By CIA – CIA World Factbook, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=610267
For the past week, Gabon has been facing a major political crisis, sparked by disputed poll results. According to Reuters, incumbent President Ali Bongo was reported to have won with 49.80 percent of the vote. Challenger Jean Ping, in those official polls, had just missed the mark with 48.23 percent. Ping and his allies immediately began to protest the results, and Ping declared himself President last Friday (Reuters). They argue the result was rigged (Frontera News). The European Union’s election observers also have noted anomalies (La Jeune Afrique). Bongo has served as President since 2009, when he came into power following the death of his father, the previous President. The opposition candidate, Ping, once represented Gabon as a diplomat, including service as Chair of the African Union Commission (an interesting piece on his background is online at The Star). The week’s protests have been violent, resulting in a number of deaths (estimates vary widely, but most are well under 100) and over 1000 arrests (Reuters). The National Assembly building was set on fire last week (BBC) and there were reports of looting (Reuters). Global Voices has a useful roundup of some of these events and early reactions.
The seriousness of the crisis has attracted the attention of the international community. The US, EU, France (which has economic interests in this former colony) and others have urged transparency with the election results (Reuters). Today (September 6), the African Union announced its intention to act as mediator. Chad’s President Idriss Deby is expected to lead talks (Reuters).
Most African states are more vulnerable and less prepared to address climate change challenges than the rest of the world. This observation is supported by a wide variety of sources, including […]
Source: Africa’s Regional Powers Are Key to Climate Negotiations – But Will They Cooperate?
My website for International Law is now updated and live!
The syllabus is available online (all information is on the website) and as a PDF.
Wesleyan President Roth interviewed me (and World Bank President Jim Kim) for this week’s Coursera lecture. The course is entitled “How to change the world” and this week’s lecture is on “Poverty and Development”.
You can find it here: https://class.coursera.org/changetheworld-001
There are clips of our interview in the first segments of his lecture.
Colloquium – Su Zheng, Li Yinbei, Ma Chengcheng, Sun Yan
Exploring Music in China’s New African Diaspora—An Innovative U.S.-China Team Research Project
This Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Location: Freeman Center for East Asian Studies
Time: 4:15 p.m.
Since the 1990s, African traders and investors have made their way to China as a result of the rapid surge of China-Africa trade. There are now somewhere between 30,000 and 200,000 African migrants living in Guangzhou. Su Zheng led a research team of threegraduate students from Shanghai Conservatory to explore music in Guangzhou’s African communities. They will present their research on various African diasporic music scenes in Guangzhou and discuss the theoretical and methodological issues that arose in this innovative cross-cultural, cross-national team research process.
Su Zheng is associate professor of Music at Wesleyan University. LI Yinbei, MA Chengcheng, SUN Yan are graduate students in ethnomusicology from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, China.
We are now moving on to International Environmental Law in our IL course. Here are some recent stories to get us thinking:
First, you may want to look at this projection of “what Earth will look like if we melt all the ice”. Florida is gone, amongst other changes.
Second, it is worth looking at the issue of fragmentation (and incoherence) in international environmental law. This is an important theme is this issue-area. Marc Benitah notes over at the International Economic Law and Policy Blog that the Faroe Islands are issuing simultaneous complaints under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and at the WTO. The WTO overlaps with a lot of other fora, so this is not entirely surprising. But the ramifications are important. One question I have is how small countries such as this can expect to have the resources to pursue such cases in multiple fora.
Finally, the West Coast is trying to do its own thing on the environment (again). This time California, Oregon and Washington are “joining” British Columbia to coordinate environmental policy. The Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy is an attempt to deal with climate change at the sub-national level. While individual states in the US cannot pursue trade-related deals on their own, there is little in the constitution that prevents them from making these sorts of pacts. So it raises all sorts of interesting issues regarding sub-national attempts to create foreign policy (and international law) in the US.
Before my International Law class moves on to International Environmental Law, it is worth noting news from the last week that is relevant to topics we recently covered.
Bond v. United States
First, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Bond v. United States. This case should interest us for a number of reasons. One is that it deals with the ability of Congress to implement treaties using statutes that could potentially intrude on the sovereignty of individual states. This is being viewed as a contemporary version of Missouri v. Holland.
The other, very intriguing, issue is whether the Chemical Weapons Convention can apply to a conventional poisoning case. Essentially one woman poisoned another woman in Pennsylvania (for sleeping with her husband and getting impregnated). The case, which normally would be handled by local and state authorities, ended up becoming a federal case as violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Which on the face of it is a very odd interpretation of that treaty.
For more information, see:
SCOTUSblog’s page on the case
Articles in Opinio Juris by Peter Spiro and Marty Lederman
Articles at Volokh Conspiracy
Privacy and Spying
Spying is all over the news. The US is, apparently, spying on just about everyone. Or, at least, that is what one must think after reading all of these stories. Over at Lawfare, Orin Kerr has a piece discussing whether U.S. law should protect the privacy of foreigners abroad. This is an interesting spin on the themes we have discussed in our class about the extraterritorial application of US law.
As for all of that spying on heads of states stuff, I must say I am shocked anyone is shocked. Hasn’t that always been the case? Isn’t that what we expect?
Best news of the day: the British Navy is using Brittany Spears songs to scare off Somali pirates.
Kevin Heller reports on Opinio Juris:
This is an unconscionable tactic, one that does not befit a country that considers itself civilized. Need I remind the British Navy that torture is illegal under both international and UK law?
The British Navy should also be aware that international law does not completely forbid belligerent reprisals. If the Somali pirates begin to fight back by blaring One Direction at oncoming British ships, the Navy will have no one but themselves to blame.
This should be of interest to my International Law students. The Alien Tort Statute (ATS) has been used as a way to bring foreign human rights claims into US courts.
Adam Steinman has a post on Opinio Juris about the oral arguments in this case, which resembles Kiobel. The Ninth Circuit in California found that Daimler (an otherwise foreign defendant) is subject to California jurisdiction given its American subsidiary, Mercedes Benz USA.
The key issue for SCOTUS:
the question for which the Court granted certiorari in Daimler involves personal jurisdiction and is not limited to ATS cases: “whether it violates due process for a court to exercise general personal jurisdiction over a foreign corporation based solely on the fact that an indirect corporate subsidiary performs services on behalf of the defendant in the forum State.”
The likely outcome? As Steinman notes:
While it appears unlikely that the Court will endorse the Ninth Circuit’s conclusion that general personal jurisdiction existed over Daimler, it is possible that the Court’s opinion will be a narrow one.
That is, it is unlikely but still possible they will rule that the specific circumstances here allow for jurisdiction to be asserted.
By the way, the substance of the case is that a different subsidiary of Daimler in Argentina was alleged to have committed human rights violations in Argentina. SCOTUS isn’t concerned with that issue, only the issue of whether we can establish jurisdiction in the US under the ATS.