ASIL 2017 Recap: Claims against the United Nations: From Within and Without

By: Loren Turner

At 9:00 a.m. Friday, April 14, 2017, during ASIL’s annual meeting, a panel of international law experts assembled to address the accountability of the United Nations in its peacekeeping operations (or, in practical terms, lack therof).  The topic is getting increasing attention in light of recent evidence that U.N. peacekeepers caused the cholera outbreak in Haiti and sexually-abused children and women during peacekeeping operations in Central Africa.

The panelists were: Simon Chesterman, Professor of Law at the National University of Singapore; Andreas Vaagt, with the United Nations Secretariat, and Patricia Galvao Teles, with the International Law Commission.  Alejandro Sousa, senior legal adviser to the U.N. General Assembly, moderated the discussion.

Professor Chesterfield unpacked the concept of accountability into two inquiries: (1) to whom is the United Nations accountable and (2) for what?  In short, the answers are: (1) unfortunately, no one – yet; and (2) violations of humanitarian law.

In 1952, when there were 60 countries that comprised the United Nations, a committee of the American Society of International Law (referenced here) questioned whether the U.N. was subject to the laws of war.  After all, the U.N. was not, itself, a party to the Geneva Conventions or any other treaties.  It was not until the Kosovo intervention in 1999 that it was decided yes, humanitarian law applies to U.N. peacekeeping operations because: (1) the U.N. is an independent actor – separate from member States – when it exercises peacekeeping functions under the U.N. Charter (2) customary law supports humanitarian intervention in certain situations and the laws of war thus apply to the actors performing the humanitarian intervention and (3) the U.N. increasingly exercises state-type activities, such as in Kosovo when it set up panels to prosecute criminals and freeze assets.

Yet, despite theoretical application of laws of war to U.N. peacekeeping operations, the practical reality is that the U.N., as an international organization, has absolute immunity.  Additionally, individual U.N. officials have immunity as well.  When the U.N. admitted its role in Haiti’s cholera epidemic, victims brought suit in U.S. federal court.  The Second Circuit dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding the U.N. was indeed immune under Section 2 of the Convention of the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, which states “The United Nations, its property and assets wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall enjoy immunity from every form of legal process except insofar as in any particular case it has expressly waived its immunity…” So, victims in places where the U.N. operates, such as in Haiti, have no avenue to contest activities or hold the U.N. accountable.  The organization that is supposed to enforce the rule of law around the world is not itself accountable.

Mr. Vaagt spoke on behalf of the United Nations. He said enforceability of the rule of law related to personnel actions depends on member states. Once article V or VI of the U.N. Charter is invoked, the status of forces agreement (SOFA) between the U.N. and the host country applies.  Under the SOFA, the state(s) providing humanitarian personnel maintain exclusive jurisdiction of those individuals.  The concept of exclusive jurisdiction also applies to NATO forces going into NATO countries.  Once the U.N. refers a case to a state, it is up to the state to investigate and prosecute the offender.  General Assembly resolution 62/63 urged states to exercise that jurisdiction.  Yet, to date, despite approximately 100 case referrals, not a single state has pursued charges.  

As to the immunity of U.N. staff, only official high level U.N. officials have diplomatic immunity.  But, there are other U.N. employees who have functional immunity, which can be waived by the U.N. Secretary General.  Officially, the U.N. has a zero tolerance policy and Secretary-General Guterres recently released a strategy to end impunity for sexual exploitation and abuse system-wide.  It is too early to comment on the effect of that strategy. Regardless, unless waived by the Secretary-General, immunity stands.

Ms. Galvao Teles said that the issue of U.N. accountability is not a new one.  There are three strategies that have been raised to attempt a balance between immunity and impunity: (1) revise the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations; (2) envision a convention on the jurisdictional immunities of international organizations; or (3) tackle the immunity question within the context of “settlement of international disputes” to which international organizations are parties.  In Ms. Galvao Teles’s opinion, none of these strategies is appropriate.  It is risky to revise agreements that already contain good law.  Given the current international political climate, the Secretary-General says he is happy to have what we have rather than risk getting less.  Maybe it is not the rules that need to change, but the implementation.  We could clarify when a waiver of immunity would be appropriate.  We could define better the phrase “private claim.” We could explore a sanctions-type system to handle claims rather than relying on judicial resolution.  All of these are better options than revising an established treaty.  As to the second idea of envisioning something new?  Not going to happen.  What would it add?  Again, it is probably an issue about new strategies of implementation rather than the creation of new rules.  The last idea, the topic of tackling the immunity question within the context of settlement of international disputes, was added at the sixty-eight session of the International Law Commission.  Ms. Galvao Teles thinks it is more likely that the International Law Commission would provide draft clauses to address the issue of immunity – not an entire convention.

