Panel Discussion with Christian Dadomo, Dr Clair Gammage and Dr Maria Garcia: Brexit and Trade Relations

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The talk was organised by the lecturers of the module ‘EU Law’ offered to Year 3 students and the International Law and Human Rights Unit of the Centre for Applied Legal Research.

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.




Guest Talk – Dr Lorenzo Pasculli: The Impact of Brexit on Integrity and Corruption: Local and Global Challenges

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The talk was organised by the Commercial Law Unit and the International Law and Human Rights Unit on behalf of the Centre for Applied Legal Research.

On 14 February 2018 Dr Lorenzo Pasculli, Senior Lecturer in Law at Kingston University London challenged the audience to look at Brexit through the prism of corruption. No doubt this was an insightful and out of the ordinary guest talk for those who suffer from Brexit fatigue.

Dr Pasculli started by explaining that since Brexit or anything similar has never happened before it is difficult to find a theoretical framework to reveal what the consequences of Brexit will be on corruption. That being said, Dr Pasculli stressed that in his opinion Brexit has and will have an impact on integrity at a variety of levels as well as anti-corruption laws and policies.

In relation to integrity, the impact of Brexit can be felt in three areas: political, financial and commercial as well as systemic social. Dr Pasculli explained that the impact of Brexit on political integrity can be analysed at both macro- (ie public bodies, corporations and the media) and micro-level (ie individuals working in the public service) on the one hand and from an internal (ie British politics) and external (eg foreign affairs as well as other States) perspective. This risk factors relating to political integrity are chiefly due to the multiple and complex interests which create division as well as confusion and so mistrust that is amplified by what Dr Pasculli calls, ‘the wrong choice of decision-making device’ which was the referendum. At the internal micro-level there has always been a solid tradition of political integrity even when there were conflicts between personal views and the views of the party. The risk here is that if individuals externalise their dissent they might be reprimanded or marginalised for doing this (as it happened in some recent case). This might lead to the repression of pluralism and dissent. At the internal macro-level, the UK which is often viewed as the beacon of the rule of law is performing very poorly as politicians with undermined integrity did not explain the complexity of the issues and certain lobbying and media stained the Leave campaign of misinformation. Dr Pasculli pointed out that the lack of regulation of the British press exacerbated the influence of lobbies on certain press. The dearth of effective sanctions facilitates partisan press and political misinformation. Further the lack of mechanisms for politicians to step back, apologise for and correct the effect of misinformation on the general public (eg £350 million for the NHS campaign) undermines political integrity. Overall this atmosphere has led to (1) a phenomenon of deresponsabilisation; (2) reliance on emotions rather than reason and information when law and politics should be based on rationality, reasonableness and evidence; (3) general deterioration of political integrity and standing. The consequences of Brexit on external politics (outside the UK) should not be underestimated too. Discussions were had on possible emulations in the form of Grexit and Exitaly but they did not materialise. Most importantly Brexit has strengthened the global trends of populism and nationalism that clearly undermine political integrity as voters are given information that is not built and/or supported by evidence. Brexit, in other words, nurture the global trend of irrationality. After Dr Pasculli argued that this erosion of political integrity leads to ‘legalised forms of corruption’ (eg press being lobbied and lack of regulation of the press) he called for a widening of the definition of corruption in line with the anti-corruption convention. He highlighted the revolving door appointments as an example of lawful practice and stressed that research shows a disconnection between what people believe is unlawful and the actual regulation of particular activities. Dr Pasculli explained we should seize Brexit as an opportunity to raise awareness about these problems as well as ensure a better responsabilisation of certain politicians. Both internal and external pressure can be used to persuade the UK to adopt necessary regulatory measures.

