A Closer Look: Prosecuting ISIS Under International Law: Pros And Cons Of Existing International Justice Mechanisms

Flag_of_the_Islamic_State_of_Iraq_and_the_LevantWhile addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on its latest report, on 17 March the Chairperson of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Paulo Pinheiro, affirmed that a path to justice could be found “through a Security Council referral [of the situation in Syria] to the International Criminal Court (ICC)”.

On the other hand, that same day Carla Del Ponte, one of the commissioners (and the former Chief Prosecutor of the UN-backed International Criminal Tribunals), sponsored the establishment of an ad hoc Tribunal, since it “could be more efficient and work faster (…), be based near the region, facilitating access of witnesses, documentation and so on” and – last but not least – could be supported even by Russian Federation.

In the following days, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told a UNSC meeting that Islamic State militants must be prosecuted and that “it is essential that the Security Council refer the matter to the International Criminal Court”.

These statements have stoked up the debate on the effectiveness of international judicial mechanisms in prosecuting ISIS militants, which was almost blowing out in the last months (among others, see Beth Van Schaack on Just Security, Carsten Stahn on EJIL: Talk! and Mark Kersten on Justice in Conflict).

Even if at this stage, considering the escalation of ISIS’ assaults and the effects of the ongoing Syrian NIAC, an overwhelming majority of the international audience would applaud at any (?) international justice scenario, in order to better achieve the purpose of efficiently fighting extremists’ impunity, any such initiative should be placed under careful scrutiny before being endorsed by the international community. That is why in the following, brief analysis I’ll not only look into the ICC referral’s, but also into the other available mechanisms’ main pros and cons, in order to prosecute the international crimes allegedly committed in Syria and Iraq.

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The Progressive Lawyer Spotlight is on the Quebec Environmental Law Center

Pour une version française de cet article s’il vous plaît cliquez ici

Logo CQDEThis week, we are taking a closer look into environmental law. There are a lot of debates going on around the world regarding climate change and how States should react to it. In Quebec, there has been a lot of debates and concerns especially around pipelines projects and hydrocarbons.

This feature offers a closer look on Quebec Environmental Law Center, a Montreal-based organization that has been very active regarding these issues recently.

Progressive Lawyer: Please Introduce Yourself and describe your role in the Quebec Environmental Law Center.

Karine Péloffy: My name is Karine Péloffy, I am a lawyer and the Executive Director of the Quebec Environmental Law Center (“CQDE”).

PL: Why was the Center created? What issues does it confront?

KP: The Center was founded in 1989 by Me Michel Bélanger and other lawyers who were among the first people in Quebec to be interested in protecting the environment from a legal point of view. The CQDE was founded to promote the use of the law as an essential tool to protect the interests of citizens, nature and the environment.

Historically, the Center has been active on several major environmental issues such as mining as far back as 1991 and again in 2013, the attempt to privatise Mont Orford national park in 2010, blue-green algae, the anti-SLAPP law, the Suroît thermal plant, and shale gas exploitation. We also discuss major themes such as the conservation of natural habitats, protection of water and the fight against climate change.

The Center tries to act in real time on rising environmental issues. For example, for the summer of 2014 we went to court repeatedly to protect the beluga whales with an injunction against preliminary drilling by TransCanada which intended to establish an oil port in their critical habitat.

Lately, the organization has been working primarily on the exploitation and transport of fossil fuels and the protection of endangered species.

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Karine Péloffy du Centre Québécois de droit de l’environnement

An English version of this article can be found here.

Logo CQDECette semaine, nous nous intéressons de plus près au droit de l’environnement. Il y a présentement de nombreux débats autour du globe concernant les changements climatiques et concernant la réponse que les États devraient adopter face à cet enjeu.  Au Québec, il y a eu plus particulièrement de nombreux débats et préoccupations concernant les projets de pipeline et les hydrocarbures.

Cet article offre un aperçu du Centre Québécois du droit de l’environnement, un organisme basé à Montréal qui a été très actif en la matière dernièrement.

Progressive Lawyer: Pouvez-vous s’il vous plait vous présenter et décrire votre rôle au sein du Centre québécois de droit de l’environnement (« CQDE »)?

Karine Péloffy : Mon nom est Karine Péloffy, je suis avocate et directrice générale du Centre québécois de droit de l’environnement.

PL : Pourquoi le CQDE a-t-il été créé? À quels problèmes l’organisme répond-il?

