Introducing…Alex Burdett as the June 2023 FCIL-SIS Member of the Month


Photo of Alex Burdett bending down surrounded by rocks with fog in the background and holding an open water bottle.

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Birtle, Manitoba, a small town on the Canadian prairies.

2. Why did you select law librarianship as a career? 

After undergrad, I knew I either wanted to become a librarian or a lawyer. After meeting the law school librarians, I realized I could do something related to both. I practiced for a few years then made the jump to law librarianship and haven’t looked back.

3. When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and/or international law? 

I’ve always loved the challenge of working across legal traditions and learning how different societies address similar issues.

4. Who is your current employer? How long have you worked there? 

I work at the New York University School of Law. I’ve been here since 2022.

5. Do you speak or read any foreign languages? 

I studied French in university and speak and read enough to get by. I took a German class a few years ago – but can only recall the basics.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement? 

Overseeing the development of the Indigenous law collection at the University of Victoria Law Library to support the Law Faculty’s Indigenous law degree program and the National Centre for Indigenous Laws.

7. What is your biggest food weakness? 

Bread – too many good loaves to choose from.

8. What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance? 

Archie Bell & the Drells – Tighten Up

9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?

Like many other FCIL colleagues, I wish my language skills were stronger.

10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you can’t go a day without? 

Friends – both human and canine.

11. Anything else you would like to share with us?

I’m looking forward to collaborating with and learning from such amazing colleagues in the FCIL community!

Through the FCIL Lens: Ecuador, Rwanda/South Africa, Turkey, Pakistan and Thailand

By Marcelo Rodríguez

Welcome back to Through the FCIL Lens series! Several important events took place this past month of May 2023 in different flashpoints all over the world. Per usual, in this series, I aim to shed some light on rapidly (d)evolving events which can potentially become of interest to Foreign, Comparative and International Law (FCIL) librarians or any researcher interested in this type of work.

There are innumerable challenges and pitfalls when pursuing FCIL research on current events taking place in other countries. Some of the obvious challenges include evaluating sources, translation, mis- and disinformation, fast sequence of events, etc. From a research standpoint, I believe one of the major challenges is how to connect the current events with the research that you’re trying to do. There is simply not enough information or analysis to help you connect the dots. Therefore, this translates into yet another step in your research strategy which you simply can’t ignore. In my FCIL class at the University of Arizona College of Law, I try to convey to my students the idea that once you begin working with legal information from other countries, you are really working with ever-changing “living organisms” which require analysis and understanding beyond the law and legal sources. Unfortunately, our legal education in the United States does a terrible job at exposing students to interdisciplinary sources and research methodologies from other areas of knowledge which are crucial to FCIL research.

For this post I have chosen events that took place over this past month of May 2023 in the following countries: Ecuador, Rwanda/South Africa, Turkey, Pakistan and Thailand. As in previous posts, these summaries aim to be descriptive, introductory, and to provide a stepping stone for further comprehensive research. Each summary also includes at least three important authoritative secondary sources.

Upside Down Map

Ecuador’s Muerte Cruzada Prompts New Elections in the Country

  • Blanksten, G. I. (2022). Ecuador: Constitutions and caudillos. Univ of California Press.
  • Cachanosky, N., Salter, A. W., & Savanti, I. (2022). Can dollarization constrain a populist leader? The case of Rafael Correa in Ecuador. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 200, 430-442.
  • Collins, J. N. (2022). Ecuador: The Return of Neoliberal Ghosts with Pandemic Woes. In Latin American Politics and Development (pp. 311-331). Routledge.

Rwandan Genocide Fugitive, Kayishema Captured in South Africa

After 22 years evading justice, Fulgence Kayishema, one of the world’s most wanted fugitives of the Rwandan genocide, has been arrested in Cape Town, South Africa on May 24. Hiding among refugees in several countries, masking himself behind various aliases and using the false name of Donatien Nibashumba, Kayishema managed to remain at large from authorities authorities who say he orchestrated the killing of more than 2,000 Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide. South African police said the arrest was made in response to an Interpol red notice. It took a multinational team, including the South African police and the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, casting a wide net to catch him. Kayishema was indicted by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 2001, which charged him with genocide and crimes against humanity for killings and other crimes committed in the Kibuye prefecture. According to the indictment, Mr. Kayishema was the chief police inspector in 1994, overseeing and participating in the days-long massacre of civilians. More than 800,000 Rwandans, most from the Tutsi ethnic group, were killed during 100 days of violence by forces and vigilantes from the Hutu ethnic group. Thousands of moderate Hutus were also killed in the violence, considered one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. Kayishema will be held at Cape Town’s Pollsmoor Prison ahead of extradition to Rwanda. He could face trial either in Rwanda itself or the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

  • Ancietos, M. (2021). Political opportunism, impunity and the perpetuation of Victors Justice: A case of the Rwandan Genocide. African Journal of Political Science and International Relations, 15(2), 76-89.
  • Drumbl, M. A. (2020). Post-Genocide Justice in Rwanda. Journal of International Peacekeeping, 22(1-4), 247-262.
  • Lakin, S. J., & Wibabara, C. (2022). Transitional Justice in the Wake of Genocide: The Contribution of Criminal Trials and Symbolic Reparations to Reconciliation in Rwanda. In the Shadow of Genocide, 110-131.

