Law Literature and Humanities Association Conference – Public Art, Public Law?

Our 2016 LIRC Visiting PhD Scholar, Laura Petersen, is one of the organisers of the 2017 Law Literature and Humanities Association Conference, to be held in Melbourne in December. She is also organising a stream called Public Art Public Law, with Dr Olivia Barr. They welcome scholars from diverse disciplines such as public art, jurisprudence, art history, visual cultures, history, Indigenous studies, geography, memory studies, cultural studies, architecture, criminology and any other interested areas. Proposals for panels or individual proposals or expressions of other ideas need to be submitted by 30 June 2017. For more details click image of flyer below:

Supporting the Unification of Refugee Families (SURF)

 

LAUNCH OF SURF – Supporting the Unification of Refugee Families

Please click to enlarge view

Supporting the Unification of Refugee Families (SURF) is a collaborative project between UOW’s Legal Intersection Research Centre, Wollongong City Council and Illawarra Multicultural Services that links law students with refugee families to provide volunteer assistance with family reunification.

The launch of this wonderful project will be held on 6pm, Friday 12 May at the Hope Theatre. The launch will include a screening of the acclaimed documentary ‘Constance on the Edge’, followed by a Q&A with a panel of speakers.

Please click here to RSVP by WEDNESDAY 9 MAY 2017

 

Law, Crisis and the Cultural Imaginary in Weimar Germany (1919-1933) – LIRC Seminar Presented by Dr Stephen Howe

12.30-1.30pm, 12 April 2017 Building 67, Room 202, University of Wollongong

The image of Weimar Germany as a ‘crisis culture’ has long-since taken root in the popular historical consciousness. Emerging from the crucible of war and revolution, and pockmarked by erratic patterns of cultural experimentation, economic turmoil and political flux, Germany’s first republic is frequently styled as a single prolonged moment of trauma and transformation that enveloped social life. The perception of crisis was widespread among contemporaries and found resonance not only in cultural media but also across the disciplines of economics, history, philosophy and medicine. In law, too, it was similarly pervasive – while socialists and liberals denounced the politically-driven practices of the courts, giving rise to what was publicly referred to as a ‘crisis of confidence in the judiciary’, legal theorists debated the ‘crisis of law’ that attended the radical transition to constitutional-social democracy.

Scholarship on such issues has to date tended to privilege disputes between legal luminaries and high- profile politicians, or to focus on discussions in the journalistic press. Yet the cultural texts of the era – literature, theatre, art, film – are also remarkable for the wealth and variety of their depictions of legal concerns. More than mere representations, these texts invite analysis as a form of popular jurisprudence that fosters new opportunities for productive negotiations of the contemporary crisis of law and justice outside the parameters of legal procedure, politics and academia. The aim here will be to survey the contours of this cultural discourse via analysis of a series of exemplary narratives that not only put the institutions of law and order in Germany on trial, but which also circulate back into the popular imagination as a point of reference for thinking about the stakes of law and crime.

Dr Steven Howe is a Senior Teaching & Research Fellow at the University of Lucerne in Switzerland. He is also a Visiting Research Fellow with the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra.

For more information and to register your attendance, please visit the LIRC website.

W(h)ither Feminist Legal Theory? A Retrospective – LIRC Seminar Presented by Susan Boyd

12.30-1.30pm, 15 March 2017, Building 67, Room 202, University of Wollongong

This paper reviews shifts and trends in feminist legal theory since the 1980s and is based on a work in progress. By 1990, the field of feminist legal theory was well established but it also was undergoing numerous challenges. An appreciation of the complexity of women’s inequality and the intersecting nature of oppressions, along with the influence of poststructuralism, prompted the trend away from universalizing theories focused on gender and law or “the state”. Less publication space is now devoted to works exploring more abstract questions about feminist legal theory per se than was true in the 1980s and the 1990s, as grand theories about the sources of, and remedies for, women’s oppression were challenged, fragmented, and sometimes dismantled. That said, the insights of feminist legal theory continue to be relevant, even if less space is devoted to overarching questions such as the roots of inequality. Moreover, feminist legal thought often takes the form of praxis or “applied” theory because it uses theory to critically assess practical areas of activity or law reform. Even as feminists have subjected new fields of law to critical analysis, many topics of long standing interest to feminism continue to sustain interest. This retrospective offers examples from the author’s own work as well as the journal Social & Legal Studies and focuses on themes such as Strategic Engagement, Intersectionality, Women or Gender, and Choice and Constraint. Recent calls for a return to a focus on socialist or materialist feminism and the nature of the state are assessed.

