This Month in International Law - September 2018
Every month, ILJ Online will bring you a round-up of international and foreign legal developments as part of the Journal’s new online content platform. It is written by Online Content Editor Nickolas Ask, Associate Editor Robyn Luzon and Online Content Committee Staffers Rachel Shapiro and Tim Whitteaker. It is edited by Editor-in-Chief Shadé Quailey and Managing Editor Natasha Levy.
UN General Assembly’s 73rd session gets underway
The world’s largest political forum opened in New York on September 18, 2018. While the UN General Assembly largely consists of high-profile meetings and speeches, it usually also entails the adoption of resolutions or political declarations. This year, notables included a declaration from the Mandela Summit to “uphold the sovereign equality of all States and respect for their territorial integrity and political independence, as well as the duty of Member States to refrain from the threat or use of force,” and a declaration to tackle non-communicable diseases.
European Court of Justice reaffirms the United Kingdom’s adherence to EU law until Brexit
European leaders gathered in Salzburg, Austria to discuss the migration crisis and Brexit. With a deadline for a deal looming and no end in sight, the European Court of Justice ruled that a European Arrest Warrant cannot be suspended or refused on the basis of a country’s intention to leave the European Union. The Court noted that “the notification by a Member State of its intention to withdraw from the Union in accordance with Article 50 [Treaty on European Union] does not have the effect of suspending the application of EU law in that Member State.” In this ruling, the Court reaffirmed that until a deal is struck or the March 2019 deadline is reached, the UK is still very much a part of the EU and its legal commitments.
New set of AML-standards to be agreed upon in October
According to the President of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a new series of standards for Anti-Money Laundering regulations is likely to be agreed upon during its plenary session in October.
Highlighting the problem, Denmark’s largest bank disclosed this week that laundered money likely constituted a “large portion” of the $230 billion in transactions processed by its Estonian branch in recent years. According to the Wall Street Journal, the branch was evidently the “nexus of a colossal pipeline for carrying illicit money out of Russia and other former Soviet states.”
EU, Russia and China to set up mechanism to trade with Iran
With the full re-imposition of US sanctions once lifted against Iran set to occur on November 4, EU Member States have decided to establish a payment system alongside its remaining Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action partners to encourage legitimate trading with Iran and bypass the threat of US secondary sanctions. The EU announced in May that it would take steps to activate its Blocking Statute, in another effort to prevent US sanctions from affecting European businesses trading with Iran. Iranian FM Javad Zarif told reporters on Saturday that it is close to finishing negotiations on a deal to sell oil to European partners, despite the looming restoration of US sanctions.
The ICC takes a bold step in Myanmar
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda released a statement saying that she has opened a preliminary examination into the crimes committed against the Rohingya population. In what might become a point of great tension, Bensouda noted “[w]hile Myanmar is not a State Party to the ICC, Bangladesh is. The Court may therefore exercise jurisdiction over conduct to the extent it partly occurred on the territory of Bangladesh.”
Additionally, a UN fact-finding mission issued a 440-page report on the Tatmadaw’s crimes against the Rohingya, capping a 15-month investigation. In harrowing detail, the report depicts a deliberate campaign of mass killings, forced disappearances, torture, and mass sexual violence and urges the UN Security Council to either refer the crisis to the ICC or create an ad hoc international criminal tribunal.
The State of Palestine initiates ICJ proceedings against the United States
The State of Palestine has brought a case against the United States at the International Court of Justice, arguing that the United States is in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. It argues that the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem is a violation of international law. This comes in the aftermath of increased pressure on the Palestinian leadership in advance of an expected peace proposal from the White House. In August, the White House cut off most direct aid to the West Bank and Gaza and all aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
Moon urges United States to join Koreas in peace deal
South Korean president Moon Jae-in encouraged the United States to join him and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in declaring an official end to the Korean War. As part of what Mr. Moon’s Secretary for Arms Control called a “de facto nonaggression treaty,” Mr. Kim committed to dismantle several nuclear fuel production facilities, but not to relinquish any portion of his nuclear arsenal. Mr. Moon, however, predicted that a joint peace declaration would induce Mr. Kim to take more substantial steps toward denuclearization, and he assured conservative critics in Washington and Seoul that such a deal would not affect the status of U.S. forces stationed in the South. The conflict has been frozen in an inconclusive armistice since 1953.
Republic of Ireland repeals ban on abortion
Ireland’s Eighth Amendment which “granted an equal right to life to the mother and the unborn child” was formally repealed after the country voted on the issue in May. The vote resulted in 66.4% of voters supporting a repeal of the Eighth Amendment. Now the Irish government is proposing that women will have access to an abortion within the first 12 weeks of their pregnancy. Irish President, Michael D. Higgins, signed the abortion referendum bill into law on September 18th, 2018.
Related: Volume XLII Senior Articles Editor Krina Patel wrote last year about the international human rights standards related to abortion as it pertained to neighboring country Northern Ireland’s abortion laws.
Cuban President supports change in new Constitution to allow gay marriage
In a shocking departure from previous regimes, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel spoke of support for gay marriage in his first interview since taking office in April of 2018. In support of this progressive stance the President declared, "I defend there being no kind of discrimination." Cuba is currently drafting a new constitution which will replace Cuba’s previous Constitution which was ratified during the Cold-War era. President Diaz-Canel is not alone in this forward moving sentiment, the niece of Fidel Castro and Cuban lawmaker, Mariela Castro, has been leading a movement in support of LGBTQ rights in the Latino community and expressed her support for the legalization of same-sex marriage.
South Africa Decriminalizes Marijuana Use
South Africa’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, has ruled that personal usage of marijuana, known locally as ‘dagga’, is not a criminal offense. The ruling is limited to the possession and consumption of marijuana in a private dwelling and does not extend to public places as, "[t]he order also makes clear that the relevant provisions are only unconstitutional to the extent that they trench upon the private use and consumption of a quantity of cannabis for personal purposes, which the legislative considers does not constitute undue harm." The United Nations Office of Drug and Crime recently criticized Canada for its new legalization policy, and is adamantly against countries moving towards legalization.