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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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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Human Rights Abuses in Ethiopia – Where is the International Community?

Paul Gora

 

Ethiopia is facing a crisis of unprecedented magnitude, yet its government and Western enablers refuse to acknowledge the depth of the crisis. The nation-wide protest, which started in the Oromyia region, is one that threatens to degenerate into a full-scale social explosion.[1] These protests  are an extraordinary display of defiance by Ethiopia’s people against a repressive government.

While protests began in small villages and towns in 2014, the protests erupted in early July 2016 after a development plan was released that sought to expand the territorial limits of Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in to Oromyia villages and towns. This was seen as a move to further accelerate the Oromo farmer evection from their ancestral land.[2] The government dismissed the protesters as “anti-peace” elements and accused them of acting in collaboration with a terrorist group, a common tactic used by Ethiopian government to crackdown on dissident opposition.

Although, these protests are triggered by recent events, they actually represent a more enduring and deeper crisis of political misrepresentation and systematic marginalization suffered by other ethnic groups in Ethiopia.[3] Historically, this tension exists because the government is tribal oriented ( i.e.Tigryan ) and they pushed out all other non-Tigrayan peoples, marginalizing them in their own country and deeming them unworthy of respect and consideration. In particular, the Oromos’ culture and language have been banned, their identity stigmatized, rendering them virtually invisible because their voices are not heard in the political process. When the current government came to power a quarter century ago, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), presented itself as the only political movement in the country that could provide stability to Ethiopia. As a result, the country gained greater support from the regional and global powers, who seem to have a vested interest in the region.

gora_blog1_photo1

The US-led “War on Terror” provided the Ethiopian government with a political and legal instrument with which the government justified severe restriction on freedom of expression, association, and assembly. The 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation enabled the government to stretch its power of prosecution and punishment beyond what is permissible under criminal and constitutional law. Under the pretext of fighting terrorism, the regime exiled and prosecuted several opposition leaders, journalists, bloggers, and activists.[4]

The government used overwhelming force to crush the protesters, killing hundreds of protesters and arresting thousands. Human Rights Watch criticized the excessive and lethal force used by security forces against the mostly peaceful protesters. Although the death toll is estimated at over 400, some activist groups think it is actually much higher. The protesters are demanding the international community to respond and openly condemn the regime in Addis Ababa and to withdraw its support for the repressive government.[5]

It remains unclear as to why IGAD, a regional body, or the UN, or the international community  as a whole have yet to condemn the atrocities being carried out by Ethiopian government on its own people. Even now, the international community is still funding the government, who is brutally kill unarmed peaceful demonstrators.

  The role of the international community

gora_blog1_photo2

Most recently, at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Fiyesa Lilesa crossed the finish line of the men’s Marathon with his arms cross over his head in a gesture of solidarity with the Oromos to symbolize the protest against the government’s policies that targeted his ethnic group.  The Oromos have been using this gesture as symbol of protest against the Ethiopian government for the last two years.

The international community seems to have ignored what is happening in Ethiopia. Back in 2012, when uprising began in Benghazi, Libya, the international community reacted quickly to condemn the Libyan government for the use of excessive forces against unarmed protesters. Some countries cut-off their diplomatic relations with the Libyan government and the UN Security Council passed a resolution that stated the situation in Libya is a threat to international  peace and security under Chapter VII of UN Charter.

The current crisis in Ethiopia is clearly a threat to the region and beyond.  The African Union, its International Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the international community should condemned it openly. The Security Council should pass a resolution calling upon the Ethiopian authorities to stop the use of force against peaceful protesters, to protect human rights, and promote rule of law. Furthermore, the international community should take steps to impose sanctions on the Ethiopian government and stop financially supporting the government.

Perhaps the actions of Fiyesa Lilesa will have opened the world’s eyes. Unfortunately, Ethiopians do not have too long to wait.

Paul Obang Gora is an LL.M. student in the Law of the United States (LOTUS) program at UB Law. He has an LL.B. from the Ethiopian Civil Service College, Addis Ababa (2000) and a certificate for six-months’ training for judges and prosecutors. He served as an assistant prosecutor in Ethiopia from 2001-2003, but fled to Kenya because of political persecution. He was a community organizer in the refugee camps in Kenya and then served in the new South Sudan Ministry of Justice as legal counsel from 2008-12, prior to emigrating to the U.S. Paul is on the Elective Concentration Track, specializing in International Law, and working as an intern with the International Rescue Committee. 

