sovereignty

What an honor to present my work in progress, “Intersectional Sovereignties: Dr. Aline Chalufour, Woman at Nuremberg – and at Paris, Ottawa, and Dalat” last week in “Global History and International Law”, a months-long seminar under way online.

Organizer of this superb scholarly offering is Dr. Anne-Sophie Schoepfel of the Institut d’études politiques de Paris, better known as SciencesPo. Her affiliation struck me as serendipitous, given that the subject of my paper was a graduate of SciencesPo. Born in 1899, Chalufour was also the 6th woman ever to earn a Ph.D. in international law from the University of Paris. In 1945-1946, she was the only woman lawyer on the French team that joined U.S., British, and Soviet allies in prosecuting vanquished Nazi leaders at Nuremberg.

Chalufour is one of the women on whom I’m focusing in my book-length study of women’s roles at that first Nuremberg trial, before the International Military Tribunal. But the richness of her experiences inspired this separate article.

Among the other highlights in Chalufour’s 90-year life: practice before the Paris Bar; activism in national and international feminist groups; teaching at colonial schools in what’s now Vietnam; serving de Gaulle’s Fighting French as a propagandist in Canada; gathering evidence about war crimes from liberated ex-detainees; taking part as the only French prosecutor in Britain’s first trial on Ravensbrück, a Nazi concentration camp for women; and, starting a few years after Nuremberg, service as a national judge.

My paper considers these episodes in light of of 3 theorizations: 1st, the shared sovereignty of the post-World War periods; 2d, sovereignty dynamics in colonial and imperial sites; and 3d, sovereignties of the person, imagined and corporeal. The paper then examines interrelations among these 3.

Serving as my discussant at last Wednesday’s session was Dr. George Giannakopoulos of King’s College London and NYU London. Numerous other participants offered valuable comments.

This was the 5th session in the seminar, which is slated to run through June 24 and has attracted law and history scholars from Asia and Latin America as well as Europe and North America. Next up, at 3 pm EDT this Wednesday, May 20, are 2 papers within the umbrella theme “Imperial Origins of the World Order”; details here.

What’s more, in due course Dr. Schoepfel and her SciencesPo colleagues are posting edited podcasts of each session. (Update: My own presentation is available at the seminar website and on YouTube.)

Already available at the seminar’s website and its YouTube channel:

  • “Epistemic Communities in Exile: Coining ‘Crimes against Humanity’ at London, 1940-45” by Dr. Kerstin von Lingen of the University of Vienna, Austria and author of a new journal article on this subject, as well as ‘Crimes against Humanity’. Eine Ideengeschichte der Zivilisierung von Kriegsgewalt 1864-1945 (Paderborn 2018), a monograph soon to be available in English. Discussants were Dr. Barak Kushner of the University of Cambridge, England, and Dr. Sabina Ferhadbegović of Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena, Germany.
  • “Genocide in Historical Perspective. The Language of Trangression” by Dr. Dirk Moses, of the University of Sydney, Australia, and author of The Problems of Genocide. Permanent Security and the Language of Transgression (forthcoming Cambridge University Press). Discussant was Dr. Charles Maier of Harvard University.
  • “The Nuremberg Moment. International Trial, American Lawyers and the Racial Question” by Dr. Guillaume Mouralis of Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin, and author of Le Moment Nuremberg. Le procès international, les lawyers et la question raciale (Presses de Sciences Po 2019). Discussant was Dr. Elizabeth Borgwardt of Washington University in St. Louis.

The full list of seminar participants is here; full schedule and registration information, here.

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.