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

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.

Denim Day

Denim Day

jeansFor several years, a day in April has been designated as “Denim Day” to promote awareness of sexual violence against women.

It began in 1999 in response to an Italian Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) decision that overturned a rape conviction. There was a dispute about consent. In overturning the decision on the consent issue, the court found that it is nearly impossible to slip off tight jeans even partly without the active collaboration of the person who is wearing them.  There is an interesting law review article about this case, Blue Jeans, Rape, and the De-Constitutive Power of Law, in 35 Law & Society Review 89 on HeinOnline.

There was a second, similar case in 2008 where the Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) reviewed a lower court decision with very similar reasoning.  This time the high court overturned the lower court and its own 1999 ruling.  This development has “closely aligned the Italian Supreme Court with the European Court of Human Rights’ dictates, and ultimately has marked a step forward towards gender equality and women’s right to sexual autonomy.”

Women continue to be victims of sexual violence around the world as seen in recent news reports.  Denim Day serves a reminder to combat such attitudes.
photo Attribution License by CananZembil

The Charlie Hebdo Attacks In France Last Week

Paris and two of its suburbs were the latest locations of attacks perpetuated by Islamic extremists. Sunday, over a million people of various faiths gathered in Paris to show solidarity in wake of the turmoil caused by the violent events. Notably absent among all the world leaders who showed up for yesterday’s march was someone high-ranking from the United States, which led to President Obama acknowledging that the White House should have sent someone to participate.

While there is much that is being said about the events and the motivations behind them, as well as the troublesome nature of the publication itself, there is less being said about the relationship between France and satire. Charlie Hebdo certainly did not rise up from nothing – it was the product of a centuries-long tradition in France. Even as we think of freedom of speech as something that all Western, democratic cultures enjoy, we also know that it differs greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. To learn more about the various discrepancies between countries’ speech policies, you can do a search in our catalog which will lead you to books like this one. To learn more about free speech in France specifically, we’d recommend books like this. One resource that can be immensely useful to you in comparing and contrasting the laws of various countries is the Foreign Law Guide, which is available to you through the library. Another source that could prove useful to you is our database, The International Encyclopaedia of Laws for Intellectual Property Law, provided by Kluwer. This resource discusses elements of artistic expression and speech in France, the UK, the US, and many other jurisdictions.

In the face of awful events, one of the courses of action we can take is to educate ourselves so that we can move forward. Our thoughts are with France in this difficult time.

Happy Human Rights Awareness Month!

Human Rights Day was this past December 10th. Did you remember to celebrate? Chances are good that if you didn’t commit a crime against humanity, you were on the right path. However, if you want to go above and beyond just basic decency, and learn something in the process, Oxford University Press has produced a map of fifty landmark human rights cases for you to peruse. Each case is given a brief description and a link to a free article or report. The cases were selected by the editors of the Oxford Reports on International Law and the cases were chosen to highlight the sheer number of jurisdictions (national, regional, and international) available for bringing human rights claims as well as the range of claims that have been acknowledged.

The cases are an interesting mix of litigation arising from major historical events, like war, to more unexpected case law from Africa regarding investor’s rights or freedom of the press. Sometimes the cases involve what we might think of as “unattractive victims.” That is to say, it’s not just the downtrodden who can claim human rights protections but it is also those who do the treading. Human rights apply to everyone, not just the good guys. Finally, when looking at the map, one may expect to see pinpoints in locations where abuses occur and yet, the map is more a demonstration of where one can go to seek a legal process or remedy for abuse. Thus, there are places where abuses occur and no pins will be found.

Another Oxford service that we offer here at Georgetown which ties in very nicely with this map is the Consolidated Treaty Series. This series is the only comprehensive collection of treaties from 1648 through 1919 and it provides access, electronically, to scanned images and searchable full text. It also integrates with other Oxford publications such as international case law and commentary for a richer user experience.

The world isn’t always a nice place but we can take a minute to appreciate the rights we share as humans. In conjunction with Oxford University Press, we at the library are here to help you figure out what those rights are…and maybe also to remind you to hug a puppy or ten.