Erdogan Consolidates Even More Power in Turkey

Despite record inflation, economic woes, meager response to the massive earthquakes in February 2023, and humanitarian crisis with Syrian refugees, Erdogan manages to capture the Turkish electorate and win the presidential election. He defeated rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu in the second round of voting, after coming just short of an outright victory the first time around on 14 May. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will rule until 2028. In two victory speeches, the 69-year-old thanked voters for entrusting him with power again and called for unity as well as targeting political foes, such as challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu, jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas and the LGBTQ+ community. Mr. Erdogan prevailed, thanks to fervent support from a significant portion of the population and his skills as a campaigner. Religiously conservative Turks who appreciate his expanding the role of Islam in public life stood by him, and even many of those angry about inflation said they did not have faith that the opposition could govern any better. International observers noted the tremendous advantages Mr. Erdogan had before voting began, including his ability to unleash billions of dollars in state spending to try to offset the negative effects of inflation and other economic strains and the abundant, positive media coverage he received from the state-funded broadcaster. This is the outcome President Vladimir Putin wanted – no surprises that he was one of the first to offer his congratulations to the Turkish leader. Mr Putin did what he could to tilt the scales in his favor, including postponing a $600m payment for Russian natural gas. Erdogan successfully took the focus away from a cost-of-living crisis during the election campaign – making significant hikes to pensions and salaries, providing discounts to household energy bills, all while moving the debate to issues such as security and family values. Inflation peaked at 85 percent late last year, dropping to 44 percent last month, although independent economists dispute the official figures and say it is at 105 percent.

  • Cagaptay, S. (2020). The new sultan: Erdogan and the crisis of modern Turkey. Bloomsbury Publishing.
  • Göksel, O. (2019). Foreign policy making in the age of populism: The uses of anti-Westernism in Turkish politics. New Middle Eastern Studies, 9(1).
  • Yavuz, M. H., & Öztürk, A. E. (2019). Turkish secularism and Islam under the reign of Erdoğan. Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, 19(1), 1-9.

Imran Khan vs. Pakistan’s Military Establishment

  • Batool, F. (2023). Populism in Pakistan: The Exclusionary-Inclusionary Divide in the Politics of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Imran Khan. South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 46(2), 265-282.
  • Shafqat, S. (2022). Pakistan in 2021: End of the Innings for Imran Khan?. Asian Survey, 62(1), 173-184.
  • Shah, A. (2019). Pakistan: Voting under military tutelage. Journal of Democracy, 30(1), 128-142.

Thai Elections Give Oxygen to the Country’s Pro-Democracy Forces

  • Farrell, W. C., & Phungsoonthorn, T. (2020). Generation Z in Thailand. International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, 20(1), 25-51.
  • Morell, D. (2020). The Political Dynamics of Military Power in Thailand. In The Armed Forces in Contemporary Asian Societies (pp. 138-152). Routledge.
  • Sinpeng, A. (2021). Hashtag activism: social media and the# FreeYouth protests in Thailand. Critical Asian Studies, 53(2), 192-205.

ASIL 2023 Annual Meeting Recap: Protecting Cultural Heritage in Conflict Zones: Multidisciplinary Approaches

By Charles Bjork

This year’s annual meeting of the American Society of International Law in Washington, D.C., concluded with a special panel discussion on Protecting Cultural Heritage in Conflict Zones.  The discussion was held off-site at the National Museum of Asian Art on Saturday, April 1st.  Conference attendees who registered for this special event enjoyed private small-group tours of the museum before it opened to the public.        

            The panel consisted of Patty Gerstenblith, Distinguished Research Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Art, Museum, and Cultural Heritage Law at Loyola University (Chicago) College of Law; Brooke Guven, Head of Environmental, Social, Governance, and Sustainability at Cerberus Capital Management; Richard Kurin, Distinguished Scholar and Ambassador-at-Large at the Smithsonian Institution; and Zaydoon Zaid, President of the American Foundation for Cultural Research.  Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition, served as the moderator.

Photo of panelists

To begin the discussion, Davis asked Kurin to justify devoting time and treasure to protecting cultural heritage in the midst of an armed conflict when there is so much human suffering that needs to be alleviated.  Shouldn’t the humanitarian needs of non-combatants take precedence?  Or, to put it the question another way, isn’t the protection of cultural heritage a luxury that we should only indulge in during peacetime?  Kurin insisted that cultural heritage shouldn’t be seen as a luxury, but rather as an essential source of strength and resilience and strength during times of adversity and suffering.  As an example, he pointed to the makeshift conversion of Kiev’s subway stations into concert venues to provide a safe space for both classical and contemporary music performances while the city is still vulnerable to Russian missile and drone strikes.

