Category Archives: Foreign, Comp., & Intl. Law

Brexit

Brexit hits a roadblock

In early October, Prime Minister Theresa May announced plans to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty before the end of March 2017, which would start the clock on the 2 year process of the U.K. leaving the European Union. However, a British high court has now ruled that the government must allow Parliament to approve the country’s departure from the E.U. While this decision will not stop Brexit, it is likely to slow the process, as May must now seek Parliament’s approval before starting the process of leaving the E.U. rather than waiting till after the 2-year process has been concluded. May has vowed to appeal this ruling to the British Supreme Court.

It should be noted that the decision rests on the holding that “The most fundamental rule of the U.K. Constitution is that Parliament is sovereign and can make or unmake any law it chooses.” This is the same argument made by those who wished to leave the E.U. in the first place.

The government claimed in its argument that under residual powers of royal prerogative, which cover international treaty-making, it had the power to invoke Article 50 without a vote in Parliament. This argument did not appear to hold water for the court who held that invoking Article 50 without the consent of Parliament would be a violation of the 1972 European Communities Act, a law that incorporates European laws into the British legal system and that provides that only Parliament has the power to invoke clauses like Article 50.

The decision is an interesting piece of constitutional law for British legal scholars. For more information on Brexit, please look at our U.K. research guide. For information on British constitutional law, search our catalog for books and articles that will give you a more in-depth appreciation for how the U.K. handles constitutional issues without having a written constitution. As always, we are available for research consultations and at the reference desks or via chat.

 

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France and the Burkini-Ban Debate

France has always prided itself on its secularism, referred to as laïcité in French. This is one of the core concepts within its constitution and it has been used as a reason in recent years to ban religious clothing – notably the burqa. In 2010, France became the first European country to pose an outright ban on the burqa, which is the full-face veil worn by some Muslim women. The niqab and hijab, by contrast, only cover parts of the face or hair. These fell under a 2004 French law that prohibited religious wear such as headscarves in public schools. To find these laws, one of the best places to look is Legifrance. We also have French laws in our print collection; our research guide on French law may be useful for identifying which code to search. For assistance with the print, please feel free to seek out assistance at the international law reference desk.

One might wonder why the French would target one religion when they seemingly don’t care about the Catholics or Jews or other religious types who might walk among them in various forms of religious dress. After all, no one seems to be asking nuns to remove their habits in the classroom. Or the beach, for that matter.

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The argument behind such laws has been that Muslim standards for feminine modesty are overly restrictive and impede on the rights of women, thus infringing on the French rights of liberty, equality, and fraternity.

Enter the burkini in the post-Nice-attack atmosphere. Suddenly, this item of clothing, which Muslim women can choose to wear if they want to go to the beach, was another example of the enslavement of women by Islam. Worse than that, in the words of presidential hopeful, Nicolas Sarkozy, it was a provocation. Nice outlawed the burkini because it “overtly manifests adherence to a religion at a time when France and places of worship are the target of terrorist attacks.” Several cities followed suit.

The world did not react with warmth and joy. When the following picture made the rounds, people were upset because this image doesn’t look like the image of a woman provoking others with her dress. It doesn’t look like the image of a woman terrorizing others. Instead it looks like the image of a woman being policed for no good reason and being asked to remove clothing against her own wishes, surrounded by armed men.

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On Friday, August 26, the Conseil d’Etat, France’s highest administrative court, overturned the burkini-ban that had been instituted by 26 coastal towns. The decision can be read here. It can also be found, eventually, on Legifrance. The judges refute that the burkini is a symbol of terror or inequality, stating:

« l’arrêté litigieux a ainsi porté une atteinte grave et manifestement illégale aux libertés fondamentales que sont la liberté d’aller et venir, la liberté de conscience et la liberté personnelle. »

Basically, that the ban is manifestly illegal because it deprives people of fundamental liberties, such as the liberty to come and go, the liberty of conscience, and personal liberty.

“A Proper Job” Will be Necessary: Lawyers and Researchers After the EU Exit by Britain (Brexit)

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While the UK Independence Party leader, Brexit advocate, and Member of the European Parliament Nigel Farage has undiplomatically  asserted that his European Parliamentary colleagues have  “never done a proper job” , there will be a great deal of work to be done by the many British and European bureaucrats recently under scrutiny by the victorious  “Leave” movement. The EUBusiness News Service, an independent but well-established reporting service for EU commercial and legal matters, provides a useful Article 50 Factsheet on what should happen once the UK notifies the EU of its intention to leave (whenever that may be, but from that point negotiations must conclude within a two-year period or depart without negotiated terms). While much is undecided, the text of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is provided succinctly at this site; it begins by stating that “…Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.” The official text of the Lisbon Treaty and news on Brexit are available at the EU’s Europa web site.

