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While many international lawyers are familiar with Francisco de Vitoria (1483–1546), very few have even heard of Paulus Vladimiri (1370–1435) – a Polish priest and jurist who made striking similar arguments to Vitoria on legal universality and the rights of non-Christians a full century before Vitoria. This divergence of consciousness, I argue, provides a unique opportunity to explore questions of canon, reception, and the role of ‘founding fathers’ within international legal thought. Centring Vladimiri as an ‘Eastern European’ figure, I argue that his non-reception is largely the result of how Eastern Europe implicitly functions as a distinctly liminal space within international legal thought that makes any possible ‘founding father’ from this region immensely difficult to imagine. I examine this dynamic through the differing postwar efforts of the Polish jurists Kazimierz Grzybowski and C. H. Alexandrowicz to include Vladimiri within the international legal canon. In examining the background structures of twentieth-century international law, I conclude that, in a manner directly connected to the liminality of Eastern Europe, neither Soviet nor Third World nor Western imaginations could easily receive Vladimiri within their fundamentally political narratives of normative order that shaped their international legal approaches. However, despite this historic non-reception, I argue that Vladimiri, and the question of Eastern Europe more generally, holds great promise in our current global moment. Particularly, engaging Eastern Europe’s liminal character offers a more sociologically grounded alternative to the reductionist Schmittian view of international law as a product of inescapable conflict in a world of exclusionary ‘greater spaces’.
Social memory studies start from the premise that people acquire their memories not only through individual means, but through social processes as well. Social groups often provide materials for memory, and prod individuals into recalling particular events. One of the distinctive differences between the practice of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) concerns memory-related remedies. While the IACtHR quite frequently orders respondent states to commemorate grave violations of human rights (including the construction of monuments), the ECtHR has refrained from granting such commemorative remedies. Some organizations representing victims have called upon additional tribunals to embrace the IACtHR’s remedial approach to address grave breaches of international law. Drawing on social memory scholarship, this study is aimed at empirically assessing the impact of four sites of memory in Colombia established by order of the IACtHR. The study’s findings suggest that international tribunals alone cannot shape collective memories that are inconsistent with sociocultural features characterizing the local society. On the other hand, judicially-ordered sites of memory are meaningful for the victims’ families and small-scale social units. These findings turn our attention to micro-level sociological perspectives, and particularly to the symbolic-interactionist approach to international law, highlighting the vital symbolic role of international tribunals for individuals and small social units. The valuable role of such memorial sites for the victims’ relatives and related communities suggests that international tribunals addressing grave human rights violations should consider granting commemorative remedies.
The term ‘ambition’ appears to have infiltrated international legal discourses: it is used to, for instance, lament the lack of state action to tackle major global challenges, praise progress towards difficult goals, or evaluate the outcomes of international law-making processes. Often mobilized, the concept of ambition in international law remains, however, poorly understood. And yet, each narrative offers a specific analytical frame that influences our understanding of the world and sets distinct policy prescriptions. What argumentative functions do ambition narratives play and what implications do they carry for international law, in both its practice and study? To respond to this question, the article explores the occurrence of the term in a field where the rationale of ambition has recently taken centre stage – international climate law – and uses the crisis narrative as a means of comparison to highlight the specificity of ambition discourses. The argumentative implications of ambition are identified in terms of vision, means and temporality: this article suggests that an ambition discourse fulfils objectives that a crisis narrative is unable to accommodate by calling for structural transformations, motivating states to commit to far-reaching objectives and adopting a long-term perspective focused on incremental change. The shortcomings of an ambition narrative are also highlighted, in relation to its determination and evaluation. The study contributes to shedding light on a new international law discourse to offer a different analytical frame for the discipline.
This article explores the exiling of Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French, in 1814 and 1815. It argues that in confronting Napoleon’s sovereignty and trying to remove him, the allies were forced to make a highly pragmatic, improvisational, and incoherent use of international law. Much of this stemmed from that fact that they were trying to implement a Great Powers political system within and through a legal system that was antithetical to any such concept. Because of this the allies move between employing traditional, domestic understandings of sovereignty, to treating sovereignty as something capable of international control and distribution. This results in an incoherent legal argument and narrative, with each turn of the tale adding layer upon layer of further confusion and contradiction. The conclusion of all this is Napoleon’s miserable dispatch to St. Helena by the British government – speedily done and in fear of a legal challenge.