[For more information about this program, read the official recap on ASIL Cables].

ASIL 2017 Recap: Debate: Bombing Terrorist Revenue: Legitimate Military Strategy or War Crime?

Bombing Terrorist Revenue

By: Amy Flick

One of the Friday sessions at ASIL’s 2017 annual meeting was staged in the form of a debate on the question of whether the practice of targeting revenue sources of ISIL (like oil trucks and infrastructure and cash storage sites) violates international humanitarian law. The moderator, Christie Edwards of the American Red Cross International Humanitarian Law Division, began the program by explaining the debate format, with the speakers taking assigned positions which might, or might not, reflect their own views.

The affirmative side, supporting targeting of revenue sources as legitimate military objects, led off with Professor Ryan Goodman of New York University School of Law. He argued that it is lawful to target objects under current law, even if the law should be changed, and that under debating rules, the proof is on the negative team.  Article 52(2) of the Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, on general protection of civilian objects, limits attacks strictly to military objectives, with a definition of targetable objects as those making an effective contribution to military action. He cited Burrus Carnahan’s writings on Additional Protocol I, which include examples of economic targeting such as the destruction of raw cotton during the U.S. Civil War, and the more recent example of Afghanistan, where all 28 members of NATO have authorized targeting drug labs. Professor Goodman acknowledged that the prevailing academic opinion is that economic targets are not legitimate targets, but he called most of the analysis of the question in the academic literature superficial. He also referred to ICRC Commentaries requiring military control over an object as a limit. Since ISIL controls the oil fields and funds its operations and purchases weapons through the sale of oil, those qualify as legitimate targets. Where states have drawn the line is targeting people, even if they are working in revenue-generating operations, if they are not directly involved in hostilities.

Professor Laurie Blank, Director of the International Humanitarian Law Clinic at Emory University School of Law, argued for the negative side, and disagreed on the debate’s burden of proof, saying that the party describing a target as outside IHL protections has the burden of proof here. Because the object and purpose of the law of armed conflict is to minimize civilian suffering, the law of armed conflict limits targeting to military objectives and combatants. The first step in the process is to determine if the target is a military objective. Article 52(2)’s definition of targets is combatants and equipment. Donating money to a terrorist group does not make one a target, even if the money might be used for objects that might be used in conflict. Just because something is done frequently, or feels good, an argument for “morally legitimate” does not make economic targeting legal in the law of armed conflict. She argued that the risk of turning money into a military objective by nature is that the slippery slope leads to targeting agriculture, banks, and the environment.

Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap, Professor and Executive Director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke Law School, returned to the affirmative side of the argument. Professor Dunlap disagreed with the slippery slope argument and said that the point of the debate is the narrow question of whether the target has a direct connection with objects on the battlefield. ISIL fighters regard monetary payments as income for jihad. Two-thirds of ISIL’s budget goes to paying fighters and buying equipment. He cited an article from The Atlantic from March 6, 2017 (which itself cites a February 2017 report from The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence) that found that, when the oil fields were bombed, ISIL cut fighter pay by 50%, and many left the battlefield. An attack that removes fighters from the battlefield without civilian casualties serves the idea of international humanitarian law. U.S. forces even dropped leaflets to notify drivers before oilfields were bombed. Professor Dunlap stressed that these tactics are only used when it is shown that eliminating these economic targets will affect the battlefield. The alternative is for military operations on the ground to have to root fighters out from urban areas house by house.

The final speaker of the debate was Professor Jens David Ohlin of Cornell Law School, arguing for the negative side. He started with a declaration that “slippery slope is an understatement.” Article 52(2)’s not having used the word “direct” does not mean that it allows revenue-producing site bombings. There must be a causal nexus to the military outcome, and it must be relatively certain that destruction of the target confers a military advantage. Bombing to demoralize the civilian population is not enough of a military nexus; bombing coal and steel plants is. Three steps are needed with economic targets to show a military purpose: a revenue-generating product is produced; the product is sold; and the revenue is used to buy weapons. This is not enough to establish a causal connection a stay within the requirement of conferring a definite military advantage.

