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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The Bahrain Blues

Elizabeth Hays

Bahrain, its name meaning “two seas,” is a small island nation located on the eastern coastline of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf.[i] Dating back to the time of the Romans, Bahrain was an important trading center.[ii] Centuries later, the Al Khalifa tribe rose to power in 1820 and established a treaty relationship with Great Britain.[iii] Bahrain became an independent state in 1971.[iv] Considered a constitutional monarchy with an elected legislative assembly, Bahrain has been ruled by King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa since 1999.[v] When he first became Head of State in 1999, King Khalifa released all political prisoners and gave women the right to vote.[vi] Lately, however,  the Bahrain government has been accused of major human rights violations and has seen an increase of low level unrest between security forces and protestors.[vii]

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On February 21st 2017, Bahrain’s Council of Representatives voted 31-1 on a proposed amendment to Bahrain’s Constitution that would enable military courts to try civilians.[viii] The Council of Representatives is the elected lower house of Bahrain’s National Assembly and is made up of 40 seats.[ix] Next, the proposed amendment will go to the upper house of Parliament,[x] the Consultative Council, which is made up of 40 members that are appointed by King Khalifa.[xi] Article 120 of Bahrain’s Constitution states that proposed amendments to the Constitution require the approval of 2/3 of both chambers of Parliament and approval of King Hamad.[xii] If approved there and by King Khalifa, the amendment is implemented and could have detrimental effects on the Bahraini people.[xiii]

Currently, Article 105(b) of Bahrain’s 2002 Constitution states that “the jurisdiction of military courts shall be confined to military offenses committed by members of the Defense Force, the National Guard, and the Security Forces.”[xiv] If approved, this bill effectively removes limitations on military courts by expanding their jurisdiction to civilians[xv] This change would further empower security forces amid a crackdown on dissent at a level not seen since the 2011 Arab Spring protests.[xvi] Yet, Brig. Gen. Yussef Rashid Flaifel, head of the country’s military courts, said the change is necessary to fight rampant terrorism in the nation.[xvii] The explanatory note on the proposed amendment confirms this intent by citing that the spread of terrorism in the region and the military courts flexibility and speed in investigations and sentencing justifies removing the restriction.[xviii]

Despite the national security concern, activists are outraged over this potential amendment.[xix] “The Bahraini king is effectively creating a police state with this de facto marital law” said Sayed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.[xx] The last time military courts prosecuted civilians was in 2011 in state of emergency in Bahrain. During that three-month time frame, the courts convicted approximately 300 people of political crimes in prosecutions designed to punish those in the opposition and to deter political opposition [xxi] Doctors, nurses, and the Bahrain 13 (a group of political leaders and human rights defenders sentenced to between five years and life imprisonment) were among the 300 convicted.[xxii] In June and August 2011, King Hamad transferred these cases to civilian courts, which upheld the results of the convictions, which were based on exercising basic rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.[xxiii]

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Furthermore, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (“BICI”), an international panel appointed by the King to investigate abuses, determined that the fundamental principles of a fair trial, including prompt and full access to legal counsel and inadmissibility of coerced testimony, were not respected in the courts.[xxiv] This has been an ongoing trend as civilian criminal and military Bahraini courts have been a part of the subpar fair trial standards in the wake of political dissent.

For instance, Bahrain civilian courts have routinely convicted defendant’s purported crimes that involved merely a defendant’s expression of political views.[xxv] To justify sentencing prominent opposition activists to long prison terms, a civilian court found that while unlawful means, such as the use of force, must be employed to qualify an act of terrorism, the force need not necessarily be military because terrorism can be the result of moral pressure.[xxvi] The increase of more speed and flexibility into an already unjust justice system in Bahrain is the wrong direction to go in.[xxvii]

Besides the clear and obvious unfairness, international human rights bodies have determined that trials of civilians before military tribunals violate the right to be tried by a completely independent and impartial tribunal.[xxviii] Civilians should be tried by military courts only under exceptional circumstances and only under conditions that genuinely afford the full due process.[xxix] Leading Bahraini legal experts expressed fear that civilians will be prosecuted and denied fair trials and access to lawyers.[xxx]

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This prediction stems from the execution of three torture victims in January 2017 after civilian criminal courts convicted them and sentenced them to death under a broad anti-terror law.[xxxi] Judges dismissed the credible reports of torture and denied defendants access to legal counsel. UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings investigated and determined that executions were, in fact, extrajudicial.[xxxii] Also in January 2017, the king reinstated the Bahrain National Security Agency’s (“NSA”) power to arrest. NSA is Bahrain’s intelligence service, that was involved in a systematic arbitrary detention and torture in 2011, resulting in death of at least one detainee.[xxxiii] The re-empowerment of the NSA began exercising its renewed power in February 2017 with the arrest of medical professional for providing treatment to a protestor.[xxxiv]

