Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chicago Declaration on the Rights of Older Persons

Chicago Declaration 2014The Chicago Declaration on the Rights of Older Persons is a new human rights document meant to stimulation discussion and action on protecting the rights of older persons. Following more than six months of drafting, the final text was reviewed at a two-day conference at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, attended by experts from 16 countries around the world.

Here's a photo from the closing ceremony.

Photo courtesy of Annie Krug

Mark E. Wocjik

July 23, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Passes the Disabilities Treaty

The United States has signed but not yet ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a text adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on December 13, 2006 and signed by the United States on June 30, 2006. 

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the "Disabilities Treaty" this week by a vote of 12 to 6. The treaty can now go to the full Senate for its consent, which requires a special 2/3 vote. (The Disabilities Treaty failed in an earlier Senate vote in 2012.)

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement after the Senate Committee passed the Disabilities Treaty:

“One hundred forty six nations and the European Union have ratified the Disabilities Treaty, but it will require American leadership to ensure the treaty’s protections become a reality. The treaty embodies the highest of American standards. From the U.S. Constitution, it borrows principles of equality and the protection of minorities. From the Declaration of Independence, it reflects the unalienable right to pursue happiness. From the Americans with Disabilities Act and other landmark accessibility laws, the treaty enshrines the concept of reasonable accommodation. When we lead, the world follows, and only the United States can show the way in raising worldwide accessibility to the American standard. The Disabilities Treaty is essential to improving the lives of over 1 billion people around the globe with disabilities, as well as the 58 million Americans with disabilities right here at home, including 5.5 million disabled American veterans. This treaty should be ratified and I will continue to work with Democrats and Republicans to achieve this worthwhile and meaningful goal.”

Click here for a copy of the treaty text.

Click here for the package of documents transmitted by the U.S. State Department to the U.S. Senate.

Mark E. Wojcik (mew)

July 23, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Call for Papers: Trade, Law, and Development

India FlagThe Editors of Trade, Law and Development invite original, unpublished manuscripts in the form of articles, notes, comments, and book reviews. Manuscripts received by September 17, 2014 pertaining to any area of international economic law will be reviewed for possible publication in the Winter 2014 issue (volume 6, number 2).

Trade, Law and Development aims to generate and sustain a democratic debate on emerging issues in international economic law, with a special focus on the developing world. For more information, see the submission guidelines at or contact the editors by email at: editors[at]






E-mail: editors[at]



July 23, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on Iraq

 The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on U.S. policy in Iraq on July 24, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. in Room 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington DC.

Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office


July 22, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mexico Withdraws Reservations to Several Human Rights Treaties

During the month of July, the State of Mexico has withdrawn its reservations to several human rights treaties, including three treaties adopted through the framework of the Organization of American States (OAS).  Earlier this month, Mexico deposited instruments with the OAS withdrawing the reservations Mexico had made to the Convention on the Status of Aliens, the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, and the Declaration Recognizing the Contentious Jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  The withdrawal of the reservation to the Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons is in compliance with the decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the Radilla Pacheco case.

In its press release, the IACHR stated that "this action broadens the potential for protecting the rights that have been internationally recognized by Mexico, and therefore constitutes an important step in Mexico’s commitment to the promotion and protection of such rights."  The IACHR also took this opportunity to reiterate its call to all the OAS Member States to ratify the instruments of the Inter-American human rights protection system, particularly the American Convention on Human Rights, and to accept the contentious jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human

Additionally, Mexico deposited instruments with the United Nations Secretary General withdrawing reservations to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families.  The withdrawal of these reservations widens protections for the expulsion of foreign persons and military justice. 

The withdrawal of these reservations is part of a package of human rights initiatives presented in October 2013 by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and of the commitments made by Mexico related to its second-cycle review under the UN Universal Periodic Review Mechanism.


