business. While both projects are not binding on the state, they are widely seen as authoritative, and increasingly are used as a proxy for the quality of a legal system.

In the TWAIL view, the law reform projects undertaken by the Bank, which focus specifically on the ability of legal system to facilitate market transaction, further entrench a capitalist order. Problematically, for TWAIL scholars, the economic integration of market occurs without much political contestation from the affected community. Thus, not only the governance model masks the Bank’s actual reach beyond its legitimate realm of economic regulation, such reach is arguably barred under Article IV(10) of the Bank’s Article of Agreement, which explicitly prohibits the Bank from interfering in the political affairs of its member states.

AIIB: Ending IFI hegemony? (more…)

Emerging Voices: The Right to a Remedy in Armed Conflict–International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights Law and the Principle of Systemic Integration

by Vito Todeschini

[Vito Todeschini (LL.M.(Ferrara University); E.MA (EIUC, Venice)) is a PhD Fellow at Aarhus University, Denmark.]

In 2013, the German Federal Constitutional Court and the Regional Court of Bonn issued their judgements in two cases ‒ Varvarin and Kunduz respectively ‒ concerning Germany’s participation in the NATO-led operations in Serbia/Kosovo and Afghanistan. These judgments confirm and exemplify a general trend in domestic case law, which denies that victims of violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) have a right to bring claims directly in the domestic courts of the allegedly responsible State (Gillard, pp. 37‒38). This finding is mainly based on the lack of an obligation on States under IHL to provide individuals with enforceable remedies against violations. Domestic courts, however, tend to overlook the complementary role that human rights law (HRL), the other legal framework governing armed conflicts, may play in this context.

This contribution explores this possibility, arguing that HRL may supplement IHL with regard to the right to a remedy. The analysis assumes the perspective that IHL and HRL are complementary legal frameworks. It further employs the principle of systemic integration, codified in Article 31(3)(c) VCLT, to interpret IHL in light of HRL. An alternative interpretation will be proposed, namely that victims of IHL violations should be allowed to bring claims in the allegedly responsible State’s courts on the basis of the right to a remedy under HRL.

The Right to a Remedy: HRL v. IHL

The right to a remedy is enshrined in several human rights treaties (inter alia, Articles 2(3) ICCPR; 13‒14 CAT; 13 ECHR; 25 ACHR; 7(1)(a) ACHPR), under which States Parties have an obligation to establish domestic remedies capable of finding and redressing human rights violations. The concept of remedy generally presents two dimensions: procedural and substantive. The procedural aspect regards the right to have access to a competent body, which may be judicial or administrative depending on the seriousness of the violation. The substantive dimension concerns the right to reparation, which includes restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and guarantees of non-repetition (Shelton, p. 7). Effectiveness is the distinctive element characterising a remedy. To be effective, a remedy must be accessible, enforceable, and provide redress if a violation is found (HRCtee GC31, paras. 15‒16). A final feature of remedies is their dependency on the previous infringement of another right.

The situation differs radically with regard to IHL. According to Articles 3 HC IV and 91 AP I, a State must provide compensation for the IHL violations it is responsible for. This rule is considered to be customary and applicable in both international and non-international armed conflicts. The drafting history of Article 3 HC IV shows that its objective is to provide victims of violations with the right to bring a claim directly against the responsible State (Kalshoven, pp. 830‒837). Yet, post-WWII domestic case law has generally departed from this original construction and interpreted such provision as conferring on States, not victims, the right to claim compensation (CIHL Study, pp. 544‒545; Zegveld, pp. 507‒512; Henn, pp. 617‒623). Additionally, there is no specific rule in IHL providing how a victim can enforce the right to reparation. It can be concluded that, at best, victims of IHL violations have a substantial right to reparation but not a procedural right to a remedy. In this respect, the question is whether HRL, which also applies in armed conflicts, may provide individuals with a procedural remedy for unlawful harm suffered in war time.