Dr Pasculli then moved on to examine the impact of Brexit on financial and commercial corruption. Dr Pasculli started by explaining that the UK government has clearly explained that the UK will leave the single market even though the EU market is crucial. The conditions imposed by the European Union to the UK in relation to market access might be viewed by the general public as unreasonable and unfair. Such a perception could lead to a violation of legal rules, for there is a tendency to the rationalisation of corrupt practices when the law is seen as useless and/or unfair. This inevitably creates a subculture that encourages corruption more generally. Furthermore, Dr Pasculli observed that as the UK is looking to negotiate trade agreements with non-EU States it must be wary of such business opportunities. First a number of such countries do not comply with anti-money laundering and anti-corruption regulations. Second, companies might have to use corruption in order to pursue their business activities in corrupt-ridden countries. Looking at the countries mentioned by the UK government as potential business partners it is clear that the UK is looking at doing business in places that are high on the corruption index of Transparency International. In other words, British companies are going to move the trade to an environment which is more corrupt. As Dr Pasculli stressed, there is a need to raise awareness about this potential corruption threat. Nonetheless it might be possible to view these business opportunities in a positive light and argue that British companies could become exporters of good practices, strengthening the rule of law and global governance in these countries and more particularly in the Commonwealth.

In relation to systemic social integrity Dr Pasculli noted that the UK government is supporting high-skilled migration only. This, he believed, is extremely short-sighted. Research shows that corruption causes emigration, particularly of high-skilled migrants looking for opportunities in other countries as they are unable to move on in their home country. This however does not necessarily mean that high skilled migrants are immune to corruption. On the contrary studies demonstrate that immigration from corrupt countries boosts corruption in destination countries. As a result, Dr Pasculli suggested that to avoid the spread of corruption in the UK thorough background checks at the port of entry need to be carried out.

Is the UK continuing to be a global example in relation to anti-corruption practices? Dr Pasculli began by asserting that the UK has often been used as a model for anti-money laundering and anti-corruption measures and policies. The possibility of deregulation once outside the European Union might be viewed as a threat to the excellent contemporary regulation. Whilst some scholars argue that Brexit is a distraction from the anti-corruption agenda, Dr Pasculli contended that this is not necessarily the case. In fact in the past year a variety of institutions (eg the International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre, the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision) have been set up and strategies (eg anti-corruption strategy) and laws (Criminal Finances Act 2017, implementation of the fourth money-laundering directive) drafted and adopted.

Brexit will also have an impact on UK financial sanctions which could potentially lead to an increase in corruption and money-laundering practices. Dr Pasculli first observed that financial sanctions are imposed on individuals in relation to their access to financial assets and services and are imposed with a view to pursue specific foreign and national security policies. Then Dr Pasculli noted that at the moment such sanctions can be imposed by the United Nations Security Council, the European Union (often in implementation of UN Security Council resolutions) and the UK Office of Financial Sanctions. After Brexit there will be no need for the UK to comply with the EU sanctions regime anymore. Dr Pasculli underlined that the new Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill 2017-2019 endows the executive with large powers for a broad range of purposes (eg fighting measures that challenge the rule of law). Further, it is flanked by weak individual safeguards such as ex post judicial review and no jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union (which had in the Kadi case protected individuals’ human rights against the application of UN Security Council resolutions). Post-Brexit the UK will not be able to sit in EU meetings that relate to sanctions and as its strong voice on sanctions usually gathered support from other Member States it is argued that that without the UK taking part in such discussions divisions amongst EU member States might show more prominently. That being said if the UK imposes sanctions that are not aligned to other States it will feel the pressure of other States as well as companies that are trading in such States. This in turn might increase the potential for corruption.

Last but not least Dr Pasculli stressed that as the UK will be drafting a new raft of laws it must be careful that such laws are not providing opportunities for corruption and crime. Criminogenic lawmaking is indeed a potential risk post-Brexit with new schemes and laws being designed and individuals as well as companies finding ways to abuse or misuse such schemes (eg welfare benefit, taxes/fees/obligations, access to goods and services). Such potential for corruption is heightened if broad regulatory powers are given to authorities.

Looking forward Dr Pasculli shared with the audience his recommendations: (1) there must be some form of responsabilisation of politicians and companies, (2) education and ethicisation are key to maintaining integrity in public affairs, (3) ‘corruption proofing’ of legislation must become an established practice, (4) external controls must be increased.


Centre for Applied Legal Research to present at SLSA Conference 2018 

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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.