Senate Intelligence Committee Releases Summary of Report on CIA Torture

On December 9, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence finally released the executive summary of its report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. The 525-page, partially redacted summary revealed that the abusive interrogation methods utilized by the CIA were far more brutal and more frequently employed than initially reported, that the agency repeatedly misled the White House, the Justice Department, and its own Inspector General about the effectiveness of the program, and that it actively impeded congressional oversight. The committee’s full 6,700-page report, based on an examination of more than 6 million internal CIA documents, remains classified. Senator Mark Udall, a member of the committee, has called for the resignation of CIA Director John Brennan and urged President Obama to purge the agency of the personnel who implemented and facilitated the torture program.

CIA_Secret_Prisons Larger Image

The long-delayed release of the executive summary prompted civil liberties and human rights advocates to renew their calls for the prosecution of individuals who authorized or participated in the torture of detainees, a remedy that Attorney General Eric Holder has declined to pursue. Georgetown law professor David Luban cautions that it would be almost impossible for federal prosecutors to obtain convictions under the statutory prohibition against torture because the defendants would argue that they relied in good faith on the now discredited torture memos issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Instead, Professor Luban urges President Obama to honor the CIA operatives, military officers, and members of the Bush administration who resisted and exposed the torture program, often at significant cost to their careers.

Another alternative to prosecutions would be for President Obama to grant pardons to the members of the Bush administration who authorized the torture of detainees held by the CIA. Though less than ideal, this approach would at least constitute an official acknowledgment that crimes were committed at the very highest levels of government. In addition, it would avoid the inevitable partisan backlash that would accompany criminal prosecutions and perhaps help to restore the bipartisan consensus against torture that existed prior to the war on terror.

Presidential pardons would not preclude prosecutions by international tribunals. Shortly before the Senate Intelligence Committee released the executive summary of its report, the Office of the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it has opened a preliminary investigation of the treatment of detainees captured by the United States in Afghanistan. However, as Northwestern law professor Eugene Kontorovich has noted, significant jurisdictional hurdles would have to be overcome before the ICC could pursue a full-fledged investigation, let alone prosecutions.

If you are interested in learning more about the ICC, the Geneva Conventions, and the U.N. Convention Against Torture, consult the Georgetown Law Library’s Research Guide to War Crimes. The Law Library’s collection includes many resources that address the subject of torture, such as Professor Luban’s new book, Torture, Power, and Law. To locate additional resources, search the library catalog using one or more of the following subject headings: torture (international law), torture – moral and ethical aspects, and torture – government policy – United States.

To Be or Not to Be… British?: The 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum is on Sep. 18th

According to the latest polls the question of whether Scotland will remain part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is running neck and neck. For those interested in knowing more about this historic referendum and its historical context, the Georgetown Law Library has updated its Scottish Legal History Research Guide to include relevant sources. These updates are thanks in part to input from our former Resident Librarian, Yasmin Morais, who is now the Cataloging Librarian at UDC School of Law.

A Googolplex of Issues for the Googleplex, thanks to the European Court of Justice

On Tuesday, May 13, 2014, the European Court of Justice released to its web site, Curia, the judgmentGoogolplex number on issues of privacy and control of personal data  (including the so-called “right to be forgotten”) in Case C‑131/12, Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v. Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD) and Mario Costeja González (request for a preliminary ruling under Article 267 TFEU from the Audiencia Nacional, Spain). As legal commentators around the world and via the blogosphere weigh in on the court’s expansive reading of what may be an outdated (but still in force) directive (Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (1995 OJ ( L281) 31), access to the court’s documents makes it possible to compare the judgment with the separate opinion delivered almost a year earlier, in June 2013, by Advocate General Niilo Jääskinen. There, as a Finnish AG writing the original in English, he examines whether or not a search engine is a “controller” of data in the manner that the 1995 directive could have intended at a time before the current state of search engine technology. Except for the cache, he concluded that the current search engine does not really fit under that definition. The Court, however, found the opposite to be true and saw Google’s search engine as in fact such a controller. As experts such as Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and Law Librarycontinue the discussion in the coming days and weeks as to the existence, scope,  and nature of data removal rights versus the public’s (and perhaps posterity’s) right to know, Georgetown Law Library’s collection contains a wealth of material in several formats on data, protection, privacy and Europe- keywords to combine as you choose in our catalog. If you don’t mind a googolplex of answers, however, by all means just google it. 

Supreme Court of India Recognizes Third Gender

Last week, in a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of India recognized the legal status of transgender individuals, allowing them to identify themselves as members of a third category, neither male nor female.  As a result of this ruling, India’s national and state governments are prohibited from discriminating against members of the transgender community, who will henceforth be entitled to the same educational and hiring preferences as members of the lower castes and other minority groups.

