Student blog post: To which extent is it possible to include cultural genocide in the definition of genocide as stated in the ICC Statute?

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This post (edited for publication) is contributed to our blog as part of a series of work produced by students for assessment within the module ‘Public International Law’. Following from last year’s blogging success, we decided to publish our students’ excellent work in this area again in this way. The module is an option in the second year of Bristol Law School’s LLB programme. It continues to be led by Associate Professor Dr Noelle Quenivet. Learning and teaching on the module was developed by Noelle to include the use of online portfolios within a partly student led curriculum. The posts in this series show the outstanding research and analytical abilities of students on our programmes. Views expressed in this blog post are those of the author only who consents to the publication.

Guest author: Nikita Isaac

In this blog post I am addressing the highly topical issue of ‘cultural genocide’ and its potential inclusion in the definition of genocide. Whilst there is no legal definition of cultural genocide, we can still consider it as falling within the definition of genocide as stated in Article 6 of the ICC Statute. Several definitions of cultural genocide have been propounded by academics, one being a ‘purposeful weakening and ultimate destruction of cultural values and practices of feared out groups’ (pp 18-19). I believe that cultural genocide is present in many situations such as Darfur. This blog post argues that it is possible to include cultural genocide in the definition of genocide.

Signature of the Genocide Convention (Source: here.)

The work of Lemkin who coined the term genocide supports my view as in his broad definition he included cultural genocide alongside physical and biological genocide. He believed that physical genocide and cultural genocide were ‘one process that could be accomplished through a variety of means(D Short, ‘Cultural Genocide and Indigenous Peoples: A Sociological Approach’ (2010) 14 IJHR 833, 835), whether through mass killings or coordinated actions aimed at destroying essential foundations of group life.

The resulting definition in the ICC Statute is far from what Lemkin envisioned as still today cultural genocide is unrecognised legally. The travaux préparatoires of the Genocide Convention included a section on cultural genocide which was then excluded from the final version even though it had been deemed a serious human rights violation and thought to be a stand-alone crime. It is this version, that of the Genocide Convention, that was adopted in the ICC Statute. Political factors had played a part in the exclusion of cultural genocide as the United States were against formulating criteria relating to cultural genocide given their historical relationships with indigenous peoples (L Kingston, ‘The Destruction of Identity: Cultural Genocide and Indigenous Peoples’ (2015) 14 Journal of Human Rights 63, 65). So, ‘[t]he wording of the Convention was shaped … not to criminalize their own behaviour’ (C Powell, ‘What do Genocides Kill? A Relational Conception of Genocide’ (2007) 9 Journal of Genocide Research 527, 532).

The ICC Statute preamble states that parties to the statute are ‘[c]conscious that all peoples are united by common bonds, their cultures pieced together in a shared heritage, and concerned that this delicate mosaic may be shattered at any time’. Thus, if culture is a protected interest by the states that are parties to the ICC Statute why is cultural genocide not recognised?​​​​​​​

This picture shows how indigenous children were stripped of their cultural identity when forced into westernised schools. (Source: here.)

The example of what has happened to some indigenous groups in North America such as the Winnemem Wintu (see article by Kingston) substantiates my view that cultural genocide should fit within the definition of genocide. Cultural genocide affects these tribes as their culture and identity are stripped away over time and destroyed, though they may not suffer physical harm. The Winnemem Wintu are federally unrecognized (Kingston, p 70) by the US government and so are unprotected. Of the 14,000 Winnemem Wintu people only 123 remain (Kingston, p 70). They have continually lost land from the 1800s onwards (Kingston, p 70) and their cultural life as they know it is being decimated in front of their eyes. Their very means of life have been restricted through fishing bans, using plants for medicine and loss of ceremonial grounds (Kingston, p 70). The definition of genocide clearly does not safeguard indigenous people even though the loss of culture to them is just as devastating as loss of life (Kingston, p 72; see also this video). The UN Declaration of Rights for Indigenous People offers protection now, but it has taken over 60 years to reach this point and in that time indigenous people suffered detrimentally. I argue that culture can be seen as a fundamental human right. Yet, although this shows progress with regard to cultural issues, in no way does it criminalize the behaviour against indigenous people which means that there is still no international platform to criminalize cultural genocide.

This picture displays the shocking difference before and after a child was forced into school (Source: here.)

