ASIL 2017 Recap: International Law and the Trump Administration: National and International Security

By: Loren Turner

During these first 100 days of a Donald Trump presidency, the American Society of International Law (ASIL) has led efforts to bring together experts from both sides of the political spectrum to talk about international law under the Trump administration. ASIL has produced a series of freely-available webinars that analyze the Trump administration and (1) the future of international agreements; (2) U.S. engagement with the United Nations; (3) U.S. participation in global trade agreements; and (4) the future of environmental agreements.

On Thursday, April 13, 2017, during ASIL’s annual meeting, experts assembled once again to discuss international law under the Trump administration, but this time through the lens of national and international security.  The program was certainly timely, as it occurred the same day we learned the United States had dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” on Afghanistan and accidentally bombed allies in Syria.

Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution served as moderator to a panel of three experts on international law and politics: Shireen Hunter of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service; John Bellinger, legal adviser for the U.S. Department of State and the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration; and Elisa Massimino, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Human Rights First.

In her opening remarks, Shireen Hunter identified herself as the voice of “political realism.”  She said laws are the outcomes of social and political processes.  Law is important but it is politics that change things and the laws change when society and politics change.  International law succeeds when there are common interests.  For example, even during conflict, the mail still gets delivered.  Maritime trade continues because those common interests remain.  But international relations and the rule of law are based on power.  Those nations with power, use that power to get what they want and there is no enforcement mechanism that stops them.  Saddam Hussein bombed Saudi Arabia with impunity.  Russia annexed Crimea and the international community did nothing to stop it.  No one abides U.N. Security Council resolutions, which are supposed to be binding.  The ideal is to implement the rule of law but the reality is that international relations is based on power and is skewed. We need a balance of power before international law is respected. We need creative ways of encouraging international cooperation and hence strengthening international law.

On the topic of human rights and Syria, Ms. Hunter said that she witnessed the abuse of human rights rhetoric when she served on the United Nations Human Rights Committee.  The United States would claim to honor human rights, but then sell bombs to nations that routinely violate human rights.  We had waterboarding under the Bush administration.  Trump doesn’t really care about the Syrian people.  Syria is a test case of which nation is going to be the next hegemon in that part of the world. Humanitarian intervention is a new phenomenon and it causes a lot of deaths.  Look at Libya, at Iraq.  Bombing Syria for humanitarian reasons is a smokescreen.  If the Trump administration wanted to follow international law, it would conduct an investigation to make sure Assad really did employ those chemical weapons.

John Bellinger first identified Trump as a danger to national security in a blog post he wrote for Lawfare in 2015.  In August 2016, he joined a group of 50 other former G.O.P. national security advisers to publicly state that “Trump lacks the character, values, and experience to be President.”  Mr. Bellinger said there is significant cause for alarm, but there may also be rays of hope.  According to Mr. Bellinger, there are some serious lawyers that could be joining the Trump administration and, if they do so, the administration may begin to settle down.  Mr. Bellinger noted, however, that Trump is dividing the country and that it is extremely destabilizing when Trump says he doesn’t support the international obligations of the United States.

As to the topic of Syria, Mr. Bellinger said that Trump might have recklessly gotten to the right place.  We all know the Syria strike is not legal under international law.  Is it justified though? One of the most troubling images associated with the Syria strike is the photo of Trump getting briefed about the strikeThere were no lawyers in the room.  Did international law inform the decision at all?  Mr. Bellinger would not have wanted to wait for the results of a full investigation to confirm Assad released the chemical weapons, but international lawyers need to be consulted before a reaction like this.

Elisa Massimino began her remarks with the question: we haven’t reached 100 days yet, right?  Feels like 100 years.  According to Ms. Massimino, the Trump administration’s budget proposal for the United Nations speaks volumes as to what the administration thinks of human rights and norms. The administration’s focus is on hard security.  Yet, the foundation of human rights is the best way to achieve peace and security in the world.

Ms. Massimino argued that the refugee policy is a huge threat to the national security of the United States and also our allies in Europe.  Additionally, the administration’s rhetoric on refugees, torture, and increased prosecutions for illegal entry, all pose real concerns to those who want adherence to international law and national security.  Trump’s tweets are a big deal and “we are really concerned.”  It is not a coincidence that Assad attacked civilians with chemical weapons right after the administration said that removing Assad was no longer a priority.

According to Ms. Massimino, the Trump administration’s slogan of “America First” is code for isolationism.  The America First campaign might mean America, alone.  Launching missiles is not a strategy.  When the United States withdraws, others scramble to fill the void, and these others (Russia, China, etc.) are putting forth alternative views of how the world should work and these views are not based on rules and norms that promote international law and human rights.

