Böckenförde on the Constituent Power of the People

The recent translation and edition of Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde’s work into English by Mirjam Künkler and Tine Stein represents an important impulse for the reception of a still marginal author in Anglo-Saxon constitutional theory. Böckenförde’s notable absence in the Anglo-Saxon debate so far has produced an artificial division between Anglo-Saxon and German constitutional theory. That division has weakened the understanding of important developments in Germany and obscured its connections with Anglo-American theory. The broad and competent translation of Böckenförde by Oxford University Press could now help to link German constitutional theory under the Grundgesetz to Anglo-Saxon constitutional theory, from which other legal traditions can draw important lessons. Continue reading

Why German Law Libraries Are Not Neutral and Why We Should Care

Imagine the following scenario: you are at a law library, searching for a German public law journal. You want to use it to marshal an effective argument about the German constitutional court. You start browsing bookshelves. After some minutes, a thought occurs to you that that this library is not located in Germany, but in Rome or Amsterdam. The journal you are looking for is, of course, published in German. Is it available at all? From the corner of your eye, you see German legal journals popping up. All is good.

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Mandatory Multilateralism – an Overview

With skepticism about international norms and institutions on the rise around the world, many commentators have argued that multilateralism faces an uncertain future. Major fractures have appeared in international legal order, including Britain’s messy divorce from the European Union and the United States’ controversial decisions to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership, withdraw from the 2015 Paris Agreement and the U.N. Human Rights Council, and undermine the World Trade Organization (WTO) by sidestepping its dispute-resolution mechanism and blocking appointments to its Appellate Body. While the path forward remains unclear, for now many states are reassessing the strategic value of multilateral cooperation and are recalibrating their international commitments across a wide variety of contexts. Continue reading

‘Responsibility to Prosecute’? The Case of German Universal Jurisdiction, CIJA and the Arrest of Syrian Perpetrators

Arguably, more than any other global actor, Germany is at the forefront of issuing arrest warrants for atrocity crimes committed by the Syrian government in the wake of the Arab Spring. Three important observations can be made from Germany’s experience. First, it highlights the uniqueness of Germany’s universal jurisdiction as one based on a legal ‘responsibility to prosecute’. Second, it challenges prevailing preconceptions that accountability for core international crimes rests with one or two inter-state actors, such as the United Nations Security Council and the International Criminal Court. Continue reading

Can the European Union Save the Independent Judges?

By the time of the “big bang” accession in 2004, when ten new member states entered the European Union, it seemed that the fate of East-Central Europe was settled. From that time forward, these states were certified as democracies in good standing. But before the first decade was out on the accession, it became painfully clear that a consolidated democracy could come unraveled. Hungary’s constitutional system began imploding shortly after 2010 and in 2015 Poland began a short, sharp slide toward autocracy. In Hungary and Poland, parties with autocratically inclined leaders were voted into power. Both Viktor Orbán and Jarosław Kaczyński lied about their revolutionary ambitions before they were elected. Once in office, both began attacking judiciaries which were poised to hold them to account under the democratic constitutions they inherited. Continue reading

Donald Trump as Global Constitutional Breaching Experiment

During the nearly 24 months since the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America, it has become commonplace to observe that the actions of this President are ‘not normal’. Examples of his abnormal behaviour are numerous, but for a quick refresher consider the following (very incomplete) list. Calling the director of the National Parks Service to find photos of the inauguration to disprove media claims that President Obama’s inauguration had a larger audience. Launching an investigation into voter fraud over the election he won, without any actual evidence of voter fraud. Hanging up on the Australian Prime Minister because he did not like a pre-existing refugee agreement between the US and Australia. Pressuring the director of the FBI to stop investigating Michael Flynn for his undisclosed dealings with Russia and Turkey. Banning major media outlets from White House press briefings because he did not like the coverage he received from these organisations. Accusing President Obama Continue reading

Circumcision: Immigration, Religion, History, and Constitutional Identity in Germany and the U.S.

The great waves of global migration into and out of Europe such as those that preceded World War I, followed World War II, and again drew our attention in 2015 inevitably challenge the fixity or stability of a country’s constitutional identity. Whether official ideologies are those of assimilation, integration, pluralism, or multiculturalism seems not to matter; challenges will arise no matter. Constitutional identities are not just ensembles of laws and an accumulated national jurisprudence. They are grounded in cultural configurations that evolve over long periods of time but are, for the most part, taken for granted. Continue reading