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This page is for posts related to the “real world” application of the concepts and issues considered in the course. Here, students may post links to news stories, additional readings, &c.

31 Responses to “Application”

  1. Jelena says:

    BBC article on the ‘Dubai Hamas killing’.
    Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was murdered in his hotel room in Dubai on 20 January. He is one of the top Hamas members and is believed to be in Dubai for some weapon purchase deal. Dubai police revealed the list of suspects, who all have European passports. However, almost all these European countries claim passports are fake and are investigating the cause. There is also a lot of speculation about probable Israel’s Mossad involvement in the killings, but Israel so far claimed that there is no proof of Mossad’s involvement (however, there was no official denial of Mossad’s participation either). The situation could potentially cause problems in the relationships between countries involved in the row. “The BBC’s Middle East correspondent Jeremy Bowen said if there was proof Israel had used British passports “for some nefarious uses of its Mossad service – as they have in the past with Canadian and New Zealand ones”, then relations between the UK and Israel would be “in a crisis”. ”
    In the class we discussed concepts of “might makes right” and “right makes might” using three readings (Thucydides, Grotius and Hobbes) and our own assessment of the issue. I think this case could be an interesting illustration of the tricky concepts discussed. On the one hand, if the person is involved with terrorist organization and was buying weapons, which would be used to kill innocent civilians, then ‘termination’ of this person could be claimed as ‘right’ by some people. Others, on the other hand, could suggest, that killing of a person is not a ‘right’ thing to do per se, and suggest that it is only possible, since the party that had committed the crime is a powerful one, and are not gonna be judged because of the ‘might’ principle.
    So how is the modern world functioning. Is it “right makes might” or “might makes right”? The story has some interesting implications on future relations between countries involved and i think it would be interesting to observe how the story will be finished, if the suspects would be found, if they would prosecuted, if somebody would take the responsibility? However, others would say that this is unnecessary, since it is just a killing of a terrorist and no inquiries should be made in the case.

  2. Jelena says:

    I’m not sure if pasting the link to the article worked out, so here it is again: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8521246.stm

  3. Andrew Conner says:


    Interesting piece on the waterboarding memos…note the emphasis on providing objective legal advice. Given what we know about how the legal system functions, can there really be objectivity?

  4. Elianna Kan says:

    As a result of the Legal Philosophy course I took two years ago, I’ve been quite interested in our class discussions regarding various theoretical approaches to the legal system and the positive and normative questions raised in these discussions. I think when discussing the legal system, it is important to differentiate between normative questions regarding the way in which laws are enacted or the way in which they are engendered, and the way they are subsequently enforced through legal jurisdiction. Thus, there may be a twofold process to questioning a legal system: a) What are the laws by which is should be governed? and b) How should the law be applied in a given situation? Are there any guiding principles in jurisdiction? (Scalia would argue that there ought to be, while Kennedy would disagree).

    To this point of differentiating between laws themselves and their application, I’m attaching a compelling case that is a staple in most legal philosophy courses. It is a hypothetical case written by legal philosopher Lon Fuller and published in the Harvard Law Review. It essentially demonstrates how various hypothetical judges, based on their own philosophical inclinations as to how the legal system ought to work, come to a decision in a case of cannibalistic spelunkers.

    It’s an interesting read:

  5. Nadia Schreiber says:

    In starting to think about my paper, I was rereading Holmes, and thinking about the emphasis he puts on studying legal history and learning from it. Then, as I was reading the paper this afternoon, I came across the following Op-Ed piece from the NYTimes from 1989. It is about terrorism in Iran, and what the US should do about it. As conflicts in the Middle East (including the ones in which the US is directly involved) show no sign of resolving themselves, I think it is increasingly important for people to look at historical precedents and see what (if anything) we can learn from them. Clearly, Holme’s ideas apply not only to legal theory, but to all aspects of socio-political life.

  6. Andrew Conner says:

    Here’s a legal way to build an empire in today’s society where there is generally more respect for international law than there has been in the past:


    Selling Hawaii to China would be an effective way to cancel our debt…(sarcasm for those of you who have trouble detecting it).

