Author Archives: Marylin Raisch

International Law of Piracy: a display of selected historical and modern items at the Wolff Library

From the time of the middle ages and on through the explosion of piracy in the Caribbean in the 18th century, a thin line has existed between piracy and terrorism.  British authorities tried to address it through a succession of acts, one of which we have on display:  The Act for the More Effectual Suppression of Piracy, 1700, 11 Will. 3, c.7. Piracy off the coast of Somalia today.

A map from UNOSAT on Reported Incidents of Somali Pirate Attacks and Hijacking in the Gulf of Aden is reproduced as the one fully electronic item, but modern technology has so far been unable to stop or always anticipate these continued attacks.

Before you talk (arrhh!) or dress like a pirate (for Hallowe’en), set aside the myths and take a look at history and the real terror of the seas!

What is Really New, Really Cool, and Free in International and Comparative Law

The Law Librarian Blog (and others) have announced the formal debut of a new database, the International Law Library,  within the free web resource site, the World Legal Information Institute. Sir Kenneth James Keith, ONZ, KBE, QC, serving as a judge on the International Court of Justice describes its development and contents along with general support for the Australian pioneers of the LII’s, chief among whom is Professor Graham Greenleaf. This database has been available in development over the summer and is included in a general description of the Free Access to Law Movement that will be included in a handbook soon to be published for the International Association of Law Libraries. This database is not quite as comprehensive as indicated in the blogs because it still revolves mostly around the former Commonwealth countries and sources, but among these there is a LawCite citator including several English-speaking jurisdictions such that one can almost “Shepardize” the law of the world! (It records judicial treatment of citations).  Most impressive of all, however, is that from within the multinational treaties one finds in the United Nations Treaty Collection (indexed via FLARE freely at the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies in London and within the subscription libraries of Hein Online), WorldLII has pulled out the bilateral agreements, making them more readily accessible. Judicial decisions from international courts and tribunals round out this great new research platform.

Toronto G20 Documents; Bank for International Settlements

With the conclusion on June 27, 2010 of the G20 meeting in Toronto, major documents on the outcome of the summit, particularly the reports of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, are posted at the Toronto G20 web site. In another development related to the urgency of international banking and financial regulatory reform, today the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, issued its 80th Annual Report covering 1 April 2009 through 31 March 2010.
The G20 summits are meetings of finance ministers and central bank governors from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.  The continuing development of new rules for banks on capital and liquidity will continue on into the next summit in Seoul, South Korea 11-12 November, 2010.

European Court of Human Rights on Gay Marriage

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled yesterday that member states parties to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (the Council of Europe treaty sometimes called the European Convention on Human Rights) have no obligation to provide for same-gender marriage as such. The judgment came in the CASE OF SCHALK AND KOPF v. AUSTRIA (Application no. 30141/04).  Austria has only a Registered Partnership Act as of January 1, 2010. For a good presentation of the court’s recent history on same-sex partnerships in the context of equality and discrimination rulings and comparative analysis with U.S. constitutional rulings, see the blog post at EJIL Talk! (blog of the European Journal of International Law).

World Bank opens its data to …the world!

World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick announced in April of this year that along with the launch of open access to the World Development Indicators (WDI) 2010, with nearly 1000 indicators, the initiative also opens up the Global Development Finance (GDF), Africa Development Indicators (ADI), Global Economic Monitor (GEM), and indicators from the Doing Business report.

Better yet, all of the data is now centralized at and this is good news for empirical research related to international law and development, as well as many other avenues of economic and social inquiry on a global scale.

According to Zoellick, “Statistics tell the story of people in developing and emerging countries and can play an important part in helping to overcome poverty. They are now easily accessible on the Web for all users, and can be used to create new apps for development. ” 

New U.N. Rule of Law site

Susan Kurtas of the Legal Branch of the U.N. Dag Hammarskjöld Library announced this month the debut of a new web site and searchable document repository on the Rule of Law, United Nations Rule of Law.
 The document repository section contains
“…official and unofficial published documents on rule of law issues including General Assembly resolutions, reports, norms and standards, guidance materials, training materials and programming, lessons learned and evaluation documents.”
A search for “corruption” brings up 25 documents that include guidelines and reports as well as primary texts, such as the  2003 e-book guidelines under the U.N. Convention against Corruption. This new site should benefit research in this area, which tends to require searching across several types of documents and jurisdictions; here the materials are conveniently gathered in one place, and even if not exhaustive, it is a good place for researchers to start.

UK Treaties Online

There is a new electronic access to UK treaties

"UK Treaties Online:
This new service enables you to access details of over 14,000 treaties involving the UK. Our treaty records are based on information received by the FCO Treaty Section over many years. You will be able to research the existence of treaties, obtain key information about them (such as place, place of signature and entry into force date) and see which States or organizations participate in them."

  Here is the address:

Ready? 3…2…1…Europe!

The Treaty of Lisbon enters into force on 1 December 2009.  Czech President Vaclav Klaus sealed the deal by depositing his country’s instruments of ratification in Rome; an informal summit took place on 19 November; and now, almost one year behind the originally envisioned schedule (article 6 of the treaty indicated coming into force on 1 January 2009, or on the first day of the month following the deposit of the last required instrument of ratification, which just occurred) the “Europe of the 21st Century” is finally in place.  Herman Van Rompuy of Belgium (he was the Prime Minister) is now the  President of the EU (for a longer 2.5 year term) and Catherine Ashton of the UK is now the EU foreign minister, or high representative for foreign affairs and security policy. It is a sort of President and Secretary of State for the EU as an entity, and this enables the EU, with assurances to some member states (such as Ireland), to undertake common defense and promote some of the new rights in the citizens’ initiatives. These and other changes do not affect military neutrality, if that has been a state’s policy, and streamline many of the procedures related to border security.

UN Member States: On the Record

The United Nations has released a research tool, UN Member States: On the Record , which aggregates UN members states’ documentation in a really helpful way, and in a manner more substantive than the kind of research that young students often perform for their "Model UN" exercises and the like. Susan Kurtas of the Legal Branch Library of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library describes its purpose as follows:

"It links to selected UN databases, websites, and other information resources to make the record of Member States’ activities at the UN more accessible. There are no new resources here–  just links to exisiting resources that have been dispersed around the UN website for years.  Information available for each Member State includes: the key documents related to its membership in the UN; statements made before the principal organs; draft resolutions sponsored; periodic reports submitted on Human Rights conventions, and more. Running behind this new research tool are pre-set searches on multiple databases maintained by the UN Libraries and other Secretariat departments.  A single click links to the most accurate, up-to date results, and yet also includes extensive historic coverage.  Full text documents are linked in all official languages of the UN."

So for example if you select member state Nigeria, you bring up a page with links to the full texts (unless not available electronically anywhere at the UN yet; if not it gives one a bibliographic record) of the original resolutions granting the country UN membership, statements their representatives made in plenary meetings (from the Index to Speeches database), their participation in the Security Council (which rotates over time) , draft resolutions they sponsored,  periodic reports to the human rights treaty bodies, and biographies of their credentialed representatives. It save a huge amount of time over searching it all  oneself.

House of Lords in U.K. handed down its last judgment July 30, 2009

The House of Lords and its now famous “Law Lords” will become part of history, at least as such. The judicial function of the House of Lords will be replaced in October by the UK Supreme Court, which will sit in the Middlesex Guildhall of the Parliament Square, London. There is a video by one of the Law Lords, Lord Mance, posted on the BIALL Blog (British and Irish Law Libraries). Hat tip for the latter to Library Boy.