Numerous news outlets and blogs will teem with information, but just a couple to follow might include the Global Government Forum, a blog for civil servants across jurisdictions (and featuring Sir Paul Jenkins, former head of the UK Government Legal Service, warning of the massive task ahead to undo 40 years of a constitutional arrangement), and the Global Legal Post, a news summary source that warns of a possible British exit from the European human rights regime and court in Strasbourg as well- one that is NOT part of the EU but of a different European body, the 47-member Council of Europe.

In addition to the resources in a previous post just prior to the vote, you may wish to look at UC Berkeley government documents guide on Brexit; there may be other similar guides to this event as the post-referendum process unfolds.

 

Game of Thrones with Brexit, Britons and Brussels Bureaucrats: the U.K. Referendum on Leaving the E.U.

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This way In? Out? Red Wedding?

There is high anxiety on both sides of the Atlantic about the vote today, June 23, 2016, when British voters get to decide if Britain should leave or remain within the European Union.  There is much at stake and speculation about the possibility of a British Exit. As this particular departure would be an unprecedented event in the history of the E.U., no amount of research into the legal, political, or economic situation of the E.U. and its member states could yield a clear answer as to  the ramifications, and readers of this blog may not even see this post until it is all over.

However, the threat of crisis provides an occasion  to explore resources curated by the law library that may provide some understanding of the issues. Check out what one of our British information providers, Oxford University Press, has created alongside its paid database, Oxford Reports on International Law: part of the Oxford Public International Law collection, it is a Debate Map listing official free resources as well as Oxford journal subscription articles, all on Brexit. There is also a good summary of legal and political facts and questions posted today at the blog of the Law Library of Congress, In Custodia Legis: “Brexit Referendum.”

Irrespective of the voting outcome, interest in how the entire matter developed and what future reforms might result from simply holding such a vote may suggest follow-up research projects. For these, may we suggest using our Georgetown Law research guides for the European Union and the United Kingdom.  For tracking continuing developments, we have a guide that links to our array of world news sources, such as Access World News.

Finally, one of the most disturbing developments of all: a commentator in the journal Foreign Policy points out that the HBO series Game of Thrones is produced with some funds from the EU’s European Regional Development Fund, and in the event the British vote to leave the E.U., the filmmakers may no longer have access to those assisting funds, and this is an expensive production!So in addition to possible economic turmoil and recession, recent shows such as last week’s GoT, filmed partly in Northern Ireland, could be at risk. The latest episode in the real life saga is about to be released.

Full Text of the TPP Now Available

One month after concluding more than seven years of negotiations on the most significant trade agreement in a quarter century, the United States and the 11 other nations that comprise the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have released the full text of the agreement to the public.  The TPP, whose members account for approximately 40 percent of world economic output, will lower barriers to trade on a wide array products ranging from to textiles to automobiles to financial services.  Under the “fast-track” trade promotion authority legislation enacted last summer, the release of the full text triggers a 90-day review period that must be completed before President Obama can sign the agreement.  Once he does so, both houses of Congress will have an opportunity to hold an up or down vote on the deal without offering any amendments or subjecting it to a filibuster.

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TPP negotiators in Bali, Indonesia.  State Dept. photo by William Ng via Wikimedia Commons

The Obama administration insists that the TPP is the most progressive trade deal ever negotiated by the United States, with unprecedented mechanisms to enforce labor standards and environmental regulations.  Critics, including the AFL-CIO and the Sierra Club, contend that these protections do not go far enough.  Others have raised concerns about the TPP’s intellectual property provisions, especially its highly restrictive approach to copyright law, as well as its potential impact on the cost of prescription medications in developing nations.  Still others have questioned the constitutionality of the investor-state dispute settlement provision that would allow foreign investors to bypass the U.S. court system and have claims against the U.S. government resolved through arbitration.

Due to the closed-door nature of the negotiations, these widely aired criticisms are based largely on informed speculation stemming from leaked drafts of the agreement.  Now that the final text has been made public, both supporters and critics of the TPP will spend the next few months scrutinizing its more than 6,000 pages to determine whether the agreement meets or falls short of their expectations.

To keep the GULC community abreast of the latest news and developments concerning the TPP and other trade-related topics, the Law Library subscribes to several specialized databases, including BNA’s International Trade Reporter and International Trade Daily, as well as World Trade Online.  For more information about trade agreements and foreign trade regulation, consult the library’s online Research Guide to International Trade Law.

The United Nations: Another Charter has a Birthday

version of UN logoThe United Nations Charter is 70 years old today, and the UN Dispatch has recommended a  nice piece by Mark Goldberg on Global Dispatches and his tribute to the UN and its founding in the form of a podcast. In that podcast we hear Goldberg’s interview with author Stephen Schlesinger, who has written a book about the early history of the UN and its founding. Fact and anecdotes are analyzed and compared in the podcast, The UN Charter Turns 70,  and it is available on iTunes and Google Play. Did Churchill really get confronted in the bathtub and was the name “United Nations” just dreamed up? Find out bathtubnotreallychurchillsthrough this painless and entertaining way to learn the history. (Hat tip to UN Wire from the United Nations Foundation).