Kurin also noted that armed conflicts aren’t fought exclusively over land and natural resources.  Many also have a cultural component.  Indeed, one impetus for Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine is the destruction of its cultural identity as something unique and distinct from that of Russia.  Fortunately, the war seems to have had precisely the opposite effect.  Gerstenblith agreed with Kurin’s remarks about the cultural dimension of warfare, noting that Rafael Lemkin’s original draft of the 1948 Genocide Convention included a cultural heritage provision.  Although this provision was not included in the final draft of the treaty, the fact that it was given serious consideration indicates that the protection of cultural heritage has deep roots in international law.

Gerstenblith provided an overview of the international legal framework for the protection of cultural property.  The 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict obligates state parties to adopt protective measures to designate and safeguard cultural property within their respective jurisdictions during peacetime.  It also requires state parties engaged in armed conflict with another state, or occupying the territory of another state, to respect cultural property and refrain from looting or endangering it.  These obligations include the creation of special military units charged with safeguarding cultural property by, for example, creating “no-fire lists” of buildings and monuments that should not be targeted for military strikes.  State parties also are required to enact criminal sanctions for violations of the convention. 

The 1970 UNESCO Convention Prohibiting the Elicit Import, Export, Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property establishes a framework for state parties to enact preventative measures to combat trafficking in cultural property.  These include periodic inventories, export certifications, trade monitoring, and criminal sanctions.  The treaty also establishes restitution provisions for the recovery of illegally exported cultural property, as well as measures to facilitate cooperation, the exchange of information, and mutual assistance among state parties. 

The bifurcated approach established by these two foundational treaties offers many advantages.  However, complications can arise when a country has ratified one of the treaties but not the other.  For example, in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, efforts to combat the destruction and looting of cultural heritage sites initially were hamstrung by the fact that the U.S. had signed but never ratified the 1954 Hague Convention.  As a result, U.S. military personnel were not subject to the same rules and procedures for the protection of cultural property that guided the operations of coalition forces from jurisdictions that had ratified the treaty.  Eventually, U.S. commanders concluded that the only way to effectively safeguard Iraq’s cultural heritage was for the U.S. to voluntarily adopt the rules and procedures specified under the treaty.  This experience provided the impetus for the U.S. Senate to finally ratify the Hague Convention in 2009.

Kurin explained how the belated ratification of the Hague Convention by the U.S., and the subsequent enactment of its implementing legislation, led to the creation of the Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee (CHCC) by the State Department in 2016.  Building upon the legacy of the “Monuments Men” during World War II, the CHCC coordinates the federal government’s diplomatic, military, and law enforcement initiatives to protect and preserve cultural heritage sites throughout the world, to combat trafficking in illegal antiquities, to disrupt trafficking networks, and to facilitate the lawful exchange of cultural property.  Kurin described the establishment of the CHCC as a game changer that has enabled 16 federal agency partners to more effectively communicate with each other and better coordinate their efforts to safeguard the world’s cultural heritage.

Davis asked Zaid to comment on the ongoing civil war in Yemen and how the situation there differs from recent conflicts in Syria and Iraq.  As in Syria and Iraq, Zaid explained, insurgent groups with political aspirations have been looting cultural heritage sites trafficking in cultural property to finance their operations.  However, the scale of pillage is even greater in Yemen, due to the total collapse of central authority in much of the country.  This power vacuum has opened the door for criminal gangs, with no political agendas, to join the in the looting and trafficking.  The withdrawal of most Western observers and aid workers, due to safety concerns, makes it impossible to accurately monitor what is happening.  Despite this dire state of affairs, a few bright spots have emerged, most notably the recovery of 77 Yemeni cultural objects recently seized by U.S. government, which will be held for safekeeping at the National Museum of Asian Art on behalf of the Republic of Yemen, pending a resolution of the conflict. 

Davis asked Guven to comment on the role of the private sector in protecting cultural property and cultural heritage.  Guven said that there is a common misconception that investors are indifferent, if not actively hostile, to laws and regulations that safeguard cultural heritage.  In fact, many of the wealthy clients of Cerberus Capital Management and other private equity firms also are patrons of the arts.  They don’t want to invest in businesses or projects that cause damage to cultural property or endanger cultural heritage.  The problem is that the executives and fund managers who run Cerberus don’t speak the language of cultural preservation.  Guven described her role as akin to that of a translator.  She makes sure the legal and regulatory frameworks that protect cultural heritage are communicated to the relevant decision makers using terminology that is familiar to people whose background is in finance and accounting (due diligence, liability, risk management, etc.)  Some of her biggest challenges are spotting the potential for investments to damage or endanger cultural property, connecting the dots, and navigating inconsistencies in regulatory regimes among jurisdictions.

Volunteer for the FCIL-SIS! Complete the FCIL-SIS Volunteer Survey by June 1, 2023

With the 2023-2024 association year upon us, the FCIL-SIS is seeking volunteers to serve as both leaders and members of several of our committees! Information regarding our committees and their charges is available on the FCIL-SIS Committees & Groups page.  Please consider dedicating your time and talents to the SIS! We ask that members complete our brief volunteer survey by June 1, 2023:

As a reminder, our Interest Groups do not maintain formal membership lists, and members interested in an IG’s programs and initiatives can at any time join that IG’s distribution list via the AALL “My Communities” platform.  Links to our IG community pages are provided below:

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Appointments Committee Co-Chairs ( or David Isom (!