On rebuttal, Professor Goodman reiterated that current law allows the slippery slope, even if the law should be changed. The travaux for Protocol I dropped “direct objects” and allowed indirect objects. Just as steel is turned into tanks, money creates fighters, and could even be traded directly for arms, eliminating one of the three steps. Rule 8 practice includes oil storage sites as military targets, as well as dual purpose structures like bridges; it does not allow bombing agriculture, with a disproportionate effect on civilians, or the World Trade Center, as an example of a structure too indeterminate to military objectives.

Professor Blank stated that she found assurances that there are limits and that states will be careful as insufficient. Making law for “bad terrorists” is not why a practice is allowed, because it becomes justifiable for other groups.

Professor Dunlap’s response was that the law requires care to be taken. Military forces must collect a lot of data or they cannot target, and IHL does not matter to groups who do not follow the law. The current situation in Syria and Iraq has seen a collapse of reciprocity. If we can eliminate fighters and weapons without civilian casualties, and there are no good other options, we should do it.

Professor’s Ohlin’s final response was that the affirmative side has argued that international law permits anything that is not prohibited, but IHL requires a presumption of civilian character, with proof that a target is a legitimate military target. The parties agree that analysis requires a definite military advantage; the disagreement is over what is definite.  He contended that the affirmative side distinguished unfairly between small and large powers based on how much of the economy must be crippled by the destruction of a target to diminish the combatant’s military capacity. Professor Blank agreed that the rules must be the same for state and non-state actors; targeting rules cannot be different based on whether the parties are good or bad.

[To watch the video of this program and others from ASIL’s 2017 annual meeting, visit ASIL’s YouTube channel.  For another recap of this program, visit ASIL Cables].

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. For another recap of this program, visit ASIL Cables].

Antiquarian/Rare Books Vendors and Dealers: Foreign and International Law

By Lyonette Louis-Jacques

domesday-book-1804x972For those building special collections of rare law books, here is a list I compiled recently after a call for suggestions to the AALL FCIL-SIS (Foreign, Comparative, and International Law) and LHRB-SIS (Legal History & Rare Books) e-Communities, and the INT-LAW (International Law Librarians) listserv. Thanks especially to Mike Widener, Andreas Knobelsdorf, and Jonathan Pratter for suggesting names of antiquarian vendors/dealers/publishers, etc. of foreign, comparative, and international law rare books. Please send any other suggestions or updates to me at llou@uchicago.edu).

Here is the list:

Sometimes FCIL rare books are sold through auctions via Bonhams or Doyle.

Mega-catalogs or rare book search pages for identifying rare FCIL titles include AbeBooks.com, viaLibri, ZVAB (Zentrales Verzeichnis Antiquarischer Bücher), WorldCat, and KVK – Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog (you can limit your search to the Buchhandel = Book Trade section). You can use these sources to check if a law title is unique or owned by few law libraries.  You can check these sources or digital libraries or commercial databases directly to see if a rare law book you own has already been digitized (if you’re thinking of special digitization projects).

For tracking the literature related to FCIL history, it’s useful to regularly review the Bulletin of Medieval Canon Law which includes an annual bibliography of essays and books) and “Orientamenti Bibliografici”, a bibliography coordinated by Rosalba Sorice with contributions from Manlio Bellomo, etc. published  in the Rivista Internazionale di Diritto Comune.

You can enroll in Mike Widener’s course for training in law rare book collecting. It’s a Rare Book School class called Law Books: History & Connoisseurship. He teaches it every two years or so. A reading list is available. Mike’s most recent law rare books class was in June 2016 and covered Roman, canon & civil law in addition to Anglo-American law. Bill Schwesig reported on this year’s class in the summer 2016 issue of the CALL Bulletin. Susan Gualtier, Teresa Miguel-Stearns, Sarah Ryan, and Fang Wang reported on the summer 2014 class in the March 2015 issue of AALL Spectrum.

It might be also useful for FCIL rare book collection development to check the catalogs and new acquisitions lists of research center libraries such as the Library of the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History (which, BTW, has a great digital library!).

Some of the libraries that have strong collection of rare FCIL book include Yale (including the Library of the Stephan Kuttner Institute of Medieval Canon Law), Berkeley (Robbins Collection on Religious and Civil Law), Law Library of Congress (The Rare Book Collection), and the Peace Palace Library (Grotius Collection). Sharing knowledge with them, generalist rare book librarians, or EXLIBRIS-L subscribers, on FCIL rare book collecting would be important for others new to selecting materials in this area. What are some strong FCIL rare book collections or specialized vendors?

