MJIL Online brings you timely short-form articles that represent a wide range of views on contemporary issues in international law. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors only.
Katherine Lewis, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed almost 5,000 people, with the World Health Organization (WHO) reporting over 13,700 infections as of October 29, 2014.[i] As the WHO struggles to contain the epidemic, fear the disease will spread outside of West Africa has prompted a slew of countries to impose various regulatory measures in frantic attempts to prevent the disease from infiltrating their borders. Many have adopted the WHO’s recommendations for heightened security at airport customs;[ii] others have gone further and suspended visa applications from West African passport holders, effectively restricting travel to and from Ebola-affected countries.[iii] Here in the United States, several states have imposed mandatory 21-day quarantines on “high risk” international travelers, specifically on health care workers returning from volunteer stints in West African Ebola clinics.[iv]
While public health experts acknowledge a need for increased caution, they insist that draconian responses such as travel bans and forced quarantines amount to little more than fear mongering and will do nothing to prevent spread of the disease.[v] For example, a study of the public health response following the 2003 SARS outbreak showed that border entry and exit screening measures were ineffective in
Andrew Brown, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
Switzerland consistently ranks near to if not at the top of global health indicators, and the alpine air and plentiful chocolate don’t tell the whole story; the relatively small central-European nation exhibits an innovative health care system that boasts a high quality of care coupled with near universal health insurance coverage.[i] The Swiss system assures such impressive coverage rates not through government-provided healthcare as in other prominent European nations[ii], but rather through a mandate that citizens purchase their own health insurance from a varied menu of plans, regulatory controls of insurance companies, and government purchasing subsidies for the poorest Swiss.[iii] The success of the Swiss system, at least in terms of population coverage, proves instructive to countries such as the United States that seek to increase population coverage but do not desire full government control of the healthcare system. Furthermore, the Swiss system is no historical accident; they enacted these sweeping federal reforms in response to rapidly increasing costs of both insurance and care in the mid-1990s combined with the resultant inability of citizens at the lower end of the income spectrum to purchase insurance.[iv] These problems seem immediately familiar to Americans
Francesca Rufin, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty aimed at “[stabilizing] greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” [i] It was signed and ratified by a majority of countries around the globe in the early to mid 1990s and entered into force on March 21, 1994. However, since then, U.N. negotiations have failed to produce effective action.[ii] Current efforts are being directed towards the 2015 conference in Paris. At the Paris conference, the 196 parties to the Convention will convene with the objective of achieving “a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change involving all the nations of the world.”[iii] In light of continuously failed U.N. negotiations, what is the likelihood of achieving this ambitious agreement? Unfortunately, unless developed nations are willing to provide significant support to developing nations, there will likely be no consensus borne out of the Paris conference.
The UNFCCC was established, in part, on the principle that governments should protect the climate system “on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.”[iv]
Jacob Styburski, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
The struggle to combat climate change has left our society well-attuned to the troubles of caribou, tundra, and polar bears—only a few of the resources we stand to lose as a result of global warming.[i] What have received relatively little attention, however, are the natural resources we stand to gain from climate change, as well as the international legal uncertainties that surround them. In the Arctic, the most contentious of these emerging resources is navigable water. Long considered unviable as commercial routes, the Northwest Passage and North See Route are likely to become increasingly profitable trade routes as climate change continues to erode the ice coverage that renders them impassible for the vast majority of the year.[ii] Along the North Sea Route, it is predicted that the number of navigable days[iii] will increase from 20-30 days in 2004 to 90-100 days in 2080.[iv] Moreover, current icebreaker technology, which can make passable waters with a sea to ice concentration of 75%, may actually open the route for up to 150 days per year by 2080.[v] The navigable days along the Canadian Artic Archipelago (“CAA”) are also expected to
Nicholas Ognibene, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
The meteoric rise of Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq has brought Syria’s civil war to the forefront of media attention worldwide. Now in its fourth year, the Syrian Civil War has involved numerous actors and widespread human rights abuses perpetrated by multiple sides. Beginning in March 2011 as a series of protests against the corruption and human rights abuses of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, aggressive use of force by the government attempting to quell the unrest led to an escalation of protests and violence. By 2012 fighting had spread across the country, with a mix of secular, moderate opposition forces, Islamist jihadists, and Kurdish militias fighting the Assad regime and each other. Current estimates of the death toll exceed 140,000 and millions have fled Syria or been internally displaced.[i]
Throughout the conflict, multiple factions have perpetrated numerous human rights abuses. At least 27 intentional mass killings have occurred, several instances of chemical weapon use have been reported,[ii] and on an almost continuous basis, the government has indiscriminately shelled residential areas in an effort to suppress opposition.[iii] In the face of such widespread violations of human rights, the potential significance of
Elizabeth Grden, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
The Syrian civil war has left at least 190,000 dead, multitudes more in foreign lands without homes, and a sovereign state with no clear path forward.[i] With the recent intervention of the United States and its allies, the conflict is accelerating and escalating, raising a persistently lingering question: when the conflict ends, what type of transitional justice will await, and how will it shape the future of Syria with whatever government emerges?