The unconditional support provided by its allies in London and Washington has influenced and increased these dictatorial efforts, which ultimately harms the people of Bahrain.[xxxv] With important allies like United States ignoring such human rights violations and preparing to sell arms without reform conditions, the problem will only worsen without a strong international censure of this move. This is exactly why President Trump’s deal to approve a sale of fighter planes to Bahrain without any conditions is concerning.[xxxvi] Instead of giving aid to countries unconditionally, the United States should be using that leverage to promote basic human rights. It is even more necessary to promote this for allies, such as Bahrain, in order to continue international progress and ensure human rights are respected worldwide.

Elizabeth Hays is a third year law student at the University of Baltimore School of Law. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Baltimore, where she majored in Jurisprudence. Her legal interests include administrative law, national security law, and maritime law. Elizabeth has previously interned with the U.S. Army JAG Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard JAG Corps. Additionally, she participated in the winter study abroad program in Curaçao in 2015/16. She is currently the Co-President of University of Baltimore Students for Public Interest (UBSPI) and a Staff Editor for University of Baltimore Law Forum.

[i] Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, NGOs to Bahrain: Do Not Allow Military Courts to Judge Civilians, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Feb. 6, 2017.

[ii] Bahrain, Word Atlas, (2017).

[iii] Id.

[iv] Id.

[v] Bahrain Country Profile, BBC News, Sept. 1, 2017.

[vi] Bahrain, World Atlas, (2017).

[vii] Jon Gambrell, Bahrain Lawmakers Approve Military Trials for Civilians, Yahoo News, Feb. 21, 2017.

[viii] Bahrain: proposed military trials of civilians, Human Rights Watch, Feb. 23, 2017.

[ix] Jon Gambrell, Bahrain Lawmakers Approve Military Trials for Civilians, Yahoo News, Feb. 21, 2017.

[x] Bahrain: proposed military trials of civilians, Human Rights Watch, Feb. 23, 2017.

[xi] Jon Gambrell, Bahrain Lawmakers Approve Military Trials for Civilians, Yahoo News, Feb. 21, 2017.

[xii] Bahrain: proposed military trials of civilians, Human Rights Watch, Feb. 23, 2017.

[xiii] Id.

[xiv] Id.

[xv] Jon Gambrell, Bahrain Lawmakers Approve Military Trials for Civilians, Yahoo News, Feb. 21, 2017.

[xvi] Id.

[xvii] Id.

[xviii] Bahrain: proposed military trials of civilians, Human Rights Watch, Feb. 23, 2017.

[xix] Jon Gambrell, Bahrain Lawmakers Approve Military Trials for Civilians, Yahoo News, Feb. 21, 2017.

[xx] Id.

[xxi] Bahrain: proposed military trials of civilians, Human Rights Watch, Feb. 23, 2017.

[xxii] Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, Bahrain: Constitutional Amendment Frees Military Courts to Try Civilians, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Feb. 21, 2017.

[xxiii] Bahrain: proposed military trials of civilians, Human Rights Watch, Feb. 23, 2017.

[xxiv] Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Bahrain: Constitutional Amendment Frees Military Courts to Try Civilians, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Feb. 21, 2017.

[xxv] Bahrain: proposed military trials of civilians, Human Rights Watch, Feb. 23, 2017.

[xxvi] Id.

[xxvii] Id.

[xxviii] Id.

[xxix] Id.

[xxx] Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Bahrain: Constitutional Amendment Frees Military Courts to Try Civilians, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Feb. 21, 2017.

[xxxi] Id.

[xxxii] Id.

[xxxiii] Id.

[xxxiv] Id.

[xxxv] Id.

[xxxvi] Josh Rogin, The Trump’s team deal with Bahrain could ignore its human rights abuses, The Washington Post, Feb. 19, 2017.


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From the Age of Big Brother, [TITLE CONTENT CENSORED (and that *might* not be a terrible thing…)], Greetings!

Margie Beltran

 

 

The mystique of a dystopian society has maintained a consistent intrigue across the history of mankind.  The imagination of man runs wild when he thinks about the “what ifs” and how they would affect the way we live.

