treaties & custom

IWC latest logo 210x64Some lawmakers and lobbyists in Japan displayed their distaste for whaling bans this week with a whale-meat eat-in in Tokyo. The Japan Daily Press reported:

‘In an act of defiance against a recent ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) halting the nation’s whale hunts, pro-whaling legislators and lobby group gathered on Tuesday to eat whale meat while pledging to continue what they call one of the country’s centuries-old traditions.’

Stoking these opponents’ appetite was the March 31 judgment in Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand intervening). (Prior posts here and here.) The Hague-based court held 12-to-4 that Japan had violated the 1946 International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling by granting permits to harvest 3 species of whales areasin an area of the seas known as the Southern Ocean Sanctuary. (In yellow on map at right; see p. 3 here.) Japan asserted that a scientific research exception to the Convention’s whaling ban justified the hunts. But a majority of the ICJ disagreed, in a ruling that Rutgers Professor Cymie Payne analyzed in a recent ASIL Insight. (credit for above logo of the International Whaling Commission, which monitors compliance with the Convention)

Yesterday, the Japan Times reported, Japan’s government announced that it would still engage in what it calls research whaling, albeit at a reduced rate and in regions other than the area of concern to the ICJ case. The report indicated that the decision to go forward marked a victory for Japan’s Fisheries Ministry and a defeat for its Foreign Ministry.

Particularly vocal among the opponents of the ICJ’s ruling has been the man who’s served as Fisheries Minister since last December: Yoshimasa Hayashi, a Harvard Kennedy School graduate. Hayashi spoke at the Tokyo banquet on Tuesday. And in a February interview with Japan Times, he explained his position:

‘Japan is an island nation surrounded by the sea, so taking some good protein from the ocean is very important. For food security, I think it’s very important … We have never said everybody should eat whale, but we have a long tradition and culture of whaling. So why don’t we at least agree to disagree? We have this culture and you don’t have that culture.’

Payne’s Insight agreed that, notwithstanding the March 31 issuance of the ICJ’s opinion, resolution of “fundamental cultural conflict[s]” awaits another day.

bbIt’s my great pleasure to announce the publication of the American Society of International Law Benchbook on International Law (2014). This represents the culmination of several years of hard work by 4 dozen contributors, international law scholars and practitioners alike. We’ve benefited greatly from advice of the ASIL Judicial Advisory Board, composed of one member from each federal circuit and several state supreme courts, chaired by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It has been an honor to serve as the Benchbook‘s Editor-in-Chief.

As detailed in the Preface, the Benchbook is intended as an aid to judges and litigants when foreign or international law (including treaties and customary norms) forms a part of the case before them.

It will be demonstrated at the joint meeting of ASIL and the International Law Association this week in Washington, D.C. — to be precise, as part of ASIL’s Annual General Meeting, which begins at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, April 10, in Polaris Room A/B at the Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center, on Pennsylvania Avenue a few blocks from the White House. (Full meeting program here.) We will give a brief demonstration and extend heartfelt thanks to all who contributed; all are welcome to attend.

The Benchbook appears online here. Readers will find the Preface and, by clicking the Table of Contents tab, the contents of this 2014 edition. Included are our dedication to the memory of David J. Bederman, followed by these units:

► Primer (International Law Defined; Sources and Evidence of International Law; Uses of International Law in U.S. Courts)

► Preliminaries (Jurisdiction; Immunities and Other Preliminary Considerations; Discovery and Other Procedures)

► Specific Topics (International Arbitration; International Law Pertaining to Families and Children; International Sale of Goods; International Air Transportation; Human Rights, comprising Alien Tort Statute, Torture Victim Protection Act, Human Trafficking, and Non-refoulement or Nonreturn; Criminal Justice; and Environment)

► Resources (Judicial Interpretation of International or Foreign Instruments; Research Resources)

Clicking on any of the above chapters will give you the pdf version of that segment of the Benchbook. If you would like to access and download the 356-page Benchbook as a whole, you may do so here.

In order to make the volume as user-friendly as possible (until our eventual transfer to html with hypertexting), we have cross-referenced throughout all chapters, and further provided several means to locate information:

Summary Table of Contents

Detailed Table of Contents

Tables of Treaties, Cases, Laws, and Scholarly Writings, along with a Keyword Index

You will see toward the end that the Benchbook includes a list with short biographies of each contributor. (The book benefited as well from the help of my colleagues and students at the University of Georgia School of Law  – Kaitlin M. Ball, but also Kent Barnett, Harlan Cohen, Erika Furlong, and the super staff at the Alexander King Campbell Law Library.)

The book also includes acknowledgments. These cannot begin to express our deep thanks to all of you for ASIL members’ support of this multiyear project. Going forward, we hope to keep the Benchbook current with periodic updating, and also to make it a hands-on training tool for judges and their staffs. We welcome members’ help in those endeavors.

