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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International Law, the Eighth Amendment, and the Death Penalty

Christian Kim

Should international views be given greater consideration in the interpretation of the evolving standards of the Eighth Amendment?

The United States has been pressured by the international community for its stance on capital punishment.  This pressure has recently been reignited with the state of Arkansas announcing the execution of eight death row inmates in the span of ten days at the end of the month.[1]  Although historically many nations exercised capital punishment, the majority of modern day states have either curbed or completely outlawed capital punishment.[2]   In the case of S v. Kaywanyane and Another, South Africa’s highest court ruled that, “[e]veryone, including the most abominable of human beings, has a right to life, and capital punishment is therefore unconstitutional.”[3]  Canada, after a five year moratorium, passed the C-84 bill, which abolished the death penalty.[4]  As one of the prime leaders in the world for human rights movements, the international community has been puzzled by the United States’ archaic stance on capital punishment.  Despite attempts to kick outside influence from our courts, we have seen such international influence creeping in starting as early as Paquete Habana.  Even the heated topic of capital punishment has not been immune to international influence.

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In Thompson v. Oklahoma[5], the Supreme Court found that the execution of an individual under the age of 16 would be a cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment’s contemporary standards of decency.  The plurality talked about the “evolving standards of decency,” which was stated in Trop v. Dulles as an indicator of a “maturing society.”[6]  To reach this evolving standard of decency, the court stated that it “is also consistent with the views expressed by… other nations that share the Anglo-American heritage” and additionally, “by the leading members of the Western European Community.”[7]  The court even referred to three human rights treaties that prohibit juvenile capital punishment in the footnotes, specifically: Art. 6(5) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Art. 4(5) of the American Convention on Human Rights, and Art. 68 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.[8]

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In Roper v. Simmons[9], the Supreme Court concluded that capital punishment for a juvenile is unconstitutional.  While the court elaborated that international views “do not dictate the outcome of our Eighth Amendment inquiry” the court mentioned that the international community is “instructive for its interpretation of the Eight Amendment’s prohibition of ‘cruel and unusual punishments.’”[10]  The court looked at various statistics in the world to point out that “only seven countries other than the United States have executed juvenile offenders since 1990.”[11]

In Atkins v. Virginia[12], the Supreme Court ruled that imposing the death penalty on mentally handicapped individuals would be a cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment.  Even though the court relied on its conclusion based on only domestic findings, the majority mentioned in a footnote that the internationally community opposes capital punishment for mentally handicapped individuals[13]

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To determine what constitutes cruel and unusual under the Eighth Amendment, our courts placed an emphasis on the “evolving standards” in our nation.  Although there has been a lot of opposition on the use of international views to determine our constitutional rights, it is not a novel practice to have our courts cite international laws or sources, as shown throughout history.  Through transnational seminars and conferences, legal dialogues between our judges and judges from around the world are increasingly common.  From the cases observed here, the international views our courts referenced were not contrary to our values.  In fact, our courts aligned with foreign views which brings up the idea that there is an international consensus against certain penal practices.  Foreign law and international law, are still very persuasive laws.

It is time for the United States to re-examine our capital punishment policies with the international community’s views as a persuasive source.  Even though our nation has shifted in the same direction as these abolitionist countries, the United States is in the minority where capital punishment is acceptable.  Our nation joins a small group of countries who are regularly seen as one of the biggest human right violators, such as North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, China, Iran, and Egypt.  Our capital punishment policy has been nothing but a failed project on criminal deterrence and its continued use is an international embarrassment.  When our officials criticize other nations that have terrible human rights records, those countries deflect our criticisms and point out our archaic retentionist policies.[14]  As a result, it would be in our nation’s best interest to re-examine the death penalty, with the international view as a persuasive source, and to persuade the Arkansas governor to halt the execution of these eight individuals, in light of the evolving standards of decency.

 

[1] http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2017/03/03/Death-penalty-opponents-outraged-at-Arkansas-assembly-line-of-executions/4681488566121/

[2] https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/death-penalty/

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/1995/06/07/world/south-africa-s-supreme-court-abolishes-death-penalty.html

[4] http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/text/pblct/rht-drt/08-eng.shtml

[5] Thompson v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. 815, 830 (1988).

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id. at 831.

[9] Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005).

[10] Id. at 575

[11] Id. at 577.

[12] Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002).

[13] Id. at 316.

[14] www.nytimes.com/2001/06/10/world/veteran-us-envoys-seek-end-to-executions-of-retarded.html.