July 22, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Downing of Flight MH17

From a statement by U.S. Ambassador Samantha Powers, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, on the Downing of Flight MH17:

"To the families and friends of the victims, it is impossible to find words to express our condolences. We can only commit to you that we will not rest until we find out what happened. A full, credible, and unimpeded international investigation must begin immediately. The perpetrators must be brought to justice. They must not be sheltered by any member state of the United Nations."


-Ambassador Samantha Power 


July 21, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Professor Dan Markel of Florida State University Dies After Being Shot

Dan Markel FSUProfessor Dan Markel, the D'Alemberte Professor at Florida State University College of Law in Tallahassee, focused his scholarship on topics such as the proper scope of mercy, the death penalty, punitive damages, shaming punishments, and transitional justice in states recovering from mass atrocities.

He was raised in Toronto and studied politics and philosophy as an undergraduate at Harvard. He did graduate work in political philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Cambridge, before returning to Harvard for his law degree, where he was an Olin Fellow and on law review. Upon graduation from law school, Professor Markel was a research fellow at the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School, a clerk for Judge Michael Daly Hawkins on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and an associate at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel in Washington, D.C., where he practiced white-collar criminal defense and civil litigation in trial and appellate courts. At Florida State University, he primarily taught in the area of criminal law.

He was shot at his home on Friday morning, around 11:00 a.m. and died of his wounds early this morning. Here is a link to a news report about the shooting.

A memorial service is planned for noon Sunday at Congregation Shomrei Torah, located at 4858 Kerry Forest Parkway, Tallahassee, Florida. His funeral will be held in Toronto.

We extend our deepest sympathy to his family, friends, students, and colleagues.


July 19, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Child Rights Framework for Addressing Trafficking of Children

TodresProfessor Jonathan Todres of Georgia State University College of Law, with whom I had the pleasure of editing a book urging U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, has published a new article on that topic in volume 22 of the Michigan State University College of Law Journal of International Law. Here's the abstract of the new article:

The United States, Somalia, and South Sudan are the only countries in the world that have not ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The symposium essay examines the value of U.S. ratification of the CRC to the prevention of child trafficking. The essay discusses procedural benefits of human rights treaty ratification, drawing on lessons from the U.S. ratification of the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography. The essay then examines substantive benefits of the CRC, highlighting the treaty’s capacity to address many of the root causes of child trafficking and related forms of exploitation. Finally, the essay outlines the importance of a child rights framework to address the severe violations of rights that occur when children are trafficked.

Click here to download the article from SSRN. We continue to hope for U.S. ratification of the CRC and for full implementation of its rights around the world.


July 19, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Malaysian Airline Tragedy

We extend our deepest sympathies to the families of persons killed earlier today in the attack on the Malayasian Airlines jet.

The Editors

July 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

International Criminal Justice Day

Sang-Hyun Song and Ban Ki-MoonUN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for universal ratification of the Rome Statute, which was adopted 16 years ago today and established the International Criminal Court (ICC), the world’s first permanent court set up to try war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

“Accountability for serious crimes of international concern is central to our global commitment to peace, security, human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Mr. Ban said in his message for International Criminal Justice Day. The Day is dedicated to celebrating the development and achievements of international criminal justice institutions. It is observed on 17 July, the date on which the Rome Statute was adopted in 1998.

The President of the ICC, Judge Sang-Hyun Song, noted that the core of the Rome Statute system is the responsibility of States to themselves investigate and prosecute “where the law is sovereign and respected and where justice for all is recognized as being crucial for peace, stability and development worldwide.” He added that the Court’s intervention has galvanized more international attention to communities affected by crimes and the efforts essential to aiding the survivors. “However, we are all conscious of the limits of the ICC’s current jurisdiction, which have to be remedied by continued progress towards universal ratification of the Rome Statute,” Judge Song stated.