Systemic integration between IHL and HRL

The relationship between IHL and HRL may be considered from two perspectives: competition and complementarity. Generally, whenever two rules belonging to the different regimes are both applicable and in competition, human rights treaties are interpreted taking into account IHL rules (ICJ Nuclear Weapons, para. 25; HRCtee GC31, para. 11). For instance, the human rights to life and personal liberty in armed conflicts may be modified in light of IHL rules on targeting and internment (ICJ Nuclear Weapons, para. 25; ECtHR Hassan, paras. 102‒106). On the other hand, IHL and HRL rules are not always in competition. Despite being designed to pursue very different objectives ‒ conduct of warfare (IHL) and protection of individuals and groups (HRL) ‒ these bodies of law are also complementary and mutually reinforcing. They share certain common purposes, such as ensuring humane treatment of individuals at any time (HRCtee GC31, para. 11; IAComHR Abella, paras. 158‒160; Hampson and Salama, paras. 6‒8).

One aspect of the complementarity between IHL and HRL is that the provisions of one of these bodies of law may fill the gaps present in the other; for instance, as it is argued here, with respect to the right to a remedy. This operation is made possible by the principle of systemic integration codified in Article 31 VCLT, which provides that in the interpretation of an international norm “[t]here shall be taken into account, together with the context: [… ] (c) any relevant rules of international law applicable in the relations between the parties”. Systemic integration is a mandatory part of the interpretive process which demands that a rule of international law be construed taking into account all other international norms, deriving from any source, that are applicable in and relevant to a certain situation (ILC, paras. 413 ff.). The ICJ and human rights treaty bodies have, explicitly or implicitly, resorted to the principle of systemic integration when considering the concurrent application of IHL and HRL (d’Aspremont and Tranchez, pp. 238‒241). Since it allows to interpret one body of law in light of the other, the present analysis employs systemic integration as a legal-theoretical basis to provide remedies under HRL for violations of IHL.

Remedying violations in armed conflicts

In 2006, the German Federal Supreme Court (FSC) held in the Varvarin case that Articles 3 HC IV and 91 AP I do not grant individuals a right to claim reparation for IHL violations directly against a State, and that consequently victims must file any claims via their own government (paras. 10‒14). Although recognising the progressive acknowledgement of the international subjectivity of individuals that has occurred over time, the FSC denied that HRL had modified international law so as to grant individuals a general procedural right to bring claims for IHL violations in a foreign State’s domestic courts (paras. 7‒9, 14‒15). This interpretation has been confirmed in the aforementioned 2013 judgments by the German Federal Constitutional Court in the same case, and the Regional Court of Bonn in the Kunduz case.

It is submitted here that, while considering HRL as a relevant legal framework, the FSC failed to apply the principle of systemic integration in a satisfactory manner. The Court did not refer to the obligations to provided remedies contained in the treaties which Germany is party to, such as the ECHR or the ICCPR. A reasonable application of the principle would have at least required: a) taking into account the provisions on the right to a remedy included in the human rights treaties binding on Germany as well as relative treaty bodies’ jurisprudence; and b) considering whether these provisions have a bearing on the claims regarding IHL violations. Given that under IHL victims are entitled to reparation but have no procedural right to enforce it, it seems sensible for a domestic court to take into account the relevant provisions of HRL which oblige States to provide effective remedies against violations.

In this writer’s opinion, by resorting to the principle of systemic integration the FSC could have argued that the lack of an enforceable right to a remedy under IHL may be read in light of the obligation of States to provide an effective remedy under HRL. Accordingly, the Court could have filled such a gap by deciding that a victim of an IHL violation is entitled to bring a claim against the allegedly responsible State under the same procedures provided for to victims of human rights violations. In this perspective, whereas the breach of the norm would regard a substantive rule of IHL ‒ e.g., the prohibition to kill civilians ‒ the remedy, and therefore the enforcement of the right to reparation, would be exercised as provided for in HRL ‒ e.g., Article 2(3) ICCPR.

