Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cartoon Crisis a la Putin

We have previously blogged about how depicting the Prophet Muhammad can get you into trouble, but today’s Independent has a story on how Russian cartoonists producing satirical drawings of president Putin are not at all liked by the Russian authorities. According to the Independent, papers and publishers attempting to print satirical portrayals of Putin risk facing inspections by the “fire inspectors” or the “tax police” laying bureaucratic hindrances in their way or a call from their paper supplier kindly informing them that the price of paper has risen tenfold overnight. In the meantime, drawings depicting Putin in a favourable light are much welcomed. The one to the right is produced by KAL for the Economist.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Programme Update

Denise Naicker’s presentation that was previously scheduled to take place tomorrow has been postponed to Monday 5th May at 4pm. The LRS programme is now as follows:


Friday 02 May, 3pm, Old Senate Room
Hon FDJ Brand, 'South African Contract Law and the Constitution'

Judge Brand of the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa will visit the University of Aberdeen on Friday 02 May. Judge Brand holds a BA, an LL.B and an LL.M. from the University of Stellenbosch, and a Drs Juris from Leiden University. He was a practising advocate for fourteen years, before being appointed a Judge in 1992 and a Judge of appeal in 2001. We are thankful to Prof David Carey Miller who made this event possible.


Monday 05 May, 4pm, Taylor C28
Denise Naicker, 'The Attempts of the UN General Assembly’s Non-Proliferation Treaty to construct a rational Nuclear Order'

Abstract: The United Nations General Assembly (the “GA”) may consider general principles of co-operation in the maintenance of international peace and security, including the principles governing disarmament and the regulation of armaments. In response to this mandate, the GA produced the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (the “NPT”) which sought to construct a rational nuclear order in the post-World War II era.

There are conflicting views as to what extent the NPT should be regarded as authoritative by the states to which it is addressed. The current nuclear order centred on the NPT has inherent limitations, including its discriminatory character, lack of agreement on appropriate sanctions for violations and in its foundations in the hypocrisy which prevailed almost without exception among nuclear powers.

There is very little disagreement that the non-proliferation regime is in crisis. The failure of the NPT review conference in 2005 is a clear indication of this along with the perennial debate on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and the ongoing controversy over Iran’s nuclear programme.

This discussion will consider the NPT’s negotiating history, the bargain that was struck, the considerable structural flaws therein, and the implications of this (and subsequently the role of the GA) in what is termed the “third nuclear age”.



Thursday 22 May, 5pm, Taylor A19
Jernej Letnar Cernic, 'Fundamental Human Rights Obligations of Corporations'

Abstract: This paper argues that fundamental human right obligations of corporations derive primarily from national legal orders and only secondarily from international level, whereas both draw their foundations from international value system. The tenets of every normative system are principles and rules that create rights and obligations of the subjects/participants of that system. Validity of any positive norm derives its legal authority from the membership in a legal order, which gives it a binding force. Legal authority means a source of law where a positive law norm is derived from. Legal scholarship has so far predominantly focused on international legal obligations of corporations. In contrast, the present paper argues that fundamental human rights obligations of corporations derive its legal authority from national normative orders and only secondary from international level. This argument is backed by an empirical study of fifty national legal orders in relation to corporate fundamental human rights obligations. Finally, this paper argues that FHRs obligations of corporations have arguably acquired the status of customary international law.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Highland Crofters Seek Recognition as ‘Indigenous' People

Crofters – people living the traditional rural life in the Scottish Highland and Islands – are now exploring the possibility of being recognised as an ‘indigenous’ group in an attempt to protect and preserve their traditional way of life according to the Independent. Traditionally, crofters reside on a small plot of tenured land on which they farm and although crofting was once widespread, it is today found mainly in the Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland where it remains a vital part of rural communities. The entire system of crofting and tenureship of land in these areas is a topic attracting great passion and emotions as images of the Highland clearances are frequently invoked in discussions on rights to land.

In a recent report the Scottish Crofting Foundation (SCF) argues in favour of applying the label ‘indigenous’ to the crofting communities asserting that it will improve their legal status and recognition. The Report highlights the success that the Sami people of Norway have had in being recognised as ‘indigenous’ by the Norwegian Government. In addition, the SCF argues that the Scottish Government should devolve power and decision-making to a special Assembly of Crofters. Although a vast body of international instruments are in place in relation to minority populations (for instance, ILO Convention No. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities), it is doubtful whether the SCF will succeed in their quest as the UK Government has thus far argued that no indigenous groups exist in the UK. This has logically led to the above mentioned international instruments not being implemented in the UK. In addition, there is no clear definition under international law as to what ‘indigenous' means. Finally, a Scottish Government eager to seek independence from the Union might not be all that willing to give away any recently acquired powers.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

water for he who is not thirsty


The following is a very loose translation of a blog post by Maltese author, poet and playwright Immanuel Mifsud. Apologies in advance – the translation does not do justice to the poetry of Immanuel’s words.