So, what can we do, as international law practitioners and academics?   Both Mr. Bellinger and Ms. Massimino urged audience members to get out and educate the American public – at local, regional, and national levels.  Explain the value of international law, especially how it helps people in their daily lives (airline travel, receiving mail, buying goods at reasonable prices, etc.).  According to Ms. Massimino, “this is our moment as international lawyers and it is up to us whether we can rise to the occasion.”

[Visit ASIL’s YouTube channel to access the full video of this program and others from ASIL’s 2017 annual meeting].

ASIL 2017 Recap: Grotius Lecture: Civil War Time: From Grotius to the Global War on Terror

By: Amy Flick

The American Society of International Law (ASIL) kicked off its 111th annual meeting in Washington, D.C. on April 12, 2017 with its 19th annual Grotius Lecture. The 2017 Grotius Lecturer was David Armitage, Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History at Harvard University, and Distinguished Discussant Mary L. Dudziak, Asa Griggs Chandler Professor of Law at Emory University School of Law.

The program was introduced by Camille Nelson, Dean of American University Washington College of Law. She remarked that Professor Armitage and Professor Dudziak have each published on the subject of civil wars. Since modern conflicts do not fit into a classical international law model of conflicts between states, a discussion between historians on whether international law applies to civil wars is an appropriate topic for annual meeting.

Professor Armitage’s book is Civil Wars: A History in Ideas, which Professor Armitage acknowledged was inspired by Professor Dudziak’s book War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences. Professor Armitage observed that civil war is a recent field of study. History has traditionally been separated into war and peace times, with war considered temporary, but with modern conflicts, it is difficult to determine when wars begin or end. Civil wars are not declared, they resonate even after a conflict ends, and they are prone to recur. Post World War II has been an age of civil wars, with 20 on average at any one time, and consequences arising from internal wars becoming international through intervention and outside combatants.

Professor Armitage explored the history of the study of civil war, beginning with the Romans, who likened them to natural phenomena like volcanoes. Grotius distinguished between public and private wars, classifying civil war as a public war against the same state, and finding any peace preferable to civil war, with civil wars never categorized as just wars. By contrast, Vattel disagreed with Grotius on the existence of private war, and positing that a civil war could be a just war if evils within a state are intolerable. His book The Law of Nations influenced 18th and 19th century United States thought and was cited in the Prize Cases, 67 U.S. 635 (1862). “When the regular course of justice is interrupted by revolt, rebellion, or insurrection, so that the Courts of Justice cannot be kept open, civil war exists, and hostilities may be prosecuted on the same footing as if those opposing the Government were foreign enemies invading the land.” The Lieber Code, though, did not distinguish between insurrection and civil war, and defined the 1860s U.S. conflict as a rebellion, not a civil war, allowing the suspension of habeas corpus.

Professor Armitage brought the lecture to the current era with the extension of the Geneva and Hague Convention protections to internal conflicts with Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Protocol II. In discussing the current Syrian conflict, he addressed the problem of language. Assad has called the conflict of 2011-2012 an insurrection, not a civil war. The ICRC confirmed it as an “armed conflict not of an international character,” covered by international humanitarian law. Professor Armitage pointed out the political reluctance to call a conflict a civil war, with definite declarations and peace treaties, even though since World War II there have been more peace treaties for civil wars than for inter-state conflicts. He concluded by calling this an urgent moment in history to define what is a civil war and what we value, as more political disputes are being described as “civil wars.”

Professor Dudziak found the categorization of war in categories of civil war and its opposite inter-state war as useful, but remarked on another category of war, with examples from 1864 of the United States Civil War and the U.S. Indian Wars. The U.S. Civil War was considered a “real war” in legal history and treated as fitting in the Lieber Code definition of civil war as an appropriate example of the use of war powers. The carnage of the civil war created widespread suffering which the public had to respond to by creating a “community of suffering” and humanizing the other side. By contrast, the Indian Wars of the 19th century have not been considered civil wars. Native Americans were considered barbarians, outside the borders of civilization and outside non-combatant immunity. The Lieber Code limits did not apply to “savages.” The exception of uncivilized people from protection culminated in the Sand Creek massacre of the Cheyenne.

Professor Dudziak concluded by declaring that in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, peace is not a time, it is an identity for people isolated from the battlefield. The absence of shared suffering has created an American apathy about war. Ending on a more hopeful note, she asked “Wouldn’t it be great if people could be brought together in peace instead of suffering?”

[Check out ASIL’s YouTube channel for the full video of the 2017 Grotius Lecture].

 

Seeking Bloggers for ASIL’s Annual Meeting!

Are you attending ASIL’s Annual Meeting next week?  DipLawMatic Dialogues is seeking volunteers to blog from and about the meeting.  If you are interested, please contact Loren Turner at lturner@umn.edu.  Thank you for considering and see you soon!