ASIL 2023 Annual Meeting Recap:  Junk in International Law: Can We Avoid the Oceans’ Fate in Outer Space? (Pt. 3 of 3)

This is Part 3 out of 3 of a post recapping this session; if you wish to consult the earlier posts, see Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 of the series.

By Charles Bjork

To conclude the discussion, Dadwal asked the panel members to speculate about future of international law in space and in the oceans.  In Pritchard-Kelly’s view, the most effective tools for promoting safety and sustainability in space in the near future will be the national licensing of objects launched into space and the registration of all such objects with the United Nations, as required by the Registration Convention of 1975.  States are responsible for authorizing activities in space undertaken by private actors that are subject their respective jurisdictions, pursuant to Article VI of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.  States with active space industries accomplish this task through licensing.  A state that has ratified the 1972 Liability Convention assumes absolute liability for damages caused when an object launched into space from its jurisdiction crash lands on Earth and fault-based liability for damages caused when an object launched into space from its jurisdiction collides with another object.  These liability provisions provide strong incentives for states to create robust licensing regimes for private actors that launch satellites into orbit and vehicles into space. 

As concerns about the accumulation of debris orbiting the Earth continue to mount, Pritchard-Kelly anticipates that national licensing authorities will come under increasing pressure to adopt further measures to reduce the volume of debris.  An early example is the rule adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 2022 that will require the operators of low-orbit telecommunications satellites launched from the United States to de-orbit their defunct satellites as soon as practicable, but no later than five years after a satellite has reached the end of its working life.  Pritchard-Kelly expects licensing authorities in other jurisdictions to follow the FCC’s lead. 

NASA employee, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Villegas contrasted the state of international law governing the oceans with the state of international law governing space.  The successful conclusion of the negotiations to draft a new multilateral treaty to protect marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdictions is an important milestone.  However, assuming that the new BBNJ treaty achieves the requisite number of ratifications to enter into force, its provisions will need to operate in tandem with the provisions of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as the provisions of treaties that protect marine ecosystems at the regional level.   These in include the Cartagena Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region and the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and Coastal Region of the Mediterranean, among others.  There is a real danger that having so many overlapping and competing legal regimes in place will hinder, rather than advance, the sustainability of marine ecosystems.  States must coordinate their implementation of these treaties in order to ensure that their provisions are applied in a consistent and complimentary manner.

The international legal regime governing the use of space suffers from the opposite problem.  Since the Moon Treaty entered into force in 1982, no new multilateral treaties governing operations in space have been negotiated, nor have any of the prior treaties been amended via protocol.  In the interim, the relentless growth of the satellite telecommunications industry and the emergence of new private sector actors eager to pursue the commercial exploitation of space have exposed significant gaps in the legal framework.  Despite the widely shared consensus that the existing space treaties need to be updated to reflect advances in technology and the growing role of private sector actors, few observers expect that to happen anytime soon, particularly given the rising tensions between the U.S. and the E.U. on the one hand, and China and Russia on the other.

Nelson expressed a more optimistic view on the prospects for change, insisting that the international community of nations is capable of acting in its collective best interest when the need arises.  In fact, it was the intense rivalry between the U.S. and Soviet Union during the space race of the late 1950s and early 1960s that provided the impetus for drafting of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which established the core principles that space should be used for the benefit of all people, should not be subject to sovereign claims, and should be kept free of weapons of mass destruction.  Pritchard-Kelly agreed with Nelson’s assessment, noting that the development and advancement of international law is often crisis-driven.  She then described a plausible scenario in which a satellite manufactured in the U.S. for a Latin American customer fails to enter the Earth’s orbit after being launched from the spaceport located in French Guyana operated by Arianespace Group, a consortium of European space companies.  Debris from the satellite is scattered over three countries in East Africa, causing both property damage and loss of life.  An accident like this, involving multiple private actors in multiple jurisdictions, could provide the impetus for updating the Liability Convention to better reflect the growing role of private actors in space.

GlobaLex March/April 2023 Issue is Live

By Lucie Olejnikova

GlobaLex March/April 2023 issue is live featuring one new article, Researching International Food Law, and six updates: Introduction to the Norms and Institutions of the African Union, the Amparo Context in Latin American Jurisdiction, Foreign Law – Subject Law Collections on the Web, Lithuania, Pakistan ADR, and Spain. Webmasters and content managers, please update your pages. We thank all our wonderful authors, new and established, for their excellent contributions and commitment to open access authorship!

Researching International Food Law by Antonella Corradi at

Antonella Corradi earned a degree in Law from the University of Rome “La Sapienza” (June, 1991). She works at the Ministry of Cultural Activities and Heritage of Italy. She wrote many articles and has contributed as co-author to a book on the intellectual property of biobanks for JLIS, an online paper, in 2010. She is a statutory auditor on behalf of the Ministry of Cultural Activities and Heritage of Italy.