The Sustainable Development Goal’s (SDG) blueprint to global sustainability exemplifies the global governance trend towards the displacement of law by indicators. Indicators purport to produce objective measurement and comparison, a desirable trait for international public authorities that struggle to bolster the legitimacy of environmental and sustainability norms. This paper adopts a pragmatic approach to indicators by taking seriously their limitations, weaknesses, and dangers, but also their potential contributions to international sustainability objectives. We explore a reframing of the relationship between law and indicators in complementary, not adversarial, terms. Several examples of this complementarity are explored, including the potential use of the SDGs for evaluating the instrumental effectiveness of legal regimes, as well as the ways that international sustainability law supplements the SGDs by providing legal ramifications for violations of state-specific obligations. Finally, we argue that law and legal normativity make invaluable contributions to international environmental and sustainability governance, contributions that metrics and other managerial and technocratic forms of governance cannot make.
Lomé Conventions I (1975) and II (1979) were the first regional trade agreements (RTAs) between the European Community (EC) and the group of postcolonial countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP). Specialized scholarship offers rich analyses of those Conventions; however, little is known about the role of law and lawyers in their making, and their relevance for present-day debates about RTAs.
This article advances existing knowledge in two ways. First, it historicizes the more visible role of law in constituting Lomé as a legal regime for governing EC-ACP regionalism. It then argues that the Conventions were distinct from existing RTAs due to their unique centrality on social and economic development; and from present-day RTAs, because they were conceived not simply as instrumental to but also as constitutive of development.
Second, by historicizing the less visible role of law and lawyers in the Lomé regime, the article identifies that a specialist conception of South-North RTAs was refined to govern which ideas, projects, norms, and institutions were applicable to Lomé. This distinct conception – called the development framework – was critical in creating the conditions of possibility for decision-makers negotiate, interpret, and manage the Conventions.
Those findings challenge conventional wisdom on two grounds. They suggest that Lomé was unique not for embodying a new model but for consolidating the development framework’s dominance. They contest present-day understanding of RTAs as textual manifestations of a universal concept by demonstrating the existence of competing conceptions, which express distinct notions of RTAs’ purpose, content, and form.
This article begins with a study of the political economy of welfare capitalism to demonstrate how the private quest for profit was never going to be undermined by the advance of socio-economic rights. Contrary to the conventional view among human rights lawyers, capital draws power from its rights or welfarism. It is in recognizing the role that socio-economic rights play in serving capitalism that the field of international law concerned with structurally transformative human rights can begin to explore how socio-economic rights inhibit alternative forms of social organization. This work then turns to recovering property rights through a study of recent evictions and housing rights case law of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that problematizes structural inequities and calls the financialized capitalist system into question. Next this work investigates radical legal positivism in international indigenous rights jurisprudence for how it transcends the private ownership of indigenous lands and control over the means of production. The social function of property rights is then revisited and extended, drawing to a close an article that unearths how socio-economic rights might yet emancipate people from capitalist property relations, alter the underlying structure of the economy, and, in time, sever its concordance with the capitalist welfare state.
One particularly intense critical debate over interpretation in international law concerns the role of moral factors – specifically, the degree to which such factors influence legal interpretation, and how the law should deal with them. A formalist approach argues that moral considerations should be excluded as non-legal; a critical legal studies approach suggests they are an inevitable part of the functioning of international law and must therefore be acknowledged; and an inclusivist approach would suggest their influence is permissible, albeit only under certain circumstances. In this article, we are concerned with the question of whether moral factors influence interpretation at all, taking international treaties as the object of study. To address this question, we take a novel approach, proposing an experimental linguistic framework to test whether linguistic categorizations (originally developed for the analysis of everyday language) can be successfully applied to treaty interpretation, relying on both laypersons and experts as participants. Although some caveats must be made, the experiments deliver clear results: both groups are influenced by morals in their interpretation of international treaty norms. On this basis, we draw conclusions regarding (i) how the process of interpretation of international law operates; and (ii) what the institutions managing that process, such as courts, should factor-in when deliberating their decisions. By adopting this novel perspective, we also contribute to linguistic and experimental approaches to international law at the methodological level.
