Report no.5 on COVID-19: Caribbean Disaster Preparedness Agencies and Their Impact on COVID-19 Management

This is a series of reports by the AALL FCIL-SIS Latin American Law Interest Group and Latino Caucus in a project monitoring COVID-19 legal responses in the Latin America and Caribbean region.


The small island developing states in the Caribbean because of their size, economy and relative isolation depend on each other for their survival. Historically, there has been close cooperation, and this is evident in successful regional integration efforts such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), headquartered in Georgetown, Guyana and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), with its headquarters in Castries, St. Lucia. This sustained collaboration has resulted in the creation of many important institutions across various sectors, and the emergence and sharing of best practices.

It has been posited that the Caribbean’s successful response to, and management of COVID-19, can be attributed to several factors. Among them are (1) the region’s geography and susceptibility to recurring natural disasters such as hurricanes, volcanoes, and earthquakes, (2) experience with outbreaks of cholera, typhoid, dengue, chikungunya (CHIKV), and ZIKA,  (3) the institutional capacity that has been built up over time to manage these disasters, through disaster management agencies; and (4) the coordinating roles of disaster and public health agencies such as the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA)Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO)Caribbean Institute for Health Research (CAIHR)and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

There are 15 CARICOM member states, 5 associate states, and 8 states with observer status. This report provides an overview of the various disaster management agencies operating in the CARICOM/OECS region. Discussion is limited to the disaster agencies of the 20 CARICOM member and associate states (including some British Overseas Territories). States with observer status will therefore not be included.

CDEMA’s Coordinating Role

The CDEMA is an inter-regional agency with a coordinating role for comprehensive disaster management in the Caribbean. It has been especially influential during the pandemic. There are currently 19 participating states, and CARICOM and non-CARICOM states are eligible for membership. For more information on CDEMA and its mandate, see here. CDEMA also prepares frequent Situation Reports. For statistics and more country-specific data, check out the COVID-19 Situation Update.

Three important CDEMA resources that are utilized by the region are its Early Warning Systemsthe Regional Training Center, and the Canada Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Fund (CCDRM). The CCDRM is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and is administered from the Canadian High Commission in Barbados.

Caribbean Disaster Management Agencies

Below are brief summaries of existing Caribbean disaster management agencies. An attempt has been made to include, where available, their mandates, structures, reports, and any recent COVID-19 related legislation. Generally, most of the websites that were reviewed had varying degrees of COVID-19 information including prevention, management, and statistics. In cases where there were no pages or sections devoted to COVID-19, some sites did link to the CDEMA webpage. The currency of information varied, depending on the last updates to these websites.

Anguilla: The Department of Disaster Management is Anguilla’s disaster management agency. The website is in the process of being updated, so some content is a bit dated and there were no links to COVID-19 yet.

Antigua and Barbuda: The National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) was established in 1984 as a division in the Ministry of Health and Home Affairs. In 2002, the House of Representatives passed the National Disaster Legislation.

Bahamas: The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is the disaster management agency for the Bahamas. NEMA is in fact a Disaster Management Committee comprised of representatives drawn from ministries, departments, and the private sector, with the Cabinet Office having a coordinating role. There were links to COVID-19, including legislation and updates on number of cases. These were located under the “What’s New in Government” link.

Barbados: Barbados has a Department of Emergency Management (DEM) with a mandate to “develop, promote and maintain a comprehensive National Disaster Management Programme”. District Emergency Organizations act as the volunteer arm of the DEM, working at the community level to facilitate local engagement. The DEM’s current Strategic Plan covers 2019-2023.

BelizeNational Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) is Belize’s disaster management agency. NEMO has a very elaborate structure. The Prime Minister is the Chairperson, and there are 9 District Emergency Committees, as well as partnership with private and public agencies. For more on NEMO’s composition, see here. NEMO’s website had substantial information on COVID-19, including a shelter management simulation exercise.

Bermuda: Bermuda has an Emergency Measures Organization (EMO). There were links to COVID-19 outlining cases and preventive measures.

British Virgin IslandsBVI Department of Disaster Management is charged with disaster management in BVI. From its “Documents Centre” tab, there are links to legislation, as well as other publications, such as reports, plans and studies.

Cayman IslandsCayman Prepared is the Cayman Islands National Emergency Website. In 2007, the government established Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI) which is the agency responsible for the management of natural or man-made disasters, as well as for the implementation of the National Hurricane Plan.

Dominica: Dominica’s Office of Disaster Management (ODM) is located in the Ministry of National Security and Home Affairs. ODM collaborates with the National Emergency Planning Organisation (NEPO), an agency responsible for planning at the central level.

GrenadaThe National Disaster Management Agency (NaDMA) covers Grenada and its territories of Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Its General Documents tab has links to the Grenada Country Report, the status of hazard maps as well as other resources.

Guyana: The Civil Defence Commission (CDC) was established in 1982 “to make plans and conduct operations to deal with all types of disaster in Guyana.” Under its “Resources” tab, there are links to news and situation reports. However, there were no 2020 situation reports, and no direct links to COVID-19 information or resources. There was a May 15, 2019 posting of the draft Disaster Risk Management Legislation for Guyana, with a request for public and stakeholder feedback. 

Haiti: I was not able to find a specific agency responsible for disaster management in Haiti. However, I located information on the recent publication by Prevention Web, of Haiti’s National Risk and Disaster Plan, 2019-2030.  The report is in French, but the English translation is available on Prevention Web. The plan was prepared with assistance from the United Nations Office for Risk Reduction (UNDRR) Regional Office for the Americas, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Jamaica: The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) is an agency of the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development. It has a National Emergency Response Geographic Information System Team (NERGIST) which does spatial mapping of information on the virus. Check out the ODPEM’s National Legislation, Plans and Policies for COVID-19 related legislation.

Montserrat: The lead agency for disaster management in Montserrat is the Disaster Management Coordination Agency (DMCA). There was a recent COVID-19 update.

St. Kitts/Nevis: The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA)  oversees disaster management for St. Kitts & Nevis. The Prime Minister has responsibility for disaster management. There were no recent links to legislation or COVID-19.