#IALL2016 Recap: Guy Goodwin-Gill on Refugee Law

Goodwin-Gill 2
By: Amy Flick

Our program on Wednesday, August 3 included a program on “International Refugee Law: Where it Comes From, and Where It’s Going.” This was a timely topic this year, and our speaker was an expert on the subject.  Guy Goodwin-Gill practices as a barrister from Blackstone Chambers in London and has served as Legal Adviser in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as an advisor to United Kingdom Parliament Committees on asylum and immigration control, as Professor of asylum law at the University of Amsterdam, as Professor of international refugee law at All Souls’ College of Oxford University, and as founding editor and Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Refugee Law.

Goodwin-Gill noted that refugee law developed along with international organizations, so he began with historical background as important to understanding refugee law. The first High Commissioner for Refugees, Fridtjof Nansen, was appointed when the International Committee of the Red Cross wrote to the League of Nations in 1921 about Russian refugees needing attention in the displacements that followed World War I and the Russian Revolution. Nansen identified identification documents as a primary need to allow refugees to travel and find work, so he persuaded states to issue “Nansen passports.” Rather than returning refugees to dangerous environments, he concentrated on allowing states to allow resettlement and employment. The earliest refugee law focused on Russian refugees, but there were three million refugees in need of resettlement after World War I. Aid was provided in a piecemeal fashion as individual groups in need were identified.

In 1933, the League appointed James Grover McDonald as High Commissioner for Refugees to work with the growing number of Jewish refugees from Germany. He found that governments were unwilling to deal with the causes of the refugee crisis and resigned in 1935, with a famous letter of resignation, noting that “conditions in Germany which create refugees have developed so catastrophically that a reconsideration by the League of Nations of the entire situation is essential.”  Goodwin-Gill asserted that the challenges of earlier decades in refugee law are still those of today, where governments need to lead the way and do not.

In 1946, at the first session of the United Nations General Assembly (at the Central Hall Westminster in London), the refugee problem was the second most debated issue, after peace and security. Refugee law “took off” in 1948 with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its recognition of the right of persons to seek asylum. Politics are always involved in refugee law, and early refugee law was informed by Cold War politics, with United States policy important in setting the direction of the law. The 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees was adopted by a United Nations conference and was signed in July 1951. Goodwin-Gill pointed out that the convention is on the status of refugees, concentrating on how refugees are treated, not on the bigger picture of the conditions creating refugees. States sought to limit their obligations, and definitions of who is a refugee were limited to those outside their own country, with a well-founded fear of persecution.

Goodwin-Gill began work with High Commissioner Sadruddin Aga Khan in 1976, and he recommends Aga Khan’s lectures on refugee law at the Hague Academy of International Law as reading for law students. Under Sadruddin Aga Khan, the UNHCR expanded its jurisdiction beyond Europe, encouraged self-sufficiency, and encouraged repatriation and aid to refugees who do return. States were still reluctant to recognize the reasons for refugees to remain, and Aga Khan encouraged mediation of international disputes and recognized that underdevelopment is as much of an issue as conflict. As co-chairman of the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues in 1986, Aga Khan pushed for a new international humanitarian order, with a report on international cooperation to avert new flows of refugees that Goodwin-Gill recommends.

Before the 1980s, there was little writing on “aliens” and the movement between states, but in the 1980s there was an explosion in the literature on refugee law, including Goodwin-Gill’s own book, a fourth edition of which is in the works now.  There was also an explosion of jurisprudence on refugee law that hadn’t existed before, but states wanted procedures for determining refugee status.

In current refugee law, Goodwin-Gill finds that there has been an over-judicialization of refugee law, approached on a case-by-case basis. Human rights jurisprudence has contributed to more progressive thinking on refugees, with human rights law, international humanitarian law, and refugee law all cross-referenced.

The challenges of 2016 include the inability of the European Union states to develop a coherent response to the crisis, which is smaller than earlier crises like that of the 1930s. EU states have been reluctant to provide practical help, wanting someone else to be responsible.  Goodwin-Gill argues that there is need to focus on the practice of states. There should be collective action of the European Union, which has principles of cooperation in its treaties. Its failure to respond has left people in limbo and has been a major political failure. The European Union has promised migration agreements to developing countries but has failed to deliver. Forty years after his work with the UNHCR, the world is facing the same challenges. How Europe, and the world, work through the current issues will influence the future of refugee law.