The principle of systemic integration is a mandatory part of the interpretive process. Its application to the relationship between IHL and HRL has marked the jurisprudence of several international bodies. This principle requires interpreting one body of law taking account of the other; hence, IHL may be read in light of HRL. Far from being a stretch of existing norms ‒ the reasoning draws on lex lata and not lex ferenda ‒ systemic integration may contribute to fill a major gap in IHL and give substance to the idea that IHL and HRL are, in certain respect, complementary. Besides, and most importantly, victims of IHL violations may be provided with a procedural remedy to enforce directly in domestic courts their right to reparation.

Emerging Voices: The Human Right to Water–Progress and Challenges for International Law and State Water Governance

by Scott McKenzie

[Scott McKenzie has a Juris Doctorate from the University of Iowa and is a PhD Student in Resource Management and Environmental Studies at the University of British Columbia.]

The human right to water has been making steady progress.  The right has become a fixture of international law and state constitutions frequently include the right.  Within a framework of legal pluralism, this post examines the relationship between the human right to water’s core obligation and specific normative goals and on-the-ground governance in two case studies.  Strong water governance is critical for residents who are dependent on state or private enterprise for the delivery of basic and essential services, meaning international law has a significant impact on daily habits for billions of people.  South Africa and Ireland want to provide water for their citizens but their approaches show striking differences.  South Africa constitutionally protects the right to water but implementation falls short, while Ireland’s new framework is beginning to reflect international guidelines but provides no domestic legal guarantee.  These experiences show value in a duel-track approach for international law, with expanded recognition of the human right at the global and state levels along with further detailed frameworks that solidify how citizens should experience these rights.

Many discussions concerning the human right to water focus on the international level.  This is important, but can miss nuance in governance. Legal pluralism recognizes multiple sources of law in addition to the state.  Pluralism has been defined as “a situation in which two or more legal systems coexist in the same social field.”  (link is to a .pdf) These systems come from different sources and have their own “foundations of legitimacy, validity, power and authority.”  This approach can be used to recognize the human right to water as a concept, and examine its implantation at various systemic levels as a means to improve the realization of the right in international law.

The Human Right to Water

A United Nations report found that worldwide, water related disease was responsible for 3.7 percent of all deaths. Despite agreement on the importance of access to clean water for human health and a diverse history of state and local scale implementation, the international legal and governance community has slowly addressed the right to water.

At the international law level, the human right to water can be divided into two elements: recognition of an obligation and a normative framework.  The obligation of the human right to water has been formulated in two ways. First, it has been “derived” from other codified rights such as health or quality of life because water is fundamental for the realization of those rights.  Second, it is mentioned explicitly in instruments such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child or United Nations Resolution 64/292 (“The General Assembly…Recognizes the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights”).

The normative framework of the human right was explained by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in General Comment 15.  This guidance for implementing the human right was not binding.  But, provides some structure for how the right should be realized; such as “in quantities…necessary” to meet basic needs or “affordable…for personal and domestic uses”.  However, fine-grained details such as the quantity necessary or the amount that can be charged are in debate and not clear in international law.  Some experts argue a lower quantity that covers basic human hydration, while higher estimates include hygiene, food-preparation, and sanitation.  Many experts gravitate towards 50 liters (L) per day. Similarity, affordability estimate range from 2-5% percent of household income but this aspect not yet settled.

South Africa – Constitutional protections fall short (more…)

U.S. Prepared to Launch Possibly Illegal Airstrikes Against Assad (But That’s OK)

by Julian Ku

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that President Obama has authorized U.S. military forces to use air power to defend  U.S.-trained Syrian rebels if those rebels are attacked by the Syrian government forces.

