Tradition and Constitutional Rights Review

Critiques on human rights and comparative law often criticize that an obsession with the universal norm or the “Common Core” erases the diversity and specificity of the local contexts. It is at the same time doubtful, however, that an assertion of “Asian values” could serve as a justification for denying universal human rights to any extent. The ways that tradition or national culture comes into rights practice are more subtle and varied. A constitution is sometimes claimed as an embodiment or representation of national identity and tradition. In other occasions, tradition is challenged as a threat to constitutional rights and principles. This essay examines two illuminating cases adjudicated by the South Korean Constitutional Court Continue reading

Reversing the Decline of Constitutional Democracy in Europe

Constitutional democracy is a system of government in which all powers are exercised under a constitution which grows out and is dedicated to the protection of equal human dignity. The latter requires that each and every individual is recognized an equal right to self-fulfilment within the scope of the same right recognized and exercised by others. By making equal human dignity a point of departure as well as the ultimate objective of its functioning, a polity characterized as a constitutional democracy is necessarily permeated by pluralism. Continue reading

The end of “the West” and the future of Global Constitutionalism

1. The collapse of “the West”?

A century after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and more than 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the “Eastern Block”, we may now to be witnessing the collapse of the American Republic and the Western order it created and led after WWII. Whether NATO, the EU and the string of alliances the United States has built across Asia will continue to exist in three or five years is by no means a foregone conclusion, but it has become an open question. Continue reading

Impeaching Remnants of the Authoritarian Past: A Constitutional Moment in South Korea

Last Friday, effective March 10 at exactly 11:21 a.m., the sitting President Park Geun-hye was removed from her office by a unanimous decision of the South Korean Constitutional Court. With public life coming to a standstill as eyes focused on TV and internet live broadcasting, the acting Chief Justice delivered the court decision. The conclusion of the constitutional impeachment procedure marked the climax of a transformative ongoing constitutional moment in South Korea. Continue reading

The Neglected Potentials of Vagueness and Ambiguity in International Law

Striving for clarity is one of the central tasks of a lawyer, at least so common wisdom tells. Whether lawyers interpret a statute, try to discern the ratio decidenci of a court judgment or seek to identify a norm of international custom, they look for a clear-cut, ideally brief and easily comprehensible underlying rule or principle, ratio or general logic that will present the solution to the legal question at hand. Continue reading

Protection and Freedom? Citizenship in Europe in the 20th and 21st Century

Book Cover Gosewinkel "Schutz und Freiheit?" Citizenship was the mark of political affiliation in Europe in the twentieth century. While estate, religion, party, class, and nation lost political significance in the century of extremes, citizenship advanced to become the decisive category of political affiliation.

In the century’s upheavals and political struggles, the legal institution of citizenship had a decisive influence on the limits of a political community, on in- and exclusion, and thus on an individual’s opportunities in life. Its enfranchisement included the obligation to risk life and limb for the survival of one’s country in exchange for the right to protection, participation in the expanding political and social rights in the democracies and welfare states of Europe and ultimately access to the new legal status of being a citizen of the European Union. Continue reading

History as a Legal Argument – The Naulilaa Case (1928)

Book Cover Zollmann "Naulila 1914" The question about the historical relation between international law and colonialism (and its legacy) has grown in relevance over the last twenty-odd years. Critical scholars speak of international law’s “complete complicity with the colonial project” – meaning the exploitation and domination of the global south. They point to the ‘dark side’ of the promises of ‘order’, ‘equality’, and ‘(world) peace’ inherent in the enlightened idea of the ius gentium europaeum.

It is important to point out that nineteenth-century contemporaries were already well aware of the relation between international law and colonialism but they did not look at it from a moral perspective. Continue reading