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The new print edition of the American Journal of International Law includes my essay on last February’s International Court of Justice decision respecting the Chagos islands. This post describes that publication and takes note of developments since it went to press.

My essay, “International Decisions: Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965,” 113 AJIL 784 (2019), may be accessed at this SSRN link or at the AJIL website.

The essay outlines the ICJ advisory opinion, which is available here. It explains that the Chagos Archipelago, a group of islands located in the Indian Ocean, was considered part of Mauritius when both formed a British colony. But after Mauritius won independence in the mid-1960s, the United Kingdom kept the archipelago, naming it the British Indian Ocean Territory, then forcibly removed its inhabitants and leased it for a US military base, CNIC Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia, that is still there today. The legality and effects of these actions lay at the heart of the ICJ’s advisory proceedings, instituted following a request by the United Nations General Assembly.

The abstract elaborates:

“Decolonization and its quite valid discontents lay at the center of the recent International Court of Justice advisory opinion regarding the territory and populations of the Chagos Archipelago, located in the Indian Ocean. Answering questions posed by the UN General Assembly, the concluded that because these islands were detached from Mauritius as a condition of independence, the decolonization of Mauritius had not been completed in accordance with international law. The Court further ruled unlawful the United Kingdom’s continued administration of the Chagos Archipelago and called upon all UN member states to aid completion of the decolonization process. As detailed in this essay, the advisory opinion contained significant pronouncements on decolonization, on the right of all peoples to self-determination, and on the formation of customary rules respecting both.”

Notably, all on the ICJ bench agreed with the result except for the U.S. judge, Joan E. Donoghue, who maintained that the court ought not to have exercised its discretion to consider the issue on the merits.

Since 2017, for the 1st time in the court’s history, there has been no ICJ judge from the United Kingdom. As my essay indicates, UK officials spoke out against the court’s advisory opinion, framing it as a bilateral dispute over sovereignty, and stating that Britain would not “cede sovereignty to Mauritius” until Britain determined the archipelago “is no longer required for defence purposes.”

After the essay went to press, the United Kingdom reiterated that position in a 30 September 2019 letter to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, requesting that it be circulated to the General Assembly.

Two weeks earlier, Pope Francis had weighed in, on behalf of the Chagossians. In his words:

“Not all things that are right for humanity are right for our pocket, but international institutions must be obeyed.”

Maintaining the current British policy is the Tory government led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Its policy stands in contrast with that of Labour, the Tories’ principal rival; as the Guardian reported on Friday:

“Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to renounce British sovereignty of the remote Chagos Islands and respect a UN vote calling for the archipelago to be handed back to Mauritius.”

In short, the immediate fate of the islands may depend – not unlike Brexit – on the Britain’s next general election, set for 12 December.

On this, the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations has just published “Child Rights, Conflict, and International Criminal Justice,” my 1st contribution to the UN Audiovisual Library of International Law. (See also here.)

The 41-minute lecture’s available in video (here) and audio formats (SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts).

After noting the particular harms that children endure in armed conflict and similar violence, the 8 November 2019 lecture proceeds to trace the developments in child rights that led to adoption, on 20 November 1989, of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Next, it describes parallel developments in two other key legal fields, international humanitarian law and international criminal law. After looking at relevant provisions of the Child Rights Convention and other instruments – in particular, the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court – the lecture concludes by evaluating efforts to ensure the rights of the child by preventing and punishing international crimes against and affecting children.

Also provided is a list of related materials on which the lecture relies.

My thanks to all at the Codification Division of the UN Office of Legal Affairs for the honor of commemorating the treaty, about which my lecture observed:

“As for the 1989 Child Rights Convention itself – today it has 196 parties, including the Holy See, the State of Palestine, and every UN member state except the United States of America. Because of its nearly universal acceptance, as well as its comprehensive contents, the Convention has served for the last thirty years as the pre-eminent global charter on child rights and protection.”