President Barack Obama has authorized using air power to defend a new U.S.-backed fighting force in Syria if it is attacked by Syrian government forces or other groups, raising the risk of the American military coming into direct conflict with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

“For offensive operations, it’s ISIS only. But if attacked, we’ll defend them against anyone who’s attacking them,” said a senior military official. “We’re not looking to engage the regime, but we’ve made a commitment to help defend these people.”

I totally understand the reason for this policy. If the U.S. is going to train and support Syrian forces, and give them air support, it makes sense to provide air cover against all attacks.  But the legality of this policy under U.S. law requires reliance on the kind of pure presidentialism President Obama is supposedly against.  And its legality under international law is pretty tenuous as well.

Under U.S. law, the President is sort-of-authorized to attack ISIS under a very sketchy interpretation of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. It is a very sketchy interpretation, but even that sketchy interpretation can’t justify air strikes on the Syrian government in Syrian territory and in defense of rebels involved in the Syrian civil war.  So the only legal theory that would support the U.S. position here is reliance on the President’s inherent powers under Article II of the Constitution without any claim of congressional authorization.  That’s all well and good, but it is another nail in the coffin for the congressionalist legal theory embraced by Candidate Obama in 2007.  Remember that? When Obama said the Constitution required the President to go to Congress unless the President needed to act against an imminent attack?  It seems so long ago.

Under international law, the Russians are already pointing out that using military force in a foreign country against that country’s recognized government is a violation of the U.N. Charter since there is no Security Council authorization here.  There isn’t even a clear “humanitarian intervention” theory here, at least not if the air strikes are only defensive.

And yet, I have little doubt that the U.S. will carry out the strikes if needed and that there will be almost no fuss in the U.S. about its constitutionality.  Article II is alive and well in the Obama era.  There may be little bit more fuss overseas about its legality under international law, since that seems a tough case to make. But it is hard to imagine that international law will act as much of constraint here either.

Emerging Voices 2015 Starts This Week

by Jessica Dorsey

Both last year’s edition and 2013’s inaugural Emerging Voices symposium were quite successful, so this week we’re kicking off our third annual edition. Through the end of August, we will be bringing you a wide variety of posts written by graduate students, early-career practitioners and academics.

Tune in over the next several weeks if you’d like to read more about excuse in international criminal law, the right to a remedy in armed conflict, water rights in South Africa and Ireland and corporate social responsibility–to name just a few of the topics some of our contributors will cover. Please feel free, as usual, to weigh in on the discussion. Thanks for following us here on Opinio Juris–we hope you enjoy this third edition of our Emerging Voices Symposium!

Weekly News Wrap: Monday, August 3, 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

Americas

UN/World

Congratulations to Anna Dolidze!

by Kevin Jon Heller

Anna, who has guest-blogged for us in an academic capacity on a number of occasions (see here, here, and here), has just started a new job as Georgia’s Deputy Minister for Defence. See if you can spot her in this photo:

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Heartfelt congratulations to Anna. Academia’s loss is Georgia’s gain. I have no doubt that she will do exemplary work on behalf of her country.

Podcast Special! Why the Iran Deal is Constitutional, But Could Still End Up in U.S. Court

by Julian Ku

Due to my typical mid-summer lassitude (and a family vacation among the redwoods in California), I have not participated in the excellent legal blogosphere debate over the constitutionality of the Iran Nuclear Agreement which has included contributions from Jack Goldsmith, John Yoo, Michael Ramsey, John Bellinger, David Rivkin and many others.  Luckily for me, Prof. Jeffrey Rosen and the good folks at the National Constitution Center allowed me to share my thoughts in a podcast discussion with David Rivkin, who with his co-author Lee Casey, has argued in the WSJ that the Iran Deal is unconstitutional unless submitted as a treaty under Article II of the U.S. Constitution.  The 45-minute or so podcast can be found below, and I think it is worth listening in full.
But because I may not have made myself fully clear in the podcast, I try to summarize my thoughts here on why:  1) the Iran Deal does not have to be submitted as an Article II treaty; 2) the Iran Deal may allow individual U.S. states to impose sanctions on Iran which would likely lead to U.S. litigation.  David Rivkin does a great job explaining his views on the podcast, which are worth listening to in full as well.