KP : Le Centre a été créé en 1989 par Me Michel Bélanger et d’autres avocats qui étaient parmi les premières personnes au Québec à s’intéresser à la défense de l’environnement d’un point de vue juridique. Le CQDE a été fondé pour favoriser l’utilisation droit comme outil indispensable pour protéger et représenter les intérêts des citoyens, de la nature et de l’environnement.

Historiquement, le Centre a été actif sur plusieurs enjeux majeurs comme l’exploitation minière en 1991 puis en 2013, la tentative de privatisation du parc national du Mont-Orford en 2010, mais aussi la prolifération des algues bleues, les poursuites-bâillons, la centrale thermique Suroît et l’exploitation du gaz de schiste. Nous abordons aussi de grandes thématiques comme la conservation des milieux naturels, la protection de l’eau et la lutte aux changements climatiques.

Le Centre tente d’agir en temps réel sur les problèmes environnementaux qui surgissent dans l’actualité. Par exemple, à l’été 2014, nous sommes allés devant les tribunaux à plusieurs reprises pour protéger le béluga et demander une injonction contre les forages préliminaires entrepris par TransCanada, qui souhaitait construire un port pétrolier dans l’habitat critique de l’espèce.

Ces jours-ci, l’organisme travaille beaucoup sur les questions liées à l’exploration et au transport des hydrocarbures, de même que sur la protection des espèces menacées.

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A Closer Look: Animal Law 101

Kelly Levenda
Kelly Levenda

On this edition of A Closer Look, Animal Legal Defense Fund attorney Kelly Levenda gives us a basic introduction to Animal Law. Look for a follow up post soon on careers in animal law and how law students and lawyers can get involved in this fascinating field.

What is Animal Law?

Animal law is the field of law in which nonhuman animals or their interests are involved. It encompasses all types of animals, including companion animalswildlife, and animals used in entertainmentresearch, and raised for food. Animal law intersects with many other areas of the law, including administrative, criminal, trusts and estates, constitutional, contract, and family law.


Hot Topics & Current Issues in Animal Law

In the last few years, many states have attempted to pass ag gag laws, which criminalize exposing animal abuse on factory farms. The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and a broad-based public interest coalition are currently challenging the constitutionality of ag gag laws in Utah and Idaho as they infringe on the free speech rights of activists, investigators, and journalists.

Since the 2013 release of the documentary Blackfish, which critiqued SeaWorld’s imprisonment of orcas, large mammals who suffer in captivity, such as cetaceanstigers, and elephants, have come to the forefront of the public’s consciousness. Recently, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced it would retire its elephants by 2018, in part due to new local animal protection laws that ban the use of bullhooks, weapons used to control captive elephants through pain and fear. ALDF and a coalition of nonprofits have recently succeeded in achieving Endangered Species Act protections for Lolita, the oldest living captive orca. This means that, after decades of suffering in a pathetically small tank at the Miami Seaquarium, Lolita may be able to be transferred to a sea sanctuary, or even reunited with her pod!

Legal animal advocates have also seen some successes recently in banning some forms of intensive confinement of farmed animals. Animals who are intensively confined suffer severe mental distress and physical abuse. Most notably, Proposition 2 in California, which was passed in 2008 and came into effect in 2015, prohibits the intensive confinement of egg laying hens in battery cages, mother pigs in gestation crates, and calves raised for their meat in veal crates.

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Why I Do What I Do: International Free Speech and Human Rights Lawyer Jennifer Robinson

This week we kick off our brand new feature “Why I Do What I do” where we talk to an amazing array of lawyers who explain why they have taken the path less travelled in their legal careers. We hope you find reading these features to be as inspiring to you as they are to us. This week we feature Jennifer Robinson. (Updated with a video highlighting the first ever Bertha Justice Initiative Global Convening in Cape Town, South Africa, in March 2014)

Jennifer Robinson
Jennifer Robinson

Global justice requires global leadership. This month, Progressive Lawyer is proud to feature the work of Jennifer Robinson, Director of Legal Advocacy for the Bertha Justice “Be Just” Initiative for the Bertha Foundation.

