Written by Dr Noelle Quenivet
Between 10 February and 10 March 2018 the Centre for Applied Legal Research hosted Dr Philippe Karpe as Visiting Scholar. Dr Philippe Karpe is a senior legal researcher and international expert working for CIRAD, a French agricultural research and international cooperation state organization working for the sustainable development of tropical and Mediterranean regions. Worldwide there are 850 CIRAD researchers assigned in 40 countries involved in an array of projects. Dr Karpe is currently posted in Nairobi, Kenya.
Invited by the International Law and Human Rights Unit and the Environmental Law Research Unit it was a pleasure to have Dr Karpe with us as he took part in a wide range of teaching and scholarly activities offered by the Bristol Law School whilst also pursuing his own research on indigenous people and the management of natural resources. By education Dr Karpe is a public international lawyer who studied at the universities of Nancy, Paris 10 and Strasbourg in France and holds a ‘habilitation à la direction de recherche’ (Accreditation to supervise research,) a French post-doctoral degree allowing him to supervise PhD students. Besides supervising PhD candidates at CIRAD he also teaches at the universities of Strasbourg (France) and Hokkaido (Japan). The bulk of his work however consists in planning and running projects with and for international organisations (eg United Nations Development Programme-UNDP, World Bank), NGOs (eg Rainforest Foundation Norway, Organisation des Nations Autochtones de Guyane-ONAG) and other stakeholders applying his expertise on governance and rule of law, including indigenous peoples’ rights (general and particular rights, especially land rights, forest’s and carbon’s rights, forest users’ rights, women’s rights), socio-environmental safeguards, sustainable forest management, rural and forest land tenure (including for the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance on Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security-VGGT), participative management of lands (including the use of artificial intelligence), participative mapping, institutional arrangements and stakeholder commitments (civil society, forest communities, etc.).
Dr Karpe led workshops on three modules (‘Natural Resources’, ‘Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility’ and ‘European Environmental Law and Policy’) offered on our LLM programmes. In each of these modules he shared with the students his extensive knowledge and practical expertise in the relevant fields. In particular he brought law to life by using concrete legal problems he had been confronted with in his own field work. For example in the module ‘Natural Resources’ led by Prof Jona Razzaque Dr Karpe produced real forest legal texts that were enacted by regional, national and local public authorities. The students could thus see how forests are protected (or not). This undoubtedly allowed the students to understand better the practical applicability and application of the law as well as its (sometimes unintended) consequences on local populations. In the module ‘Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility’ the students were asked to engage in a discussion on ethical aspects of activities carried out by multinational enterprises using real contracts that were agreed upon between indigenous people and organisations. Passionate discussions in this workshop run by Dr Karpe and Dr Sabine Hassler on for example the protection of traditional knowledge in India and the protection of the intellectual property rights of the indigenous peoples ensued. This inquisitive and practice-oriented type of engaging with the students was again displayed in the workshop on the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the module ‘European Environmental Law and Policy’. Together with the module leader, Christian Dadomo, Dr Karpe challenged the students to analyse the current CAP reform and its interface with the environment and, more largely, the future shape of the society. He notably discussed with the students the negative and positive connections between agriculture, the society and the environment (eg pollution, deforestation, drying up of rivers, etc) and how the reform of the CAP deals with these issues. Dr Karpe’s visit to UWE was no doubt an asset to further nurture our practice-led and student-centred teaching culture on the LLM programme at UWE.
Throughout his stay at UWE Dr Karpe also took the opportunity to attend a number of external engagement events organised by the units of the CALR such as the Brexit and Corruption talk by Dr Lorenzo Pasculli and the Brexit and Trade Relations panel discussion. As a scholar working often far away from European legal issues he particularly enjoyed this insight into one of the most commonly debated issue in the UK: the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. In this context, he sincerely enjoyed the great variety and quality of the different UWE’s opportunities to develop and enrich the knowledge on many scientific and political vital present concerns.
Dr Karpe had the opportunity to deepen his present academic research especially on Harmony with Nature, the Commons, the indigenous peoples and the farmers by collecting many references and academic articles on the UWE’s virtual library and by daily discussions with colleagues on a variety of topics, some of them relating to research methods and methodology (eg epistemology, social-legal studies and critical legal studies). Furthermore his stay at UWE gave him the opportunity to consider some new academic concerns such as conflict, war and the humanitarian legal framework.
