Ius Gentium

University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows discuss international and comparative legal issues


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Faux-Pas Fashion “Caveat Emptor”: Let The Buyer Beware

Kia Roberts Warren

Growing up in one of the fashion capitals of the world (NYC), I am, admittedly, a bit of a fashionista. I learned at a very young age that if you go down to Canal Street and enter a store looking for a Chanel boy bag that someone will take you to the small back room or a van filled with every designer name imaginable. This is the second oldest profession: counterfeiting. Many consumers believe that these counterfeiters are doing a service because consumers do not want to pay an exorbitant price for the real thing. However, counterfeiting is not a victimless crime.

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A counterfeit is a trademark infringement, a manufactured good being passed off as an original under the trademark.[1] This is harmful to luxury brands because their trademark is their business. Luxury brands rely on their trademarks to attract consumers and the brand mark signals to consumers the high quality of their products. Counterfeiting hurts the economy. The United States economy loses up to $250 billion in sales each year and 750,000 jobs lost.[2] In 2015, the EU economy reported a value 9.7% of their total sales every year or $28.7 billion and 363,000 jobs lost.[3]KRW Blog2_Photo2

Counterfeiting is a $600 billion industry and represents 5-7% of total world trade.[4]  And, these numbers are only increasing due to modern technology and the Internet. Because consumers can now shop within their own homes, counterfeit sales are on the rise because companies cannot watch the internet 24/7 looking for counterfeit sites [5] In 2007, for example, $119 billion worth of knock-off merchandise were purchased on the web.[6]

If clothing does not interest you like it does me, just know that more than clothing and handbags are counterfeited. Counterfeits have spread to toys, electronics, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals,[7] many of which are sold through legitimate retail stores and websites.[8] These are public safety issues; these counterfeits are made with hazardous materials to the environment and to people’s health. Counterfeit luxury goods, also, have serious criminal ramifications that are not known to most consumers.

Bangladesh

Shakil Khan, 10, has worked for 4 months in a garment factory in Old Dhaka, making money for his impoverished family in Chandpur, Bangladesh. Nafeesa Binte Aziz/Toronto Star

Counterfeit luxury goods aren’t just hurting the economy, but promote child labor exploitation, human trafficking, drug trafficking, and even terrorism as well as other civil, criminal, and administrative crimes.[9] A Vietnamese crime gang leader earned $13 million selling counterfeit watches in New York.[10] Children, as young as six, are treated to excessively cruel and criminal treatment.[11] Forced laborers are smuggled into the country with the products to sell them and to place the finishing touches on the goods after getting across the borders.[12] There have been reports of authorities uncovering operations where proceeds from drug trafficking were channeled into counterfeiting and, vice versa, where profits from the sale of counterfeit goods were used to further other illicit operations.[13] The FBI has evidence that the World Trade Center 1993 bombing was financed with counterfeit luxury goods on Canal Street.[14] In 1996, the FBI found that followers of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind cleric who was sentenced to 240 years in prison for plotting to bomb New York City landmarks, had made millions of dollars selling counterfeit t-shirts bearing Nike and Olympics logos.[15]

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So what can be done to protect fashion maisons and stop crime? Louis Vuitton employs about 40 lawyers, 250 independent investigators, and spends over $20 million each year to fight counterfeiting of its products.[16] Fashion maisons also turn to MarkMonitor (a corporation that accesses data and detects unauthorized channels and shuts them down) for help.[17] Of course, all of these costs get passed on to the consumer. There are also national laws in place. For example, the U.S. enacted the Lanham Act and Copyright Act of 1976.[18] In France, consumers can be forced to pay a costly fine and possible jail time for owning a counterfeit.[19] This idea is catching on in Italy and Britain as well. The European Union has placed two new regulations dealing with counterfeits.[20] On the international level there is International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC), Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, Anti-Counterfeiting Group, International Intellectual Property Alliance. The World Trade Organization has its members sign the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement.[21]

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In 2008, Louis Vuitton sued eBay in a French court. The French court ruled that eBay did not do enough to prevent the counterfeit sales from occurring on the site and eBay was ordered to pay $60.8 million in damages.[22] In a UK court, Cartier and Montblanc were recently granted orders ruling Internet providers to block websites selling counterfeit watches under their trademark.[23] Moncler has recently become victorious in the judicial arena. The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy under the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) granted the transfer of 50 domain names incorporating its trademark.[24] In its case against Royalcat (a Chinese company), the Beijing IP Court awarded the maximum statutory damages in a trademark infringement action.[25]

As consumers we have the power to stop the counterfeiting industry. We are hurting ourselves. We have a responsibility to protect ourselves and each other. So, if you see someone considering buying a counterfeit Prada tell them “caveat emptor.” We need to educate each other about where and who are money is going to.

For more info on how to spot a fake, click here.

Kia Roberts-Warren is a 2l at University of Baltimore. She has always had an interest in international affairs. She is interested in private international law as well as international humanitarian law. She is on the executive board of ILS as the Career Development Director and is on the Phillip C. Jessup Moot Court Team.