UPDATE: Introduction to the Norms and Institutions of the African Union by Ufuoma Lamikanra at

Ufuoma Lamikanra is a Lawyer and a retired Law Librarian. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. degree at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. Ms. Lamikanra’s publications include: “Law Libraries and Law Librarianship in Nigeria” in the IALL International Handbook of Legal Information Management (Danner, Richard A. & Jules Winterton, eds., Farnham: Ashgate, 2011); “Challenges of Sourcing for Legal Materials in a Globalized Economy,” 1 Babcock University Socio-Legal J. 66 (2009); and “Nigeria: Index to Federal Statutes in Force 2003” 232 et seq. (Lagos, Berean Club Pub. 2004).

UPDATE: The Amparo Context in Latin American Jurisdiction: An Approach to an Empowering Action by Gloria Orrego Hoyos at

Gloria Hoyos Orrego has a law degree from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, Colombia. She has a master’s degree in Constitutional Law and Human Rights from the University of Palermo in Buenos Aires and a diploma in Library and Information Management at the University of Social Sciences and Business (UCES) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. For 10 years she worked at the Max von Buch Library of the Universidad de San Andrés in Buenos Aires, where she coordinated the legal reference service; among other tasks. She remains a professor of legal research methodology there and additionally she teaches the same course at the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella. She has been invited to lecture in Argentina and other countries in the region and has been a trainer for specific projects in non-governmental organizations, the judiciary, various corporate databases, and teachers’ associations in Argentina. Ms. Orrego Hoyos is a member of the American Association of Law Librarians and between 2016 and 2019 she worked as part of the Board of Directors of the IALL where she chaired the Committee of Educational Affairs of the institution. She currently serves on the General Secretariat Training and Law at the Public Defender’s Office in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

UPDATE: Foreign Law – Subject Law Collections on the Web by Jennifer Allison at

Jennifer Allison worked as a Librarian for Foreign, Comparative, and International Law at the Pepperdine Law School Library (2007-2012) and the Harvard Law School Library (2012-2022). Having left full-time librarianship at the end of 2022, she now operates her own business, Manuscript Spa, through which she provides pre-publication editing, formatting, and indexing services for scholarly books and articles. Jennifer holds a J.D. from Pepperdine Law School, an M.L.I.S. from San Jose State University, and an LL.M. from the law faculty of the University of Würzburg in Germany. She returns to Würzburg twice a year as a visiting lecturer, teaching courses in substantive U.S. law topics, including criminal law and procedure, administrative law, common law remedies, and alternative dispute resolution.

UPDATE: Lithuanian Legal Research by Elona Norvaišaitė at

Elona Norvaišaitė was a reference librarian for several years at the Law and Politics Reading Room of the Information Center of the National Library of Lithuania. From 2006 to 2012, she worked as an information specialist at the Library of the European Parliament. Since 2015, Elona has worked at the Library of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania.

UPDATE: Alternative Dispute Resolution in Pakistan by Farah Khan at

Farah Khan graduated with a law degree from Hamdard School of Law and started her practice as a criminal lawyer in Pakistan. She then obtained a master’s degree in criminology, and she is currently completing her MPhil in Criminology at the University of Karachi. She is an enrolled advocate, with a license to practice in the High Court throughout Pakistan. She has remained Special Prosecutor for National Accountability Bureau of Pakistan; she also teaches law at Hamdard School of law and Ziauddin University of Law, Politics and Governance. She is Associate Partner at Akbar, Sarki, Ali & Co and handles a wide range of litigation including both Criminal and Constitutional Law.

UPDATE: Overview of the Spanish Legal System and Legal Research by Esteban Cuyás Caudevilla and Gloria Priego Luque at

Esteban Cuyás Caudevilla holds a law degree and a Master of Business Law from ESADE (2008) and an LL.M. from Loyola University Chicago (2017) (merit scholarship) where he also served as a clinician in the Business Law Center. Esteban is an active lawyer in Madrid, Spain, and has written several articles on a variety of legal topics.

Gloria Priego Luque holds a double degree in Law and Business Analytics from ICADE (2021) and a Master of International Business Law from Garrigues (2022). Gloria has published about non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in La Ley Digital.

For more articles, visit

ASIL 2023 Annual Meeting Recap:  Junk in International Law: Can We Avoid the Oceans’ Fate in Outer Space? (Pt. 2 of 3)

By Charles Bjork

For Pt. 1 of the post recapping this session, see ASIL 2023 Annual Meeting Recap:  Junk in International Law: Can We Avoid the Oceans’ Fate in Outer Space? (Pt. 1 of 3).

Pritchard-Kelly noted two other important differences between the physical environment of space and the physical environment of the oceans.  First, the oceans are more accessible, making it far less costly and more technologically feasible remove debris from the oceans than it currently is to remove debris from space.  Second, unless plastic debris is removed from the oceans, it will remain there forever.  Space debris orbiting the Earth has a more limited lifespan.  Over time, its velocity will diminish until it eventually falls out of orbit.  When it does, all but the very largest pieces debris will burn up and disintegrate upon contact with the Earth’s atmosphere.  The primary danger posed by most space debris is its potential for colliding with functioning satellites and space vehicles while it remains in orbit. 