“For those of us who enjoyed the rare privilege of clerking for Justice John Paul Stevens … there was only one Boss. And it was not Bruce Springsteen.”

WASHINGTON – So begins “Justice John Paul Stevens leaves behind a rich legacy that we cannot forget,” the op-ed I published last week in the Washington Post. It offers personal and professional reflections on the Supreme Court Justice, for whom I served as a law clerk in OT’88.

He died last Tuesday, just months shy of his 100th birthday, after serving on the Court for an extraordinary 3-1/2 decades, from 1975 to 2010.

I’d written as well in the past about aspects of his career:

John Paul Stevens, Originalist,” 106 Northwestern University Law Review 743 (2012)

John Paul Stevens and Equally Impartial Government,” 43 University of California Davis Law Review 885 (2010)

John Paul Stevens, Human Rights Judge,” 74 Fordham Law Review 1569 (2006)

John Paul Stevens and the American Century” (SCOTUSblog, April 20, 2010)

Three More Anecdotes from Clerks” (Blog of Legal Times, April 11, 2010)

Steeped in Tradition” (Blog of Legal Times, April 9, 2010)

Memorial services for Justice Stevens begin this morning, with a ceremony in the Court’s marble rotunda, where he will lie in repose till midnight, with interment at Arlington National Cemetery tomorrow.

It’s an honor to be in attendance at these historic events.

(At top, 2007 AP photo (credit); below, poster for 2009 symposium I organized while a law professor at the University of California-Davis

Delighted to be back in Washington for the 113th Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law, and to have the honor of leading a roundtable aimed at exploring contemporary security governance.

Entitled Challenges and Prospects for International Peace and Security: UN Peacekeeping, NATO, and the UDHR at 70, the roundtable will take place 9-10:30 a.m. this Thursday, March 28. Participants (including some names different from ASIL’s printed program) are:

  • Michael W. Doyle, University Professor at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs
  • Steven Hill, Legal Adviser and Director of the Office of Legal Affairs at NATO Headquarters in Brussels
  • Bruce Oswald, Professor and Director of the Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law in the Melbourne Law School at the University of Melbourne; and
  • Rita Siemion, International Legal Counsel at Human Rights First

After noting that UN Peacekeeping, NATO, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights all are marking their 70th anniversaries, the roundtable description asks:

“Have they failed to deliver on their original promise or have they adapted effectively to contemporary global realities? Is their future dependent on the continuation of Western hegemony and unity? Can they adapt to the changing nature of security threats, rising powers and a waning commitment to multilateralism? Are they instruments for peace, security and the promotion of international law? What challenges and opportunities lie ahead?”

Thanks to Jesse Clarke, member of the annual meeting planning committee and the Assistant Secretary, Office of International Law, International Division, in the Department of the Australia Attorney-General, for organizing what promises to be a stimulating discussion.

More on annual meeting participation by my colleagues from the University of Georgia School of Law Dean Rusk International Law Center, and me, here.

This International Women’s Day, Friday, March 8, 2019, experts will gather here in Athens for a conference entitled “The International Criminal Court and the Community of Nations.”  Featured will be panels on the ICC’s relation to various constituent communities, as well as a video message from the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.

Principal sponsors of this University of Georgia School of Law conference are the Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law and the Dean Rusk International Law Center, which I am honored to serve as a Faculty Co-Director. I’m pleased to serve as faculty adviser for this conference, given my ongoing role as Special Adviser to Prosecutor Bensouda on Children in & affected by Armed Conflict, and also to be joined at this conference by her Special Adviser on Crimes Against Humanity, Leila Nadya Sadat.