  7. Nadia Schreiber says:

    Clearly the place of the United Nations is still under dispute today, and there are no clear answers about what the jurisdiction of the UN is, and is not. The idea of the UN being on NY soil, but technically being an international zone creates very complex questions of jurisdiction.


  8. Wemyss "Scooter" Scott says:


    This is an interesting little piece regarding jurisdiction, something we talked about last week. This article regards US forces detaining a group of Uyghurs, an ethnic group in Western China, after the men were accused of receiving weapons and training in Afghanistan. In this case, it appears as if the US is appealing to the Protective clause of jurisdiction, which involves actions done in order to protect a nation’s security and interests. Clearly in this instance there are no viable claims to territory or nationality, so for the US to justify its actions it must use one of the more general, and controversial, juridictional rules.

  9. Moriel Rothman says:

    More from Dubious Dubai- Interpol Intervenes

    The lovely Dubai fiasco, which involved a seemingly ever-increasing number of suspects implicated with killing a senior Hamas official in his hotel room in Dubai (Were the assassins Israeli? Dunno. The accepted wisdom says “obviously,” as does much of the evidence, but the Israeli government is staying mum: Who knows, maybe it was the Canadians who assassinated a top-ranking Hamas official?) is still raging, three weeks after Jelena first posted about it (oy). Here’s what’s up: Interpol has called for the arrest of 16 additional suspects in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Janaury, adding to their most wanted list (which already included 11 other suspects in the same hit, added last month). Dubai’s police chief responded to the announcement by asking that Interpol arrest the Mossad (Israeli Intelligence Agency) Cheif as well, if the Mossad is found to be behind the killing.
    (For a full version, check out the story, entitled Interpol Seeks Arrest of 16 More Suspects in Dubai hit, from Haaretz, a left-leaning Israeli newspaper: http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1154922.html)

    This issue is relevant to this class on multiple levels. First, the issue of the assassination itself, as Jelena pointed out, ties in directly with questions of jurisdiction. Assuming that Israel was indeed behind the attacks, is there any case that can be made within the framework of International Law justifying the assassination of a highly wanted terrorist leader in Dubai’s jurisdiction? The next question that arises is that of recourse: what can the international body legitimately do to punish a violation of sovereignty and jurisdiction, if there is not justification found under international law (I cannot think of any, but then again, I have only studied international law for a few weeks, and would not yet call myself a master rhetorician in its intricacies)? Interpol is the second largest intergovernmental organization, after the United Nations, whose focus is to coordinate and facilitate international police cooperation; they do not, however, have their own putative mechanisms. The question that then arises (to which I do not know the answer) is, tying this issue back to the readings for the week, if Israel is found to be behind the assassination, would Dubai be able to take Israel to the International Court of Justice? Any way this unfolds, there are bound to be more interesting developments to follow.

  10. Nadia Schreiber says:

    I think that one of the most interesting questions of jurisdiction and international law facing us today is that of the Israel Palestinian conflict, and who can play what role in helping reach a solution. The US has obviously become one of the major players from the international community, but the question remains of whether the US has any right to do so. What role should the UN play? What would happen if the UN stepped in instead of the US? Joe Biden was in Israel last week to try to help move talks forward. In his Op-Ed column from the Times today, Thomas Friedman talks about what role everyone should be playing. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/14/opinion/14friedman.html?ref=opinion

  11. Brian Watroba says:


    This article is about the legal arm of the WTO, and briefly discusses how effective the WTO legal system is in managing trade relations:

    “It would be an exaggeration to say every problem in world trade can be improved by throwing lawyers at it. But it is increasingly true litigation is not a nuclear last resort but merely part of the toolkit of managing trade relations. China, which once reacted to every legal challenge as though it were a declaration of war, has got much savvier.”

    This article also deals with the current disagreement between the U.S. and China concerning China’s undervalued currency, and discusses the methods the U.S. can use both with and without the WTO to push China towards revaluing the renminbi. The article claims a WTO legal case would probably fail, and how the U.S. could slap tariffs on Chinese imports to make up for the undervalued currency. This is a good example of how while the WTO has a huge influence over countries’ trade policies, states can still take action outside of a WTO legal case in order to get the results they want.

