Many angles on international law, Washington & the West @ ASIL meeting

whitehouse7apr13lgMemorable bits ’n’ pieces from the just-concluded annual meeting of the American Society of International Law:

► Comments by Dr. Xue Hanqin, who has been a law professor and government official in China and, since 2010, a judge on the International Court of Justice. For a taste of the incisive observations she made during the closing plenary on “Global Governance, State Sovereignty, and the Future of International Law,” consider her opening remark after moderator José Alvarez (NYU Law) introduced the other panelists, Bruno Simma (Michigan Law/Munich Law) and Joel Trachtman (Tufts/Fletcher), then her. I paraphase:

‘I see this panel is “The West – And the Rest.'”

►The emphasis placed on fundamental fairness during a dialogue between Fatou Bensouda, International Criminal Court Prosecutor, and Judge Theodor Meron, President both of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals. (Video of their Brookings appearance, also last week, is here.) Asked at ASIL about recent acquittals at the ICC and ICTY, as well as the latter’s counterpart for Rwanda, both stressed that accountability is to be equated not with conviction, but rather with the subjecting of charged crimes to a fair process of adjudication of individual criminal liability – a process that accepts the possibility that some individuals will not be found guilty beyond reasonable doubt. (Yours truly made similar points in this 2002 AJIL essay on a 2001 ICTY decision.)

CAREpaket_frei3_01Bruno Simma recalling a day in 1945 or 1946. A 5-year-old boy who had just lived through the end of World War II, he saw a CARE package fall from the sky and into the village in Austria where he lived. In it were watercolors and marbles. They became his only toys. The package, stamped U.S.A., marked his 1st memory of the United States of America. (Simma went on to become a distinguished law professor, 1st in Austria and then in Germany and the United States, as well as a judge on the International Court of Justice. He is now a member of the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, and received ASIL’s Hudson Medal at the annual meeting.)

► A discussion of “The Past & Future of African International Law Scholarship.” I was lucky enough to catch parts of a couple presentations at this panel. Erika George (Utah Law) offered a thoughtful review of From Cape Town to Kabul: Rethinking Strategies for Pursuing Women’s Human Rights, the super new book by Albany Law Dean Penny Andrews. A imagesreview of international economic law books by Uche Ewelukwa-Ofodile (Arkansas Law) underscored that notwithstanding all the troubles covered in mainstream media, Africa is on the rise. (Kudos to moderator/organizer James Gathii, whose Loyola Law class I’d had the pleasure of leading earlier in the week.)

► Not the least by any stretch, the reunion of IntLawGrrls, members of ASIL’s Women in International Law Interest Group, and assorted male friends at Thursday’s luncheon, where I delivered my talk on “International Law and the Future of Peace.” Present in the sold-out room, in addition to our life-size cardboard cutout of proto-foremother Eleanor Roosevelt, were so many women and men – I cannot name them all. Women who have inspired my lifework, like judges Patricia Wald and Joan Donoghue and prosecutor Fatou Bensouda; dear colleagues, like Betsy Andersen, Jaya Ramji-Nogales, and Beth Van Schaack, not to mention Andrea Bjorklund and Karima Bennoune from my former home, California-Davis Law, as well as Laura Kagel, Harlan Cohen, and Charlie Hunnicutt from my current home, Georgia Law; present and former students, like Kate Doty, Kelly Wegel, Kaitlin Ball, Sonia Farber, and Caroline Arbaugh; and the Addis Ababa University Law lecturer and 5 students comprising Ethiopia’s 1st all-woman Jessup team. My thanks to all who were able to attend or sent their regards. Thanks too, of course, to WILIG, which has just launched a mentoring program that generated much excitement among the young international lawyers present.

► After the meeting ended, I headed to the National Gallery of Art (the Dürer exhibit and the Matisse cutout room are must-sees; the pre-Raphaelites, not so much). Standing at a corner monwhere we pedestrians had a good view of the 555-foot-tall marble obelisk known as the Washington Monument, a wee boy asked his father an excellent, and perhaps unanswerable, question:

‘Why did we built that?’

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