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Over the course of the period from the end of 2022 to early 2023, requests for advisory opinions on climate change were, for the first time, made to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR).
Under Article 41 of the UN Charter, the Security Council has established 31 sanctions regimes since 1966. Sanctions measures encompass a broad range of enforcement actions not involving the use of armed force. The measures have ranged from comprehensive economic and trade sanctions to more targeted measures such as arms embargoes, travel bans, and financial or commodity restrictions. In recent years, there have been increasing numbers of complaints from humanitarian organizations that sanctions cause or exacerbate humanitarian crises. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has estimated that at least 222 million people were experiencing acute food insecurity at the end of 2022, the largest global food crisis in modern history. At the same time, the countries that need the most assistance are often subject to international sanctions regimes. As of March 2023, UN sanctions applied in nine of the top ten operations of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
On December 8, 2022, in a case relating to a de-referencing request to an internet search engine operator on the basis of inaccurate information, the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) delivered its judgment (the Judgment) on the interpretation of the right to erasure (right to be forgotten) under Article 17 of the EU General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (GDPR), and the rights of access and objection under Articles 12 and 14 of the EU Directive 95/46/EC (the Directive), in light of fundamental rights to privacy, protection of personal data, and freedom of expression and information under Articles 7, 8, and 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the Charter). The case establishes that the burden of proof is on the person requesting de-referencing to show manifest inaccuracy of information, but this does not require them to seek a judicial remedy against the website publisher before requesting de-referencing. Although the search engine operator is obliged to carry out checks to confirm the merits of the request, it has no obligation to investigate the facts and probe further with the website publisher. However, it must de-reference where relevant and sufficient evidence is submitted to show manifest inaccuracy, and it must display a warning where it is made aware of judicial proceedings.
On November 23, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom delivered its judgment on whether the Scottish Parliament has legislative competence to introduce a Scottish Independence Referendum Bill (the Bill) to hold a referendum in Scotland asking the question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?”, or whether this relates to reserved matters to the Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England and the Parliament of the United Kingdom under Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act of 1998 (the Act). The Court unanimously concluded that the proposed Bill relates to reserved matters and cannot be lawfully legislated by the Scottish Parliament. The case raises issues about the extent of legislative competence of a UK devolved nation, and whether it can lawfully exercise the right to self-determination under international law when a constitutional framework does not recognize legislative competence to hold an independence referendum.
On January 5, 2023, the U.S. Justice for Victims of War Crimes (JVWC) Act was signed into law. The legislation closed long-recognized gaps in U.S. federal jurisdiction for holding accused war criminals accountable. Prior to the JVWC, the federal war crimes statute provided jurisdiction over war crime offenses committed anywhere, but only if the victim or offender was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces or a U.S. national. The baseline federal statute of limitations also applied, meaning the United States could only bring charges within five years of the crime occurring.
On December 1, 2022, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rendered its judgment in the Dispute Concerning the Status and Use of the Waters of the Silala (Chile v. Bolivia). There is no basin agreement governing the Silala, and Chile and Bolivia have ratified neither the 1997 Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses nor the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes. In the absence of a treaty regime applicable to the waters of the Silala River, the Court had the opportunity in this case to consider the legal framework applicable to international watercourses under customary international law.
On August 1, 2022, the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union (Court of Justice) published its judgment on the joined cases of Sea Watch eV against the Italian Ministero delle Infrastrutture e dei Transporti, the Capitaneria (Harbor Master's Office) di Porto di Palermo, and the Capitaneria di Porto di Porto Empedocle. The Court of Justice's judgment clarifies EU law regarding the additional inspection and detention of a private humanitarian assistance ship. A port state must make a reasonable and justified decision to conduct additional inspections or to detain a ship. The port state must base its decision on serious indications of dangerous operation. However, interpreting the EU law alongside the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the Court of Justice held that a port state cannot justify such additional inspections solely based on an excess of passengers beyond a ship's classification or certifications when that ship is rendering assistance to rescued individuals.
On December 15, 2022, the International Criminal Court's Appeals Chamber unanimously confirmed Dominic Ongwen's convictions for crimes against humanity and war crimes and, by majority vote, confirmed his sentence of twenty-five years' imprisonment.
On September 15, 2022, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (hereinafter ACERWC or Committee) issued its decision in the matter of Legal and Human Rights Centre and Centre for Reproductive Rights v. Tanzania. This case is related to the practice of forced pregnancy testing in schools in Tanzania and the later expulsion of girls who are found to be pregnant and/or married. The Communication was presented by the Legal and Human Rights Centre and the Centre for Reproductive Rights, on behalf of Tanzanian girls. This decision represents an important contribution to the line of international cases advancing the rights of girls under 18 years old, in particular in the areas of sexual and reproductive health and education, exemplified by increasing jurisprudence issued by regional human rights bodies.
The Artemis Accords (the Accords) reproduced below were signed on September 13, 2020, by the administrator of the U.S. space agency, NASA, and seven other space agencies. The intervening years since then have underscored their importance: they may give a boost to the development of the legal regime of outer space exploration and use as defined by the existing treaty framework, while supporting the U.S. interpretation of the non-appropriation principle, or they may upset the existing legal regime of Outer Space, leading to its fragmentation by abandoning multilateralism. This introductory note highlights those aspects of the Accords that may affect the edifice of the international law relating to Outer Space, even if the Accords themselves are not legally binding, as explained briefly below.
The Kunming–Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (the Framework) was adopted at the Fifteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on December 19, 2022. Despite the efforts made under the CBD, biodiversity loss has continued at an alarming rate, and the targets set under the Convention's Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 were not fully achieved. In 2018, the CBD Parties therefore adopted a decision to develop a post-2020 global biodiversity framework to guide international efforts towards the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity over the next decade. The Framework, the adoption of which was delayed by two years by the COVID-19 pandemic, succeeds and replaces the 2011–2020 Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and its accompanying Aichi Targets. The Framework includes four overarching goals and twenty-three accompanying targets to be achieved by 2030, together with four long-term goals to achieve the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity.
On September 22, 2022, the Human Rights Committee (HRC) published its views in the communication of Daniel Billy et al. v. Australia, originally submitted in May 2019. Although not the first case before human rights treaty bodies on matters relevant to climate change, it is the first time the Human Rights Committee has found a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in breach of its obligations under the ICCPR for failure to take mitigation and adaptation measures to combat the effects of climate change. In doing so, it made a number of comments on both procedural and substantive issues, which may well pave the way for future action.