Distinguished jurist Navi Pillay discusses state sovereignty and human rights


“The biggest violators of human rights are states themselves, by commission or omission.”

This quote by Navi Pillay aptly summarized her talk on “National Sovereignty vs. International Human Rights.” Pillay, whose renowned legal career has included posts as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and as a judge on the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, spoke this morning at the University of Georgia School of Law Atlanta campus.

Elaborating on the quote above, Pillay decried national legislation aimed at restricting the activities – and with it the effectiveness – of local nongovernmental organizations. Such anti-NGO laws already have passed in Russia and are pending in Pillay’s home state of South Africa, among other countries. That said, she welcomed new means of speaking law to power; in particular, social media that permit human rights advocates to reach millions. Also welcomed were accountability mechanisms that the United Nations has developed in recent decades, such as Universal Periodic Review by the Human Rights Council, reporting processes of treaty bodies, and reports by special rapporteurs.

amann_pillayI was honored to give welcoming remarks at the breakfast. Georgia Law’s Dean Rusk International Law Center, which I lead, cosponsored this Georgia WILL event with the World Affairs Council of Atlanta and Georgia State University’s Global Studies Institute. (We owe special thanks to Judge Dorothy Toth Beasley for her hospitality this week.)

Conversing with Pillay was World Affairs Council President Charles Shapiro. They began by speaking of Pillay’s childhood in Durban, where she grew up the daughter of a bus driver. She spoke of how testifying as a 6-year-old in the trial of a man who’d stolen money from her helped spark her desire to become a lawyer – and how donations from her community helped make that dream a reality.

Shapiro then asked about capital punishment, noting a scheduled execution. Pillay acknowledged the absence of any universal treaty outlawing the death penalty, but found evidence of U.N. opposition both in the decision not to permit the penalty in U.N. ad hoc international criminal tribunals and in the growing support for the oft-repeated U.N. General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on capital punishment.

“It started with just 14 states against the death penalty, and is now more than 160,” said Pillay, who currently serves on the International Commission against the Death Penalty.

img_0335On this and other issues, she said, advocates endeavor to encourage states first to obligate themselves to respect and ensure human rights, and then to implement the undertakings they have made in this regard:

“The United Nations was formed by states. It is a club of governments. Look how steadily they have adopted treaties and agreed to be bound by them. That doesn’t mean we are transgressing sovereignty.”

(Cross-posted from Exchange of Notes)

Georgia Law launches women’s leadership initiative: “Georgia WILL”


I’m very pleased to reprint this announcement of an important Georgia Law initiative, available in its pinkest form here and at the Exchange of Notes blog of our Dean Rusk International Law Center here.

In celebration of its own women leaders and in an effort to nurture women who will lead in the future, the University of Georgia School of Law this year is spearheading Georgia WILL (Georgia Women in Law Lead).

Georgia WILL launched with a breakfast on August 19, 2016, the centenary of the day that the State of Georgia enacted a statute entitled “Attorneys at Law; Females May Be,” and soon admitted Minnie Hale Daniel, whose previous applications had been rejected, as the state’s first woman lawyer. Celebrated along with Daniel were Georgia Law’s first alumnae, Edith House and Gussie Brooks, both members of the Class of 1925, as well as the many women who today help lead the law school. They include: Associate Deans Diane Marie Amann, Lori Ringhand, and Usha Rodrigues; Carol A. Watson, Director of Georgia Law’s Alexander Campbell King Law Library; Ramsey Bridges, Director of Law Admissions; Anne S. Moser, Senior Director of Law School Advancement; Heidi M. Murphy, Director of Communications and Public Relations; and Kathleen A. Day, Director of Business & Finance.

“This is a superb opportunity both to give recognition to our women leaders and to join in the global conversation about women’s leadership,” remarked Georgia Law Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge. “Given our hope that this initiative will foster a new generation of women leaders, we’re especially pleased that our Women Law Students Association is cosponsoring all events.”