Immanuel draws his readers’ attention to a video produced by Amnesty International which depicts a re-enactment of water boarding. He describes the video as shocking and encourages readers to join Amnesty’s campaign against human rights abuse in the war on terror:

‘The shock multiplies when you remember that not only does this torture take place in an era of liberty and human rights, but that it is occurring with the blessing of a man who, in the privacy of his office, prayed with the Pope for the needs of the family.

Water, in the past, was a symbol of life. It was used by various religions, various poets, various artists. The lack of it gave rise to conflicts and great battles; it awakened consciences too. Whichever angle you choose to look at it from, we have always looked upon water with gratitude, respect and reverence. But, the technocrats of terror and torture, are traitors to tradition. Drops of water represent anguish to those who find themselves strewn on a hard table, with their hands and legs tied, their mouths gaping, their necks pressed, their eyes wide open and their breath short.’

Monday, April 21, 2008

Known and Unknown Unknowns - the Best of Donald Rumsfeld

On BBC’s website there is a rather enjoyable link to a compilation containing some of Donald Rumfeld’s best and/or worst gaffes from his time as Secretary of Defence. Judge for yourself whether they are words of wisdom or closer to the last words of a desperate man. It is well worth the three minutes it takes.

European Environmental Human Rights and Environmental Rights: A Long Time Coming?

A forthcoming article by Ole W. Pedersen, our blog administrator, is now available on SSRN (Ole W. Pedersen, 'European Environmental Human Rights and Environmental Rights: A Long Time Coming?' (2008) Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, Forthcoming). In his paper Ole argues that the development of procedural and substantive environmental rights in Europe may signal the elevation of these rights at an international human rights law level.

Abstract: This paper deals with the area of rights and environmental law focusing on procedural environmental rights and substantive human rights to the environment in a European context. The paper asserts that while international developments in this area have generally ceased, two strong trends are emerging in Europe. First, a strong focus on procedural environmental rights (a right to access to environmental information, a right to public participation and a right to access to justice) is in place in Europe. This part of the paper is based on an analysis of a number of European legal instruments and regimes, including the European Convention on Human Rights and the case law from the European Court of Human Rights, the 1998 UNECE Aarhus Convention as well as environmental law and policy from the European Community. It is argued that the strong focus on these procedural rights in Europe have led to such norms reaching a level regional customary law with the potential to influence international legal developments. In relation to a substantive human right to the environment, which the paper argues is currently lacking on the international level, it is argued that recent tentative approaches on a European regional level to a substantive right may further add to the precarious status of a substantive right under international law. Here, European developments have the potential to add to other regional instruments in, for instance, Africa and Latin and Southern America. In addition, recent constitutional changes in domestic European law has led to a wide range of national constitutions containing provisions on a right to the environment, which again have the potential to add further weight to the development of an international right.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Chinese Military Presence in Zimbabwe?

In a time when most countries, bar the likes of South Africa, join PM Gordon Brown in criticism of President Mugabe and the political quandary that Zimbabwe has turned into, it appears that China is instead stepping up its engagement in what is rapidly turning into a failed state. Today’s Independent has the story on Chinese weapon shipments to Zimbabwe and eyewitness sightings of Chinese soldiers in Mutare.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Beautiful Game

The EU Observer reports that FIFA President Sepp Blatter is set to push through an agreement that will cap the number of foreign nationals that are allowed to play for football clubs. Blatter’s initiative flies in the face of the ECJ’s Bosman ruling in which the Luxembourg Court declared that Article 39 of the EC Treaty, concerning the free movement of workers in the Community, ‘precludes the application of rules laid down by sporting associations under which, in matches in competitions which they organize, football clubs may field only a limited number of professional players who are nationals of other Member States.’ UEFA, the European football association, has proposed an alternative approach, namely that there will be quotas for locally trained players without discrimination on the basis of nationality. Blatter’s response is that this would expose young foreign players to exploitation. So does Blatter have a leg to stand on or is his proposal doomed to failure? And, more importantly, what would the reinstatement of a cap on foreign players do for the beautiful game?