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United in Paralysis

Bradley Willis

On April 1, 2017, the armed forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical weapon attack on a Syrian hospital.[1]  Unfortunately, this attack is not the first instance of chemical warfare in the Syrian Civil War.[2]

Raging for the past six years, the Syrian Civil War has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children.[3]  In 2012, then-President Barack Obama drew the non-infamous “redline”, claiming it would “change my calculus” if chemical weapons were used in the Syrian War. [4] While the Obama Administration appeared to be heading towards another intervention in the Middle East, the administration soon reversed itself, placing its hopes on a deal reached with the Russian Federation.  In this 11th hour deal, the Russians were to oversee the destruction of President Assad’s chemical weapons.[5]

While the United States may well have avoided another Middle Eastern quagmire and may well have ceded prestige and influence to the Russians, the world largely watched the horror unfold as thousands of Syrian citizens were rendered helpless by chemical nerve agents.  The world was horrified at the effects of the nerve agents, and yet the world continued with business as usual.

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Just as then-President Obama was torn between military intervention in the Syrian Civil War and non-intervention, President Trump is torn between intervening in a years-long war and remaining on the sidelines.  Even though candidate Trump campaigned on an “American First” platform, consistently claiming he was against the Second Iraq War from the beginning, the President must understand that America must stand for the non-use of chemical or biologic weapons against citizens, or even on the battlefield.

America, from its founding, has stood for the universal rights of freedom and self-determination, enshrined in our Declaration of Independence from George III, chief among them, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  While, like all nations, the history of the United States is tainted with horrific episodes, the United States stands for human rights.  In the history of the world, the United States is one of the only, if not the only, nation that fought a brutal civil war to set other men free from bondage.

Furthermore, the United States, and its allies, fought two World Wars under the principles of self-determination and freedom from tyranny, persecution, and genocide.  From the ashes of the Second World War rose the United Nations.  That institution too, seems incapable of stopping Assad’s gas attacks.

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     Protected by the Chinese and Russian veto, the Syrian government will probably never pay for its gross violation of international law and the laws of war.  This then begs the question: if the United Nations is no longer an institution capable of protecting the innocent, then what is its purpose in its current form?  What would make this institution capable of truly bringing violators to justice and face the consequences of their actions?

There has been some discussion on reforming the United Nations Security Council.  In what form would such an arrangement take?  Would there be any permanent members removed from their permanent positions?  Who would take their place?  In the event present permanent members are not removed, what members would receive permanent membership?  Finally, how would that affect the veto powers?

Some have offered the addition of the “BRIC(S)” as permanent members to the Security Council, minus the already-permanent members of Russia and China.  As the leading emerging economies Brazil, India, and South Africa would receive permanent status as well as a veto.

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As the largest country in South America, Brazil would add diversity to the Council, as it would be the only permanent member from South America.  As another emerging economy with a large population, and a democracy, India would be a leading candidate to receive permanent status.  However, given various geopolitical concerns, China would likely vocally oppose any such appointment to the Security Council’s permanent members.  Pakistan, India’s longtime rival, would oppose such an appointment as well.  Given the absence of an African voice on a permanent basis, South Africa would probably receive the veto and permanent status.  But the question would then turn to the following: given the dilution of the veto, what would be its power? 

Would the United Nations determine that since there would be as many as eight members, would any veto require just one permanent member to halt a resolution, or would two members be necessary?  Could this body become more democratic, with “majority rule” be the rule?  If that is the case, how would the decidedly non-democratic states of Russia and China respond?  They could, one could plausibly foresee, cut back on their involvement in the Security Council, deciding that they no longer have as much of a stake in the body.

While the United Nations has been unable to protect the innocent in conflicts like Rwanda, the Sudan, Syria, or Eastern Ukraine, the UN must reevaluate its work.  The United Nations appears paralyzed and incapable of living up to providing for peace and prosperity for all nations.  Perhaps a remedy for this apparent paralysis could include more permanent members of the Security Council while revising the current rules regarding the veto powers of the permanent members.  

While the United Nations expressed outrage as from this most recent chemical weapons attack against an innocent civilian population, the UN has not taken any concrete actions against Bashar al-Assad.  While President Trump campaigned on an “America First” platform, the president’s most recent actions[6] are polar opposites of such a course.  United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley stated that, regime change in Syria is “inevitable.”[7]

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It appears that President Trump is evolving in his new role as commander in chief and as leader of the free world.  From campaigning on an “America First” platform to his strikes against Syria, and the dispatching of the USS Carl Vinson strike group to the Korean Peninsula, President Trump has shown he is willing to use military force to further the interests of the United States in the absence of United Nations action.[8]

Bradley Willis is a 3L at the University of Baltimore School of Law.  He graduated from the University of Delaware (2014) with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and minors in History and French and studied abroad in Caen, France.  His areas of interest are international relations, history, politics, and the laws of war.  Bradley spent a semester externing with the Hermina Law Group, researching and writing sovereign immunity issues as well as embassy law.  Last year, he participated in the Philip C. Jessup Moot Court Competition.  He is currently a law clerk for the Law Office of David B. Love, P.A.

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/09/middleeast/syria-missile-strike-chemical-attack-aftermath/index.html

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nearly-1500-killed-in-syrian-chemical-weapons-attack-us-says/2013/08/30/b2864662-1196-11e3-85b6-d27422650fd5_story.html?utm_term=.4ada9a3de471

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/12/world/middleeast/death-toll-from-war-in-syria-now-470000-group-finds.html?_r=0

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2013/09/06/president-obama-and-the-red-line-on-syrias-chemical-weapons/?utm_term=.598421a987c9

[5] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-23876085

[6] Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles were launched from two American destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea against the airfield the Syrian armed forces launched their chemical attack

[7] http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/09/middleeast/syria-missile-strike-chemical-attack-aftermath/index.html

[8] http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/09/politics/navy-korean-peninsula/


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All’s Fair in Love and Cyberwar

Elizabeth Hays

A United States drone strikes a car near a gas station in Syria.[1] Inside that car, Junaid Hussain lays lifeless.[2] Though a seemingly normal 21-year-old British man with an education and a wife, Junaid possessed exceptional computer hacking skills and ties to ISIS’s cyber division.[3] Instead of the United States sending a sniper to take out Junaid, a person used his or her trigger finger to direct the drone strike from a computer miles away from the gas station.[4] Throughout history, technology has drastically changed warfare. The advances in cyberspace technology are no exception and the law is struggling to keep up.

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While country-on-country cyber-attacks have made headlines in the 21st century, such attacks can be dated as far back as the Cold War.[5] In June 1984, a United States satellite detected a large blast in Siberia.[6] That blast turned out to be an explosion on a Soviet gas pipeline.[7] A malfunction in the computer-controlled system that the Soviets stole from a firm in Canada caused the explosion.[8] Unware to them, the CIA caused the malfunction by tampering with the software, resetting  the pump and valve settings to produce pressures far beyond the capabilities of the pipeline welds, which  ultimately resulted in destruction.[9]

The most recent and controversial cyber-attack resulted in WikiLeaks publishing a series of confidential emails exchanged between several key members of the Democratic National Committee.[10] The release negatively impacted the Democratic Party in the public eye and resulted in the call for resignation from the DNC chairperson, the CEO, the CFO, and the Communications Director.[11] Despite President Trump’s initial accusation, these hackers are not just 400 pound guys in a basement; they are sophisticated and, potentially, dangerous adversarial governments.[12]

The United States accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering an “influence campaign” aimed at weakening Hilary Clinton’s campaign and strengthening Donald Trump’s.[13] The campaign consisted of hacking Democratic groups and individuals and releasing that information via third party websites, including WikiLeaks.[14]  Intelligence agencies concluded with high confidence that Russia had intended to undermine American faith in the electoral system by hurting Hilary Clinton’s chances of winning.[15] As a result, in December 2016, America responded with what was arguably its strongest response yet to a state sponsored cyberattack.[16] “All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions” stated Former President Obama.[17] While there is partisan disagreement about the scope and intent of the Russian cyber-attack on the 2016 United States Presidential Election, 77% of Americans from a wide variety of political backgrounds believe that cyber-attacks against computer systems in the United States are a serious threat.[18] Meanwhile, 63% of Americans believe that the United States is not adequately prepared to deal with these cyber threats.[19]

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While President Trump has repeatedly stated that the Russian hacking had no influence on the outcome of the election, it is becoming clear that cyber-attacks are becoming more prevalent and powerful.[20] Intelligence agencies reported that the Russian election intervention is an old-fashioned Soviet-style propaganda campaign made more powerful by the tools of cyberage.[21] While it may seem like this was a onetime event and new attack, it was actually a part of a campaign that went undetected for years.[22]

The same international laws apply to cyberspace as they do to traditional warfare domains. Yet, cyber-attacks are difficult for the international community to analyze due to their complexity and secrecy. In response to this challenge, the NATO Cyber Centre wrote the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare.[23] Applying the principles of the international law of war in cyberspace, the manual has been the primary guide for armed conflicts.[24] According to the principles in the manual, the Russian cyber-attacks on the DNC are below the threshold of an armed conflict.[25] On the other hand, if Russia had destroyed America’s cyber infrastructure, it would likely be enough to be a use of force and thus a violation.[26]