A case which reaffirms my opinion is Prosecutor v Krstic as it dealt with the genocide of Muslim men and boys in the safe area of Srebrenica (see video). It is interesting to note that the ICTY opened the discussion of cultural genocide stating that ‘[t]he destruction of culture may serve evidentially to confirm an intent, to be gathered from other circumstances, to destroy the group, as such (para 53). So, it is taken that cultural destruction satisfies the test of dolus specialis needed to fulfil the mens rea of genocide. Judge Shahabuddeen dissenting acknowledged, ‘it is not convincing to say that the destruction, though effectively obliterating the group, is not genocide because the obliteration was not physical or biological’ (para 50). So, referring back to the Winnemem Wintu, although they have not physically or biologically suffered, it does not mean that they have not suffered through other means. The Winnemem Wintu have suffered through losing their culture due to the construction of a dam on their historic and sacred land. This undoubtedly reinforces the claim that cultural genocide can be recognised via case-law despite not being expressly included in the statute of an international criminal tribunal.

(Source: here.)

Overall, I truly support the idea that it is possible for cultural genocide to be included in the definition of genocide as stipulated in the ICC Statute. As discussed, originally, a much broader definition of genocide was drawn up that included cultural genocide; however, this was excluded, thereby leaving indigenous people unprotected for decades. This has had a knock-on effect in the case law which, although making obvious references to cultural issues in relation to genocide, does not recognise ‘cultural genocide’ as a crime as such.

Voluntary work through UWE Bristol helps inmates in Kenya get a law degree

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Law students from Bristol Law School have helped inmates and wardens in prisons in Kenya to study for a law degree, by giving them access to course materials and providing legal tuition through a volunteer project over the summer.

Several students from UWE Bristol worked with the three biggest high-security correctional institutions in Kenya through the African Prisons Project (APP), a charity that gives inmates and prison officers the chance to study for a law degree through the University of London.

Twenty-five students (19 first years and six second and third years) first spent several months meticulously resourcing and downloading legal materials from the Westlaw and Lexis libraries, with the help of the faculty librarian.

They then sent these over to the men’s (but also some women’s) prisons to help the African students, given that most of the institutions do not have access to the internet. This provided the students with valuable reading materials they would otherwise not have been able to access, and led to them gaining higher marks in their final examinations.

Starting in July, five UWE Bristol law students then travelled to Kenya for four to 10 weeks, where they taught a foundation course for those inmates and prison officials looking to start the law degree.

Kathy Brown, who is senior lecturer in UWE Bristol’s department of law and who overseas student participation in APP, said: “Studying for a law degree has enabled the prisoners to gain a higher level of education, act as paralegals for other inmates and represent themselves in court. Many of them are given extreme sentences for relatively small crimes, such as being given death penalty for aggravated burglary, and are on remand for several years.

“Prison officers, who are badly paid, are also given the chance to learn a discipline and make a better life for themselves, as well as provide better support for the prisoners. Often this leads to them no longer seeing prison as a place of punishment but a place that must enable change for vulnerable members of society.”

In September former inmate Morris Kaberia was released from Kamiti high security prison, when his sentence was quashed after serving 13 years. Fellow inmates formed part of the legal team that prepared court documents and these helped him to defend himself successfully in court. During his second appeal, the court found that Kaberia’s rights at the original trial had been violated and ruled against both his sentence and conviction.

Although a free man, Kaberia still regularly attends Kamiti, one of the prisons UWE Bristol’s volunteers work with, to finish the final year of his law degree. Brown said: “It used to be notoriously violent and dangerous, but it isn’t anymore and I think the culture of education has made it a place of learning.

“By supporting APP to deliver legal education, our students have contributed to the likely success of hundreds of inmates being released due to the work of the inmate paralegals. Those students who undertake the LLB in prison are also more likely to be considered for presidential pardons.”

The five students who travelled to the East African country were selected based on their motivation, rather than on academic achievements so far on their law degree programme. UWE Bristol sponsored the trip by paying for expenses. “This was about giving students that would otherwise never have done these things, a chance to shine,” explained Brown.

Kelly Eastham, a second year law student who travelled to Africa as part of the scheme, said: “I never thought I would spend my summer working in three maximum security prisons in Kenya and that these would be the places that would inspire me the most. I am beyond moved by every single inmate and their motivation to achieve a law degree purely to help others with no regard for financial gain.”

Third year student George Ufumwen, who also volunteered, said: “I am very grateful for this opportunity as I would not have been able to finance this of my own accord. Integration into the project has given me new found confidence, as I was able to work closely with other students in a dynamic environment and gain a good understanding of how these skills work in a real life scenario.”

So far, through the APP scheme, which also works in Uganda, three inmates have graduated with the LLB law degree in Uganda and two in Kenya. Eight more are set to graduate in October.