Guest Talk: Adam Reuben – Climate Refugees: The Science, the People, the Jurisprudence and the Future

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In October 2017 Fores, an independent think tank dedicated to furthering entrepreneurship and sustainable development through liberal solutions to meet the challenges and possibilities brought on by globalisation and global warming, published a report entitled ‘Climate Refugees: The Science, the People, the Jurisprudence and the Future’. On 18 October, one of the authors of the report, Adam Reuben, a former LLM in International law student, came to UWE to present the key findings of the report as well as his latest research on the topic of climate refugees in the European context. The talk was organised by the International Law and Human Rights Unit of the Centre for Applied Legal Research.

The study examines the most important aspects of climate migration issues as comprehensively as possible, and strives to identify the significance and magnitude of possible climate migration flows. Adam started by explaining that there are mainly four triggers to climate migration: rapid-onset climate events, slow-onset climate events, global sea-level rise, and competition and conflict over natural resources.

Rapid-onset climate events include for example floods, hurricanes and earthquakes and lead to mostly temporary displacement of the population. Such events have a push and pull factor in the sense that the population is not only pushed out of a place but also pulled inside the zone as in some instances such climate events have in the long-term created favourable conditions for eg agriculture, tourism.

Slow-onset climate events occur over time and include droughts, degradation, loss of biodiversity, and problems with access to food and water. Here, migration can be both temporary and permanent and a plethora of causes of migration can be identified. In this regard two issues need to be addressed: food security and water scarcity. Slow-onset climate events have created volatility in the market and disruption of food systems; yet, the effects on agriculture affects different regions and different types of cultures in varied manner. As Adam pointed out even if the Paris Agreement is complied with the sub-Saharan area will see a loss of 40% in maze crops. With regard to water-related issues, Adam explained that 40% of the world population experiences water shortage for at least a month a year and that 25% of the population lives in countries affected by chronic or recurring shortage of fresh water. Although the right to water has been recognised as a human right and is included in the sustainable development goals as well as in some national constitutions, little progress has been made. Adam stressed that water is not only used for human needs but is also an asset as such.

Global sea-level rise is a further trigger for climate migration. It is estimated that during the 20th century the sea level has risen by 6 cm owing to climate change. Low-lying coastal zones that include 600 million people are the most vulnerable to this phenomenon. Such rise not only affects the life and livelihoods of individuals but also challenges maritime borders, thus creating potential territorial conflicts.

This led him to discuss competition and conflict over natural resources as another trigger for climate migration. For example, water scarcity increases national instability and food scarcity may cause conflicts over land. It is often argued that the conflicts in Darfur and in Syria are examples of climate conflicts but there is no agreed consensus in the literature as to whether climate change can be isolated as the sole cause of conflict. In other words climate change contributes to conflicts and to migration but it is problematic to identify it as the cause.

It is difficult to estimate the number of climate refugees. Estimations range from 150 million to 1 billion though it seems that a consensus has emerged that by 2050 there will be over 200 million climate refugees. Adam highlighted the fact that there are marked regional differences of disaster displacement and this is partially due to the fact that there are rapid- and slow-onset climate events. At this stage Adam emphasised the fact that there is some wrangling about legal terminology here, notably the distinction between environmental and climate change refugees. This is compounded by the fact that reference is made to climate change, natural disaster and man-made disaster. Further, whilst some individuals cross the borders and are thus refugees in the sense of the 1951 Geneva Convention others do not and are thus considered as internally displaced persons. Adam stressed that international law does not recognise the concept of climate refugees which are usually defined as

‘… those people who have been forced to leave their traditional habitat, temporarily or permanently, because of marked environmental disruption (natural and/or triggered by people) that jeopardised their existence and/or seriously affect the quality of their life.’

From an international law perspective climate refugees fall between two categories: those protected as refugees and those protected as economic migrants. In other words there is currently no legal framework to protect such individuals.


