We Still Live in the Age of Refugees: Expanding the Horizon of International Refugee Law
On this day, in 1954, the Convention on the Status of Refugees (the Refugee Convention) signed 28.07.1951, entered into force. Incorporating fundamental norms regarding who is a refugee, and setting out the rights and responsibilities of refugees as well as the responsibilities of receiving states, the convention was a landmark in establishing international standards for the treatment of refugees, based on principles of humanity. The convention was originally adopted to deal with the aftermath of World War II and the displacements it caused by persecution and war, but got universal coverage with the 1967 Protocol. Despite criticism arguing that it is outdated or that it is an instrument for abuse, the cycle of war and systematic human rights violations continue to confirm the relevance and importance of the convention and the protocol today, over half a century later.
Together with international human rights law and international humanitarian law, international refugee law aims at the protection of the life and dignity of each and every person. International refugee law has, however, since its inception been primarily concerned with the duties of the receiving states. This is perhaps a result of a necessary division of labor in international law. It has, however, led the discourse and work of international refugee law to be primarily about the duties and the policies of the receiving state, and not about the duties and policies of the refugee producing state- the source state. Hence, refugee law continues to be law that lags behind- it is marked by post-problem attention instead of including attention to the root of the problem- namely the domestic situation that forces some persons to flee their home country. Refugee law needs not only to be met by humanitarian concerns but equally by political considerations at the root. As we mark the 60th anniversary of the Refugee Convention, it is time to ask whether a better protection of the life and dignity of each person, including each refugee, requires that international refugee law includes attention to the root of the problem, and expands its horizon to include attention to the domestic legal order of source states.
This is nothing particularly radical, it is already part of international human rights law, but it seems somehow to have been forgotten along the way when discussing international refugee law. The Refugee Convention itself confirms that the primary duties lie with the source country by referring to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in its preamble and to the principle that human beings shall enjoy fundamental rights and principles without discrimination. TO ensure these rights is the duty of every state. Indeed, if all states took these duties seriously, there would be far less refugees in the world.
Furthermore, the definition of refugee in the Refugee Convention provides us with some additional guidelines in how to approach the source country problem in so far as it is related to the domestic legal order. Article 1(a)(2) of the convention defines a refugee as an individual who is outside her country of nationality or habitual residence, who is unable or unwilling to return due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on her race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Under this definition, internally displaced persons, including for example persons fleeing natural disasters and generalized violence are not considered refugees under the convention.
This definition is important because it corresponds to the international human rights obligations of every state under the UDHR and under the covenants. It tells us that countries that do not make a serious attempt to reform their legal orders to comply with international human rights law inevitably will produce refugees. This includes legal orders that justify discrimination based on the above-mentioned grounds, and legal orders that severely restrict fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression , freedom of assembly and political participation. Often such restrictions come hand in hand with strict enforcement and persecution, for example as crimes against the state, either legally or extra-legally.
By forcing members of their own population to flee their country and seek refuge in other countries, the legal orders of source countries cease to be merely a domestic matter. They are translated into an international matter due to the border-crossing effects, which are painfully human in nature. This requires global attention, and it requires the attention of international refugee law.
Complaint Mechanism of Child Rights Treaty Enters Into Force
The treaty establishing a complaint mechanism for the Convention on the Rights of the Child (“OP3”) entered into force on 14 April 2014. Costa Rica brought the number of ratifications of this Optional Protocol to the required ten, with all but Costa Rica also entering declarations accepting the Article 13 inquiry procedure. An additional 37 states have signed the protocol but not yet completed the ratification process. States parties to the Optional Protocol thus far:
Albania, Bolivia, Gabon, Germany, Montenegro, Portugal, Spain, Thailand, Slovakia and Costa Rica Under the treaty, the Committee on the Rights of the Child may hear complaints from individual children, groups of children, or their representatives against a state party to OP3 for a violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and for a violation of the Convention’s other two protocols if ratified by that state.
Domestic remedies must have been exhausted or shown to be “unreasonably prolonged or unlikely to bring effective relief.” The complaint must be submitted within one year of the exhaustion of domestic remedies unless it is shown it was not possible to bring the complaint within that time limit. The treaty also contains a follow-up procedure, an opt-out inquiry procedure for “grave or systematic violations,” and an opt-in inter-state complaint procedure.