St. Lucia: St. Lucia has had an Office of Disaster Preparedness since the 1990s.  Legislation in 2000, and later 2006 changed the name to the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO). NEMO’s library has many useful documents, including annual reports, model plans, vulnerability and capacity assessment and other educational materials.

St. Vincent & The Grenadines: The National Emergency and Disaster Management Act of 2006 is the legislative basis for the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO). There were sufficient links to COVID-19 related items on the Ministry of Health’s website including reports and protocols.

Suriname: It appears that Suriname’s Ministry of Defense coordinates disaster relief through the National Coordination Center for Disaster Relief, based on this article by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recover (GFDRR). I was not able to find a direct link to the Center. However, this Disaster Risk Reduction Country Document for Suriname prepared by UNDRR is informative. Though dated 2014, it appears to have been published in 2017. This UNDP-RBLAC status report on Suriname, published in June, also provides an overview of the COVID-19 situation there.

Trinidad & Tobago: The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) coordinates Trinidad & Tobago’s disaster management. The ODPM is a division of the Ministry of National Security, and reports to the National Security Council and the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Disaster Risk Management. There is a Policies, Plans, and Legislation link, as well as ample linkages to information on COVID-19.

Turks & Caicos Islands: Disaster management in Turks & Caicos is handled by the Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies (DDME). This overview on its history and structure is helpful. There is a “Resources” tab which contains links to plans, reports, legislation, and other useful items. However, up to the time of writing this update, there were no links to legislative materials yet.

As this update has shown, the Caribbean has, over decades, established disaster management agencies in almost all its territories. Over this period, it has built up expertise in disaster management, geographic information systems/mapping, epidemiology and coordinating at both the local and regional level with agencies such as CDEMA. Over this period as well, the Caribbean has created policies and legislation which have bolstered the region’s response to crises. While their focus historically has been managing natural disasters, over time, some agencies have had to expand their mandate/operations to   disease management. Recent experience with emerging diseases such as ZIKA and ChikV, the enactment of new legislation, as well as expanded roles and mandates of these agencies, have undoubtedly prepared the region to effectively manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Yasmin Morais


Emily Wilinson, COVID-19: A Lesson in Leadership from the Caribbean. (May 18, 2020). (last accessed August 17, 2020).

Ian R. Hambleton, Selvi M. Jeyaseelan, Madhuvanti M. Murphy COVID-19 in the Caribbean Small Island Developing States: Lessons Learnt from Extreme Weather Events. The Lancet Global Health. (July 2, 2020). (last accessed August 27, 2020).

OECS, COVID-19 and Beyond. Impact Assessments and Responses (last accessed September 4, 2020)

Pax Global Media, Disaster management has helped the Caribbean fight COVID-19: CHTA. (June 6, 2020). (last accessed August 27, 2020).

Sophie Hares, Covid-19 risks complicating Caribbean hurricane season. United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). (April 27, 2020). (last accessed September 3, 2020).


AALL Annual Meeting 2021: Must-Have Program Topics


In case you missed it during the start of the academic year and general global chaos, the AMPC has published its list of must have program topics! A number of these topics explicitly pertain to Foreign, Comparative, and International Law. For example:

  • Research and Analysis: specialized areas of research including foreign and international.
  • Information Management: preservation of legal information, including foreign law digital preservation methods.
  • Marketing and Outreach: access to justice, including legal aid nationally and internationally.

Additional must-have topics imply an FCIL relationship, such as cross-cultural communication, cultural competency, etc. The complete list of must-have topics can be seen here, along with further information on how to submit your program proposals:

The call for proposals will occur on October 1, with all program proposals being due at 11:59pm on November 30. However, it is never too early to start thinking about program ideas!

The FCIL-SIS Education Committee stands ready to assist you in developing and drafting your proposals. Please contact Hunter Whaley ( or Dennis Sears ( for assistance with any program ideas you may have. Cleveland will only be as successful as we all make it! We look forward to hearing from you during the proposal process.


Dennis S. Sears and Hunter Whaley, Education Committee Chairs

GlobaLex September/October 2020 Issue is Live

By Lucie Olejnikova

GlobaLex September/October 2020 Issue is live and features nine articles; a new one on Comoros and eight updates: Georgia, India, Maldives, Mali, Norway, Restorative Justice Practices in Africa, Shari’ah Law in South East Asian Region, and Researching United Nations Documents. Webmasters and content managers, please update your pages. We thank all our wonderful authors, new and established, for their excellent contributions!

Introduction to the Law and Legal System of the Islands of Comoros by Michael Gyan Nyarko at

Michael Gyan Nyarko is a Ghanaian lawyer with a decade of experience working on several legal and multidisciplinary projects across Africa and beyond. He currently works as Manager in the Litigation & Implementation at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa.

UPDATE: Georgian Legal Research by Giorgi Meladze at

Giorgi Meladze is the Associate Professor at Ilia State University, Director of the Center for Constitutional Research affiliated with Ilia State University, Georgia. Giorgi Meladze has worked with local and international governmental and non-governmental organizations. In Georgia he participated in Parliamentary and Government working groups working on Constitutional law, Criminal Law, and Fundamental Human Rights. In 2002-2003 he was awarded the Open Society Foundation Fellowship and spent a year at Columbia University School of Law as Visiting Scholar. Meladze has received research grants and publishes and translates legal literature on issues of Freedom of Religion, Jury Reform and Constitutional Law.

UPDATE: Guide to Indian Laws by Ramakrishnan Viraraghavan at

Ramakrishnan Viraraghavan is a dual qualified lawyer, Senior Advocate in India and Barrister in England and Wales, with a standing of 35 years at the Bar. He practices in Chennai (formerly Madras), New Delhi and in London with 33 Bedford Row. He holds a BCom (University of Madras), LLB (University of Bangalore), LLM (International Commercial Law and Practice, University of Edinburgh), Diploma in ADR (NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad), Diploma in International Arbitration (CIArb, London), and is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. He has authored ‘Madras High Court Letters Patent, Appellate & Original Side Rules’ (LexisNexis, 2015) and ‘Guide to Memorandum, Articles and Incorporation of Companies’ (LexisNexis, 2015). He has contributed articles in many law journals.