Susan B. Boyd is Professor Emerita at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She is also a Visiting Professorial Fellow with the Legal Intersections Research Centre at the University of Wollongong.

For more information and to register your attendance, please visit the LIRC website or see the Events page.

 

‘Lives Lived with Law’ Law Text Culture Volume 20 (2016) – and Call for Proposals

‘Lives Lived with Law’ Law Text Culture Volume 20 (2016) 

Edited by Ann Genovese, Shaun McVeigh and Peter D. Rush University of Melbourne Law School

The 2016 edition of Law Text Culture, ‘Lives Lived with Law’, edited by Ann Genovese, law-text-culture-lircShaun McVeigh and Peter D. Rush  of the University of Melbourne Law School has just been published. Volume 20 grew out of a symposium and workshop held by the Legal Biographies Project of the Institute for International Law and the Humanities at the University of Melbourne Law School in December 2014.

Legal Biographies, as constituted through this project, considers the way in which the legal self is shaped, and how, in turn, that self becomes responsible for law. The editors have coined a new term – jurisography – to  comprehend an expanded jurisprudence that is shaped beyond the limits of ‘jurist, judge and jurisprudent’ to also consider the ‘fragmentary sources and forms of jurisprudence that people live with everyday’ that constitutes this form of biography. The jurisographer engages in the ‘studied acknowledgment of the relational duties of the writer and the jurisprudent, and the experiences of a life lived with law’ (p2).

How that acknowledgement is shaped opens the collection, which begins with a conversation between John Docker and Ann Genovese ‘Places Lived: An Ego-Histoiriste and Jurisographer Discuss Living with Law in Sydney’, as a preface for the concerns of place and the position of the scholar in Australia. John Docker, the Australian literary scholar and historian, and friend and mentor of Ann Genovese, in ‘Of Pearls and Coral: Jurisography and Ego History’ engages with the productive capacity of jurisography to expose and critically engage with law. Ann Genovese, in ‘About Libraries: A Jurisographer’s Notes on Lives Lived with Law (in London and Sydney)’, reveals something of the scholar, and her exploration of the modes of training that shaped her work as a feminist jurisographer, and the telling of lost lives and stories in law through her engagement with Mr and Mrs MacKenzie, and their role in the formation of a proto-feminist legality in Australia.

Kim Rubenstein’s article  ‘Alive in the Telling’: Trailblazing Women Lawyers’ Lives, Lived with Law’ continues the thematic of self and the examination of a lives lived in law, through her account of the extraordinary legal life of her much older cousin, Peg Lusink, the daughter of the more celebrated Joan Rosanove. Deploying the dramaturgical device of the ‘nodal knot’ Marett Leiboff engages with lives in law past to animate concerns about law now, in ‘Theatricalising Law in Three, 1929-1939 (Brisbane)’. Julie Evans explores lawful relations associated with indigenous people in Victoria, theatricalised through ‘The Ethos of the Historian: The Minutes of Evidence Project, and Lives Lived with Law on the Ground’. Indigenous scholar C.F. Black  considers the harms done to indigenous lives in law based on the continuation of past injustice, drawing on the land   in ‘On Lives Lived With Law: Land as Healer’. Shaun McVeigh examines the concept of office and the role and responsibility of the jurisprudent, through an encounter and response towards an exhibition of indigenous objects at the British Museum in ‘Jurisprudent of London: Arts of Association’. Peter Rush concludes the collection with his photo-essay ‘the forensic precinct – notes on the public address of law’ that considers the ways in which lives lived with law are enfolded in the courts and the city, through a practice of visual ethnography. This visual curating of a jurisprudence of place and self in law is also captured in Peter Rush’s photograph  that forms the cover image of Volume 20.

