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Edited volume: ‘An Institutional Approach to the Responsibility to Protect’, Cambridge University Press, 2016 (paperback)

20/08/2016 – 2:47 pm | Comments Off on Edited volume: ‘An Institutional Approach to the Responsibility to Protect’, Cambridge University Press, 2016 (paperback)

My edited book entitled ‘An Institutional Approach to the Responsibility to Protect’ has recently been published as paperback by Cambridge University Press (35 GBP).
Through its 22 chapters, covering

the responsibilities of the State;
the main political organs of the UN;
important regional and security organizations;
international judicial institutions and the regional human rights protection systems;

the book examines the roles and responsibilities of the international community regarding the responsibility to …

Read the full story »

Academia, Africa, African Union, ICC, International Courts, International Criminal Law, international Justice, International Law and Politics, United Nations »

Tanja Altunjan and Aziz Epik: The International Criminal Court in Crisis?

17/01/2017 – 1:48 pm | 2 Comments

By Tanja Altunjan and Dr. Aziz Epik

Tanja Altunjan is a Research Fellow and Dr. Aziz Epik is a Senior Research Fellow to the Chair for German and International Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure and Modern Legal History, Prof. Gerhard Werle, Humboldt-University, Berlin.

70 years after the International Military Tribunal passed its Nuremberg judgment, the International Criminal Court (ICC) – the first permanent institution for the prosecution of crimes under international law – is subject to intense criticism predominantly from African states. While the critical comments should not be brushed aside prematurely, ventures to leave the ICC are steps in the wrong direction. We will address some of the central points of criticism below and demonstrate that the allegations of neocolonialism and racism are exploited in order to create political agitation, obstructing the necessary discussion on reforms and possibilities for improvement.

Two and a half withdrawals

South Africa, Burundi, and The Gambia – these three African states have officially initiated the withdrawal process from the Rome Statute of the ICC. Their withdrawals will take effect in October and November 2017. It should be noted The Gambia’s newly elected president may retract the withdrawal (he has recently announced that The Gambia “will not leave” the ICC), but his prospect of assuming office is threatened by the current president’s refusal to concede defeat in the election. Other African states are reportedly reconsidering their relationship with the ICC. The President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte – currently under heavy criticism due to his violent campaign against persons presumed to be involved in drug use and trafficking – has already threatened to leave the ICC should the Office of the Prosecutor initiate preliminary examinations. Furthermore, Russia – which had signed but not ratified the Rome Statute – has withdrawn its signature from the Rome Statute just one day after the ICC Prosecutor stated that the events relating to Crimea and Eastern Ukraine amount to an international armed conflicts and a state of occupation.

The cases of the Philippines and especially Burundi illustrate a common problem associated with criticism of the ICC: states in which crimes under international law have been committed and which the Office of the Prosecutor is already focusing on are attempting to discredit the ICC. Instead of contributing to a discussion on necessary reforms, these states are aiming to shield those responsible from the jurisdiction of the ICC. Under these circumstances, the Court cannot and should not back down. On the contrary, the ICC has a responsibility towards victims and civil society to take action against the perpetrators and prevent impunity.

Focus on Africa?

The deterioration of the ICC’s relationship to African states seems grounded mainly on misunderstandings and misinformation. With respect to the fact that nine out of ten of the situations currently under investigation at the ICC are African, critics often omit that only two of these situations have been initiated by the Prosecutor. In all other cases, the situations were referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council or (in five instances) by the state itself. On this basis, it appears unsubstantiated to accuse the ICC of unfairly targeting African states and serving as a neocolonial instrument.

The criticism regarding the arrest warrant against the Sudanese President al-Bashir (see South Africa’s explanation for its withdrawal which relates to head of state immunity) should be directed at the UN Security Council instead of the ICC. The Security Council referred the situation to the Court but has failed to adequately support its attempts to build cases against the accused – a circumstance which the Prosecutor herself heavily criticized. The role and constitution of the UN Security Council are controversial and worthy of discussion. This issue, however, concerns international law in general and is not a specific problem of the ICC.

Moreover, the question arises as to whether there is a credible alternative. The ICC has jurisdiction over “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole” (Preamble of the ICC Statute, paras. 4 and 9). Due to the principle of complementarity, the states may prevent an ICC intervention by conducting national proceedings. The ICC is barred from exercising its jurisdiction when a state is genuinely investigating or prosecuting the same case. Consequently, in situations where the ICC takes action, the alternative to its interference would be impunity.