Student blog post: With Reference to the Case-Law of the European Convention on Human Rights Do Prisoners Have the Right to Vote and, if yes, to which Extent?

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This post (edited for publication) is contributed to our blog as part of a series of work produced by students for assessment within the module ‘Public International Law’. Following from last year’s blogging success, we decided to publish our students’ excellent work in this area again in this way. The module is an option in the second year of Bristol Law School’s LLB programme. It continues to be led by Associate Professor Dr Noelle Quenivet. Learning and teaching on the module was developed by Noelle to include the use of online portfolios within a partly student led curriculum. The posts in this series show the outstanding research and analytical abilities of students on our programmes. Views expressed in this blog post are those of the author only who consents to the publication

Guest author: Magdalena Vakulova

Introduction

The right to vote has always been a hot topic. In fact, fights to achieve universal suffrage have been here for centuries, and still continue today. Even though the right to vote is one of the basic principles of democratic society and the strongest ‘say’ the citizen can have as well as one of the fundamental human rights encapsulated in Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) there are still many ambiguities over potential restrictions to this right.

The current law in the United Kingdom denies the right to vote to prisoners while incarcerated (People Act 1983, part 1 section 3). However, according to Hirst, a case decided by the European Court of Human Rights, the denial of right to vote for prisoners falls outside the given margin of appreciation as the automatic ‘blanket ban‘ contradicts the very essence of this right.

Referring to the relevant case law I will examine the right to vote for prisoners in the UK. I decided to focus on the UK because the judgment (Hirst v UK) was not only the first one in a long series of cases relating to universal suffrage for prisoners but was also applied in different jurisdictions across Europe. I will be arguing that even though the States were given a wide margin of appreciation to exclude prisoners from the voting process, this can only be done if it does not violate the whole essence of the right. In my opinion reasonable restrictions of this right should be allowed and approved as compatible with Article 3, 10 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)

Mr Hirst’s Argument

In this video Mr Hirst, convicted of murder, argues in favour of prisoners’ right to vote as a basic human right. 

The Right to Vote as the Basis of Democract

First, we must understand that the right to vote is not only a basic aspect of citizenship but also viewed as the ‘core principle’ (L Beckman ‘The Right to Democracy and the Human Right to Vote: The Instrumental Argument Rejected’ (2014) 13 Journal of Human Rights 381) of the democratic system (Watch this video which explains why a voting right for everyone is so important in a democratic society.) In order to ensure effective democracy within the State the basic human rights of every citizen (Scoppola v Italy, para 51) must be preserved and this without discrimination or unreasonable restrictions incompatible with the terms of the ECHR (Hirst v UK (paras 27 and 41)). Moreover, everyone’s right to participate in voting is implied in Article 21 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and more explicitly outlined in Article 25 of the ICCPR where the right to vote is established as a binding norm of international law. Further Article 3 of Protocol 1 to the ECHR states that the right to vote is not only the key aspect of effective political democracy but also an important element of the Convention system (Mathieu-Mohin and Clerfayt v Belgium, para 47). Therefore the exclusion of prisoners from the right to vote must be reconcilable with the purposes of Article 3 of Protocol 1 (Hirst v UK (No. 2), para 62). However, in my opinion, the UK has departed from this fundamental norm as it has prevented prisoners from exercising this basic right and so has fully blocked their access to the democratic system.

The Margin of Appreciation and UK Arguments 

In the case of Hirst v UK it was held that a blanket ban on prisoners’ right to vote under s. 3(1) of the 1983 Act is not compatible with Article 3 of Protocol 1. Even though the States are endowed with a wide margin of appreciation and the rights under Article 3 are not absolute, the automatic ban falls outside these margins (Hirst No 2, para 82) as it is not proportionate (Scoppola, paras 93-102; Hirst No 2, paras 76-85) (see also Sauvé v Canada (Supreme Court of Canada), paras 37 and 54-62).

The first  argument that the UK submitted to the European Court of Human Rights was that as prisoners had breached a social contract, they lacked moral virtue and therefore did not deserve this right. The second ground of the government’s reasoning was that this restriction was a punishment which helped enhancing civic responsibility (Hirst No 2, para 50).

The Response of the ECtHR to the UK Arguments 

The ECHR rejected the UK arguments. Firstly, it argued that the lack of moral virtue is contradictory to the fact that the State requires prisoners to fulfill other civic duties. Moreover the ECHR emphasized that the right to vote is a right and not a privilege (see also Sauvé, paras 14, 19-24 and 37; Hirst No 2, paras 59 and 75) which you deserve through a good moral virtue.