  12. Diane Lopez says:

    Diane Lopez
    Response 6

    I found this article, and I thought it was applicable to our course. This article is basically illustrating Russia’s push to become a member of the WTO. They’ve been attempting for 17yrs to be a part of this organization but they have not succeeded. The U.S. is weary of letting Russia in to the WTO because Russia is suspected of approving companies that were already sanctioned by the U.S for selling “prohibited technologies” to Iran and North Korea. They think that if Russia were to join the WTO they’d support countries like Iran, North Korea and Syria. But Putin is quite displeased because he knows the benefits of being a part of the WTO.
    In reading this article, I sense that the U.S. is hesitant about allowing Russia to join the WTO because they know that if Russia is a member they would grow be a growing force in the world market. Being a part of the WTO, Russia would open up more trade options, which is obviously what the U.S. is trying to avoid and may explain why Russia as been waiting for 17yrs.

  13. Nadia Schreiber says:

    In this case, a former Nazi fled to Germany and escaped 61 years of his life sentence because of bureaucratic issues around extradition and citizenship. Clearly we need to figure out a better international system than the one in place today – one that does not allow for convicted criminals to lead a normal life when they should be in prison for murder during wartime.

  14. Nadia Schreiber says:

    This article combines the issues that we talked about last class with our readings for Tuesday: laws of the sea with environmental laws. If this Chinese ship were to break apart, it was cause an environmental tragedy for Australia, and one that would have lasting ecological as well as economic effects for Australia and the Great Barrier Reef.

  15. Wemyss "Scooter" Scott says:

    This is a very short and simple article regarding the laws of the seas, but it still provides a real life case of how effective agreements can work. In this case, a Sierra Leone flagged ship was attacked of the coast of Somalia by numerous pirate ships. It was able to call for aid by contacting numerous international aid bureaus based outside of Somalia, which then proceeded to send immediate aid in the form of American and Swedish ships. In this case there is undoubtedly some sort of legal agreement or treaty between the countries involved regarding laws of the sea and of piracy, although I do not know what that is. In any case, I still thought it was intersting to find a case of effective, transnational corroboration on the seas.


  16. Matt D'Auria says:

    On Tuesday, we talked about the Avena case and the failure of the United States to adhere to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. In that case, the ICJ found that the United States was obligated under Article 36 of the Convention to review and reconsider the conviction of 51 Mexican nationals. As we know, the US Supreme Court refused to enforce the Avena decision domestically, allowing state governments to continue with the incarceration and execution of the Mexican nationals. This article provides somewhat of a final update on the Medellin vs. Texas case, introducing the United Nations’ (specifically the ICJ’s) unfavorable reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the execution of Medellin to proceed. It seems to me that there is one thing missing from the article: how does the UN/ICJ plan on actually punishing the United States for treaty violation? Talk of enforcement is nonexistent.

  17. Diane Lopez says:

    I found this article to be pretty interesting. In talking about the Kyoto protocol U.K is seeking to apply the treaty not only to members of treaty but also to those who aren’t members. The article mentions the vision of having two treaties: one for members of the treaty and one for non-members. This is where I get a little skeptical about international law, because quite frankly who can they possibly ensure that countries who are not a part of the treaty are going to abide to the Kyoto Protocol? And why is the U.K. trying to force this on countries who aren’t a part of the treaty? This only serves to prove that at the end of the day power makes right because powerful states will take it upon them to influence the world with their politics. That’s why I say that it is not about law, it’s about politics. Law is the mask of politics, as Burley [Slaughter] puts it.


