Monthly Archives: December 2012

J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel The Hobbit stands out as a story for older children. Peter Jackson’s just-released film does not.

hobbitIn my ‘tween years, the tale told in the voice of a hobbit, a humane though not human creature, offered a humor-laced journey through Middle Earth, an imagined world at once arcane and familiar. (photo credit) A standalone delight, it also drew me in to more Tolkien works – the well-known Ring trilogy, of course, as well as the little-regarded Silmarillion. Years after, these latter tomes defied read-aloud attempts, even as The Hobbit served as a beloved bedtime book for my child.

Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a different story altogether. Early on in the film, the hobbit’s voice is replaced by an all-seeing 3D eye that is prone to abrupt shifts in scene. Lost is the hobbit’s wondering focus. Lost too is much humor, save for food fights and the sort of snot jokes that serve as Hollywood staples these days.

Unutterably lost is the humaneness that the hobbit brought to The Hobbit.

The film’s characters speak often of “adventure,” yet they seem only to have one kind: Combat, repeated, and repeated, and repeated, over the 166 minutes of the movie. This is no child’s combat, either. There is much wielding of swords, much crunching of bones, much slicing of flesh. The wizard Gandalf shows viewers a nonchalance – almost a wink – as he beheads a goblin. A film orc unknown to the novel exhorts his troops to destroy every last dwarf.

These celebrations of violence, this call to genocide, appear stripped of moral content. No character wrestles with his choice to kill, none feels remorse after wreaking harm. Though the lethal power of avarice and the blinding lure of othering are much on display, nothing invites the viewer to consider, to judge these characters, let alone to reflect on the presence of these evils on the real Earth.

In this month of reflection on violence, however, such consideration is in order – by those who made this Hobbit, and by the patrons, old and young, who have made it the world’s #1 film.

Sandwiched once again between New Year’s and the new semester is the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools.

imagesAmong the international/comparative/transnational law panels during the meeting – to be held January 4-7, 2013, in New Orleans – is one for which yours truly is honored to serve as commentator.

Called Human Rights in Times of Conflict, it’s the new voices panel for the AALS Section on International Human Rights, for which Quinnipiac Law Professor William V. Dunlap serves as Chair, and Mississippi Law Professor Michèle Alexandre as Chair-Elect. We’ll meet from 8:30-10:15 a.m. Sunday, January 6, in the Jasperwood Room on the 3d floor of the Hilton New Orleans Riverside to explore these thoughts:

‘The first casualty of war may be truth, but the overwhelming majority of its victims are civilians who have nothing to do with the conflict. They are victims not only of war itself – strategic bombings, terrorist attacks, accidents, famine and disease. Tens of millions more have died in the past century from intentional policies directed at civilians, often by their own governments – genocide, forced pregnancy, sterilization, enslavement, ethnic cleansing, and torture. And then there are the refugees and internally displaced persons, forced from their homes, trapped in squalor, and destabilizing international relations in Africa, Asia, and the Near East. The Geneva and Hague conventions on the law of armed conflict go only so far in protecting noncombatants, and some argue that they displace international human rights law when they do apply. This panel will examine the role of law – especially international human rights law, international criminal law, and international humanitarian law – in protecting civilians in times of armed conflict. … Topics include humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect, the Georgian War of 2008, human rights implications of U.S. and U.K. antiterrorism laws since 2001, and contemporary implications of Lincoln’s pardons in the aftermath of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.’

Panelists will be the 4 colleagues whose paper submissions were selected following a call for papers: Albany Law Professor Paul Finkelman, George Mason Law Professor Neomi Rao, Louisville Law Professor JoAnne Sweeny, and Indiana Law Professor Timothy Waters. With Dunlap moderating, I’ll will pose questions to these 4, working to draw them – and our audience – into a discussion about how these topics interweave with the overall theme. Hope to see you there.

Other offerings include Alexandra Huneeus’ prizewinning presentation, about which I previously posted, as well as a host of panels (list here) identified by the Chair of the Section on Comparative Law, Cardozo Law Professor Julie C. Suk, who’s visiting this year at Harvard. There’s  a Presidential Panel on international criminal justice, as Julie notes, and much more – to identify all, search for keywords like “international” in the pdf version of the AALS program. (photo credit)

huneeus_2012Congratulations to Wisconsin Law Professor Alexandra Huneeus, whose paper entitled “International Criminal Law by Other Means: The Quasi-Criminal Jurisdiction of the Human Rights Courts” has been selected the 2013 winner of the scholarly paper competition sponsored by the Association of American Law Schools!

Here’s the abstract of her paper:

‘Scholarship on the international prosecution of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity has typically focused on two types of international courts, the criminal tribunals and the hybrid tribunals. This article proposes that there is an alternative international mechanism of accountability that has been overlooked: the jurisdiction exercised by international human rights bodies of ordering and supervising national prosecutions. Original empirical research reveals that the regional rights bodies have forged a quasi-criminal practice that strives towards the very same outcomes as the international and hybrid criminal tribunals: punishment and deterrence, restorative justice, processes of societal reconciliation, and justice system reform. Further, this form of jurisdiction has unique attributes: it promotes prosecutions that are local and paid for by the state (rather than the international community), even as its process is responsive to victims’ needs. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in particular has made national prosecution of gross state-sponsored crimes a center-piece of its regional agenda. And, like the international and hybrid tribunals, it has achieved some success. The article concludes that the quasi-criminal jurisdiction of the human rights courts should be considered as a complement and, in certain situations, an alternative to the work of the current international and hybrid criminal tribunals.’

Alex, whose contributions to IntLawGrrls blog may be found here, will present her paper during the upcoming AALS Annual Meeting, at 2 p.m. Sunday, January 6, 2013, in the Cambridge Room, 2d floor, Hilton New Orleans Riverside. (Yours truly will serve as a commentator at a “New Voices in Human Rights” panel that same day – 8:30 January 6 in the Hilton’s Jasperwood Room; hope to see you there.)

Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of reading Alex’ manuscripts, and am delighted to see this worthy recognition of this work.

d4This post begins a new chapter.

After nearly 6 years of founding, editing, and contributing to an online forum for hundreds of voices on international law, policy, practice – IntLawGrrls blog – it’s time to go solo.

When the spirit moves, I’ll be posting about matters on which I choose to comment. The occasional posts will be inspired by my work as the Emily and Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law at the University of Georgia School of Law and as the Special Adviser on Children in Armed Conflict for the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor; however, all will be presented solely in my personal capacity. (credit for image, from Book of Kells)

Your visits (to this site or the connected Twitter and LinkedIn pages), and your comments, will be most welcome.