Secondly, it was held that incarceration per se is not a reasonable justification for violating fundamental rights. Whilst the ECHR to some extent approved the idea of a voting ban being understood as a punishment (Hirst No 2, paras 74-75, see also Dikson v United Kingdom) it however stressed that any such restriction  needed to have a clear link between the punishment and the restriction (see Hirst No 2, Joint Dissenting Opinion of Judges Wildhaber, Costa, Lorenzen, Kovler and Jebens, para 8 and Dissenting Opinion of Judge Costa, para 3). Yet, there was no such evidence that the UK had even thought about the link to the offense (see discussion by Weston) or any other justification of the punishment. In contrast the UK applied the automatic ban to every prisoner. The UK reasoning was not objective at any point and therefore I agree that the ban contradicts the very essence of the universal suffrage (see Mathieu-Mohin, para 52).

Conclusion 

In my opinion the reasoning of the European Court of Human Rights in Hirst was correct as the UK’s justification for the ban was discriminatory and not legally tenable. In this light I think that the UK should carry out debates and amend the current legislation so that the restriction of the right to vote is possible to some extent at least. Furthermore I believe that enfranchisement will help prisoners in their rehabilitation.

Future Impact Webinar Series: The exploitation of money by financial criminals – do you know enough?

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The second webinar, taking place on the 15th November from 12pm, in the Future Impact Webinar Series will aim to illustrate the threat posed by financial crime. The webinar concentrates on the current trends adopted by financial criminals towards disguising their proceeds of crime, the threat posed by terrorist financing and the problems associated with increasing levels of compliance.

Nicholas Ryder, Professor in Financial Crime, will head up a panel tackling these questions and the problems associated with increasing levels of compliance. Hosted by Dr Noordin Shehabuddeen, with guest panellists from PwC and Lexis Nexis, this webinar promises to tackle the big questions and leave you better prepared to take positive action to protect you and your business.

Nicholas is a Professor in Financial Crime who has authored four monographs: The Financial War on Terror (2015), The Financial Crisis and White Collar Crime (2014), Money laundering an endless cycle (2012) and Financial Crime in the 21st Century (2011). Nicholas has also published two edited collections The Financial Crisis and White Collar Crime – Legislative and Policy Responses (2017) and Fighting Financial Crime in the Global Economic Crisis: Policy, Trends and Sanctions (2014). He has also authored three text books The Law Relating to Financial Crime in the United Kingdom (2013 and 2016) and Commercial Law: Principles and Policy (2012).

The Bristol Business Engagement Centre (BBEC) at Bristol Business School is proud to present our Future Impact Webinar Series. This webinar series will feature exciting new developments in technology, science and management practice and highlight their impact on the future of business and society. Thought provoking yet practical, you will develop a better appreciation of what these advances will mean for you, your business and community.

Register for your free place here.

Bristol Law School launch inaugural UWE Bristol Student Law Review (UWESLR)

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This week the Bristol Law School proudly launched the inaugural issue of the UWE Bristol Student Law Review (UWESLR), edited by Dr Tom Smith, which showcases undergraduate student law research at UWE Bristol.

The future of legal research is, like the legal profession, dependent on our current students. We believe it is essential to both encourage the efforts of our students and to assist in the development of their research and writing skills.

This publication intends to do so by showcasing outstanding examples of research by undergraduate Law students at UWE. This fulfills twin objectives: to reward their endeavours by sharing their work with a wider audience, and to demonstrate to both their peers and others the quality of the research produced by our future academics and lawyers.

This issue includes three articles; these are based on the submissions of undergraduate students as part of the final year Dissertations module for the Law and Joint Awards programmes.

Annie Livermore writes about the use of surgical and chemical castration in the treatment of sex offenders; Amber Rush writes about the regulation, reintegration and rehabilitation of child sex offenders; and Georja Boag writes about the identification, protection, support and treatment of victims of human trafficking. All have produced excellent and engaging pieces of research, and should be congratulated for their efforts.

The Review represents part of an ongoing effort to make students a part of the academic research community within the Department of Law at UWE Bristol. The research culture of any university should reach beyond the individual and collective activity of professional researchers; students should feel part of the scholarly environment in which they are learning.

It is hoped that the Review will help to create an unbroken chain between academic and undergraduate research. In doing so, researchers can pass on their expertise and experience to the next generation of scholars, and students can better develop their skills.

We hope you enjoy reading it! The full  UWE Bristol Student Law Review (UWESLR) is available to read and download here.

