Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Wednesdays Around the World: Are the British Isles Part of Europe?

Are the British Isles part of Europe? That is the question that will be partially answered by tomorrow's "Brexit" vote in a popular referendum on continued E.U. membership. I say partially answered because the Republic of Ireland is also an E.U. member state. Furthermore, there has been some talk that Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland (and maybe even the City of London) would possibly choose staying in the E.U. over staying in the U.K.

Polls show that the referendum is remarkably close. Both sides have their share of British celebrity support, and both sides were recently able to field their own fleets. Given that an English-angst-fueled Brexit would have dire consequences for the global economy, the eyes of the world will be on the British polls tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Wednesdays Around the World: Epic Fails in State Responsibility to Prevent Violence Against Women

In 1993 the United Nations General Assembly issued the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. While the Declaration itself is not binding, General Assembly declarations are often pointed to as evidence that a certain principle amounts to a peremptory norm of international law, a jus cogens, which all states are supposed to follow. Significantly, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women explicitly calls for state responsibility for the suppression of violence against women. Tragically, a number of states recently have failed miserably in shouldering this responsibility.

In Pakistan over the past two weeks, two separate women died after being beaten and set on fire. The first murder occurred after a young woman rejected a marriage proposal. Heinously, the perpetrators of the second murder were the mother and brother of the victim who had incurred their wrath by marrying without permission. (Note that an even stronger piece of international law, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, specifically calls for states to ensure that women may marry or not marry as they choose. Pakistan became a party to the Convention in 1996.) In fairness to Pakistan, the state is prosecuting the alleged murderers of the women that have been caught and is searching for those at large. However, earlier this year, a law designed to crack down on violence against women met large scale protests upon passage. Pakistan seems to be trying to meet its state responsibility but clearly has a long way to go in protecting its women from violence.

Unfortunately, recent events in the United States suggest that we also are failing in our responsibility to prevent violence against women. The highest profile example of this occurred when a California state judge handed down a ludicrously light sentence after a collegiate athlete was convicted by a jury of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. A juror in the case has gone so far as to suggest that the judge did not truly accept the jury's findings. Of course, the California case is not the only example of campus violence against women. For instance, Baylor University recently fired its football coach and reassigned its President because of catastrophic shielding of football players accused of sexual violence. Alarmingly, however, there are now reports that Baylor may be reconsidering after pressure from donors. Lack of serious consequences for those in positions of authority who fail to prevent violence against women devastatingly undermines attempts at meeting state responsibility. While the federal government has attempted to meet its state responsibility to curb campus violence against women via Title IX mechanisms, there are 243 open Title IX investigations into American universities' handling of sexual assault. It seems to me that the state has a responsibility to prevent violence against women, not just to try to prevent violence against women or to investigate after the fact, so I do not think Title IX can really be considered a success. Then again, obviously neither can state prosecutions of campus rapists.

As deplorable and alarming as recent events in Pakistan and the U.S. are, the worst recent epic fail in state responsibility to prevent violence against women probably comes from Qatar. Earlier this week, reports surfaced that a Dutch woman who had reported being drugged and raped to Qatari police was herself arrested for having sex out of wedlock. The victim was detained for three months before having her sentence "suspended." Qatar plans to deport her, just as soon as she pays an $824 fine . After being raped. And jailed for three months. It's hard to see how Qatar will meet its state responsibility to prevent violence against women if it actively disincentivizes women from reporting sexual assaults in this way.

While states do bear responsibility for preventing violence against women, it will be hard for many states to meet their burdens without widespread cultural changes. Thus, it is also incumbent upon individuals to shoulder responsibility for preventing violence against women. As noted by Vice President Biden, cultural change begins at the individual level, and failure to speak out or stand up against rape or rape culture makes us implicit in its perpetuation. For more information on how to answer the Vice President's call and how to contribute to a local violence-free culture, please visit U.K.'s Violence Intervention and Prevention Center.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Wednesdays Around the World: Looming EU Membership Clash Causes Voter Registration Crash

In just over two weeks, British voters will head to the polls to determine whether the U.K. should stay or should it go in terms of E.U. membership. The deadline to register to vote in the referendum was supposed to have been last night, but a surge of applicants who want to participate in the hotly-contested decision caused the registration website to crash. Thus, the U.K. has extended the registration deadline by 48 hours.