The next issue of Law Text Culture Volume 21 (2017) is being edited by Professor Chris Tomlins from UC Berkeley Law. Professor Tomlins is a renowned legal historian. The issue is entitled“Law As …”:  Minor Jurisprudence in Historical Key’ and will be available late in 2017 or early in 2018.

Call for proposals for Volume 22 (2018)

Law Text Culture is seeking proposals from potential guest editors to edit Volume 22 of the journal, to be published in 2018. Details about the application process can be found on the journal site, as well as information for guest editors.

Next Deadline for Proposals

30 May 2017 for Volume 22 (due for publication in 2018)

Information about the journal and its scope and purpose can be found here, along with links to current and past issue.

Marett Leiboff, Managing Editor Law Text Culture

Member, Legal Intersections Research Centre

March 2017

ABC Interview with Dr Luis Gomez Romero on US Immigration Policies regarding Mexico

American and Mexican researchers have proven that Mexican immigration to the United States (US) has been hitting a historical low since 2009. Since the last years of Barack Obama’s administration, more Mexicans have been leaving the US than coming into it. Donald Trump, the President of the US, has nonetheless implemented aggressive immigration policies that could cause great harm to both Mexico and the United States. Dr Luis Gómez Romero commented on these issues on Thursday on ABC’s ‘The World’:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-24/tillerson-tries-to-calm-row-between-us-and-mexico/8299254

If you are interested in learning more about the complexities around the migratory realities and policies at the Mexican-American border, you may find the following op-ed articles by Dr Gómez Romero quite instructive:

How the US is outsourcing border enforcement to Mexico

Just who are the millions of ‘bad hombres’ slated for US deportation?

The wall and the beast: Trump’s triumph from the Mexican side of the border

LIRC adds its voice to concerns about recent threats to the rule of law

The Legal Intersections Research Centre (LIRC)  wishes to add its voice to the university based associations, institutions, and organisations which have expressed concern about an order of the US President barring the entry of people from seven Muslim-majority countries to the US, and suspending refugee admissions to the US  (Executive Order 13769, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States). Less attention has been paid to other orders issued in connection with Mexico and Mexicans: the planned construction of a border wall to be built between the US and Mexico (Executive Order 13767 Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements), and the deportation of Mexicans, through a targetting of ‘sanctuary cities’ (Executive Order 13768 Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States).

There has been considerable reporting of the series of injunctions that had ‘stayed’ the operation of the first of these orders after it was issued on 27 January 2017 in a number of US Federal Districts. The original injunctions involved individuals affected by the order; an  appellate judgment of the US Federal Ninth Circuit Court , in which the states of Washington and Minnesota (joined by more than 90 high profile businesses and a range of community based organisations and US law professors) successfully proceeded against the President . There has been no further legal action brought at the time of writing.

Other actions have now been brought in connection with Executive Order 13768, in two cases that have commenced in the US Federal District Courts in California and Boston: San Francisco v. Trump, which is currently on foot; an application by the Cities of Lawrence and Chelsea (in the Boston area) has recently been filed. The Order to build ‘Mexican Wall’, and to demand payment from Mexico to do so raises other, serious international legal concerns.

The initial administration of the Order Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States resulted in distress, confusion, and international condemnation. Border officials denied entry to those holding valid visas and US green cards, though the administration later suggested that green card holders were to be permitted entry – after further screening. Returning holiday-makers and those who had made family visits to countries of origins were denied entry and detained, and others were pulled off flights in transit countries. Families were split up, and humanitarian and medical treatment in the US was delayed. Residents – including those who had lived in the US for years and dual citizens – were among those detained, handcuffed, and their visas cancelled. The injunctions issued have temporarily stopped this happening, pending any Presidential appeal or the creation of new orders.