On two occasions Dr Karpe presented his work to UWE staff and students. At a first event he shared with us his practice-based research and at a second reflected upon his work as a lawyer in the field. A roundtable on ‘The Future of the Commons’ was organised on 28 February 2018 to discuss the definition of the concept of the ‘Commons’ and develop the ‘Commons Thinking’. Dr Karpe’s intervention focused on his own experience of the commons in the African context. For example he was once confronted with what appeared to be an odd situation in a village. The local population did not seem to be related or linked, the concept of society did not seem to apply either and it appeared that each person was working for him/herself. A positive, classic lawyer would have undoubtedly failed to realise that there was something beyond that and that in fact these individuals were connected by a common, shared ‘space’. Dr Karpe then questioned whether the concept of the commons was an answer to this practical/technical problem which could be turned into a political concern. He posited that current values do not conform to aspirations of justice and that contemporary laws do not help support, protect and promote the life of individuals who live in such a situation. Yet, as a lawyer, his job is to establish justice between people and to find solutions to concrete technical as well as political problems. Thus in his view the concept of the Commons appear to be the most suitable tool. However, when trying to write the law of the Commons the lawyer faces the harsh reality of having to acknowledge that law simply is not the most appropriate tool. For example, law is usually split in different areas such as contract law, family law, property law, etc and yet the Commons transcend these separations. Also the Commons are a ‘space for development’ as they create opportunities for changes and evolution. This all makes it difficult to freeze the Commons into law. Dr Karpe then argued that for him it was crucial that human rights be at the centre of all these activities. Law should be created around human rights. He also challenged the vertical relationship of law whereby constitutional law sits at the top of the hierarchy of any national legal system. Whilst he admitted that this might sound revolutionary as lawyers struggle to understand law in anything but hierarchical terms and categories he emphasised that only a horizontal understanding of the law could avoid corrupting the Commons. As he explained his support for the Commons he however warned that the concept of the Commons might in specific contexts be used as a new form of colonialism enabling State and organisations, for example to deny rights to indigenous people on the basis that under the principle of non-discrimination and shared access to resources no special rights should be given to them.
Last but certainly not least Dr Karpe gave a talk entitled ‘Has the Wandering Lawyer Reached his Destination? – The Adventures of a Lawyer Working in the Field’ which gave him the opportunity to reflect on his work. It was an enlightening talk as Dr Karpe shared with us over 25 years of research in Cameroon, the Central Republic of Africa, Madagascar, Democratic Republic in Congo, Gabon, etc. He kicked off this presentation by asking ‘What am I? What is my purpose as a lawyer?’. Looking at the type of jobs he usually carries out he acknowledged that his work tends to touch upon a range of topics (eg weddings, contracts, etc) though it does focus on forestry. Yet, as a human being he questions what his real role is. For him, he should be promoting justice and more specifically social justice. As a result he does not question the abstract internal coherence of the texts, the content of texts or their effectiveness and efficiency as such. Rather, these are only steps in this research work. The basic research question is ‘under which conditions may the lawyer contribute to improving the living conditions of the local population?’. The objective is thus to understand how law can contribute to improving the living conditions and ensure the protection of a certain idea of a community of life. For this, four assumptions – in the meantime, he challenged them – must be made: 1) laws and rules may contribute to social change and lawyers are thus useful; 2) laws and rules have a political function; 3) there is a community of life and 4) the function of laws and rules is to guarantee social peace. Likewise Dr Karpe conceded that there were a number of challenges: 1) working with disadvantageous groups such as indigenous people, rural women, etc; 2) the status of users’ rights in developing countries and 3) the status of peasants. All these challenges relate to various aspects of vulnerability and deprivation of rights. With this in mind the lawyer must think about how he can have a positive impact on society. In Dr Karpe’s eyes the most suitable way to understand societies and to then be in a position to support them is to conduct extensive research in the field. For example this means using involved, immersed and applied research techniques so that a concrete and continuous contact with the relevant people can be established. Closer to the problem one can feel it. Dr Karpe also stressed that the nature of the field obliges all actors to adopt an interdisciplinary approach and so he works with economists, anthropologists, biologists, pharmacologists, etc, bearing in mind that each person brings his/her own views and perceptions of the situation and that all these views as well as methodologies need to be integrated into one’s work. Does that mean that the lawyer disappears? As Dr Karpe stressed he remains a positive lawyer (one that is trying to find the best solution to a problem that affects people), a humanist (there is no doubt a need for empathy and humility in these circumstances) and a ‘questionnaire’ (a person who asks questions) and thus a ‘wandering lawyer’. In his opinion this ‘wandering lawyer’ has a fundamental political and moral obligation to remember, think, defend and realise the key destiny of a lawyer: social justice. As a result he/she must revise his/her vision of the law, its essence, substance and form. Four main research themes derive from this stance towards law and the role of the lawyer: 1) the commons, the harmony between nature, humanity and values (justice); 2) the nature and the content of the law (juridicity); 3) the tools for implementing the law and 4) the methodologies of knowledge of law. Dr Karpe presented some of the results of his reflection, explaining that the law should not be in the form of specific provisions, that the new ‘Common Law’ should correspond to a right of communion, a transcendental right and that the new Common Law must correspond to an idea, that of a community of life. Under the Common Law individuals enjoy the same rights and there is no hierarchy of rights. That being established, Dr Karpe questioned the way law is created, articulating the idea that law is often crafted by a certain type of persons for a certain type of person and for a specific objective and that consequently law may not be really that ‘common’ in fact.
As Dr Karpe left UWE he had made contact with many colleagues in the Bristol Law School and hoped to be able to involve these colleagues in his work. He proposed to establish an opened think-thank on the Commons, the Wandering Lawyer, Law and the Juridicity, named: “the Rainbow Team”. Discussions were also had about future collaboration notably in the form of common projects relating to the protection of the environment, biodiversity and conflict. It was with regret that we had to let Dr Karpe go back to his work as it was such a pleasure to talk to him on a variety of topics.
By Noelle Quenivet
On 14 March 2018 the Centre for Applied Legal Research welcomed Dr Jane Rooney, Lecturer at the University of Bristol, to present a paper on ‘Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights in Armed Conflict’. Dr Rooney began by explaining that she was challenging the commonly held view that human rights law and the European Convention on Human Rights more particularly subject States to a higher threshold than international humanitarian law.
To support her key argument Dr Rooney took the example of internal disturbances that are not covered by international humanitarian law as they do not reach the required levels of violence and organisation of non-State actors. In such instances Article 2 ECHR becomes of paramount importance. Under this provision force may not be used unless absolutely necessary and so the European Court of Human Rights will examine whether force has been used in a proportionate manner as well as how the operation was planned and controlled. As she explained, Article 2 ECHR contains two types of positive obligations (substantive and procedural) and negative obligations. With regard to negative obligations, Dr Rooney observed that they are never looked at in an extra-territorial context. She added that even in an internal context they are only examined in cases relating to terrorism, high levels of violence and internal disturbances but not armed conflicts. As a result a human rights paradigm is applied because the situation at hands is not one that falls within the remit of international humanitarian law. A law-enforcement perspective is thereby espoused.
Dr Rooney focused her attention on three cases against Russia: Isayeva (2005), Finogenov et al (2011) and Tagayeva et al (2017) as they provided good examples of high levels of violence yet not necessarily falling within the scope of international humanitarian law. The first case relates to the bombardment of civilians leaving the siege of Grozny, the second examines the hostage crisis in a Moscow theatre and the third looks at the hostage take-over of school in Beslan.
In McCann et al the European Court of Human Rights scrutinised the planning of the operation as and applied an honest belief test to establish whether the principle of proportionality had been complied with. Yet, in Armani da Silva (2016) the Court applied a subjective test of proportionality. Dr Rooney argued that it seemed that increasingly the European Court of Human Rights was adopting a rather deferential attitude towards the State. For example in Finogenov it used the margin of appreciation doctrine to allow the State a certain degree of discretion. Usually, the Court sets out the test and applies it. Another exampled used by Dr Rooney was the use of poisonous gas. In Finogenov the Court deemed it proportionate whereas under international humanitarian law such weapons (ie riot control agents) are banned. Dr Rooney pinpointed that whilst political considerations were embodied in international humanitarian law this was not the case of human rights law. Was it however possible that the Court was building political considerations into its jurisprudence?
In an armed conflict paradigm, force will be used and individuals will be killed but the principles of distinction, discrimination and proportionality will set the limits to the use of force. In other words the use of force is intimately related to the designation of people in an armed conflict. The reason for this is that international humanitarian aims to protect those who are not taking part in hostilities. The principle of proportionality under this legal regime allows for incidental loss of civilian life but only on the basis that it is proportionate to the military advantage. Thus international humanitarian law is more permissive in relation to the lethal use of force.
In Tagayeva the Court appeared to use international humanitarian law to decide on the legality of the attack carried out by the Russian forces with a view to freeing the hostages in the school. After all it did refer to Article 51(4) of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions and Articles 1 and 2 of the Protocol III to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (Incendiary Weapons) in describing the relevant legal framework. However, it turns out that although the Court mentioned international humanitarian law it did not use it. In fact the Court examined whether the basic principles on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials had been complied with. Here the Court examined whether a legal framework was in place on the national level, concluding that it had failed to set the key principles of the use of force as required by the Convention. In fact the Court seemed to focus its attention on the negative obligation of Article 2 ECHR, investigating the planning and control as well as the investigation after the attack. It observed that Russia had failed to take precautionary measures although it was aware that the individuals had travelled to North Ossetia, similar attacks had been carried out and no warning was issued to the school administration. As for the investigation since no inventory of the weapons used was made, the evidence was disposed of summarily, etc it failed to comply with the principles of Article 2 ECHR. Interestingly, as the Court concentrates on issues prior and after the attack it seems that it is using these tools to deter States from using force, stressing the importance of working on prevention and investigation and the need for States to put in place appropriate measures to avoid the recurrence of such unlawful uses of force.
The European Court of Human Rights defers to the state on proportionality of use of force on the grounds that the judiciary is not equipped with the expertise or democratic legitimacy for making such a decision that is vital to national security. An evaluation of the jurisprudence indicates that adopting a human rights/law enforcement paradigm can result in a more permissive regime of use of force than under the armed conflict paradigm. International humanitarian law should serve as a point of reference for the European Court of Human Rights in ‘internal’ disturbances, especially where the alternative is a more permissive regime of use of force on the part of the state; where politics dictates the characterisation of the violence as a domestic disturbance rather than an armed conflict; as well as its characterisation as internal or transboundary. Dr Rooney concluded by stating that there needs to be further assessment of the cross-section between counter-terrorism and armed conflict regimes in order to clarify our expectations of state behaviour in these difficult circumstances.
Photo by Liam Pozz
On 28 February 2018 while Dr Philippe Karpe, Visiting Scholar of the Environmental Law Research Unit (ELRU) and International Law and Human Rights Research Unit (ILHRU), stayed at UWE Elena Blanco chaired and organised a roundtable on ‘The Future of the Commons’ as one of the events during his month long stay.
Philippe Karpe’s work for CIRAD in Kenya on natural resource management and his scholarship had touched and explored this alternative, sustainable discourse of ‘The commons’ not just as a natural resource management tool but, more importantly, as a challenge to traditional law practice and a re-framing of law as an instrument of social and environmental justice.
We were extremely fortunate to have David Bollier, the main authority in ‘The Commons’ scholarship and practice, to accept our invitation and join us via (green) Video Conferencing to share his latest work on the understanding of ‘value’ and its influence and articulation in policy. David has inspired a large number of researchers and activists through with his best known work ‘Thinking Like a Commoner’ and, after his keynote, he engaged in a lively discussion with invited participants and discussants.
With a topic as poignant as this paradigmatic ‘Commons Thinking’ we decided that this first roundtable (we would like more events like this to follow) would be critical and conceptual while a later event (which will be organised by the ELRU in June) will engage with practical perspectives and activism. Hence, the invited discussants to this event were critical thinkers and theorists like Dr Sam Adelman (Associate Professor at the School of Law of the University of Warwick), Dr Vito de Lucia (Researcher at the KG Jebsen Centre for the Law of the Sea, UiT Arctic University of Norway) and Professor Anna Grear (Professor at the School of Politics and Law of the University of Cardiff) to join Dr Philippe Karpe and his very interesting practical and theoretical insights into the potential of ‘commons thinking’. The audience included members of the ILHRU, the ELRU, FET and the Bristol Business School, including our doctoral students.
The workshop began with David Bollier’s keynote speech. He pointed out that that there are a multitude of ways to approach the concept of the common. Whilst many politicians and individuals working on issues relating to economics and property rights focus on the resources aspect of the commons it should in fact be viewed as a social system with a community of values, rules and practices relating to resources. Traditionally, natural resources such as fisheries, farmland and wild game have never been considered as significant for economic purposes because there is no direct cash attached to it. Anthropologists appear to be the ones most able to understand the concept as they view the commons as a food system in a community, be it in an urban or agricultural setting. Indeed the commons can be seen as a new movement enabling ordinary people to use and more importantly share and manage resources (eg community garden, public common partnership, wifi nets, etc). Often, the key features of these communities are open design and sharing.
David Bollier stressed that there is a burgeoning world of very diverse commons initiatives, all based on shared benefit, fairness, equality and inclusive participation which are the core elements of the commons. The idea is that individuals negotiate, collaborate and come to an agreeable conclusion. As a result the commons create social bonds, a social movement that exists outside of the State and politics. However, because it is non-conventional it is often viewed as irrelevant. Yet, this discourse and vehicle of expression can be used to counterbalance the politics of market. It is a new vision and paradigm of politics and governance as it is a politics of belonging. The commons are a different philosophy of human aspiration and existence, away from the capital market and liberalisation philosophies and values. In this view radical individualism is destroying social bonds.
That being said, the commons is not only a critique that challenges the systemic limitations of the neoliberal economics and political culture but also an inspiring platform for reform. A long history of the commons allows for the concept to be anchored in political and legal tradition. As the concept of the commons allows for transnational collaboration it reimagines the State and law more generally. It opens up spaces that are contextual. Moving forward, David Bollier suggested that the next step should be to bring together small initiatives with a view to develop horizontal relationships between the movements. This would allow the organisation of politics beyond political parties as well as be the opportunity to create a theory of values that focuses on non-monetarised elements. David Bollier concluded his keynote speech by sounding a note of caution: by ushering the commons into mainstream it should not lose its true meaning.
Several important insights arose from the event including many critical ‘cautions’ such as the danger of top-down (even if green) approaches, the need for participatory structures, the importance of formulating alternatives to development and the importance of escaping the ‘value trap’ that dominates all aspects of our lives at the moment.
The idea of ‘Legal Hacks’ was discussed at the end of the event and put forward by David as a way of transitioning to a sustainability informed, participatory approach to social, economic and environmental approaches. He also linked his work to that of his good friend George Monbiot who as a public figure regularly formulates alternatives to mainstream destructive economic approaches.
We think we speak for others when we say we left the event inspired, hopeful and determined to take this thinking and scholarship further. Elena Blanco was able to bring some of the insights of the day to the ‘Repair Acts Network’ event which took place in 13 March (see separate post).
If anyone is interested in participating in a ‘local-global’ commons inspired multidisciplinary project, please get in touch with Elena Blanco at Elena.Blanco@uwe.ac.uk .
Elena Blanco (Associate Professor on International Economic Law, Acting Head ELRU) and Noelle Quenivet (Associate Professor in International Law, Head ILHRU)
Since the beginning of this academic year 2017/2018 third year students on the LLB degree have had the opportunity to listen to a number of internal and external speakers on the issue of Brexit. On 16 February 2018 the team teaching EU law convened a panel discussion on ‘Brexit and Trade Relations’ comprised of Christian Dadomo, Senior Lecturer at UWE, Dr Clair Gammage, Lecturer in Law at the University of Bristol, and Dr Maria Garcia, Senior Lecturer in International Political Economy at the University of Bath. Each of them shared his/her thoughts on the topic and the session was then run in a Question Time format as students had been asked to send questions in advance to the chair, Dr Noëlle Quénivet, Associate Professor in International Law.
Dr Garcia began the session by setting the scene of the Brexit campaign and Brexit in relation to trade. She pointed out that whilst contestation of trade was a global trend and protests and concerns had been voiced against eg genetically modified organisms, chlorinated chicken, the privatisation of the NHS no such discussion was held during the Brexit campaign. Brexit did not seem to be about contesting global trade and its effects but migration and ‘taking back control’. The fact that there was so little discussion on trade might be explained by the fact that trade negotiations could only be held once the UK had left the EU since the EU has exclusive competence in negotiating trade agreements. Also she explained that if references were made to trade during the campaign it was usually about agreements with other States rather than trade as such. As a matter of fact the best prediction about individuals voting leave/remain was not the trade issue but education, attitude towards migration, etc. In preparation to Brexit trade has been becoming increasingly important as Prime Minister Theresa May referred to it in her Lancaster and Florence speeches and Foreign Minister Boris Johnson talked about it to recently. This has no doubt shifted the debate. Still, no discussion is being had on the contestation of trade policies. Dr Garcia suggested this might be due to the fact that it is too early to do so in light of other significant and more urgent problems. It might also be the case that the government has no clear idea of the precise content of future trade agreements. Moreover the UK government appears to send mixed messages, asking for a seamless trade relationship and yet being unable to adopt a clear position on how to tackled the issue of the two land borders through which it will trade (between Ireland and Northern Ireland and between Gibraltar and Spain). The UK White Paper on Trade reflects an inclusive and pro-development approach to trade that will however be difficult to deliver. Indeed, it appears that at the moment the UK is training individuals on issues relating to financial services rather than goods that are key to trade agreements with development features. Further, if the aim of Brexit is to regain sovereignty why should the UK accept American standards as well as dispute settlement mechanisms enshrined in trade agreements? Dr Garcia explained that it appeared that the UK was in fact anchoring itself in a thinking that supported what Steven Gill has described as the constitutionalisation of a neo-liberal regime through trade agreements.
The next speaker, Christian Dadomo, shared his thoughts on what the deep and comprehensive trade agreement favoured by the UK government could look like. Mr Dadomo first explained that before even starting discussions on such an agreement the UK and the EU needed to negotiate and agree on a withdrawal agreement focusing on three priority issues: EU and UK citizens’ rights, a financial settlement and the situation in Northern Ireland. The result of these negotiations were presented in a joint report on 8 December 2017. Such agreement also needs to take into account the future framework arrangements. As Mr Dadomo observed a number of elements are known. First, all free trade agreements the EU has negotiated are different: there is no one, unique solution as it is important that such agreements fit the various interests of the parties. The UK claims that as a soon-to-be former Member State of the EU it already complies with EU law and thus it should not be difficult to agree on such a trade treaty. Any solution between the UK staying a party to the European Economic Area Agreement to the UK applying the World Trade Organisation rules is on the table. On one end of this continuum of solutions is a very close association with the EU. Yet, it is already known that as the UK wants free trade and control over immigration it has expressed its clear wish to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market. Yet, the EU has specified no cherry picking is possible. It is also known that the UK rejects the Norway model as it would mean paying to get access to the Single Market whilst having no say in the law-making process and being obliged to comply with all EU rules, including those on the free movement of persons. On the other end of this spectrum lies the application of WTO rules which is often viewed as the worst scenario possible as it involves the imposition of tariffs on trade and rules of country of origin. In between these two extreme options two types of agreements, modelled on either the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) or the EU-Ukraine Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, are available. Mr Dadomo contrasted the two agreements: whilst Ukraine accepts the acquis communautaire, Canada does not; whilst CETA is focused on trade (goods, intellectual property) the agreement with Ukraine also includes provisions relating to security, home affairs and justice. The key problem is that it is still unclear which kind of agreement the UK wishes to have with the EU apart from a ‘deep and comprehensive one’. The possibility of a ‘CETA +++’ has also been formulated. Mr Dadomo stressed that in any case the agreement will have to be bespoke but the possibility to customise some elements also means that conditions can be attached to them. The Swiss model that is highly bespoke is off the table as the EU does not wish further agreements of this type to be negotiated. Mr Dadomo finished his presentation by stating that until the UK clearly specifies what it wishes the agreement to contain it is difficult to provide a legal commentary, ascertaining whether the EU first can legally enter into such an agreement and second would be amenable to conclude such an agreement.