Adam then sought to examine the relevant legal regimes, i.e. international environmental law, refugee law, migration law and human rights law. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Agreements rarely refer to climate migration (see e.g. COP 16, 18 and 21) and the Paris Agreement makes a vague reference to such migration. But is the UNFCCC the relevant forum to address the issue of climate migration? The UN High Commissioner for Refugees rejects the expansion of its mandate to consider climate migration. That being said it operates on the basis of ‘climate change hotspots’ to somehow fill the gap. So, by not isolating climate change as the sole cause of displacement, UNHCR is able to protect such individuals. Interestingly, Adam pointed out that the International Migration Office was at the forefront of the work on the protection of climate refugees having produced excellent studies on the subject-matter. Also the Nansen Initiative produced in 2015 an Agenda for the Protection of Cross-Border Displaced Persons in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change. From a human rights perspective there appears to be some form of protection offered to climate refugees but mainly only because they fall within other categories such as refugees and displaced persons. Most importantly the principle of non-refoulement, the cornerstone of the 1951 Geneva Convention, has been read into human rights instruments via the prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment. At this juncture Adam explained how the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights could be used to protect climate refugees, arguing that as the Convention is a ‘living instrument which […] must be interpreted in light of present day-conditions’ it could potentially provide an adequate legal framework for protection.

Last but not least Adam considered the issue of climate refugees in the European Union. He contended that climate refugees are not legally recognised by the EU and that it is not possible to interpret existing legislation so that it incorporates climate refugees. Various studies and papers refer to climate refugees but no clear strategy can be discerned as of now. Rather, an incoherent and piecemeal approach seems to be the preferred approach of the EU.

The discussion that ensued covered a wide range of themes. First, the issue of terminology was raised and especially why and whether terminology was of such importance. The concept of forced environmental migrant seemed to be accepted by the audience as probably most suitable to describe a variety of persons affected by climate change events. Second, the interaction of the various legal regimes and where the protection of climate refugees would sit best was discussed at length, especially in light of the doctrine of State responsibility that requires harm to be linked to a State or a State actor. Third and last the discussion veered towards the European Union’s approach towards climate refugees. It was notably pointed out that given that Member States had territories overseas that were liable to climate events the topic of climate refugees could become quickly an issue of concern for the EU.


CALR Forum: Does and Should International Law Prohibit the Prosecution of Children for War Crimes?

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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.


CALR Forum: Brexit, Article 50 TEU and the British Constitution

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Brexit: A word that one cannot escape reading newspapers, watching the TV or listening to the radio. It is literally everywhere. Yet, what it means in legal terms is often misunderstood and its repercussions on the legal, and notably constitutional, framework in the United Kingdom overseen. Therefore, on 22 February 2017 the Centre for Applied Legal Research organised its first Forum of the academic year 2016/2017 on the subject. Three staff members of the Bristol Law School, Christian Dadomo, Martina Gillen and Noëlle Quénivet, shared their views about Brexit, Article 50 TEU and the British Constitution, whilst offering an international, European and national legal perspective on the Brexit debate.

By way of introduction Noëlle Quénivet explained the legal bases of the European Union, ie treaties, stressing the concept of State sovereignty and the importance of understanding that both the ratification of and the withdrawal from a treaty are to be viewed as acts of sovereignty. She then explained that it was the Treaty of Lisbon that for the first time proscribed a withdrawal procedure in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. Noëlle Quénivet described the process from the notification of withdrawal to the ratification of the withdrawal agreement by the UK, highlighting the various stages at which the European institutions are and will be involved and underlining the difference between the legal requirements in national and European Union law. Reference was also made to the potential content of a withdrawal agreement (eg budgetary matters, institutional issues, the situation of non-UK EU citizens in the UK and of UK nationals in EU States, etc).

Following on the idea of sovereignty that has so much been reiterated in the campaign leading to the referendum, Christian Dadomo delved into the multitude of types of sovereignty: parliamentary sovereignty, popular sovereignty and external or otherwise known as State sovereignty. After stressing that parliamentary sovereignty should be better understood as the primacy of Parliament in respect of statutes he showed the interaction and tensions between parliamentary and popular sovereignty, especially in light of the Brexit referendum. Furthermore, the relationship between the devolved authorities and the central government will be affected, as some of them after voting to remain in the EU would like a space at the negotiations table but have been denied so legally (with the Miller judgment before the UK Supreme Court) and politically. Christian Dadomo concluded by stating that Brexit will undoubtedly shake the constitutional legal edifice of the UK.

