Sunday, February 28, 2010
Legal Frontiers is a new academic blog on international law run by law students at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. The blog contains a number of interesting short essays from Canadian law students. Click here to pay them a visit.
Hat tip to James Nowlan of Legal Frontiers
The European Commission expressed some concerns over the independence of the judiciary in Iceland and conflicts of interest for some in public service due to close links between the political class and business interests. The size of Iceland's debt also raised some concerns. Some Member States are involved in bilateral disputes with Iceland, which may hold up the process. For example, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands believe they are owed money to repay a loan to British and Dutch investors who lost money when the online bank Icesave went under in 2008. On the other hand, Icelandic fishermen are concerned that joining the EU could force them to share their fishing rights with other Europeans, which could lead to overfishing. In light of these concerns and others, a 14-month timetable may be ambitious.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The Global Business Law Review ("GBLR") of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law is sponsoring a symposium entitled International Finance after the Crash: Regional Responses to the Global Financial Crisis. The symposium will feature distinguished speakers who will address the current state of corporate finance in the Middle East, Asia and Europe. It will take place on Friday, April 9, 2010 between 1:30PM and 4:30PM. A reception will follow. The symposium is free and qualifies for 2.5 CLE credits (pending approval). Please feel free to visit the GBLR website at www.globalbusinesslawreview.org for more information.
The fifth Global Legal Skills Conference starts today in Monterrey, Mexico. It is being hosted by the Facultad Libre de Derecho de Monterrey (FLDM), one of the best law schools in northern Mexico (and some would say -- correctly I think -- in all of Mexico). FLDM hosted the conference two years ago (the photo here is from that conference).
The Global Legal Skills Conference began at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, where it was held the first two times. Last year the conference was held at Georgetown University Law Center.
Click here for more information about the conference (including a video).
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
The Society of International Economic Law and Cambridge University Press has established a prize for the best essay submitted on any topic in any field of international economic law. The competition is open to all current undergraduate and graduate students and those who have graduated no earlier than five years before the submission deadline. Members of the SIEL Executive Council may not submit entries. The essay may not have been previously published. The prize consists of £200 cash, £300 of Cambridge University Press book vouchers, and a three year subscription to the World Trade Review. The winning essay will be submitted to the World Trade Review for publication. The deadline for submission is September 30, 2010. For terms and conditions please click here.
Monday, February 22, 2010
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia participated in the delegation.
The delegation considered a number of issues throughout the week, including issues facing the Australian and American legal systems, appropriate uses of foreign and international law in U.S. court decisions, the internationalization of commercial law, emerging forms of property in the global context, and current issues facing the judicial systems of Australia and New Zealand.
One of the public events was a standing-room only demonstration of comparative advocacy styles. The program was held at the University of Sydney Law School, in cooperation with the Law Society of New South Wales Young Lawyers. Advocates from Australia and the United States (including one U.S. lawyer living in France) presented a hypothetical cross-border dispute with parallel proceedings in the United States and Australia.
I thank our Australian and New Zealand hosts for the tremendous hospitality extended to us during our briefing delegation.
Photos courtesy of Russ Kerr.
On Friday, the 47 member states of the Council of Europe issued the Interlaken Declaration calling for reforms to the European Court of Human Rights to deal with the increasing case load of the Court. Currently, the Court has a backlog of approximately 120,000 cases. It is believed that most of these cases (perhaps as many as 90%) are inadmissible or lack a legal basis. However, new, more efficient procedures are needed to screen out those cases that are inadmissible, while allowing meritorious cases to go forward. The Declaration calls on the involved parties to develop such procedures for screening cases by 2011.
The Declaration also recognizes that the phenomenon may result from member states not complying with their obligation to prevent human rights violations in their own countries, or adequately addressing those violations when they occur, causing more and more persons to resort to filing petitions with the European Court of Human Rights.