UPDATE: Legal System and Research of Maldives by Mariyam Sahula, Areef Ahmed Naseer and Md. Ershadul Karim at

Mariyam Sahula is a lawyer and served as an Assistant Public Prosecutor in Maldives. She obtained LLB (Hons.) from International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), LLM from University of Malaysia (UM) and is currently pursuing Ph.D. at UM, Malaysia.

Areef Ahmed Naseer is a lawyer, was a Senior Legal Counsel in a Law Firm and served as a Member of the Employment Tribunal of Maldives. He obtained LLB (Hons.)  from International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), MSc from Global University of Islamic Finance (INCEIF), and is currently pursuing Ph.D. at INCEIF, Malaysia.

Dr. Md. Ershadul Karim is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and a non-practicing lawyer enrolled with Bangladesh Supreme Court.

UPDATE: Legal Research in Mali by Servaas Feiertag at

Servaas Feiertag is an independent consultant and international expert at Servaas Feiertag Consultancy working on Rule of Law promotion, justice reform, good governance, integrity and anti-corruption mechanisms and organizational development at state, institutional, and grassroots level as a technical expert, lead researcher, team leader senior evaluator, expert on program identification and design, and trainer in Sub Sahara Africa, MENA region and Eastern Europe.

UPDATE: Legal Research in Norway by Rebecca J. Five Bergstrøm at

Rebecca J. Five Bergstrøm is an academic librarian at the Law Library of the University of Oslo. She has a Master’s degree in Law from the University of Oslo. She is a subject specialist at the library and part of the Teaching and Research Services Team. Rebecca teaches extensively courses in legal research methods and international legal research methods. She is especially interested in legal technology and programming. She is a board member of International Association of Law Libraries. She is also a published author.

UPDATE: A Comparative Analysis of Restorative Justice Practices in Africa by Julena Jumbe Gabagambi at

Julena Jumbe Gabagambi is a Lecturer in Law at the University of Iringa, Tanzania. She holds a diploma in Law, Bachelor of Laws and an L.L.M. in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice from Mzumbe University, Tumaini University Iringa University College and the University of Birmingham (UK) respectively. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Open University of Tanzania focusing her research on the issues of restorative justice. She has worked as a Legal Officer with the National Environment Management Council and the National Organization for Legal Assistance. In addition, she has worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as a Repatriation Assistant. She teaches Criminal Law and Procedure, Transnational Criminal Law, Family Law, Law for Community Development, Child Law, and National Protection of Human Rights in Tanzania.

UPDATE: An Introduction to Sharīʿah Law in South East Asian (ASEAN) – Business and Religion by Jeong Chun Phuoc at

Jeong Chun Phuoc holds a Master of Laws (“LLM”) degree from the National University of Singapore, Singapore and Bachelor of Laws (Hons.) (“LLB”) from IIUM University Malaysia. He focused on comparative Sharīʿah and Civil law studies. He is actively advocating “Big Compliance and Big Law” as part of his wider “Lawnomics” framework for a better business world with relationship to Sharīʿah Impact Factor on business. Among his pioneering scholarship was the publication of his books including Personal Data Protection: Cases and Commentary (CLJ publication); Revenue Law in Singapore and Malaysia (3d ed. LexisNexis); Whistleblower Protection Law: Cases and Commentary (Lexis Nexis); Patent Law in Malaysia (2d ed. Sweet & Maxwell); Environmental Law and its revision under Halsbury’s Laws of Malaysia/HLM (Lexis Nexis). All his publications include a comparative analysis on Sharīʿah compliance and regulatory dimension.

UPDATE: Researching the United Nations Documents by Janet Kearney and Lucie Olejnikova at

Janet Kearney is the Foreign & International Law Librarian at the Maloney Library, Fordham University School of Law. She teaches advanced legal research in foreign and international law and serves as liaison to an active faculty and international law journal. A member of the Louisiana bar, she has a J.D. with a Certificate in Civil Law from Tulane Law School and received her M.L.I.S. degree and B.A. in International Relations from Louisiana State University.

Lucie Olejnikova is the Head of Foreign and International Law at the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School. She is also the Editor of Globalex. At Yale, she teaches Research Methods in Foreign and International Law course. She holds a J.D. with a Certificate in International Law and an M.L.S. degree.

For more articles, visit

Report no.4 on COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean: Domestic Violence and COVID-19 in Paraguay

This is a series of reports by the AALL FCIL-SIS Latin American Law Interest Group and Latino Caucus in a project monitoring COVID-19 legal responses in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

by Ruth Navarro, Assistant Librarian at Mercosur Tribunal in Asunción, Paraguay

Domestic violence in Paraguay is a social issue which impacts people from all socio-economic backgrounds. Based on the first survey on family issues looking specifically at gender, one in five people has suffered domestic violence in the country.

During the middle of the strict obligatory quarantine and the declaration of a health emergency in mid-March 2020 and until the lifting of restrictions at the beginning of May 2020, households became unsafe places for numerous women which resulted in victims of domestic violence. The Ministry of Women (Ministerio de la Mujer, in Spanish) acknowledged that the stress and economic difficulties, as a result of COVID-19, have increased the risk of violence at home.

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Twitter dated April 15, 2020 from Paraguay’s Ministry of Health stating the increase on domestic violence during quarantine.

Authorities from the Ministry of Public Health, the National Police and the Ministry of Public Services have informed that cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse and violence towards women in general have all increased during the quarantine as it is registered in the high numbers of official complaints in these institutions.

In order to help and support victims of domestic violence, Paraguay has enacted legislation under the Law no. 1600/2000 on Domestic Violence and Law no. 5777/2018 on Protection to Women Against All Forms of Violence. Nonetheless, the mandatory lockdown has increased the risk of violent situations for victims which can’t leave their own households to make an official complaint. Victims and victimizers are at home together. They are unable to leave for work or for any other reason. Furthermore, it is a both complicated economic situation as well as a deteriorating mental health situation which contribute to increasing levels of risk and serve as detonators of domestic violence.