Bristol Law School students attend annual Eid on the Wharf party

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On 28th September a diverse group of law students from Level 1 to LLM responded to the opportunity to attend an annual Eid on the Wharf party hosted by Clifford Chance and the Association of Muslim Lawyers (AML).

Koser Shaheen, Chair of AML, offered free tickets to UWE law students to attend the networking event at Clifford Chance’s Canary Wharf offices.  Facilitated by Dr. Zainab Kahn, interested students worked together to prepare for the trip.

First year LLB students Kashif Imambaccass and Lizzie Greco-Turner reflected on their experiences:

“Having only been studying at UWE for two weeks, this was our first law networking event. We were awestruck walking into the imposing thirty floor skyscraper at Canary Wharf that houses Clifford Chance. Once we arrived at the venue, we were greeted by fellow UWE students, ranging from second year LLB to LLM students.

The opportunity to network with 250+ city professionals, who were very impressive leaders in their field, gave us an invaluable insight into what a legal career in law entails.

The highlight of our evening was interacting with Halim Uddin, an associate at Clifford Chance. Uddin was down-to-earth and friendly, willing to answer all the questions we had on the work required to become an elite lawyer.

In addition to the networking, the Eid party exposed us to a number of Islamic speakers and entertainers.  We felt humbled listening to an address by Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of the Finsbury Park Mosque, who recently received the Queens Award for Voluntary Services.  Also on top of the list of entertainment was the engaging and often funny speech by Lauren Booth, referred to as one of the most ‘fascinating Muslim Personalities of our time’.

As Law is often portrayed as an exclusive profession, it was refreshing to network with a diverse team of lawyers from a wide range of backgrounds. Thanks to our lecturer Kathy Brown, who believed in us; we have obtained a drive to excel, to work harder and pave the way to becoming the very best of who we are. Now, the idea of working for one of the ‘Magic Circle’ firms, seem slightly less daunting.”

In accordance with the inclusive nature of the activity, travel was funded for the students by the Bristol Law School.

 

Student blog post: On the basis of the Article ‘Port of Rotterdam Reveals Scale of Brexit Challenge’ discuss the legal issues relating to non-tariff barriers and trading standards imposed on imported goods.

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This post (edited for publication) is contributed to our blog as part of a series of work produced by students for assessment within the module ‘Public International Law’. Following from last year’s blogging success, we decided to publish our students’ excellent work in this area again in this way. The module is an option in the second year of Bristol Law School’s LLB programme. It continues to be led by Associate Professor Dr Noelle Quenivet. Learning and teaching on the module was developed by Noelle to include the use of online portfolios within a partly student led curriculum. The posts in this series show the outstanding research and analytical abilities of students on our programmes. Views expressed in this blog post are those of the author only who consents to the publication.

Guest author: Victoria Meller

One of the most discussed phenomena of recent times is the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, i.e. Brexit. While the exact implications of Brexit will only become apparent once the UK officially leaves in 2019, the departure will undoubtedly have consequences on the economic relations of the UK with the EU as well as with the rest of the world.

The focus of this blog post is on the effect of Brexit on trading standards, i.e. tariffs and non-tariff barriers on imported and exported goods. I will examine the challenges that UK businesses and consumers might face.

Tariff and Non-tariff Barriers

Tariffs are external taxes paid on imported and exported goods as they cross the border whereas non-tariff barriers are trading requirements on goods, such as certain quality certificates which need to be shown at the border, or quantitative measures such as quotas. States usually prefer to pay tariffs to abiding by non-tariff barriers as the latter can limit or prevent a certain type of product from entering a State.

One fundamental principle of international economic law is the principle of non-discrimination. It is imposed by the World Trade Organization on all its members and consists of two components: the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) treatment (Article I GATT 1994) which states that each trading partner must be treated equally and the national treatment (Article III GATT 94) which stipulates that foreign goods shall be treated in the same way as national goods. Exceptions to the principle (Article XIV) include preferential treatment towards developing nations (which goes against MFN but is for the greater good of disadvantaged nations) and being part of a regional free trade agreement. The UK, as a member state of the EU, is part of the single market and customs union, which operates as a tariff-free trade zone and applies the national treatment principle within its borders though it does discriminate against non-EU goods but is allowed to do so as it is a regional trade agreement.

In light of the article by Acton (Financial Times, 28 December 2017) this blog post highlights specific issues relating to the import of agricultural goods into the UK as it is claimed that 70% of imported food comes from the EU.