[1] http://www.oecd.org/sti/ind/2090589.pdf

[2] http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1254&context=honors

[3] http://qz.com/460932/fakes-are-costing-europes-fashion-industry-10-of-its-sales-and-thousands-of-jobs/

[4] http://michiganjb.org/issues/1/article4.pdf

[5]http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1254&context=honors

[6] http://michiganjb.org/issues/1/article4.pdf

[7] https://www.iwu.edu/economics/PPE17/lewis.pdf

[8] https://www.iwu.edu/economics/PPE17/lewis.pdf

[9]  https://www.unodc.org/documents/counterfeit/FocusSheet/Counterfeit_focussheet_EN_HIRES.pdf

[10] https://www.iwu.edu/economics/PPE17/lewis.pdf

[11] https://www.unodc.org/documents/counterfeit/FocusSheet/Counterfeit_focussheet_EN_HIRES.pdf

[12] https://www.unodc.org/documents/counterfeit/FocusSheet/Counterfeit_focussheet_EN_HIRES.pdf

[13] https://www.unodc.org/documents/counterfeit/FocusSheet/Counterfeit_focussheet_EN_HIRES.pdf

[14] http://michiganjb.org/issues/1/article4.pdf

[15] http://michiganjb.org/issues/1/article4.pdf

[16] http://michiganjb.org/issues/1/article4.pdf

[17] http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1254&context=honors

[18] http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1254&context=honors

[19] http://crefovi.com/articles/fashion-law/efficiently-fight-counterfeiting-fashion-luxury-sectors/

[20] http://crefovi.com/articles/fashion-law/efficiently-fight-counterfeiting-fashion-luxury-sectors/

[21] http://www.oecd.org/sti/ind/2090589.pdf

[22] http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1254&context=honors

[23] http://www.thefashionlaw.com/home/cartier-wins-court-order-blocking-sites-selling-fakes

[24] http://www.wipo.int/amc/en/domains/search/text.jsp?case=DNL2015-0031

[25] http://www.worldtrademarkreview.com/Magazine/Issue/59/News/Beijing-IP-Court-grants-maximum-amount-of-statutory-damages-for-the-first-time

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Restricting Schengen – Keeping out Refugees

Raiven Taylor 

Recently, European countries have come up with plans to keep migrants out. In June of 2015, the EU had an emergency meeting and came up with a “10-point plan” to “capture and destroy” boats used to smuggle in migrants.[i] Not long after this plan hatched, Hungary and other European countries erected wire fences to keep migrants out. [ii] Germany, Denmark, Austria and a few other countries suspended their willingness to adhere to the Schengen rules and reintroduce border controls.[iii] The Schengen treaty allows for open travel in the 26-nation bloc known as the Schengen area.[iv] This area, created in 1995 and originally consisting of 26 EU nations, abolished passport controls at common borders.[v] The recent suspension of this was thought to shock the rest of EU when it came to border controls to deal with the migration crisis. Because Germany borders nine other countries, without its participation, Schengen fails.[vi] This led other countries to begin closing their borders, criminalizing most new arrivals as illegal immigrants.[vii] With all of the changes, it has been difficult for migrants to find a country that will allow them to enter. This also makes it difficult for those countries that CAN take these immigrants into their territory because resources are tight. As of September 2015, 63,000 asylum seekers from Hungary and Austria entered Bavaria, which is more than the total of asylum seekers for the enter year of 2014.[viii]

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The EU proposed a deal with Turkey, promising $3.3 billion for it to close down its borders.[ix] Denmark has also passed a law allowing it to seize valuables from asylum seekers in order to pay for their upkeep.[x] All of this is leads to bigger problems because even though countries are locking down their borders, migrants are finding other, often very dangerous ways, to get in anyway. On February 12, 2016 the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed its concern for the increasing restrictive measures on the part of EU states, stressing that something must be done to protect the fundamental human rights of the people trying to reach Europe.

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Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) stated that more than 80,000 migrants arrived in Europe by boat in the first 6 weeks of 2016, with 400 dying in their attempt. Statistics show that 58 percent of migrants coming to Europe are women and children. One in 3 people arriving in Greece are children, compared to the 1 in 10 in September 2015.[xi] It has also been reported that two children drown every day, on average, since September 2015 as their families attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea, totaling more than 340 children.[xii] UNCHR and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) urge countries to cooperate and make dangerous journeys like this safer for children.[xiii]

A UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants, François Crépeau, stated that although “Europe has always been a strong advocate of human rights in Europe and elsewhere… its struggle to maintain control of its borders however…is being tested…[and by]stripping away the rights of asylum-seekers and migrants, Europe is creating a scary new ‘normal.’”[xiv] Over-reliance and securitization of borders will not work to keep migrants out because they will find another way in order to survive, allowing smugglers to continue to adapt, prosper, and exploit migrants.[xv] In order to combat smuggling, states must provide regular, safe and cheap mobility solutions, including both identity and security checks.[xvi]

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The European public, predominantly, has the view that Europe needs stricter controls, bigger fences, and more military control.[xvii] Although the public might favor these stricter policies, politicians view them as an immoral and an unworkable approach.[xviii] The question is how will European countries pursue this issue and in what ways will immigration be affected long term? Will countries continue keeping its borders open? Will countries continue with daily limits on migrants? I believe countries should find a less dangerous way for migrants to travel while also coming up with a way to stem the tide of migration. It is somewhat understandable for countries to not want to be overpopulated and have an extra burden on state-run agencies. However, risking the lives of migrants is not the way to overcome this problem. Many organizations are attempting to convince the politicians to work this issue out as peacefully as possible and in a way that lessens the dangers for migrants. Something needs to be done – sooner, rather than later!