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Services to Women Affected During the Quarantine Provided by the Ministry of Women

In combatting this situation, national authorities have agreed to create alternative mechanisms to protect victims and to mitigate the risks they endure. The Ministry of Women has led the creation of a protocol of prevention and warning towards women, victims/survivors of domestic violence and to tackle the particularly emergency situation during COVID-19. This new protocol aims to provide effective, fast and specialized responses to victims, and to help them access protection and counseling.


Government agencies, together with the media, have agreed to promote a campaign of awareness directed towards family, friends and neighbors in order to transform them into allies during the quarantine. This campaign aims to raise awareness about the importance of teaching the entire society  how the cycle of violence works and how you can accompany the victims/survivors of violence during the lockdown and forced isolation.


For its part, the Ministry of Childhood and Adolescence is working on a campaign called We Are All Responsible (Todos Somos Responsables, in Spanish) in order to raise awareness about specific abuse targeting children and teenagers. 

Quarantine and Femicide

In August 2020, the Observatory on Women, a sub agency within the Ministry of Women, informed that in the first semester of 2020, there has been a smaller amount of femicides compared to the same period last year.

Until June 2020, 15 cases of femicide have been registered. Despite these numbers, the Observatory on Women also concluded that the quarantine did have an impact because 6 victims of femicide were registered between January and March 10 (first day of the official national lockdown) and from March 11 to the end of June, there is an increase to 9 victims of femicide.

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Comparative Analysis on Registered Number of Victims in Femicide Cases in the First Half of the 4 Previous Years.

Continue reading

Hugo Grotius – “Le Miracle de Hollande” – Part Three

By Traci Emerson Spackey

This is part three of a three-part series on Hugo Grotius. Parts one and two are already available.

In the last two installments, I had the privilege of introducing the first two-thirds of one Hugo Grotius’ life, a famous scholar and father of modern international law. Hugo was in his day—and remains still—one of the most learned men of modern history. His education began young, as did his state career, which ended bitterly through his embroilment in great political and religious controversy that took place in Holland in the early 17th century. After discussing this controversy last week and telling the tale of his imprisonment and escape, I now move on to the last chapter of his life, almost the entirety of which is spent abroad.

Paris & Diplomacy

“Unappreciated as an irenist, famous among scholars, exiled from his homeland, and sidelined in diplomacy: that is a summary of the final years of Grotius’ life.”[1] This unfortunately sums up the last decade of Hugo’s remarkable (yet tumultuous) life. After his prison break to Paris, Hugo was well received by the French, who generally supported Grotius’ side of the political implications of the great Dutch controversy of the time.[2] Later that year, his family joined him in Paris and he was granted a small pension. It was right around this time that Hugo penned one of his most famous and landmark works: De jure belli ac pacis.

Front page of book De jure belli ac pacis

De jure belli ac pacis – Credit: The original uploader was Sarvodaya at English Wikipedia. / Public domain

De jure belli ac pacis (On the Law of War and Peace) is known as the first to discuss at length the principle of natural law, and therefore lay the foundation for much thought in international jurisprudence. Though the volume mostly discusses war, Grotius’ intent was to promote peace through the text. He drew from the Stoics and many other scholars before him. In it, he asked the question whether war could ever be just, and drew from natural law, human law, and even divine law to draw a resoundingly affirmative conclusion. Thus, De jure belli ac pacis is the origin of the just war theory. It was May 9th, 1625 when Hugo presented this work to the King of France, Louis XIII, dedicating it to him.[3]

A few years later, having never truly given up on his homeland, Hugo tried unsuccessfully to return to Holland in 1631.[4] Being poorly received and again “chased off”, he fled once more, this time briefly to Hamburg.[5] During his brief stint in Hamburg, Grotius was solicited by the state of Sweden and offered the position of Ambassador to France.[6] He accepted.

The family thence found themselves back in Paris in early 1635, where they were to remain for another 10 years or so.[7] Certainly, this position significantly helped the family financially, and they naturally enjoyed the lifestyle and company of diplomats during this time.[8] But while their financial position was improved, over the years Hugo became disappointed–if not disillusioned–by his career, and suspicious of opposition and animosity toward him.[9] During his diplomatic tenure, Hugo helped Sweden and France navigate some significant diplomacy, but among other slights was overlooked when delegates were chosen for a peace congress between Sweden and France in 1642.[10]

The End

The end of his time in France came to a rather unceremonious halt when he received a letter from Queen Christina of Sweden in March 1945, recalling him to Sweden to “attend more closely to the Queen.”[11] The recall, while not unexpected, is still murky as to motive. Nonetheless, Hugo dutifully made leave of his friends and business in Paris and left it for Sweden a month later.[12] He knew the voyage would be risky, and in preparation for it penned his last will on March 27, 1645, naturally naming his beloved Maria as universal heir.[13] Maria accompanied her husband on part of the journey then returned to take care of leasing the home, and then later to Spa, in southern Netherlands. Meanwhile Hugo was trying to negotiate a new post with Sweden—for though he did not want to live in Sweden, Sweden had “preference” and right of first refusal, in his mind, for any employment.

From Spa, Maria sent her husband a letter on July 19, 1945 that regrettably never reached him. Grotius reached Stockholm on June 26, 1645 and met with the Queen, finally, shortly thereafter. Hugo tendered his resignation to the Queen, who in turn invited his family to take residence in Sweden—which he declined. Regrettably Sweden, struggling financially, was downsizing its number of diplomats, and essentially offered the scholar a severance, until he found other employment. This, too, he declined.[14] Hugo then left Sweden in style, generously gifted (notwithstanding the refusal of severance) and honorably discharged. [15] Though unemployed, there were rumors of other potential job offers.[16]

Grotius and his troupe departed Stockholm for nearby Dalarö on August 12, 1645 in favorable sailing conditions. Conditions rapidly worsened and a frightful storm began. After a few days, they had the fortune of eventually dropping anchor near the shore of East Pomerania and getting help. Once safe again, Grotius set off (by land) for Lubeck and swiftly fell ill on the journey.[17] The illness quickly turned grave and Hugo passed away on August 28, 1645, leaving his dear wife and children behind.

Long spurned by the country that birthed him, his bitterly beloved Holland finally accepted him back upon his payment of debt to nature. His funeral took place in Delft where he remains buried today.