There are four possibilities for post-conflict mechanisms, each with varying degrees of domestic and international influence. First, a domestic court in Syria could try accused criminals for violations of civil law. Second, an “internationalized domestic court” could apply Syrian criminal law, allowing international actors to assist with the prosecutions. [ii] Another option that has been discussed is creating a regional court with multilateral representation from neighboring countries. Finally, the situation could be referred to the International Criminal Court by the United Nations Security Council. [iii] Experts believe that within the year, one of these options could be exercised.
The Syrian Penal Code is a deeply flawed collection of laws that punishes some
“crimes” too strictly, and others not at all. It lacks basic
Anna Mouw, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
The Spratly Islands are scattered over approximately 160,000 square miles in the South China Sea and are claimed in whole or in part by six different countries including the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, and China.[i] In 2002, these countries, along with other related parties, signed a regional declaration to cease any provocative activity and maintain the status quo until these sovereignty issues could be resolved through peaceful negotiation. [ii] But on May 15, 2014, the Philippines released photos confirming an unprecedented move by the People’s Republic of China. [iii] In order to solidify its presence and legal claims, China dredged millions of tons of earth from the bottom of the South China Sea and transformed the South Johnson Reef into a brand new island.[iv]
When asked to justify this action, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying declared “China has indisputable sovereignty over [the Spratly] Islands including [Johnson] Reef and the contiguous waters.”[v] As aggressive as this statement seems, it actually downplays China’s current claim. In 1953, the new government published a map featuring the now infamous “nine-dashed-line,” which encompasses approximately 90% of the entire South China Sea.[vi] This line, which leaves only a
Luca Winer, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
Even though the United States does not make any territorial claim to the Spratly Islands, it still has important legal and strategic interests in what plays out in the South China Sea.[i] The Spratly Islands, unprepossessing in and of themselves, are important in two primary ways: economically and geo-strategically. Economically, the islands provide fish resources as well as possible natural gas and oil extraction. [ii] Moreover, whichever nation controls the Islands also has the legal rights to whatever lies within the 200 nautical miles of “exclusive economic zone” surrounding them.[iii] Maintaining freedom of navigation through the South China Sea, especially through the choke points of the Straits and Malacca and Taiwan Strait, is a fundamental regional security requirement for not only the United States, but for any country with major economic and military interests in the Pacific.[iv] These include each of the six claimants[v] to the Islands. Unsurprisingly, every one of the six asserts claims under various principles of international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to bolster their conflicting claims of sovereignty to the region. The United States, the strongest Pacific power not staking its
Timothy Garcia, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all. . .”[i]
In the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, a 2008 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) decision suddenly took on tremendous significance. Six years ago, NATO refused Ukraine a path to membership due to German and French misgivings. The French and German fears likely arose in part from Moscow’s opposition to Ukrainian or Georgian membership in NATO.[ii] Since the recent 2014 annexation, NATO members have split in their analysis. France and Germany believe NATO would now be at war with Russia had they admitted Ukraine while the United States and several of the Eastern European nations argue that Ukraine’s membership in NATO would have deterred Russian aggression in the region.[iii] White this question highlights the issue and debate in Europe, it is far more important for its future implications for collective security in Europe than for its particular facts.