[i] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/31/europe-bind-act-morally-on-immigrants-heed-its-citizens

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id.

[iv] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/13/germany-border-crackdown-deals-blow-to-schengen-system

[v] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/31/europe-bind-act-morally-on-immigrants-heed-its-citizens

[vi] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/13/germany-border-crackdown-deals-blow-to-schengen-system

[vii] Id.

[viii] Id.

[ix] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/31/europe-bind-act-morally-on-immigrants-heed-its-citizens

[x] Id.

[xi] http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53217#.VsxxWMfiQtg

[xii] http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53272#.VsxxYsfiQtg

[xiii] Id.

[xiv] http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53217#.VsxxWMfiQtg

[xv] id.

[xvi] Id.

[xvii] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/31/europe-bind-act-morally-on-immigrants-heed-its-citizens

[xviii] Id.


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International Clinical Trials: Shaky Grounds for Bioethics

Jasen Lau

Isai in the Moldavian region of Romania, Megrine in northern Tunisia, Tartu in Estonia, and Shenyang in Northern China all have something in common. Unfortunately, they are not the world’s best vacation spots. No, large pharmaceutical companies have targeted these locations as places to run clinical trials.[1] These towns are among many similar towns – poor, distant, and isolated from major cities – that are often favored by many pharmaceutical companies. This recent globalization of clinical trials has raised many questions about both the ethics and efficacy. As international clinical trials grow in popularity, serious consideration needs to be given to the bioethics of conducting such trials in developing countries.

Clinical trials are the backbone of pharmaceutical development. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires them before a drug can be marketed to the public.[2] Clinical trials are often broken into four segments – Phase I, II, III, and IV – and are used to assess the safety and efficacy of the developing drug.[3] Phase I begins with a smaller sample – usually around 20 to 30 people – and is the most dangerous part of the trials.[4] Phase I is where the level of safety and efficacy of the medication is mostly unknown. As the trials progress to Phases II and III, so, too, do the number of participants. Phase IV is post-market observation.[5] This phase monitors the drug after it has been released and is meant to document what effects arise from large-scale use. Clinical trials are meant to uncover the dangers and risks of medication, but this procedure can often take a lot of time and money.

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Most clinical trials can take around a decade.[6] During such time, costs can be around $2.6 billion – not including post-market procedures.[7] These costs come from advertising, subject compensation, and general research procedures, like conducting international clinical trials. With such high costs, many pharmaceutical companies seek to lower costs. International clinical trials have been very popular since 2008.[8] Currently, roughly 60% of the clinical trials being conducted are recruiting research subjects outside of the U.S.[9] By conducting trials overseas, pharmaceutical companies are saving vast amounts of money. For example, in India, a case report from a “first-rate” research center costs $2,000, which is less than one tenth the cost of recreating that same report in a “second-tier” research center in the U.S.[10] This is where the research subjects from developing countries come into play.

In nations where income is low[11], the chance of receiving state of the art medicine is a welcomed opportunity. However, in these remote locations where the US holds no jurisdiction, what assurances do these subjects have that they will be treated fairly? The Nuremberg Code requires basic ideas such as voluntary consent, maximizing benefits while minimizing costs, and taking patient care as first priority.[12] In addition, the Declaration of Helsinki expands upon this and includes the idea of protecting vulnerable populations (the elderly, incarcerated, pregnant, and children), a duty to protect the integrity of the patient, ensuring that those who are harmed are compensated.[13] These codes are meant not just for the U.S. but the global practice of medicine. It is important to note, however, that these ethical guidelines are precatory – not mandatory. Further, prior to the start of the trial, research groups must submit their proposal or application to an Institutional Review Board (IRB). These IRBs are comprised of both medical and non-medical staff that determine the safety of the trial and ensure the welfare of the test subjects.[14] While these protections are in place, the question becomes to what extent and how thoroughly do these guidelines and procedures protect the subject?

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Informed consent is one of the many things required when conducting research. Without going too deeply into the nuances, what true choice do these subjects from developing countries have? Even in a developed country, such as the U.S., many scholars have speculated the true need for informed consent in the practice of medicine.[15] In the end, in part due to the extreme disparity in medical knowledge expertise between subject and researcher or patient and doctor, the subject is more or less consenting to the trustworthiness of the doctor – not the actual procedure. Likewise, the subjects of these nations may not truly be consenting to the research procedure. Rather, their need for medical care at no cost to them greatly incentivizes assent. If that is the case, what point is there, then, in informed consent for these kinds of subjects?