Yet others experts, such as the chairman of the U.S. Naval War College’s international law department Michael Schmidt, believe that the DNC hack was in fact a violation of international law.[27] For example, the hack could have threatened U.S. sovereignty.[28] The hackers attempted to intervene into the internal fairs of the United States affairs, which includes running elections.[29] However, there would need to be proof that Russia not only stole information but used the information to manipulate election results.[30]

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Therefore, the DNC hacks still lie in a legal gray zone. While the Tallinn Manual provides excellent guidance on applying international law in cyberspace, the Tallinn Manual 2.0 is in the works to expand upon it.[31] The goal of this additional manual is to examine how international law applies to cyber-attacks below the threshold on an armed conflict.[32] Until then, clever nations will continue to use cyber-attacks, like the DNC hack, to cause harmful effects but not cross the line that would trigger an armed response.[33]

 

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.

[1] Nick Gutteridge, ISIS Top Hacker Dead: British Jihadi Junaid Hussain Blown up in US Drone Strike in Syria, Express, (Aug. 27, 2015).

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] War in the Fifth Domain, The Economist (Jul. 1, 2010).

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Harold Stark, How Russia Hacked Us in 2016, Forbes (Jan. 24, 2017).

[11] Id.

[12] Scott Shane, Russian Intervention in American Election Was No One-Off, N.Y. Times (Jan. 6, 2017).

[13] Jill Dougherty, U.S. Election Hacking: Russia Hits Back at ‘Unfounded’ Allegations, CNN Politics (Jan. 15, 2017).

[14] Id.

[15]Paul Krugman, Russia’s Hand in America’s Election, N.Y. Times (Dec. 11, 2016).

[16] David E. Sanger, Obama Strikes Back at Russia for Election hacking, N.Y. Times (Dec. 29, 2016).

[17] Id.

[18] Sarah Dutton, Most Americans Think Russia Tried to Interfere In Presidential Election, CBS News (Jan. 18, 2017).

[19] Id.

[20] Jill Dougherty, U.S. Election Hacking: Russia Hits Back at ‘Unfounded’ Allegations, CNN Politics (Jan. 15, 2017).

[21] Scott Shane, Russian Intervention in American Election Was No One-Off, N.Y. Times (Jan. 6, 2017).

[22] Id.

[23] Jill Dougherty, NATO Cyberwar Challenge: Establish Rules of Engagement, CNN Politics (Nov. 7, 2016).

[24] Id.

[25] Id.

[26] Id.

[27] Id.

[28] Id.

[29] Id.

[30] Id.

[31] Id.

[32] Id.

[33] Id.


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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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Embargo-ing Going but Not Quite Gone: Smoke Begins to Dissipate Between Cuba and the U.S.

Margie Beltran

[I], John F. Kennedy, President of the United States of America, acting under the authority [of the] Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, do hereby proclaim an embargo upon trade between the United States and Cuba…of all goods of Cuban origin and all goods imported from of through [Cuba].”[1]

President John F. Kennedy, February 3, 1962, Proclamation 3447 – Embargo on All Trade with Cuba

And thus ended the free flow of the forbidden fruits that were Cuba’s earthy, intense cigars and premium rum.  To prevent supporting a communist-run country in the midst of the Cold War and months before the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy announced the United States would put an indefinite halt on any trade with Cuba.[2]  The embargo against Cuba prevented Americans from bringing home the coveted cigars and alcohol, even if they were purchased in third countries.[3]

Fast forward about a half a century later to October 17, and the White House has released a directive to lift more sanctions against Cuba.[4]  Note the word sanctions.  The embargo has not been lifted in full.

In 2014, President Barack Obama announced that his administration would begin working to re-establish a diplomatic relationship with Cuba by changing travel and trade restrictions set forth in Proclamation 3447.[5]  On April 11, 2015, President Obama and President Raul Castro of Cuba met in there face to face.[6]  Both have joined efforts to normalize the long-standing negative relationship between the two countries.

In March 2016, Obama was the first U.S. president to visit Cuba in nearly 90 years.[7]  In a press conference following their meeting on the island, Obama announced that they were on a track to ending the embargo, but provided no projected date.[8]  Castro agreed with the projected outcome of ending the embargo because he believed it would help Cuba and the U.S. make more progress.[9]  The two leaders continue to hold vastly different views on human rights and political freedoms.[10]

However, following Obama’s announced intentions of mending the relationship, Congress denied to support his decision.  Congress members and other political leaders felt that this change in trade relations with Castro is not benefitting the U.S., but merely benefitting Cuba.[11]  They are concerned that merely lifting trade sanctions will not incentivize Castro to improve political freedoms and human rights for the citizens of Cuba.