#IALL2016 Recap: The Role of Human Rights in Re-Shaping Investor-State Arbitration

IALL Oxford KebleBy: Herb Somers

On Wednesday afternoon, August 3 at 14.00, Susan Karamanian, Associate Dean for International and Comparative Legal Studies at the George Washington University Law School, began her lecture by describing the process of investor-state arbitration, which is a system under international law that provides an investor an avenue to adjudicate disputes (through international arbitration) against a foreign government. This alternate dispute resolution system exists outside the court systems of the home or host state. The adjudicating body is a panel of three arbitrators chosen by the parties according to the provisions of the investment agreement. Typically, one arbitrator is chosen by the investor, one by the host state, and a third by agreement of the parties.

Such dispute resolution procedures can be found in a multitude of bilateral investment treaties (BITs) between individual countries, as well as in some international trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). These agreements typically authorize the investor  (the home state party) to request an arbitration  when there is a violation of the BIT by the nation in which the investment is located (the host state). A typical BIT will provide the investor protection against expropriation without due process, most favored nation status as well as other equal protection provisions and general guarantees of fair and equitable treatment. The investment treaty also allows the investor to choose from an array of arbitration rules such as those used by the International Centre for Settlement Dispute (ICSID), or the UN  Conference on Trade and Development UNCTAD).

The selected arbitrators in a specific case must decide all issues in accordance with the chosen arbitration rules and they must also adjudicate the dispute consistent with the treaty provisions at hand and  all applicable rules of international law. There are no explicit rules of precedent that are used by the panel, but a de facto system of precedent has emerged where arbitrators look to the decisions of previous bodies deciding on similar factual and legal issues. A common criticism of such arbitrations is that they are cloaked in secrecy due to the confidential nature of arbitration as a dispute mechanism.  Until recently, it was difficult, if not impossible, to obtain the award of an arbitral panel in a given case. However, later agreements have provided more transparency in the process of investor-state dispute resolution.  Critics have also argued that such arbitrations are not bound by rules of judicial fairness and have no mandate to follow prevailing international human rights and environmental norms. Critics of investor-state arbitration have also decried the decisions of panels that have allowed states to face liability when investors have attacked environmental and health laws of the host state.

Karamanian believes that international human rights law can re-shape the process and address many of the concerns about investor state arbitration voiced by critics.  She enumerated several reasons why this is true.

First, transparency issues have begun to be addressed. The secrecy surrounding earlier investor-state arbitration have given way to more open procedures. For example, the 2004 U.S. Model BIT allows for amicus curiae briefs and all documents relating to a particular investor-state dispute must be publicly available. Similarly, ICSID requires that all requests for arbitration must be made public. A majority of ICSID awards are disseminated publicly, and for those that are not, excerpts are provided.

Human rights principles may also be applicable to the dispute and can be raised by the parties in several ways. Based on the law and the arbitration rules in a particular dispute, international law may be controlling. In NAFTA Chapter 11 arbitration, the principles of the NAFTA agreement and international law explicitly apply to a particular dispute in that venue. Similarly, in ICSID arbitration, absent governing laws, international law applies as well, thus providing avenues for raising international human rights issues. Also, when national law applies, a monist state may raise international law as integral part of its domestic law.

Other international law principles also direct arbitrators to recognize human rights protections. For example jus cogens  (non-derogable norms of international law) are given precedence over the obligations present in an international investment agreement. This rule is derived from article 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Provisions of the United Nations Charter may also apply such as Article 103, which provides that in the event of a conflict between a state’s obligation under the Charter and that of a treaty, the conflict should be resolved in the favor of Charter obligations, which include the advancement of human rights principles by member states.

The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties can also be applied as an interpretative tool by arbitrators to divine the meaning of provisions in a given investment agreement. Article 31(1) of the Convention requires an arbitral body to interpret “in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of the treaty in their context and in light of its object and purpose.”  It is from this interpretive provision that the text of a given investment treaty can be read to infer international human rights protections despite not being explicitly mentioned within the document.

Finally, the investment treaties themselves have also begun to protect the prerogatives of states to regulate health, safety, and environmental concerns and limit their liability under a investment agreement. The 2012 U.S. Model BIT, for example, excludes “ non-discriminatory regulations that are tailored to protect public health, safety, and the environment.” Other provisions in concluded BITs also protect a state so that it may fulfill its duties to maintain or restore international peace and security.