It should also be mentioned that despite fears that the withdrawals would spark a domino effect and lead to a mass exodus, no further African states have initiated withdrawals. African civil society, most notably Kofi Annan and the Africa Group for Justice and Accountability made up of senior African experts on international criminal law and human rights, has come forward urging the states to remain committed to the ICC. In a remarkable move, many African states have explicitly professed their continued support for the ICC and its mission in response to the withdrawals.

Is the ICC racist?

The former Gambian information minister’s allegation that the ICC is “an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans” is flawed. The ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda – who has been responsible for case selection and investigations since 2012 – is a Gambian citizen herself. Although most of the situations before the ICC had been opened before then, she was presumably able to influence these decisions in her role as Deputy Prosecutor. The judges and staff of the Court are diverse in their backgrounds, a considerable number of them being citizens of African states. The complex regulations concerning the selection of judges aim to ensure equitable geographical representation. Currently, four out of eighteen judges represent the group of African States, namely Kenya, Botswana, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Three judges each represent the Latin American and Caribbean States, the Asia-Pacific States, and the Eastern European States. Five judges come from the group of Western European and other States. While this may in fact be criticized as a slight overrepresentation in relation to the number of state parties, it should be noted that the selection process must also take into account several other factors such as gender balance, representation of legal systems, and experience in relevant areas of law.

Additionally, an aspect that is often overlooked is that the victims of these crimes are usually from the region and, in case of African situations before the ICC, often people of color themselves. It is their suffering but also their human dignity the international community recognizes by prosecuting the perpetrators and by condemning their criminal behavior.

Selectivity as a problem

A recurring problem, which has not been adequately resolved, is the ICC’s selectivity. USA, China, and Russia – three permanent members of the UN Security Council – are not member states of the Rome Statute and may therefore only indirectly be subject to the ICC’s jurisdiction. Additionally, many have criticized that Western member states are not targeted by the ICC even when there are sufficient indications that crimes under international law may have been committed. While it should be noted that the ICC operates on the basis of an international treaty and is dependent upon states’ accession, it goes without saying that this situation is far from ideal. Still, the ICC appears to have taken this criticism seriously: in the past few years, the Prosecutor has begun to focus on some of the most powerful states. She opened an investigation relating to the 2008 conflict between Georgia and Russia. Additionally, she initiated preliminary examinations dealing with the situations in the Ukraine and in Palestine as well as crimes allegedly committed by UK nationals in Iraq and the conduct of US soldiers interrogating prisoners in secret detention centers in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania, and Lithuania. In the latter situation, the opening of a full investigation is apparently imminent. This trend appears set to continue. Of course, it remains to be seen how the affected states will react to ICC investigations.

Conclusion

The ICC continues to deserve the international community’s support. While it is crucial for the ICC to engage in dialogue with African states and to take criticism from state parties seriously, not every argument is equally convincing. Where reforms are necessary, the Assembly of State Parties should provide a constructive forum for the critical states to voice their concerns in order to find effective solutions – a challenge it has recently lived up to. Especially in crises, withdrawals are steps in the wrong direction.

Applications for the European Master’s Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation (E.MA) 2017/2018

17/01/2017 – 10:50 am |

The European Interuniversity Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation (EIUC http://www.eiuc.org) and 41 participating universities <http://eiuc.org/education/ema/universities/universities-and-directors.html>  from all member states of the European Union are proud to present to you the European Master’s Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation (E.MA) 2017/2018.
E.MA is an intensive one-year course aimed at educating up to 100 professionals annually in the field of human rights and democratisation. The Master’s Degree …

Call for Papers: 6th ASIANSIL BIENNIAL CONFERENCE (SEOUL, KOREA)

16/01/2017 – 2:08 pm |

The 6th Biennial Conference of the Asian Society of International Law will take place in Seoul, Korea, from Friday 25 to Saturday 26 August 2017.
The conference will be hosted by the Korean Chapter of the Asian Society of International Law, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea.
The theme of the conference is “Asia and International Law in Times of Uncertainty”.
The …

ESIL Interest Group on Peace and Security Call for Papers, deadline 16 January

11/01/2017 – 10:44 am |

The ESIL Interest Group on Peace and Security will submit a proposal for a panel during the 13th ESIL Annual Conference in Naples (7 – 9 September 2017). The ESIL IGPS proposal fits perfectly into the overall thematic setting of the conference in Naples (‘Global Public Goods, Global Commons and Fundamental Values: The Responses Of International Law’), by focusing in an innovative way on the …