IRBs play a key role in approving clinical trials. However, they are American citizens. Their job is to determine if the trials are ethical and take patient welfare into consideration, but they are not present to routinely monitor the clinical trials.[16] Even the FDA, those who ultimately approve a drug based on these trial results, do not inspect all – nor even a significant number of – these international clinical trials. In fact, the FDA inspects only around 0.7% of such trials.[17] If an IRB is not physically present to protect patient welfare, and the FDA seldom inspects these trials, who is actually protecting these test subjects?

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With the benefits of a relatively large population, all of whom are nearly always willing to partake in studies, and being outside the jurisdiction of the FDA, pharmaceutical companies are greatly incentivized to conduct their research outside of the U.S. There is concern that this will eventually lead to more harm than benefit. There is no assurance that researchers will abide by ethical guidelines, and even if the researchers practiced according to those guidelines, harm can still come to the subjects. When a test subject is harmed, where are they to turn for treatment? Or does this globalization turn a cold shoulder to international research subjects? Further, if the medication is mostly tested on international citizens, whose diets, lifestyle choices, and environmental factors greatly differ from American citizens, how safe is the medication for the average American?

 

The unfortunate conclusion to these rhetorical questions is that clinical trials are growing ever more appealing. While there is not yet currently any solid argument for harm, the obvious threat looms over subjects from developing countries. Such subjects, in need of modern western medication, may not be able to give informed consent to research. Yet, without these treatments, some of these subjects will be no better off than before. Globalization of clinical trials leads to a plethora of bioethics issues, and as it often is with bioethics, there is rarely a concrete answer now nor will there be one in the near future. Adding on the increased complexity of international jurisdiction, the question is whether these American pharmaceutical companies should be made more responsible, and if so, who should – or can – enforce that kind of duty or even impose it? The best thing that can be done at the moment is consistent, thorough analysis of all clinical trials. At the very least, the FDA should increase investigation of these international trials. The future merely holds a balance of powers and desires: cost-saving options for pharmaceutical companies and the bioethics thereof versus the length of reach of FDA’s regulatory authority.

Jasen Lau is a third year law student at the University of Baltimore School of Law. He graduated from the University of Maryland in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. Jasen took it upon himself to become a certified pharmacy technician and studied several continuing education credits that focus on Medicare Fraud and Abuse prevention, HIPAA privacy and security laws, and ethics in the pharmacy workplace. Jasen has long been in the health care field either working directly with patients or as an assistant to providers. During that time, his obsession with working in health care has grown into policy analysis and counseling. Along with being a CICL fellow, he is also a law clerk for Johns Hopkins Hospital.

[1] Donald Barlett & James Steele, Deadly Medicine, Vanity Fair, Jan. 2011, http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2011/01/deadly-medicine-201101.

[2] Step 3: Clinical Research, U.S. Food and Drug Admin., Nov. 23, 2015, http://www.fda.gov/ForPatients/Approvals/Drugs/ucm405622.htm.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Cost to Develop and Win Marketing Approval for a New Drug is $2.6 Billion, Tufts Ctr. for the Study of Drug Dev., Nov. 18, 2014, http://csdd.tufts.edu/news/complete_story/pr_tufts_csdd_2014_cost_study.

[7] Id.

[8] Daniel Levinson, Challenges to FDA’s Ability to Monitor and Inspect Foreign Clinical Trials, Dept. of Health & Human Serv., June 2010, http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-01-08-00510.pdf.

[9] Trends, Charts, and Maps, ClinicalTrials.gov, February 2016, https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/resources/trends (54% of the studies are recruiting exclusively outside the U.S. while an additional 6% is recruiting both in and out of the U.S.).

[10] Seth Glickman et al., Ethical and Scientific Implications of the Globalization of Clinical Research, 360 New Eng. J. Med. 816 (2009).

[11] Romania Average Salaries & Expenditures, World Salaries, (Feb. 26, 2016), http://www.worldsalaries.org/romania.shtml (Prices have been converted to U.S. currency for ease of understanding. A dentists average salary is less that $500 a month, engineers make about $700 a month, and physical therapists makes just over $400); see also China Average Salaries & Expenditures, World Salaries, (Feb. 26, 2016), http://www.worldsalaries.org/china.shtml; Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mar. 25, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291021.htm; see also Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mar. 25, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291021.htm (The average salary of dentists and physical therapists is about $14,000 monthly and $6,800 monthly, respectively).

[12] The Nuremberg Code, U.S. Dept. Health & Human Serv., Nov. 7, 2005, http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/archive/nurcode.html.

[13] WMA Declaration of Helsinki – Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects, World Med. Ass’n, (Feb. 26, 2016), http://www.wma.net/en/30publications/10policies/b3/.

[14] Clinical Trials, MedlinePlus, January 28, 2016, https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/clinicaltrials.html.

[15] Peter Schuck, Rethinking Informed Consent, 103 Yale L.J. 899, 1994.

[16] Glickman, supra.

[17] Levinson, supra at 15.

 


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Nigeria’s Economy – Help is on the Way!

Carolyn Mills

The economy of Nigeria is the largest economy in West Africa, experiencing massive growth in the last 24 years. While the African continent, as a whole, has experienced rapid growth and development, there is concern amongst the international community regarding the threat of terror organizations, such as Boko Haram and the internal rampant corruption. The economy of Nigeria has recently faced difficulty and has made several appeals to the international community for support. Without this crucial intervention international organizations the threat of collapse could be imminent.