The Time Machine; 1984; Brave New World; Planet of the Apes; The Giver; The Hunger Games; The Divergent Series; and, of course, that paramount episode of The Twilight Zone when all that poor man wanted to do was read his books – he becomes the last man on Earth and can finally sit on the remains of the post-apocalyptic library, reading for the rest of his days. And then, he accidentally steps on his glasses and yells, “That’s not fair, there was time now!”

We have seen the same theme time and again: mankind begins to self-destruct and in the bout of chaos and anarchy, a powerful leader/governing body rises from the ruins and reshapes society into a peaceful and balanced ecosystem.  Beautiful, no? So, what’s the catch? To have order and peace, one must forego the right to freedom and privacy.

My friends, hold on to your Mockingjay pins, for the dawning of the dystopian society may be upon us.

On November 29, 2016, The Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) was passed in the UK set to be enforced in January 2017.[i]  Not the first of its kind among the EU Member States, the IPA was satirically dubbed the “Snooper’s Charter” by those who opposed it. The Act grants law enforcement easier access to the private communications of UK citizens.[ii]  Some of the major provisions[iii] include, but are not limited to:

  1. Power to issue warrants for intrusive surveillance granted to ministers.
  2. Easier access for the government to retain browser history from popular websites.
  3. Ability to collect bulk communications data and to hack suspect’s electronic devices.

Over the past few years, terrorist attacks have become a consistent and troubling threat throughout Europe.[iv]  Although aware of the threat posed by terrorism, many within the EU are concerned since allowing the government into their phones and personal computers was not quite what many had in mind, as far protective measures go.[v]  Amnesty International (AI) criticized the UK, a nation considered to be a fierce protector of human rights, for setting such an example to other EU-Member States.[vi] According to AI, the Snooper’s Charter is “a modern twist of the Orwellian ‘thought crime,’ [in which] people can now be prosecuted for actions that have extremely tenuous links to actual criminal behavior.”[vii]

I sympathize and empathize with this issue under two lenses: the first, my rose-colored-goggles human rights activist perspective, in which I feel the rights of the people should be staunchly protected and the foremost concern of the governing body to any nation because it is what is just and humane; and the second, as a young American adult who remembers being a nine-year old, enveloped with gut-wrenching fear for reasons I could not even comprehend, living just minutes from Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001, and seeing the glazed-over eyes and clenched jaws of my peers whose parents worked downtown trying to hold back their tears in school for weeks following the attack.

The day the government is definitively tracking every communication we send and receive will be a disturbing one for sure.  Even if they have nothing to hide, many people are bothered knowing a third party is always reading, analyzing, and judging everything they type or say.

While freedom of speech is of the utmost importance, I continually find myself reverting to the lenses of nine-year old me.  If the ones I love are at risk of being hurt, I would give up my right to privacy within the confines of this act.  Maybe not permanently – and that is a risk that holds high with a law challenging a fundamental freedom – but at least until this state of emergency in Europe eases.

Think about The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (far more commonly known as The USA PATRIOT Act) enacted during the George W. Bush Administration in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks which enabled law enforcement to detect and prevent terrorism attacks by expanding the scope of their investigatory practices.[viii]  The USA PATRIOT Act passed in Congress across the bipartisan margins.[ix]  In the Senate, the act passed with nearly a unanimous at a 98-1 vote, while the House voted in favor with a 357-66 vote.[x]

Regarding terrorist attacks, the US has not faced an attack of the magnitude of 9/11 since the act was decreed.  While the USA PATRIOT Act has its flaws, as most laws do, the original purpose for introducing the bill has generally been satisfied.  The UK appears as if the IPA has received the same treatment by Parliament.[xi]  According to London-based journalist, Ewen MacAskill, the bill passed “with barely a whimper.”[xii]  Further, he said the marginal resistance to the bill did not come from outside of the parliament’s four walls, indicating the people of the UK and Parliament are both in support of the IPA.[xiii]  If the citizens of the UK are not complaining about the new law and choosing to exercise their right of privacy by foregoing their right of privacy, then so be it.  They have the right to invite Big Brother into their lives.

To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone – to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone…from the age of Big Brother – greetings!” – George Orwell, 1984[xiv]

 

Margery Beltran is a third year law student at the University of Baltimore School of Law (Candidate for J.D., May 2017).  She holds a Bachelor of Science in Family Science with a minor in Psychology from Towson University.  Her interests include mental health and disability law and international alternative dispute resolution. Margie currently serves as the Volume V Comments Editor for the University of Baltimore’s Journal of International Law. She participated in the 2016 Summer Abroad Program at the University of Aberdeen School of Law in Aberdeen, Scotland.  She is currently an intern in Washington D.C. for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Alternative Dispute Resolution Division.