There has been intense interest and concern, internationally, about the orders. An Australian based centre, LIRC has a research focus on social justice and the role of the public interest in law. We note that there are often good reasons to ask questions about our systems under law, and to consider whether justice is served by law. The legally problematic nature of the orders, and their social and political consequences, are of deep concern. LIRC is concerned that the orders themselves, and the subsequent responses of the Administration, including  Presidential tweets directed against  judges whose decisions found against the President, represent a challenge to foundational concepts on which liberal democracies such as the US and Australia are based: the rule of law and the doctrine of the separation of powers.

It was with no hint of irony that the new US President, in a speech to the US Department of Homeland Security on 25 January 2017, said that ‘we will restore the rule of law’. Yet his words and actions since taking over the US administration just five days earlier reveal that he not only misunderstands the concept, central to the functioning of liberal democracies, but has acted contrary to its principles. Everyone, including individuals, governments, Presidents, and administrations are bound by law and what is known as the ‘principle of legality’. The rule of law is designed to limit the possibility of unbridled power resting in the hands of one individual. The apparatus of government is subject to checks and balances – that is, that no one individual is able, on their own, to have a grip on absolute power. These checks and balances, or more formally, the doctrine of the separation of powers, reside in the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.

These are familiar concepts in the US, but they are also foundational, though less well understood, in the UK and in Australia. We are deeply concerned that the US President’s words and actions are subverting these principles. There is a reason that governments are required to operate under law, and that bare power – both at a domestic and international level– is resisted.   Without a grounding in law rather than unbridled or unfettered power, the entire edifice and basis of liberal democracies, are threatened.

The President’s orders and memoranda do not just have local consequences, as the attempt to insist on demanding that Mexico pays for a wall to be built by the US on the border between the two countries. In the international sphere, the rule of law demands the prevention and removal of threats to peace, the suppression of acts of aggression and the peaceful solution of conflicts, as established in article 1(1) of the Charter of United Nations, and not an escalation.

VISITING PHD SCHOLAR PROGRAM – CALL FOR APPLICATIONS 2017

The Legal Intersections Research Centre (LIRC) at the University of Wollongong (UOW) invites applications from PhD students enrolled at other universities to visit LIRC for a minimum period of two weeks in 2017.

LIRC engages in interdisciplinary scholarship across law, society and culture with a focus on public interest law and social justice. LIRC academic members come from law as well as diverse disciplines including media and cultural studies, business and forensic mental health. LIRC members’ current research relates to six themes:

  • Contesting Vulnerability;
  • Crime and Society;
  • Legal Transpositions;
  • Law and Popular Cultures;
  • Social Justice and Global Forces;
  • Legal Ethics, Culture, Practice and Professionalism.

The Visiting PhD Scholar Program aims to support high quality interdisciplinary PhD research in LIRC’s areas of research, to provide opportunities to PhD scholars from other universities to be involved in LIRC’s research activity and to support PhD scholars to form ongoing networks with LIRC academic and higher degree research (HDR) members.

LIRC will award one visiting PhD scholarship in 2017 up to $1500 to cover the cost of travel to Wollongong and assist with living expenses in Wollongong during the program. Visiting PhD scholars will have office space with a computer, printing and copying facilities and borrowing privileges at the UOW library. Visits in 2017 will be scheduled during August to October to maximise the opportunity for interaction with LIRC members and HDRs. Visiting PhD scholars are expected to be present on campus during the period of their visit in order to conduct their PhD research, participate in LIRC’s research activity, present their research at a lunchtime LIRC research seminar and be available for discussion of their research with LIRC academic and HDR members and UOW law honours students.

Application format

  • a curriculum vitae of no more than three pages, including name, previous degree/s, home institution and faculty, enrolment profile (fulltime, part-time, planned completion) supervisors, and, as applicable scholarship/s, publications and/or conference presentations, and work background;
  • a one page summary including the title, aims, overview, structure, chapter title, and of current status of the PhD research project;
  • a one page explanation of the alignment between the applicant’s PhD project and LIRC research, with reference to current research projects of one or more members of LIRC members, and how the applicant and their PhD will benefit from the visit to LIRC;
  • The proposed dates for the visit (between August and October 2017);
  • A reference, preferably from the applicant’s Principal PhD Supervisor

Applications close: Friday 24 February, 2017

Enquiries: Dr Felicity Bell, fbell@uow.edu.au

LIRC: lha.uow.edu.au/law/LIRC

A decade of murder and grief: Mexico’s drug war turns ten

A few weeks before the Mexico’s 2006 election, La Familia Michoacana — among the most vicious of Mexico’s major drug cartels – tossed five severed heads onto the dance floor of the Sol y Sombra night club in Uruapan, Michoacán, along with a message outlining its strategy for targeted killings, which it called “divine justice”.

