- Coming up this Friday and Saturday Mar. 27-28 in D.C., Federalist Society holds star-filled conference on Treaties and National Sovereignty at George Washington University [Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz]
- Trade agreements are being promoted as extending progressive labor and environmental policies around the globe, hmmm [Simon Lester, related] Courts in European nations urged to use Charter to promote affirmative welfare rights, strike down laws liberalizing labor markets [Council of Europe]
- “Croatian-Serb war offenses litigated under Illinois and Virginia conversion/trespass tort law” [Volokh]
- “Did the Supreme Court Implicitly Reverse Kiobel’s Corporate Liability Holding?” [Julian Ku]
- “There Is No National Home for Art” (Kwame Anthony Appiah on cultural patrimony and antiquities repatriation, NYT “Room for Debate”, related Ku on Elgin Marbles; my take on the collectible-coin angle; earlier here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, etc.]
- British government alleges human rights lawyers continued to pursue claims against British military over Iraq even after evidence of probable falsity emerged [Telegraph]
- Treaties the Senate has blocked tend to be aspirational fantasies [Ted Bromund]
Yet another occasion to note that what passes for human rights advocacy is often nothing of the sort: famous “human rights barrister” Amal Clooney, alas, appears to be arguing the speech-suppressive side of a high-profile freedom of speech case. [Telegraph]
More, and clarification: Walter Katz responds, condensed from Twitter, to a Ted Frank tweet characterizing Clooney as having sided against speech: “This completely misrepresents Clooney’s role. Turkey was not a party to the initial prosecution at the initial ECHR appeal, Turkey did appear and basically argued there was no genocide to deny. The ECHR opinion was ambiguous about the genocide factual question. It is that specific issue which Armenia is challenging, i.e. court, don’t buy Turkey that there was no genocide. Armenia’s argument has little to do with the free expression issue.” Cite: Asbarez.com.
My response, again patched together and condensed from Twitter: My reading of the Asbarez coverage: Clooney’s co-counsel Geoff Robertson, from the same “human rights” law firm Doughty Street Chambers, argued pro-conviction on frank anti-speech grounds. If she left the pro-censorship advocacy to her law partner and handled only a narrower issue — I hope because she disagrees with him! — then, yes, a point in her favor. Update: this video does show her approximately six-minute speech focusing on the “setting the record straight” issue and on Turkish government hypocrisy. Whatever this may or may not illuminate about Clooney’s personal involvement, the coverage in both the Telegraph and Asbarez makes it hard for me to go along with the idea that either Armenia’s role or Robertson’s arguments on its behalf have “little to do with the free expression issue.”
Ted Frank’s response, once more condensed: “The story says she is ‘defending the conviction.’ Armenia’s role in the case is arguing for reinstatement of conviction. [Citing Clooney’s comments about not aiming to restrict free speech is] putting too much weight on a self-serving disingenuous throwaway line. ‘Free speech but’ not free speech.”
Full hearing video here.
- In Britain, Conservative Party proposes pullback from involvement in European Convention on Human Rights [BBC, Telegraph with more coverage, Isabel Hardman/Spectator, Economist, Jon Holbrook/Spiked, Adam Smith Institute, Dominic Grieve/Prospect, Basak Cali/OJ]
- Lessons of forgotten debates in U.S. history: “Constitutional problems with international courts” [Eugene Kontorovich]
- “The United Nations is also pressuring countries, particularly Japan, to enact anti-hate speech laws.” [Elizabeth Nolan Brown]
- “How the Supreme Court Has Limited Foreign Disputes from Flooding U.S. Courts” [George T. Conway III, John Bellinger III, R. Reeves Anderson, and James Stengel for the Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform via D&O Diary]
- Why U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child would be pointless [Julian Ku/OJ]
- “I despise North Korea human rights violations as much as anyone, but I’m skeptical that US tort system is answer.” [@tedfrank on Twitter; D.C. Circuit opinion in Kim v. DPRK]
- Critique of international human rights treaties as having done little to reduce abuses of rights [Eric Posner, The Guardian] Some human rights clinics at law schools like Yale “are very close to pure political advocacy groups” [Julian Ku on another Posner article]
Great moments in international human rights law: “The European Court of Human Rights says France violated the rights of Somali pirates who had attacked French ships and has ordered compensation for them over judicial delays. The nine Somali pirates should get thousands of euros because they were not immediately brought before a French judge, the court ruled.” [BBC via Eugene Kontorovich]
[reposted from Cato at Liberty]
Economic sanctions, when they have an effect at all, tend to inflict misery on a targeted region’s civilian populace and often drive it further into dependence on violent overlords. That truism will surprise few libertarians, but apparently it still comes as news to many in Washington, to judge from the reaction to this morning’s front-page Washington Post account of the humanitarian fiasco brought about by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law’s “conflict minerals” provisions. According to reporter Sudarsan Raghavan, these provisions “set off a chain of events that has propelled millions of [African] miners and their families deeper into poverty.” As they have lost access to their regular incomes, some of these miners have even enlisted with the warlord militias that were the law’s targets.