[i] http://www.natlawreview.com/article/uk-investigatory-powers-act-2016-how-to-prepare-digital-age

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id.

[iv] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jan/17/uk-counter-terror-laws-most-orwellian-in-europe-says-amnesty

[v] Id.

[vi] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/01/eu-orwellian-counter-terrorism-laws-stripping-rights-under-guise-of-defending-them/

[vii] Id.

[viii] https://www.justice.gov/archive/ll/highlights.htm

[ix] Id.

[x] Id.

[xi] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/19/extreme-surveillance-becomes-uk-law-with-barely-a-whimper

[xii] Id.

[xiii] Id.

[xiv] 1984 by George Orwell

 

 


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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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The Maldives: A Façade Paradise

Kia Roberts-Warren
The Maldives is a place that very few of us know about, other than that it is vacation paradise to millions of Western countries. However, the Maldives has recently been put in a rather shocking light when international human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney decided to represent former President Mohamed Nasheed on appeal in the Maldivian highest court, pro bono.[1] Nasheed has served one year of a thirteen-year sentence for terrorism charges after he ordered the arrest of a senior judge.[2]

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For thirty years, the Maldives was under the rule of Maumoon Gayoom, who repeatedly imprisoned Nasheed during this time for his political beliefs against the regime.[3] In 2005, Nasheed returned from self-exile and in 2008 ran against Gayoom and won in the country’s first multiparty election.[4] Nasheed did not finish his first term before resigning. The Maldivian government alleges that Nasheed was crushed by the opposition, but Nasheed contends that there was actually a coup d’état.  Under the threat of force, security forces loyal to Gayoom held him at gunpoint and forced his resignation.[5] Since, his resignation Gayoom’s half-brother, Abdullah Yameen has been the President.[6]

KRW Blog 1_Photo4

 After the coup, Nasheed was subjected to an unfair trial, which the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention criticized for its unlawfulness and injustice.[7] However, Nasheed is not the only one in prison! President Yameen has, at the moment, imprisoned two former defense ministers, one former vice-president, one former deputy parliamentary speaker, and leaders of every opposition party in the Maldives.[8]

Since Amal Clooney has been advocating on the behalf of Nasheed, the question is why should the Western world care? If you don’t care about the political situation or human rights violations happening there, then you should care that the Maldives has the highest percentage of ISIS recruits per capita in the world.[9] Mr. Ben Emmerson, Nasheed’s other lawyer, noted that the “two hundred Maldivians [that] have gone so far to Iraq and Syria…[is] the equivalent of 36,000 Brits.”[10] He also believes that another Tunisia-style tragedy is inevitable for tourists that go to The Maldives (in June 2015, 38 people were killed at a beach resort in Sousse, Tunisia by an ISIS gunman).[11]

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This week, Nasheed was released for 30 days to go to London for spinal surgery.[12] Since arriving, he met with Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss sanctions on the Maldives.[13] Cameron stated to Parliament that “Britain was prepared to consider targeted action individuals if further progress isn’t made.”[14] Cameron and Nasheed also agreed on a Commonwealth meeting in the Maldives next month to give the Maldivian government an opportunity to have “an open dialogue and free all remaining political prisoners swiftly.”[15] On January 13, Amal Clooney visited with Obama administration officials and members of Congress to discuss sanctions to be placed on the Maldives.[16] Congress seemed to openly support the cause. Further, the Australian government asked travelers going to the Maldives to “exercise a high degree of caution.”[17]

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What is happening to Nasheed is a true travesty. Frankly, I am surprised that the Western world or even powerful, more developed Asian countries have not gotten involved. Although, no country should interfere with another country’s sovereignty, it is truly alarming that the Maldives has the highest per capita of ISIS recruits in the world and no one seems to want to take action. The United States has had this information, yet we have not made this a national security priority; although the U.S. and Britain are considering sanctions. Neither country, however, has taken affirmative action or has even stated a more solid plan if sanctions are ineffective.  While sanctions may be effective to correct the wrong against Nasheed, sanctions will not stop ISIS recruitment on the island. Preventing such recruitment should be a huge priority for the entire international community. Sanctions are not enough and the U.S. should not let the beautiful white sandy beaches and crystal blue waters cloud its judgment. Stopping terrorism should always trump tourism.