Price Rises

If the UK is unable to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU, then Brexit will result in the UK adopting the universal WTO tariffs as well as having the EU common external tariff of 2.3%  being imposed on it. This may result in price rises on foods such as fruits, vegetables, and wine which cannot be produced in the UK and are primarily imported from other EU States. As demonstrated in the table below, tariffs on e.g. dairy produce might rise to 39.9% on EU exports and 39.4% on UK exports. The higher prices would be caused by not only higher tariffs being placed on imports from the EU but also international imports entering the EU before reaching the UK. As the article explains, the latter situation is likely to happen since the UK does not have sufficiently large ports in comparison to EU ports such as Rotterdam.

 

Source: J Protts, ‘Potential Post-Brexit Tariff Costs for EU-UK Trade’, Civitas, October 2016, available here.

Double Control

Goods imported from outside the EU will go through a double border control which will inevitably cause delays. This will have the greatest impact on goods which rely on the just-in-time production system, such as food manufacturers (e.g. Kellogg’s). The just-in-time inventory system relies on manufacturers producing enough to meet demand, and only storing a limited amount of excess goods in inventory. Hence quick delivery onto shelves is essential. Double border control will mean double tariffs and non-tariff barriers such as certifications. This will affect the time they reach consumers and thus create costs for businesses.

As for non-tariff barriers, these will have huge implications on agricultural goods, as they are subject to stricter regulations and sanitary standards because of their public health consequences and fragile nature.

Non-tariffs 

Non-tariff barriers are believed to be 2-3 times the cost of tariffs on goods. With that in mind, sanitary standards and rules of origin (see Article IX GATT) of exported goods should remain strict for the UK post-Brexit. This will be to prevent the UK from acting as a ‘back door route for goods into Europe’. Since the UK will no longer be an EU member it may decide to relax trading standards, e.g. allow imports of chlorinated chicken which is banned across the EU. However, I think that the UK will nonetheless uphold most of the EU trading regulations and replicate them into its domestic law. This is because the majority of those regulations were voluntarily upheld by EU member states, as opposed to being imposed on them. In addition, as aforementioned, the UK does not possess sufficient ports for trading and so will likely continue to rely on EU ports. 

Source: Michael Acton ‘Port of Rotterdam Reveals Scale of Brexit Challenge’, Financial Times, 28 December 2017, available here.

Uncertain Future

Regardless of the many challenges that may initially arise due to Brexit, I think the UK could possibly benefit in the long run from withdrawing from the EU as it will no longer be restrained by the EU in terms of product standards and consequently be able to negotiate free trade deals on its own terms with any State and freely decide which tariffs and trading requirements to impose. I believe the UK will learn to adapt to this new set of circumstances, but only time will tell.

Panel on Concept of Solidarity held by UWE Staff at UACES Conference in Bath

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Guest blog post by Noelle Quenivet:

A few months ago under the leadership of Dr Francesco Tava (HSS, HAS) a group of UWE scholars from the Department of Health and Social Sciences (Philosophy and Politics) and the Bristol Law School met to consider how best to engage in interdisciplinary research on the concept of solidarity in the European Union. After some discussions around the possibility to organise a workshop and engage with the wider public on the issue, we agreed that we should first test our ideas at an academic conference. With this view, the group sent a panel proposal to the call for papers for the annual conference of UACES, an academic association for Contemporary European Studies, which was going to be held in Bath in September 2018. We were all very pleased that our panel proposal was accepted and that we would be able to present our views.

The three papers we had suggested were ‘On the Borders of Solidarity: Europe and the Refugee Convention’ by Dr Phil Cole (HSS, HAS), ‘Digitising Solidarity?’ by Dr Darian Meacham (a former colleague of Francesco at the University of Maastricht, The Netherlands) and ‘Solidarity: A General Principle of EU Law?’ by Dr Eglė Dagilytė (Anglia Ruskin University) who had been contacted by Christian Dadomo and Dr Noëlle Quénivet (FBL, Law). It was agreed that Francesco would act as chair and Christian as discussant. On the day, the speakers were joined by Trineke Palm (Utrecht University, The Netherlands) who presented a paper on ‘Emotional Beliefs and the Institutional Set-up of European Integration’ and Noelle stepped in for Christian who was on a UWE business trip. Under the chairmanship of Francesco excellent questions were fielded from the audience which no doubt thoroughly enjoyed this interdisciplinary approach. We all very much look forward to continuing this initiative on the concept of solidarity and to developing further contacts.

The text below is the commentary by Noelle who acted as a discussant. It goes without saying that her reflections might not fully represent the views and arguments of the speakers and thus do not engage the responsibility of the speakers.