Understanding law as a continuous process with circular and interacting phases of selection, construction, and reception makes it possible to account for the variety of actors and resources implicated in the process of incrementally changing a norm of international law. This process is visualized through an analogy to knitting. One can start the knitting project with one needle, but to actually construct anything, more than one needle is necessary: at least two actors need to collaborate and build upon each other’s work. If those two actors neatly agree upon the pattern to be knitted, the resulting product may be uniform and dense, able to cover all situations it is intended for. However, it is not that easy to knit in exactly the same pace and pattern. The constructed law may not fit perfectly all situations it is intended for, because the different actors may have had different patterns in their head. Also, sometimes, the wool is held too tightly, and the net becomes too dense; sometimes the wool is held too loosely, and the net will have holes. With this visualization in mind, we can think of legal changes as continuously intermingling and building upon each other: international law is generally knitted with different colours of wool, each colour representing a different normative resource. Thus, ‘norm knitting’ provides for an analytical tool that makes it possible to demonstrate the variety in ‘successful’ change of a given norm in international law in response to specific challenges which the actors face.
One of the central components of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is its victim assistance and environmental remediation provisions (known collectively as the Treaty’s ‘positive obligations’). While there is much to celebrate about efforts to remedy the damage caused by nuclear weapons, the way the TPNW distributes responsibility for this work is troubling. Under the Treaty, the primary responsibility for fulfilling the positive obligations is placed on the states parties that have individuals under their jurisdiction who are affected by the use or testing of nuclear weapons and areas under their jurisdiction or control that have been contaminated by the use or testing of nuclear weapons (‘the affected states’) despite the fact that, often, these were not the states responsible for detonating the nuclear weapons. This article examines and critiques the reasons the Treaty’s drafters placed the main responsibility for victim assistance and environmental remediation on affected states. It argues that the rationales underpinning these provisions rest on shaky grounds, and that the Treaty’s approach has potential negative ramifications for nuclear disarmament and understanding the history of the use and testing of nuclear weapons. Further, it explores how the Treaty may play into worrying broader dynamics in public international law whereby the Global North is frequently absolved of responsibility for the harms it causes while the Global South is saddled with obligations to redress an array of harms.
Looking at the migration management policies at Europe’s external Aegean border, this article examines how and why infrastructures of protection come to function as technologies of border violence. The repurposing of rescue rafts for extreme border violence in the Aegean Sea reveals a little-examined dark side of European ‘migration management’ as a process purportedly aimed to ‘civilize’ Greek coastguard operations. In transforming life-saving materials into life-threatening ones, patterns of border violence tell an alarming story about the relationship between law, politics, and the materiality of physical objects: absent concrete political and moral commitments to international protection, rescue’s physical infrastructure has been weaponized. The weaponized life raft further challenges the assumptions underpinning European ‘migration management’: the idea that technocratic solutions can fix structural injustices, or that ‘neutral assistance can ensure human rights compliance. The case study thus demonstrates the incompatibility of managerialism with human rights protection in the context of contemporary migration.
In the wake of the #metoo and #blacklivesmatter movements, the masculine and ‘methodologically white’ nature of the core of the international legal profession has received renewed attention, and attempts to diversify it are well underway. Absent from the conversations that accompany such diversification efforts are reflections on the pervasiveness of ableism in the profession. Ableism describes implicit assumptions about the species-typical condition of the human body and the ways in which it interacts with the material and social world. The importance of ableism in excluding and marginalizing persons with disabling differences in international legal academia has widely been overlooked. This neglect simultaneously contributes to ableist re-productions of the profession and affects how international law understands and governs disability.