In a letter to Judge Song, the Presidents of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR), Theodor Meron and Vagn Joensen, respectively, said that today offers an opportunity to reflect on achievements of international criminal justice in the last 20 years. The establishment of the ICC, ad hoc international courts and the hybrid criminal courts has “helped to transform the political and legal landscape,” they said in a letter of congratulations. They added that “calling senior political and military leaders to account for their acts before courts of law is increasingly the expectation, rather than the exception.” The letter also noted that the Day serves as a reminder that there is still work to be done at both national and international levels “to bring an end to impunity and, more importantly, to prevent the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in the first place.”

(adapted from a UN press release)

The American Bar Association also announced today a new resource web page for the International Criminal Court. Click here to visit.

July 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Human Right to Digital Privacy

Yesterday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, issued a report on the protection and promotion of the right to privacy in the context of domestic and extraterritorial surveilliance, the interception of digital communications, and the collection of personal data.  The report reviews international agreements that protect privacy, including article 12 of the Univeral Declaration of Human Rights and article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which protect the right to be free from unlawful arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home and correspondence.  The report expresses concerns about government surveillance of personal information on the Internet. The report states that the government's use of surveillance techniques should be legal (e.g., transparent and for a legitimate purpose), proportionate and necessary.  The report also relies on international nondiscrimination principles to argue that both citizens and noncitizens should receive equal privacy protections.  Finally, the report states that effective remedies are needed when the right to privacy has been invaded. The report calls on States to review their national laws, policies and practices to ensure compliance with the right to privacy.


July 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Comments Sought on Regulations to Implement the Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that it was seeking comments on Bank Secrecy Act regulations implemented under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010. Comments are due September 15, 2014.  Get more information from the Federal Register at FR41360.

Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office


July 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

ILSA and IBA Conference in London

Save the date! The International Law Students Association (ILSA) and the International Bar Association (IBA) will hold a conference in London (United Kingdom) on September 5-6, 2014.

The conference will offer student participants:

  • A chance to meet fellow law students from around the world 
  • A range of educational and vocational panels
  • A Jessup Compromis Panel Discussion with experts considering the issues raised by the newly released 2015 Jessup Compromis 
  • A complementary drinks and canapé reception, as well as catered lunches and breaks for all delegates.
  • A chance to explore one of the world’s most iconic cities

Registration for the conference is available by clicking here.


July 13, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 11, 2014

U.S. Is Violating Domestic and International Law By Failing to Provide Attorneys to Children in Immigration Proceedings

News reports have recently been full of stories regarding the current crisis involving more than 50,000 Central American unaccompanied children arriving at the U.S.-Mexican border in the last six months.  Many of these children may have legitimate claims for asylum in the United States and are fleeing crime and violence in their home countries, but are being denied legal representation under U.S. law.  To make matters worse, several U.S. politicians have called for expedited deportation of these children back to their home countries, possibly with truncated legal proceedings.  To deny these children full immigration hearings with legal representation is a denial of their right to due process under both the U.S. Constitution and international law. 

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of due process to all persons in the United States, regardless of immigration status.  In the context of immigration proceedings, that right has been interpreted to mean that the hearings must be "fundamentally fair."  It is clearly a denial of fundamental fairness to expect a child from a foreign country to make a legal claim to asylum in the United States without assistance from an attorney.  The U.S. government seeking to deport the child is represented by an attorney.  To be "fair", both sides must have legal representation.  Last year, the U.S. government recognized that it is unfair to expect persons with mental disabilities to be unrepresented in immigration proceedings and adopted regulations providing for legal representation for such persons.  That same logic applies to children as well.

The United States is also a party to a number of international treaties that provide special protections for children, including the International Covnenant on Civil and Political Rights, the U.N. Refugee Convention, the Convention Against Torture, and the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.  While these international instruments do not explicitly provide for a right for unaccompanied minors to have access to free legal assistance in all cases, they certainly impose an international obligation to protect children and their legal rights, including their due process rights.  Many countries provide free legal assistance to unaccompanied minors seeking asylum and an argument can be made that there is a developing customary international law norm in this regard in addition to any treaty-based obligations.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a class action lawsuit against the U.S. government yesterday demanding access to free legal representation for children in removal proceedings.  Rather than spending resources defending this lawsuit, the U.S. government should spend its resources developing a program to provide legal representation to these vulnerable children fleeing violence and crime in their home countries.