 

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/12/opinions/maldives-vice-president-ahmed-adheeb/

[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/amal-clooney-wins-the-day-as-un-rules-former-maldives-president-was-unlawfully-jailed-a6680986.html

[3] http://raeesnasheed.com/about

[4] http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/amal-clooney-takes-maldives-human-rights-battle-washington-n496051

[5]http://raeesnasheed.com/about

[6] http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/amal-clooney-takes-maldives-human-rights-battle-washington-n496051

[7] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/amal-clooney-wins-the-day-as-un-rules-former-maldives-president-was-unlawfully-jailed-a6680986.html

[8] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-27/maldives-former-president-calls-for-sanctions-amid-terror-threat/7114354

[9] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-27/maldives-former-president-calls-for-sanctions-amid-terror-threat/7114354

[10] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-27/maldives-former-president-calls-for-sanctions-amid-terror-threat/7114354

[11] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-27/maldives-former-president-calls-for-sanctions-amid-terror-threat/7114354

[12] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-27/maldives-former-president-calls-for-sanctions-amid-terror-threat/7114354

[13] http://in.reuters.com/article/britain-maldives-nasheed-idINKCN0V51MB

[14] http://in.reuters.com/article/britain-maldives-nasheed-idINKCN0V51MB

[15] http://in.reuters.com/article/britain-maldives-nasheed-idINKCN0V51MB

[16] http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/amal-clooney-takes-maldives-human-rights-battle-washington-n496051

[17] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-27/maldives-former-president-calls-for-sanctions-amid-terror-threat/7114354


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The Visa Waiver Program’s New and Improved Two-Tier System

Shane Bagwell

America’s most recent change to its immigration system has been a disastrous oversight of secondary consequences that often come as the result of hasty, reactionary politics. Updates to the Visa Waiver Program were generally positive, but a provision included in the update meant to restrict the travel rights of certain groups backfired. Here we will review the program, the changes, and the potential repairs planned for VWP.

The Visa Waiver Program authorizes citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States without a visa for stays of 90 days or less, avoiding the burden of applying through a U.S. Embassy or Consulate prior to entry into the country.[1] Started in 1986, the program was intended to facilitate tourism and short-term business stays, while cutting red tape and shifting State Department resources to more high priority tasks.[2]

Countries which are currently authorized under the Visa Waiver Program:

VWP

 

In light of recent events around the world, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, and anti-Muslim sentiments have been inflamed, particularly in the west. As a result of these fears, the U.S. Congress passed the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015”, section 3 of which prevented persons from entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program if the person: “has been present, at any time on or after March 1, 2011, in Iraq or Syria, in a country designated as one that has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism, or in any other country or area of concern designated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); and regardless of whether the alien is a national of a program country, is not a national of Iraq or Syria, a country designated as a country that has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism, or any other country or area of concern.”

The second part of this change, that “regardless of whether the alien is a national of a program country” a person may be excluded as a member of a class due only to their other citizenship has been most troubling to civil rights advocates and others.[3] There has been particular uproar from the Iranian-American community, due in part to the fact that Iranian citizens are unable to renounce citizenship, and it passed down to children in certain situations. For example, Article 976 of the Civil Code of Iran states that a child born to an Iranian father, no matter where they may have been born, is an Iranian citizen. This means that, for citizenship purposes, a child whose grandfather was Iranian, but who has no cultural or political ties to Iran may be an Iranian citizen through patrilineal descent.

The second section of the act failed to make exceptions for any group visiting countries such as Syria or Iraq for legitimate purposes. The Obama administration announced that certain groups would be exempted from the visa requirement, such as journalists, humanitarian workers, those traveling on behalf of international organizations or local governments, as well as those who have visited Iraq for “legitimate business-related purposes,” or travelled to Iran after July 14, 2015.[4] These actions have received pushback from Republicans, who believe that the unilateral granting of exemptions was not authorized in the bill.

PassportControl

Because the Visa Waiver Program is reciprocal, there is a likelihood that these restrictions will be matched by partner countries.[5] Rep. Jared Hauffman (CA-2)., in a letter to President Obama, stated that “[b]ecause the VWP is founded on reciprocity, our U.S. citizen constituents are concerned that this exclusion could result in our VWP partners severely restricting, or entirely ending, visa-free travel for certain U.S. citizens.” This presents an awkward circumstance for Americans who hold multiple citizenships, either by choice or involuntarily.