The vote is seen as a key moment in either furthering the trend of globalization or possibly reversing it. (The political shift and upcoming presidential election here in the U.S. is another.) While the E.U. has undoubtedly accomplished its primary objective of preventing continent-spanning wars (such as this one, or this one, or these, or this one, or these, or this one...) by tying European nations together through trade, other evidence points to the fact that European nationalism is alive and well.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Wednesdays Around the World: Crimes Against Humanity and Universal Jurisdiction

On Monday, the Extraordinary African Chambers announced a guilty verdict for Hissene Habre, former dictator of Chad. The Chambers found Habre guilty of the crimes against humanity of torture, rape, and sexual slavery, all of which occurred between 1982, when Habre seized power, and 1990 when he was deposed and fled Chad to Senegal. The guilty verdict came with a sentence of imprisonment for life.

The Extraordinary African Chambers are a somewhat unique body, as they are officially an international tribunal but are staffed mainly by the Senegalese domestic courts. They came about after the African Union instructed Senegal to prosecute Habre under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction. Habre's lawyers originally successfully challenged the jurisdiction of Senegal's courts in the court of ECOWAS (termed the Cour de CEDEAO after the French acronym for ECOWAS) , but the Cour de CEDEAO's opinion suggested that special chambers could be set up to try Habre for any acts that were violations of customary international law at the time they were committed.

The case is interesting because it illustrates the intersection of crimes under international law and the enforcement mechanisms of domestic legal systems.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wednesdays Around the World: Collective Security or Cold War Revival?

Last Thursday, the United States activated a missile defense system in Romania, a former Warsaw Pact Soviet Satellite State turned NATO member. The United States installed the missile defense system to protect European nations from potential missile strikes from Iran as part of its collective security obligations to its NATO allies.

Despite the largely symbolic value of the Romanian missile shield, and despite the fact that the U.S. offered Moscow access to the control system so that the shield could also be used to protect Russia from missiles launched from the Middle East, the Russian government is not pleased by the development.

It remains to be seen whether missile shields end up contributing to global security or whether they trigger a renewed arms race and a new cold war.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Wednesdays Around the World: Tropical Tuna Trouble

This week the World Trade Organization's Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) created a compliance panel in what is hopefully the last step in a long-running trade dispute between the United States and Mexico over the labeling of tuna.

The conflict began when Mexico objected to the U.S. federal statutes and regulations that provide for when cans of tuna may be labeled as "dolphin-safe." See 16 U.S.C. § 1385 (2012 & Supp. III 2015); 50 C.F.R. §§ 216.91-216.92 (2015); see also Earth Island Inst. v. Hogarth, 494 F.3d 757 (9th Cir. 2007). Mexico contends that the U.S. requires certain dolphin safety measures for fishing operations in the area of the ocean often used by Mexican fishing boats that the U.S. does not require in other areas of the ocean and that the measures put Mexican tuna at a disadvantage in the U.S. market in violation of Article 2 of the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).

The dispute was decided upon and appealed and re-decided several times within the DSB. (A summary of the twists and turns is available via the WTO's website.) Ultimately, the DSB held that the U.S.'s regulatory scheme for labeling tuna as "dolphin-safe" did illegally disadvantage Mexican tuna. The DSB based its decision largely on the fact that U.S. regulations require tuna from the Eastern Tropical Pacific (where Mexican fishing boats operate) to be certified by both fishing boat captains and outside observers to qualify for a dolphin-safe label, whereas tuna from other fisheries needed only be certified by the captain. As a result, earlier this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration adjusted it rule to remove the requirement for outside observers, substituting training requirements for fish boat captains instead. See Enhanced Document Requirements and Captain Training Requirements to Support Use of the Dolphin Safe Label on Tuna Products, 81 Fed. Reg. 15444 (Mar. 23, 2016) (to be codified at 50 C.F.R. § 216.91).

The United States believes that the new regulation brings the tuna labeling requirements into compliance with its international obligations, but Mexico disagrees. Thus, the U.S. requested the compliance panel in order to put the proceedings to rest.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

New Titles from April 2016

Check out our Featured Acquisitions page for April 2016 to see the new titles in the Law Library!

A few sample titles: