Groningen Journal of International Law

International Law Under Construction

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The United States’ Withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal: Understanding the Legality of the Move and Obligations Under UNSC Resolution 2231

By Rohan

On May 8 2018, Donald Trump made public his decision to pull the United States out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. The lack of comprehensiveness of the Deal, demonstrated by its alleged failure to restrict Iran’s ability to build ballistic missiles or regulate its acts of aggression and attempts to sponsor terrorism and destabilise the Middle East region through proxy wars, has been cited as one of the primary reasons for United States’ withdrawal. President Trump also took issue with the unqualified lifting of economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for only weak restrictions on its nuclear programme. The final straw for the US was Iran’s alleged attempts to continue its programme while hiding it from the relevant monitoring agencies. With the US’ withdrawal from the Deal, Iran’s nuclear programme is stripped of its right to be treated at par with the nuclear programmes of other non-nuclear weapons states, and the United States’ ability to impose nuclear and economic sanctions on Iran has been reinstated. Continue reading

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Learning to Protect the Interests of Peace

By Amin Sadri | 

In September 2007, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) for the International Criminal Court (ICC) set out its understanding of the concept of the interests of justice. The OTP made three points clear: there is a presumption to investigate and exercising the discretion not to do so is exceptional in nature, that the criteria are guided by the objects and purposes of the statute, and that the OTP is predominantly focused on the interests of justice and that the interests of peace “falls within the mandate of institutions other than the [OTP].” However, as the very first paragraph of their 2007 policy paper makes clear, “This is a policy document of the Office of the Prosecutor […] and is subject to revision based on experience and in the light of legal determinations by the Chambers of the Court.” Continue reading

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Sexual and Gender-based Violence in South Sudan: a Step Towards Justice

By Alberto Soccol |

In December 2017, South Sudan entered the fifth year of a brutal internal armed conflict, which has caused more than fifty thousand deaths since its inception. The conflict, which broke out following the outburst of political tension between President Kiir and Vice President Machar, has caused a catastrophic humanitarian crisis with around 7.6 million South Sudanese in need of humanitarian assistance, 6 million facing acute hunger, and about 4 million currently displaced, both internally and in neighbouring countries.

The conflict was initially localised in the capital Juba but has rapidly spread throughout the country, evolving into a series of multiple local conflicts, which mirror the societal and ethnic fractures of the country, which is composed of over 60 different ethnic groups.

Sexual violence (including rape and gang rape, sexual slavery, sexual mutilation including castration, forced pregnancy, and forced abortion) against children, women and men has been widespread since the inception of the conflict. The perpetrators are, in most cases, members of the governmental army, but are also sometimes members of the militias and of the rebel forces.

Those episodes of sexual violence constitute grave human rights violations and, being committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population, may also amount to crimes against humanity. Continue reading

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Customs Unions: Trade Law’s Forgotten Child

By Michal Ovádek|  

Until customs unions (CUs) started to make headlines in British newspapers following the UK’s decision to depart from the EU, there has been little public or legal-academic interest in the concept, perhaps with the exception of Turkey whose estimation of its CU with the EU has decreased in proportion with the probability of its joining the Union. Has the disinterest been warranted? Not quite – more than 110 countries around the world are members of at least one CU and the concept dates back to at least 19th century Germany, where it played a part in German unification. In a recent research project, my colleague Ines Willemyns and I have looked at the state of international law governing CUs in a bid to contribute to the understanding of this particular form of regional economic integration, not least because it has been a source of considerable confusion in the Brexit discourse.

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Strategic Litigation Before the African Regional Courts: Great Potential for Progressive Protection of Human Rights

By Nani Jansen Reventlow |  

The African human rights system is the youngest regional human rights regime currently in operation. The adoption of the in 1981 also resulted in the establishment of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 1987. The African Commission was charged with the protection and promotion of human and peoples’ rights and the interpretation of the African Charter. In 1998, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights was adopted, thereby establishing a complementary counterpart to the Commission that could issue binding decisions.

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has been operational since 2006 and issued its first judgment on the merits in 2013. According to a recent press release, the Court has received 161 applications (for both individual decisions and advisory opinions) to date, of which it has finalised 32. Thirty countries have ratified the Protocol, giving the Court jurisdiction to assess these States’ compliance with the African Charter. Of these 30, eight countries have an active declarationRwanda’s declaration was withdrawn in 2016 – allowing individuals and NGOs to bring such matters directly before the Court (as opposed to accessing the Court via the African Commission). In recent years, the court has handed down decisions protecting the right to free expression, the right to a fair trial, the right to life and land rights, amongst others.

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Call for Papers

The Groningen Journal of International Law continues to receive submission for its Volume 6, Issue 1 to be published in June 2018. Guidelines on the submission can be found here. All manuscripts submitted via email to by 6 April will be considered for publication.

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International Law and Migration: Strategies for Protection

By Liliana Lyra Jubilut and Rachel de Oliveira Lopes |

For all its specialisation in its contemporary phase after World War II and the granting of a special status to human rights, international law still lacks a comprehensive architecture for the protection of migrants. The only advanced regime relates to the protection of refugees, while the Convention on the Protection of Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families is the least ratified treaty among the core instruments of human rights, not counting with the commitment of any major migrant-receiving Western State.

Furthermore, even though the processes of negotiation and creation of a Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration (by States) and a Global Compact on Refugees (by UNHCR), are under way, the creation of hard norms on either migration governance or the protection of migrants has not advanced and there is as of yet no consensus on the topic, as the USA’s resignation from the Migration Compact shows.

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