  18. Nadia Schreiber says:

    As we get closer and closer to the Nuremberg Unit, and as we have begun our readings about human rights, I have been thinking more and more about the Holocaust. I decided to post about Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance day) which happens to be today.
    This year marks 65 years since the liberation of Nazi concentration camps, and 65 years since the “end” of the genocide of the Holocaust. The world has said “Never Again” to genocide, never again will the international community sit by and watch as people are systematically killed – violating their right to life (one of the basic human rights). But there have been multiple genocides since then, and one that is going on today. The world sat by and did nothing during Rwanda, and the world is doing nothing today. The UN is too afraid to call the genocide in Darfur a “genocide” because that means that they actually have to do something to stop it. If we want to be able to say “never again” we have to do back up our words with actions.

  19. Anna Solovieva says:

    In class the other day we discussed different kinds of interpretations of the words “human rights”. Personally I believe that there are some rights that all people should be entitled to, such as freedom of expression, religion, assembly, etc regardless of what society they’re in. Socio-economic rights, I don’t know about, I don’t think that’s something that necessarily needs to be a universal guarantee although I do appreciate that there are people out there who think this is an issue worthy of concern.
    Yet for me the biggest problems concerning the human rights question occur in instances when people are denied their right to life. After what the world experienced in the twentieth century it’s alarming that there are major conflicts going on that for whatever reason the international community tends to downplay. I think that resolving war in places like the Congo is something that should be a more pressing issue to the international community. With all the mechanisms and sophisticated politics people have thought up, it would be good to see the UN or a third party approach a conflict with the intention of actually resolving it. To do this I think the international community needs compassion and people working as developers, educators and volunteers to help the society continue to develop. I know it’s pretty idealistic to hope that “we can save the world”, but a good way to start resolving war conflicts is by actually paying attention to these matters and being informed about them.
    I’m attaching a link to the Human Rights Watch page detailling last year’s massacre in the Makombo area in the Congo. This massacre is upsetting, the statistics are alarming and it leaves me wishing there was some way for people to be able to live in peace with one another, for until this is able to happen in the Congo and other war devastaded places around the world, there can be no talk of freedom of speech, or ideas about inalienable rights, much less socioeconomic rights, and not a gram of exported American or European democracy will be able to help the people who are living and dying there until there is some stability in the region.


  20. Eleanor Johnstone says:

    In response to Anna’s post above, and to Cher’s very practical/realistic comment on Tuesday:

    I would agree with Anna that the basic human right is the right to life. However I can’t help but consider how expansive and detailed that definition is. By life, we are not just talking about leaving someone alone. In fact, quite the opposite. Societies today are no longer self-sufficient, hunter-gatherer, in-tune with the natural world and ways kinds of structures that they once were. Survival depends more and more on human interaction and on products created and controlled by humans, who fall under limitations of treaties, privacy and patent laws health restrictions, political preferences, etc. To tie this back to the Congo, I’d like to point out that rape has been one of the most used tools of genocide in the region. This is because rape destroys families by surrounding its victims with shame and disease, leaving them outside of society and unable to reproduce. If they do bear children as a result of the rape these children are often shunned. This is not life; even those women will tell you that. In numerous documentaries rape victims and victims of genocide have stated that they would rather die, that they are waiting for death, that this is not life. On a much smaller scale, when I studied abroad in Cameroon I would get into conversations with locals about their government and their rights. The oppression that they felt led them to ask me whether they were really living, whether what they had in the country constituted life. It’s amazing–you can summarize human rights in one word (life) but that word implies so many support structures and control systems and it depends on other humans in so many ways that in our current world it is an impossible thing to guarantee. Unless, as Anna hopes, people can pull together and pay attention to the daily needs that constitute a real life.

  21. Patrick says:

    The preservation of human rights world wide is an increasingly important part of various states foreign policy. As classmates above have noted, there is no greater ideal then a world where the most basic rights, including life and stability, are guaranteed.
    I understand the sentiment of despair that surrounds these issues. Never, in human history have we approached a point where there were not a collective failure of these rights. Indeed, in this time of globalization and web paced information sharing the tools seem readily available. Unfortunately, the tightly bound international community presents new difficulties for the maintenance of human rights. The US’s efforts have achieved important improvements but have been on the, whole, unproductive. This is a result of increased economic pressures of long term international presence/assistance and increased foreign scrutiny. As I result, states are often asked to prioritize the intervention of similarly horrific rights abuses.
    Only orders of International Law that are structured to bypass these new complications will facilitate meaningful progress.