AAA_howethom_47898Suppose it’s like aiming at fish in a barrel to name the many flaws in The Monuments Men, now playing in cinemas. There’s the failed Oceans 1944 sense of it – it’s a buddy movie with no true friends. There’s the cinematography that looks like a green-screen loop of some field in the San Fernando Valley, accented by some surprisingly flat Paris street scenes. There’s the absence of any love interest; indeed, so little love is lavished on the artworks recovered by the “Men” (with the essential help of one woman) that the viewer is left wondering what the fuss was about.

This lawyer feels compelled to focus on a different flaw, on how the film squandered an opportunity to raise awareness about the laws of cultural heritage and armed conflict.

At one point in “Monuments,” the leader of the American search team questions a German colonel. Captured while destroying medieval and Renaissance masterpieces that the Nazis had seized from churches, private collections, and public museums, this POW refuses to talk: “I have done nothing wrong, and pursuant to the Geneva Convention, soon I will be repatriated.” The American’s oh-no-you-won’t retort turns on the colonel’s earlier actions at a concentration camp. It is an odd turn, given the film’s ostensible concern with looted art.

Well before World War II, international injunctions against such destruction already were in place. Armies were bound to distinguish between combatants and civilians, and only permitted to attack the person and property of the former. Article 23(g) of the Regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land, annexed to the 1899 Hague Convention (II) with Respect to the Laws and Customs of War on Land and to its 1907 reiteration, deemed it

‘especially prohibited … [t]o destroy or seize the enemy’s property, unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war.’

Articles 25 and 28, dealing with attacks and pillage, reinforced this prohibition.

In short, the colonel’s actions respecting art were not just immoral. They were illegal, even then, a decade before the proscriptions were spelled out in detail via the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. Given the continued violations of such proscriptions – Syria and Mali jump to mind – one wishes the movie had stressed this fact.

(credit for 1946 photo of Belgian Lt. Raymond Lemaire and Capt. Edith Standen, U.S. Women’s Army Corps (neither mentioned in the film), holding a portrait by Peter Paul Rubens, part of Smithsonian Institution online exhibit on the “Monuments” recoveries)

In its first-ever case involving investor-state arbitration, the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday ruled against the state. The state at bar was the Republic of Argentina, which had sought to defend the reversal below of a 2007 decision in which a 3-member arbitral panel awarded $185 million in damages. But in its decision in BG Group plc v. Republic of Argentina, the high court overturned the appellate decision.  A seven-member majority accepted the argument of petitioner, a British company that had suffered losses on a Buenos Aires investment as a result of emergency measures Argentina took during an early 2000s economic collapse. The private investor had sought arbitration without first fulfilling a requirement, found in Article 8(2)(a) of the 1990 Britain-Argentina BIT, the insiders’ shorthand for “bilateral investment treaty.” Arbitrators excused that nonfulfillment, and the Court majority deferred to the arbitrators. In so doing, it rejected the de novo review applied by the court below and urged by Argentina.

Iscot‘ve had the honor of following this case for SCOTUSblog, via a pre-argument preview, a post-argument recap, and, just posted, an opinion analysis. After summarizing the opinion for the Court by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the dissent by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and the concurrence in part by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the analysis views the decision as advancing a clear statement rule,

‘a rule that no less than a private party, a nation-state which wants to assure that courts rather than arbitrators have the last word on whether it consented to arbitration must say so explicitly.’

As for treaties that are explicit on this account, among them a number of BITs to which the United States is a party, the analysis, available in full here, concluded:

‘Whether in some future case the Supreme Court will enforce such express provisions remains an open question.’

carter_church12jan14This time 2 weeks ago, my family, neighbors, and I were in Plains, Georgia, where former President Jimmy Carter taught us Sunday school. Age 89 and still active around the world, Carter does this every Sunday that he’s home in the southern Georgia town where he was born and has lived most of his life. According to the schedule, another group of congregants sits with him at his Maranatha Baptist Church even as I write this post.

Our mid-January visit began with a 3-1/2-hour Saturday drive across a rainy state, then a lovely overnight and elegant breakfast at a majestic, circa-1892 hotel in Americus. By 8:30 Sunday we’d driven 10 miles west, to Plains, and were waiting in line as visitor-friendly Secret Service agents checked our bags and ushered us into the simple church. There Miss Jan, a retired schoolteacher, delivered a wry primer on the history of Plains and the Carter family.

Right at 10 the Carters arrived. The former First Lady, Rosalynn (“It’s pronounced Rose-lun,” Miss Jan had told us), sat in a pew.  The man who’d served as U.S. President from 1977-1981 stood at front. He wore a striped shirt and grey jacket and sported a bolo tie with a turquoise pendant. Carter asked where everyone was from. Georgia, of course. But also Alabama, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Washington, not to mention Canada, China, Ireland, and Palestine. At that last, Carter interjected,

‘We go there almost every year, and my heart goes out to all the Palestinian people.’