Introducing…Gabriela Femenia as the April 2017 FCIL Librarian of the Month

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1. Where did you grow up?

A lot of places, but mostly Silicon Valley. My high school was down the road from Apple, so I still kind of think of it as a local business.

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

After leaving practice, I moved into academic administration while looking for a way to combine my law background with my interest in teaching and research. I knew I didn’t have the narrow focus to be an academic, and I also wanted a better work-life balance. After being introduced to some law librarians, it was obvious that’s what I’d been looking for all along.

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

I was fortunate that one of the law librarians I met before library school was an FCIL librarian, Maria Smolka-Day. She convinced me that it would be a great fit for me, assuming there was a job open when I graduated, which she cautioned might not be the case. Ironically enough, it was her job that was open, as she retired that year.

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

The University of Pennsylvania Law School, which I’ve worked for since getting my MLIS in 2009.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

I speak Spanish, since I was born in Argentina and grew up bilingual. I can read French, German, and Latin, although I’m badly out of practice speaking the first two, and I never really spoke Latin apart from reciting Winnie Ille Pu in class.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

Becoming a reasonably experienced legal research instructor or achieving OCLC immortality as editor of a chapter in Sources of State Practice, although winning the impressively pointy Spirit of the FCIL-SIS award is a close second.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

I’m with Wallace on this one: Cheese! I have tried going vegan at a couple of points, and it is always cheese that is my downfall. Don’t even try to convince me that nutritional yeast is an acceptable substitute.

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

Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill. It’s what I crank at every moment of victory in my life.

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

Like all FCIL librarians, I would like to be able to download every language directly into my brain on demand, Matrix-style. Stopping and starting time would also be nice.

More realistically, I would like to have more artistic ability and a steadier piping hand so I could decorate cakes better (see below).

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

The obvious answer is probably sarcasm, but I’ll go with fountain pens. I’ve been obsessed with them since buying my first one on a whim in college, so having to use a ballpoint makes me seriously cranky. I have way too many of them, including some treasured ones inherited from relatives, and I buy a new one every few months, especially whenever I’m in Washington DC and can get to Fahrney’s. One of the best birthday presents I’ve ever received is a custom fountain pen holder in the shape of a Ferris wheel, which my husband designed and 3-D printed for me.

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

I bake for fun pretty much every Sunday, and since I don’t want an entire batch of whatever it is in my house all week, it goes into the office on Monday for my coworkers. If it hadn’t been for Kitchen Confidential coming out just as I graduated and having restaurant owners as my first clients, I might have toyed with a career change to pastry chef instead of librarianship. Yes, I am addicted to Great British Bake Off, although I’m going to have to defect to whatever new show the BBC creates for Mary, Sue and Mel, because Paul Hollywood on his own is not going to do it for me.

Introducing…Jonathan Pratter as the March 2017 FCIL Librarian of the Month

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1. Where did you grow up?

Bloomington, Indiana, where I got into more than my fair share of trouble.

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

After five years as a public defender, I got tired of seeing my clients go to jail.  I knew it was time for a change.

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

I suggested the possibility to Roy Mersky, the director here at Texas after the retirement of my predecessor, Guido Olivera.  Mersky snapped up the idea and sent me to train with Tom Reynolds at Berkeley.  From then on, I was hooked.

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

The University of Texas, Tarlton Law Library.  I hesitate to say that I have been at my post since 1985.  I’m just now hitting my stride.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

I can honestly say that I can speak Spanish and French.  I read German, and with a good grammar reference and a big dictionary, can write it, too.  In light of all the effort I put in to achieve just that much, I’m suspicious of claims sometimes made of fluency in six languages or something absurd like that.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

Receiving the recognition of my peers, which in several respects I don’t deserve – FCIL librarianship is quintessentially a collaborative project.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Authentic tapas and Valor chocolate, both from Spain, of course.

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

Just about anything by Ray Charles.

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

Musical talent (see 8 above).

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

Reading a good book and NPR (I know, that’s two).

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

I look forward to seeing readers of DipLawMatic Dialogues in Austin for the AALL annual meeting.  FYI, I know where the good BBQ is, and it’s not Franklin’s.

 

Organizing and Participating in the “Open Access to Legal Knowledge in Africa” Workshop in Uganda

By Heather Casey

uganda2This past December, I had the privilege of traveling to Kampala, Uganda and assisting with a workshop on Open Access to legal knowledge in Africa. It was for law librarians in Anglophone Africa. The workshop was organized through the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), in cooperation with the International Association of Law Libraries (IALL). It was sponsored by IFLA, IALL, and HeinOnline.