A list of human rights textbooks: From 2014 onwards

22/12/2016 – 3:12 pm |

 * By Henriette (Jet) Jakobien Liesker, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo
Here below follows a detailed list of human rights textbooks published since 2014. If you want to bring to the attention of our readers more titles (preferably not older than 5 years), please do it through the comments section.
2014
Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou et al, Human Rights Law in Europe; The Influence, Overlaps and Contradictions of …

IntLawGrrls! 10th Birthday Conference, 3 March 2017, Dean Rusk International Law Center of the University of Georgia School of Law

14/12/2016 – 8:15 am | Comments Off on IntLawGrrls! 10th Birthday Conference, 3 March 2017, Dean Rusk International Law Center of the University of Georgia School of Law

The blog IntLawGrrls: voices on international law, policy, practice, will celebrate its first decade with “IntLawGrrls! 10th Birthday Conference” <http://law.uga.edu/intlawgrrls2016>  on Friday, March 3, 2017. The daylong event will be held at the Dean Rusk International Law Center of the University of Georgia School of Law, which is hosting as part of its Georgia Women in Law Lead initiative.
Organizers Diane Marie Amann, Beth Van Schaack, …

ICTY Call for Papers for the June 2017 Legacy Conference

08/12/2016 – 3:46 pm | Comments Off on ICTY Call for Papers for the June 2017 Legacy Conference

As part of its “ICTY Legacy Dialogues” events, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (“ICTY”) is organising in the week of 19 June 2017 a conference on the legacy of the ICTY in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina. We invite your participation.

With the ICTY’s closure scheduled for 31 December 2017, the conference aims to enable others to build on the achievements of the ICTY …

The legal legacy after the Khmer Rouge

02/12/2016 – 9:15 am | Comments Off on The legal legacy after the Khmer Rouge

by Mikkel Jarle Christensen, associate professor in law at iCourts, and Astrid Kjeldgaard-Pedersen, assistant professor in international law, Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen
More than 1.7 million Cambodians perished during the Khmer Rouge’s attempt to create the perfect communist society between 1975 and 1979. On 23 November 2016, the Appeals Chamber of a special court in Phnom Penh delivered the final verdict in the case …

Call for Papers: ESIL Annual Conference, Naples, 7-9 September 2017

23/11/2016 – 5:57 pm | Comments Off on Call for Papers: ESIL Annual Conference, Naples, 7-9 September 2017

The 13th Annual Conference of the European Society of International Law will take place in Naples, Italy, on 7-9 September 2017. The conference will be hosted by the University of Naples Federico II, the oldest public university in the world.
The theme of the conference is “Global Public Goods, Global Commons and Fundamental Values: The Responses of International Law”. The Call for Papers is now open.
Deadline …

Alain Zysset, The ECHR and Human Rights Theory: Reconciling the Moral and the Political Conceptions (London: Routledge, 2016)

22/11/2016 – 6:15 pm | Comments Off on Alain Zysset, The ECHR and Human Rights Theory: Reconciling the Moral and the Political Conceptions (London: Routledge, 2016)

The book is addressed to two different and traditionally separated audiences, normative human rights theory on the one hand and European human rights law on the other. The book responds to the current state of the literature in those two fields. First, it is addressed to normative human rights theorists in testing the two overarching theoretical approaches to the foundations of human rights that pervade …

ADC-ICTY Annual Conference ‘Quo Vadis, International Criminal Law?’, 3 December, The Hague

15/11/2016 – 5:55 pm | Comments Off on ADC-ICTY Annual Conference ‘Quo Vadis, International Criminal Law?’, 3 December, The Hague

The ADC-ICTY will be holding its Annual Conference on 3 December in The Hague.
The title of the conference is: ‘Quo Vadis, International Criminal Law? Current Challenges of Implementing International Humanitarian Law and International Criminal Law‘.
The topics of the Conference panels are:
– Positive Complementarity – National Jurisdictions and Effective Sanctions
– Transitional Justice: Experience of implementing ICL and IHL in Ukraine
– Relocated Justice: The Kosovo Specialist Chambers
– …

New Article: Global Actors: Networks, Elites, and Institutions

01/11/2016 – 11:14 am | Comments Off on New Article: Global Actors: Networks, Elites, and Institutions