Hugo’s Legacy

In Hugo Grotius, history tells the story of an incredibly fascinating, complex, slightly egotistical, but indisputably influential man. I learned much about the man and the contributions that he made to international law. Along the way, I was also astonished to learn that he was considered almost as influential in the theological realm for the same contributions to Church history that landed him in prison and led him to Paris. I had no idea. After reading many pages about the man, I can echo the sentiments of the French monarch and say, “voilà le miracle de Hollande!”

As far as his personal legacy to me, I am actually going to go enroll in a Latin course (not kidding.) I have been wanting to do it for years. Thank you, Hugo, for the impetus!

[1] Henk J. M. Nellen & J. C. Grayson, Hugo Grotius: A Lifelong Struggle for Peace in Church and State, 1583-1645, 661 (2014).

[2] Id. at 313.

[3] Id. at 371–372.

[4] Id. at 323.

[5] Id. at 317.

[6] Id. at 474.

[7] Id. at 477, 487-488.

[8] Id. at 488.

[9] Id. at 669.

[10] Id. at 664–665.

[11] Id. at 716.

[12] Id. at 718.

[13] Id. at 717.

[14] Id. at 724-726.

[15] Id. at 728.

[16] Id. at 729.

[17] Id. at 731.

Introducing…Sue Silverman as the September 2020 FCIL-SIS Member of the Month

Sue Silverman

1. Where did you grow up? Freehold, NJ

2. Why did you select law librarianship as a career? I was a young, miserable lawyer and my roommate at the time was a librarian. She encouraged me to consider librarianship because I loved research, but I was wary of making a career change. So I bugged several NYC law librarians for informational interviews and much to my surprise they all loved their jobs so I went for it.

3. When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and/or international law? I’ve always had an interest in it! When I went to law school, I had visions of practicing international law, but things didn’t quite work out as I had planned. Fast forward to over 10 years since graduating law school, I was offered the opportunity to teach an FCIL course, which in my opinion, is even better than practicing, as I love teaching.   

4. Who is your current employer? How long have you worked there? Brooklyn Law School, almost 2 years.

5. Do you speak or read any foreign languages? I can read Spanish (sort of)    

6. What is your most significant professional achievement? It’s only been two years, so for now, successfully teaching one full semester of international and foreign law research (and during a pandemic!)

7. What is your biggest food weakness? Nutella. I will eat the whole container and then open a second.

8. What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance? Whitney Houston, I Wanna Dance With Somebody

9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)? A photographic memory.  I read a lot and it would be wonderful if I actually retained any of it!

10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you can’t go a day without?  A hug (virtual if I’m not home) from my 2-year old son.  

11. Anything else you would like to share with us? I feel incredibly lucky to be here!

Report no.3 on COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean: Virtual Court Hearings in Bolivia (Blackboard), Peru (Google Meet) and Paraguay (Skype)

This is a series of reports by the AALL FCIL-SIS Latin American Law Interest Group and Latino Caucus in a project monitoring COVID-19 legal responses in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

by Marcelo Rodríguez

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Map and Logos

As most regions in the world, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have had to face the transformational challenges and abrupt changes of conducting judicial hearings virtually. In this brief article, I will provide a snapshot of how the judicial systems in Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru have rapidly transformed themselves into virtual courts and adapted to a new reality almost no one had foreseen. What laws and protocols did they put in place in order to hold virtual court hearings right after their respective national lockdowns? How has the situation changed after national quarantines were suspended? Any trends or particularities observed?

Bolivia on Blackboard Collaborate

A national lockdown was declared in Bolivia on March 22. However, it wasn’t until April 9 that Bolivia’s Supreme Court held a first meeting to discuss implementing first steps to provide virtual judicial services. As outlined in the Supreme Court’s note no. 06/2020, Bolivia’s judicial system compiled a number of guidelines in order to conduct virtual hearings with the use of Blackboard Collaborate during the national emergency. Initially, these protocols for virtual hearings were enacted to deal exclusively with criminal matters as well as any legal cases regarding COVID-19. However, after the suspension of an initially strict lockdown and the transition into a more “dynamic” and flexible quarantine on May 11, other legal matters were also included in the protocols for virtual hearings which courthouses throughout the country were encouraged to pursue in order to alleviate the backlog of cases.

Capture d’écran 2020-08-27 à 10.04.30 PM

Seal – Bolivia’s Supreme Court

For the purpose of training all the integral parts in a court hearing, Bolivia’s judicial system developed training materialsinfographics and sessions to instruct judges, court employees, attorneys and the public. Including both the initial guidelines as well as after May 11, the authorities claim to have trained more than 9000 people on both how to use Blackboard as well as the new guidelines for successful virtual court hearings. They also claim to have conducted more than 3000 virtual hearings throughout the country. Protocols were also put in place to answer questions such as who is in charge of hosting the virtual hearing, who has access, who records the hearings (if allowed) and more. Since June with the gradual reopening, every region is now encouraged by the national authorities to renew all judicial processes and keep virtual hearings as a viable option in case new surges appear in their own regions.

Peru on Google Meet

The very same day of the declaration of a national lockdown on March 16, Peru’s judicial system decided under its administrative resolution no. 115-2020-CE-PJ the following orders: it will suspend its activities for 15 days, three courts will remain open for urgent matters and a solution needed to be found in order to begin and maintain remote access and virtual work during the emergency. Google Meets was chosen as the platform to be used throughout the country during the duration of the crisis. From the three sectors of Peru’s Supreme Court, two of them, the Civil Sector and the Constitutional and Social Sector decided to make use of this virtual platform immediately. Its usage was mentioned by the CEO of Google Cloud, Thomas Kurian as an example of how the company was helping multiple COVID-19 efforts throughout the world. 

Despite its fast implementation, protocols for virtual court hearings were not officially redacted until July 10 which also included guidelines for training on how to use the Google Meet platform and other technology requirements. Beginning of July also brought the official reopening of the country in different stages which also included the reopening of several courthouses and judicial services to the population. However, the gravity of the health crisis in the country and the rapid increase of cases in various regions have forced courthouses to close once again. Some critics have also mentioned the fact that judges in Peru have fought against any technological improvements to the judicial systems for decades while at the same time ignoring how the rapid transformation into virtual court hearings will impact those in extreme poverty and without any internet access whatsoever.