Thus far, the European Union (EU) has been content to keep NATO as “the transatlantic framework for strong collective defence.”[iv] However, only 22 of the 28
David Angel, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
The European Central Bank’s (ECB) struggle to improve economic performance in the Eurozone demonstrates how divergent interests among European member states can inhibit cooperation and lead to ineffective policy. Post-crisis economic growth in the Eurozone has been sluggish relative to other major developed economies,[i] and many have called on the ECB to employ more aggressive, unorthodox monetary policies in an effort to break out of the slump.[ii] Specifically, many are encouraging the ECB to emulate other advanced economies and engage in large-scale asset purchases from Eurozone banks, in a maneuver typically referred to as “quantitative easing” (QE).[iii] QE is thought to have a number of beneficial impacts, like encouraging banks to make more loans to consumers and businesses with the money they earn from asset sales to the central bank.[iv] The ECB has indicated that it will engage in limited QE, purchasing asset-backed securities (packages of home, commercial, and other loans that are bundled and sold to investors) and as yet undefined bonds from Eurozone banks.[v] However some observers argue that confining QE purchases to asset-backed securities will be ineffective, as the ECB will simply not be buying enough assets from banks
Megan Pierce, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
As asserted by the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP), “[i]ndigenous peoples are among the most excluded, marginalized and disadvantaged sectors of society. This has had a negative impact on their ability to determine the direction of their own societies, including in decision-making on matters that affect their rights and interests.”[i] Over the last several decades, an international system of legal rights and protections belonging to indigenous communities has grown and strengthened, culminating recently in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.[ii] Recognizing the significant and serious injustices suffered by indigenous communities around the globe[iii], international society, led by the UN, has begun to address the question of how to alleviate and reverse the negative consequences of these injustices, as well as protect the rights and autonomy of indigenous communities. After twenty years of deliberation between representatives of indigenous groups and states in which indigenous groups had an unprecedented influential voice, UNDRIP was affirmed with the support of 143 member states in 2007.[iv] The UNDRIP has emerged as the most recent and prominent document defining the rights of indigenous peoples, and the central principle
Melanie Capuano, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
The Islamic State (also known as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) has captured the world’s attention with its recent acts of brutality, including mass executions and videotaped beheadings.[i] Under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State aims to establishing a caliphate, a united Islamic state under the legal code sharia.[ii] A recent CIA estimate puts the number of Islamic State fighters across Iraq and Syria at as many as 31,500.[iii] This figure, in conjunction with the vast territory now under the terror group’s control and the sizable funding available to the Islamic State makes them a powerful jihadist group that rivals Al Qaeda.[iv] It has become apparent to the White House that action must be taken in order to put a stop to the activities of the Islamic State. President Obama, who was elected in part because of the fervent opposition to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, said in his recent speech to the nation, "I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are."[v] President Obama laid
Kelsey Vanoverloop, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
Though reports show that the number of unaccompanied minors attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico has diminished compared to this summer, the crisis is far from over. [i] According to Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “[w]e continue to have much work to do to address this issue and our message continues to be clear- ‘our boarder is not open to illegal migration.’”[ii] Nevertheless, while these children may be breaking American law when they attempt to enter the country illegally, once they are inside US borders, the United States has a responsibility to ensure their safety and protect their rights under international law. The United States greatly contributed to the economic and political conditions in these countries[iii] and now we are dealing with the consequences in the form of a mass migration.[iv]
From October 1, 2013 to July 31, 2014, almost 63,000 unaccompanied children were caught at the U.S.-Mexico boarder, compared to almost 31,500 in the previous year during the same time.[v] Though some lawmakers blame polices like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)[vi] for the increase, the real reasons go much deeper. The majority of children arriving come from
Michael Garcia, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
Much of the scholarship surrounding law and development has ignored legal aid in favor of an emphasis on more high profile institutions and issues. Issues such as the effectiveness of a “rule of law” approach,[i] the importance of legal reforms calculated to attract foreign investors,[ii] or supporting judicial independence from state government[iii] are no doubt necessary steps towards fostering legitimacy, transparency, and justice in developing countries. One could argue that it is a fundamental problem, however, when Western intellectual influence and investment in a developing country like Cambodia result in little more than a formalist legal system[iv] that no one outside of the entrenched political elites can understand or utilize. There is real value to the creation of an inclusive legal culture that the population in developing countries can trust, even if there are no easy answers as to how we get there.
Cambodia consistently ranks in the bottom fifth of countries in the world in corruption and rule of law measurements.[v] For the legal system to be legitimate in the eyes of Cambodians, there will need to be more than private sector and investment reforms promised by the ruling Cambodia People’s Party
Julie Kornfeld, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
On August 7, 2014 the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (hereinafter ‘the ECCC’) entered a historic verdict for Cambodian and international jurisprudence. The ECCC found two defendants guilty of crimes against humanity, persecution on political grounds, and other inhumane acts.[i] The defendants, Nuon Chea, the Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), and Khieu Samphan, the Head of State of the CPK, were sentenced to life imprisonment.[ii] This case, known as 002-1, marks the second time the ECCC has reached a guilty verdict.[iii] The verdict brings long awaited justice to Cambodians who have waited 35 years for a conviction to affirm that Khmer Rouge leaders were complicit in some of the worst human rights abuses of the second half of the 20th century. The verdict also has implications outside Cambodia’s borders. As one of the few examples of an alternative mixed tribunal, the ECCC shows how international and domestic criminal law can successfully interact with each other.