Martina Gillen opined that Brexit will have serious repercussions on the UK Constitution and more specifically on the relationship between Westminster and the devolved regions. As she explained Northern Ireland is a case-example of how poorly thought the referendum was. Brexit will affect both the relationship between Northern Ireland and Westminster as well as between Northern Ireland and Eire and has already had the effect of reigniting nationalist Irish feelings, especially in regions that voted to remain in the EU. She then examined in details the McCord decision before the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland, highlighting that the ruling was not a surprise as the claimants had not asked the right question (they asked whether Northern Ireland as a devolved authority could take part in the Brexit negotiations) and should have focused on the fact that persons born in Northern Ireland can take either British or Irish nationality and that Brexit would in fact deny equality of treatment for those who choose Irish nationality.

The CALR Forum was attended by over 20 students and staff members from the UWE Bristol Law School. After each presentation questions were taken from the floor and a lively and insightful debate often beyond the narrower scope of the speakers’ presentation ensued. There were thus discussions on the withdrawal from the European Economic Area Agreement, the impact of the Dublin regulation on EU border States, the nature (and fate) of EU law in English law, the potential continued jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union, etc.

The next CALR Forum which will be held on Wednesday 1 March, 14:00-16:00 in Room 2B065. Noëlle Quénivet will be presenting a paper on the prosecution of child soldiers for war crimes that has recently been accepted for publication in the European Journal of International Law. Dr Alison Bisset, Associate Professor at the School of Law of the University of Reading, will respond to the paper.

The Centre for Applied Legal Research Annual Lecture with Tunde Okewale MBA

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Bristol Law School was joined by Tunde Okewale MBE for the Centre for Applied Legal Research (CALR) Annual Lecture on 9th February 2017.

Tunde, a barrister specialising in criminal defence at Doughty Street Chambers, is the recipient of numerous awards for his efforts to promote diversity within the legal profession. In 2016 he was awarded an MBE for his charitable work. He is the founder of the charity Urban Lawyers, a social empowerment project designed to educate, engage and stimulate discussion amongst young people in relation to Law. He’s also considered to be the most followed barrister on Instagram and his court room dress has even caught the attention of GQ magazine.

He delivered an energising address entitled ‘Nobody Rises to Low Expectations’ to an audience of staff, students and members of the Bristol community. Recounting his own journey, Tunde spoke about perseverance and responding to challenge in order to reach our goals. Following the talk Tunde, and event organiser Dr Zainab Khan were interviewed by Ujima Radio who were keen to hear about the Faculty’s commitment to diversity and raising attainment. The Law School looks forward to hosting Tunde again in the near future.

Photos from the event can be found here.

Centre for Applied Legal Research Annual Lecture: Tunde Okewale – Thurs 9 February

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Join us on Thursday 09 February for the Centre for Applied Legal Research’s Annual Lecture with Tunde Okewale.

To register please see here.

Tunde Okewale MBE (Doughty Street Chambers) is the recipient of numerous awards for his contribution to social justice and inclusion. In 2016 Tunde was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. He was named Diversity Champion at the UK Diversity Legal Awards in 2014.

Tunde is the founder of Urban Lawyers, a charitable initiative designed to educate, engage and stimulate discussion amongst young people in relation to law. The organisation provides information to disaffected young people and communities, as well as providing information and opportunities about how to secure work and/or experience in the legal profession.

Tunde grew up in a council estate in Hackney, East London. Tunde is the eldest of four children and was the first person in his family to attend university and obtain a degree. He is passionately committed to promoting diversity and widening participation within the professions.

Alongside the accolades for his charitable work, Tunde has attracted considerable interest from the media for his unique style. He has been the feature of GQ articles and is considered to be the most followed barrister on Instagram.

Having been called to the Bar in 2009 he has established a practice in General Crime, Serious Crime and Extradition. He also specialises in Sports Law and is a Registered Lawyer under The FA Football Agents Regulations.

Tunde was involved in the Griffiths Trust ‘Hush The Guns’ Project in Kingston Jamaica in 2009, and was also commissioned by the Jamaican and Canadian Government to facilitate workshops for disaffected youths.

The event is free to attend but you must register a place. To register please see here. The event will be held in the ECC on Frenchay Campus.