Google Translate is an amazing thing; or, how to teach a Dutch refugee law judgment without knowing Dutch

What materials to give my Refugee & Asylum Law students in preparation for visits from experts in connection with our “Children & International Criminal Justice” conference this week? How to link the work of the International Criminal Court to our current study of how nation-states comply (or fail to comply) with obligations they assumed by ratifying the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and/or its 1967 Protocol?

raadI might have focused on the refugee as a stakeholder in the work of the Court, an important topic given that many of the world’s 50-plus million forced migrants have fled armed violence or its consequences.

Instead, I turned to a specific legal problem: the cases of 3 Congolese nationals permitted to enter the Netherlands solely to testify for the defense in the Katanga and Ngudjolo trial. When that role came to an end, they sought asylum rather than return to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Earlier this year, they were returned following a judgment against one of them issued by the Raad van State, the Netherlands’ Council of State.

One problem: I could only find that judgment in Dutch (above).

Problem solved: I ran it through Google Translate and came up with an English version of The Alien and the Secretary of State that, with a bit of tweaking worked well as an English-language version, the basis for a great discussion. In case it’s of use others, that  version, along with a couple contemporary news releases, is available here.

Child Rights Convention turns 25: Papers sought for November Leiden conference

ul_logoWith the Convention on the Rights of Children reaching its quarter-century mark on November 20 of this year, the Department of Child Law of the Netherlands’ Leiden University is preparing to host a conference looking back and forward at the global state of children’s rights. Entitled “25 Years CRC,” it will be held November 17 to 19, 2014, at the university’s Leiden campus.

Organizers from several universities welcome paper proposals for the conference, from “international academics and professionals working in the field of children’s rights and related fields,” on subjects pertaining to conference sessions.

On November 18, the conference will address the theme “The implications of the CRC after 25 years.” Organizing this day’s sessions will be: Ton Liefaard and Mariëlle Bruning, Leiden University; Jaap E. Doek, former Chair of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child; Jacqui Gallinetti, Head of Research at Plan International; Ursula Kilkelly, University College Cork, Ireland; and Wouter Vandenhole, University of Antwerp, Belgium. Breakout session topics will address:

► Embedding the CRC at the domestic level – the jurisprudential ‘value added’
► Embedding children’s rights as a vehicle for tertiary and post school studies
► Interdisciplinarity and children’s rights
► Monitoring children’s rights – international and domestic mechanisms
► Visibility of children – children’s participation and enforcement of their rights
► Juvenile justice

On November 19, discussion will turn to the theme “New frontiers of children’s rights for the future.” Organizing this day’s sessions will be: Julia Sloth-Nielsen and Simone van der Hof, Leiden University; Karin Arts, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague; Karl Hanson, Institut Universitaire Kurt Bösch, Sion, Switzerland; Andrew Mawson, Chief of child protection, UNICEF Office of Research Innocenti; Gary Melton, Clemson University, South Carolina; and Benyam Mezmur, Chair of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and Vice-chair of U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child. Breakout session topics will include:

► Child protection systems
► Children and the global development agenda
► Children’s rights and the digital era
► Research for 2040
► The interrelationship between children’s rights and the broader human rights system
► Children’s rights and migration

Descriptions of each session, as well as registration fees and other details, are available in the full call for papers here. (Full conference website is here.) Abstracts of no more than 300 words are due no later than April 1, 2014.

Children’s rights: Focus of 2d annual summer course @ Leiden Law School

headerright“Frontiers of Children’s Rights” is the title of this year’s 2d annual summer course on international children’s rights, to be held July 7 to 11, 2014, in the Dutch cities of Leiden and The Hague. Sponsoring the course are Leiden Law School and its Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies. (Prior post.)

Organizers again this year are 2 Leiden Law experts: Dr. Ton Liefaard, who holds the UNICEF chair, and Dr. Julia Sloth-Nielsen, Professor of Children’s Rights in the Developing World. Other academics and practitioners in the field will round out the faculty for the week-long program, which will include a visit to the International Criminal Court. (By way of example, last year’s full program is here.)

Deadline for application is May 1. Details on the course, fees, and scholarship opportunities here.

On NGOs’ amicus curiae efforts to friend state-centric international tribunals

arcsunShould nongovernmental organizations be friends of intergovernmental courts? Put another way, is there a role for the NGO amicus curiae in tribunal that states have set up to deal with international disputes?