As this gruesome incident rekindled the debate on national security, candidate Felipe Calderón, who went on to win the election, made a campaign promise: to fix the country’s drug problem. Calderón would be only the second Mexican leader who did not hail from the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), which had ruled for most of the 20th century. His campaign presented him as the only honest alternative to the PRI’s corrupt legacy. “My hands are clean”, claimed his ads.

On December 11, 2006, days after taking office, Calderón launched the “Operativo Conjunto Michoacán” – Operation Michoacán – sending some 6,500 soldiers, marines and federal police to the state. Its aim, according to minister of the interior Francisco Ramírez Acuña, was to “take back” a country that had been “seized” by organised crime. He also asked Mexicans for patience, cautioning that the fight would take time.

All this was exactly ten years ago. Today, Mexico’s drug war rages on, virtually unchanged. It is time to ask: what has the decade-long cartel strategy achieved?

Another failed American war

As one must when assessing war, let’s start with the casualties. 150,000 people have died in Mexico’s drug war since 2006, and another 30,000 are missing. Many victims of this decade of murder and grief have been unheralded, but some have made the headlines: 22 civilians summarily executed by the army in Tlatlaya, 43 students who disappeared without a trace in Ayotzinapa in 2014.

A woman reacts to a massacre perpetrated by the Gulf Cartel. Daniel Becerril/Retuers

The death toll far exceeds the 103,000 civilians killed in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2007 and 2014. By 2012, Mexico’s homicide rate was among the world’s highest, at 21 per 100,000.

Researchers at the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económica have found that in Mexico the deadliness ratio – that is, the proportion of civilians injured compared those killed – is alarmingly high. In 2014, the army killed 168 civilians and injured 23 (deadliness ratio: 7.3), while the Marines injured 1 and killed 74 (deadliness ratio: 74). It’s little surprise the Marines are the favoured military force in fighting the drug war.

Despite this violent law enforcement, drugs have continued the steady flow north to the United States, the world’s largest consumer of cocaine; 84% of that cocaine enters via the Mexican border. Between 2005 and 2011, the height of Calderón’s war, the US Border Patrol seized 13.2 million pounds of marijuana. In 2015, Border Patrol seized more than 2 million pounds of all sorts of drugs.

Mexico’s drug war actually predates Calderón. The term “War on Drugs” came into common usage after American president Richard Nixon established the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1973 to conduct “an all-out global war on the drug menace.”

Since then, both the US and Mexico have fought that war, at great cost. Mexico has spent at least $54 billion on security and defence, with US donations of at least $1.5 billion. That amount includes the Mérida Initiative, a security-based aid agreement that included special aircraft and training for pilots to confront cartels from the air.

The American government has consistently encouraged Latin American governments to use weapons of war to fight drugs (a role the US military cannot legally play at home).

Enrique Peña Nieto has continued his precedessor’s cartel policy – he just talks about it less. Reuters

In Mexico, the armed forces have been turned against the Mexican people, and have gradually established a record of violating human rights. Under Calderón, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission saw a significant increase in citizen complaints of abuse. In the first two years of Calderón’s successor Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration, the army accumulated 2,212 complaints – 541 more than those lodged against the military in Calderón’s first two years.

The war is thus a Mexican-American problem. But the US has managed to stay righteous while quenching its thirst for cocaine and other drugs. And American weapons and drug money laundered by big-name banks continue flowing south into Mexico.

Doing it for the kids

US culpability doesn’t make the Mexican government innocent. Indeed, political analysts Rubén Aguilar and Jorge Castañeda have traced the roots of the drug war back to Calderón’s faulty legitimacy in office.