Events in the next twelve months will feature women, including members of the Georgia Law community, who are national and international pathbreakers in law, business, and public service. One highlight event will occur at the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools in San Francisco, where Georgia Law will host a brainstorming session for women professors who are or are interested in becoming law school or university administrators; another, at Georgia Law’s Athens main campus, where IntLawGrrls contributors will convene in March for a conference marking the blog’s 10th birthday.

Events scheduled so far (at Georgia Law’s Athens campus unless otherwise stated) are as follows:

October 13 Judge Lisa Godbey Wood (J.D. 1990), U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, will deliver “Reflections on Sentencing.” Her service as Georgia Law’s inaugural B. Avant Edenfield Jurist in Residence also includes teaching a week-long course on sentencing.

October 19 Judge Navanethem Pillay, a South African jurist whose former positions include United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Judge on the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, will speak on “National Sovereignty vs. International Human Rights” at Georgia Law’s Atlanta Campus. The World Affairs Council of Atlanta cosponsors.

October 25 Ethical challenges faced by corporations will be the topic of a talk by Sloane Perras (J.D. 2002), Chief Legal Officer at Krystal Company and On The Border. Earlier this month, Perras was recognized by the Women’s In-House Counsel Leadership Institute for welcoming other women into her area of practice and also for directing corporate policy toward inclusion of women in high-level legal positions.

January 5 Georgia Law will host “Women’s Leadership in Legal Academia” at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools in San Francisco. This brainstorming session for women professors who are or are interested in becoming law school or university administrators will feature academics, as well as Monika Kalra Varma, an executive leadership consultant who served for the last five years as Executive Director of the District of Columbia Bar Pro Bono Program.

February 4  Georgia State Representative Stacey Godfrey Evans (J.D. 2003) will provide opening remarks at “Georgia Women Run.” Joining her will be a diverse group of elected officials, who will discuss the challenges and rewards of running for office as a nontraditional candidate.

March 1 to 31 Georgia Law’s Alexander Campbell King Law Library will host a special exhibit, “Attorneys at Law; Females May Be: Celebrating the Past and Ongoing Leadership of Women in Law,” in conjunction with Women’s History Month and, on March 8, International Women’s Day.

March 2 The Women Law Students Association will present the 35th Annual Edith House Lecture, named after a graduate of Georgia Law’s Class of 1925 whose career included service as the first woman U.S. Attorney in Florida. Delivering this year’s lecture will be Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia.

March 3 Contributors to IntLawGrrls, the pre-eminent international blog authored primarily by women, will convene for a 10th birthday conference and research forum.

March 18 Receiving the 2016 Distinguished Service Scroll Awards, given annually by Georgia Law’s Law School Association, will be Ertharin Cousin (J.D. 1982), Executive Director of the U.N. World Food Programme, based in Rome, Italy, and Audrey Boone Tillman (J.D. 1989), Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Aflac Inc.

March 27 Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler, Professor of Law at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, will deliver the 2d Annual Glenn Hendrix Lecture at Georgia Law’s Atlanta campus. The Atlanta International Arbitration Society cosponsors.

Fall 2017 Vice-Chancellor Tamika R. Montgomery-Reeves (J.D. 2006) of the Delaware Court of Chancery will teach a short course on advanced topics in Delaware corporate law, and also headline an alumnae reception in Atlanta.

70 years ago, landmark international criminal law judgment at Nuremberg

This weekend marks the 70th anniversary of the Judgment of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, a moment recorded in this New York Times front page:


The judgment established that humans, and not only states, may be held responsible for violations of international law – a principle that the General Assembly endorsed in 1950. Recognition that individual acts mattered in the international law soon opened the way for recognition that acts committed against individuals also mattered. The Nuremberg Judgment thus stands as a foundational moment in the international human rights movement, as was recognized inter alia in a 1982 article by Georgia Law Professor Louis B. Sohn, when he was Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law, a position I am now honored to hold.

Another Georgia Law professor who’s written about Nuremberg is my colleague Harlan Grant Cohen; these works include: ‘Undead’ Wartime Cases: Stare Decisis and the Lessons of History (2010); Historical American Perspectives on International Law (2009); The American Challenge to International Law: A Tentative Framework for Debate (2003).