As some observers have noted, it is difficult to reconcile the Supreme Court’s decision to afford legal protections to individuals who identify as transgender with the judgment it entered in December of 2013 reinstating a colonial-era statute that criminalizes homosexual acts.  In the latter case, the Court held that it was up to Parliament, not the judiciary, to repeal the statute.

India is now the third country in Southwest Asia to extend legal recognition to transgender individuals.  In 2007 the Supreme Court of Nepal established a third gender category as part of a wider ruling that invalidated laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Last year Bangladesh began issuing government forms with a third gender category for individuals who do not identify as male or female.

The Supreme Court of India (photo by Legaleagle86 via Wikimedia Commons)

The Georgetown Law Library provides access to the law of India via SCC Online.  This subscription database includes judgments from the Supreme Court of India from 1969 onward, High Court decisions from Indian states and territories, federal statutes and regulations, as well as treatises and other secondary sources.  Users of SCC Online must log in with their Georgetown Law email address.  For optimal search functionality, follow the link to the 2014 (beta) version of SCC Online after logging in.

JUDIS is a free government Web portal for India’s judicial system.  It provides online access to all reported judgments of the Supreme Court of India from its inception in 1950, as well as a selection of High Court opinions from major jurisdictions, including Bombay and Delhi.  Supreme Court judgments published prior to 1994 include headnotes.  JUDIS also enables users to check the status of cases pending in some High Court jurisdictions and provides links to select district court websites.

If you have any questions about using these and other foreign law resources, the reference librarians at the Wolff International and Comparative Law Library would be happy to assist you.

Denim Day – April 2nd

jeansFor several years, a day in April has been designated as “Denim Day” to promote awareness of sexual violence against women.

It began in 1999 in response to an Italian Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) decision that overturned a rape conviction. There was a dispute about consent. In overturning the decision on the consent issue, the court found that “it is nearly impossible to slip off tight jeans even partly without the active collaboration of the person who is wearing them.”  As a response to this decision female legislators appeared on the doorstep of Parliament wearing jeans and holding signs that read “Jeans: An Alibi for Rape.”

There was a second, similar case in 2008 where the Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) reviewed a lower court decision with very similar reasoning which had found that “it was impossible to, with the girl wearing jeans and being seated, put his hand under her pants and touch” her. This time the high court overturned the lower court and its own 1999 ruling finding that “[t]he fact that the girl was wearing jeans was not an obstacle to her intimate parts, because it is possible for him to penetrate with his hand under the garment, which is not comparable to a chastity belt.”

This development has “closely aligned the Italian Supreme Court with the European Court of Human Rights’ dictates, and ultimately has marked a step forward towards gender equality and women’s right to sexual autonomy.”

Women continue to be victims of sexual violence around the world.  Denim Day serves a reminder to combat such attitudes.
photo Attribution License by CananZembil

Researching the Legal Aspects of the Crimean Crisis

Did Crimea have the right to secede from Ukraine?  Was there a legal basis for the referendum held on March 16?  Can the Russian Federation lawfully absorb Crimea without Ukraine’s consent?

These are some of the legal issues addressed in an informative blog post by Peter Roudik, the Director of the Global Legal Research Center at the Law Library of Congress.  As Roudik notes, the answers to these questions often involve constitutional and/or statutory interpretation.

Map_of_the_Crimea
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License Map by Maximillian Dörrbecker on Wikimedia Commons. 

Georgetown students can access primary law from Ukraine and Russia via The Foreign Law Guide and Hein’s World Constitutions Illustrated.  In addition to providing foreign law materials in their original languages, these resources also provide English-language translations, when available.

As events in Crimea continue to unfold, take advantage of these additional library resources to  help you understand the legal aspects of crisis.  For background information on relevant international law concepts (such as secession, self-determination, and sovereignty), consult the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law.  To keep abreast of recent scholarly commentary on the dispute between Ukraine and Russia over Crimea, visit the debate map compiled by Oxford Public International Law.

For timely insights into the Russian perspective on the crisis, it can be helpful to review the English-language publications of the Russian media, such as this article from English edition of Pravda and this article from The Voice of Russia, as re-posted on the website of the Canadian Centre for Research on Globalization.

If you have any questions about using these and other foreign and international law resources, please contact a reference librarian.