Calderón assumed the presidency amid a turbulent struggle with the supporters of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, his left-wing opponent in the 2006 elections. López Obrador claimed fraud and challenged the election results in court. Though Calderón was unanimously declared the winner, López Obrador refused to recognise the decision, calling Calderón an “illegitimate president”.

Aguilar and Castañeda argue that, in 2006, the Mexican government needed an enemy: the drug cartels handily played this role.

Publicly, Calderón’s main justification for waging war on drug traffickers was a supposed increase in consumption among Mexico’s youth. He coined a simple slogan – “Para que la droga no lleguen a tus hijos” (“Keep the drugs out of your children’s reach”) – and recruited masked Lucha Libre wrestlers to reiterate his alleged concern for Mexican kids.

Calderón’s claims were groundless. According to data provided by both the Mexican National Council on Addictions and the United Nations, drug use in Mexico is very low (for international comparison, see this interactive map of consumption). Today, as in 2006, Mexico remains a transit country.

Calderón’s true motives for launching the war were probably a combination of the need to legitimise his government domestically and strengthen his strategic relationship with George W Bush. However, in a forewarning of today’s post-truth era, the fact that Mexican children didn’t actually do drugs didn’t stop him from justifying a war in their name.

The deadly time machine

Calderón wasn’t a cartoon tyrant. He is a savvy lawyer, and a careful observer of society and politics.

The president knew he couldn’t rely on the police, whom 90% of Mexicans feel are corrupt, to undertake his crusade. They’re also outrageously inefficient: an estimated 99% of crimes go unsolved. Now that’s impunity.

Mexicans believe in three institutions: family, the Catholic Church and the army. Calderón thus adopted the US’s favoured policy of sending the army into the streets to fight drugs.

His shrewd decision may have initially pleased the Mexican people and their American neighbours, but it didn’t have the support of the constitution. According to article 129, no peacetime military authority may perform functions not directly connected with military affairs. In other words, the military cannot do the job of the police.

However, in 1999, PRI President Ernesto Zedillo proposed a law to create a Federal Preventative Police, hiring 5,000 new military personnel for allegedly temporary positions until Mexico could select and train enough new civilian agents.

Zedillo’s policy was legally challenged, but in 2000 the Court decided that, under the Mexican constitution, the armed forces can legitimately perform law enforcement functions. And thus: the legal basis for Calderon’s cartel war.

As Professor Desmond Manderson has noted, the law is a time machine: the real problem with bad law isn’t its immediate implementation but how it can be used in the future.

Since 2014 president Peña Nieto has persisted with Calderón’s approach, with the clever twist of not publicising it so much. Journalist José Luis Pardo has observed that the current president is like a teenager who, in trying to rebel, repeats what he’s seen his father do.

Arresting cartel leader after cartel leader has yet to make a dent in the drug smuggling business. Daniel Becerril/Reuters

Today, organised crime accounts for nearly 60% of the more than 15,000 homicides recorded in Mexico. August and September 2016 were the deadliest period in almost 20 years.

What is to be done?

The supply-side response to a problem driven by demand has not made a dent on drug trafficking.

Nonetheless, two security bills pending in the Mexican parliament seek to sustain it perpetually. Presented by senator Roberto Gil and congressman César Camacho, they propose to permanently enable the Mexican military’s law enforcement role.

Even General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, Mexico’s minister of defence, seemingly thinks this is a bad idea. On December 8 he declared that fighting the war against drugs has “denaturalised” the Mexican military. “None of us studied to chase criminals”, he said.

‘Desaparecidos’, like the 43 students who went missing in Ayotzinapa in 2014, are collateral damage. Edgard Garrido/Reuters

Ten years after Calderón sent troops to Michoacán, Mexico has a choice: change or perish. We can start by accepting that we will never eliminate drug consumption. Using drugs is a personal decision and a health issue, not a criminal one.