Rep. Justin Amash (MI-3) introduced the Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2016 on January 13th to repeal the controversial section that applies only to dual nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries.[6]  The bill has received broad bipartisan support, but, in an unpredictable Congress, nothing is certain. As such, it is possible that the restrictions could remain in place, and that retaliatory measures could be taken reducing the utility of U.S. passports for dual nationals under the program.

Until the Equal Protection in Travel Act is signed in to law, the status of dual nations in Visa Waiver Program countries remains in flux. Without swift congressional action, the rules will remain in place, and could cause chaos for dual national travelers within the network. It is worth noting that Canadian citizens are visa exempt and are not participants in the Visa Waiver Program, and therefore the new restrictions do not apply to Canadian citizens who have dual nationality in one of the specified countries.[7]

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]     “Visa Waiver Program,” U.S. Dept. of State, https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visa-waiver-program.html

[2]     Visa Waiver Permanent Program Act, Pub. L. 106-396, https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-106publ396/html/PLAW-106publ396.htm

[3]     These Changes To Tighten Visa Waiver Program Are Now In Effect, NPR. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/21/463846286/these-changes-to-tighten-visa-waiver-program-are-now-in-effect

[4]     Visa Waiver: U.S. Visa Rules Eased For Some European Travelers Who Visit Terrorist Hotspots, HNGN. http://www.hngn.com/articles/172169/20160122/visa-waiver-u-s-rules-eased-european-travelers-who-visit.htm

[5]     Austin, L. G. (2015, December 18). Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act short on prevention but punitive towards Iranian Americans, the Hill. http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/263661-visa-waiver-program-improvement-act-short-on-prevention

[6]     Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2016, H.R.4380, 114th Cong. (Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary 1/13/2016)

[7]     8 CFR §212.1(a)

 


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Wake Up World! Boko Haram is Here to Stay!

Annielle Makon

Although Boko Haram (translated means “western education is a sin”) has been functi since 2002, until recently it did not have international name recognition.  Boko Haram is considered a terrorist, militant, and Islamic group, based in northeast Nigeria, but they also carry out activities in neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon. [1] Boko Haram, led by Abubakar Shekau, has been linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS.[2] They have caused havoc in Africa’s most populous country through a wave of bombings, assassinations and abductions, they are fighting to overthrow the government and create a pure Islamic state rule by sharia law.[3]  They have been labeled as a terrorist organization by several countries (including the United States), yet that is as far as the international community has gone in dealing with their actions (aside from the infamous #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign). Boko Haram acts with impunity. As they continue to gain notoriety, Nigeria and the international community need to start paying attention to them, hold them accountable for their actions, and resolveto prevent any future attacks from Boko Haram.

Boko Haram

Between July 2009 and June 2014, Boko Haram has killed over 5,000 civilians. [4]  Since 2009 Boko Haram have abducted more than 500 men, women and children, famously, including the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014.[5] Their most horrific act was the massacre of 2,000 civilians in January 2015.[6] Most of the victims were women, children and elderly people who could not escape after fighters drove into the town firing rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons at local residents.[7] Corruption in the security services and human rights abuses committed by the terrorist group have hampered efforts to counter the unrest.[8] 650,000 people had fled the conflict zone by August 2014, an increase of 200,000 since May; by the end of the year 1.5 million had fled.[9] Yet, Nigeria and the international community have failed to actively thwart Boko Haram efforts.

Should the World Care? Yes, absolutely!

Boko Haram Pie Chart

Boko Haram’s latest attack is part of a growing trend. Violence has drastically increased since 2009.[10] The number of deaths is rising year to year and that is an indication that the threat is growing in a relatively short time span. Boko Haram has killed as many people as the Islamic State.[11] The United States has made active strides to thwart ISIS because they pose a threat to the United States interest abroad and attempting to avoid another Middle Eastern conflict.[12] Yet, nothing has been done about Boko Haram. The violence is increasing because they have been left unattended to wreck havoc in Nigeria. Nigeria’s government is unable to combat Boko Haram alone. Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in 2013 and, even after the state of emergency, Boko Haram attacked several military bases, bombed a busy bus terminal in the capital, Abuja (twice), and launched the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok.[13] Nigeria military lacks the modern equipment, training and motivation to sufficiently fight Boko Haram.[14]

As long as the world views Boko Haram as simply Nigeria’s problem, nothing will prevent them from committing more terrorist acts.  Many believe that Boko Haram is focus on Nigeria, with no interest in attacking the West.[15] However, the danger of this belief is that there is no guarantee that they will be satisfied with just turning Nigeria into a pure Islamic state.  What will the world do when Boko Haram is no longer isolated in Nigeria?