Boko Haram

Currently Boko Haram has taken a large foothold in the northern Nigeria, and is notably known for the kidnapping of 300 school girls in 2014, which sparked the #BringBackOurGirls movement. Boko Haram’s terror is indiscriminate as the organization is known for attacking both Christians and Muslims. Boko Haram began as a peaceful organization until 2009 when the government of Nigeria launched investigations into their activities. [1] The terror group has been credited with the death of nearly 17,000 Nigerians since its reign of terror began in 2010. [2] Corruption has been a further impediment to the growth of Nigeria’s economy. A recently published article, one of the most notable and egregious cases of corruption occurred when $195 billion naira (nearly 10 billion dollars) was pilfered from a pension fund that was intended for retired workers.[3]

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2014 was a year of great exploits for Nigeria, as it was named the largest economy in Africa (as well as most populous)[4].  Its largest industries are its growing entertainment sector known as ‘Nollywood’, followed by its large agricultural sector.[5] In the past 2 years, however, Nigeria has experienced a fall in the valuation of their currency (the naira) as oil prices have fallen below $30 per barrel. Initially following the election of President Muhammadu Buhari the stock market peaked at the hope of a new president with a new economic policy, however hopes were quickly dashed. [6] The falling price of crude oil in the country coupled with their need to import refined fuel has put much pressure on the economy and President Buhari. [7]

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In an effort to assist the country in its efforts to fight Boko Haram, the European Union has pledged more than $50 million dollars to aide in the fighting against Boko Haram[8]. The European Union has also recently pledged to assist in diversifying its nearly exclusive oil dependent economy[9]. The attractive package comes with many caveats (read strings). The EU Ambassador to Nigeria, based in Lagos, stressed the importance of business owners and investors having protection under Nigerian laws stating.[10] Although how Nigeria will ensure the protection of potential investors is still in flux, Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama remains hopeful that any future agreements with other countries will provide Nigeria with technical assistance to make the transition from a primarily agrarian economy to a fully industrialized economy.[11] The more pronounced role of other states and organizations is necessary to help usher in Africa’s largest economy and assist in sustained growth—rather than a mere suggestion from the EU.

German President Guack

Despite the recent call for help from President Buhari, Germany has been the only state to show interest in contributing to the development and investment in Nigeria’s now lackluster economy. Among other things, German President Joachim Guack has pledged support in the move to eliminate corruption, which is seen as the country’s number one enemy to progress. [12]

The threat of global terrorism should not deter international development. With increased investment comes increased infrastructure—infrastructure that is undoubtedly linked to the safety of the country’s border. Without such investment, the economy will stagnate and most of its resources will be sunk into their safety and defense forces, rather than development.  It is a harrowing catch-22 for government of Nigeria, as they attempt to advance their economic and social strength, while combating terrorism and corruption that seeks to slow progress. Germany’s advanced (and seemingly sole) role in the elimination of terror and the diversification of the economy will hopefully prove to be altruistic and non-imperialistic in nature as Nigeria fights to remain a forerunner on the African Continent.

Carolyn Mills is a graduate from of Bowie State University  and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Carolyn is a 2L at the University of Baltimore School of Law. She serves as 2L Representative for the International Law Society.  Her interests and focus areas are on Central America and West Africa; she has traveled to both Guatemala and Honduras and hopes to visit Ghana this summer. She is currently a law clerk for the Department of Homeland Security’s Human Rights Law Section.  

[1] http://m.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11250530

[2] http://www.globalresearch.ca/boko-haram-in-nigeria-the-destabilization-of-the-world-through-the-war-on-terror/5504014

[3] https://www.naij.com/402850-top-12-corruption-cases.html

[4] http://leadership.ng/features/502916/nigerian-economy-global-appeal-nwanze

[5] http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/04/how-nigeria-became-africas-largest-economy-overnight/360288/

[6] http://qz.com/595453/the-precarious-state-of-nigerias-economy-right-now-captured-in-two-charts/).

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] ( http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/eu-pledges-to-assist-nigeria-diversify-economy/232283/)

[10] http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/eu-pledges-to-assist-nigeria-diversify-economy/232283/.

[11] (http://allafrica.com/stories/201602100215.html).

[12] http://www.vanguardngr.com/2016/02/we-have-lost-lives-economy-because-of-corruption/


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Greek Farmers – Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

John Rizos

“We live on loans, this reform will destroy us…We won’t back down, there is no way. If we do, we’ll starve.”[1]

The “Greek Farmer Crisis” began on January 20, 2016 when Greek farmers used tractors to blockade the main highway connecting Athens to Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki.[2] Most people are somewhat familiar with Greece’s economic crisis, including the country’s debt, recession, and capital control in reaction to IMF and EU-imposed regulations.  These regulations are now affecting Greece’s farmers, who have not been reluctant to show their adversity.