(In the picture above: Maltese striker Michael Mifsud pauses to celebrate his single-handed shaming of Manchester Utd)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

LRS Programme

Wednesday 30 April, 4.30pm, Taylor C16
Denise Naicker, 'The Attempts of the UN General Assembly’s Non-Proliferation Treaty to construct a rational Nuclear Order'
Abstract: The United Nations General Assembly (the “GA”) may consider general principles of co-operation in the maintenance of international peace and security, including the principles governing disarmament and the regulation of armaments. In response to this mandate, the GA produced the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (the “NPT”) which sought to construct a rational nuclear order in the post-World War II era.

There are conflicting views as to what extent the NPT should be regarded as authoritative by the states to which it is addressed. The current nuclear order centred on the NPT has inherent limitations, including its discriminatory character, lack of agreement on appropriate sanctions for violations and in its foundations in the hypocrisy which prevailed almost without exception among nuclear powers.

There is very little disagreement that the non-proliferation regime is in crisis. The failure of the NPT review conference in 2005 is a clear indication of this along with the perennial debate on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and the ongoing controversy over Iran’s nuclear programme.

This discussion will consider the NPT’s negotiating history, the bargain that was struck, the considerable structural flaws therein, and the implications of this (and subsequently the role of the GA) in what is termed the “third nuclear age”.


Friday 02 May, 3pm, Old Senate Room
Hon FDJ Brand, 'South African Contract Law and the Constitution'
Judge Brand of the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa will visit the University of Aberdeen on Friday 02 May. Judge Brand holds a BA, an LL.B and an LL.M. from the University of Stellenbosch, and a Drs Juris from Leiden University. He was a practising advocate for fourteen years, before being appointed a Judge in 1992 and a Judge of appeal in 2001 (see here). We are thankful to Prof David Carey Miller who made this event possible.
Thursday 22 May, 5pm, Venue TBA
Jernej Letnar Cernic, 'Fundamental Human Rights Obligations of Corporations'
Abstract: This paper argues that fundamental human right obligations of corporations derive primarily from national legal orders and only secondarily from international level, whereas both draw their foundations from international value system. The tenets of every normative system are principles and rules that create rights and obligations of the subjects/participants of that system. Validity of any positive norm derives its legal authority from the membership in a legal order, which gives it a binding force. Legal authority means a source of law where a positive law norm is derived from. Legal scholarship has so far predominantly focused on international legal obligations of corporations. In contrast, the present paper argues that fundamental human rights obligations of corporations derive its legal authority from national normative orders and only secondary from international level. This argument is backed by an empirical study of fifty national legal orders in relation to corporate fundamental human rights obligations. Finally, this paper argues that FHRs obligations of corporations have arguably acquired the status of customary international law.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Feminine Law

Olsen says, it may be that “Justice” is represented by a woman, but according to the prevailing patriarchal ideology, the Law is masculine, not feminine. As some feministic scholar states, the law is conceived as rational, objective, abstract and based on principles, which is how men describe themselves; and the law cannot be irrational, subjective, contextualized, or personalized, as men say that women are. If it is true that by placing men in the cultural setting, they become the parameter that defines humankind, how to organize the current law, which helps to incorporate the gender perspective into legal text or context? How to reform the curricular setting to be more feminine? Discuss.

Should the Media Shoulder Legally Neutral Obligation?

Although many people are heatedly discussing Tibetan issue, Tibetan terrorists or criminals, who infringed on the fundamental human rights of many innocent victims, should be punished according to existing law and the rule-of-law principle. Currently, many websites and newspapers maintained by volunteers exposed some lies and distortions in some western media, which always reported how Tibetan protestors were‘protecting their human rights’, but neglected and scarcely reported expression from Chinese common people. Basically, there is expressive freedom in Western countries and some lies and fabricated stories, especially in some prestigious media are not charged with any legal consequence. From the other perspective, some distorted opinions do arise nationalism within most Chinese people, who reflect totally different from the opinions as to 1989 Tian-an-men Affair. If these reports are prejudicial to China and distorting some truths, should the media freely be forum of helping certain politicians’ performance to obtain vote or shoulder legally neutral obligation to some extent? Discuss.

To know some information to balance, see http://www.anti-cnn.com/

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Finding Legal Jobs Hard to Come by?

Given that all contributors to and members of the Legal Research Society will at one point in the near future have to start some sort of organised search for legal jobs, and suffer the inevitable despair and frustration this brings with it, comfort may be found in the news that former Attorney General to Pres. George Bush and Harvard graduate Alberto Gonzales is finding legal jobs rather difficult to come by after being forced to resign. Today’s NY Times has the story.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Recommended Reading

For a succinct yet in-depth non-academic article on the legal quagmire of the US military base in Guantanamo, Cuba, see this week’s Annals of Law in the New Yorker where Jeffrey Toobin has a very good story with a couple of good references toward the end.