These are questions that Western Ontario Law Professor Anna Dolidze explores these questions in her just-published, information-filled American Society of International Law Insight, “The Arctic Sunrise and NGOs in International Judicial Proceedings.”

Dolidze’s news hook is The “Arctic Sunrise” Case (Kingdom of the Netherlands v. Russian Federation), filed in late November with the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. At issue was the seizure of Arctic Sunrise, Dutch-flagged ship owned by Greenpeace International, an NGO that, in its own words, “acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace.” During a protest at the offshore oil rig Prirazlomnaya, Russia had seized the boat and detained its crew members on criminal charges. (credit for 2007 photo of the ship) They were not released till very recently.

While the matter was pending, Russia declined to appear before the law of the sea tribunal – though it did object to a Greenpeace petition to file an amicus brief due, Dolidze reports, “to the ‘non-governmental nature’ of the submitting organization.” The tribunal thus kept the brief out of the case file, even though its members and the parties were able to review the document. Dolidze’s Insight underscores the tension in this resolution, given Russia’s nonappearance, on the one hand, and the direct effect of the dispute on Greenpeace, on the other hand.

The Insight tracks other tribunals’ varied treatment of such petitions. Among the most restrictive is the International Court of Justice, another tribunal in which only states may litigate contentious cases; Dolidze cites ICJ Practice Direction XII, which handles amicus briefs much as ITLOS did in Arctic Sunrise. Among the most expansive is the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ rule 41, which accepts such briefs within a specified timeline. Others – the European Court of Human Rights, the World Trade Organization dispute mechanisms, and the International Criminal Court – are in between. In sum, Dolidze writes:

‘Procedures allowing NGO amicus curiae briefs are currently more a norm than an exception in international judicial proceedings.’

Not all agree this is a good thing. Dolidze points to a 2007 article in which Melbourne Law Professor Robin Eckersley favored NGO participation for its “potential of creating a transnational space for dialogue.” But she also  quotes Arizona State Law Professor Daniel Bodansky’s 1999 caution that amicus litigation by nongovernmental organizations ought not to be conflated with public participation. Dolidze sees in the Greenpeace matter a timely opportunity to revive this debate.

Netherlands’ highest court finds Dutch state liable in 1995 Srebrenica massacre

sctIn 2 judgments issued today, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled that the Dutch state, whose troops withdrew from the U.N.-designated “safe area” of Srebrenica amid a Bosnian Serb attack, is liable for the deaths of 3 men whom the retreating troops left behind. The 3 victims were among thousands of Muslim boys and men massacred at Srebrenica in mid-July 1995. (Prior posts on Srebrenica here and here.)

As stated in the court’s English-language summary of the judgments:

‘The men had sought refuge in the compound of the Dutch battalion (Dutchbat). Dutchbat decided not to evacuate them along with the battalion and instead sent them away from the compound on 13 July 1995. Outside the compound they were murdered by the Bosnian-Serb army or related paramilitary groups.’

The questions before the high court were whether the Dutch battalion’s actions could be attributed to the Dutch state, and if so, did the battalion act wrongfully? The court answered “Yes” to both. (credit for photo of Supreme Court building at The Hague) In so doing, it exercised a notably searching scrutiny of troop conduct; in the words of the court’s summary:

‘[J]udicial restraint in the review of Dutchbat’s conduct, as advocated by the State, would mean that there would be virtually no scope for the courts to assess the conduct of a troop contingent in the context of a peace mission. According to the Supreme Court, this is unacceptable. However, a court that assesses the conduct of a troop contingent in retrospect must make allowance for the fact the decisions in question were taken under great pressure in a war situation.’

The court’s findings pave the way for damages claims by survivors.

“Art of Peace Making”: September conference in Utrecht & The Hague

peace - Copy“The Art of Peace Making: Lessons Learned from Peace Treaties” is the name of an upcoming Netherlands conference marking 2 big international law anniversaries, the centennial of the Peace Palace and the tricentennial of the Peace of Utrecht. Cosponsors are the Carnegie Foundation, the University of Leiden, and the University of Utrecht; sessions will be held on September 19 at Utrecht and on September 20 at the Peace Palace Academy Hall in The Hague.

Examined in addition to the 1713 Peace of Utrecht – a set of treaties that helped bring  an end to protracted wars in Europe – will be the 1919 Versailles Treaty that ended World War I, the 1995 Dayton Accords related to the former Yugoslavia, and the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that led eventually to the establishment of the independent state of South Sudan. The effects of the absence of peace treaties also will be discussed.