The Declaration both reaffirms the member states' commitment to the individual petition process, and reiterates the obligation of member states to ensure respect for human rights at the national level. It calls on the Committee of Ministers to find more effective and transparent ways to monitor the execution of the Court's judgments. In addition, the Declaration suggests the parties consider implementing a simplified procedure for amending the Convention with respect to organizational matters.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
As the subject of trade agreements will continue to be an important on in U.S. foreign policy debates, we want to share a bit of somewhat boring news: The United States and Peru held their first bilateral Environmental Affairs Council meeting in Washington, D.C. this past week.
Exciting right? No, not really, but it is exactly these kinds of meetings that facilitate the important benefits that can be achieved under bilateral treaties such as the U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement.
Peru and the United States established the Environmental Affairs Council within the Environment Chapter of the United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (USPTPA) as way of discuss how to implement the Environment Chapter. The Council will report to the Free Trade Commission regarding Chapter implementation and also discuss implementation of the Environmental Cooperation Agreement.
During their meeting this week, U.S. and Peruvian trade and environment officials discussed compliance with environmental provisions under the USPTPA and reviewed implementation of the Annex on Forest Sector Governance. They also discussed implementation of the Environmental Cooperation Agreement, including areas where the U.S. and Peru collaborate on environmental protection.
Tom Countryman, Principal Deputy Assistant U.S. Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, gave a briefing on Thursday regarding the efforts of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. Mr. Countryman noted that In the year since the Contact Group was formed, its membership has grown from 24 countries to 47 countries and a number of international organizations.
Mr. Countryman observed that the root causes of piracy off the coast of Somalia rest in the state of disorder that has characterized Somalia for 20 years, and that an effective solution to the piracy question will require further efforts to re-stabilize Somalia. The Contact Group attempts to manage the consequences of that disorder, specifically as they relate to piracy and the disruption to trade in the region, as well as the human cost that this imposes both upon the people of Somalia and upon seafarers in the region. Mr. Countryman also noted that while piracy remains a serious challenge to maritime safety, the delivery of humanitarian aid, and global commerce, the Contact Group’s concerted effort has made a positive difference contributing toward a declining success rate of pirate attacks from as high as 60 percent in 2007 to less than 25 percent today.
According to Mr. Countryman, the success rate for pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden, the body of water between the Somalia and Yemen coastlines, has fallen to nearly zero. There has been only one successful hijacking in that area since last summer. However, that success has shifted the focus of pirate attacks southward into the Somali Basin, a body of water twice as large as the Gulf of Aden. And the success rate for pirate attacks in that area has gone up, as has the absolute number of attempts in that region. He estimated that the international force had encountered slightly more than 700 pirates in 2009; that 400 attempted attacks had been disrupted; and that between 200 and 300 pirates had been turned over for prosecution.
Mr. Countryman asserted that the Contract Group has made steady progress in the coordination of military, business, and legal measures to deal with the consequences of piracy and political disorder in Somalia. With respect to military coordination, he noted that more than 20 nations are now participating in an international naval force in the Gulf of Aden, stating: "On any given day there are, on average, 17 ships in patrol in the Gulf of Aden creating a recognized transit corridor that provides maximum security for the 30,000 cargo ships that pass through this area every year."
In addition, over the last year, the Contact Group worked closely with the International Maritime Organization to establish and codify best management practices that ships should employ when they are in dangerous territory. According to Mr. Countryman, the U.S. Coast Guard and Maritime Administration have required U.S.-flagged vessels to employ these practices when they are delivering food aid or undertaking other commercial voyages in that region. The United States hopes to see other major flag nations require the same kind of best practices of their commercial ships that operate in the region.
With respect to legal prosecutions, Mr. Countryman stated that the United States believes that as piracy has long been defined as a universal crime, every state has the jurisdiction to prosecute pirates. The United States therefore encourages the states affected by piracy to prosecute pirates. In this regard, Mr. Countryman praised Kenya for stepping forward and offering itself as a site for the prosecution of suspected pirates.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Did you know that February 18 is the "Day of Women of the Americas"? Here is U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's statement honoring women in the Americas:
"On this Day of the Women of the Americas, I am proud to honor the women of the hemisphere who are working every day to build a better future for themselves, their families, and their societies. Unfortunately, in too many parts of our hemisphere and beyond, women are still denied rights, deprived of dignity and marginalized in the political, social, and economic spheres. The Organization of American States has designated 2010 as the Inter-American Year of Women, making this an important opportunity to redouble our efforts to ensure that women are accorded equal rights, opportunities and respect. Empowering women is a high-yield investment that results in stronger economies, more vibrant societies, healthier communities, and greater peace and stability.