The conference concept note begins with a quote from the Preamble of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, whose Hague headquarters of which are depicted above. In it, states parties “[r]esolved to guarantee lasting respect for and the enforcement of international justice.” The concept note continues:

“Across the globe, resurgent nationalisms place stress on institutions designed to promote human and collective security through international cooperation. Critiques – even, at times, outright denunciations – compel such institutions to re-examine, in a process that poses challenges yet also portends opportunities for renewal. The dynamic surely affects the International Criminal Court. In the last several months alone, states as varied as Burundi, the Philippines, and the United States have levied harsh criticism against this twenty-year-old justice institution, established in recognition that “children, women and men have been victims of unimaginable atrocities” that “threaten the peace, security and well-being of the world.” In the same time frame, the ICC Prosecutor welcomed a multistate referral of alleged crimes in Venezuela and launched a preliminary examination into alleged forced deportation in Myanmar, and the Court as a whole continued complementary efforts to strengthen national and regional prevention and accountability. It did so within legal, geopolitical, and budgetary constraints imposed by a trio of stakeholder communities.

“Experts from academia and the practice will cast a critical eye on ‘The International Criminal Court and the Community of Nations’; that is, on the place of the ICC vis-à-vis communities of states parties, nonparty states, and nonstate stakeholders, as well as inherited communities. Presentations will be published in the Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law.”

Here’s the schedule:

8:45-9:00 Welcome

Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge University of Georgia School of Law

9:00-10:30  Community of States Parties

Diane Desierto University of Notre Dame Keogh School of Global Affairs ǀ The Philippines and the International Criminal Court: Withdrawal from the Rome Statute and the War on Drugs

Mark Kersten Wayamo Foundation, University of Toronto Munk School of Global Affairs ǀ On the Road to Compromise? African States and the International Criminal Court

Naomi Roht-Arriaza University of California Hastings College of the Law ǀ The Role of the Court in Latin America

Leila Nadya Sadat Washington University School of Law ǀ States Parties and the Shifting Sands of the Court’s Jurisprudence

David Tolbert Duke University Sanford School of Policy ǀ A Look Back, Learning from the Experiences of the Ad Hoc Tribunals: What Lessons for the ICC?

Moderator ǀ Kathleen A. Doty University of Georgia School of Law

11:00-12:30  Community of Nonstate Stakeholders

Tess Davis Antiquities Coalition ǀ Cultural Heritage as an International Criminal Court Stakeholder

Christopher Engels Commission for International Justice & Accountability ǀ Private Investigations, Public Partnerships—Supporting International Criminal Prosecutions through Nongovernmental Organizations

Megan A. Fairlie Florida International University School of Law ǀ The International Criminal Court and the Community of Nonstate Stakeholders: Defense Issues

Valerie Oosterveld University of Western Ontario Faculty of Law ǀ Victims of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence as Stakeholders in the International Criminal Court: An Assessment

Peter Robinson Defense Counsel before International Criminal Court ǀ How the Defense Can Support the ICC

Moderator ǀ Melissa J. Durkee University of Georgia School of Law 

1:45-2:00  Video Remarks

Fatou Bensouda International Criminal Court Prosecutor

2:00-2:35  Inherited Communities

Diane Marie Amann University of Georgia School of Law ǀ What Would Maître Chalufour Say Today?

Mark A. Drumbl Washington & Lee University School of Law ǀ What Would Justice Pal Say Today?

2:45-3:45  Community of Nonparty States

Chimène Keitner University of California Hastings College of the Law ǀ International Institutions and the “Ideology of Patriotism”

Jane E. Stromseth Georgetown University Law Center ǀ The United States and the ICC: Why John Bolton’s Attack on the ICC Is Not in U.S. Interests

Saira Mohamed University of California Berkeley School of Law ǀ States Parties, Non-States Parties, and the Idea of International Community

Moderator ǀ Harlan G. Cohen University of Georgia School of Law

3:50-4:00  Closing Remarks

Morgan Renee Thomas Editor-in-Chief, Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law

Registration, for CLE credit, and other details here. Additional cosponsors include the International Law Society, Georgia Law’s chapter of the the International Law Students Association, along with SPIA, the University of Georgia School of Public & International Affairs.
(Cross-posted from Exchange of Notes)

Coomee Rustom Strooker-Dantra, 1937 (credit)

I’m very pleased to have posted a draft of my most recent paper, Glimpses of Women at the Tokyo Tribunal, online. The work arises out of my ongoing scholarly research into the roles that women and others played in the post-World War II international criminal trials. (prior posts) This research focuses primarily on trials at Nuremberg rather than at Tokyo; however, as this essay indicates, the issues and even the personnel in the two forums overlapped considerably.