July 11, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

DVD of the 2014 Jessup Final Rounds Now Available

OK, international moot court junkies. It's the blog post you've been waiting for. And if you're a coach or a competitor on an international law moot court team, this simply is something that you MUST have.

Jessup 2014The DVD of the Final Round of the 2014 Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition includes the arguments from the Applicant, represented by the University of Queensland, and the Respondent, Singapore Management University. Presiding over the Final Round are Judges Julia Sebutinde and Dalveer Bhandari of the International Court of Justice, and Prefessor M. Cherif Bassiouni of DePaul University College of Law.

Until August 1, 2014, the Final Round DVD will be 25% off its original price (so you'll pay only $30 USD, with free shipping!). Click here for more details.


July 8, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U.N. Recognizes Same-Sex Spouses

The United Nations announced that it would allow same-sex couples access to the same benefits enjoyed by their heterosexual counterparts.  According to a major policy change, in effect since 26 June, the UN will honor the marriage of any same-sex couple wed in a country where same-sex marriages are legal. Previously, a staff member’s personal status was determined by the laws of the country whose passport he or she carried.

“Human rights are at the core of the mission of the United Nations,” U.N. Secretaary General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday through a spokesperson. He added that he is “proud to stand for greater equality for all staff,” and called “on all members of the UN family to unite in rejecting homophobia.”  Mr. Ban did not consult U.N. Member States about the policy change.  “The Secretary-General acted on his own authority as the head of the management of the United Nations. This was a managerial decision affecting U.N. staff,” said the spokesperson.

The U.N. chief has been an outspoken supporter of decriminalizing consensual same-sex relationships, and tackling violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. “Human rights are for everyone, no matter who you are or whom you love,” he said in an opinion piece in May on LinkedIn. “As Secretary-General of the U.N., I believe in and strive to achieve the world promised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a world rooted in tolerance, freedom and equality.”

Same-sex relationships are considered illegal in 76 countries. Meanwhile, same-sex marriages are legal in at least 16 countries with sub-national jurisdictions in at least two others, including the United States. The state of New York, where the United Nations is headquartered, recognizes same-sex marriage.

“Yet changes in law alone are not enough; they need to be matched by efforts to change social attitudes,” Mr. Ban noted in his op-ed. “Equality begins at home, and I am all too aware that LGBT colleagues at the U.N., and their families, continue to face challenges,” he said. “All staff members are part of the U.N. family and deserve to be treated equally.”

(adapted from a UN press release) (mew)

July 8, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Chicago Declaration on the Rights of Older Persons

The John Marshall Law School of Chicago is using its 21st Belle R. and Joseph H. Braun Memorial Symposium as a platform to draft "The Chicago Declaration on the Rights of Older Persons." This human rights document will explore a number of important areas affecting older persons and provide a basis for further U.N. work on this important and often overlooked group of persons. We'll have more to say about the Chicago Declaration after it is released, but since we are such *very* nice people here at the International Law Prof Blog, here's a link for a sneak peak at the draft text of the Declaration.

The 2014 International Elder Law & Policy Conference will be held on Thursday July 10, 2014 and Friday, July 11, 2014 at The John Marshall Law School, 315 South Plymouth Court, Chicago, Illinois 60604.

