Austria

Following a raft of ratifications this week, the Arms Trade Treaty is 4/5 of the way toward entry into force.

Paying-the-priceDepositing their instruments of ratification on Tuesday were Australia, Austria, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Samoa. They join 30 other countries that’ve become full members of the treaty since its adoption by the U.N. General Assembly on April 2, 2013. Ten more joinders are needed for the treaty to take effect.

In its 28 articles, the Arms Trade Treaty provides for states parties’ regulation of traffic in a range of arms, from battle tanks to light weapons. (Prior posts available here.) As indicated by the Control Arms poster above, regulating the latter is a principal aim of treaty proponents. (image credit)

Among the 5 permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (among them major arms-exporting states), Britain and France have ratified. The United States signed last September, but the treaty has not been presented to the Senate for consideration. China has not signed; Deutsche Welle reported this week:

‘China has indicated that it would consider signing if the US ratified, which is unlikely to happen.’

And in late May, the Voice of Russia reported that the Russian Federation would not sign, for the following reasons:

‘Russia considers this document to be not completely thought through. It also discriminates against the Russian military-industrial complex.’

salz7SALZBURG – I’m newly returned from this Austrian city, years ago my first European home during a semester abroad. Drawing me to the edge of the Alps was the Summer Session of Salzburg Law School on International Criminal Law, Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law.  The overall theme for this 15th annual session, organized by Executive Director Astrid Reisinger Coracini, was the relationship of international criminal justice to the states and peoples of Africa. It was an honor to present a mini-course on “Children and International Criminal Law” to the scores of scholars and practitioners in attendance.

Other scores were on prominent salz1display throughout the baroque Altstadt. Concerts and opera, not to mention sculptures, paintings, and plays, filled indoor venues and outdoor squares – all part of the Salzburg Festival that runs through September 1. Though unschooled in opera, I was tempted to plunk down the considerable cost of a ticket to see Zubin Mehta conduct Verdi’s Falstaff just blocks away from Mozart’s birthplace. But then my colleagues William Schabas and Roger Clark, also there to teach at the summer school, alerted me to a more affordable option: an al fresco meal in front of a free Jumbotron broadcast of a 2004 Festival production of Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier.salz5rosen

(As Schabas pointed out, this opera’s premise was not unrelated to my mini-course, for the libretto stresses the young age of the eponymous Kavalier, or member of the Austrian cavalry. By today’s standards the wily 17 year old was a child soldier.)

Echos of war could be detected not only in the strains of that just-before-World-War-I opera, and not only in the international criminal law classroom, but also in the news of the week. Likening foreign policy to salz8household intimacy, the media made much of the Entfremdung, or estrangement, between Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama, leaders of the countries that from the late ’40s through the late ’80s waged a Cold War (a period of conflict during which Austria had remained decidedly neutral). The paper’s account of sticking points between the 2 powers – nuclear disarmament; Snowden and spying; Syria; LGBT rights and the rights of dissidents like Magnitsky – made for quite a long détente to-do list.

salz7stagThat sobering morning note called for night-time levity. And so we visited a favorite local amusement, the 400-year-old Hellbrunn Palace. There a whimsical Prince-Archbishop, as Salzburg’s erstwhile rulers were called, had built a garden of fountains. Some are lovely; some, like that of a mask whose tongue darts in and out, are goofy. All entailed an element of risk. For the mischievous had builder rigged seats, steps, and sidewalks with sprinklers. They turned on and off at unexpected points, leaving everyone both drenched and delighted.salz6wasser

neueNEW YORK – Art from fin de siècle Vienna has been a favorite since my semester study abroad in Austria. The taut pull of multiple styles gives energy to the paintings and prints – even the pillows – produced by Schiele, Kokoschka, et al. With good cause these artists professed to have seceded from the staid traditions of the Austro-Hungarian imperial past.

It was thus with great anticipation that I visited the Neue Galerie, opened a dozen years ago just up 5th Avenue from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Neue’s dedicated to showcasing the Vienna Secessionists’ works. “Showcase” is indeed the word, for the art is displayed amid the lustrous appointments of a circa-1914 mansion.

The art did not disappoint. Especially stunning were the golden, otherworldly portraits of the women of Klimt‘s world. Among the most famous is the one at top, of socialite Adele Bloch-Bauer – a painting I had admired years ago at an Austrian national museum.

In 2006 that museum handed the 1907 portrait over to Maria Altmann, the Bloch-Bauer niece who fought for years to reclaim it and other artworks looted from her family when the Nazis overtook Austria. As lawyers well know, a watershed in her struggle came in 2004, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 against Austria’s contention that sovereign immunity shielded it from Altmann’s lawsuit. That holding set the stage for the 2006 arbitral award of 5 looted Klimts to Altmann, and for her sale of Adele to the Neue Galerie. (In 2011,  Altmann, then 94 years old, died at her Southern California home.)

My visit to Neue thus brought some disappointment. The judicial story was not to be found in the exhibit, nor even in a gift shop children’s book that purported to trace Adele‘s provenance. At least for this lawyer, that absence seemed a missed opportunity to show that even in the world of art, law may serve justice.