Paraguay on Skype

Before Paraguay’s official national lockdown in April, the country’s judicial system enacted protocols to work remotely and offer judicial services virtually during the health emergency. Despite the initial suspension of court hearings throughout the country, some civil and commercial cases in the capital, Asunción were allowed to continue virtually for those with access to electronic judicial records. If possible, lower courts of first instance for general criminal cases were also allowed to operate remotely. From the beginning, several judges opted to use Skype for virtual court hearings more often than other platforms. However, Whatsapp has also been used in several instances where the platform is more widely used or known. Different from other countries in the region, Paraguay’s judicial system has not universally chosen one platform over another.

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Virtual court hearing in Paraguay. Source: Corte Suprema de Justicia

Since May, Paraguay has initiated a process called “smart quarantine” which allows certain regions of the country to be as flexible as possible with lockdown measures depending on their specific situation. Courts have adapted to this “smart quarantine” effort as well. Since mid April, protocols for the reopening of courts were put in place. These protocols and new guidelines include the creation of “virtual tickets” to control the entrance of people into the courthouses at the same time. Despite these new protocols, several judges have praised the inclusion and usage of virtual court hearings and predict its continuation in the country’s judicial system. Criminal cases involving prisoners is one area where Paraguay’s judicial system envisions maintaining virtual hearings for the foreseeable future. Virtual court hearings with prisoners have taken place since July. However, a pilot program will be enacted starting soon to habilitate penitentiaries with the technology needed and other important guidelines. 


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Instructional Design for Law Librarians Workshop: Empowering LL.M. Students to Learn and Thrive

By Alyson Drake

On July 28, 2020, I was among a large group of librarians fortunate to attend Professor Jennifer Allison’s portion of the outstanding three-day Instructional Design for Law Librarians Workshop, on “Empowering LL.M. students to learn and thrive.” As a librarian about to teach LL.M.s for the first time this fall, I walked away with a number of helpful tips.

Professor Allison comes to this topic with an uncommon dual perspective: she not only teaches LL.M. students, but was one herself, completing an LL.M. in German Law in Germany. Her background allowed her not only to share a number of helpful, practical tips, but to express the importance of empathy and connection during the LL.M. experience. She began by defining student sojourners as “people who travel to a foreign country to achieve an academic accomplishment and plan to return to home afterward.” She noted that student sojourners have different goals—improving language skills, getting a degree or job, meeting new people, challenging themselves, and much more.

Of the many challenges faced by LL.M. learners, culture shock is one of the most pervasive and most difficult to overcome. Culture shock is particularly disheartening because many students arrive very excited to begin their new learning experience, only to be hit by overwhelming feels of discomfort, anxiety, and self-doubt.  These feelings can be roadblocks that prevent LL.M. students from reaching the goals they set out to accomplish.

Photo by Pixabay on

Prof. Allison describes four types of cultural adjustment:

  • Separation: a type of isolationism, where one survives by maintaining one’s own culture and distancing themselves from the culture they’re visiting
  • Marginalization: another type of isolationism, in which the student lose contacts with both their home culture and the culture of the country they’re visiting
  • Assimilation: a type of acculturation in which students relinquish their own identity and miss out on sharing their own culture to absorb themselves completely in the new culture
  • Integration: another type of acculturation, where students embrace both cultures and grow in their understanding of both.

Here are some ways Prof. Allison recommends for how we can help these students succeed in the face of culture shock:

  • Show a willingness to learn about your LL.M. students’ cultures. Ask them questions, let them share.
  • Be aware of the services that exist within your law school for LL.M.s and be ready to share that information. Sometimes we see students that may not otherwise be visible in the library, so having this information and being proactive in offering it is critically important, especially because reaching out for help is something many LL.M. students may be hesitant to do.
  • Help students create an acculturation plan where they expect and plan for culture shock by drawing on students’ strengths.
  • Make it clear that you are here to help and that there are no invalid questions. The more connection they have, the less anxiety and isolation. Be proactive in welcoming them and demonstrating that the library is a safe space. Continue to demonstrate this after the official university and law school welcomes are past—after a month or two in.
  • Remind students that it’s okay to treat themselves with patience, kindness, and compassion. Normalize culture shock and asking for help.
  • Where you can, connect them with others who are open and welcoming. None of us exist well without a support system.[1]

Finally, Professor Allison gave advice for how we can help students overcome research-based culture shock. She reminded us that everyone’s information-processing matrix is built on their own experiences. Foreign students will come in with set ideas about what they expect to find on a topic and they may encounter some culture shock when their research findings differ from those expectations. In particular, we can help with this in the research planning phase by making sure that students understand that success on an in-depth research project requires knowing uncertainty will happen and planning for it. Professor Alison recommends Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process: initiation, selection, exploration, formulation, collection, and presentation. Professor Allison recommends creating a list of quick tips that your foreign LL.M. students can refer to throughout the research process.

For much more on this topic, see Professor Allison’s full-length work in progress, “‘You’ve Been Down This Road Before’: Framing Foreign LL.M. Students’ Navigation of the Acculturation Process as an Effective Model for Library Research Instruction.”  I highly recommend reading it for even more excellent tips on working effectively with LL.M. students inside and outside the classroom.

[1] In the presentation, Professor Allison shared her support system for surviving her own LL.M. experience. She challenged the audience to list and thank their own support system. I took up the call on Twitter, thanking my support system as I transitioned to a new job during a pandemic. I encourage you all to write down a list; it’s a great reminder of the important role our personal and professional circle play in our success and well being. Feel free to share yours in the comments below, on social media, or even just in your own journal.

Hugo Grotius – “Le Miracle de Hollande” – Part Two

By Traci Emerson Spackey

This is part two of a three-part series on Hugo Grotius. Part one is already available. Part three will be posted next week.