Now, in the final three months of Obama’s presidency, he has been working to change the U.S. policy, which would allow trade and commerce to grow exponentially between the two countries.[12]  While this olive branch approach in which the U.S. was to change their policies in the areas of medical and scientific research, the Cuban citizens feel differently.[13]

 

According to Josefina Vidal, head of the U.S. Department at the Cuban Foreign Ministry while speaking at a rally held at the University of Havana, “Obama is finishing his term, but the blockade remains.”  Vidal explained during the rally, that while it is a nice attempt, the embargo has not been lifted.  The sanctions are easing the tension between the country’s; however, there is still a lot of limitation brought forth by the embargo.[14]

The Cuban people are under the belief that the island will not and cannot commit themselves in full to restoring diplomatic and normalized partnerships with the U.S. so long as the U.S. does upholds the embargo.[15]

It will be interesting upon the start of a new presidential term how the U.S. relationship with Cuba continues to develop, if it develops at all.  Both candidates have stated that they are in favor of developing diplomatic relationships with Cuba.

 

Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton believes the U.S. should increase their influence of human rights policy on Cuba.[16]  She also stated that if Congress prevented her efforts, she would impose her executive authority to make it easier for the American people to visit the island and support small businesses in Cuba.[17]  GOP candidate, Donald Trump believes 50 years has been long enough for an embargo and supports Obama.[18]  This opinion strays from some of the other major influencers of the GOP such as Florida politicians, Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Jeb Bush.[19]  Senator Rubio referred to the diplomatic olive branch as “a lifeline for the Castro regime that will allow them to become more profitable…and allow them to become a more permanent fixture.”[20]

As one of the longest embargos in the world, it seems best the U.S. works towards a more amicable resolution and to eventually achieve their human rights goals around the world.  Based on the current candidate stances, the increased diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Cuba will continue to grow.

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.

[1] http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=58824

[2] http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/cold-war-history

[3] http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/14/americas/cuba-cigars-us-embargo-lifted/index.html

[4] http://money.cnn.com/2016/10/14/pf/cuban-cigar-rum-sanctions/index.html

[5] http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/12/17/world/americas/cuba-sanctions.html

[6] Id.

[7] http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-03-21/obama-castro-call-for-trade-embargo-on-cuba-to-be-lifted

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2016/10/19/cuba-official-reaction-to-obama-easing-embargo-restrictions-protests/

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] https://www.hillaryclinton.com/post/remarks-miami-cuba-embargo/

[17] Id.

[18] http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/08/politics/donald-trump-cuba-diplomatic-opening/

[19] Id.

[20] Id.


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Legitimizing China’s Claim in the South China Sea

John Rizos

Conflict in the South China Sea is an alarming threat to international peace. The current situation between the US and China navies is reminiscent of a newspaper’s reaction to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution during the Vietnam War. The US is planning to exercise its “freedom to navigation” through a third voyage in the South China Sea[1]. The voyage is said to be an assurance that China is not colonizing any disputed islands and not restricting trade or rights described in international law.

The Pentagon has been tracking Chinese military activity closely[2]. Officials have stated that China has increased spending on and usage of military modernization and has expanded its presence in the South China Sea[3]. US officials and military personnel have stated that such activity, especially in disputed areas, is destabilizing and poses a threat to trade routes in the region. This threat could damage America’s, and its allies’, trade route and competitiveness[4]. To emphasize the importance of the trade route in this region, $5Tr worth of shipping passes through the South China Sea each year[5]. Increased suspicious activity includes the construction of airfields on a man-made island on the Mischief Reef[6], attacks on Filipino fishermen[7], the deployment of anti-ship missiles in the area[8], and the attempted reclaims of Scarborough Shoal near the Philippines[9].

Although the Chinese government has condemned America’s intervention as indicative of a “Cold War” mentality and against modern trends for peace and cooperation, the US government has reassured that it will continue to send vessels to conduct freedom of navigation exercises[10]. It has made clear that it will not usurp to Chinese demands to stop such voyages. The US claims that China’s suspicious activity is against international law as preparations to colonize or annex disputed territories[11]. Maritime law allows for states to include seas up to 12 miles from their coast within their internal boundaries[12]. China claims that the US voyages will violate the 12-mile rule and will directly interfere with Chinese sovereignty[13]. US officials have stated that the navy will go wherever international law allows and any attempt of China to implement an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) would be ignored[14].