Professor Mikael Rask Madsen and Associate Professor Mikkel Jarle Christensen, both from iCourts in Copenhagen have published a new article: “Global Actors: Networks, Elites, and Institutions”. The article draws mainly on examples from human rights and international criminal law to investigate who, precisely, we speak about when referring to global actors.
The full article can be accessed here.
Abstract:
Over the past several decades scholars have intensively debated …

New issue of the Oslo Law Review

27/10/2016 – 5:29 pm | Comments Off on New issue of the Oslo Law Review

A new issue of the Oslo Law Review has been published, with articles written by Euripides Rizos, Dina Townsend and Tone Wærstad.
Full text versions of the articles can be found on the journal’s webpage: www.jus.uio.no/oslaw.
Some details about the authors and the articles:

Euripides Rizos (Lecturer, European University Cyprus), “The Consumer’s Right of Withdrawal in case of Payment with Bitcoins“.
Dina Townsend (Doctoral Research Fellow, Department of Public and …

Call for papers: Governance for resilience workshop, McGill School of Environment, Montréal, QC, 10 March 2017

25/10/2016 – 4:57 pm | Comments Off on Call for papers: Governance for resilience workshop, McGill School of Environment, Montréal, QC, 10 March 2017

Workshop theme
Within the natural sciences, resilience refers to the capacity of an ecological system to absorb stress while still maintaining its essential structure and function. The concept has also been translated into the social sciences to denote the ability of a social system to maintain its essential structure and function [as well as its integrity and identity] following a shock or crisis, although whether and …

CfP: Special issue of the Journal of International Criminal Justice

24/10/2016 – 11:02 am | Comments Off on CfP: Special issue of the Journal of International Criminal Justice

To mark 15 years since the coming into force of the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 1 July 2002, the Journal of International Criminal Justice is pleased to announce a forthcoming symposium on ‘The International Criminal Court’s Policies and Strategies’ to be published in July 2017.
The Court and its various organs have continually issued a number of documents explaining the Court’s policies on numerous …

Utrecht Journal of International and European Law, 2016 General Issue Published; and, Call for the 2017 General Issue

30/09/2016 – 1:52 pm | Comments Off on Utrecht Journal of International and European Law, 2016 General Issue Published; and, Call for the 2017 General Issue

The Utrecht Journal of International and European Law is pleased to announce that the latest edition of the journal, the 2016 General Issue, has just been published.
Full, free access is available here, with links to the individual pieces included below.
ARTICLES
Intellectual Property Rights in Traditional Knowledge: Enabler of Sustainable Development
Freedom-Kai Phillips
(Pages 1-18)
It’s Not the Fish that Stinks! EU Trade Relations with Morocco under the Scrutiny of the General Court of the …

The ICC finds Mr Al Mahdi guilty of the war crime of attacking historic and religious buildings in Timbuktu, Mali

28/09/2016 – 9:10 am | Comments Off on The ICC finds Mr Al Mahdi guilty of the war crime of attacking historic and religious buildings in Timbuktu, Mali

* Based on the ICC Press Release ICC-CPI-20160927-PR1242, 27 September 2016
Background
On 24 March 2016, ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I confirmed against Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi the war crime charge concerning attacks against historic and religious monuments in Timbuktu, Mali, and committed Mr Al Mahdi to trial. He was a member of Ansar Dine, a movement associated with AQIM, and had worked closely with the leaders of the …

Reminder: ICTY/MICT Open Day in The Hague on 25 September

15/09/2016 – 1:38 pm | Comments Off on Reminder: ICTY/MICT Open Day in The Hague on 25 September

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) are hosting a joint Open Day on Sunday, 25 September, as part of The Hague International Day.
At the Open Day, there will be opportunities to interact with Judges and other key staff members, view new documentaries produced by the ICTY Outreach Programme, and explore art exhibitions and Archives material.
ICTY …

Torture prevention – why practice lags behind law? (Part Three)

07/09/2016 – 5:23 pm | One Comment

Richard Carver, Senior Lecturer in Human Rights and Governance, Oxford Brookes University
Richard Carver has more than 30 years of experience as a human rights researcher, working for Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, ARTICLE 19, and a number of UN agencies. He has published extensively on national human rights institutions, particularly on criteria and techniques for measuring performance, impact and effectiveness. Originally an Africa specialist, his …