Groningen Journal of International Law

International Law Under Construction


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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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Are States accountable for modern slavery?

Dr Philippa Webb philippa.webb@kcl.ac.uk
Dr Rosana Garciandía | rosana.garciandia@kcl.ac.uk

Tackling modern slavery: gaps to uncover

Contemporary forms of slavery continue to be a major challenge in the 21st century. International law prohibits slavery, human trafficking and forced labour, and states are generally committed to eliminating these human rights abuses, but over 25 million people were in modern slavery on any given day in 2016 (Global Estimates of Modern Slavery). As the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery pointed out in her latest report to the General Assembly, the scale of the phenomenon is even larger than what statistics indicate (para. 8). Continue reading


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Can top Italian officials be prosecuted and tried by the ICC for complicity in the crimes committed against migrants in Libya?

Andrea Preziosi | AMP711@student.bham.ac.uk

Background

The cooperation between Italy and Libya with the objective of curbing migratory pressure on Italian shores and EU external borders has attracted a great deal of criticism in light of the widespread pattern of human rights violations against migrants taking place on the war-torn territory of the African state. It was inaugurated in the early 2000s and strengthened by way of the 2017 Memorandum of Understanding. The former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned the assistance provided by Italy (backed by the EU) to the Libyan Cost Guards to intercept migrants at sea and prevent them from leaving the country, where they are confronted with “unimaginable horrors”, including torture, rape and killing. The Italian strategy has sought to involve not only internationally-recognised actors, but also local tribes that control Libyan territorial borders and, reportedly, armed groups implicated in the trafficking of migrants. Despite rising criticism, the newly elected Italian government has adopted an even more restrictive policy to tackle migration, as demonstrated by the frequent episodes of boats carrying hundreds of migrants coming from Libya being prevented entry to Italian ports.

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Calling Out Collective Punishments in the Context of the Kashmir Situation (Part II)

Read the first part of this post here

Ishita Chakrabarty | ishita.chakrabarty24@gmail.com

India’s Violation of Customary IHL Principles

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act introduced the obligation of the prosecutor to obtain prior sanction from the Union Government before initiating prosecution against the police and the paramilitary forces. Various charges have been leveled against officials, ranging from the commission of extra-judicial executions to deliberate torture, the killing of detainees in custody and reprisal killing of civilians. In some cases, the State Police even refused to register the charges. For instance, in 2017, the video of a civilian tied to an army jeep showed the Government’s animosity towards its own citizens. The civilian was being used as a human shield to avert incidents of stone pelting. Continue reading


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Calling Out Collective Punishments in the Context of the Kashmir Situation (Part I)

Ishita Chakrabartyishita.chakrabarty24@gmail.com

Introduction

On 14 June 2018, the OHCHR released a report on the human rights violations committed by India in the Kashmir region. India reacted to the report by snubbing it as “fallacious, tendentious and motivated”. Despite identifying the human rights violations committed by India, the report contains no mention of the State’s constant transgression of International Humanitarian Law (‘IHL’) norms. In light of this omission, the present contribution intends to examine India’s violations of its IHL obligations in the context of the Kashmir situation with a special focus on State-inflicted collective punishments on the civilian population. Continue reading


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The Conflicting Relationship between Bilateral Investment Treaties and Environmental Law in Ghana

Dr Dominic Dagbanjadominic.dagbanja@uwa.edu.au

Introduction

The duty of states to protect the environment is not just a matter of municipal law, it is also reflected in international treaties like the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the African Convention on Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and in international declarations.

The duty to protect the environment is fulfilled through the implementation and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations. As Philippe Sands and other scholars pointed out, one of the challenges facing environmental law is the difficulty of enforcement, particularly where environmental protection objectives come into conflict with economic interests. The Commission for Environmental Cooperation of North America (CECNA), for instance, argued that environmental regulations may run afoul of bilateral investment treaties (BITs). The CECNA also pointed out that conflict with BITs is one of the reasons both national environmental law and international environmental law rules suffer from inadequate domestic implementation. The United States Trade Representative similarly noted that while “securing a stable investment climate and a level playing field for […] investment abroad is an important objective […], arbitral claims brought by investors against governments (through “investor-State” arbitration) could be used inappropriately to challenge […] domestic laws and regulations, including those concerning the environment.” Continue reading