25-nine-dashed-line-in-the-south-china-sea

An ADIZ would allow for complete control of the sky over disputed territories, which would require aircrafts to alert the government of their entry/exit. Failure to alert may result in military action. China has implemented an ADIZ over the disputed Japanese Senkaku Islands, but has never exercised it against US aircrafts that constantly ignore it [15]. The US is treaty bound to protect Japan and the Philippines. It will begin operating from five different bases in the Philippines[16]. The bases are strategic in regards to the widespread claims, which include small islands in dispute amongst China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The base locations are significant since they are located in the eastern South China Sea and face all the sovereign states and disputed islands of the region.

According to China, the U.S. violations of state sovereignty are direct challenges to the state’s national interests [17]. China claims control in many of the disputed islands based on “ancient activity.”[18] The US has responded to disputed claims by stating that the voyages are not meant to establish support on any sovereignty’s claim but rather to conduct operations that no unlawful restrictions on international law rights and freedoms exist[19]. Further, the China’s naval spear,[20] Hainan Province, is geo-strategically important. It is located in the South China Sea and it faces the region eastwardly and southwardly. China asserts that it should have authority over these islands and would manage and supervise these territories from the Hainan Base. It would include nearby islands within its 12 mile boundary and close off routes as internal waters. The Hainan base is stocked with nuclear submarines, through which China can and will defend itself [21].

It is understandable for China to view the U.S. voyages as challenges to their assertion of sovereignty. Article 17 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, however, allows foreign ships to navigate “innocently” through another sovereign’s territorial sea. Article 19 of the Convention establishes the criteria of “innocent passage.” Under the criteria, a foreign ship is prohibited from using weapons or any threat of force, collecting state information, spreading propaganda, launching military devices or vehicles, loading or unloading commodities, fishing, polluting, conducting research, interfering with communications, and exercising any other activity that does not have a direct bearing on passage. Because China is arguing that these islands constitute a part of its territory, the waters could be considered part of its territorial sea. Further, China clearly does not buy the fact that the U.S. would not be collecting state information, conducting research, or interfering with its communications.

It is important to note that Article 17 is only applicable to waters within the borders of a sovereign, which would include the 12 mile extension rule of territorial seas from a sovereign’s border. The South China Sea, however is not (currently) part of China’s waters, rather it is open for international navigation. Even if China attempted to create an archipelagos by creating artificial islands or annexing disputed territories in the South China Sea, innocent passage for international navigation would still be allowed under Article 53 of the Convention[24]. China should watch out regarding its reliance on UNCLOS to save them in this fight, however, since Article 60 explicitly states that, “artificial islands…may not be established where interference may be caused to the use of recognized sea lanes essential to international navigation.”[25]

thumb_758_402_1446019919666

However, absent the artificial islands, China might have a case in claiming many of these territories based on a landmark international arbitration case. The 1928 “Las Palmas Case” in the Permanent Court of Arbitration held that in a disputed territory, an inchoate title could not prevail over continuous and peaceful display of authority by another state. Further, it is not necessary that display of sovereignty should go back to a very far distant period. In that case, the Netherlands’ display of authority prevailed in claiming Dutch possessions in the Philippines over the US’ claim on title of discovery[26]. Thus, it might be persuasive for China in showing that the mixture of its “ancient activity” and its continuous intervention in affairs over a territory might suffice as creating the disputed territories proper Chinese claims (in fact, it somewhat mirrors adverse possession on a global scale).

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.reuters.com/article/us-southchinasea-usa-idUSKCN0WZ018

[2] freebeacon.com/national-security/pentagon-concerned-chinese-anti-ship-missile-firing/

[3] http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/chinas-activities-in-south-china-sea-may-pose-threat-to-trade-routes-us/articleshow/51612043.cms

[4] Id.

[5] http://sputniknews.com/asia/20160402/1037392985/us-challenges-china-tests-sovereignty-south-china-sea.html

[6] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-southchinasea-usa-idUSKCN0WZ018

[7] http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2016/03/31/u-s-will-not-recognize-chinas-south-china-sea-borders/

[8] http://freebeacon.com/national-security/pentagon-concerned-chinese-anti-ship-missile-firing/

[9] http://www.morningnewsusa.com/china-war-south-china-sea-hainan-2368508.html

[10] http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2016/03/31/u-s-will-not-recognize-chinas-south-china-sea-borders/

[11] Id.

[12] http://sputniknews.com/asia/20160402/1037392985/us-challenges-china-tests-sovereignty-south-china-sea.html

[13] Id.

