International Law News

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Intervention and Use of Force

  • Invoking the language of ‘savagery’ and ‘barbarism’ in international law debates

The media debate over the legality of intervening in Syria highlighted some perennial problems of international law: its indeterminacy; its unenforceability; its susceptibility to Great Power politics. Yet, by focusing on the question of legality, the debate also obscured another deeper set of questions (and problems) about the relationship between international law, humanitarianism, and intervention. Can humanitarian interventions be distinguished from the earlier history of imperial or illicit interventions? Does a focus on intervention to prevent human rights abuse in Syria divert us from seeing the ways in which our everyday interventions in the Arab world (the arms trade, the World Cup) legitimise repressive regimes and contribute to human rights abuse? How should we respond to the reappearance of a civilisational discourse that characterises the use of chemical weapons as ‘barbarous’ when, historically, that same discourse was deployed to justify the use of chemical weapons against colonial peoples? And does it matter that the humanitarian interveners of today are the colonial powers of yesteryear? – See more here. (February, 2014)

International Criminal Court

  • African human rights court could cover criminal offences

IT WAS likely that the jurisdiction of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights would be extended possibly to cover criminal offences, but whether or not that would include war crimes and crimes against humanity was not yet known, said Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng on Wednesday. Read more here.

  • Africa Attacks the International Criminal Court

What are we to make of the fact that in its eleven-year history, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has prosecuted only Africans? Should the court be condemned for discrimination—for taking advantage of Africa’s weak global position—as some African leaders contend? Or should it be applauded for giving long-overdue attention to atrocities in Africa—a sign that finally someone is concerned about the countless ignored African victims, as many African activists contend? This debate is at the heart of one of the most serious challenges the ICC has ever faced. If the current attack on it succeeds, the court’s future may be in doubt. Read more here.

  • Ethical and legal perspectives on cross-border humanitarian operations

The devastating armed conflict in Syria has once again raised the question of the ethics and legality of crossborder humanitarian operations. Many humanitarian agencies that have been excluded from working in Syria by the Syrian government have rightly explored other ways to protect and assist civilians in opposition-held parts of the country that are not easily or routinely reached by cross-line humanitarian operations authorised by the government. This article looks briefly at three main types of cross-border operations in humanitarian history, and then addresses two main questions: can cross-border operations be pursued legally?; and what constitutes ethical crossborder operations? Read more here.

International Court of Justice/ Arbitrations

  • Texas execution could violate U.S. and international law

In the spotlight is the significance of an international treaty, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Most countries, including the United States, are party to this convention, which provides a framework for consular relations between countries. Under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention, foreign nationals must be notified “without delay” of their right to inform their consulate when detained. Yet when he was arrested, Tamayo was not informed of this right. Mexican authorities did not learn of the case until one week before his trial. See original article here.

  • Chile, Peru and the ICJ: A line in the sea

In its long-awaited ruling on January 27th the court duly awarded Peru control of some 50,000 sq km of ocean but confirmed Chile’s hold over inshore waters rich in fish. The decision was arbitrary but broadly fair—less than Peru had hoped for, but less bad than Chile had feared. It offers both countries a chance to move on from the past, but only after what is likely to be months of wrangling over how to implement the ruling. Read more here.

  • The Timor Sea Treaty Arbitration: Timor Leste Challenges, Australian Espionage and Seizure of Document

The bases of Timor-Leste’s claims against Australia are unknown because these proceedings are confidential. If the recent media reports are accurate that Australia bugged the Cabinet room of the Timor-Leste government when the CMATS treaty was being negotiated, then this treaty, related instruments, and the extension of the TST may be invalid under the law of treaties or voidable under general international law on three separate grounds explained below…Two days before the hearings in the TST arbitration discussed above were to commence, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) raided the Australian office of a lawyer representing Timor-Leste and seized documents related to the case.  Following the seizure, Timor-Leste requested the return of documents and property belonging to it which had been caught up in the raid.  Australia failed to comply with the request, claiming that the raid had been carried out to protect the “national interest” and that it was unrelated to the arbitration.  On December 17, 2013, Timor-Leste instituted proceedings in the ICJ for the return of the documents. Read more here (February 2014).

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