The ECCC is a hybrid criminal court that involves shared duties between the United Nations and the Royal Cambodian Government.[iv] Discussions about the creation of a tribunal to prosecute crimes committed by the
Daniella Regencia, Executive Editor of the Michigan Journal of International Law
While most followers of pop culture are currently waiting with bated breath for the White House’s response to the deport Justin Bieber petition, another young pop star is bringing to the spotlight questions of foundational legal principles. Liam Payne, of the boy band One Direction, came under fire for sending a Twitter message to Duck Dynasty patriarch Willie Robertson in support of his “family values” and for later posting a Twitter rant where he espoused the ideals of free speech. Free speech has long been a hallmark of the American legal and cultural tradition, but Payne hails from the United Kingdom. The UK, while frequently America’s staunch supporter, diverges greatly from our tradition in this area of law.
Freedom of speech in the UK is governed by common law and parliamentary acts. The foundational statute for freedom of expression is the Human Rights Act of 1998. This act incorporated the European Convention of Human Rights into the UK’s domestic law. Since that time, a number of cases have been decided interpreting this Act. One of the earliest cases to balance a newspaper’s right to freedom of expression with an individual’s right
Gracie Willis, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
In October 2012, Uruguay passed into law a regionally unique system providing for women to have access to abortive services. In June 2013, the law withstood a call for repeal by referendum. To repeal the law, a full quarter of the population would have been required to vote. In the end, not even one-third of that number turned out. With the law withstanding the challenge and secure from repeal, abortions during the first trimester are currently legally accessible for women in Uruguay. Uruguay’s law is considered a victory for advocates of reproductive justice and access to reproductive health within the conservative region of Latin America. In that way, it is useful to situate it in comparison to other Latin American countries to evaluate the extent of the difference and the character of the law itself.
The Uruguayan Law
Prior to the passage of the abortion bill in October 2012, abortion in all forms was criminalized in Uruguay. The primary function of Law 18.987, Interrupción Voluntaria Del Embarazo, was to decriminalize first trimester abortions for Uruguayan women. In addition, the law sets out requirements for the decriminalized procedure along with exceptions to criminalization after the
Ian Murray, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
While the overall scope and accompanying costs of global climate change remain uncertain, one aspect of the international environmental landscape is presently clear: water (clean water in particular) is becoming increasingly scarce. Due in part to the intensifying depletion of underground fresh water aquifers, over 2 billion people lack access to clean water on a daily basis, and another 1 billion people do not have enough water to meet basic daily needs. Policy debates surrounding the implications of global climate change abound, but the reality on the ground suggests that the world is already dealing with the initial effects of a global water crisis. The effects of the looming global water crisis will only be exacerbated as the world presses further into the 21st century, with international tensions likely to develop as the battle for previously untapped water sources begins. Some of these untapped water sources will likely come in the form of coastal undersea freshwater aquifers, a form of fresh water that has only been recently discovered and has never before been accessed for the purposes of mass domestic or industrial use. International competition for the rights to the water contained
Josh La Vigne, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
Addressing Internet gambling provokes substantial debate. The two options for completing this task are prohibition and regulation. Due to the strong moral arguments against gambling in general, the debate involves much more than innocuous technical concerns in attempting to reach the “right” answer. This post will approach the issue from the viewpoint that regulation is the proper avenue and discuss some of the barriers involved in implementing a regulation strategy. These barriers include the “borderless nature” of the Internet, differing opinions on the morality of gambling, and variance in tax rates among jurisdictions.
At the base level, regulation by a single country will likely be insufficient. Due to the “borderless nature” of the Internet, efforts to regulate Internet gambling would be severely undermined, if not completely ineffective, without some type of international consensus. Due to the aforementioned nature of the Internet, providers of online gambling services are free to locate in the jurisdiction of their choice and reach users all over the world. Without international regulation, providers are free to dodge regulations of one country or state by simply moving to another jurisdiction with fewer restraints and regulations.  International consensus is necessary
Daniella Regencia, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
Since its inception the United States has been a place for the wanderers of the world to come and start a new life. As of 2012, legal permanent residents made up about four percent of America’s population. The undocumented immigrant population as of 2012 was estimated to be around 11.5 million, or 3.67 percent of the population. There are also foreign-born citizens who would have been considered immigrants at one point, therefore adding overall to the number of immigrants who have come into the United States.