Since January 20, 2016, farmers have blockaded 68 points throughout Greece, including the main road on the Greece-Bulgaria border. Since Friday, February 12, 2016, thousands of farmers have set up protest camps outside of the nation’s parliament, in Athens[3], protesting against the Greek government’s new bill. The bill will hike taxes and cut pensions as part of an economic reform in response to the IMF’s and the European Union’s regulation, as Greece is trying to secure a third bailout.[4]

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The bill by the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, and his party, SYRIZA, will create reforms targeting farmers to deal with the country’s deficit. However, the reform comes as a shock to most of the public. Two decades ago, farmers did not pay into social security and only up until two years ago, a farmer’s income tax was set at a relatively low 6%. Since the tight austerity measures have been implemented, farmers’ income tax has more than doubled to 13% in the last two years. The tax rate is projected to jump to 26% this year, alongside the 10% hike of a 23% sales tax on seeds, livestock food, and pesticides.

The reform on pension spending is just as brutal. The IMF was not satisfied with Tsipras’ last austerity measures, which resulted to a pension-spending cut of only $2bn. The bill is Tsipras’ reaction for not only tighter measures, but also tighter measures to more goods and professions to meet the EU and IMF-imposed target of cutting pension-spending by $9bn. From total immunity in the last 20 years, farmers will now have to pay 27% of their annual income on top of the annual $780-1,300 every farmer must pay to the Agriculture Insurance Organization.[5]

The farmers have been joined by unionists, mainly from the most powerful agricultural union, ADEDY, since the blockades. The Greek Communist Party (KKE) also joined to support the farmers at the protest camps in Athens and to assist in lending a voice against the bill.[6] The blockades and the protest camps have been mainly organized by unionist, Vangelis Boutas[7], who has also been the representative in addressing the media or the government, should dialogue between the two groups open up. Boutas rebuffed Tsipras when he announced that he would discuss the bill with the farmers and stated that he will only talk with officials once the bill has been rescinded.[8] Interior Minister, Panagiotis Kouroublis, responded by stating that “the government is not heeding to ultimatums…the farmers should not miss this chance for a dialogue.” [9]

The Agriculture Minister and Tsipras support the bill and, although they are open to talks and slight modifications, they have dismissed any notion of withdrawing it. Tsipras stated that the bill is “not optional, nor merely a conventional obligation of the country…it is absolutely necessary for the pension system itself to have a future.”[10]

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Hostilities since February 15 have decreased and most of the farmers from the protest camps have left, even though some blockades are still in effect. Currently, uncertainty looms over the material terms in the bill as well as the bill’s future with Tsipras’ party having only a 3-seat majority in the parliament.

SYRIZA’s small 3-seat majority should not deter thinking that the bill will not pass. The country’s third bailout is dependent on the planned pension-cutting as the IMF and the EU are high-stakes creditors constantly breathing down Greece’s neck. The Central Bank Chief noted that the projected economic recovery in the second half of 2016 is contingent upon the bill passing without further delays,[11] which should serve as a persuasive foreshadow to the parliament voters. Although most farmers are skeptical of Tsipras’ promises, he has promised that they will be the main beneficiaries of $11bn EU subsidies over the span of seven years.[12] The subsidies are likely planned as such to maintain a high agricultural yield of exports as it is one of the country’s main economic sectors.

Apart from the high taxes and the cuts on pension-spending, there are other surprising things that one may miss just from taking the events that have unfolded at face value. Tsipras’ party, SYRIZA, is the radical left party of Greece. Yet amidst the protests, the party’s main opponents have been unions and the Communist Party of Greece, two groups who have been adherents to leftist ideology and with leftist constituents. It is an interesting note and shows Greece’s dependency and weakness, while highlighting the country’s important geopolitical position. The EU and the IMF have made the radical left government adopt regulations usually fit for a radically conservative government, yet Greece has no option to rebut the terms. The government may try to modify them but the EU and the IMF want to accomplish the $9bn pension-cut target, while keeping Greece in the Eurozone and maintaining political stability.

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Another surprising tidbit is the reported Athenian dismissiveness towards the farmers. Many Athenians, from the urban capital, actually see the reform as a good thing; as a way of punishing a “pampered constituency”[13] that did not contribute into social security for two decades. The Athenian mentality should not have any effect on the bill, as it will likely still pass. Although the farmers and Tsipras have not formally met, some of the austerity measures and reforms in the bill will likely be ‘loosened up’ as well, due to the economic needs of agricultural exports. As a journalist covering the protests stated, “The only way to export capital is to import it.”[14]  The main way to pay the debt is to pay it off with the money coming in from agricultural exports, which are one of the biggest parts of Greece’s economy. As a consequence, if the protests keep delaying production or production slows or stops as a reaction to the reform, the country’s debt will actually grow. Such reform coupled with consumer capital control on limiting daily cash withdrawals or restricting movement of money creates a scheme of loan dependency.

John Rizos is a 2L at the University of Baltimore School of Law. He has an interest in human rights and international criminal law. In addition to being a CICL Fellow, he is the Secretary for Phi Alpha Delta. He graduated with honors from Towson University with a BA in International Studies (2013). He has interned at the Press Office of the Greek Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the International Civil Advocacy Network (ICAN), a non-profit organization advocating for women’s rights in the Middle East.