Last week I introduced…myself, actually, as well as Hugo Grotius, one of the famed founders of modern international law. I discussed his remarkable early life and coming of age, and I now pick up where I left off: with Holland at war with Spain & Portugal and Hugo newly married and recently promoted to Advocate-Fiscal, prosecutor and legal advisor to the State.

Political and Religious Controversy

It was against the backdrop of this war that Hugo Grotius’ first landmark work was published. Chapter 12 of his previously abandoned De iure praedae project was resurrected and published anonymously as a support to the cause of the Dutch East India Company: the freedom of the seas. So, in 1609, Mare Liberum appeared.[1] It is widely accepted that in this publication Hugo Grotius was the first to name and elaborate on the principle of the freedom of the seas. Thus, we begin to see his importance in the field of international law as we know it today.

Shortly thereafter, Hugo’s political embroilment turned religious as well. In the early 17th century, an intense theological debate erupted between two Dutch professors at Leiden (Jacobus Arminius and Franciscus Gomarus). What started as a purely theological debate eventually implicated issues of Church and State, which in turn eventually involved Hugo in his capacity as Advocate Fiscal. The entire disagreement is difficult to characterize briefly, so complex is it, but among other points of doctrine, the controversy also centered around the relationship between the Church and State and religious tolerance.[2] At first, Hugo clearly wished to remain outside the fray, but eventually the death of Arminius indirectly forced him to take some sort of stand in various aspects of the debate. Hugo, it turns out, generally erred on the side of preserving unity within the church and tolerance both within the Protestant church and even toward Catholics.[3]

In 1612, Hugo left his post of Advocate Fiscal to be promoted to Pensionary of Rotterdam (another legal advisory role).[4] He was not long in his new office before he published Ordinum Pietas. It was not his first religious work,[5] but when it was made public in 1614, it veritably exploded the already high religious tensions in Holland and exploded Hugo’s state career in Holland as well.[6] In this volume, Grotius defended vigorously his Arminian sympathies as well as the State’s right to concern itself with the affairs of the Church, even insofar as the calling, agenda, and ratification of the church synods as the State deemed fit.[7] Many in Holland were outraged, which marked the beginning of the decline of Hugo Grotius in his home country. Ironically, he had written to defend the authority of the State, but his intent backfired and rather jeopardized it. He found himself offering numerous arguments in defense of himself and his work, and even published a toned down second edition.[8]

Imprisonment & Escape

The events that ensued are, though incredibly important in Church history and in the history of Holland, quite theologically and religiously complex. Suffice to say that Grotius maintained the State’s sovereignty over church matters and, albeit more gently, continued to advocate for this point of view. However, eventually this stance landed him in what seemed to him a kangaroo trial, then in prison in Loevestein under life sentence in 1618.[9]

Drawing on two buildings at the top and portraits of two men plus some text at the bottom of the image

Loevestein Castle during Grotius’ imprisonment, Credit: Claes Janszoon Visscher II / Public domain

He wasn’t to remain there. At first, his family was not allowed visitation.[10] Eventually, however, he was able to see them, most importantly his wife.[11] He was also allowed to continue his studies and writing, indeed even allotted a great number of books that would come in and out of his prison chambers on a regular basis. In a rather famous slightly larger-than-life move, his wife devised and executed a clever plan to smuggle him out of his prison cell in a chest that was intended for his books.

He escaped on March 22, 1621.[12] He emerged from his cramped confines at a friend’s home a few hours later and left for Antwerp disguised as a bricklayer.[13] In Antwerp he found refuge among other friends and exiles for a short time and formally announced his flight in letters to State officials.[14] The news of his escape spread widely, and a month later Grotius departed Antwerp for Paris, still endeavoring to remain as clandestine as possible.[15] His wife, clever Maria van Reigersberch, was never prosecuted for her aid in the dramatic escape and was viewed as heroic by many.[16]

Painting showing woman and man looking each other in the eye while man has part of one leg in a trunk

Grotius’ prison escape – Credit: Peace Palace Library / Public domain

To Be Continued

Next week I will finish by describing the last portion of Hugo’s life, which he spent almost entirely in exile, mostly in Paris, living the life of a diplomat and scholar.

[1] Henk J. M. Nellen & J. C. Grayson, Hugo Grotius: A Lifelong Struggle for Peace in Church and State, 1583-1645, 106 (2014).

[2] Id. at 112–113.

[3] Id. at 127–133.

[4] Id. at 167.

[5] It’s worth noting that while Hugo is well-known for his legal scholarship, prose, and not to mention his poetry, he was also somewhat of a theologian, if reluctantly at times. During the period of Arminian controversy, he wrote Meletius, sive de iis quae inter christianos conveniunt epistola (Meletius, or a letter on those things on which Christians are agreed), which actually never was published in his lifetime and was not discovered until 1984. Id. at 137.

[6] Id. at 171–175.

[7] Id.

[8] Id. at 177, 180–181.

[9] Id. at 269.

[10] Id. at 274.

[11] Id. at 286.

[12] Id. at 302–303.

[13] Id. at 305.

[14] Id. at 307–308.

[15] Id. at 309.

[16] Jean Lévesque de Burigny, Life of the Truly Eminent and Learned Hugo Grotius 81 (1754).

Hugo Grotius – “Le Miracle de Hollande” – Part One

By Traci Emerson Spackey

This is part one of a three-part series on Hugo Grotius. Parts two and three will be posted in the coming weeks.

I remember in law school my interest in international law surfaced very early on. 2L year–the very first semester I could choose my own courses–I signed up for international law and loved it. I remember doing a research paper for the class and meeting with my international law professor, excitedly mentioning that I’d run across a man named “Hugo Grotius” and asked my professor if he was familiar. While I am slightly embarrassed by this reflection now, my professor was more than gracious in the moment, assuring me he’d heard of the name. (I actually became good friends with this professor and am still in touch with him today.)

For the rest of my legal education I took as many international law courses as my small law school offered, even studying abroad. Most of those classes required research papers instead of exams and, of course, the name “Hugo Grotius” became ubiquitous as I continued to research the field. Then, as it turns out, I ended up pursuing a career in precisely that: researching international law.