My own writings, available here, include studies of the meaning of genocide and essays on women who worked as prosecutors, defense lawyers, and staff (no judges) at postwar trials in Nuremberg and Tokyo. “Women at Nuremberg” is a subject that many IntLawGrrls have addressed, not to mention many more posts on all aspects of international criminal law and international human rights law.

(Cross-posted from Exchange of Notes blog)

Role of “commentaries” key to significance of ICRC project

The role of “commentaries” in the shaping of contemporary international law proved a recurring question in the just-concluded morning public plenary of today’s conference, “Humanity’s Common Heritage: 2016 Commentary on the First Geneva Convention.”


First broaching the issue was the keynote, Jean-Marie Henckaerts (above). A Georgia Law alumnus, he’s the Legal Adviser at the International Committee of the Red Cross who’s leading the ICRC’s multiyear effort to produce 21st C. commentaries on the meaning of the core instruments of international humanitarian law; that is, the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their subsequent Protocols Additional. Joining him were participants in the panel that followed: speakers Major-General Blaise Cathcart, Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Armed Forces, NYU Law Professor Ryan Goodman, Emory Law Professor Laurie R. Blank, and Oxford Law Professor Dapo Akande, plus the moderator, yours truly, Associate Diane Marie Amann. I’ve the honor of serving as director of the Dean Rusk International Law Center at the University of Georgia School of Law, which is sponsoring the event along with the ICRC and the Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law.

Soon to appear in print, the 2016 Commentary is available online here. At that website, the 2016 Commentary is situated alongside an earlier version, published in the 1950s by ICRC jurist Jean Pictet – and there’s a rub.

“Commentaries are not unusual,” Henckaerts remarked, adding that tomes exist commenting on nearly all the world’s treaties. Though true, the observation pretermits the sui generis status of the author of the 2016 Commentary – the ICRC, since 1863 a Geneva-based private organization that has led developments related to the shaping and compliance with international humanitarian law.

The earlier volumes “are ‘capital C,’ or maybe all caps,” Blank said. Others agreed, pointing not only to the ICRC’s unique status, but also to the fact that the Pictet commentaries  occurred when the intentions of the negotiating states parties – to quote Goodman, “what the framers had in mind” – were well within memory. Continuing her analogy, Blank said she regarded the 2016 effort as a “small c” commentary –  an extraordinary collection of expert analysis, but not exactly the same thing” as the Pictet effort.

Akande broadened the conversation, examining the ICRC commentaries within the context of public international law and treaty interpretation. Pictet’s work may enjoy “unjustifiable authority,” he said, adding that the constitutive nature of the new effort might outweigh any resulting loss of authoritative status. He then called upon the ICRC consistently to be “upfront” about how and why it arrived at its interpretive conclusions.

The points provoked multiple questions: How are treaties to be interpreted? What individuals or entities have authority to engage in interpretation? What weight do interpretations of states parties deserve – and with regard to universally ratified treaties like these, which states parties? What weight to a private organization like the ICRC? Nongovernmental organizations? And what about the victims of armed conflict – do their voices matter in this interpretive effort, and if so, how can victims be given voice?

The search for answers to these and many other questions continued this afternoon. In 3 consecutive closed sessions, about 2 dozen experts (including IntLawGrrl Shana Tabak, pictured at right) discussed: (1) the Common Article 1 obligation to “ensure respect” for the Geneva Conventions; (2) protection of the wounded, sick, and other specially protected persons; and (3) classification of armed conflict.

(Cross-posted from Exchange of Notes blog)

“Humanity’s Common Heritage”: Friday Georgia Law-ICRC conference on Geneva Conventions Commentaries


Humanity’s Common Heritage – norms codified in international humanitarian law treaties to which all countries of the world belong – will be the topic of a conference this Friday, September 23, at the University of Georgia School of Law in Athens, Georgia.

