“The Interview” and the sanctity of private business in public international law… since the 16th century

the interviewBy now it is well known that Sony was cyber attacked some weeks ago allegedly as a reaction to “The Interview”, a satirical film that depicts the assassination of Kim Jong-Un. I haven’t seen the film and I don’t know anybody who has seen it, but Barbara Demick, a North Korea specialist writing in New Yorker, asserts that, considering it is meant to be a freaky parody, it does justice to the first impression the average Western visitor may get of Pyongyang.

An FBI investigation concluded that the regime was behind the attack, but the North Korean Government denies the accusations. Technology security experts have doubts about the involvement of the Asian country. Nevertheless, President Obama hasted to promise retaliation.

President Obama said that the attack “caused a lot of damage” and showed the need of “clear rules of the road in terms of how the Internet and cyber operates. Right now, it’s sort of the Wild West”, and everybody knows that when it comes to international politics this is something Americans really dislike (my own words; not the President’s). Secretary of State John Kerry framed the US position in terms of protecting freedom of expression. Consistently, Sony chief Kazuo Hirai has recently said that they are all for civil liberties: “Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of association – those are important lifelines of Sony and our entertainment business”. Continue reading

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Juegan con fuego la Comisión Europea en Grecia y la Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana en España

Las elecciones anticipadas en Grecia parecen inevitables y la Comisión Europea está dispuesta a reaccionar. El presidente de la Comisión, Jean Claude Juncker, ha mandado un mensaje directo a los griegos: “No quiero que las fuerzas extremistas lleguen al poder en Grecia”. También el comisario de Economía, Pierre Moscovici, de viaje en Atenas, y la portavoz de la Comisión, Mina Andreeva, han hecho declaraciones en el mismo sentido. No es nada nuevo. Ya en 2012 el Financial Times, Angela Merkel y el ministro de Hacienda del Reino Unido, George Osborne, habían recomendado a los griegos que resistieran la tentación de votar a los “demagogos de Syriza”.

En España el Congreso ha aprobado recientemente la nueva Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana, que pone en riesgo la libertad de información y el derecho de manifestación al imponer sanciones a quien quiera grabar las actuaciones de los policías, al castigar más severamente las infracciones, o al no reconocer las manifestaciones o reuniones espontáneas.

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Order versus Justice in the selection of the next UN Secretary General

aban2The battle to replace Ban Ki-moon has begun. A recent article by Colum Lynch (@columlynch) in Foreign Policy speaks about the race, the likely competitors and the interests at play. The author explains how the most powerful countries tend to prefer contestants from nations with little weight in international politics. He also talks about the strategies previous nominees have followed, and foresees that the next Secretary General may come from Eastern Europe, notwithstanding the quiet movements of certain players from Latin America to Australia and the ongoing EU-Russia tensions. Not in vain, the UN Secretary General is appointed by the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Security Council (Art. 97 of the UN Charter), where vetoes are always an option.

This time some people are committed to change the way the Secretary General gets chosen. A number of civil society organisations are campaigning under the platform #1for7billion (@1for7billion), calling for a “process that meets the higher standards of transparency and accountability that UN Member States and civil society have been demanding for years, (…) a process that provides meaningful involvement from all Member States, appropriate input from civil society, and that matches that of other high-level international appointments”. They demand transparency and citizens’ active participation. They oppose the business as usual that has ruled the nomination since 1945. They want 1-for-7-billion, not 1-for-193-mostly-15-really-5. Continue reading

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7 reflexiones sobre el 9N

En primer lugar, hay que felicitarse por el ambiente tranquilo y festivo del 9N. El proceso no ha estado exento de tiranteces, tanto entre políticos como entre ciudadanos, pero durante la jornada los catalanes hicieron gala de una gran dosis de serenidad. A veces lo damos por hecho, pero yo personalmente me alegro de que la calma fuera la regla.