Goals: The Conference will bring together international scholars, advocates, and policy makers to participate in an academic discussion on the law, policy, and implementation of legal protections for older persons around the globe. This conference parallels the current discussions of the United Nations Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing. The Conference participants will draft a model International Declaration of Rights for Older Persons.2014 International Elder Law and Policy


  • The John Marshall Law School (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Roosevelt University, College of Arts & Sciences (Chicago, Illinois)
  • East China University of Political Science and Law (Shanghai, China)

In Cooperation With:

  • The John Marshall Law School Elder Law Programs (Chicago, Illinois)
  • The John Marshall Law School International Human Rights Clinic (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Roosevelt University Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Roosevelt University Department of Political Science and Public Administration (Chicago, Illinois) 


July 7, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

WTO Appellate Body Reverses Panel, Finding in Favor of China and Against U.S.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body (AB) issued a decision today in a trade dispute between the United States and China involving the United States' treatment of non-market economies in certain anti-dumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) investigations.  China claimed U.S. law and practice violated article X of GATT 1994 and the Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM) Agreement.  In March 2014, a WTO dispute resolution panel found that the subject U.S. laws did not violate GATT; however, it found that the United States had violated its obligations under the SCM Agreement by failing to investigate China's allegation of "double remedies."

In its decision today, the AB reversed the panel's decision that the United States' laws did not violate article X:2 of GATT.  However, the AB found that it is unable to complete the analysis of U.S. law under article X:2 of GATT.  Accordingly, it requested that the United States re-examine the underlying AD and CVD investigations and reviews identified by the panel and AB as inconsistent with WTO rules and bring them into conformity with the United State's WTO obligations as construed by the AB's ruling.

For more information, see DS449-United States: Countervailing and Anti-dumping Measures on Certain Products from China.


July 7, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

ASIL Announces Winners of Helton Fellowships

ASIL LogoThe American Society of International Law (ASIL) has announce the eight students and young professionals making up its tenth class of Helton Fellowship winners. Selected from a strong pool of applicants from throughout the world, the 2014 winning students have recently received micro-grants of $2,000 to pursue fieldwork in or research on issues involving human rights, international criminal law, humanitarian affairs, and other international law areas.

ASIL established the Helton Fellowship Program in 2004 in honor of Arthur C. Helton, an internationally-renowned lawyer, bar leader, and advocate for the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons. Helton died in the August 19, 2003, bombing of the United Nations mission in Baghdad.

Helton Fellows undertake their fellowship fieldwork and research in association with established educational institutions, international organizations, or non-governmental organizations. The following are the 2014 ASIL Helton award recipients.

  • Muna Baig, LL.M graduate, ASIL Academic Partner Columbia University School of Law. Baig will work with the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project in Amman, Jordan, to document and refer to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in need of third-country resettlement.
  • James Balser,J.D. candidate, ASIL Academic Partner Vanderbilt University Law School. Balser will be assigned to the No Peace Without Justice International Criminal Justice Program's Syrian Accountability Project, which is currently working to "reduce the expectation and rewards of impunity and build a culture of accountability" among the Syrian population. Balser will assist with training and advocacy events in Gaziantep, Turkey.
  • Catherine Baylin, J.D./Ph.D. candidate, ASIL Academic Partner Stanford University. Baylin will be researching social movements that coalesced around rights issues in Egypt, Morocco, and Kuwait during the "Arab Spring" movement. She will use archival research, press accounts, and interviews to explore how human rights movements appropriated, resisted, and shaped the discourse and practice of global human rights law. Baylin aims to illuminate some of the dynamics that led to the movement while contributing to the global effort to understand the development of modern human rights systems.
  • Shaw Drake, J.D. candidate, ASIL Academic Partner Georgetown University Law Center. Drake will be working this summer with the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights to promote rule of law and judicial independence in Guatemala through examination of appeals court candidate records to ensure merit-based appointments in accordance with international standards.
  • Peter Grbac,J.D. candidate, B.C.L./LL.B. program at McGill University. Grbac will be working with the Calcutta Research Group (CRG) based in Calcutta, India, where his primary responsibility will be assisting CRG with their ongoing research projects focused on the legal dimensions of immigration and refugee matters. Grbac also intends to carry out his own research project to examine the implications of India's ambivalent refugee law policy on the experiences of refugees in Calcutta.
  • Jessica Marsh,LL.M. graduate, University of Melbourne, Australia. Marsh will be working with Asylum Access Thailand as a legal advocate and will conduct research into protection gaps for urban refugees in Bangkok. In particular, she will be exploring what happens when durable solutions are not available and/or substantive and where status recognition alone offers inadequate protection.
  • Shayak Sarkar, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Economics at Harvard University. Sarkar will be working on research to improve financial regulation and governance in collaboration with the Centre for Microfinance and the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy in New Dehli, India.
  • Mina Trudeau, J.D. graduate, ASIL Academic Partner American University Washington College of Law. Trudeau will be in Istanbul, Turkey, researching and analyzing the impact of Turkey's recent comprehensive immigration legislation and its transition from a UN High Commissioner for Refugees-led refugee resettlement process to its own asylum adjudication system amidst ongoing humanitarian crises along its borders.