Boko Haram Attacks Graph

What Can or Should Be Done?

First, and foremost, reform needs to start within Nigeria.  President Goodluck Jonathan needs to focus on the issue of security and increase funds for the military to adequately train and equip these forces to combat Boko Haram.  Additionally, there needs to more effective allocation of national funds to the areas targeted by Boko Harm. Furthermore, the Nigerian government needs better intelligence gathering resources so that they can better prevent Boko Haram’s attacks. Most importantly, Nigeria needs to request and accept assistance from the international community. The United States has agreed to help combat Boko Haram by providing military and intelligence assistance.[16] France, too, can play role in pressuring neighboring Cameroon, Niger, and Chad to ramp up information sharing and cooperation through the Multinational Joint Task Force.[17] The Nigerian government needs to put the priority of its citizens ahead of its own need to portray itself as a regional power of West Africa in order to combat Boko Haram.

Annielle Makon is a third year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law J.D. Candidate (’15). She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Sociology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. While studying Political Science, Annielle developed a passion for human rights and international relations. In addition to being a CICL Student Fellow, Annielle is an Associate Editor on the Journal of International Law. Annielle also interns at Amnesty International in the Sub-Saharan Africa unit.

[1] Andrew Walker, What is Boko Haram?, United States Institute of Peace (March 30, 2012),  http://www.usip.org/publications/what-boko-haram.

[2] Id.

[3] Farouk Chothia, Who are Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists? BBC News Africa (January 21, 2015), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13809501.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Sophia Kleeman, One Chart Shows Why the World Should Care About Boko Haram, WorldMic  (January 13, 2015), http://mic.com/articles/108328/one-chart-shows-why-the-world-should-care-about-boko-haram?utm_source=policymicTWTR&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=social.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Chothia, supra note 5.

[14] Chothia, supra note 5.

[15] Walker, supra note 1.

[16] Jason Warner & Jacob Zenn,  After kidnappings, Nigeria must step up, The Boston Globe (May 15, 2014), http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/05/15/boko-haram-kidnappings-nigeria-must-step/p69X3KAaGqTVpX4WnKMr2K/story.html.

[17] Id.


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Houthis’ Rising Power Spears Turbulence in Yemen

Suzanne De Deyne

On January 22, 2015, Yemen’s President, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, resigned shortly after his prime minister and Cabinet stepped down.[1]  The sudden resignation came only one day after Houthis rebels struck a tentative UN brokered deal with President Hadi aiming to halt days of turmoil.[2]  The deal reportedly agreed to a power sharing between the government and, in exchange, Houthis would relinquish control over government facilities seized last September[3]  and would release President Hadi’s chief of staff, whom the rebels kidnapped.[4]  Nevertheless, President Hadi stated he had to resign so as “to avoid being dragged into an abyss of unconstructive policies based on no law…We don’t want to be a party to what is happening or will happen.”[5] This blog will set forth the concerns arising out of Yemen’s change in political leadership, discuss the role of the UN during Yemen’s time of turmoil, and explain how this change in regime to the Houthis directly affects U.S. counterterrorism in the Arabian Peninsula.

english version Grafik - DER SPIEGEL 45/2010 Seite 118

The Houthis adhere to the Zaidism branch of Shia Islam as members of Ansar Allah (Partisans of God).[6]  Their slogan translates to, “Death to America, death to Israel, curses to the Jews and victory to Islam.”[7]  As Shiite Muslims, in a majority Sunni country, Houthis wanted more power and elimination of marginalization.[8]  Under international law, it is true that the people of Yemen have the right to self-determination when denied rights amongst the political spectrum, but claiming authority via a coup d’état is not the proper legal method to convene political rights.  So, as the Houthis dissolved parliament and announced plans for a new interim assembly and five-member presidential council,[9] they claimed more than they bargained for – the responsibility to govern.

Conversely, Sunni and southern leaders will, most likely, not recognize their assertion to power, thus intensifying the country’s descent into chaos.  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Yemen to reinstate President Hadi and told Council, “Let me be clear, Yemen is collapsing before our eyes.  We cannot stand by and watch.”[10]  It is the job of the UN Security Council to act in accordance with Chapter VII of the UN Charter (Action with Respect to the Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression) during this time of hostility and take measures to promote peacekeeping. Due to safety concerns, the U.S. even closed the American embassy in Yemen, placing it in similar circles as Syria and Libya where U.S. diplomatic presence has been removed.[11] Similarly, other states have closed their embassies due to security concerns.[12]