While recent decisions of investor-state arbitral tribunals  have recognized a state’s legitimate right to protect the health and welfare of its citizens without liability to a foreign investor, much work needs to be done. Ultimately, this process of integrating human rights norms into investor-state arbitration will require arbitrators who are knowledgeable of the relevant law and willing to apply the norms of  international human rights and other international standards to the disputes before them. Law librarians will play a vital role in this process by making these materials readily accessible and by sharing their reference expertise with lawyers in the field.

 

Recap: FCIL-SIS Book Group

By Jennifer Allison

ewstSpearheaded by Dan Wade of the Yale Law School Library, the FCIL-SIS Book Group met again this year at the AALL annual meeting. Of the two finalists, the book chosen by the participants was East West Street: On the Origins of “Genocide” and “Crimes Against Humanity”, by Philippe Sands (published in 2016 by Knopf, ISBN 978-0385350716).

The participants in the book group included:

  • Dan Wade, Yale
  • John Wilson, UCLA
  • Lyonette Louis-Jacques, University of Chicago
  • Loren Turner, University of Minnesota
  • Jennifer Allison, Harvard
  • Daniel Donahue, University of Houston
  • Marilyn Raisch, Georgetown
  • Evelyn Ma, Yale

After a bit of a location mix-up, the group settled on meeting at the conference hotel’s American Craft  Kitchen & Bar.  Over delicious food and drinks, the conversation about this interesting and unexpected book flowed.

Most of the group’s participants gave the book a thumbs-up, although there were definitely mixed reviews regarding the book’s somewhat unusual format.  Although it was a non-fiction account of the development of the crime of genocide, Sands wove this information into the stories of four people from an Eastern European city, that, throughout its history, has had a number of names, including Lemberg, Lwów, Lvov, and as it is known today, Lviv.

One of the four people whose story was told was Sands’ maternal grandfather, a Jew who left his hometown for Vienna in the early 20th century, and then fled Vienna for Paris in the late 1930s.  The book featured extensive descriptions of the grandfather’s early life, the fate of his family in what was, during the war, the Polish city of Lwów, and his later years in Paris, where the author spent time with him.

Sands also told the stories of two men who had studied at the law faculty of the University of Lwów:

  • Raphael Lemkin taught at Duke Law School and worked with the American lawyers who were involved in the Nuremberg trials. In his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, he offered the first definition of the word “genocide.”
  • Hersch Lauterpacht was an international lawyer who taught at the London School of Economics and Cambridge University. He worked with the Nuremberg Trials’ team of British lawyers.

The book’s fourth biographical figure was the German lawyer Hans Frank, who served the Nazi regime as both a lawyer and the Governor General of occupied Poland.  He was a defendant in the Nuremberg Trials, where he was convicted of the murder of Polish Jews.  He was sentenced to death and executed.

Although biographical information of these four figures was woven throughout the book, the main focus of its second half was the Nuremberg Trials, from the preparation (in which the allies’ legal teams debated whether to use the newly-introduced crime of “genocide” in their prosecution of the Nazi defendants), through the trial proceedings and the outcome.

Some of the members of the book group were not enamored of the book’s extensive use of biographical narrative, and would have preferred that the book focus merely on the earliest development of genocide of a legal norm that could be used by lawyers to prosecute war criminals.  In fact, a few people said that, if they were to read the book again, they would skip its first half entirely.  However, other members of the group felt that the inclusion of the biographical stories made the work more accessible to non-scholars; specifically, “it made it a serious book about genocide that I could recommend to my mom, or sister, one that they would actually read.”

There were other concerns about the book among the group.  As Dan Wade pointed out, “This book likely would not have passed a law school preemption check.”  Perhaps he is correct.  Ana Filipa Vrdoljak, a law professor at the University of Western Australia Faculty of Law, published an article that covered a remarkably similar topic in 2009: Human Rights and Genocide: The Word of Lauterpacht and Lemkin in Modern International Law (20 Eur. J. Int’l L. 1163 (2009)). The article tracked the life paths of these two figures, from their education at the University of Lwów Faculty of Law, through their lives and careers in the United States and England, to their participation in the Nuremberg Trials, in similar detail to Sands’ book.  Of course, Vrdoljak’s article discussed neither Sands’ grandfather nor Hans Frank in any detail, and the presence of the content of those two individuals added a level of narrative complexity and interest to the book that is not present in the article.  Still, Dan’s was a valid point.

Overall, it was a very successful and enjoyable book group meeting.  Hopefully this is a tradition that has been firmly established and will continue at AALL meetings into the future.