Dadwal noted that the European Space Agency recently unveiled its “Zero Debris” initiative, which aims to eliminate the generation of new space debris in low-Earth orbits by 2030.  She then asked the panel members what steps must be taken to meet this ambitious goal.  The good news, as Pritchard-Kelly observed, is that the dangers posed by space debris are now universally recognized and acknowledged.  State actors and private sector actors, regardless of their nationality, want to protect their expensive space assets from damage and loss.  The European Space Agency, NASA, and other national space agencies have responded by adopting soft-law instruments to encourage the adoption of more sustainable practices in the design of new satellites and space vehicles.  Contractors who wish to do business with these space agencies must adhere to their sustainable design principles.  National regulatory bodies that license satellites are increasingly open to enacting sustainable design regulations.  As a result of these soft law and regulatory initiatives, the next generation of satellites are being “designed for demise,” meaning that their component materials and the methods used to construct them are being altered to ensure that they will rapidly burn up when they de-orbit and reenter the Earth’s atmosphere, thereby minimizing the chances that any debris will be left behind.  Nelson stressed that these soft-law instruments have significant limitations and are no substitute for updating the now woefully out-of-date Space Liability Convention of 1972.  Nevertheless, they are a step in the right direction.

NASA image, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Pritchard-Kelly cautioned that even if the European Space Agency’s Zero Debris goal is met, we still have to find ways to remediate the enormous amount of space junk currently in orbit, as well as the new space junk that will be generated when older satellites, that were not built using sustainable design principles, reach the end of their working lives.  Encouragingly, a handful of entrepreneurs have founded start-up companies to determine if there is sufficient demand from the private sector to pay for the removal of space junk on a commercial basis.  It remains to be seen if any of these start-ups will prove to be commercially viable in the long-run. 

An even thornier issue for the international community to resolve is the potential use of anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons to incapacitate or destroy satellites for strategic purposes.  To date, only handful of jurisdictions (the U.S., Russia, China, and, most recently, India) have shot down some of their own satellites to demonstrate their ASAT capabilities.  While no one questions the inherent right of states to defend themselves, the ASAT testing that has been done to date appears to have generated significant amounts of space debris.  The volume of debris, and the potential for it to cause collateral damage, has ended speculation that ASAT weapons could be routinely used to dispose of older, decommissioned satellites.

Dadwal asked Villegas to comment on recent developments in international law governing marine resources and their implications for the future development of space law.  Villegas began with a brief overview of the new multilateral Convention on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdictions (popularly known as the BBNJ Treaty).  He explained that the new treaty was drafted by the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity convened by the United Nations in 2017.  After nearly six years of negotiations, the Intergovernmental Conference reached an agreement on the text of new treaty on March 4, 2023.  It establishes a framework for the creation of marine-protected areas and the enactment other conservation measures in the high seas, beyond the jurisdictions of individual nation states.  Villegas expects the Intergovernmental Conference to formally adopt the draft text of the proposed BBNJ Treaty at its next meeting in June and to move expeditiously to open the treaty for signature and ratification. 

Last year, at a meeting in Nairobi, the 175 member states of the U.N. Environmental Assembly, the governing body for the U.N. Environmental Program, passed a resolution to draft another new multilateral treaty to reduce plastic pollution.  A key component of the proposed treaty will be to effectively manage the “total life cycle of plastics,” from their initial production, to their reuse, recycling, and disposal in a responsible manner that minimizes the risk of pollution.  This holistic approach to the management of plastics could serve as model for a future convention governing the lifecycle of objects that are launched into space.  Villegas cautioned that significant fault lines have emerged between states that favor binding commitments to reduce the use of plastics and to practice responsible disposal methods and states the favor a more aspirational, soft-law approach. 

Turning next to the ever-expanding role private actors in space, Dadwal asked the panel if this phenomenon helps or hinders efforts to reduce the volume of space junk and promote greater sustainability.  Pritchard-Kelly said there is no question that the commercialization of space will increase the volume of space junk in the short term.  She noted that when the multilateral treaties that govern the use of space were negotiated in the late 1960s and early 1970s, only state actors (and, in practice, only the U.S. and the Soviet Union) had the capacity to launch objects into space.  Shortly thereafter, in the late 1970s, the telecommunications satellite industry began to emerge.  Today, as the number of commercially operated satellites continues to grow, private actors are on the cusp of developing whole new industries, such as space mining, space manufacturing, and even space tourism.  Yet, the existing legal framework for space operations has very little to say about the regulation of private sector actors.

In the absence of a more robust regulatory framework, Pritchard-Kelly anticipates that economic incentives will drive the private sector to embrace greater sustainability.  Villegas concurred with this assessment, noting that companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic are pioneering the development of reusable launch systems and reusable space vehicles.  These new businesses will not be scalable or profitable in the long-term unless recyclable components become the norm, not the exception, in space.  The private sector’s willingness to embrace reuse and recycling – even if motivated more by economic necessity than principle – will significantly reduce the volume of new space junk generated in the future. 