He talked at length about his 28th book, set to be released this March. The subject, he said, is

‘the horrible plight of women and girls around the world.’

As examples, he spoke of genital mutilation, enforced second-class status, lack of educational opportunities, child marriages, sex-selective abortions, female infanticide, and honor killings. Carter’s move to another topic was halted by one word from the audience: “Jimmy,” spoken with a distinct Plains accent. “Jimmy,” Rosalynn continued,

‘You left out what’s happening in our country.’

me_peanut12jan14The former President flashed the smile for which he’s famous – a smile once captured on campaign buttons, and the foremost feature of the statue at right, which stands along the road not far from the Maranatha church. Carter then elaborated on Western countries, citing the still-low percentages of women in positions of government and the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. He concluded his account of the global status of women with these words:

‘I think it’s the worst human rights abuse on earth right now, and I hope this book will bring attention to it.’

Carter then donned glasses and read the Bible passage for the week, an Old Testament account of the gratitude that Hannah, despite hard losses, showed to God. Carter mentioned his own loss that week, of “the best friend I had on earth, Robert Pastor.” Pastor, who died at age 66 from colon cancer, had, among other achievements, helped to secure the Senate’s 2/3 approval of the Panama Canal Treaty – “my hardest political battle,” Carter said. Just weeks earlier, the two had co-authored an op-ed suggesting how peace might be brought to Syria. Pastor, Carter told us, was

‘the wisest person on how to bring peace, on how to solve a complicated problem.’

Pastor’s legacy still in mind, Carter returned to Hannah’s story, urging us to give thanks, as Hannah did, for “another day of life,” for the “blessings of freedom,” for being “able to spread to people around us health and safety.”

The uplift and inspiration of his message lingered long after our journey home.

The course of the U.S. Supreme Court oral argument in an international arbitration case is evident in Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s comment toward the end of Monday’s hearing:

‘Your – your whole argument gives me intellectual whiplash.’

I put that comment into context in my SCOTUSblog post today, which also describes other exchanges between various Justices and the 3 lawyers who argued the matter – for the Republic of Argentina, for a British private investor, and for amicus the United States of America.

The case that’s nowdoll under submission, BG Group PLC v. Republic of Argentina, arises out of a dispute covered by the 1990 bilateral investment treaty between Britain and Argentina. Today’s post on “the matryoshka-doll complexities” of the case builds on my November SCOTUSblog argument preview, on which I posted here. (photo credit)

Animated-Flag-BelgiumThe global push to make the aggressive use of armed force a crime punishable by the International Criminal Court picked up another supporter this week.

Belgium deposited its ratification of the Kampala amendments to the ICC Statute on Tuesday, thus becoming the 12th ICC state party to support the amendments, which, as previously posted here, here, and here, define the crime and set out the paths by which persons suspected of responsibility for aggression may be called to account before the ICC.

Pursuant to the compromise reached at the 2010 ICC Review Conference in Kampala, Uganda, the amendments may not take effect before 2017, and then only after a further vote and the ratification by at least 30 states. Belgium’s joinder this week means the ratifications halfway point is near. Indeed, a tally of pledges made by other states both before and during this month’s annual meeting of the ICC Assembly of States Parties reveals that it is quite likely that the 30-ratification threshold will be reached well before 2017. (See my October post and the recent statements in the Crime of Aggression Twitter feed.)

usflagBut that was not the only crime-of-aggression news this month. Also at the Assembly meeting, just five days before Belgium deposited its joinder, the most vocal of ICC nonparty states weighed in: the United States’ top international criminal justice diplomat urged states not to make the crime of aggression punishable. That diplomat – Ambassador Stephen J. Rapp, head of the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice – concluded his November 21 address to the Assembly by stating:

‘Another challenge with which the international community needs to grapple involves the crime of aggression.’

He made clear that U.S. statements against the amendments, made just after the end of the Kampala conference, still held:

‘The United States continues to have many concerns about the amendments adopted in Kampala, including the risk of these amendments working at cross-purposes with efforts to prevent or punish genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes—which provide the very raison d’être for the Court.’

And he urged a rethinking of the endeavor:

‘The States Parties were wise to create breathing space by subjecting the Court’s jurisdiction to a decision to be taken after January 1, 2017. The international community should use that breathing space to ensure that efforts to ensure accountability for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes can be consolidated and that measures regarding the amendments requiring attention can be properly considered; …’

With that, Rapp concluded:

‘… and it is our view that States should not move forward with ratifications pending the resolution of such issues.’

His exhortation appears not to have moved some states, including some of the United States’ NATO partners – among them, Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Luxembourg, and Slovenia, which already have ratified, as well as Croatia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain, which reportedly are working toward ratification.

Rather quiet in this debate are 2 states parties that belong to NATO and also hold permanent seats at the U.N. Security Council. How Britain and France proceed remains to be seen.