Now, I’m nearly one year into my new position as Foreign & International Law librarian at George Washington University Law School and I have exactly zero regrets–I almost literally have the world to learn in this field! I wanted to do this post for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to deepen my relationship with this man whose name I keep running into. Second, the Jacob Burns Law Library actually has a remarkable collection of Grotius’ works, and I wanted to familiarize myself with his body of scholarship so I could understand our collection better, too. So, I signed up for this…and, of course, ILL’d a couple of books.

Coming away from several different biographical sources, I was left with an impression of a remarkable, peculiar, complex, yet singularly minded man. I understand now that, among other things, Grotius’ most fundamental contributions to international law as we know it now are the principles of 1) natural law, 2) freedom of the seas, and 3) just war doctrine. It seems the scholarship about Hugo Grotius is nearly as prolific as his own, and I merely scratched the surface, but I will endeavor to distill my learning, in three parts. This week, I will discuss his earlier life and coming of age, next week I will examine the political and religious controversy of his day that landed him in prison (and tell the humorous tale of his escape), and finally in a third installment I will talk about the later years of his life spent abroad in diplomacy.

(NB: my narrative leans much more toward telling the story of the man himself and focuses less on his publications—though it would be impossible to effectively discuss his biography without enumerating his works to some extent. I certainly do so, but not as well as other sources. Like Stanford, for a quick example.)

Early Life

Hugo Grotius–the Latinized version of his Dutch name–was born “Hugo de Groot” (or Huigh, or Hugeianus) on Easter Sunday, April 10, 1583 in Delft, Holland.[1] That his day of birth was Easter Sunday was of particular significance to Hugo, for in his adult life he actually celebrated his birthday every year on Easter Sunday regardless of the date.[2] Interestingly, “de Groot” was a family name that was passed down through his grandmother, not his grandfather. Had naming conventions of the day been followed, his last name might have been “Cornet” instead of de Groot and was rumored to be of French origin— which Hugo later investigated himself while living in France.[3]

Portrait of Hugo Grotius surrounded by ornate frame

Peace Palace Library / Public domain

Hugo was born to a rather well-to-do family, and not surprisingly, received a rigorous education from a young age. His father, Jan de Groot, was a merchant—though it is unclear of what—and was a learned man as well.[4] Jan seems to have overseen his young son’s education himself, quite successfully, and Hugo also attended the Latin School at Delft.[5] He showed promise very early on, indeed he composed poems as early as eight years old. At the mere age of 11, Hugo matriculated at university in Leiden, Holland.[6] Hugo first studied philosophy, and then continued on to the study of law, which had always appealed to him.[7]

Three years into his studies at Leiden, Hugo had the fortuitous opportunity to accompany his father’s business partner on a diplomatic mission to France, at the ripe age of 15 years old.[8] While this mission was brief, Hugo did get to meet the King of France and the introduction reportedly made an indelible impression on both parties, the latter reportedly calling Hugo “le miracle de Hollande.”[9] This exclamation was well-earned. Hugo’s scholarly output had begun very early. As mentioned, he more than dabbled in Latin poetry from an astonishingly young age, and by the time he left for France in early 1598, he had already completed his own edition of Martianus Capella’s Satyricon, a Medieval encyclopedic work on the liberal arts.[10] Moreover, while the French mission was only a little more than three months, somehow Hugo still managed to take his Doctor of Laws at the University of Orléans and found himself back in Delft later the same Spring he departed. [11] Upon his return to Holland, Hugo resumed his scholarly pursuits.

Coming of Age, Marriage & Family

Hugo Grotius was an academic at heart, though the times in which he lived increasingly required him to be political as well, which eventually intersected with his deeply held religious convictions. Hugo’s political life ostensibly began in 1599 when he took the oath of office before the Court of Holland to become an Advocate, requiring him to relocate to The Hague. Ironically, he did so before he had reached the legally permitted age.[12] His academic pursuits may have momentarily waned, but he did not abandon them altogether for in 1601 the States of Holland recognized the import of Hugo’s work and undertook his subsidy lest his academic work be neglected.[13] Indeed, he managed to continue even while serving as Advocate. During this time, while he did not prefer the profession of advocate, he eventually set his sights on an administrative career.[14] It was also during his time as an advocate that he began to build a professional relationship with the East India Company, which was to become significant to his scholarship.[15] In late 1604 or early 1605, Hugo was appointed the state historiographer. One of his earliest commissions as both jurist and historian was to write De jure praedae (The Law of Prize or Booty), requested by the East India Company which wanted to seize as booty the property at sea belonging to nations with which Holland was at war (at the time, Spain and Portugal).[16] He worked on this for about two years before it was decided not to publish it. But his work on it was not lost, for it later served as a foundation for later landmark publications.[17]

Thus, Hugo began a tradition of coupling his scholarly activities with his work. In 1607, Hugo rose to the office of Advocate-Fiscal, which was essentially a prosecutor and legal advisor to the State.[18] The pay boost of this position allowed Hugo to marry, and he found a partner in Maria van Reigersberch of Zeeland. The pair married -precise date uncertain – in July 1608.[19] All records of the relationship over the remainder of their lives told the story of a happy union. His wife was very supportive of his scholarship (and peculiarities thereabout) and is prominent in his life story. The two had seven children together, though sadly not all survived.[20]

To Be Continued

Next week I will take a look at the political and religious controversy of the day in which Hugo became deeply embroiled—and which irrevocably changed his life. His wife even plays a role in an unusual departure from Holland.

[1] Henk J. M. Nellen & J. C. Grayson, Hugo Grotius: A Lifelong Struggle for Peace in Church and State, 1583-1645, 25 (2014).

[2] Id.

[3] Id. at 14.

[4] Id. at 17.

[5] Id. at 30-31.

[6] Id. at 33.

[7] Id. at 33–34.

[8] Id. at 44.

[9] Id. at 47.

[10] Id. at 53.

[11] Id. at 50-51.

[12] Id. at 73–74.

[13] Id. at 57–58.

[14] Id. at 91.

[15] Id. at 91.

[16] Id. at 92.

[17] Id. at 94.

[18] Id. at 95.

[19] Id. at 99.

[20] Jon Miller, Hugo Grotius, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2 (2011), (last visited Aug 13, 2020).