Houthi

Yemen is a fractured country on the brink of a civil war and the recent struggle for power also generates opportunity for al-Qaeda to establish a stronger foothold.  For a long time Yemen’s government has been considered a key ally in the fight against al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP).[13]  Houthis claim to be anti-al-Qaeda and have driven the extremists from the areas they control, but Saleh Ali al-Sammad, second in command for the Houthis rebel group and former advisor to President Hadi, alludes to other conclusions by stating, “We are not against the missions or individuals themselves, but against policies adopted by America.”[14]  A common disdain for American diplomacy means the U.S. lacks a key counterterrorism ally in the region while al-Qaeda’s influence expands.  The effective boost for al-Qaeda was affirmed when al-Qaeda fighters completely captured the Yemeni National Army’s 19th Brigade, an important oil-producing area in southeastern Yemen.[15]  The strategic position of Yemen next to Saudi Arabia, a top oil exporter, and its access to shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden make the stability of the country a U.S. priority.[16]  Also, Saudi Arabia, as the main Sunni power, believes the Houthis are backed militarily, financially and politically by its Shia regional archrival, Iran, although these allegations have been denied.[17]

Houthi Child

The international community, especially the UN, must coordinate a response to Houthis’ newfound control and aim to terminate AQAP’s influence in the Arabian Peninsula.  Bruce Riedel, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute stated, “Yemen was supposed to be a role model for this smarter approach of building local capacity and getting our allies to do more.  It’s a sobering reality that it’s not working.”[17]  With the Houthis in power, Yemen, a dominant player in an especially geo-strategic location, is now a pro-Iranian, anti-American Shia militia.  The Houthis’ rebellion has not only put Yemen at a political crossroad that concerns the international community, but has now also caused the U.S. to reevaluate its commitment to the poorest country in the Arabian peninsula as al-Qaeda’s infectious presence intensifies.

Suzanne De Deyne is a second year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law (candidate for J.D., May 2016) concentrating in International Law. Suzanne graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Economics. She also received a Honor’s International Relations Certificate from Mount Holyoke College.

Currently, Suzanne is a staff editor on the Journal of International Law and represents the International Law Society as the Alumni Relations Director. As a CICL Fellow, Suzanne conducts legal research for International Rights Advocates on human rights and corporate accountability. She is also a member of Phi Alpha Delta and the Women’s Bar Association. This summer she will be a legal intern at Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher in the firm’s Brussels office, which is focused on Competition Law practice in Europe.

[1] Nick Paton, Yemen’s President, Cabinet Resign, CNN (Jan. 23, 2015), http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/22/world/yemen-violence/.

[2] Id.

[3] Nadia Prupis, Yemeni President, Cabinet Resign Amid Deal with Rebels, Common Dreams (Jan. 22, 2015), http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/01/22/yemeni-president-cabinet-resign-amid-deal-rebels.

[4] Nick Paton, supra note 1.

[5] Nadia Prupis, supra note 3.

[6] Yemen Crisis: Who are the Houthis?, BBC News Middle East (Feb. 6, 2015), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29319423.

[7] Bruce Ridel, SOTU: U.S. has Little Leverage to Influence the Outcome in Yemen, Brookings (Jan. 20, 2015), http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/up-front/posts/2015/01/20-sotu-us-little-leverage-to-influence-outcome-in-yemen-riedel

[8] Nick Paton, supra note 1.

[9] Yemen Crisis: Who are the Houthis?, supra note 6.

[10] Shuaib Almosawa & Rod Nordland, Qaeda Fighters Gain in Yemen as United Nations Warn of Country’s Freefall, N.Y. Times (Feb. 12, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/13/world/middleeast/al-qaeda-yemen-military.html.

[11] Shuaib Almosawa & Rod Nordland, U.S. Embassy Shuts in Yemen, Even as Militant Leader Reaches Out, N.Y. Times (Feb. 10, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/11/world/middleeast/yemen-houthi-leader-pledges-to-pursue-power-sharing-accord.html?_r=0.

[12] Japan closes embassy in Yemen over ‘security concerns’, PRESS TV (Feb. 16, 2015) http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2015/02/16/397791/Japan-closes-diplomatic-mission-in-Yemen

[13] Nick Paton, supra note 1.

[14] Shuaib Almosawa & Rod Nordland, supra note 11.

[15] Shuaib Almosawa & Rod Nordland, supra note 10.

[16] Yemen Crisis: Who are the Houthis?, supra note 6.

[17] Id.

[18] Bruce Ridel, supra note 7.