By Sarah Reis
This is the second post in a series of posts over the next year about adjusting to my new position as a foreign and international law librarian. I started my position at the Pritzker Legal Research Center at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in February 2018.
At the start of this academic year, I took over as director of the International Team Project (ITP) program at Northwestern Law. In this program, students spend a semester studying the legal system, culture, and political system of another country and then travel to that country to conduct interviews with in-country contacts. Since the program started in 1999, students have conducted research in more than 40 countries.
During this initial first year of taking over this program, my goal is to provide a research guide and an in-class research presentation for each class. The countries of study differ from year to year and are typically not repeated in consecutive years, which is both a challenge and a great learning experience for a new FCIL librarian because it means that I need to quickly familiarize myself with researching the law of various foreign countries.
ITP courses are student driven: students are responsible for developing the syllabus with the approval of a faculty advisor, leading class discussions, setting up interviews with in-country contacts, and arranging travel. Generally, the law school offers one ITP course in the fall with travel occurring over winter break and four or five ITP courses in the spring with travel occurring over spring break.
Students in the fall ITP course will be traveling to Tanzania in a few weeks. Earlier this semester, I created a research guide on researching Tanzanian law and also visited their class to give a research presentation. This presentation provided the students with a basic introduction to international legal research as well as an overview of how to research the law of Tanzania and keep up with current events in that country. I customized the presentation to include hands-on exercises geared toward their research topics.
I have also been brainstorming methods to support the ITP classes beyond a research guide and in-class presentation. Students in an ITP class form small research groups of 3-4 students who work together on a research topic and write a paper together. I am eager to explore possible opportunities for students to publish these papers (as long as their interviewees give consent). Countries of study are selected in the spring prior to the academic year when the courses will be offered. The countries of study for the ITP courses being offered this academic year were set prior to my taking over this role, but I am looking forward to assisting students and faculty advisors with selecting countries and providing resources to help generate research topic ideas for next academic year’s course offerings.
So far, this role has been a helpful way for me to get to know students outside of the classroom and beyond the reference desk because approximately a hundred students participate in the program each year. I held a few trainings for the student team leaders earlier this year and frequently communicate with them on an ongoing basis about logistics pertaining to travel, curriculum, and finance. The program has also been a great way for me to get to know faculty members who I may not otherwise work with often because our library has a liaison system. Additionally, this role has provided me with the opportunity to work with other law school and university departments, including the Registrar, Office of Financial Aid, Alumni Relations, and the Office of Global Safety & Security.
Students in our five spring ITP classes will be traveling to Morocco, Switzerland, Iceland, South Africa, and Argentina. If other law schools have a similar program to this one or offer comparative law classes that require presentations or trainings by FCIL librarians on researching the law of particular foreign countries, I would love to be able to share materials, ideas, and exercises.
The Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Special Interest Section (FCIL-SIS) of AALL is seeking your leadership and vision!
Nominees are now being accepted for Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect and Secretary/Treasurer of the SIS. The position of Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect requires a three-year commitment, as Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect, Chair, and Immediate Past Chair, and will be expected to attend the AALL annual meeting the first two years. The position of Secretary/Treasurer requires a two-year commitment, and the holder of this office is expected to attend the AALL Annual Meeting both years. More information is available in the FCIL-SIS Bylaws.
Please consider putting yourself or one of our outstanding colleagues forward for these important positions. If nominating someone other than yourself, please communicate first with that person to ensure their interest in serving.
Nominations must be received by December 15, 2018. Results will be announced in the spring newsletter.
Please submit your nominations and any questions to:
Gabriela Femenia, Chair, FCIL-SIS Nominating Committee
Amy Flick, Member, FCIL-SIS Nominating Committee
Kurt Carroll, Member, FCIL-SIS Nominating Committee
We look forward to receiving your nominations!
By Evelyn Ma
This post attempts to consolidate blog posts relating to the recent establishment of the two new international commercial courts in China (CICC) aimed at facilitating resolution of disputes arising from China’s One Belt One Road or Belt and Road Initiative. The Supreme People’s Court of China’s “Provisions of the Supreme People’s Court on Several Issues Regarding the Establishment of the International Commercial Court” took effect on July 1, 2018. The Provisions set out the scope and operation of the two CICCs: one in Xian, and the other in Shenzhen. The CICC in Shenzhen will focus on “One Belt” disputes arising from infrastructural developments along the coastline of the maritime routes. The CICC in Xian will address “One Road” disputes arising from projects on land. The new courts will house mediation, arbitration and litigation under the same roof. They intend to deal primarily with “international commercial cases” where at least one party is a non-Chinese national or resident, or where the dispute has some minimal contact with a foreign country other than China.
For the legal framework creating the two CICC courts, see here.
For profiles of the judges, see here.
For observations on the functioning of the Expert Committee, see here.