Dr Clair Gammage then turned her attention to the impact of Brexit on trade and human rights. She highlighted the complexity of the issue as it covers a variety of legal regimes and political opinions greatly differ on the subject-matter. First, she reminded the audience that the UK is still a member of the World Trade Organisation in its own right but that negotiations at the WTO are undertaken by the EU. Second, she pointed at the lack of understanding of how trade works on a multilateral level and that the lack of expertise in the UK relating to negotiating trade agreements. Indeed, tariffs (of eg agricultural products) are set by the EU in the WTO and these will need to be renegotiated by the UK. Tariff-free trade might be a solution. The UK has submitted a solution to the split between the EU and itself but other WTO members (eg the US) have already voiced their concerns or even opposition to the proposal. Unfortunately for the UK it is not allowed to discuss any trade agreements until it is outside the EU and this is not only due to the exclusive competence of the EU but such negotiations would also violate WTO rules. The WTO recognises two forms of free trade agreements: free trade areas and customs unions, both covering a wide range of treaties which means that the UK is likely to negotiate successful suitable trade agreements with third parties. The problem is time as such treaties take several years to be negotiated and concluded. Another problem faced by the UK relates to the existing free trade agreements between the EU and third parties. Dr Gammage shared her view that there is no automatic roll over for such treaties which means that they would need to be renegotiated. As for trade standards, she explained that the UK will be bound by WTO standards (including those relating to sanitary and phytosanitary regulations) and, should it wish to export its goods to the EU, such goods would need to comply with EU law. Dr Gammage then moved on to discussing the effects of Brexit on human rights, arguing that at first sight it appears that there is no erosion of rights. Yet, the situation relating to Northern Ireland that is regulated by the 1998 Peace Agreement is not entirely clear. Further and more generally, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union will not apply in the UK anymore. This needs to be given proper consideration as a number of rights enshrined in the Charter are not protected elsewhere (eg in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) and even though the government is committed to retaining EU law it should be borne in mind that such laws can be changed both by Ministers and Parliament and that devolved administrations might not be involved in such decisions. This will have considerable impact on economic rights but could, as Dr Gammage argued, be included in the withdrawal agreement. Moreover the right to equality does not exist as such in the UK as it is entirely based on EU law. Such a right, different from the prohibition of discrimination based on various factors, could be lost. As for the interrelationship between Brexit, trade and human rights Dr Gammage explained that changes in trade relations should be made with great care as a viable economy is of paramount importance. A further complication relates to accepting, even if reluctantly, trading standards in free trade agreements that might directly impact on the local population. For example, the issue of trade in agricultural products must be carefully thought through as the mass import of agricultural goods may lead to less employment which itself can bring salaries and wages down. Also the UK could be bound by trading standards that apply extra-territorially (eg EU animal welfare rules). Dr Gammage thus suggested it might be better to align UK standards on EU regulations for such matters. However, in the grand scheme, the UK will have to find funds to cover for the lost trade and subsidies to eg agriculture and such funds might in fact be divested from assistance to eg disabled and homeless persons. Dr Gammage concluded on the sad note that the UK will in the long term be vulnerable to internal and external troubles.
After the presentations questions from the floor focused on (1) the impact of Brexit on the 1998 Northern Ireland Peace Agreement, (2) the potential checks at the border between the EU and the UK, (3) the impact of Brexit on trade between the UK and South America as well as (3) the future shape of trade agreements between the UK and African States and the Commonwealth.
The Annual Conference of the Socio-Legal Scholars Association is one of the high points of the legal academic calendar, and this year UWE’s Centre for Legal Research will be out in force showcasing current research at “the other place”. Bristol University is hosting the conference this year from March 27 – 29.
Emma Whewell is presenting a paper in the mental health stream entitled “Pre-proceedings and capacity: the impact of professional language and other barriers on parents with learning disabilities”. Emma has undertaken research into pre-proceedings protocols in Family Law, and this paper will showcase some of her research. Laura Walker has done research on resilience and mental health, but for the SLSA she is presenting a paper in the Law and Emotion stream entitled “The Role of Empathy in the Sentencing of Women in England and Wales”, one of several papers from the Centre for Legal Research that looks at criminal justice either directly or indirectly.