An Australian native and a Rhodes Scholar, Jen is an internationally known human rights and free speech lawyer whose clients have included the New York Times, CNN, Human Rights Watch and Global Witness. Since 2010, Jen has been a member of the legal team advocating for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

Additionally, Jen is a contributing author to such seminal media law texts Law on Contempt (2010), Information Rights: Law and Practice (2014) and, later this year, Robertson and Nichol on Media Law. She also writes for publications such as Al Jazeera English, Sydney Morning Herald and Vogue.

Jen joined the Bertha Foundation in 2011 and established the Be Just Initiative to support the next generation of human rights lawyers around the world. The Be Just Initiative now supports more than 100 lawyers in 15 different countries. She also provides strategic advice to activists and social justice filmmakers supported by the Foundation.

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A Look Back and a Path Forward: Reflections on Six Months of Progressive Lawyer

The Author
The Author

On October 6th, 2014 I launched Progressive Lawyer, a 100% solar-powered website designed to connect lawyers and law students with social justice organizations and law firms involved in social justice work. As this is roughly the sixth month anniversary of its launch, I would like to briefly discuss why the site was created, what has been achieved so far, and what plans I have going forward. And as will become clear, the most exciting thing is that it is not just me involved with Progressive Lawyer any more. There are now some talented and inspirational people involved with the site, and I will introduce them here and discuss how you can get involved. But first, let me go back to the “why” behind Progressive Lawyer.

Like many law school graduates, for a variety of reasons I am not actively practising law. The path I took was perhaps as much a reaction to the area of law I found myself in (personal injury litigation) as to what law school inflicted on me, but needless to say I am not alone. According to the latest statistics from the American Bar Association, only 62.2% of the Class of 2013 were employed in a position that required passage of a Bar exam, and the legal job market is sluggish and has been for awhile.

But that is not why I left the law.

I left the law because I found it difficult to find a position that matched my values, that gave me a reason why being a lawyer was such a noble profession. In fact I forgot why I went to law school, and by the end of my articles (a form of mandatory internship here in Canada} I wanted nothing to do with the law.

As I went through my post-law school career I didn’t think much about it, but as I got older, the constant attacks on the profession – some justified but many not – started to gnaw on me. Not all lawyers are “money-grubbing ambulance chasers,” I would patiently explain to friends and colleagues. There are incredible lawyers doing incredible work out there. “Prove it” would come the response. And so I set out to show people that not all lawyers are the ugly stereotype.

I started reading about social justice lawyers and social justice lawyering, and started thinking about how I could contribute, could give back something to a profession I had essentially walked away from. It was through this research that I came across an article that was to directly kickstart Progressive Lawyer. The article was titled “Letter To A Law Student Interested in Social Justice,” by William P. Quigley, a law professor and Director of the Law Clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University New Orleans. In my opinion? It should be required reading to any law student and lawyer practising today. I encourage you to read it, but in essence it describes how the practice of social justice law is difficult, frustrating and often not very glamorous but at the same time is perhaps the most rewarding possible way to use your law degree.

And I was inspired.

The purpose behind Progressive Lawyer is to connect lawyers and law students to social justice organizations and law firms practising social justice work.

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A Closer Look: The Battle to Decriminalize Sex Work in Canada

Painting by ErinMarie Tankupine
Painting by ErinMarie Tankupine

The question of decriminalization of sex work in Canada has been a hot button issue ever since the recent Canadian Supreme Court decisions in Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence Society et al. v. Canada (Attorney General) 2012 SCC 45 and the 2013 Canada (Attorney General) v Bedford case. As a result of Bedford, on December 20th, 2013 the Supreme Court of Canada struck down three anti-prostitution laws:

1. Bawdy house law – which banned sex workers from hosting clients at an indoor location.

2. Living on the avails – which banned sex workers from working with anyone else (drivers, security personnel, call-bookers, etc.) if that person was being paid.

3. Communicating – Criminalizes any sex worker communicating for the purpose of sex work in a public place near parks, schools, playgrounds or daycares.

In agreement with the sex workers who brought this charter challenge, the Supreme Court found that these laws were harmful to “the health, safety and lives of prostitutes” & that they were unconstitutional. They gave Parliament one year to come up with new legislation -should it choose to do so.

In response to the Court’s decision, on December 6th, 2014 the majority Conservative government of Prime Minister Steven Harper introduced into law Bill C-36, formally called the Protection of Communities & Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA). In essence, PCEPA attempts to legislate sex work out of existence. Justice minister Peter Mackay has stated that this law aims to abolish prostitution.