Drawing from the recent recommendations of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, Mexico can outline a policy agenda that decriminalises personal use and possession of drugs while implementing alternatives to incarceration for low-level suppliers. (Full disclosure: I recommended decriminalisation as a member of the transition team of Calderon’s PAN precedessor, Vicente Fox. I’m haunted by the consequences of the government’s failure to do so). It should also consider moving toward regulating the drug market, as Uruguay has done with marijuana, from production to distribution.

Decriminalising both the supply and consumption of something as transnational as drugs can only succeed if it’s embraced on both sides of the border. Even under a Trump presidency, lobbying for decriminalisation in the US would be a wiser use of Mexico’s resources than bemoaning Americans’ taste for Latin American drugs.

Decriminalisation must necessarily be accompanied by demilitarisation. Two recommendations from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein can guide this process: first, to strengthen the capacity of Mexico’s police to protect public safety while respecting human rights and second, to adopt a time frame for withdrawing the military from public security functions.

Follow the leader (again)

In 1996, President Bill Clinton’s drug tsar Barry McCaffrey said that a war waged against a shapeless, intangible enemy as drugs can never truly be won.

In recent years the US has been heeding its own advice and winding down the domestic war on drugs. President Obama has declared that addiction should be addressed as a health problem. In the November 2016 election, nine states considered liberalising cannabis laws. Four approved recreational marijuana, including  California, the world’s sixth-largest economy. Residents in a total of eight states, plus the District of Columbia, can now legally take marijuana.

While Mexico continues battling its drug smugglers, more US states are legalising and regulating marijuana. Steve Dipaola/Reuters

With Colombia having similarly scaled back its violent anti-narcotics strategy, Mexico is now almost alone, in the unpleasant company of authoritarian firebrands such as Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte, in waging war against an shapeless abstraction.

Here’s to ending this ten years of tragedy with a smarter new beginning. In an authentic republic, citizens – not soldiers – look after each other’s security and liberty.

Dr Luis Gomez Romero, Senior Lecturer

This article first appeared in The Conversation on 12 December 2016

UNHCR’S Implied Human Rights Obligations

Do non-State actors such as International Organisations hold human rights obligations? If so, what do those rights entail, where they derive from and in what circumstances do they apply?UNHCR Refugee Camp

In an article recently published in the International Journal of Refugee Law, LIRC’s Dr Niamh Kinchin identifies the implied powers of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) as a potential catalyst for the creation of its human rights obligations. Implied powers are those powers that are not expressly provided for in an organisation’s constitution but ‘are conferred upon it by necessary implication as being essential to the performance of its duties’.[1] Dr Kinchin argues that UNHCR’s implied powers, plus its capacity to hold human rights obligations via attribution and its derivative international legal personality,[2] as well as its status as an organisation to which the ‘general rules of international law’ apply, gives rise to human rights obligations.

UNHCR has implied powers to administer refugee camps and conduct Refugee Status Determination (RSD). When the ‘quasi-sovereign’ character of camp administration is considered in light of the particular vulnerability of refugees’ human rights, Dr Kinchin claims that their protection cannot be separated from camp administration or from the camp administrator itself, meaning that UNHCR has an obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of the inhabitants of the camps it administers. Dr Kinchin also argues that the unambiguous obligation for all parties that undertake RSD to respect non-refoulement, which is a human rights principle that is considered the ‘cornerstone’ of international protection, creates a concurrent obligation to ensure that RSD procedures are ‘fair, efficient and effective’. This is an obligation that UNHCR shares with States.

Although the identification of rights obligations of non-State actors inevitably faces challenges from the lack of available remedies for individuals who seek liability for human rights breaches, as long as UNHCR undertakes activities that places it in direct contact with individuals, it is imperative that it retains limited human rights obligations that exist alongside of, and not in substitution for, those of States.

Article Citation: Niamh Kinchin, ‘The Implied Human Rights Obligations of UNHCR’ (2016) 28(2) International Journal of Refugee Law 251-275

[1] Reparations for the Injuries Suffered in the Service of the United Nations (‘Reparations’) [1949] ICJ Rep 174, 182 (emphasis added).

[2] Derivative from the UN.