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Sports Corruption, Part Deux (the FIFA edition) UPDATED!!!

It would appear that FIFA got jealous at all the attention the NFL was getting for their corrupt practices and has decided to pull the spotlight back to the other football. The one the rest of the world likes. Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice issued indictments for 14 individuals within FIFA. Seven of those individuals were arrested in Switzerland on Wednesday, May 27. The Swiss officials are working with the U.S. in their investigation into FIFA’s alleged corrupt practices, which include (but are most likely not limited to) receiving $150 million worth of bribes from the early 1990s for football tournaments in the US and Latin America via US and Swiss bank accounts. Another case against FIFA officials is for money laundering in association with the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Somehow, despite all of this, Sepp Blatter managed to be re-elected for a fifth term as president of FIFA and began his newest term by ingloriously blaming others for the corruption that runs rampant in the organization, stating that he couldn’t be expected to monitor everyone all the time. While no one expects that, it is apparently too much to ask him to monitor anyone any time. Meanwhile, one of the officials arrested in last week’s raid showed the rest of the world how competent FIFA officials can be when he made a video in which he claimed the arrests were evidence of a US conspiracy to get a World Cup bid. His proof? An Onion article. Not everyone understands satire.

It is thought that more arrests are likely to be made and Sepp Blatter would be wise to refrain from getting too comfortable in his fifth term as president, as the inquiries seem to get closer to him as time goes by. Could it be that the U.S. has finally done something on the international stage that others support (excluding Russia)?

It’s clear that FIFA’s corrupt practices have grown tiresome for some of the countries involved. Perhaps the party is finally ending for FIFA, though one wonders if such systematic corruption can really be remedied with a couple of cases, even if they are brought by powerful countries like the U.S. Still, this is a start.

But don’t just take it from us. John Oliver knows all about FIFA corruption.

UPDATE! Sepp Blatter has resigned! Will miracles never cease?

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Ballghazi and Sports Corruption around the World

Scandals in sports are about as unexpected as scandals in politics, right? But how often do the skies open and send us a scandal as entertaining as Deflategate? The ball jokes alone are enough to send those of us who have the maturity of a 12-year-old boy into giggles. While we may think that the NFL has a monopoly on bumbling incompetence in the form of Roger Goodell, who likes to hand out punishments that have no actual link to the severity of the crime committed, it turns out that Goodell is just following in the footsteps of his international compatriots. The NFL is no more corrupt than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee. Strong words, but true. Even though Tom Brady will be suspended for twice as long as Ray Rice, a man caught on video beating his then-girlfriend-now-wife, Goodell and co. at the NFL are only engaging in the time-honored tradition of citing to rules that they make difficult for others to find (seriously, stop by NFL.com and try to find the rule book from which the Patriots violated the game; for bonus points, find the exact rule that was violated), and hiding behind the notion that while players may do egregious things off the field, the true crime is doing anything to ruin the sanctity and integrity of the game on the field. The Patriots, while certainly not saints in anyone’s imagination, are being punished because they’ve ruined the game on the field, instead of keeping their misbehaviors off the field like everyone else.

If you’d like to learn more about the wild world of Sports Law, take a look at our research guide on the Olympics and International Sports Law as well as our guide on U.S. Sports Law. Books like Fair Play: The Ethics of Sport are in their 4th edition for a reason.

Of course, it all boils down to one simple thought at the end of the day: if the Patriots hadn’t engaged in shady behavior, none of this would be happening. Enjoy the schadenfreude until it’s your team in the spotlight. *cough* Washington D.C. Professional Football Organization *cough*

Law of Armed Conflict in the Twittersphere: IHL and Game of Thrones

 Game of Thrones Tweet-a-thon

[CAUTION: mild spoiler alert!!]  Last week, April 8-11, the American Society of International Law (ASIL) held its 109th Annual Meeting here in D.C. at the nearby Hyatt Hotel. If you want to match up your love of the HBO series with your commitment to international humanitarian law (IHL) then you might want to follow @HumanityinWar to see the results of a challenge quiz announced at a terrific panel entitled #int_law@social_media that took place on the morning of Friday, April 10th. The American Red Cross, a branch of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), ran a “Tweet-a-thon” during Sunday night’s season 5 premiere asking ASIL viewers to send tweets assessing violations of the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) depicted during the episode, #GoTIHL . (Well, when are they not violating the laws of war?)

To brush up on the Geneva Conventions and its commentary, visit the ICRC website as well to bolster your argument that indeed, the burning at the stake of Mance Rayder (leader of the Wildlings)  while he is a prisoner of war under Stannis Baratheon is a violation of article 13, Geneva Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, 12 August 1949, Humane treatment of prisoners. But what about Jon Snow’s merciful arrow from afar, ending Mance’s suffering? Add the video “web casebook” tour linked at ICRC’s website to your media archive and get started on that one.