The treaty specifies that in developing its rules of procedure the Committee on the Rights of the Child is to “guarantee child-sensitive procedures” and include “safeguards to prevent the manipulation of the child by those acting on his or her behalf.” In addition, the committee “may decline to examine any communication that it considers not to be in the child’s best interests.” OP3 Rules of Procedure here.
For a comparison of this OP with the complaint procedures of the other UN human rights treaties, see this comparison chart developed by the Child Rights International Network (CRIN). For additional resources on OP3, see this toolkit and annotated guide.
Call for Papers: “Justice and Dignity under Challenge”
The theme for this year’s event is “Justice and Dignity under Challenge.” The aim is to reflect upon how intransigent law making can negatively impact upon human rights protection and criminal law. The theme will encourage debate on the challenging questions which arise when interpreting the law in rapidly changing and unstable times.
The conference is specifically aimed at those who are undertaking doctoral research in the areas of criminal law, criminal justice and human rights. Therefore, only law students are eligible to submit papers. The best paper of the conference will receive a prize of €200 (approx. $275 USD) which is sponsored by the CCJHR.
Please submit an abstract (max. 300 words) to the Organizing Committee by March 30, 2014. Successful conference submissions will be notified by April, 15, 2014. To be considered for the best paper and the opportunity to present at the plenary session, full papers should be submitted by May 20, 2014.
Submission and further inquiries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that a CPD Certificate of Attendance will be available for this conference.
For further information, click here and see below:
This international two-day event will attract promising research scholars from Ireland, the UK and Europe in the areas of law, politics, philosophy and the related social sciences. The conference presenters are especially interested in papers that relate to human rights, criminal justice, criminal law or the intersection of these fields. However, the presenters also welcome papers dealing with issues outside these areas that fall within the broader theme of the conference. Papers will be streamed thematically, with previous years including such sessions as:
- Governance and Security
- Issues in Privacy and Surveillance Law
- Restorative Justice
- Gender and the Law
- Refugee Law and Policy
- Human Rights in Society
- Technology and State Security
- Gender Law and Sexuality
- International Criminal Law
- White Collar Crime
- Medical and Mental Health Law
- Juvenile Justice
- Contemporary Discourse in Criminal Law
- Transitional Justice
- Crime and criminalization
- Civil Liberties
Also, check out the CCJHR’s blog here! and you can follow the CCJHR on Twitter @CCJHRlawucc
Conference: International Law Association British Branch Spring Conference
On May 23-24, 2014, the British Branch of the International Law Association will host its annual spring conference at the Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London. The theme is “Foundations and Futures of International Law.” Registration is available here. The draft program is here. Here’s the idea:
The time is ripe both to revisit the foundations of international law and to imagine its possible futures. Once the preserve of a small community of specialised academics and practitioners, international law increasingly plays an important role in cases decided by national courts; it is at the centre of renewed interest by political and legal theorists; and in many countries (Britain among them) it even shapes public argument on foreign policy, national security and the resort to armed force. Amidst these developments one finds different methodological approaches seeking to explain the role of international law, as well as different instrumental camps using international law to advocate particular priorities.
Call for Papers: Conference on 21st Century Borders: Territorial Conflict and Dispute Resolution
A further call for papers has been issued for a conference on “21st Century Borders: Territorial Conflict and Dispute Resolution,” to be held June 13, 2014, at the University of Lancaster. Here’s the call:
21st Century borders are coming under increasing strain with shifting balances of international power. This was seen most dramatically in the recent Russian annexation of the Crimea, but also in continuing tensions in East Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere. This conference, organised by the Centre for International Law and Human Rights at Lancaster University Law School will explore the causes and dynamics of contemporary territorial disputes as well as mechanisms to resolve them.
Building on our initial call for papers, we welcome abstracts for papers of no more than one page from both established researchers and early career academics on the themes of: critical perspectives on uti possidetis; the concept of the “border” in light of new technologies and transnational structures; historical and cultural perspectives on international borders; borders and international economic and environmental law; institutional mechanisms for territorial dispute settlement; and secession and borders.
Please send your proposals to Dr. James Summers email@example.com. The deadline for abstracts is Wednesday 7th May 2014.