In August 2021, Protocol 15 inserted the doctrine of the margin of appreciation into the preamble of the European Convention of Human Rights, presumably cementing what President Spano has referred to as the ‘Age of Subsidiarity’, in which the European Court of Human Rights applies the margin of appreciation more often and increases deference to state parties. This insertion was done on the behest of the High Contracting Parties as part of the Interlaken reform process, and there is already a strong narrative in certain member states and parts of the scholarly literature that this focus has prompted the Court to increase the usage of the margin of appreciation and therefore the deference to states, judging more frequently in their favour. This article hypothesizes, however, that the increased usage of the margin of appreciation language which has been taken as proof for this narrative, might not, in fact, indicate higher levels of deference. Rather, the language of the margin of appreciation could be the result of usage by other actors or a marker of complexity for so-called ‘hard cases’. To investigate this relationship, the article applies a mixed legal-doctrinal and quantitative methodology to analyse who in the case law invokes the doctrine, what their purpose is for doing so, and what adjudicative consequences follow. It finds that usage of the margin-language topped well before the Interlaken process began, that governments are not the most frequent invokers and that, statistically speaking, states are no more likely to win margin-cases than other cases.
This article analyses the ICJ, one of the most eminent actors of the international legal regime, as an actor of the international tax regime. So far, the ICJ’s role in tax dispute resolution has been a blind spot in the literature.
The descriptive part of this article first discusses the case law of the PCIJ and ICJ that considers – albeit incidentally – questions of taxation. These tax-related cases are categorized as (i) ‘wrongful taxation’ constituting the subject matter of the dispute; (ii) taxation as evidence for a ‘genuine link’ between the state and a national; or (iii) taxation as an ‘effectivité’ to prove the de facto exercise of state authority over a given territory.
The second half of the descriptive analysis assesses the Court’s jurisdiction over tax disputes. Tax treaties usually lack compromissory clauses. Yet, there are a number of jurisdictional bases that vest the Court with the competence to sit over hypothetical tax treaty disputes, although certain reservations may render the Court’s jurisdiction residual to other means of tax dispute settlement. Further, Article 344 TFEU possibly precludes EU member states from initiating ICJ proceedings concerning tax treaty disputes with other EU states.
The second, normative part of this article contemplates the Court as a future ‘World Tax Court’. It briefly addresses (i) possible effects of the ICJ’s hypothetical involvement in tax disputes; (ii) whether the ICJ might have a future role in tax dispute settlement in light of recent developments; and (iii) whether it is even desirable to involve the Court in tax disputes.
The European Court of Human Rights has often been criticized for lacking clarity and consistency in its reasoning of balancing human rights against conflicting public interests. To reconcile national security with human rights protection, the Court requires the interference with rights to be suitable for reaching the objective purported by the government. In this article I deal with how the Court conducts the suitability test in national security cases, in line with two models under which a few representative test considerations can be categorized: human rights priority model and national security priority model. To explain how each model works in a comparable sense, I follow the same analytic structure and examine the manner of the Court’s test and the intensity of its scrutiny. I argue that in compliance with the two models, the Court applies the suitability test in a consistent and predictable way in national security case law.
The modern professional world of international adjudication bears little trace of the ‘invisible college’ theorized by Oscar Schachter 50 years go. Instead, it has become a social field marked by a fierce competition among actors possessing unequal skills and influence. Moving from these premises, this article unravels the socio-professional dynamics of the community of legal experts – judges, arbitrators, government agents, private counsel, court bureaucrats, specialized academics, etc. – dealing with the judicial settlement of international disputes on a daily basis. On the one hand, the community has developed a specific set of social structures, practices, and dispositions that distinguish it from the rest of the international legal profession and insulate its activities from outside interference. On the other, it is the site of an endless struggle among its participants, who deploy various forms of capital to consolidate their positions relative to one another. Having outlined the twofold structure of the community – externally autonomous and internally conflictive – the article reflects on how co-operation and competition affect the everyday unfolding of international judicial proceedings and the production of legal outcomes at the international level.