The United States is working with partners across the Americas to create economic opportunity for women, advance educational opportunities, and increase public awareness, among both men and women, of the obstacles that still stand in the way of progress. In particular, we are committed to combating the scourge of violence against women in all its forms. We support efforts to increase legal and judicial protections and health sector capacity to respond to sexual and gender-based violence. And we are strengthening our fight to curb human trafficking.
The women of our hemisphere have a tremendous resource in the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM). Established at the Sixth International Conference of American States on February 18, 1928, CIM has been the principal Inter-American forum for generating hemispheric policies to advance women's rights and gender equality. Currently under U.S. leadership, CIM is hard at work to promote public policies in the member states that contribute to ending violence against women, increasing their political participation, and achieving economic prosperity, among other priorities.
Efforts to empower women across the Americas have gained new urgency in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, which left so many homeless and in need. In the first hours after the disaster, Haitian women played a vital role in distributing emergency assistance and securing lifelines for shattered communities. In the difficult days of rebuilding that lie ahead, their determination and hard work will be crucial to Haiti’s rebirth. As we celebrate this Day of the Women of the Americas, let us reaffirm our solidarity with the women of Haiti and their families.
And let us recommit ourselves across the Americas and the world to the cause of empowering women and supporting their efforts to build a brighter future for us all."
U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Whether Federal Courts Can Order Release of Guantanamo Detainees into the United States . . . Unless it Dismisses the Case
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered additional briefing on whether the case should be dismissed. That happened after the parties informed the Court that the Swiss government had agreed to accept two of the Uighurs detained at Guantanamo. Five others have also been offered resettlement in the Republic of Palau and elsewhere, although the detainees apparently have not yet accepted those offers.
Solicitor General Elena Kagan told the Court that the factual premise for the case has evaporated, and that "the Court may wish to dismiss the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted."
If the case goes forward, it will be argued on Tuesday, March 23, 2010.
The University of Connecticut School of Law will hold an all-day program on March 19, 2010 on the suject of "international Law in a Time of Scarcity." The event also marks the 25th anniversary of the Connecticut Journal of International Law. Speakers include Mark W. Janis, Sean D. Murphy, and many other distinguished speakers.
RSVP by March 12, 2010.
The Australian Law Firm Piper Alderman has published a short and interesting update on several important issues under Australian and international law. Their current publication includes short and informative articles on these four topics:
- Australia's International Commercial Arbitration Law (noting that Australia is modernizing its law to promote Australia as a regional seat for international arbitration.
- New Australian Legislation: The Personal Property Securities Act
- Class Actions in Australia -- A Plaintiff's Paradise? (noting that Australia is now the place outside the United States where a corporation will most likely find itself defending a class action)
- Directors' Duties -- Current Perspectives in the Australian Legal Context
The International Court of Justice has directed the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Serbia to prepare further written submissions in the case concerning the Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Last month, Serbia filed a counter-claim alleging that Croatia violated the Genocide Convention (or at least conspired to do so) during and after Operation Storm in August 1995 by acting against the Serb national and ehnical group living in the Krajina Region (UN Protected Areas North and South) in Croatia.
Among the remedies sought in the counterclaim are that Croatia remove from its list of public holidays the celebrations on August 5 which mark the "Day of Victory and Homeland Gratitude" and the "Day of Croatian Defenders."