[14] http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2016/03/31/u-s-will-not-recognize-chinas-south-china-sea-borders/

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] http://sputniknews.com/asia/20160402/1037392985/us-challenges-china-tests-sovereignty-south-china-sea.html

[18] http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2016/03/31/u-s-will-not-recognize-chinas-south-china-sea-borders/

[19] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-southchinasea-usa-idUSKCN0WZ018

[20] http://www.morningnewsusa.com/china-war-south-china-sea-hainan-2368508.html

[21] Id.

[22] http://www.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/unclos_e.pdf at 30.

[23] Id. at 31.

[24] Id. at 42.

[25] Id. at 45.

[26] http://legal.un.org/riaa/cases/vol_II/829-871.pdf


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Renunciations on the Rise: U.S. Natural Status Is Dangerous Under FATCA

 

Julia Brent

On March 18, 2010, President Obama signed a “jobs” bill into law, paid for by the revenue raising Foreign Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).  Execution of FATCA would access a deep pocket: there is an estimated $40 billion per year in international tax evasion.[i]  Thus far, the U.S. Treasury has taken in $800 million in FATCA-related revenue.[ii]  FATCA doesn’t change the obligations of U.S. taxpayers to pay their taxes on overseas earnings, but creates an enormous reporting obligation on 200,000 foreign financial institutions (FFIs) worldwide to pass on information from accounts of U.S. citizens to the IRS. [iii]  Failure to do report results in a 30% penalty on payments into the account, payable to the IRS.[iv]

JB Blog 1_Photo1

The simple solution is to take advantage of one of several U.S. Tax amnesty programs, and many are struggling to pay their taxes before the reporting begins.  However, the legislation has created complex problems for both the institutions and for taxpayers.  For example, an FFI to merely register its own company with the IRS (much less implement the giant reporting scheme) must master a 135-page guide of registration details.  Similarly, taxpayers face multiple forms and banker’s-box size submissions. For many, hiring an accountant to handle compliance is prohibitively expensive.[v] Some foreign individuals who were born in the U.S. but raised overseas by foreign parents don’t realize they have U.S. citizenship.  Some are “accidental Americans” because their parent was born in the U.S.  Staff at the IRS report that they have been overwhelmed by calls from Americans overseas regarding what they are supposed to furnish under FATCA.[vi]

The result of this high-consequence complexity is that many individuals overseas are eliminating their U.S. citizenship. Those that hold dual citizenship often are nationals with a quality country the EU, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand and are allowed travel without a visa through much of the world (including to the United States).[vii]  In the face of accessing the value of their U.S. passport, the conclusion by many is that there is a real danger.  Many institutions are ill-equipped to handle FATCA compliance, much less retracing steps to correct an error.  Already, the IRS has extended reporting deadlines because foreign governments and FFI’s haven’t finished developing IT systems, and aren’t prepared.  Some believe the scale of implementation is so large that the cost of implementing FATCA will “far outweigh the revenues.”[viii] Scotia Bank in Canada, alone, has already spent $100 million.[ix]  There is a high likelihood of a taxpayer getting caught between the cracks of an imperfect system, and being the victim of incorrect reporting, which comes with significant consequences.  An account holder does not have to be a U.S. citizen for their FFI to report them based on U.S. indicia the distinguishing information on their account.  U.S. indicia can mean as little as a U.S. telephone listed as contact information.  One would hope that if an account held by a true non-U.S. citizen was incorrectly reported as that of a U.S. citizen, the false report would be quickly corrected.  However, the sheer size of the players the IRS, state governments, and FFIs – creates a likelihood that corrections will take months, even years, to sort out in litigation against the IRS or a foreign tax administrator.

JB Blog 1_Photo2

In addition to imperfect reporting, those with American only or dual citizenship are concerned that FACTA requirements compromise privacy and the right to data protection as a taxpayer.  Many governments have executed Intergovernmental Agreements (IGAs), either without considering the rights of the individuals affected or complying by means of what is essentially coercion.[x]  Privacy issues for Canadians have been raised by former Canadian Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty.  His concern is the “far reaching and extraterritorial implications” of FATCA which, in effect, mandate that Canadian banks become extensions of the IRS and jeopardize Canadians’ privacy rights.[xi] Banks in Canada are not required to know the nationality of their clients, and, to conform to FATCA, Canada would have to change its privacy laws.[xii]  All the countries under the Model 2 International Governmental Agreements (IGA’s) have laws which either prevent disclosure or require individual consent.[xiii]  The difficulty with consent is that in many cases it is logistically impossible.  For example, Japanese banks have several hundred million bank accounts, not digitized, all with opening forms in Japanese.[xiv]