The European Union has a similarly sized immigrant population. The foreign-born population in the European Union was about 20.7 million people in 2012, or 4.1 percent of the population. Undocumented immigration has not been as widespread of an issue in the European Union until recently.  One estimate has the undocumented population in the United Kingdom as 900,000, or 400,000 more than Italy, which has the next largest undocumented immigrant population in Europe. These statistics show that migration is alive and well in the United States and the European Union and, therefore, sensible polices will have to be created and implemented.
In the United States, the last major
Gracie Willis, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
In June and July of 2014, millions of people will travel to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. In preparation for this event and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian government has pumped billions of public and private dollars into a new infrastructure. Part of Brazil’s struggle to update key areas and develop a supportive infrastructure is to deal with the problem of favelas, or Brazilian slums. The municipal governments, in removing favela residents, purport to be assisting the residents, imparting that the slums are inappropriate and dangerous places to live. Officials state that they are offering former residents dignity by offering them compensation packages for their homes. In reality, those who don’t accept the “pittance” offered for their self-built homes (often family homes spanning generations) are evicted anyway. The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, has stated that she is “concerned about the very limited compensation offered to the communities affected, which is even more striking given the increased value of real estate in locations where building is taking place for these events. Insufficient compensation can result in homelessness and
Rory Pulvino, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
Many people in the developing world suffer under extractive institutions, governments that don’t have the infrastructure or possibly the motivation to protect its citizens from harm. Within these jurisdictions poor citizens must endure genocide, cruel or inhuman treatment, torture, forced labor and many other civil right violations for which the U.S. gives redress. Many of these abuses are perpetuated by large corporations that seek to exploit the resources and people in the developing world, knowing that these countries lack the inclusive government structures to hold them accountable. Given these harms and the lack of legal recourse within the countries where the injuries occur, some of these victims have sought relief in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, or in international courts. Recent signs and decisions from the Supreme Court of the United States have implied limiting such claims due to serious policy and jurisdictional concerns. In contrast, the United Kingdom may have recently signaled a move towards opening such avenues for alien claims to be brought within British courts.
Passed during the First Congress in 1789, the ATS originally envisioned allowing claims on at least three bases: “violation of
Ian Murray, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
Regulation surrounding recent shale oil and gas development and extraction in the United States is largely in the hands of individual states, but it remains to be seen if this regulatory approach will be readily replicated in the international energy landscape as shale markets start to emerge in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America.
The United States and Canada are often thought of as the major players in the shale oil and gas commercial markets, but nonconventional oil and gas extraction is becoming increasingly popular worldwide. Gas and oil, when extracted from shale, offer an opportunity for nations to dramatically lower the cost of natural gas, an opportunity borne by the mechanism of vastly increasing domestic energy self-sufficiency. However, a decision to push towards shale exploration (and more broadly shifting from domestic oil and gas import to domestic oil and gas export) comes with significant costs, namely environmental concerns and the issue of cutting ties with traditional oil powers in the Middle East. As a result, international political agendas and the push towards regional or continent-specific regulatory schemes in several geographic areas of the world will likely be major factors included in the
James C. Hathaway
"Introduction to the Sixth Colloquium on Challenges in International Refugee Law"
Sixth Colloquium Participants
"Michigan Guidelines on the Exclusion of International Criminals" // English | French
"Principled Exclusions: A Revised Approach to Article 1(F)(A) of the Refugee Convention"
Jens David Ohlin
"Targeting and the Concept of Intent"
Uche Ewelukwa Ofodile
"Africa-China Bilateral Investment Treaties: A Critique"
"Courts of Appeal and Colonialism in the British Caribbean: A Case for the Caribbean Court of Justice"
Download Volume 35:1 at the Repository
Rory Pulvino, Associate Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law
The right of security of land tenure has vast implications for the possible improvement of those living in developing countries. This right has been interpreted as the right of every person and group to effective protection by the state against forced evictions, the possibility of selling and transferring, and the possibility of utilizing land as credit. By securing land tenure people are more confident in and more able to assert other ‘sticks’ in the bundle of land rights such as the “way in which the land may be used, the profit that may be derived from it, or the manner in which some or all of the rights may be disposed of.” Security of tenure begins with recognition by outside parties, including the state, of the rights of use, ownership and possession to a parcel of land. This recognition can be and likely must be secured through a variety of registration systems ranging from the informal/customary to the formal. State recognition of land registration strengthens tenure security, a right secured under the right to adequate housing and may be the beginning of strengthening ties of people to their land which has vast