Congress added the provisions to Dodd-Frank in a fit of moral self-congratulation over making sure Americans had the chance to be ethical and thoughtful consumers of such products as jewelry and cellphones (as well as thousands of other products, as it turned out, from auto parts to the foil in food packaging). Publicly held companies would be required to report on their supply connections to “conflict minerals” such as tin, tungsten, and gold mined in war-torn areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lawmakers assigned enforcement of the law to the Securities and Exchange Commission – a body with scant discernible expertise in either African geopolitics or metallurgy – and barbed it with stringent penalties for disclosure violations, to which are added possible liability in class-action shareholder lawsuits.
Reactions to this morning’s Post account frequently employ words like “unintended” or “tragic” to describe the effect on miners of the law, which people in the Congo soon came to call “Loi Obama” – “Obama’s law”. Unintended and tragic? Maybe. But not unforeseen, because the signs that the law would backfire this way have been in plain sight for years now – as in this 2011 account by Prof. Laura Seay (via) of how “electronics companies now have a strong incentive to source minerals elsewhere, leaving Congolese miners unemployed.” Or this 2011 account by David Aronson in the New York Times of the “unintended and devastating consequences” that he “saw firsthand on a trip to eastern Congo.” Or this more recent paper by law professor Marcia Narine.
But although the evidence has been there for years, the will to believe in the law was too strong – a will fueled by anti-corporate campaigners who take it on faith that when brutalities in the underdeveloped world occur within two or three degrees of separation of the activities of multinational businesses, the right answer must be to blame and shame the businesses.
You might call it an expensive lesson for Americans too, if you assume that anything has been learned. A recent Tulane calculation found that the costs in business compliance have already topped $700 million, with billions more ahead should nothing change. Just this September, the U.S. government conceded that it “does not have the ability to distinguish” which refiners and smelters around the globe are tainted by a connection to militia groups. That is to say, the government has demanded of business a degree of certainty that it cannot achieve itself. Courtesy of UCLA corporate law professor Stephen Bainbridge, here’s a flowchart of what complying might involve for a given business.
If the new Republican Congress wants to be taken seriously about fixing counterproductive regulation, it should make the repeal of this law an early priority. (& Bader)
A bankruptcy judge has dismissed a purported human-rights theory outré enough to have drawn interest from both the United Nations and American legal academia, saying the law guarantees no right to draw water from the Detroit municipal system for free or at rates dependent on ability to pay [Detroit News; Aaron Renn/City Journal and more]
The U.S. government has conceded that it can’t actually tell “which refiners and smelters around the world are financially fueling violence in the war-torn Congo region.” However, under a law passed by Congress in a fit of moral self-congratulation, publicly held companies are still going to be subject to stringent penalties for disclosure violations if they screw up on the reporting of these ultimately untraceable connections. Time for repeal [Bainbridge, Emily Chasan/WSJ CFO Journal blog; earlier] Update: Cost of disclosure reported by Tulane study at $700 million [Bainbridge]
“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 12-6 in favor of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.” I’ve outlined the insuperable problems with the CRPD on many occasions, e.g. here (see also here, here, etc.). It’s not clear why Sens. Robert Dole and John McCain would think the best way to honor American military veterans is to yield up U.S. sovereignty over large swaths of domestic governance. [Reuters]
- While Bond v. U.S. ruling was a letdown, notably absent was a liberal concurrence defending broad treaty power against critique of Thomas, Scalia et al [Noah Feldman, Bloomberg View, Peter Spiro/Opinio Juris, Julian Ku and John Yoo, David Golove And Marty Lederman]
- Think before you ratify: in controlled experiment, framing proposed change in domestic law as “required by human rights treaty” boosted support especially among Republicans [Spiro/OJ; more on international human rights treaties here]
- Sen. Ted Cruz publishes “Limits To the Treaty Power” in Harvard Law Review Forum [FedSoc Blog, Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz]
- “The Ever Expanding Role of Trade Agreements: Human Rights” [Simon Lester, Cato]
- EU brass, reformist NGOs insisted that Romania shut down international adoption. Too bad what happened then [Meghan Collins Sullivan/World Affairs Journal, Stephen Beale/National Catholic Register]
- UK plaintiff’s firm Leigh Day helping Caribbean nations in reparations suit against UK [Telegraph, related]
- Not so liberal: Russia cites U.N. Convention on Rights of the Child in rationalizing anti-gay legislation [Box Turtle Bulletin; related on illiberal treaty applications in internet censorship (related), marijuana (related, earlier)]
Decent articles on Stand Your Ground in the general press are relatively few, being far outnumbered by those that are sensationalist, axe-grinding or simply uninformed. So it’s nice to be able to recommend this one by Peter Jamison in the Tampa Bay Times [via Jacob Sullum].
In other news, a United Nations panel in Geneva monitoring compliance with international human rights law has questioned a wide range of United States domestic policies, including some states’ adoption of Stand Your Ground as well as lack of gun control and other offenses. “The committee is charged with upholding the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a UN treaty that the US ratified in 1992.” Another reminder that treaties have consequences, and that ratification of other purported human rights treaties, such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD), would not be without public consequences relating to many domestic policies. [Guardian]