Ed Johnston will be presenting his paper entitled “The Defence Lawyer in the Modern Era and the Evolving Criminal Trial” reporting on his research in the criminal justice field. He is not the only UWE researcher presenting on criminal justice topics as Professor Phil Rumney is chairing two panels in the Sexual Offences stream and is presenting a paper with Duncan McPhee (Criminology) entitled “Exploring the Impact of Multiple Victim Vulnerabilities on Rape Investigations in England and Wales”. Tom Smith will be reporting on a pilot study undertaken at the Bristol Magistrates Courts looking at the lack of local newspaper reporting of the courts. Tom will be presenting with Marcus Keppel-Palmer and the partners from the Journalism Department, Sally Reardon and Phil Chamberlain. An early report was made to the Society of Editors and quoted by John Whittingdale MP.
Looking at criminal offences in the context of sports law is Matt Hall who is presenting a paper based around his PhD research into the offences around alcohol and drunkenness at football stadia. Matt will be arguing the case for liberalising the laws which apply only in the context of football and not other sports. Matt will also be co-presenting a second paper in the Sports law stream with Marcus Keppel-Palmer reporting on their content analysis of sports photographs in national newspapers in a paper entitled “The Connoted Message of Sports Photography in National Newspapers”. Marcus will have a busy conference as he is also presenting a paper in the Law and Music stream entitled “Law, Outlaw and Deviancy in Bro Country”.
The week before Easter also sees the Association of Law Teachers Conference, to be held at Keele University, and amongst UWE’s researchers presenting papers there are Kathy Brown, Rachel Wood and Thomas Webber.
Following Dr Mary Alice Young’s participation at the Amnesty International Expert Meeting on Brass Plate Companies and Illicit Weapons Trafficking in October, Dr Young’s suggestions have been included in a follow up report which will be presented to the newly re-established Committee on Arms Export Controls, with a view to presenting the work in an oral evidence session.
Dr Young’s recommendations include alternative methods to investigate, prosecute and stop the formation of brass-plate arms dealers who benefit from the UK’s relationship with financial secrecy jurisdictions.
On Wednesday 25 April, there was a Centre for Applied Legal Research Forum event that featured a talk by Rowan Miller who is Director of Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support (SARSAS).
As part of the event, Rowan was presented with a student authored research report that answered a series of questions posed by SARSAS staff and volunteers.
The 26 page report is the culmination of detailed research and writing by law and joint honours degree students who have studied on the LLB’s Sexual Offences and Offending module. This is a voluntary project and is not a formal part of the module. It is supervised by Ed Johnston and Phil Rumney.
Four of the authors, Ben Howells, Xavier Stride, Angharad Griffiths and Ellen Rye met with Rowan who expressed her appreciation for the detailed work involved in the writing of the report.
The other student authors of the report are: Leah Blackman, Kathy Boyle, Jessica Cambridge, Rebecca Davies, Carole Orchard, Ryan Small and Thomas Watts. All the authors are LLB students, or those pursuing joint honours degrees with law.
The picture of a young African boy holding a Kalashnikov in his hands has come to represent the archetypal child soldier drawn into a conflict he does not understand. It is thus claimed that children are not culpable for crimes they might commit during the conflict and, consequently, should not be prosecuted. On 1 March 2017 Noëlle Quénivet, Associate Professor in International Law at UWE, Bristol, challenged this view at a Centre for Applied Legal Research Forum. Alison Bisset, Associate Professor in Human Rights Law at the School of Law of University of Reading, responded to her paper. Noëlle Quénivet’s presentation, based on a paper that has been accepted for publication in the European Journal of International Law, argued that first, international law does not prohibit the prosecution of children for war crimes and second, in certain, narrow circumstances children having committed such crimes should be prosecuted.
The international community has for more than two decades pushed towards the prohibition of the prosecution of children for war crimes on the basis that children should be primarily viewed and treated as victims by virtue of their age and forced nature of their association with armed forces/groups. This lex desiderata created by the global civil society and UN agencies remains a wish, for the relevant lex lata, ie international humanitarian law and international human rights law allow States to prosecute children and even regulates such instances. States are encouraged to ‘[c]onsider excluding children under 18 from criminal responsibility for crimes committed when associated with armed forces or armed groups.’ (page 36) Has this permissive rule become a prohibitive rule? Or, phrased differently, have States made use of the permissive rule and thus prevented the creation of a customary norm prohibiting the prosecution of children for war crimes? After examining the practice and opinio juris relating to the prosecution at national level Noëlle Quénivet concluded that because post-conflict restorative mechanisms overshadow rehabilitative models of juvenile justice no clear answer can be given as to why States are not carrying out prosecutions. However, the fact that the US prosecuted (though not without controversy) children held in Guantanamo Bay for war crimes it was possible to draw the conclusion that States wished to keep permissive rule though in the very specific context of African post-conflict situations there seemed to be a trend towards the prohibition of prosecution. States practice at the international level is even less clear, for, while a few instances of state practice on the prohibition of the prosecution of children for war crimes can be discerned with regard to statutes of international tribunals and courts, the opinio juris seems lacking. States’ decision not to prosecute children is based on policy rather than law. In other words, States have kept the permissive rule alive.