To Boycott or not to Boycott

Amid tense debate as to whether PM Gordon Brown ought to boycott this summer’s Olympic Games in China or not, little attention seems to be given to the question of what effects such a boycott may or may not have. Traditionally people supporting a boycott of the Games argue that China’s human rights record is so appalling that Western leaders ought to disassociate themselves from China. Such arguments have gained further strength in light of recent Chinese clampdown on Tibetan protestors. For instance, the French President Nicholas Sarkozy has openly threatened to stay away from the opening ceremony in light of the Chinese treatment of Tibetan protestors. Similarly, human rights activists assert that Chinese investment in the oil industry of Sudan ought to lead to Western leaders distancing themselves from China. However, as for the argument about boycotting the Olympic Games, it may be argued that the current level of media attention afforded China and the tour of the Olympic torch as it travels around the world creates far more awareness of the human rights situation in China. Perhaps even more than the stay-away act of a Western head of state. Likewise, the vast amount of journalists, reporters, international delegations and foreign investment that will come China’s way in the build-up to the games may have a positive effect. Although such arguments would appear awfully utilitarian it might be argued that the human rights situation and political environment in China would have been even worse had China not been chosen as hosts. Discuss.

Attempts in Hawaii to stop the “Destruction of the World”. Or Maybe Not

Although this may sound more like a science fiction title of a novel where the lone superhero, in this case from Hawaii, tries to save the world from destruction, the suit recently filed in a Hawaiian District Court by Louis Sancho and Richard Wagner in an attempt to stop the process of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) operated by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, seemingly looks a lost cause. The LHC is, in short, an enormous particle accelerator placed 100 metres underground on the border between Switzerland and France. It is a groundbreaking attempt by some of the world’s leading scientists to create an environment where they can study the tiniest particles making up the world as we know it in order to gain an understanding of the fundamental circumstances of the universe. One of the objectives of the project is to gain further knowledge about so-called black holes – areas in space with such a strong gravitational effect that not even light can escape their gravitational pull. This is where the lawsuit filed by Sancho and Wagner comes into the picture. Sancho and Wagner want the US court to halt the CERN from running the LHC (the LHC is scheduled to circulate its first beams on May 28, 2008) as they fear it will unleash tiny black holes that will suck in surrounding mass, which will eventually lead to the entire Earth being sucked in by “loose” black holes. In addition, they have asked the court to order the leading US particle-physics laboratory to cease its support for the LHC. Sancho and Wagner’s fears have been dismissed by the scientists at CERN. Critics assert that the Earth is constantly bombarded with cosmic “rays” strong enough to create the same effect as the LHC without having sucked our planet into perpetuity. Nevertheless, proponents of a strong adherence to the precautionary principle may find sympathy for Sancho and Wagner‘s arguments. On the other hand, opponents would argue, bearing in mind that the precautionary principle usually only applies where the risks of a certain activity are unknown, that the risks in this case are identified and well-understood and are nevertheless miniscule. In any way, the scientific outcomes of the LHC are bound to be fascinating and will undoubtedly generate a lot of attention.

The Economist has a story on the law suit here.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Democratic Defecit in International Law?

Over on the Volokh Conspiracy George Mason Law Professor Ilya Somin has a very interesting post on the democratic deficit in international human rights law. Somin argues, in a paper co-authored with John McGinnis of Northwestern, available on SSRN, that most international human rights law is created in an undemocratic environment as a result of undemocratic procedures and undue influence of authoritarian states. As an example Somin and McGinnis refer to international law-making relating to the "crime" of hate speech.

From reading the abstract, while awaiting the full paper, it is clear that the authors have some valid points. In particular the example of the hate speech as well as the works of the UN human Rights Council, where the influence of authoritarian states is evident in the Council's attempts to undermine norms of freedom of speech, underline the authors' arguments. At the same time, notwithstanding the relative vagueness of terms like "democracy", "undemocratic" and "authoritarian", the authors deserve credit for raising the question of legitimacy in international law-making. Such debates have unfortunately always gained a bigger audience in the US than in Europe where there sometime seems to be a tendency to uphold international law as answer to numerous problems.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Dr Derek Fincham

Founding member of the Legal Research Society Derek Fincham successfully defended his doctoral dissertation titled Preventing and Repairing These Losses: The Legal Response in the United States and the United Kingdom to the Illicit Trade in Cultural Property, subject to minor corrections, on Monday March 31, 2008. Although this means that Derek will no longer be a PhD candidate among the rest of us, we would like to sincerely congratulate Derek. Well done, dude! You can follow Derek's work on his own blog here.