Speakers, from Europe and Australia, will include: Martii Koskenniemi of the University of Helsinki; Jaap de Hoop Scheffer of peaceLeiden University, formerly the Secretary-General of NATO; and Sarah Nouwen of Cambridge University. Many other experts will contribute perspectives, not only from law, but also from fields such as history and international relations.

Full program, other details, and registration available here.

At renovated Rijksmuseum, an account of centuries of Dutch globalization

shipsAMSTERDAM – Newly reopened following a 10-year renovation, the Rijksmuseum now tells tales of globalization. It is thus far different and more provocative than the art-house of old.

A gallery named “The Netherlands Overseas” confronts visitors with the reach of the Dutch, who established the multinational Dutch East India Co. in 1602 and ranged widely for centuries thereafter. Adorning the gallery’s walls are portraits of Dutch ambassadors. One rides horses with a pasha in Persia. Another poses in Jakarta with his half-Japanese wife. In showcases below, an array of artifacts – the blue and white porcelain renowned in China and Delft alike, woolen caps worn by Dutch whalers, silverware that once held coffee, tobacco, spices, and spirits.

Throughout the museum Java and Molucca, India and Australia, Suriname and Brazil, North and West Africa, even Norway and Sweden, are invoked. Colonization is evident, not the least in the depictions of servants, some named, some not, beside the Lowlands envoys. Also present is international law, with major treaties marked by medals and epic paintings. Marked by the rijks_camp2013roomful of model ships above, moreover, is the warfare once conducted in the name of commerce and colonialism.

It is in the 20th C. gallery atop the museum that visitors encounter another sobering aspect of world events. The striped jacket at right once was worn by Isabel Wachenheimer, a 16-year-old German whose Jewish family had sought refuge in Rotterdam from the Nazis. After the Netherlands was occupied, all  were deported to Auschwitz, where her parents perished. She would be liberated at Mauthausen, a concentration camp in Austria where a fifth of the inmates were teenagers. Isabel, who became a U.S. citizen in the ’60s, kept her Mauthausen jacket. It’s described in museumspeak as “Germany, after 1938. Rags printed with blue ink, plastic.”

Children’s rights “summer” course @ Leiden Law School, the Netherlands

headerrightPleased to see (hat tip) news of a 4-day “summer” course on international children’s rights – although it’ll take place too late for most U.S. law students.

Children’s Rights at Cross-Roads is the title of the Grotius Centre course, to be offered August 26 to 30, 2013, in the Netherlands. Coordinators are Dr. Ton Liefaard, UNICEF Professor of Children’s Rights at Leiden Law School, and Dr. Julia Sloth-Nielsen, Law Dean at South Africa’s University of the Western-Cape. They’ll be joined by faculty from institutions in Britain, Denmark, Ireland, and the Netherlands. Organizers write:

‘Children’s Rights at Cross-roads provides a comprehensive children’s rights course, which takes a close look at contemporary children’s rights issues from a legal perspective accompanied by reflections from other academic disciplines, legal systems, local perceptions and realities.’

In addition to coursework, students will visit a youth institution and the International Criminal Court.

Details and registration (deadline is July 1) here.

US flunks in UN report card on children

unicefBelow the surface of many U.S. stories about the plight of the world’s children, the careful reader sees a subtext – a suggestion that it is over there, and not here, that awful things happen to children. The careful reader knows this isn’t so, that, sadly, U.S. children suffer, too. Yet even the careful reader might be surprised at a new UNICEF report that gives the United States abysmal marks on children’s welfare.

As depicted in a table on page 2, Child well-being in rich countries: A comparative overview, released Wednesday by UNICEF’s Office of Research, ranked the United States 26th out of 29 industrialized countries evaluated. The United States joined Romania as the only countries placing in the bottom third on every metric: material well-being, health & safety; education; behaviors & risks; and housing & environment.  (Ireland was the only English-speaking country to place in the upper third of the list, which ranked the Netherlands 1st.)

The United States ranked dead last on obesity – nearly 30% of its children, close to 10 points higher than any other country – though it had the lowest rate of alcohol abuse. The United States had the 3d worst homicide rate for children, and was 1 of only 4 countries where child homicides exceeded 4 per 100,000. In other countries, that number is much lower, between 0 and 2.5.

The report singled out the United States’ low ranking as evidence that “there does not appear to be a strong relationship between per capita GDP and overall child well-being.” (p. 3) In other words: It is not how much wealth a country has, but on whose behalf a country chooses to allocate that wealth.