While government regulatory agencies will continue to play an important role in promoting sustainability, Nelson observed that they are subject to significant limitations.  .He cited the turf wars that occasionally erupt between NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, and other federal agencies responsible for overseeing various aspects of the emerging space industries.  He also cited a lack of consistency in regulatory regimes and licensing standards among jurisdictions.  Nelson noted that insurance companies, which act as informal regulators in space, often operate more rationally and predictably than their governmental counterparts, which may be constrained by industry lobbying and political meddling.  Pritchard-Kelly wholeheartedly agreed with Nelson on the critical role played by the insurance industry in promoting safety.  She expects insurers to lead the way in establishing minimum standards of conduct for emerging space industries by penalizing companies whose operations cause accidents resulting in losses and by refusing to insure companies that fail to adopt best practices. 

ASIL 2023 Annual Meeting Recap:  Junk in International Law: Can We Avoid the Oceans’ Fate in Outer Space? (Pt. 1 of 3)

By Charles Bjork

The annual meeting of the American Society of International Law, held each spring in Washington, D.C., usually features at least one panel sponsored by the Space Law Interest Group.  In prior years, some of these panels have focused on the kind of attention-grabbing topics that have inspired generations of Hollywood screenwriters, such as how the nations of the world might respond if scientists determine that an asteroid is on course to strike the Earth and cause catastrophic damage.  The subject of this year’s space law panel was a bit more mundane:  the problem of space junk and what to do about it.  Space junk is defined as any artificial (human-made) object within the Earth’s orbit that no longer serves a useful purpose.  The term encompasses everything from defunct satellites and spacecraft, to the remnants of launch vehicles, to tiny fragments left behind after the disintegration or collision of other pieces of space debris.  Panel members were asked to consider whether, and to what extent, international legal regimes developed to protect marine ecosystems and remediate pollution in the world’s oceans could be applied to address the issue of space junk.        

Image of Earth from satellite

NASA, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The panel consisted of Timothy G. Nelson, a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP, specializing in international litigation and arbitration; Ruth Pritchard-Kelly, a senior advisor on regulatory and space policy at OneWeb, a satellite telecommunications network based in London; and Andrés Villegas, co-chair of the International Litigation and Arbitration Division at Sygna Partners (Paris) and a former senior legal advisor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Colombia.  Viva Dadwal, an associate attorney at King & Spalding specializing in international arbitration, served as the moderator.

Dadwal provided a contextual framework for the discussion by sharing some rather alarming statistics comparing the enormous amount of plastic waste that has accumulated in the world’s oceans with the rapid proliferation of space junk orbiting the Earth.  Each year more than 300 million tons of plastics are produced worldwide, and at least 14 million tons of plastic waste end up in the world’s oceans.  Plastics now account for roughly 80 percent of all marine debris, from surface waters to deep-sea sediments.  Unlike organic matter, plastics do not decompose and so will remain present in marine ecosystems indefinitely.  Nevertheless, many commonly used plastics are prone to breaking down over time into smaller and smaller particles, known as micro-plastics.  Of the estimated 50 to 70 trillion pieces of plastic in the oceans, the majority of these are micro-plastics.  By 2050, according to some estimates, there may be more plastics in the oceans (by weight) than fish. 

Although space junk is a more recent phenomenon than plastic waste in the oceans, the accumulation of debris orbiting the Earth is no less alarming.  According to models produced by the European Space Agency’s Office of Space Debris, there are currently an estimated 36,500 objects greater than ten centimeters in diameter within the Earth’s orbit.  The volume of smaller space debris is even greater:  an estimated 1 million objects between one and ten centimeters in diameter and an estimated 130 million objects between one millimeter and one centimeter in diameter.  The danger is that repeated collisions of space debris over time could result in a cascade effect, in which larger and larger clouds of accumulated debris will make it increasingly difficult for satellites to operate in Earth’s orbit.  This phenomenon, also known as the “Kessler syndrome,” could, in a worst-case scenario, make it impossible to safely launch new satellites into orbit around the Earth or to safely launch exploratory vehicles into outer space. 

To kick off the discussion, Dadwal quoted from a letter to editor published in the March 10th issue of Science magazine, in which several prominent scientists asserted that, like the high seas before it, the Earth’s orbit is being treated as a global commons, and that the exploitation of what appears to be a free resource obscures the true cost of environmental damage.  The authors of the letter went on to call for international cooperation to address the urgent need to reduce the volume of space debris before the Earth’s orbit suffers the same fate as the world’s oceans.  Dadwal asked Nelson if he agreed with the underlying premise of the scientists who wrote the letter to the editor, namely that the international legal regimes developed to protect the world’s oceans can be applied to remediate environmental damage in space.

Nelson agreed with the underlying premise in principle.  Nevertheless, he emphasized that there are critical differences between the physical properties of space and those of the world’s oceans.  These differences are easily obscured by pop cultural references that equate space travel with maritime navigation.  Long before space exploration became a reality, science fiction writers deployed maritime terminology to describe what are now universally referred to as spaceships.  So ingrained in our popular culture are these maritime metaphors (These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.) that it is tempting for the casual observer to assume that space law can simply adopt the legal paradigms designed to safeguard the oceans.  In practice, Nelson noted, these paradigms must be modified to reflect the profound physical differences between the maritime environment and the space environment.