Under the ICJ order issued this week, Croatia must file a written pleading by December 20, 2011. Serbia must file its rejoinder by November 4, 2011.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
The United Nations announced today that it had received the 30th ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions meaning that the treaty will take effect August 1, 2010. Both Burkina Faso and Moldova deposited their instruments of ratification allowing the treaty to become legally binding. The treaty was opened for signature in 2008 and has received over 100 signatures since that date.
The treaty bans the production and use of cluster munitions and obligates states to compensate victims of such weapons. Cluster bombs contain a number of sub-munitions or "bomblets" that are designed to spread out upon explosion to cover a wider area and deter an advancing army. However, unexploded cluster bombs pose serious hazards to civilians similar to landmines.
Despite the large number of signatories, some of the largest stockpilers of such weapons, including the United States, China and Russia, have not signed the treaty, lessening its potential effectiveness. The United States takes the position that cluster bombs have military utility and are necessary to protect its troops. For more information, visit the website of the Cluster Munition Coalition.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
February 17, 2010
Today, the Haitian judge released eight of the ten American citizens and they have departed Haiti for the United States. Two members of the group are being detained in Haiti to answer further questions, as the investigation is ongoing.
The United States Government respects the sovereign right of the Government of Haiti to conduct its own judicial processes. The United States Embassy in Port au Prince has been providing the detained Americans with consular visits and assistance to ensure that they are safe and receiving necessary care. Haitian authorities have been cooperative in ensuring the individuals’ safety and welfare since their arrest and we have every expectation this will continue.
ICJ Case on Jurisdiction and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters (Belgium v. Switzerland)
The International Court of Justice has fixed the briefing schedule for Belgium's case against Switzerland in the case known as Jurisdiction and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters.
Belgium must file its memorial by August 23, 2010. The Swiss Confederation must reply by April 25, 2011. Each party has eight months, which may surprise blog readers as being a shorter period than usually allowed. A press release from the court states that the Agents for each nation agreed to a shorter time to have the case dealt with as soon as possible. Click here for more information on the order just entered by the International Court of Justice.
So what's this case about?
Just before Christmas, the Kingdom of Belgium filed an ICJ action against Switzerland concerning "the interpretation and application of the Lugano Convention of 16 September 1988 on the jurisdiction and the enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters . . . and the application of the rules of general international law that govern the exercise of State authority, in particular in the judicial domain, [and relating to] the decision by the Swiss courts not to recognize a decision by Belgian courts and not to stay proceedings later initiated in Switzerland on the subject of the same dispute."
The underlying dispute arose from parallel judicial proceedings in Belgium and Switzerland in cases between Sabena (the former Belgian airline now in bankruptcy) and its main shareholders. The main shareholders in Switzerland are SAirGroup (previously known as Swissair) and its subsidiary SAirLines. The main shareholders in Belgium are the Belgian State and three companies in which it holds the shares.
Are you interested in getting a better understanding of the legal system in Japan? Or in the advantages (and dangers) of selecting Japanese law or Japan as a place to arbitrate? Or other issues relating to doing business with (and in) Asia?
There's a teleconference on "Doing Business with Japan" on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 from noon to 1:30 p.m. Eastern US Time. The program is organized by the Asia/Pacific Committee of the American Bar Association Section of International Law. Click here for the program description, speaker bios, and registration form. Download Japan. There is an extremely modest fee to call in ($15 for section members and $25 for non-members). Register by Monday, February 22, 2010.
Hat tip to Mo Syed.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
The World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body (AB ) released its annual report for 2009 today. In its Foreward, the AB stressed that the Members of the WTO continued to abide by the international trading rules despite the economic downtown that led to fears of protectionism.
The report also noted two major milestones in 2009. The WTO dispute settlement body saw the initiation of the 400th dispute since its inception in 1995. The AB also completed its 100th report. The workload of the AB was not as heavy in 2009 with only three new appeals filed during the year. The report predicts a heavier caseload for 2010 based on the number of WTO panel reports due out in the near future.
Two members left the AB in 2009: Luiz Olavo Baptista and Giorgio Sacerdoti. Two new members joined: Ricardo Ramirez Hernandez and Peter Van den Bossche.
The full report may be found here.