Many women are brought to the fore in Glimpses; for example: 5 American lawyers, Virginia Bowman, Lucille Brunner, Eleanor Jackson, Helen Grigware Lambert, Grace Kanode Llewellyn, and Bettie Renner; 1 Dutch lawyer, Coomee Rustom Strooker-Dantra, who had been born in what is now Myanmar; and 1 American, memoir-writer Elaine B. Fischel, who assisted defense counsel but did not herself  become a lawyer until after her Tokyo service.

From left, Eleanor Jackson, Virginia Bowman, Grace Kanode Llewellyn, Bettie Renner, and Lucille Brunner, in Los Angeles Times, 15 April 1946 (credit)

Other women also figure – including some who have been introduced into the Tokyo narrative through a documentary, a feature film, and a miniseries, each analyzed in the essay.

Intended as a chapter in a forthcoming essay collection marking the 70th anniversary of the Tokyo Trial judgment, this draft manuscript forms part of the Dean Rusk International Law Center Research Paper Series at SSRN. It may be found in numerous SSRN sites, including the International, Transnational and Comparative Criminal Law eJournal, of which I am the Editor-in-Chief. I was honored to have presented it during last November’s American Society of International Law Midyear Meeting Research Forum at UCLA Law.

Here’s the abstract:

Compared to its Nuremberg counterpart, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East has scarcely been visible in the seven decades since both tribunals’ inception. Recently the situation has changed, as publications of IMTFE documents have occurred alongside divers legal and historical writings, as well as two films and a miniseries. These new accounts give new visibility to the Tokyo Trial – or at least to the roles that men played at those trials. This essay identifies several of the women at Tokyo and explores roles they played there, with emphasis on lawyers and analysts for the prosecution and the defense. As was the case with my 2010 essay, “Portraits of Women at Nuremberg,” the discussion is preliminary, offering glimpses of the Tokyo women in an effort to encourage further research.

The full manuscript may be downloaded here.

Elaine B. Fischel with Tokyo defense counsel, 12 September 1946 (credit)


“‘Protecting Children’: A Welcome Addition to Efforts to Redress Wartime Harms,” an essay I published yesterday at Just Security, underscores connections among a number of recent initiatives related to children and armed conflict.

The essay welcomes Protecting Children in Armed Conflict (Hart Publishing 2018), the 600-page report of the 2017 Inquiry on Protecting Children in Armed Conflict spearheaded by Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister and current UN Special Envoy for Global Education. (I served on the Inquiry’s Advisory Panel.)

Leading a team of researchers was Shaheed Fatima QC, a barrister at London’s Blackstone Chambers, who spoke on this work at the International Law Weekend panel last month. (prior post here) My Just Security essay offers a detailed description and favorable critique of this research, noting the work’s connections with what the UN Security Council terms the “Six Grave Violations against Children in Armed Conflict.”

The essay further draws links between this work and the 2016 International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor Policy on Children, which I had the honor of helping to prepare in my ongoing service as ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s Special Adviser on Children in & affected by Armed Conflict. (prior post here) The essay points to “the complementary potential of these and other initiatives,” and concludes:

Together, they may advance two essential goals: first, to articulate norms prohibiting wartime harms against children; and second, to secure redress for any such harms that occur.

My Just Security essay is here. It is part of a miniforum which began with a post last week jointly authored by Fatima and Brown, available here. The Just Security series will continue with forthcoming posts by Sarah Knuckey (Columbia Law), Alex Moorehead (Columbia Law), and Alex Whiting (Harvard Law).