The next question Noëlle Quénivet asked was whether the permissive rule should be retained. To answer such a difficult question she explained that the analysis of State practice and opinio juris reveal that the key element in States’ decision not to prosecute children for war crimes relates to the post-conflict context rather than to the age of the alleged offender. Put differently, the post-conflict restorative model of justice supersedes the rehabilitative model of juvenile justice. Rehabilitation of the child soldier happens within a wider restorative justice mechanism in which reconciliation among the offender, the victim and the wider community is essential. Yet, can reconciliation be achieved without justice or at least a sense of justice? Prosecution could be used as a tool to achieve this. Also, what happens to children caught in situations where there are or where is no need to create such reconciliation mechanisms and the veil of post-conflict restorative justice has been removed? This prompted Noëlle Quénivet to contend that the permissive rule should be retained but harmonised, ie applicable to a variety of situations, as well as limited in view of the fact that the prosecution of children for war crimes mainly rests on a deterrent approach towards punishment and the best interests of the child must stay the focus of any proposal. Noëlle Quénivet then proposed an elaborate system of triage and thresholds as she explained that any solution needed to work for the community by restoring a sense of justice as well as for the children in sending a message that the behaviour they have embraced is reprehensible. Further, she contended that the age of criminal responsibility should be set at 16.
Alison Bisset then shared her views on the subject. She pointed out that Noëlle Quénivet’s assessment of the international legal regimes and analysis of state practice demonstrated convincingly that in response to her first question – does international law prohibit prosecution? – the answer was no. The prosecution of child soldiers is neither prohibited by treaty, nor under customary international law. Yet, there is indeed a movement towards rehabilitation and reintegration as the favoured response and this movement finds some support in international law if child soldiers are viewed as being victims of exploitation and abuse. Treaties such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as soft law instruments such as the Cape Town and Paris Principles view restoration and rehabilitation as in the best interests of children associated with armed groups and armed forces. Coupled with the fact that the ICC has jurisdiction over only those aged 18 and over at the time of the alleged offence and that children have not been prosecuted before international or internationalized courts, Alison Bisset argued that there is a belief at the international level that children should not be prosecuted for war crimes even if international law does not prohibit it.
Answering the second question – should international law prohibit the prosecution of children for war crimes? – was more difficult especially as recent studies point out that first, children are able to make fully reasoned choices on whether or not to join armed forces/groups and second, the affected society may seek the prosecution of lower level perpetrators such as children. Thus although Alison Bisset stated that there was no principled justification for why child soldiers should not be prosecuted, she maintained that if States were to stand the best chance of restoration and long-term peace and security, they must rehabilitate their children so that they can play a constructive role in building the future.
Alison Bisset then offered an insightful critique of Noëlle Quénivet’s restorative model of justice focused on rehabilitation and reintegration with prosecution acting as a last resort in a limited number of specific cases. First, she stressed that the creation and resourcing of programmes implementing Noëlle Quénivet’s proposal would pose a number of challenges. Necessary systems and safeguards would need to be put in place to protect children’s vulnerability and provide them with adequate support. Also where rehabilitation programmes become linked, even tentatively, to formal judicial proceedings a whole host of questions around procedural rights and protections also arise. The financial cost of these programmes cannot be overlooked. Sadly, Alison Bisset noted that even current initiatives, which are generally less complex than what was proposed, are not working well, thus questioning what chance there was of successfully introducing something even more complicated.
Alisson Bisset finished her response by sharing her views on wider issues. She, for example, noted that there was such a preoccupation with prosecution in the aftermath of mass atrocity that there was notable decline in the attention paid to and the quality of post-conflict transitional processes. This impacted on the effective rehabilitation and reintegration of child soldiers. Furthermore, the preoccupation with child soldiers deflected attention from other severe and far-reaching consequences of armed conflicts on all children.
The CALR Forum was attended by about 15 students and staff members from UWE. After Alisson Bisset’s response questions were taken from the floor. The audience was particularly interested in the nature of the charges brought against children (ie terrorism or war crimes), prosecutorial discretion in charging those fighting on the ‘good’ side, the definition of ‘voluntary recruitment’ and its application on the African continent, the effectiveness of the work of the United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, etc. The complexity of the issue of child soldiers and, more generally, children in armed conflict was no doubt stressed in this sober-minded exchange of views.