A) In my view, the Iran Deal (or JCPOA) does not have to be submitted as an Article II treaty for at least two reasons.

First, the terms of the agreement, which describe its obligations as “voluntary”, indicate that it is a nonbinding “political commitment”.  Even the UN Security Council Resolution which supposedly enshrined the JCPOA into international law leaves some wiggle room for the U.S. allowing it to refuse to lift sanctions on Iran without violating the SC Resolution (or at least that is how John Bellinger reads it).

To be sure, there are indications that Iran itself doesn’t think the agreement is nonbinding and it does seem odd for the U.S. administration to make all this fuss over a 10 year agreement that is not binding, but (as Duncan has explained here and elsewhere), nonbinding political commitments are not unknown in diplomatic practice.

One example that I have been studying recently is the 1972 Shanghai Communique between the U.S. and China.   This seems a classic nonbinding diplomatic agreement which nonetheless had enormous consequences for US-China and global politics.  This and two later communiques remain crucial issues with respect to U.S. “promises” about the status of Taiwan and US promises to reduce arms sales to Taiwan.  It is not exactly the same as the Iran Deal, which purports to require its parties to take certain specific actions on certain dates, but it has some of the same flavor.

For this reason, I don’t think a promise by the President to commit the U.S. to do something beyond his term of office changes this analysis much (contra Mike Ramsey).  Presidents often promise on behalf of the U.S. to do things beyond his term, but as long as they are clear that these are political commitments, not legal ones, I don’t think a treaty is required.

Second, the JCPOA does not have to be submitted as a treaty because it doesn’t require the U.S. to change its domestic laws or even to change any domestic policy that is not already within the President’s constitutional or delegated statutory powers.  Crucially, the President has delegated authority under the various sanctions statutes to waive or lift those sanctions without getting further congressional approval.  That is by far the most important U.S. obligation under the JCPOA.  The idea of giving the president these powers to lift sanctions implies that he will seek out certain changes in behavior by the sanctioned governments and then use those promised changes (by say Iran, or in the recent past Burma) as a basis to lift the sanctions.

There is a cost for the U.S. government in going the nonbinding route.  It means that Iran should not feel itself “legally” bound to abide by the agreement, or at least those parts that are not enshrined in the UN Security Council Resolution.  For U.S. constitutional purposes, it also means that any future president can withdraw from these political commitments without any requirement of legal consultation with Congress or any concerns about violating international law.  A U.S. President is also empowered to withdraw from its UN Security Council commitments as well.  (Actually, the JCPOA itself makes it pretty easy for the U.S. president to terminate the agreement according to its own terms).  This seems only fair, however, and the administration clearly seems that this is a price worth paying to avoid the Article II treaty process.

B) State-level Sanctions on Iran Are Most Likely to End Up in Court

The individual states (e.g. New York or California) could impose certain sanctions on Iran after the deal goes into effect.  Such sanctions will probably face litigation from the U.S federal government which will claim that any state-level sanctions are preempted by the JCPOA.  But because the JCPOA is a nonbinding agreement, the preemptive effect of the JCPOA is weaker than of a full-scale treaty or executive agreement.  The outcome of such a case against state-level sanctions is far from clear and may require the federal court to consider the nature of the JCPOA more carefully. My guess is that they would find it constitutional, but might be inclined to uphold the state-level sanctions. That last finding is a close call and I would love to see that case, which could very well happen in the near future.

In short, although I don’t think the Iran Deal is a very good deal for the U.S. and I hope Congress blocks it, I don’t think the JCPOA is unconstitutional.  We will hopefully get some litigation on this point in the near future when some state rolls out its anti-Iran sanctions.  But opponents of the deal should focus on the politics (getting to 67 votes in the Senate and/or a Republican President) rather than the law.