  22. Wemyss "Scooter" Scott says:

    In response to the previous three posts, I would agree that the protection of human rights, and especially the right to life is a pressing issue. However, in this regard, I think Eleanor makes a great point. The power of interpretation and perspective is undeniable. She cites an interesting example of how rape is or isn’t a violation of life in the Congo, yet this type of debate has been argued about for centuries. We spoke about this central theme at the very beginning of this course, when we questioned whether or not international law was an oxymoron. Can we all even agree on anything in the first place? As much as I would love to say that there is an accepted definition of human rights that should be protected, I don’t think there is. I feel that even issues as terrible as genocide have varying levels of interpretation. Different nations will classify government actions from differing perspectives. I apologize for being pessimistic here, but it is just my view that it is very difficult, maybe even impossible, for the world to completely agree on an issue, even one such as protectable human rights.

  23. Brian Watroba says:


    Here is the article that I mentioned last class about China’s perception of positive rights versus negative rights. The author connects each country’s view of human rights to its personal history:

    China: “it is not too difficult to grasp that the political cultures emerging from these Chinese and American legacies tend to foster different values and ideas. Public service is esteemed in China and other East Asian cultures, and the government is seen as the custodian of public interest in the Confucian tradition … The principal responsibility of the state is to ensure public order and promote social harmony”.

    USA: “the traditional preoccupation has been with oppression and not order. Rather than as a guardian of public interest, the state is perceived more as a potential threat to individual liberty”.

    The author also stresses how because China is a latecomer in the game of industrialization and having suffered the indignity of colonialism, there is less willingness to accept a philosophy championing minimalist government. The United States, on the other hand, was more or less founded on the principles of defending negative rights against the threat of the state.

    I agree with our class consensus that while systems upholding positive rights can work in certain situations, their “majoritarian” nature is easily exploited. I agree that preservation of negative rights is preferable to positive rights. However, what this article does so well is demonstrate how distinct concepts of human rights can fulfill the political needs of specific regimes. Chinese president Hu Jintao often expresses how the protection of basic needs (such as food, shelter, employment, etc.) is essential to social stability in China. The moment a large number of people become unemployed or have difficulty finding food, there is strong probability for social uprising and dissent. Because of its demographics—and also its history—China sees negative rights as subordinate to positive rights, and this works to effectively maintain social stability.

  24. Anna Solovieva says:

    The debate between the conflicting ideas of humanitarian intervention and state sovereignty is often perceived as being one with physical reprecussions, although in the news we do see occurences of states attempting to influence one another politically while keeping humanitarian interests in mind.
    The Israel/Palestinian conflict is one such debate that the whole world is happy to actively take part in, with third parties taking sides. Below I attach an article from BBC summarizing Sec. of State Hilary Clinton’s comments directed to Israel. Although it doesn’t explicitaly refer to humanitarian intervention or the sovereignty question, it now makes me wonder what comments such as Clinton’s really serve to achieve. It appears to be a verbal form of humanitarian intervention, if I may call it such, and I also wonder if it has a place in the news and what the reprecussions of her comments getting published by the BBC are to Israel, Palestine, America, and the rest of the world? Does every opinion that we can express deserve to be expressed, even if it relates to issues of a country that isn’t our own? To what extent in general will verbal humanitarian intervention be allowed to continue, and does it ever stand a chance to assume a physical form?


  25. Wemyss "Scooter" Scott says:

    Returning to our class discussion the other day of whether or not duress can (or should) be considered to be a legitimate defense, I find that in my own opinion I cannot make a definitive decision either way. It seems to me that this sort of question should be handled on a case-by-case basis, with special attention given to the specific facts of each case. There are numerous factors to consider in each scenario (the number of people killed, the legitimacy of the threat of duress, etc) that need to be considered in each case, and cannot be summed up in a broad, overarching legal statute.
    Furthermore, in a different sense, it is very easy to say that duress should not be a defense, and that an individual should not value their own life over the lives of numerous others. However it must be understood that making a statement like this in the safety of a classroom is a simple task. I would imagine that someone actually in a situation with a gun pointed at their head might divert from this argument.
    In total, I find it difficult at this time to plant myself firmly on one side either for or against the use of duress as a defense. I feel that there can be no immediate right or wrong answer, and that its application must be used on a case-by-case basis.