In addition to 18 model (or “typical”) BRI infrastructure cases, the official website includes selections of summaries of additional “typical” arbitration cases involving a non-Chinese party. One can also search in the cases module of PKUlaw (ChinaLawInfo) for more comprehensive search results of arbitration cases involving a foreign party. However, most do not come with English translations.
 Under Article 3 of the Provisions, an “international commercial case” is one which requires at least one of the following: one or both parties are foreign nationals; one or both parties reside outside of China; or the object of suit or legal facts that create, change or terminate the commercial relationship occur or occurred outside of China.
Robin Geiß, Andreas Zimmermann, & Stefanie Haumer (eds.), Humanizing the Laws of War: The Red Cross and the Development of International Humanitarian Law (Cambridge University Press, 2017). 278 p. Hardcover $110.00.
Humanizing the Laws of War is an edited book born from a 150-year celebration of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in 2013. “The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement at 150: Developing and Clarifying International Humanitarian Law,” honored the movement by pulling together international humanitarian law (IHL) scholars and practitioners for a meeting in Berlin. The meeting led to this work memorializing the achievements of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and its undeniable impact on IHL during the past 150 years, while also addressing the organization’s shortcomings and outside criticism.
The editors open the book with an introduction focusing on the interaction between the ICRC and the National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society within countries. They note the cognizable advantage to this structure with locals who know and understand the country being able to most effectively implement broader initiatives on the local level. However, the authors note the need for increased cooperation between the organizations to further the worldwide influence of IHL.
Part I discusses the ICRC’s influence on treaty making. In Chapter 1, Robert Heinsch gives an historical account of the development of the Geneva Conventions showing the ICRC’s intimate involvement in drafting the conventions, and thus framing the conversation, noting “[i]t is probably not exaggerated to say that there is no other field of international law in which a non-State entity has had such an impact on the norm-development process as well as on the dynamic interpretation of the respective rules.” (p. 27). Heinsch notes the ICRC has also authored commentaries on the Geneva Conventions and is currently updating those commentaries, further demonstrating the ICRC’s influence as a central authority on interpretation of the conventions. The second chapter furthers the discussion with Michael Bothe detailing the ICRC’s influence on the subsequent protocols to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 while acknowledging the protocols’ shortcomings, notably in nuclear and environmental fields.
Part II looks beyond treaties at the ICRC’s influence on IHL norm development. In Chapter 3, one of the editors of the 2005 Customary International Humanitarian Law study, Jean-Marie Henckaerts, describes the origin and addresses criticism of the study that laid out 161 rules of customary IHL, and is continually updated through additions of relevant state practice in the ICRC’s Customary IHL database. The origin story provides valuable context for understanding this expansive study and I appreciated the author’s direct discussion of criticism since the study’s publication. Chapter 4 similarly provides background and addresses critiques of the ICRC’s Interpretive Guidance on the Notion of Direct Participation in Hostilities under International Humanitarian Law. Robert Cryer discusses the criticisms, but pushes back noting if the critical governments “wish to reject the ICRC’s view, the impetus is now for them to show that they can create (and get broad agreement thereupon) something better.” (p. 138).
Part III turns to the ICRC’s influence on weapons laws and international criminal law (ICL). Chapter 5 discusses the ICRC’s efforts in developing IHL norms and treaties on weapons that are by their nature indiscriminate or cause superfluous injury, such as chemical weapons and cluster munitions. Kathleen Lawand and Isabel Robinson share examples of the ICRC successfully serving as a catalyst for creating weapon-specific laws, but admits the ICRC has not been successful in all circumstances, particularly in the case of nuclear weapons. In Chapter 6, Carsten Stahn discusses the intersections of IHL and ICL, focusing in particular on interaction between the ICRC and international criminal courts and tribunals. Stahn shares how IHL and ICL are not mutually exclusive and further understanding of and development of their relationship could improve both fields.
Part IV, the conclusion, is authored by two of the editors, Robin Geiß and Andreas Zimmermann. They highlight the ICRC’s successes and prominence within IHL while also grappling with its failures. In particular, the authors note the need for a compliance mechanism or other means to increase IHL compliance and discuss barriers impeding compliance initiatives.
This review provides just a glimpse at the fascinating history of the ICRC discussed in the work. The book’s critical lens makes for an enlightening read allowing the reader to gain a broad understanding of the ICRC’s contributions to IHL laws and resources, and the current limitations of IHL and the ICRC. The heavily footnoted chapters allow readers interested in any of the topics covered to look deeper into history or criticism of the ICRC’s influence and IHL. This book would fit well in any library with an IHL collection.
By Mary Rumsey
“It’s crazy. Other countries it’s called, ‘I’m sorry, you can’t come in, you have to leave.’ This one, we have judges. If they step on our land we have judges. It’s insane. So we’re going to have to change our whole immigration policy.” –Trump
“We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in, has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years with all of those benefits.” –Trump
Our current President makes statements about foreign law the way he talks about many other things—without any basis in fact.