I was one of several organizers – with me were Mark Engsberg (Emory University), Joe Hinger (St. John’s University), Caroline Ilako (Markerere University), Sonia Poulin (Alberta Law Libraries), and Bård Tuseth (University of Oslo). Over the course of several months, we worked to bring together a group of African law librarians that came from the following countries: Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and South Africa.

Our goals for the workshop were to empower participants to utilize the potential of open access legal sources in legal research. The workshop offered a method to build a network of law librarians across Africa in order to share knowledge and assist each other in solving practical legal research questions. Participation provided an overview of open access legal sources worldwide, the practical skills required to benefit from them, and an opportunity to establish contact with colleagues from different countries.

uganda1One essential component of the workshop was for every participant to give a presentation. Most were 5 minutes long and organizers spoke from 15 minutes to 45 minutes on various topics with Q&A sessions afterward. Our reasons behind having every participant give a presentation were several; first, it encouraged each participant to plan for the workshop and guaranteed active participation. Second, each participant shared information on the legal research environment in their jurisdiction, which allowed for other participants to learn more about jurisdictions outside their own. It also assisted with networking, as each presentation allowed participants to better acquaint themselves with one another. Getting up in front of their peers gave each participant a chance to exercise skills in public speaking that they may not have otherwise used over the course of the two-day workshop.

We also had three breakout sessions where participants were gathered into small groups to foster discussion. Organizers joined in at each group table to act as facilitators for the small group discussions. After 45 minutes to an hour of discussion, the entire workshop group would come together and people from each group would relay their group’s findings.

As organizers, we wanted to ensure that participants would continue to contribute to a network for African Law Librarians. To that end, we established several online forums after the workshop for participants and organizers to engage in virtual and practical collaboration with international colleagues. The forums included:

So far the email chain and WhatsApp groups have been very vibrant. Participants continue to reach out to one another to discuss resources and let one another know what is happening in their jurisdictions. The website has been good for exchanging slides from the workshop and members have discussed what they would like to further do with the website.

We are excited to see this group continue in its efforts to further the goals of the workshop and look forward to further collaboration with members of the workshop. The experience was unforgettable and one I personally was truly honored and humbled to take part in. It was also very enjoyable to visit Uganda and learn more about the vibrant culture there. I look forward to visiting again.

Introducing…Sarah Jaramillo as the February 2017 FCIL Librarian of the Month

1.  Wsarah-jaramillohere did you grow up?

I grew up in Southern California and the Dallas area, and have lived in many places since then.

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

As fortune would have it, I stumbled upon law librarianship when I found myself living in Bloomington, Indiana in 2002. I recently graduated from college and was looking for a job. I found one at the Indiana University School of Law Library as a serials and bindery clerk. From that point on, I’ve been working in law libraries in various capacities. I saw what the reference librarians did at the law library at IU, and I found what they did very interesting and, more importantly, could see myself doing it in the long term. I applied for the joint law and library science program at IU and became a professional law librarian in 2008 at Rutgers-Newark School of Law Library.

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

I’ve had an interest in foreign, comparative and international law ever since I went to law school. I am one of those people who think all legal subjects could have a FCIL hook at some point. In all honesty, though, I found FCIL legal research intimidating, but I started picking it up over the years. My knowledge of foreign, comparative, and international law became more comprehensive when I because the tax research specialist at Fordham Law Library in 2011. As the tax specialist, I needed to have an in-depth knowledge of how to research international and foreign tax law. In January 2016, I started my position as one of the two reference librarians for international and foreign law at New York University School of Law. I love that I now have an official excuse to completely immerse myself in foreign and international law.

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

My current employer is New York University School of Law. I started there as a reference librarian for international and foreign law in January 2016.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

I have basic reading knowledge of Spanish and French. I’m aiming for that knowledge to become more advanced in the course of my employment at NYU.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

My most significant professional achievements came during my work with the Social Responsibilities SIS (SR-SIS). In 2010/11 and 2011/12, I ran the SR-SIS’s annual book drive. In 2012/13, I was the vice-chair/chair-elect of the SR-SIS. That year, we worked with Emily Feltren in AALL Government Relations to protest and formally comment on New York state’s gutting of some prison libraries. As chair in 2013/14, the SR-SIS lobbied AALL to formally support the passage of San Antonio’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance and led the charge to amend AALL’s antidiscrimination bylaws provision to include protection on the basis of gender identity.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Any baked good really.

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

There are so many. The first one to come to mind is “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce, but I could list so many others from various genres and time periods. I love music!

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

Well, this is certainly an open-ended question. I assume you don’t mean superpowers, so I’ll stay more grounded in my answers. In terms of general skills, I wish I knew how to model risk using Matlab or Python. In terms of law librarian skills, I wish I instantaneously knew the nuts and bolts of the law of international trade.

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

Conversation with friends or family.

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

I’m looking forward to getting to know the FCIL community in AALL better. Cheers!