[1] http://www.france24.com/en/20160213-greek-farmers-clash-with-police-pensions-protest

[2] http://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2016-02-09/greek-farmers-block-countrys-main-highway

[3] http://greece.greekreporter.com/2016/02/14/farmers-organize-second-rally-in-front-of-greek-parliament/

[4] https://www.rt.com/news/332332-greece-farmers-protest-athens/

[5] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/02/austerity-finally-hits-greek-farmers-160203061901398.html

[6] http://greece.greekreporter.com/2016/02/14/farmers-organize-second-rally-in-front-of-greek-parliament/

[7] http://greece.greekreporter.com/2016/02/14/farmers-organize-second-rally-in-front-of-greek-parliament/

[8] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-eurozone-greece-idUSKCN0VJ1EA

[9] http://greece.greekreporter.com/2016/02/14/farmers-organize-second-rally-in-front-of-greek-parliament/

[10] http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/02/greek-farmers-clash-riot-police-athens-160212163808840.html

[11] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-eurozone-greece-idUSKCN0VJ1EA

[12] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/02/austerity-finally-hits-greek-farmers-160203061901398.html

[13] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/02/austerity-finally-hits-greek-farmers-160203061901398.html

[14] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/02/austerity-finally-hits-greek-farmers-160203061901398.html

 


2 Comments

British Cabinet Drops Its Obligation to International Law from Code

Shane G. Bagwell

David Cameron has led the British Parliament since 2010 and, since that date, has not shied away from controversy. Policies such as increases in tuition fees for university education, privatization of the National Health Service, and military action in Libya have led to protests in the streets. While his leadership has been unpredictable and his policies at times self-contradicting, he has grown the Conservative Party to the point where it holds an outright majority in the House of Commons. His most recent controversy involves the Government’s self-proclaimed obligations (or lack thereof) to protect and uphold international law.

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The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is the collective decision-making body of Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom, made up of the First Lord of the Treasury (also known as the Prime Minister), and members of Parliament appointed by the Prime Minister to lead government departments.[1] Though typically selected from the House of Commons, it is not entirely uncommon for members of the House of Lords to be selected for certain posts. The most senior members of the Cabinet are the Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Home Secretary.[2]

            Unlike in the American system, Cabinet Ministers are not necessarily experts in their field, and rely heavily on the input of members of the Civil Service for developing and implementing policy.[3] Additionally, members of the Cabinet in the United Kingdom have joint responsibility for government departments, and may, pursuant to the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975:

(a) provide for the transfer to any Minister of the Crown of any functions previously exercisable by another Minister of the Crown;
(b) provide for the dissolution of the government department in the charge of any Minister of the Crown and the transfer to or distribution among such other Minister or Ministers of the Crown as may be specified in the Order of any functions previously exercisable by the Minister in charge of that department;
(c) direct that functions of any Minister of the Crown shall be exercisable concurrently with another Minister of the Crown, or shall cease to be so exercisable.

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Cabinet Ministers are bound by the Ministerial Code, which provides ethical guidelines for the performance of their duties and outlines their relationship with Parliament. The first sentence of the Ministerial Code reads, “[t]he Ministerial Code should be read against the background of the overarching duty on Ministers to comply with the law and to protect the integrity of public life.” This is not how the sentence has read historically, however. Until October of 2015, the Ministerial Code began with providing an obligation for members of the Cabinet “to comply with the law including international law and treaty obligations…” On October 22, the Guardian published an article noting the deletion of references to international law from the Code.[4] As an executive body of the British system of government, this change (though subtle) has potentially enormous implications for the United Kingdom’s relationship with the rest of the world. Philippe Sands QC, a professor of law at University College London, said the change was “shocking. Another slap to Magna Carta and the idea of the rule of law. A government that wants to ditch Europe and sever the connection with the European Convention on Human Rights now wishes to free itself from the constraints of international law and the judgments of international courts.”[5] Ken MacDonald QC, a former director of public prosecutions, piled on to the mounting criticism of the Government’s move, stating that “[i]t is difficult to believe that this change is inadvertent. If it’s deliberate, it appears to advocate a conscious loosening of ministerial respect for the rule of law and the UK’s international treaty obligations, including weakening responsibility for the quality of justice here at home.”[6]

Mr. MacDonald’s claim that the Government’s change in policy was deliberate doesn’t require particularly deep research to back up. The Tory website hosts a pamphlet called “Protecting Human Rights in the UK : the Conservative’s Proposals for Changing Britain’s Human Rights Laws,” in which the party promises that “[w]e will amend the Ministerial Code to remove any ambiguity in the current rules about the duty of Ministers to follow the will of Parliament in the UK.”[7] The Conservative Party has a fair amount of support from Euroskeptics, and has attempted to woo voters away from the UK Independence Party (UKIP) by not-so-subtly promoting an anti-EU agenda. With an upcoming referendum on the UK’s continued membership in the EU, the Conservative party has crafted its international law obligations to reflect their desire for Parliament to once again be the supreme body of law, without interference from Brussels.

