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By Duncan Hollis

An EJIL Symposium on Treaty Reservations

by Duncan Hollis

by Duncan Hollis Last fall, I was very pleased that, in conjunction with the publication of my book – The Oxford Guide to Treaties, Opinio Juris was able to host an interesting (and I hope useful) discussion of the current state of international law on treaty reservations, including some prominent reactions to the ILC’s recent Guide to Reservations [...]

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A Native American Mutual Defense Treaty Against Tar Sands Projects

by Duncan Hollis

Last week, a Ceremonial Grand Council was held on Ihanktonwan homelands (located within the boundaries of the U.S. State of South Dakota) which concluded and negotiated the "International Treaty to Protect the Sacred from Tar Sands Projects".  I can't find a specific list of participants, but news reports suggest signatories included representatives from an array of U.S native American Tribes and Canadian First Nations.  The treaty (see here for the text) is seven articles long, most of which involve establishing the authority of indigenous peoples' over their remaining land, including the authority to oppose tar sands oil projects (tar sands are unconventional oil deposits in sand and sandstone that are saturated with a particular form of petroleum; oil is produced from these deposits either by strip mining or using wells that inject steam, solvents and/or hot air into the sand).  The treaty signatories oppose oil work on tar sands for manifold reasons, including their degradation of the "the soil, the waters, the air, sacred sites, and our ways of life".  In Article VI, the signatories

[A]gree to mutually and collectively, as sovereign nations, call upon the Canadian and United States governments to respect our decision to reject tar sands projects that impact our sacred sites and homelands; to call upon the Canadian and United States governments to immediately halt and deny approval for pending tar sands projects because they threaten the soil, water, air, sacred sites, and our ways of life; and, confirm that any such approval would violate our ancestral laws, rights and responsibilities.

Article VII then goes on to establish a mutual defense commitment of sorts, wherein the signatories

[A]gree to the mutual, collective, and lawful enforcement of our responsibilities to protect our lands, waters, and air by all means necessary, and if called on to do so, we will exercise our peace and friendship by lawfully defending one another’s lands, waters, air, and sacred sites from the threat of tar sands projects, provided that each signatory Indigenous Nation reserves and does not cede their rights to act independently as the tribal governments see fit to protect their respective tribal interests, further provided that each signatory Indigenous Nation reserves its inherent sovereign right to take whatever governmental action and strategy that its governing body sees fit to best protect and advance tribal interests affected by the pipeline project consistent with the agreements made herein and subject to the laws and available resources of each respective nation.

I find this treaty enormously interesting from a constitutional and international law perspective.  Of course, the treaty implicates other issues as well -- environmental degradation, indigenous peoples' rights, Canadian law, etc., but I'm not enough of an expert to opine on such questions.  Whatever its merits, though, I wonder what legal authority U.S. Native American tribes had to consent to conclude this treaty, let alone consent to be bound by it in the future (which the treaty says will occur via ratification by the "governing bodies of the signatory nations").

Via OpinioJuris

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Ps&Is for DWIs – What should the Public Know?

by Duncan Hollis

In order for diplomatic missions to function, international law has long accorded diplomats and their families immunity from all local criminal laws.  And when a major crime occurs involving a diplomat, there's often a lot of press attention on the case by virtue of the privileges and immunities (Ps&Is) involved.

But Ps&Is aren't limited to allegations of rape or manslaughter, they extend to ALL local laws, often posing problems for the host State as it tries to police dangerous behavior while also complying with its international law obligations.  So, how do States deal with day-to-day misdemeanors or mid-level criminal activities?  In Australia, they write letters.  As this story in ninemsn notes:

More than two dozen foreign diplomats and consular officials have been warned about repeated or serious driving offences on Australian soil over the past three years.

The offences include drink driving, speeding more than 30km/h over the limit, running red lights, driving while talking on a mobile phone and not wearing a seat belt. But none of the offenders can be prosecuted or even lose their driving licence because of diplomatic immunity.

The offences are outlined in 26 warning letters sent by the Department of Foreign Affairs since 2010 to the heads of various foreign embassies and consulates about members of staff who had lost seven or more demerit points on their licence or who were involved in a serious driving incident that came to the attention of police.

One letter describes a diplomat who lost 15 demerit points from 11 speeding fines in just 15 months. Another refers to a diplomat who was deemed too drunk to continue driving after being intercepted by police on Canberra's Commonwealth Avenue Bridge at 1am on a Sunday. Police only agreed to release him when one of his own passengers agreed to get behind the wheel and take him home.

The story links to the actual letters sent out by the Australian Foreign Ministry - see here.  I found the extensive redactions especially interesting -- looking at the documents, you don't know who did what or what government she or he represented.  The Australian Chief of protocol explains that disclosing such details could damage Australia's good relations with foreign governments and "their willingness to cooperate and communicate with Australian government officials in the future."

Hmmm.  Now, I'm a supporter of P&Is for their functional value -- I truly believe they are a key cog in diplomatic machinery.  But, I'm less sanguine about the lack of transparency the Australian letters suggest.

Via OpinioJuris

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Supreme Court decides to revisit Missouri v. Holland after all!

by Duncan Hollis

by Duncan Hollis Just a quick entry (it’s late here in Tokyo) to note that the Supreme Court is going to hear the case of U.S. v. Bond, which, in effect, revisits the question of Missouri v. Holland and the scope of Congress’s power to implement U.S. treaty obligations.  Over at Volokh this past week, Nick Rosenkranz [...]

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Still Waiting to Revisit Missouri v Holland?

by Duncan Hollis

by Duncan Hollis I’m in Tokyo for the Spring semester teaching in Temple Law’s semester abroad program.  But that hasn’t stopped me from watching the Supreme Court, particularly it’s decision on whether or not to revisit Missouri v Holland via the case of Carol Anne Bond and the question of the scope of Congress’s power to [...]

Via OpinioJuris

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