La jurisdicción universal y la exigencia de motivación en democracia

españaA finales de enero, el Grupo Parlamentario del PP en el Congreso presentó una proposición de ley para limitar la jurisdicción universal en España. En apenas mes y medio la norma era aprobada en las Cortes Generales y publicada en el BOE. Entró en vigor al día siguiente de su publicación. Con presteza inusitada, España ponía el punto final a su posición vanguardista en la persecución de crímenes internacionales contra los derechos humanos.

La norma se aprobó por la vía de urgencia y contó con el único apoyo del Partido Popular, con mayoría absoluta en la Cámara. ¿Cómo se explica la urgencia del trámite y la reforma en sí misma? Un desliz del portavoz del PP en el Congreso basta: “La justicia universal solo provoca conflictos”. Conflictos diplomáticos para su gobierno, se entiende. Continue reading

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International Liberalism and R2P. Have liberalists given up on the ICC?

bashar-al-assad-650x433Granted. The title is a little unfair. The truth is that I am only referring to Michael Ignatieff, but I have the impression that the point is extendible to other international liberals, or rather liberalists. This is pure perception. I would be very happy to be proven wrong. I encourage you to use the space below for that.

The UN inquiry mission on Syria has expanded their list of suspected war criminals. When they presented their report at the Human Rights Council on Tuesday, they assured that their evidence is solid enough to prepare any indictment at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Syria has not ratified the Rome Statute, but the case could be referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council, as it did unanimously with Libya in 2011 (Resolution 1970).

Michael Ignatieff gave an eloquent lecture at King’s College London on Monday. The title was “Legality, Legitimacy & Intervention After Ukraine”. Initially it said “Syria”, but I guess the organisers (or the speaker) decided to adapt the name to the most current events. In any case, Ignatieff talked about both countries.

At first he assured he was not going to advocate an intervention, but I suppose he could not help it and in the end he supported an action based on the idea of “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P), a concept proposed in 2001 by the ICISS, a commission he was member of. Continue reading

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Ruggie versus Ecuador: Will a human rights norm ever emerge regardless of Western support?

unhrcIn September 2013, a number of countries issued a joint statement in favour of an international treaty on business and human rights. The statement was drafted by Ecuador and signed also by the African Group, the Arab Group, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela and Peru. These countries believe that a legally binding treaty “would clarify the obligations of transnational corporations in the field of human rights” and “provide for the establishment of effective remedies for victims in cases where domestic jurisdiction is clearly unable to prosecute effectively those companies”. More than 90 national groups, international NGOs and trade unions have expressed their support for this initiative.

On 28 January, John Ruggie, Professor of International Relations at Harvard University and UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights between 2005 and 2011, released a response to the mentioned statement. Thereby he defends the “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework developed during his mandate as Special Representative and praises the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights that he himself drafted and were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011. The Guiding Principles were severely criticised by several civil society organisations that deemed them overtly ineffective to regulate the human rights responsibilities of transnational companies. However, Professor Ruggie is pleased with his own framework and expresses in this way why he believes Ecuador and the NGOs are mistaken: Continue reading

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Rights as Democracy? A short response to Bellamy

Last week a few members of King’s College London held the first session of our reading group on Law and Social Sciences. We discussed Richard Bellamy’s “Rights as Democracy” (2012), and we also read Isaiah Berlin’s seminal “Two Concepts of Liberty” (1958) with Skinner’s critique, “A Third Concept of Liberty” (2002).

In his article, Bellamy opposes the traditional liberal justification of human rights as a set of prepolitical liberties and entitlements. Bellamy conceives rights in line with the republican notion of non-domination and claims that they require a democratic justification, which is by definition a political process. From that premise Bellamy works out the argument for a “rights-based judicial review of legislation”, that takes judicial hermeneutics away from professional and non-democratic courts and gives this power to “the people themselves” (I am indebted to my friend Donald Bello Hutt for introducing this concept to me).

For Bellamy, a political process to claim and justify rights must possess three important features. “First, it must show equal respect for the different views of individuals as rights bearers. Second it should also demonstrate equal concern for their capacity to employ their rights on the same terms as others. (…) Third, it will have to answer to the ‘traditional purpose’ of rights as means for holding power to account and marking its limits”.

I must start by saying that I find Bellamy’s argument both powerful and persuasive. Continue reading

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What does a 6.5% public surplus mean from the perspective of the ICESCR?

201416114832861621_20Earlier this month, the Greek Government assumed the Presidency of the Council of the EU for this semester. In an attempt to show off the austerity efforts made by his Government, the Deputy Prime Minister, Evangelos Venizelos, said in a recent interview with Euronews:

Over the past three and a half years, Greece has made the biggest fiscal adjustment in the history of the western economy. We began back in 2009 with a 12 percent primary deficit, and now we have achieved a primary surplus, which in terms of structural surplus – that is not taking into account the circumstantial results of the recession – is as high as 6.5 percent. We are by far the best-performing country in Europe in terms of primary fiscal results, and one of the best in the world.

As written some time ago, if Greece had been militarily occupied instead of “rescued” by the Troika, international law would have provided some more tools to protect the local population. Having said that, even in the current situation international human rights law imposes certain obligations. In particular, one must question whether such an impressive evolution of the public accounts over a short period of time (from -12 to a projected +6.5 in a lustrum) goes in line with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), ratified by Greece back in 1985. Continue reading

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El sexismo cotidiano y la cara de vergüenza

no the man doesnt know the womanHace unos días una amiga puso esta foto en su perfil del Facebook. Junto a ella escribió “No, este hombre no conoce a esta mujer”. Ese mismo día, o quizás la víspera, entré en el vagón de metro y me senté sin pensarlo frente a un chico joven. Justo antes de partir entró una atractiva mujer y se sentó junto a la puerta, dos lugares a mi izquierda. Abrí mi libro, pero por reflejo levanté la mirada y vi cómo aquel chico la observaba fijamente. El tren prácticamente no había salido de la estación cuando la mujer se levantó y rápidamente fue a sentarse al otro extremo del vagón. El chico hizo un gesto, que yo interpreté como una mezcla de sorpresa y desgana, y volvió a su periódico gratuito.

Hace ya tiempo la profesora de francés nos hizo unas preguntas para provocar el debate entre los cuatro alumnos de la clase: dos mujeres jóvenes, un hombre mayor y un servidor. El hombre tenía la costumbre de ser el primero en contestar. Aquel día, cuando se le agotaban las ideas mirándome con interés decía: “a lo mejor Koldo tiene algo que añadir”. Las otras dos personas eran al parecer nuestras convidadas de piedra. Continue reading

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A normative defence of a foreign policy in line with human rights

dialogue coverThis article was originally published in Dialogue, issue 6, winter 2013.

In the last two decades, norms and beliefs have put on weight in scholarly research in international relations. Traditional (neo)realists would still insist that international relations are only about one predetermined goal, that is, survival. Nonetheless, among those willing to accept that there is room for choice in foreign affairs, the study of human rights in foreign policy has focused so far on issues like motivations, consistency, assessment and impact. These are certainly critical aspects that deserve due attention in order to comprehend the possibilities of a foreign policy that includes human rights into its defining elements. However, I believe it is time to take another step and make the case that the existing global legal regime imposes certain human rights duties on States also when they work as international actors. Continue reading

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