ASIL Executive Director Elizabeth Andersen commented on the tenth anniversary of the Helton program saying, "There is much the Society does of which I am enormously proud, but the Helton Fellowship Program stands out and has particular resonance with me. Arthur was a terrific role model and mentor to me and to hundreds of other young people working in the area of international human rights, and it is that legacy which ASIL aims to perpetuate with the Helton Program today. My sincerest congratulations to the tenth set of Helton Fellowship winners."

The Helton Fellowship Program is administered by ASIL through its Career Development Program. It is funded by a grant from the Planethood Foundation and generous contributions from ASIL members. For more information, visit To contribute to the Helton Fellowship fund, visit

The American Society of International Law is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, educational membership organization. It was founded in 1906, chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1950, and has held Category II Consultative Status to the Economic and Social Council of the UN since 1993. ASIL's mission is to foster the study of international law and to promote the establishment and maintenance of international relations on the basis of law and justice. The Society's nearly 4,000 members (from more than 100 countries) comprise attorneys, academics, corporate counsel, judges, representatives of governments and nongovernmental organizations, international civil servants, students, and others interested in international law. For more information, visit


July 2, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 30, 2014

New Islamic State in Middle East?

The militant group ISIS has declared a caliphate, or a new state based in Islam, in the areas currently under its control in Syria and Iraq.  While an Islamic state may be a long-term goal of ISIS and related groups, they are far from meeting the necessary criteria for statehood under international law and are unlikely to receive much, if any, international recognition.

Under article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, a state should possess the following qualifications for statehood: (1) a permanent population, (2) a defined territory, (3) a government, and (4) capacity to enter into relations with other states.  ISIS claims territory from Aleppo in northern Syria to the Diyala province in eastern Iraq. However, given the existing states' recognized political boundaries, massive refugee flows in and out of the various areas of this region, and the ongoing fighting over territory between ISIS and the Iraqi army, among other factors, it certainly cannot be said that the new caliphate has a permanent population or a defined territory. To the extent that the caliphate has a government, it appears to be the leaders of the militant group ISIS.  ISIS has announced that its new leader is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Its ability to function effectively as a government, rather than a militant group, and to engage in relations with other states remains to be seen.

International scholars, such as Milena Sterio in her book, The Right to Self-Determination under International Law, have posited alternative criteria based more on real politics.  Professor Sterio suggests that new states are unlikely to be successful unless the peoples seeking statehood show that: (1)  they have been severely oppressed, (2) the central government of the mother state(s) are relatively weak and ineffective at administering the region where the peoples are located, (3) international organizations have been involved in administering the region, facilitating power-sharing, institution-building, and capacity development for the struggling people, and (4) most importantly, the peoples have the support of at least one of the great powers.

ISIS and its supporters are unlikely to meet these criteria either.  They largely come from states where they have been able to freely practice their religion and culture and, thus, cannot claim severe oppression.  They likely can point to a weak central government, at least in Iraq, but that claim is more difficult to make in Syria, despite the ongoing civil war.  International organizations have been involved in Iraq; again, less so in Syria. And most importantly, it is does not appear that ISIS has the support of any major power for its current activities.  Thus, ISIS's claim to statehood is certainly premature and should not be recognized under international law.


June 30, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)