  26. Diane Lopez says:

    In reading the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case, I found the President’s comprehensive military order to govern the “Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism” to be quite disturbing merely because there exists no type of regulation. He enumerates the conditions by which someone can be detained, but none of them require evidence. According to this order, suspicion is enough to detain a person, and apparently enough to torture a person. How does this logic make any sense? By detaining based on suspicion, you are detaining without probable cause. Yes, terrorism is tragic and horrible, but it should not supersede anyone’s human rights.

    I was really disturb after reading this article because you can clearly see how inefficient the above logic is. According to this article, the Bush administration was aware that some of the detainees were in fact innocent but did not saying anything because they felt that it would interrupt situations in Iraq and elsewhere. This goes to show that the US is a country that really chooses its interests over human rights.



  27. Wemyss "Scooter" Scott says:

    RE: Dee
    You are right, that is a truly disturbing article. It is frightening to think that our government is willing and capable to let known innocent people suffer, and would refuse to release them in fear that doing so would delegitimize their goals overseas. This concept takes us back to our discussion the other day regarding the balance between sacrificing the individual liberties of a few in pursuit of a better good for the whole. This is a very debatable discussion. Some would argue that, in the line of making the world a safer, better place, some liberties (and consequently some people) must be sacrificed along the way. On the other hand, others would maintain that political or security pursuits should not supersede individual, human liberties, especially in cases as tenuous as the ones mentioned in Dee’s article. As for my own opinion in this case, I would side with the individual liberties. There is no doubt that national security is of the upmost important, and that terrorism is a terrifying enemy, however I do not feel that that justifies the wreckless, and at times un-called for torture of individuals. Furthermore, I do not honestly believe that torture truly accomplishes anything. Under such severe stress and pain, it is only logical that detainees would say anything they could to spare their lives, which may or may not actually be truthful, relevant information.

  28. I have posted an article from todays NYTimes on the Kyrgyz President. Our discussion of sovereignty has been on-going, and I think that it is very relevant to discussions of human rights. As the UN Charter States, state leaders and governments are responsible for educating their people on their universal human rights. This can, however, challenge the authority of the leader or government. But does this interrupt sovereignty? I think that associating authority with sovereignty is very faulty. Authority is somewhat flexible, however it is defined by specific codes and laws. As the article that Dee posted exhibits, altering the definition of authority tends to suggest a transgression of order. Sovereignty, however, is much more abstract and maleable. As is evident in the case of Kyrgyzstan, sovereignty depends on the will of the people and this can be very inconstant. Bakiyev was elected to office nine months ago, and although we must keep the possibility of fraudulent elections in mind the current revolt suggests that the people are demonstrating a change in will and opinion. However, is this illegal? Is it condemnable? No. They are exercising their rights in the contract of sovereignty, to select their leader according to their needs and expectations. The action is perhaps outside of the law’s preferred process, but I’m sure that a closer look at Kyrgyzstan would suggest that this wasn’t disproportionate to the national situation.

    The charge of mass murder is harder to assess. We have typically heard of mass murder as a planned, often genocidal act. However, while firing on protesters is not in line with human rights it is not of the same caliber as the calculated execution of innocents. I am interested to see how far the charge against Bakiyev goes, and how the international community will treat the new government and the old President’s claim of sovereignty.

  29. Jelena Jesajana says:

    As often in the class, going back to the question of jurisdiction. The current case of extradition of Panama’s ex-leader – Manuel Noriega – to France after serving 20 years in jail in the USA. In the article one of Noriega’s French lawyer’s says that it is important to not to make a moral judgment but to rule out according to the law. So, today’s in-class discussion about legal justice vs. innovation is highly important and relevant in the ‘real world’ as well . So, just as an illustration:

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