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A Closer Look – Non-Party States’ ad hoc Declarations Before and After 1 January 2015: the General Legal Effects of the Palestinian bid to the International Criminal Court

This week we kick off our brand new feature called “A Closer Look” where we delve deeper into legal issues and the broader context in which those issues play out. For our first feature we look at the contentious issue of whether Palestine’s bid to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a legally valid one. To help us understand the legal issues we are grateful for this article by Luigi Prosperi,  post-doctoral fellow at the Political Science Department of Sapienza University of Rome. He is also a member of the LUISS Guido Carli Research Center on International and European Organization and an editor of “Rivista OIDU” (www.rivistaoidu.net), which is the online journal of the Sapienza PhD Programme on “International legal order and human rights” (which he completed in 2013).

He was a Visiting Fellow at European University Institute of Florence from September to December 2014, working on a project on the prosecution of crimes against cultural properties.

He has been studying international criminal law since his PhD years at Sapienza (2009-2013). On 16 July 2013 he defended a thesis (in Italian) on “International criminal law as a combined system of centralized and diffused prosecution of international crimes”. We are delighted and humbled to have Luigi contribute to Progressive Lawyer and I know you will find this informative.

Image courtesy of the ICC
Image courtesy of the ICC

In addition to inflaming political debates, the recent Palestinian bid to join the International Criminal Court has turned the spotlight on one of the most controversial features of the International Criminal Court system: namely, the power of non-party States to accept the Court’s jurisdiction with respect to crimes committed on their territory or by their nationals.

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The Progressive Lawyer Spotlight is on Lawyers Without Borders Canada

Pour une version française de cet article s’il vous plaît cliquez ici

asf_utilisation webLawyers Without Borders Canada (“LWBC”) is a non-governmental international development organization whose mission is to support the defense of human rights for the most vulnerable groups and individuals, through the reinforcement of access to justice and legal representation.

LWBC is modeled on Avocats Sans Frontières, the international NGO that specializes in defending human rights and supporting justice. ASF intervenes in countries where human rights are not respected, where political violence and armed conflict reign, and where legal rules are flouted.

LWBC is supported by different organizations and corporate members including the Bar of the Province of Quebec, the Montreal Bar, the Quebec City Bar and the Quebec Minister of Justice. Its projects are financed among others by CIDA and the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs.

LWBC’s work is entirely voluntary and jurists who participate in its missions abroad do not receive any kind of remuneration. However, carrying out international cooperation projects entails significant costs. LWBC is always in need of funds to continue and develop its mission and you may contribute to further their work here.

Progressive Lawyer contributor Marjorie Langlois recently interviewed Pascal Paradis, the Executive Director of LWBC. The interview was conducted in French and this is a translation. The French version can be found here.

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Pascal Paradis d’Avocats Sans Frontières Canada

An English version of this article can be found here.

asf_utilisation webAvocats Sans Frontières Canada (« ASFC ») est une organisation non gouvernementale de coopération internationale dont la mission est de soutenir la défense des droits humains des groupes ou des personnes les plus vulnérables par le renforcement de l’accès à la justice et à la représentation légale.

J’ai toujours été très fan de l’organisme, surtout depuis que j’ai débuté mes études en droit. Pour partager avec vous l’existence de cet organisme et les opportunités qu’il offre aux juristes, j’ai rencontré le Directeur Général d’ASFC, Pascal Paradis. Voici ce qu’il m’a dit à propos de l’organisme.

Progressive Lawyer: Pourquoi ASFC a-t-il été créé? À quels problèmes l’organisme répond-il?

Pascal Paradis: Il s’agit de l’initiative commune de 3 membres fondateurs : Me Dominique-Anne Roy, Me Pierre Brun et moi-même. L’idée vient de Dominique-Anne, qui en a été inspirée après avoir rencontré le président d’Avocats Sans Frontières France.

ASFC est une organisation de défense de droits humains qui gère des programmes de coopération internationale. Nous offrons donc du soutien à des organismes ou avocats partenaires à l’étranger, dans le cadre de causes locales dans le pays de nos partenaires.

La mission d’ASFC est de contribuer à la défense et la promotion des droits humains et de la primauté du droit, à la lutte contre l’impunité, au renforcement de la sécurité et de l’indépendance des avocats défenseurs des droits humains, à la tenue de procès équitables et à la formation continue des intervenants de la justice et des membres de la société civile.

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