Groningen Journal of International Law

International Law Under Construction


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The Origins of Transitional Justice

By Marcos Zunino

Wherever there are allegations of serious human rights violations or international crimes, from Syria, to Venezuela, to Myanmar, calls for transitional justice follow. They involve implementing a policy for dealing with these violations that may include criminal trials, truth-finding initiatives, reparations programmes, vetting of personnel, and state reform efforts. These mechanisms are meant to pursue the transitional justice elements of justice, truth, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence while paying special attention to the needs and views of victims. Transitional justice has thus emerged as the primary framework for responding to widespread violence. Indeed, ours has even been called the ‘era of transitional justice’. When did this idea of a need to respond to mass violence with this particular toolbox and goals appear? Continue reading


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Climate change and human rights: The Torres Strait Islanders’ claim to the UN Human Rights Committee

By Dr Miriam Cullen

In May 2019, a group of eight Torres Strait Islanders, with legal representation from Client Earth, submitted a claim to the UN Human Rights Committee (UN HRC) alleging that Australia’s contribution to emissions together with its failure to establish adequate adaptation measures violates their human rights. The claim is legally significant as it is the first lodged with the UN HRC by island inhabitants threatened by climate change. It is also the first instance of climate change litigation based in human rights law against the Australian Government. The filings remain confidential, but this blog post sketches the possible parameters of the claim, drawing on a journal article I published last year. Continue reading


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The Colombian Special Jurisdiction for Peace: Its Statutory Law and the Road Ahead for the Peace Process

Salvador Herencia Carrasco | shere045@uottawa.ca

Introduction

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP) is the judicial branch of the Integrated System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition (Integrated System) which was established in the Peace Agreement signed between Colombia and the FARC-EP. This Agreement was approved by Congress in November 2016. The SJP has the mandate to investigate, prosecute and convict those with the gravest responsibility for crimes perpetrated in the internal armed conflict, which lasted more than fifty years. Continue reading


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Duty and semantics: Can legal responsibility under the Genocide Convention be avoided by circumventing use of the term “genocide”?

Narissa Ramsundarnarissa.ramsundar@canterbury.ac.uk

I. Introduction

Today, with the rise of live media broadcasting, journalists can report on the threat of genocide as events unfold on the ground. The instantaneous transmission of news may raise state awareness that a genocide is imminent. So far, there have been examples whereby state responses to such reports have tended to downplay the intensity of the killings. This was prominently demonstrated in the responses to the Rwandan genocide that occurred in April 1994. President Clinton in a radio address on the 30th of April, 1994, some 3 weeks after the genocide spoke of “mass killings of civilians in Rwanda.” According to Samantha Power, [p. 359]. The Rwanda example is by no means unique, and states’ mistaken belief that circumvention of the term “genocide” somehow avoids legal responsibility under the Genocide Convention (GC) and other instruments proscribing Genocide remains persistent. Continue reading


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TWAIL Coordinates

Luis Eslava | L.Eslava@kent.ac.uk

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Tenant purchase borrowers in front of their house in rural Puerto Rico (c. 1941–42). FSA-Office of War Information Collection. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., USA.*

Third World Approaches to International Law, best known by its acronym TWAIL, is a dynamic, intentionally open-ended and decentralised network of international law scholars who think about and with the Third World.

Within the universe of TWAIL, the ‘Third World’ refers to that expansive and usually subordinated socio-political geography that, during the mid-twentieth century, came to be seen as ‘non-aligned’ – belonging neither to the ‘free’ nor to the ‘communist’ world. Today the Third World is more often referred to, however, as the ‘developing world’, the ‘post-colonial world’, or the (Global) South. In our intensely unequal, racialised, gendered, environmentally precarious global order, confronting a proliferation of Souths in the North and Norths in the South, this socio-political geography can perhaps be better characterised as ‘most of the world’.

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The Truth under Siege: Does International Humanitarian Law Respond Adequately to Information Warfare?

Vishakha Choudhary | vishakhac995@gmail.com

The significant threat posed by disinformation campaigns in armed conflicts is not a novel concern. Its first prominent manifestation can be traced back to a fabricated telegram alleging the sabotage of the cruiser USS Maine, which led to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. Arquilla and Ronfeldt, leading academicians on Cyber warfare, describe this phenomenon as ‘Netwar’, the process of “trying to disrupt, damage, or modify what a target population ‘knows’ or thinks it knows”.

As traditional methods of warfare invite increased scrutiny, resort to Netwar has become commonplace, fueled by the proliferation of media platforms. Fake news disseminated through Facebook was instrumental in inciting persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar and information broadcasted over the radio fuelled hate crimes against Tutsis in Rwanda. Moreover, Russian cyber operations have reportedly led to a diplomatic crisis in the Gulf since 2017 and spurred an internal conflict in Ukraine. Pertinently, non-state actors have also turned to disinformation campaigns to advance their cause, as evinced by ISIS’s twitter operations. This post discusses the enforceability and fortitude of International Humanitarian Law (‘IHL’) norms against this form of information warfare. Continue reading


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The Universal Declaration at 70: What Next for Human Rights?

This post is a summary of the keynote lecture given by Professor Gearty during the workshop ‘The Universal Declaration at 70: What Next for Human Rights?’ on 26th November 2018. The event was co-organised by the Groningen Journal of International Law and the University of Groningen’s Centre for Religion, Conflict and Globalisation.

Professor Conor Gearty 

How serious are current threats to the post-war international order of which the protection of human rights is such a central part?

Three potential challenges in particular come immediately to mind.  

First there is the outright rejection of the very idea, with states organizing themselves formally around systems of rule in which individuals are allowed to be explicit casualties of passing state interests.  Of course, not even the worst states put it quite like this, and with the passing of the era of the Cold War no substantial ideology sets its face against human rights in quite this explicit way: indeed, not even the Soviet Union did so at its height, preferring a different version of human rights (economic and social rights) to having none at all.

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