As a French national I am used to the motto ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’ which is anchored in Article 2 of the French Constitution. And so I have the tendency to understand ‘solidarity’ as a concept not too dissimilar from ‘fraternity’. It is interesting that a couple of months ago the case of Cédric Herrou, a French national, who had been fined for helping thousands of asylum seekers cross the border to France made the headlines. Seized of the matter, the Conseil Constitutionnel (Constitutional Court) declared that ‘[t]he concept of fraternity confers the freedom to help others, for humanitarian purposes, without consideration for the legality of their stay on national territory’ (as per translation here). The Court further explained that the principle of fraternity was a constitutional principle. For those of you interested to learn more about the case, Christian Dadomo has written a good blog post here. So, until then it was much more a rallying cry than a tangible, legal principle that could be invoked in a court. The parallel with the principle of solidarity – or is it the moral value of the concept of solidarity? – can be easily drawn here. As Egle cogently argues in her paper, whilst being a principle expressly stipulated in the treaty the principle of solidarity in the European Union is devoid of legal value. It cannot be invoked in court. At least not at the moment. Maybe the Court of Justice of the European Union will one day have its Herrou moment and consecrate the principle of solidarity that is found in a variety of treaty articles as a general principle of EU law.

So, what is the principle of solidarity? This interdisciplinary panel attempts to shed some light on it from a variety of angles: law, philosophy, politics, history and international relations. The aim is to provide depth to a concept that is often used but not necessarily well understood. Solidarity in the context of the European Union can be understood at two levels: at the micro-level it is more about the interpersonal solidarity and at the macro-level it is solidarity between the EU institutions and is probably better known under the concept of ‘sincere cooperation’. In my comments I will focus on the first one.

First, all speakers agree that the concept or the principle of solidarity is good in the sense that it is worth having and keeping. Darian also makes the point that solidarity is ‘offensive’ but in a positive sense of the term as it aims to improve the social, political and economic framework. In fact he argues that it is a political desideratum. Trineke also mentions that originally the need for EU integration was argued on the basis of a solidarity of self-interest and it later turned (or might turn) into a solidarity of heart. It is a force for good. Phil, in contrast, appears a bit more sceptical of the benefits of the application of the principle of solidarity and not only in the specific context of the refugee crisis.

Interpersonal solidarity is built on relations between individuals but it does not mean that individuals know each other personally. Rather, they are part of what Darian calls ‘a social object’ such as a nation-state, a linguistic community, a labour union. The question however is whether the social object exists before the formation of the group and is thus the basis of the group or whether the social object is created by individuals. That specific question features in all papers. In this regard, Egle speaks of top-down and bottom-up solidarity. Trineke illustrates the former by showing that solidarity as an emotional belief was used to create European integration whilst Egle mentioned the 3 million campaign as an example of the latter. So, my first question to the panel is: is it a chicken and egg situation? Is it important to understand this process to use the concept of solidarity? Does it matter or shall we only focus on what such solidarity actually produces rather than on its roots or sources?

All speakers also explain that solidarity involves first some form of community and second individuals identifying themselves as belonging to one of these communities. Phil also stresses the importance of loyalty in this context. Egle mentions that ‘all theories on solidarity imply some sort of inclusiveness’. Darian in his paper refers to a community and this ultimately means that there are inclusions and exclusions, membership even, and thus potentially the creation of a ‘we and the others’ culture. So my second question is: Is this demarcation potentially a problem? Put crudely, how could one distinguish between solidarity and nationalism for example? Applied to the EU, does this mean that in fact the principle of solidarity is supporting the building of ‘fortress Europe’ with a view to ensuring stability within the group? This is one of the key points made by Phil in relation to the refugee crisis.

The concept of reciprocity is also another common feature of the papers presented today. More than reciprocity, the discussion seems to focus on an expectation of reciprocity as Darian points out. One might however be disappointed that there is no reciprocity but it does not detract from the point that there is some form of expectation. This is also mentioned in Trineke’s paper who stresses that a number of European politicians have pointed out that solidarity is in reality a discourse about responsibility. So, my third question is: what is the link between solidarity, reciprocity and responsibility? Must members of the group feel or be responsible for what happens to others in that group? What is their relationship with those outside the group?

My last point is about practical solidarity. In other words, when do we recognise that the concept of solidarity must be engaged, must be practiced? When is such solidarity triggered? Egle mentions a number of cases relating to ‘social solidarity’ which are situations whereby an EU national seeks social assistance in another State. Phil refers to the migrant situation in the Mediterranean Sea. So, my last question for this panel is: can we define solidarity by looking at its triggers? In other words, what drives the concept of solidarity into action and what is the reaction created by the trigger?