The conference title derives from this observation about those treaties, the four 1949 Geneva Conventions, by Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross:

“We know that the values that found expression in the Geneva Conventions have become an essential part of our common heritage of humanity, as growing numbers of people around the world share a moral and legal conviction in them. These contradicting realities challenge us to act: to react to the suffering and violations of the law, and to prevent them from occurring in the first place.”

At the core of this daylong event will be the Commentaries on which the ICRC is now working. Published online earlier this year was the initial Commentary, covering the Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, as well as the articles common to all 4 Conventions. (Prior posts here, here, and here.) Experts will examine this 2016 Commentary and its role in the development, promotion, and implementation of contemporary international humanitarian law.

thumbnail_p1130913We’re honored that the Georgia Law alumnus leading that project, Geneva-based ICRC legal adviser Jean-Marie Henckaerts (LLM 1990), will keynote our conference, and also that the ICRC is cosponsoring the conference, along with our Center and our Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law. This student-run review, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this year, will publish papers by the assembled experts and Georgia Law student rapporteurs.

akandeDr. Henckaerts will be part of a public panel from 9:15 a.m.-12 noon in Georgia Law’s Hatton Lovejoy 0042401-14ABCourtroom. Speaking in that morning session will be: Oxford Law Professor Dapo Akande; Emory Law Professor Laurie R. Blank, an IntLawGrrls contributor; Major-General Blaise Cathcart, Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Armed Forces; New York University Law Professor Ryan Goodman; and the cathcartmoderator, yours truly, Diane Marie ryan_goodman_photo_horizontalAmann, Associate Dean for International Programs & Strategic Initiatives and Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law at Georgia Law, and also the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s Special Adviser on Children in & affected by Armed Conflict.

Joining them in closed sessions during the afternoon will be additional international humanitarian law experts experts: Georgia Law Professor Harlan G. Cohen; Houston College of Law Professor Geoffrey S. Corn; American University Law Professor Jennifer Daskal; Jonathan Davis, a University of Georgia international affairs graduates and U.S. Department of State Attorney-Advisor; IntLawGrrl Kathleen A. Doty, our Center’s Director of Global Practice Preparation; Julia Grignon, Université Laval Law; Rutgers Law Professor Adil Haque; Christopher Harland, Legal Adviser at the ICRC’s Washington, D.C., office; Eric Jensen, U.S. Department of Defense; Michael Meier, U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps; Naz K. Modirzadeh, Harvard Law; Nicholas W. Mull, U.S. Marine Corps Judge Advocate General Corps (ret.); Vanderbilt Law Professor Michael A. Newton; Sasha Radin, U.S. Naval War College; Professor James K. Reap (JD 1976) of the University of Georgia, who’s just been named to the State Department’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee; IntLawGrrl and Georgia State Law Professor Shana Tabak; and Creighton Law Professor Sean Watts.

Full description and details about the conference here.

(Cross-posted from Exchange of Notes, the Dean Rusk International Law Center blog)

Georgia Law hosts ambassador’s talk on US Presidential election & foreign policy

untitledIssues of foreign policy and national security remain foremost in many voters’ minds as the 2016 U.S. Presidential election has entered its final, post-Labor Day lap. We’re thus delighted to be welcoming an expert in this areas to our Athens campus next week:

Fresh from recent lectures in Oxford, Auckland, and Berlin, Ambassador Derek Shearer will deliver a public talk entitled “The Whole World Is Waching: Foreign Policy & the U.S. Presidential Election” at 12:30 p.m. this Tuesday, September 13, at the University of Georgia School of Law. Sponsoring the talk is Georgia Law’s Dean Rusk International Law Center; cosponsors are the World Affairs Council of Atlanta and the University of Georgia School of Public & International Affairs.

Shearer, whom I’ve long been privileged to call a colleague, is Chevalier Professor of Diplomacy and World Affairs at Occidental College in Los Angeles who served as an economics official in the U.S. Department of Commerce, and then as U.S. Ambassador to Finland from 1994 to 1997. He’s the author of several books and a frequent writer on and contributor to public policy discussions;  his articles have appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and International Herald Tribune.

