Sorry, Damon, International Laws Are Laws


My friend Damon Linker has a new piece for The Week arguing that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice cannot be war criminals, because the laws they are accused of violating are merely “international law,” which is no law at all:

[I]t’s inaccurate to describe these rules and regulations as laws. They are, strictly speaking, bilateral and multilateral treaties between and among governments.

Laws, by contrast, are written, enacted, and executed by governments, and they apply exclusively to those residing within territorially defined political communities (be they city states, nations, or empires). Citizens of liberal democracies hold, moreover, that laws gain legitimacy — and become binding — only with the consent of the governed. And that standard is (tacitly) met only when the laws have been crafted by the people’s democratically elected representatives.

“International law” fulfills none of these requirements.

Treaties among governments are still written and enacted…

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Guest Post by Erik Zouave: The Weaponization of the Falluja Dam and the River Euphrates: A Non-State Test for International Environmental Humanitarian Law

Armed Groups and International Law

Erik Tristan Zouave (LLM, University of York) is a trainee at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) Iraq Unit and a former research-assistant at the Swedish National Defense College’s International Law Center. He recently contributed to the book Regional Organizations and Peacekeeping: Challengers to the UN?  (available here). Erik thanks Hayder Al-Shakeri (National Program Officer to Sida in Bagdad) for his help with media surveillance.


On the 9th of April 2014 and throughout the days leading up to the national elections of the 30th of April, the Iraq Army deployed troops, in a series of battles, to secure a dam from insurgent control near Falluja. The armed group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) had taken positions and fortified the area of Nuaimiyya, surrounding the dam, since February 2014. The ISIL’s control of the dam, controlling the water flow of the…

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Finding Justice for Genocide in Guatemala

Originally posted on @Intlawgrrls


Former Guatemalan Leader, General Efrain Rios Montt

One year ago this month, Efrain Rios Montt, leader of Guatemala from 1982-1983, was found guilty of genocide in a Guatemalan court for crimes committed during the country’s bloody civil war. Only ten days later, however, the verdict was overturned and the case was set to be heard again in April 2014. While many in the international community initially applauded Guatemala’s justice system for being able to convict a powerful figure of such a serious crime, sentiment quickly changed as the verdict was vacated. Since then, the retrial has been delayed even further, not expected to be heard now until 2015 at the earliest. Also, the Attorney General who brought the charges against Rios Montt, Claudia Paz y Paz, was forced to leave her position before it was set to expire. The initial success and then failure of Guatemalan courts to secure a conviction…

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Summer reading for intlawyers-in-training


An enterprising student who is set to become part of the Georgia Law 1L class this fall recently wrote me in search of a summer reading list. In the event that my response is of wider interest, here are some superb books – nonfiction works that provide background and context, thus enriching comprehension of issues presented in courses like Public International Law, International Criminal Law, Laws of War, and Foreign Affairs/National Security Law:

wartime► Mary Dudziak, War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences (2012) (Prior post)

2019680024► John Fabian Witt, Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History (2012) (Prior post)

paris► Margaret MacMillan, Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World (2003) (Prior post)

aworldmadenew► Mary Ann Glendon, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2002) (Prior post)

gen► Martha Minow, Between Vengeance and…

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Issues of Immunity: India v. USA

The {New} International Law

On 12 December 2013, Federal authorities in New York City arrested Mrs. Devuani Khobragade – an Indian consular official – on charges of visa fraud and making false statements. The charges arise out of allegations that Mrs. Khobragade paid her house keeper less than minimum wage after pledging to do so in the housekeeper’s visa application. Such declarations are required to obtain visas for domestic workers to enter the United States.

Immediately after the arrest, Mrs. Khobragade claimed she was not subject to trial because, as a diplomat, she should benefit from personal immunity. Then, following these statements, she was transferred from the Indian consular mission in New York City to the United Nations diplomatic mission. The United States claims any such transfer will not effect the criminal trial. This post will analyze both of these claims: (1) if Mrs. Khobragade is entitled to immunity as a consular official and…

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Is there such a thing as a Bar on Double Jeopardy in International Criminal Law?

Interesting article.

The {New} International Law

On February 3, 2014, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) filed a request to reconsider the acquittal of former Chief of Staff of the Yugoslav Army Momčilo Perišić for aiding and abetting crimes committed in Sarajevo and Srebrenica between 1993 and 1995. He was acquitted by the Appeals Chamber of the ICTY based on the legal determination that in order to aid and abet crimes, one must have a specifically directed the crimes in question. Subsequent decisions by the ICTY have called this legal finding into question. The OTP now seeks to undo what it sees as an injustice. Should they be allowed to reopen the case after acquittal on appeal?

The Rules of Procedure and Evidence (RPE) of the tribunal allow for a decision or judgment to be “reviewed.” Rule 119 provides as follows:

Where a new fact has…

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Bernard Baruch: We Need an International Law with Teeth

The Bully Pulpit

Bernard Baruch

“The basis of a sound foreign policy, in this new age, for all the nations here gathered, is that anything that happens, no matter where or how, which menaces the peace of the world, or the economic stability, concerns each and all of us…

Now, if ever, is the time to act for the common good. Public opinion supports a world movement toward security. If I read the signs aright, the peoples want a program not composed merely of pious thoughts but of enforceable sanctions — an international law with teeth in it…

Let this be anchored in our minds: Peace is never long preserved by weight of metal or by an armament race. Peace can be made tranquil and secure only by understanding and agreement fortified by sanctions. We must embrace international cooperation or international disintegration…

The solution will require apparent sacrifice in pride and in position, but better…

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