Groningen Journal of International Law

International Law Under Construction

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Guidelines for Submission to International Law Under Construction

By GroJIL Blog Committee, International Law Under Construction |

Welcome to International Law Under Construction, the Blog set up by the Groningen Journal of International Law in conjunction with the International Law Department of the University of Groningen. The aim of the Blog is to provide a platform for scholars, experts and occasionally students of international law to present their views and engage in debate on current issues in the field.

This post sets out our rules for contribution to the Blog. Please read them carefully and take note before submitting. Continue reading

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Whose Business is Hurricane Irma? Human Rights Responsibilities of Companies in Times of Disaster – Part II

By Marlies Hesselman and Lottie Lane |

This series of two blog posts builds on two recent articles by the authors on the human rights responsibilities of private actors during disasters, including companies and NGOs (here and here – open access).

As explained in Part I, several international initiatives have led to a common understanding that private companies are subject to both indirect and direct human rights duties or responsibilities, mostly to respect human rights. It was also established that such duties or responsibilities apply during all stages of disaster management. With these findings in mind, the current post particularly reflects on recent corporate responses to hurricanes in the Atlantic region. Continue reading

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Whose Business is Hurricane Irma? Human Rights Responsibilities of Companies in Times of Disaster – Part I

By Marlies Hesselman and Lottie Lane |

This series of two blog posts builds on two recent articles by the authors on the human rights responsibilities of private actors during disasters, including companies and NGOs (here and here – open access). The following post addresses whether private companies have human rights responsibilities during disasters, while the second post particularly reflects on recent corporate responses to hurricanes in the Atlantic region.

Boasting the severely destructive hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma, the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season revealed deep concerns about (in)adequate human rights protection in situations of natural disasters. It especially revealed the impact of natural disasters on the most vulnerable.

Premature loss of lives and limb, massive damage to homes, property and the economy, the total disruptions of lives, livelihoods, infrastructures and utilities: these matters raise important questions about the adequate protection of human rights prior, during and after disasters. Human rights at stake include the right to life, the right to food, the right to water, the right to health, the right to private and family life and protection of the home, the right to housing, the right to shelter, and the right to property. More rights may be relevant, as is detailed, for example, by the UN’s Inter-Agency Standing Committee.

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The (expected) guilty verdict against Ratko Mladić

By Prof. Dr. Caroline Fournet |

On 22 November 2017, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) issued one of its most awaited judgments: that against Ratko Mladić, former Serbian army general and acolyte of the equally lamentably famous Radovan Karadžić, former Bosnian Serb leader, who also achieved infamy for the atrocities he perpetrated and was condemned by the ICTY on 24 March 2016.

The point of this short blog text is not to summarise a judgment that totals 2475 pages, excluding Judge Orie’s Dissenting Opinion and appendices. Rather, it is to comment on one particular issue that, although not overlooked as such, seems to be accepted as an expected outcome and ultimately as a side point in a verdict that, after all, may be seen as satisfactory insofar as it condemned the ‘Butcher of Bosnia’.

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How Ocampogate harms the International Criminal Court

By Tjitske Lingsma |

A series of revelations about the activities of former prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo of the International Criminal Court (ICC) cast doubts about his integrity. But the allegations also boomerang on the court.

The last two months have seen an avalanche of revelations about Luis Moreno Ocampo, the former prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. They are based on 40,000 documents obtained by the French journal Mediapart focusing on the prosecutor’s activities during and after his time in office.

In a statement on the website of his consultancy firm, Ocampo says that he has been the target of a ‘cyber-attack.’ This admission suggests that the information disclosed by the EIC network is correct.

Confidential information

Among others, the revelations cover his actions in his capacity as prosecutor. In one incident described by the EIC network, Ocampo, who loved to surround himself with celebrities and business people, contacted actress Angelina Jolie. The prosecutor had rejected the request of the Palestinian authorities to investigate crimes of Israeli occupation and asked Jolie for advice on how to communicate this news to ‘normal people.’ Ocampo added: ‘just in case, I am attaching the decision I will take. It is confidential.’ In other words, Ocampo shared confidential information with an outsider. He also disclosed details on strategy and reports on his conversations with the presidents of Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo to other VIPs.

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Justice for Syria in Swedish and German Courts: Possibilities and Challenges

By Maria Elena Vignoli |

For the past six and a half years, the world has witnessed atrocities committed in Syria in a climate of impunity by all parties to the conflict. The route to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the key international forum for accountability, is currently blocked. In 2014, Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have given the ICC prosecutor a mandate to investigate and prosecute serious crimes committed in Syria, and there are no indications that they would vote differently today. At the same time, with the conflict still raging, the option of bringing proceedings before Syrian courts is not viable.

In this bleak landscape for accountability, some small steps toward justice are under way in Europe. Several countries are investigating serious crimes committed in Syria since 2011. These investigations are made possible by the international law principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows authorities to pursue certain crimes because of their gravity, regardless of where they were committed, or the nationality of either the victim or the suspect. In addition, the large number of Syrians who have come to Europe, mainly as refugees, since 2015 means that victims, witnesses, material evidence and even some suspects are now within the reach of the European authorities.

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The Right to Housing and its Applicability to Asylum Seekers in Europe

By Mareike Hoffmann |

Despite its crucial importance for emotional and physiological well-being, the right to housing is often treated as a ‘poor cousin’ in comparison to other necessities.[i] Pointing out the emerging trend to limit the right to housing, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Housing has gone as far as naming it as ‘one of the most endangered rights.’ Asylum seekers are especially at risk of having their right to housing restricted since they essentially rely on the state for the provision of housing. Following the influx of asylum seekers to Europe since 2015, the issue of accommodating them adequately persists to this day. Nevertheless, the right to adequate housing is part of the right to an adequate standard of living and thereby included in a wide array of international human rights instruments. Within this blog post, I aim to identify the relevant human rights provisions applicable to asylum seekers and subsequently analyse the flaws of the current system.

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Contributions from the International Law Department of the University of Groningen to the 6th Conference of the European Association of Health Law

By Yi Zhang, University of   

On 28 – 29 September 2017, Professor Brigit Toebes, Dr. Marie Elske Gispen and Yi Zhang participated in the sixth annual conference of the European Association of Health Law (EAHL). The conference was organized by the Faculty of Law, University of Bergen, Norway in cooperation with the EAHL, and its theme was health rights regulations and the distribution of health care in Europe.

During the EAHL conference, Professor Toebes gave a keynote lecture entitled ‘International Human Rights Protection and the Distribution of Healthcare’. In her lecture, Toebes discussed the scope of the right to health care at the international, regional and domestic levels. Among other matters, she discussed the authoritative case law of the European Court of Human Rights. As seen in cases such as Sentges v the Netherlands and Vasileva v Bulgaria, the Court is increasingly engaging with health matters, touching in particular on the duty of the State to oversee the quality of healthcare services as well as possibilities for redress. Toebes explained that the right to health care as defined internationally does not provide a comprehensive set of standards when it comes to the distribution of health care. However, the so-called ‘AAAQ’ (i.e. availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality), for example, provides an authoritative set of principles that is increasingly applied in the context of healthcare distribution at the domestic level, as was also evidenced by the presentations from various participants at the conference (e.g. the presentation by Professor Hartlev on personalised medicine).  Continue reading