En segundo lugar, veo el 9N como un ejercicio de libertad de expresión (artículo 20 de la Constitución), no de participación política (en el sentido del artículo 23). La Constitución actual marca que la soberanía popular radica en el conjunto de los españoles, es decir, catalanes y el resto. Ahora bien, el 9N pertenece al campo de la libertad de expresión, y esta libertad no entiende de soberanías. Continue reading

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The ugly t-shirt or the cost of supporting feminism in Britain

Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg wear the Fawcett Society’s feminist T-shirt.British media are echoing the claim that the t-shirts Ed Milliband, Nick Clegg and Harriet Harman posed with a few days ago were made in Mauritius by workers being paid 62p an hour. Fawcett Society, the organisation behind this campaign, promised that they take this allegations very seriously and they are looking into it. The t-shirt says “This is what a feminist looks like”. Each t-shirt costs £45.

It is true that the working conditions are not the exception, but the norm in this sector. Having said that, it has been clumsy. And it is Fawcett’s fault. Continue reading

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Who holds the responsibility to protect? And who is to be protected?

Lucke Glanville argues in his recent Sovereignty and the Responsibility to Protect (2014) that this responsibility dates back from the 16th and 17th centuries. However, a good number of scholars believe that the first “humanitarian intervention” took place in Bulgaria in 1876, when Ottoman troops attacked villages killing thousands of civilians. Outraged, the British public demanded action, and indeed European Powers mobilised to require the Sultan to protect the Christians living in Eastern Europe. Former PM Gladstone famously campaigned for intervention echoing “the moral sense of mankind at large”. Western Europe intervened. Eastern European Christians were to be protected.

Last Thursday, President Obama announced that he had authorised “limited air strikes” against the combatants of the self-named Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. It was the first American military action in the country since 2011. But this is not 2003, and President Obama did his best to “make this perfectly clear”: It is a “humanitarian intervention”; it is “at the request of the Iraqi Government”; “we have a mandate to help”; “we cannot turn a blind eye”; “we must prevent the total destruction of innocent Iraqis, which would constitute a potential act of genocide”. America intervenes. Iraqi Christians (and Kurdish Yazidis) are to be protected.

It can hardly come as a surprise that the US is leading this mission with no end date for the time being. So far, the UK Government has only pledged the delivery of humanitarian and medical support. Meanwhile, le Quai d’Orsay has been trying to push its European counterparts to agree on something on the matter. The EU Political and Security Committee recognised on Tuesday that individual members states are free to send weapons to the Kurdish militia, but did not reach an agreement on any EU-level intervention.

r2pThe words carefully chosen by President Obama last week remind the language used by the supporters of the “Responsibility to Protect” (also known as R2P). Coined in 2001, R2P firstly means that states are obliged to protect their citizens from international crimes. This is not new, because in essence protecting the people within the national jurisdiction is what International Human Rights Law has been all about since 1948. However, R2P also claims that if a state fails to protect its people, the international community has the responsibility to intervene, using force if necessary. This, if it could be a norm, would constitute a major change. But it is not a norm. Continue reading

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¿Qué tienen que ver la jurisdicción universal y el impago argentino?

r620-fc7e9f56dfca8b77360c7d259645fdf8Hay un argumento recurrente contra la jurisdicción universal: Al dotar a los jueces del poder de investigar y procesar independientemente del lugar de comisión del delito o de la nacionalidad del agresor o de la víctima, coloca al gobierno en una posición comprometida respecto a sus homólogos extranjeros. Para los detractores de la jurisdicción universal, si un juez “independiente, inamovible, responsable y sometido únicamente al imperio de la ley” (artículo 117 de la Constitución Española) investiga delitos cometidos en el Tíbet, Palestina o el Sahara Occidental, indirectamente este juez está creando un lío morrocotudo y diplomático para su país. Se está metiendo en política, y la política es cosa de políticos, es decir, del Ejecutivo y del Legislativo. En resumen esto es lo que quería decir Alfonso Alonso cuando dijo en el Congreso que “la jurisdicción universal solo provoca conflictos”.

Vayamos a Argentina, pero pasemos antes por Nueva York. Allí vive un juez que recientemente ha ordenado al Gobierno argentino a pagar una gran cantidad de dinero a fondos de inversión que compraron deuda soberana cuando su precio era más bajo, a principios del milenio. En realidad, este juez, llamado Thomas Griesa, les dio unos días a ambas partes para que alcanzan un acuerdo. Llegado el 1 de agosto no hubo tal acuerdo, y Argentina entró en una crisis de deuda, que ha creado una serie de “dificultades” para el país, según ha reconocido su propio Gobierno. Continue reading

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