FATCA has changed Americans into outsiders in the international financial world.[xv]  As one officer of a global bank reported, the banks are ridding themselves of the “U.S. Person pollution!”[xvi] American Citizens Abroad (ACA) has received multiple testimonies from Americans abroad who have had their foreign bank accounts closed, been refused entry into a foreign pension fund, or who cannot enter into insurance contracts overseas.[xvii]  Some claim that “American citizens are being denied savings accounts, investment accounts, mortgages, credit cards and many of the basic financial services required to live and work in modern society, raise a family and to save for retirement.”[xviii] This is due to the fact that, while there are 780 million American bank clients overseas,[xix] this number is a drop in the bucket for banks who serve a much higher number of non-Americans.

JB Blog 1_Photo3

These difficulties explain why the amount of renunciations since FATCA was implemented has quadrupled.[xx]  Renunciations have caused such a backlog of paperwork that, in November last year, the fee for renunciation was increased by 400%.[xxi] The U.S. response has been inadequate:  Robert Stack, Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary of International Tax Affairs, described the claim that Americans living abroad will give up their U.S. citizenship because of liabilities and burdens created by FATCA as Myth No. 3.[xxii]  Meanwhile, the New York Times reports, “The bureaucratic burden of identifying, verifying and reporting has caused many banks to regard American clients, particularly those of moderate means, as more trouble than they are worth.”[xxiii]

There is currently a push to make renunciation “easy and harmless,” financially and mentally, since new regulatory burdens on non-resident US citizens make living with that status nearly impossible.[xxiv]  Recently, a “renunciation meeting” was held in Canada, the first of its kind, to permit 22 Americans together to renounce their U.S. Citizenship, in spite of the $2,350 fee and paperwork. Tara Ferris, then Senior Counsel at Chief Counsel IRS, and others did an outstanding job in drafting the internal revenue rules and regulations of FATCA, an unprecedented behemouth of legislation.  However, the code implements policies that have significant unintended consequencesMass renunciations, a sort of reverse of our naturalization ceremonies, may become a thing of the future.[xxv]

[i] http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40623.pdf, Summary

[ii] Id.

[iii] http://www.acfcs.org/fatca-may-identify-tax-cheats-but-its-dragnet-for-financial-criminals-may-produce-an-even-bigger-yield/

[iv] http://fatca.thomsonreuters.com/about-fatca/

[v] http://cnsnews.com/news/article/gabrielle-cintorino/tax-laws-pushing-americans-living-abroad-renounce-their-us

[vi] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2015-04-08/an-emotional-audit-irs-workers-are-miserable-and-overwhelmed

[vii] http://opiniojuris.org/2012/01/08/fatca-fallout-mass-renunciations/

[viii] http://www.acfcs.org/fatca-may-identify-tax-cheats-but-its-dragnet-for-financial-criminals-may-produce-an-even-bigger-yield/

[ix] http://business.financialpost.com/news/fp-street/electronic-spying-a-big-issue-for-banks-scotia-ceo-waugh-says

[x] http://www.keepcalmtalklaw.co.uk/accidental-americans-the-us-citizenship-conundrum/

[xi] http://sundominica.com/articles/fatca-and-you-1462/

[xii]http://web.archive.org/web/20130601041733/http://americansabroad.org/issues/fatca/fatca-is-bad-for-america-why-it-should-be-repealed/

[xiii] https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Corporations/FATCA-Governments

[xiv] http://web.archive.org/web/20130601041733/http://americansabroad.org/issues/fatca/fatca-is-bad-for-america-why-it-should-be-repealed/

[xv] Id.

[xvi] http://www.finance.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Republicans%20Overseas,%20Inc.1.pdf, page 3

[xvii] Id.

[xviii] http://www.finance.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Republicans%20Overseas,%20Inc.1.pdf

[xix] http://money.cnn.com/2016/02/08/news/americans-citizenship-renunciation/

[xx] http://intltax.typepad.com/intltax_blog/2016/02/new-expatriate-record-2015-nearly-4300-expatriations.html

[xxi] http://www.bbc.com/news/35383435

[xxii] https://www.treasury.gov/connect/blog/Pages/Myth-vs-FATCA.aspx

[xxiii] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/14/opinion/an-american-tax-nightmare.html?_r=0

[xxiv] http://www.keepcalmtalklaw.co.uk/accidental-americans-the-us-citizenship-conundrum/

[xxv] http://opiniojuris.org/2012/01/08/fatca-fallout-mass-renunciations/