In addition to the talk, Shearer will speak to students in Election Law and Strategic Intelligence courses.

toigoWe’re also very pleased to welcome Sue Toigo (left), Chairman of Fitzgibbon Toigo Associates and Shearer’s wife. She’ll discuss corporate responsibility with Georgia Law Business Ethics students.

For additional details, e-mail ruskintlaw@uga.edu.

GJICL publishes “Children and International Criminal Justice” issue


Very pleased to announce that papers from a Georgia Law conference “Children & International Criminal Justice” have just been published by our Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law.

The conference was cosponsored by Dean Rusk International Law Center and the Georgia Law Project on Armed Conflict & Children, as well as the university’s African Studies Institute, the Planethood Foundation, and the American Society of International Law-Southeast.

About 2 dozen experts came to Athens, Georgia, from as far as Doha and Kinshasa, to discuss the topic at hand. In so doing, they assisted in the preparation of the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor Policy on Children. As detailed in recent posts, available here and here, the public comment period for the draft of that Policy continues through August 5, 2016, with launch of the final document set for mid-November.

bensouda_me2_28oct14cropA keynote speech by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (at right) highlighted our conference, and the text of her speech headlines the edition. Other writings link the work of the ICC to the 1989 Convention of the Rights of the Child, examine the experiences of children in armed conflict and similar situations. Student rapporteurs’ accounts of expert breakout sessions additionally treat a range of issues. All these papers contributed significantly to the Policy process.

The edition concludes with students’ notes apart from the conference; one of these, for which I was honored to serve as faculty adviser, examines the issue of child marriage.

Here, in full, is the table of contents for Volume 43, issue 3, with PDF links to each article:

Children and International Criminal Justice Conference

“Convening Experts on Children and International Criminal Justice,” by yours truly, Diane Marie Amann (above, at left), Associate Dean for International Programs & Strategic Initiatives and Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law, and also Prosecutor Bensouda’s Special Adviser on Children in & affected by Armed Conflict

“Children and International Criminal Justice,” by Fatou Bensouda (above, at right), Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court

malone“Maturing Justice: Integrating the Convention on the Rights of the Child into the Judgments and Processes of the International Criminal Court,” by Linda A. Malone (right), Marshall-Wythe Foundation Professor of Law and Founding Director of the Human Security Law Center, William & Mary Law School

drumblm“Children, Armed Violence and Transition: Challenges for International Law & Policy,” by Mark Drumbl (left), Class of 1975 Alumni Professor of Law and Director of the Transnational Law Institute at Washington & Lee University School of Law

“Child Protection in Times of Conflict and Children and International Criminal Justice,” by Kerry L. Neal neal(right), Child Protection Specialist, Justice for Children, UNICEF, New York

“Expert Workshop Session: Regulatory Framework,” by Ashley Ferrelli, Eric Heath, Eulen Jang, and Cory Takeuchi (all Georgia Law graduates, who were members of GJICL)

“Expert Workshop Session: Child Witnesses: Testimony, Evidence, and Witness Protection,” by Chelsea Swanson, Elizabeth DeVos, Chloe Ricke, and Andy Shin (now Georgia Law graduates, all then were members of GJICL)

“Expert Workshop Session: The Global Child,” by Haley Chafin, Jena Emory, Meredith Head, and Elizabeth Verner (all Georgia Law graduates, who were members of GJICL)

Student Notes

“Changing the Game: The Effects of the 2012 Revision of the ICC Arbitration Rules on the ICC Model Arbitration Clause for Trust Disputes,” by Colin Connor

“Water, Water Everywhere, But Just How Much is Clean?: Examining Water Quality Restoration Efforts Under the United States Clean Water Act and the United States-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement,” by Jill T. Hauserman

“REACHing for Environmental and Economic Harmony: Can TTIP Negotiations Bridge the U.S.-EU Chemical Regulatory Gap?,” by Ashley Henson

“Child Marriage in Yemen: A Violation of International Law,” by Elizabeth Verner