UWE Bristol’s First Interdisciplinary Symposium on Organised Crime

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On Wednesday 10th October, the Centre for Applied Legal Research will be hosting their first interdisciplinary symposium on organised crime.

The Symposium is endorsed by the Criminal Justice Unit, the International Law and Human Rights Unit, and the Regional History Centre. The Symposium is in association with SOLON Interdisciplinary Studies in Law, Crime and History.

The symposium will be chaired by Senior Lecturer in Organised and Financial Crime in Offshore Financial Centres, Dr Mary Alice Young and Lecturer in History Dr Michael Woodiwiss.

Speakers include: 

• Dr Michael Woodiwiss (History, UWE).

• Dr Anna Markovska (Criminology, Anglia Ruskin).

• Professor Tim Hall (Human Geography and Criminology, Winchester).

• Mr Mark Berry, PhD Researcher, Cardiff University, Trustee for the International Association for the Study of Organised Crime.

• Mr Jonathan Benton, Freelance – Formerly Head of Proceeds of International Corruption Unit and Senior Investigating Officer leading the UK Anti-Corruption Task Force and Proceeds of Corruption Unit.

• Mr Mike Lewis, Freelance – Mike’s work documents and understands the activities of states, individuals, armed groups and companies in armed conflicts and vulnerable economies, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa but also in Northern Europe, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia. More information about Mike Lewis’s research).

The symposium will take place in 4X113 in the Bristol Business School from 9am – 5pm.

The full event agenda can be viewed here. You can register for the event here.

If you have any further questions please email: calr@uwe.ac.uk

Pro bono: Further reflections on the African Prisons Project experience

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One of the many activities the UWE Pro Bono Unit undertakes is the African Prisons Project. The project sees UWE students assisting prisoners and prison warders during their Law studies in Uganda and Kenya. Kathy Brown has previously blogged about the project here. In this post, Kelly Eastham reflects on her experience:

I never thought that I would have spent my summer working in 3 maximum security prisons in Kenya and never did I think that this would be the place that would inspire me the most.

I have had the most unforgettable summer of my life. I thought that my role this summer would be to “teach” but instead I have been taught some serious life lessons and I have learnt far more than I could have possibly taught. I have learnt more about myself in the space of these 2 months than I have my whole life. I have discovered my strengths and weaknesses and new passions and dreams. But most importantly I have learnt to be grateful for all of my blessings and to always remember how good I have it in comparison to those less fortunate.

I have had the pleasure of working with some of the most amazing, selfless and inspiring people I have ever met. They continued to amaze me with their intelligence, their skill, their compassion and their hearts of gold. I am beyond moved by every single inmate and their motivation to achieve a law degree purely to help others with no regard for financial gain. This has been such a shocking contrast to the reality of life as a law student in the UK where money is a key (if not the main) motivator behind a legal career.

It has been heartbreaking to see how much a system has failed so many incredible people and branded them as criminals knowing they would never be in this situation if they were in the UK. It’s devastating to hear their dreadful stories of miscarriages of justice and all the unconstitutional death penalty’s that have been issued to people who are so undeserving but are now on death row for crimes not proportionate to such an outdated form of punishment. But despite all of this wrong doing the inmates all seemed in great spirits and they were all so grateful for the little things. It has been so emotional and almost uncomfortable to receive so much gratitude for simply being a nice human and helping people who are so deserving. For me this highlights how much prison reform really needs to take place if little things such as our support have been so impactful on their life. They deserve so much more help and support and it is frustrating to see how little they receive.

But on a more positive note it has been incredible to see the dignity and hope brought to places where there has previously been none and to take small steps to start improving their life and building up a future for them if they are released. All the work APP are doing has been a HUGE step in the right direction but there is still lots more work to be done. But I am so excited to see the impact of the amazing work we are doing in Africa. Being able to see at first hand the impact of the work we have achieved this year has been so motivating and emotional. I am so honoured to be a part of something that has had such a huge impact on the inmates lives and I cannot wait to continue working with APP. I hope our work continues to help achieve justice in the prison system and provides wrongly convicted inmates with a voice and the knowledge to support themselves and others victims of injustice.

This has been one of the most unforgettable life experience I could ever ask for and I hope all victims achieve the justice they deserve. I am so proud of all of my incredible students and being able to help them grow and develop has been the best thing I have ever done. My last week was full of some of the hardest goodbyes I have had to say and I know I will never forget any of them. Until next time Africa 🌍✈️