[1] http//: http://www.humanrights watch /Ethiopia crisis /report

[2] http//: http://www.hrw.org/world –report/2015/country-chapters/Ethiopia

[3] www.voanews.com/a/ethiopia – ethiopia-dismisses-human-rights-watch-report

[4] http//:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/human_rights_in_ethiopia 

[5] http://www.refworld.org/docid/3aeba8af24.html


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Governmental Media Regulation: U.S. vs. Bhutan

Raiven Taylor

As we all know, the media is used to spread the most recent news and current events. What many people do not know is that the media have rules and regulations they must follow in order to stay on TV and/or the radio. Many rules that regulate the media differ from country to country. Although the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees the right to freedom of the press, usually with minimum regulations, other countries, such as Bhutan, which will be explored in this blog, do not have such freedom.

The U.S. gives most leeway to print media, such as newspapers, magazines, and flyers.[i] The only real regulation for print media is to deter defamation. [ii]  Defamation happens when untrue information is printed that may cause harm to someone.[iii] Defamation can be either written (libel) or communicated verbally (slander). Broadcasting media are a little more regulated than print.

Media1

Broadcasting media are also regulated against defamation. In fact, broadcasters and their networks can be sued for slander.[iv] Broadcasting is also heavily regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).[v] The FCC polices the content of the airwaves and has the authority to fine or revoke broadcasting licenses for violating any of the following: broadcasting obscene programs at any time, broadcasting indecent programs during certain hours, or broadcasting profane language during certain hours.

Having regulations on the media could eventually spill into social media. However, to date, the U.S. has only come up with basic regulations on social media, such as the right of privacy, how one may create social media policies, and protocols for marketing on social media.[vi] Because social media is a growing media source, it has been very hard for the government to regulate.

Media2

On the other hand, Bhutan has more restrictions on media outlets. Even though Bhutan claims to have a Constitution allowing free speech and opinion, Bhutan has an Act that prohibits criticism of the king as well as anything that may undermine or attempt to undermine the security and sovereignty of Bhutan.[vii] The government even restricts and censors topics that involve Nepali-speaking residents having to leave Bhutan.[viii] Many of the media outlets hesitate to push the limits of the regulations because the media depends on the government for funding and support.[ix]

Bhutan is a country that is far behind the times on Internet and television, both of which arrived in 1999.[x]  Even though Bhutan was behind the times, almost 10% of their population is on social media.[xi] Social media gives the Bhutanese an outlet to express their own opinions and views and changed the idea of criticizing the government, giving the younger generation an opportunity to have an opinion. [xii] However, due to the growth of social media and the presence of the population on social media in Bhutan, the government decided in 2014 to draft policy on the use of social media.[xiii]

Media3

The government agreed that a huge benefit of having a social media policy would be for the government to engage its citizens and officials in the use of social media to share government information as a developmental tool for social, economic, and political change.[xiv] Discussions concerning social media use in Bhutan have even led to the idea of incorporating curriculum in the schools to have a social media component.[xv] Even though the Bhutanese government may appear to support the idea of social media and is not trying to regulate social media, the government has created guidelines one must follow when using social media. These include the requirement to be accurate, to never post anything malicious or misleading, to respect the Constitution and all laws, and to act in good judgment.[xvi] These are many things that young people do not think of when posting their opinions.

Given an option between the United States and Bhutan, I would choose to use social media in the U.S. The U.S. may regulate TV, radio, and print, but it does not regulate it in a way that would affect one’s rights. The U.S. can write, state, or show on TV what’s going on in the government, even if they disagree with what the government is doing. On the other hand, Bhutan regulates its media outlets in a way that only shines light on the government’s positive aspects instead of the negative. The Bhutanese government does not allow its citizens to share their opinions if they disagree with what the government is doing. While beneficial to maintaining the status quo in Bhutan, this restriction of rights affects the rights of the media and Bhutanese citizens alike.

Raiven Taylor is third year law student at the University of Baltimiore School of Law and is completing her concentration in International Law. She has an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Bowie State University. She has studied abroad in London, England and Clermond-Ferrand, France. She is an Senior Staff Editor for the Journal for International Law as well as Secretary for the International Law Society. Additionally, Raiven is a Rule 16 student attorney in the Immigrant Rights Clinic. Her passion and interest in international law is human trafficking and international human rights law.

[i] http://study.com/academy/lesson/rules-governing-the-media-definition-examples.html

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id.

[iv] Id.

[v] Id.

[vi] http://blogs.forrester.com/nick_hayes/13-07-31-five_common_legal_regulatory_challenges_with_social_media

[vii] https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2013/bhutan

[viii] id.

[ix] Id.

[x] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-25314578

[xi] Id.

[xii] Id.

[xiii] http://www.undp.org/content/bhutan/en/home/presscenter/articles/2015/01/14/bhutan-forms-its-first-social-media-policy.html

[xiv] Id.

[xv] Id.

[xvi] http://www.gnhc.gov.bt/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/RGoB-Draft-Social-Media-Policy.pdf