An Irish Claim to Rockall

Due to Brexit, dispute has again arisen between the UK and Ireland over Rockall, a small rock in the North-East Atlantic Ocean, and its surrounding waters. On January 4th a Marine Scotland patrol boat stopped and boarded an Irish fishing trawler, forcing it to leave waters within 12 nautical miles of the rock. Scotland asserted the UK claim to Rockall in anticipation of Brexit and sent patrol boats to the area immediately upon formally exiting the EU legal order on January 1st. In response the Irish Ministers for Foreign Affairs and for Agriculture, Food and the Marine issued a joint statement saying they were engaging with Scottish authorities but that “there remains an increased risk of enforcement action being taken by Scottish fisheries control authorities against Irish vessels operating in the waters around Rockall at present.” Continue reading

What Makes Law Our Law? A New Justification for Procedural Legitimacy

In his contribution to the recently published volume Public Reason and Courts, Mattias Kumm provides a theory of constitutional authority. In my view, this theory is founded on intuitive foundations and I hope to complement these intuitions with a more comprehensive theory. In the following short commentary on his chapter, I will defend his argument and attempt to provide a deeper theoretical account of his concept of legitimacy.

According to Kumm, the primary role of public institutions is to settle disagreements. Two types of disagreements are at stake here–substantive and procedural. He writes: Continue reading

Don’t Neglect the Language of Law!

The starting point for my book “A Global History of Ideas in the Language of Law” which will soon be published in the series “Global Perspectives on Legal History” is the (hopefully) uncontroversial finding that the history of ideas can be written as a history of languages. This approach has been elaborated by the so-called “Cambridge School of Intellectual History”, especially in their influential writings about the languages circulating in the discourses on the legitimacy of political orders. The protagonists of the school (Pocock, Skinner et al.) coined the term “languages of politics” for the languages thus analyzed, underlining the political nature of their genesis, use and reproduction. Continue reading

How can the ECtHR stay true to its commitment to democracy?

2020 is a special year for Europe: it marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the European Convention on Human Rights, which has played an essential role in stabilizing democracies in post-war and post-cold war Europe. Owing to the mandatory jurisdiction enjoyed by the European Court of Human Rights, it has had an enormous impact on the nature of democracy in the member states. Continue reading

Afrikanische Akteure und Interessen. Eine globale Geschichte des Völkerrechts wird erst noch geschrieben

Die Geschichte des Völkerrechts wurde in der Vergangenheit als eine überwiegend europäische Geschichte und als Teil der Geschichte der europäischen Ex­pansion erzählt: Im ius gentium europaeum der christlich-europäischen Staatenfamilie haben sich seit dem 17. Jahrhundert die prinzipiell gleichberechtigten Staaten Europas zwischenstaatlichen Normen unterworfen – dem Gesandtschaftsrecht, dem Recht zum Krieg, dem Recht im Krieg, dem Recht der Staatsverträge und anderen. Ein solches Völkerrecht blieb aber zunächst ohne Geltung für die Völker Asiens oder Afrikas außerhalb der „Alten Welt“ und Neu-Europas in der „Neuen Welt“.

Seit rund zwei Jahrzehnten verfolgen Forscherinnen und Forscher ein großes neues Projekt: Die eurozentrische Erzählung soll einer globalen völkerrechtlichen Forschungsperspektive auf die Geschichte der internationalen Beziehungen weichen, die die friedlichen oder gewaltsamen Verflechtungen – auch durch Imperialismus und Kolonialismus – zwischen Staaten auf allen Kontinenten in den Blick nimmt. Continue reading

Lockdown Fatigue: Pandemic from the Perspective of Nudge Theory

Some governments have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by developing policies based on ideas from behavioural psychology, especially ‘nudge theory’. But the pandemic has highlighted two important failings of ‘nudging’ – its libertarian opposition to state intervention; and its lack of any theory of psychological interiority.

First popularised by Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein and University of Chicago behavioural economist Richard Thaler, nudge theory has been credited for many policies that are common-sensical – positioning hand sanitisers in prominent locations in receptions of buildings accompanied by colourful signage will increase usage; citizens should be advised to sing happy birthday while washing their hands as this will ensure their handwashing lasts for the recommended duration; tissues might be placed within easy reach of office workers to discourage unprotected face touching; etc. Continue reading

The Problems of Genocide

I am interested in the various problems of genocide: not only the terrible fact of mass death, but also how the relatively new idea and law of genocide organises and distorts our thinking about civilian destruction. Taking the normative perspective of civilian immunity from military attack that international law and norms ostensibly prioritize, my book argues that their implicit hierarchy, atop which sits genocide as the “crime of crimes,” blinds us to other types of humanly caused civilian death, like bombing cities and the “collateral damage” of missile and drone strikes, blockades, and sanctions. In other words, talk of genocide functions ideologically to detract from systematic violence against civilians perpetrated by governments, including Western ones. Continue reading