What is extremely troubling about this is that the European Union is already on shaky ground with the recent crises surrounding Greek debt, the influx of Syrian refugees, and others. The Cameron Government’s decision to distance itself from the international community is a regressive policy which stands only to harm British interests. Without a strong commitment to establishing itself as a participating member of the international community, let alone a voice within the European community, the Cabinet finds itself in the precarious situation of being Europe’s least social member. As the world becomes more interconnected and reliant on international commerce, Britain’s continued aversion to participation could spell out its downfall from the international stage. While Britain retains a seat on the U.N. Security Council, it appears to be a holdover of those lost days when Britain held its head high as a global power and exercised itself as a force for good. While David Cameron backs both horses and pledges personal loyalty to the EU, yet simultaneously dismantles Britain’s obligations to the mainland, he belittles Britain’s prestige, rather projecting his country to the world as a manic and indecisive antique, wrestling with the opposing forces of its colonial past and potentially tumultuous future.

Shane Bagwell is a 3L at the University of Baltimore School of Law, and a graduate of West Chester University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. He currently serves as the President of the Military Law Association. His interests are Middle Eastern politics, international conflicts, and the law of land warfare. He is currently a law clerk for the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, Economic Crimes Division.

[1] http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/government-and-opposition1/her-majestys-government/

[2] http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/british-politics/the-executive-in-british-politics/the-cabinet-and-british-politics/

[3] http://www.parliament.uk/about/faqs/house-of-commons-faqs/members-faq-page2/

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/law/2015/oct/22/lawyers-express-concern-over-ministerial-code-rewrite

[5] Id.

[6] http://www.theguardian.com/law/2016/feb/11/no-10-legal-challenge-ministerial-code-rewrite-international-law

[7] https://www.conservatives.com/~/media/files/downloadable%20Files/human_rights.pdf


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The Precarious Situation of Turkey

Carolyn Mills

Turkey has long been awaiting the day that it can be welcomed into the European Union (EU). Unfortunately with the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria, the thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing to Turkey’s border, its internal conflict with the Kurds, and human rights abuse allegations; Turkey may never have the chance to receive that welcome.

Turkey has been an associate member of the EU since 1963, all the while hoping to become a full-fledged member.[1] In May, the EU struck a deal with Turkey in which Turkey agreed to house migrants fleeing the violence in Syria in exchange for $3 billion Euros. Further, it came with a dangling carrot that promised to restart the stalled accession talks that have been ongoing since 2005. Even German Prime Minister Angela Merkel has thrown her support behind Turkey in exchange for its agreement to house the refugees.[2]

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It seems as though Turkey is fighting a losing battle. With tensions between Turkey and Russia mounting since Turkey gunned down a Russian fighter jet, Turkey is facing an even more intensified battle within its own borders with the Kurdistan Peoples Party, or the PKK.[3] The conflict between the government and the PKK is not something that is new; the government’s efforts have increased to quell the efforts of what it labels a terrorist organization. [4]

The PKK has also been deemed a terrorist organization by the US and others in the international community. Since a breakdown of a truce between the government and the PKK in mid-2015, tensions have heightened and violence erupted in the southwest quadrant of the country. Not only is the country inundated with nearly 70,000 more migrants (adding to the nearly 2 million migrants currently there)[5], but Turkey itself cannot even contain the pre-existing violence and tensions within its own borders. Most recently violence erupted in the Kurdish town of Cizre with reports of innocent women and children being caught in the crossfire. [6]

Human rights abuses in Turkey are an ever-increasing concern. Recently, Turkish military forces shot 10 unarmed civilian Kurds, 2 of which were killed, with no recourse. As a result, the UN has called for an investigation. This also calls into question Turkey’s ability to comply with EU directives. EU member states who hold the fate of Turkey’s accession have been silent amid the accusations.[7]

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My fear is that the EU and the rest of the international community are putting entirely too much strain on Turkey. Last year EU Member States agreed to help resettle 22,500 refugees from Turkey and only 779 have been resettled as of the end of January.[8] A recent corruption scandal found that the government exercised too much power over state agencies (read police, military and the judiciary).[9]

It is as if the international community is waiting to place the blame on Turkey if and when something does go horribly awry. With the myriad of struggles facing Turkey both internally and externally, and their clear desire to join the EU there is a waiting game to see is Turkey has the capacity and ability to provide stability for themselves, and abroad.

Carolyn Mills is a graduate from of Bowie State University  and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Carolyn is a 2L at the University of Baltimore School of Law. She serves as 2L Representative for the International Law Society.  Her interests and focus areas are on Central America and West Africa; she has traveled to both Guatemala and Honduras and hopes to visit Ghana this summer. She is currently a law clerk for the Department of Homeland Security’s Human Rights Law Section.  

[1] http://www.euractiv.com/enlargement/eu-turkey-relations/article-129678

[2] http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-europe-migrants-germany-turkey-idUKKCN0SC08020151018.

[3] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35495157

[4] http://www.telesurtv.net/english/analysis/A-History-of-the-Turkish-Kurdish-Conflict-20150728-0042.html

[5] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35495157

[6] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/02/03/as-syria-burns-turkeys-kurdish-problem-is-getting-worse/.

[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/02/world/europe/un-turkey-human-rights.html?_r=0

[8] https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/01/29/turkey-alone-cant-solve-europes-refugee-crisis

[9] https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2015/country-chapters/turkey.