As an exercise in comparative legal research, I spent some time this week looking at foreign law regarding asylum and citizenship. Several years ago, I had researched comparative asylum law to help Professor Stephen Meili, who has written extensively on asylum (and who, incidentally, is exactly the kind of person a human rights advocate should be). At that time, I had to dig fairly deeply to find information on asylum practice, particularly in European countries. I was curious to see if the tools for asylum research had improved.
One great source that I found is the Asylum Information Database (AIDA), a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles. AIDA contains information on asylum procedures and related issues across 23 countries, including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Spain, France, Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Serbia, and Turkey. This database would have saved me hours of research; it systematically organizes key information on procedures in each jurisdiction. AIDA also provides statistics on outcomes of asylum applications.
The descriptions of countries’ asylum procedures make clear that the standard practice is to offer an asylum applicant a hearing with an administrative official; next, a rejected applicant can appeal to a board or a court, depending on the jurisdiction. In other words, the US process is nearly identical to that of these major receiving countries.
A much less comprehensive tool is the Kluwer Online International Encyclopaedia of Laws: Migration Law. I’ve never been able to detect a pattern in the countries that each International Encyclopaedia of Laws topic covers, but I appreciate the high quality and thoroughness of the entries.
Trump has also claimed repeatedly that the US is the only country in the world that grants so-called “birthright citizenship.” I suspected that birthright citizenship might have been hashed out in law review articles, so I checked Westlaw. I love it when someone else does (some of) my work for me, and in this case, a 2017 student note informed me that birthright citizenship is recognized in thirty other countries.
If I were doing this research “for real,” I would then find the relevant legislation for each country. One approach would be to use Refworld, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ database. Refworld contains citizenship laws for most countries:
I might also use Foreign Law Guide to identify the relevant laws; many of the laws in Refworld don’t have titles in English. Foreign Law Guide identifies what a country’s main citizenship law is in English, so it might be a faster way to figure out what I need.
It wouldn’t take much research to debunk these false claims about asylum and citizenship. The truth is out there.
 Ian Schwartz, Trump on Immigration Judges: In Other Countries, It’s Called “I’m Sorry, You Can’t Come In, You Have To Leave,” June 26, 2018, https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/06/26/trump_on_immigration_judges_in_other_countries_its_called_im_sorry_you_cant_come_in_you_have_to_leave.html.
 John Wagner, Trump Eyes Order to End Birthright Citizenship. Legal Experts Say That Would Violate Constitution, Chicago Trib., Oct. 30, 2018, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-birthright-citizenship-babies-20181030-story.html.
 Katherine Nesler, Note, Resurgence of the Birthright Citizenship Debate, 55 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol’y 215 (2018).
By Shay Elbaum
Victoria Szymczak, Director of the Law Library and Associate Professor of Law at the University of Hawai’i William S. Richardson School of Law, led off the “Teddy Talks” segment of the program with a look into the process of creating her research guide, Charting the Legal Systems of the Western Pacific Islands, recently published by Hein. This guide grew from Szymczak’s collection development work in this area. Hawai’i is, of course, a Pacific island itself, and the mission of the UH School of Law expressly recognizes a responsibility to the Pacific region. As the only American academic law library in a region especially vulnerable to climate change, the library’s work with Pacific island legal systems is particularly timely. The uniqueness of these legal systems also drew Szymczak to this work; rather than “mixed” or “pluralist”, these systems are best described as “hybrid”, merging elements of indigenous and Western systems into a unified whole.
Two major challenges Szymczak faced were the complexity of Pacific island legal systems and the differences among them. Nearby islands can have vastly different legal systems, depending on – among other things – whether they had been colonized by France, Britain, or the United States; whether the indigenous culture was Melanesian, Micronesian, or Polynesian; and what the colonial status of the island was. Szymczak chose to focus only on five former British colonies for this guide, but still had to grapple with the differences between colonies, protected states, protectorates, and condominiums, the many name changes as islands went from independent to colony (or protectorate, or…) and back to independent, and the frustrating lack of citations to primary sources in many of the works she consulted.
The result is a detailed and eminently usable guide to researching the legal systems of Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands. Szymczak helps the reader navigate through those complexities and more, and gives us the tools to identify, access, and interpret the relevant primary sources. In her presentation, she highlighted the many different lawmaking authorities in each nation during the colonial era, each with different powers and producing different kinds of law depending on the unique features of their nation. She also discussed some particularly useful sources, such as Hertslet’s Commercial Treaties; Hertslet’s contains primary documents relating to British commerce, and includes many Pacific island-related documents because of their locations along major trade routes.
Szymczak closed with some illustrations of the unique blend of customary and British law found in these legal systems. She gave the example of the Solomon Islands’ constitution, which provides for the continuation of certain colonial laws where not inconsistent with customary law. As a result, the courts of that nation must interpret and apply customary law alongside other sources of law.
This presentation packed quite a bit into the half-hour “Teddy Talk” time slot. I enjoyed learning about what goes into creating a resource like this – and now that I know about this guide, I’m looking forward to having an opportunity to use it!