Foremost among these physical differences is the fact that space debris orbiting the Earth at very high speeds possesses enormous amounts of kinetic energy.  As a result, even debris as small as one centimeter in diameter has the potential to cause catastrophic damage if it collides with a satellite or a space vehicle.  Any new legal regimes developed to address the problem of space junk must take this intrinsic danger into account.  In contrast, human-made maritime debris, known as flotsam and jetsam, poses little risk to travel and shipping on the high seas.  Larger ocean-going vessels can sail through it, and smaller vessels can navigate around it. 

Happy Europe Day!

By Alison Shea

May 9th marks Europe Day, a celebration of all things Europe commemorating the signing of Schuman Declaration which proposed the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community – the predecessor to what we know today as the European Union.    [side note: if you’re more a Council of Europe fan, they celebrate Europe Day on May 5th]   Europe Day is celebrated officially across many countries in Europe, and I thought this would be the perfect time to remind our readers of all of the wonderful research tools the European Union has to offer.

Long time FCIL-SIS members may have attended one of our EU research workshops, including the one in 2015 which Alyson Drake masterfully recapped for this blog.  You may have also attended the 2019 webinar where Erin Gow shared some of her top resources for non-English language EU material, or perhaps you remember our 2020 series on how the EU and its member states were responding to the COVID pandemic.    And of course this very blog has a number of other European Law-related posts which you can find by clicking on the “European Union Law” tag.

To help celebrate Europe Day 2023, I asked FCIL-SIS European Law IG members to share some of their favorite EU research tools.  To be fair, I gave a very short turn-around time so I’m sure many other members would have liked to share but didn’t have a chance – sorry!!   But here are the responses I received, which highlight many of my own favorites:

Need legislative history resources on laws enacted in various European nations and/or the European Community, such as the European Law on Transmissible Animal Diseases (Animal Health Law of 2016)? Want to trace the legal framework that shaped Europe’s and the world’s cultural heritage, such as the Nuremberg Laws of 1935? Looking to understand the regulatory factors that impact present-day Trade Models in the European Union? Check out Europeana – a portal providing centralized access to legal and other cultural resources from digital collections of thousands of cultural institutions across Europe. Funded by the European Union, and via collective efforts of 37 aggregators, Europeana currently retains over 50 million cultural items in textual, photographic, and/or audio/visual formats. To enrich its continuously growing digitized collections, Europeana has launched a crowdsourcing project – Europeana Transcribe (Transcribathon), inviting the public to transcribe and annotate data intended to archive Europe’s cultural heritage for posterity.  – Anahit Petrosyan

The Your Europe portal is a great first online stop if you are looking for information about how the law protects rights and impacts many aspects of daily life in EU member states.  The EU created this site to “help you do things in other European countries,” including “moving, living, studying, working or simply travelling[.]”   For example, after selecting English when you enter the site, on search form, use the menus provided to select Citizen/Consumer > Germany > Citizens’ and Family Rights > Gender Recognition.  Then click Search.  The single search result is to the English-language page on this topic on the German government’s administrative information portal.  While the information on this page is not extensive, it does describe the basic procedural steps to complete an application to change gender, as well as a notification that, in Germany, “regulations under the German Transsexual Law are administered by Local Courts,” which may not necessarily be an intuitive first destination for people who are trying to navigate this kind of bureaucracy.  Finally, this page also lists the name of the relevant law in German, with a link to the full German text of the law in the federal government’s Gesetze-im-Internet legislation portal.  While some EU member states offer limited information in English in their online administrative portals, this site at least saves you from having to navigate absolutely everything in a language you don’t read that well (or at all).  It points you to the right place on an official government website based on the criteria you selected in English, which means that you don’t need to wade through a million results in a Google search, or even having to figure out what to type in the Google search box.     – Jennifer Allison

One of my favorite tools within Eur-Lex, the gateway to EU legislation, is Summaries of EU Legislation. It is an open access subject specific mini encyclopedia of EU law and a great place to start one’s research. Glossary of summaries offers the traditional index-like approach to exploring EU law, while advanced search (now also including a search through archived summaries) offers text/title search, summaries identifiers search (CELEX No), as well as special filters including EuroVoc or topic. The summary of legislation succinctly introduces the purpose of the law along with its key points, while also pulling together relevant and related regulations, directives, and decisions. Are you interested in knowing how EU regulates chocolate? Cocoa and Chocolate Summary of EU Legislation offers a great start.  – Lucie Olejnikova

Interested in even more?  Don’t forget the FCIL-SIS Newsletter has a wonderful series of Resource Reviews from the Electronic Resources IG, including Erin Gow’s 2019 review of Eur-lex (page 6).  And for any FCIL-SIS members who would like to talk more about their favorite European Law resources, don’t forget to join the AALL My Communities group for the European Law IG and share your thoughts there!