Venice Academy of Human Rights 2013

Knut Traisbach writes in with more information about the 2013 session of the Venice Academy of Human Rights. Like last year, the faculty for this year’s session looks impressive, including: Profs. Jeremy Waldron, Malcolm Shaw, Brigitte Stern and Neil Walker, amongst other notable scholars. Here’s the call:

Venice Academy of Human Rights 2013

The Venice Academy of Human Rights will take place from 8 – 19 July 2013.
The theme of this year’s academy is ‘Obligations of States’

Online registration is open until 5 May 2013.

You can view the detailed programme here.

Faculty of the Venice Academy 2013

General Course
Jeremy Waldron
University Professor, New York University School of Law

Christian Reus-Smit
Professor of International Relations at the University of Queensland

Malcolm Shaw
Senior Fellow at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law and Research Professor (formerly Sir Robert Jennings Chair) in International Law at the University of Leicester

Brigitte Stern
Professor of International Law at the University of Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne

Françoise Tulkens
former Judge and Vice-President of the European Court of Human Rights

Neil Walker
Regius Professor of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations at the School of Law, University of Edinburgh

Key Facts
Participants: Academics, practitioners and PhD/JSD students

Type of courses: Lectures, elective seminars and optional workshops
Number of hours: 24 hours of compulsory courses (plenum), min. 16 hours of elective and optional courses (smaller groups)

Location: Monastery of San Nicolò, Venice – Lido, Italy

Fees: 600 €

Venice Academy of Human Rights

The Venice Academy of Human Rights is an international programme of excellence for human rights education, research and debate. It forms part of the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation (EIUC).

The Academy offers interdisciplinary thematic programmes open to academics, practitioners and doctoral students with an advanced knowledge of human rights.

A maximum of 60 participants will be selected.

Participants attend morning lectures, afternoon seminars and workshops and can exchange views, ideas and arguments with leading international scholars and experts. This includes the opportunity to present and discuss their own “work in progress” such as drafts of articles, chapters of doctoral theses or books and other projects.

At the end of the programme, participants receive a Certificate of Attendance issued by the Venice Academy of Human Rights.

Can run, but can you hide? Mohamed Nasheed, India and International Law

[This is a guest post by Mr. Raag Yadava, a B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) candidate (2013) at the National Law School of India University (Bangalore). Welcome to ILCurry, Raag!]

A year on from the coup, former President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed walked into the Indian Embassy in Male on Wednesday last week requesting temporary refuge in the face of an arrest warrant on charges of illegally detaining the Chief Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

Perhaps a belated reaction to the current regime’s cancellation of GMR’s $500 million investment into Male (discussed previously here), or to ensure Nasheed’s participation in the democratic elections scheduled for September, the former President’s presence in the Indian diplomatic mission comes at an important time for the Maldives.

This trend of offering ‘diplomatic asylum’ (or temporary refuge, which is more apt in this case) seems to be catching on, with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange now closing in on 8 months in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Chinese police chief Wang Lijun receiving ‘vacation-style treatment’ in the US Consulate in Chengdu and Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng receiving protection in the US Embassy in Beijing. Can states, then, offer refuge to individuals in their diplomatic missions at the cost of “impeding the due process of law” of the host state? (that being the charge levelled by the Maldives’ Judicial Services Commission.). To be clear, Nasheed’s case is unlike most others – he is not fearful of long-term persecution, thus requiring resettlement or residence abroad. He has neither requested nor has India considered granting ‘asylum’.

The question here is more limited. Is India obligated to transfer Nasheed to the Maldives police? Simple answer: Yes. In 1950, the ICJ considered the legality of the residence of Peruvian politician Raúl Haya de la Torre in the Colombian embassy in Lima. In concluding that Colombia was under an obligation to return de la Torre absent a clear legal basis between the states, it stands to reason today (with five decades of supporting state practice) that while states are free to grant asylum to those on their territory, the provision of protection to a fugitive in another state’s territory (‘diplomatic asylum’) finds no basis in general international law. In fact, this tradition – rooted in the Latin America – finds legal support in the 1954 Convention on Diplomatic Asylum, a regional instrument.

Given recent instances, we could perhaps be witnessing the formation of a customary norm, but opposition by the host states (Britain, Maldives, China) makes this conclusion unappealing. Any exceptions that are to be drawn come from instances of immediate threat to life in civil war and the like; instances that could hardly appeal to this case. (here and here). Lastly, and perhaps I am reading into political statements beyond their worth, but Dr. Samad Abdulla, the Maldives foreign minister, seems to be stressing on the fact that India has not granted asylum to Nasheed. Political symbolism aside (and I don’t see much of that, given Nasheed is in safe custody beyond Maldivian control, irrespective of the label), I do not see the legal difference that would make.

The legality of India’s conduct apart, since such rigid insistence on international law is not entirely realistic, what options are open to the Maldives? Very few, really. Indian and Maldives are both parties to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Article 22 of which poses many problems for the Maldives: “1.The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.” The illegality of India’s conduct apart, the Indian diplomatic mission comes under that seemingly absolute protective umbrella. While the Convention requires diplomats (who, just like states, are not obliged to assist in criminal or civil matters absent a treaty obligation to that effect) to obverse local laws and regulations, and imposes a duty “not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State”, the self-contained regime of the Vienna Convention (see Tehran Hostages) does not permit the abrogation of that rule. As long as the premises is used for the purposes of the mission (and the Indian embassy in Male is), state practice does not support exceptions to Article 22 on account of mere violations of municipal law; the consequences of such an approach being disastrous to the conduct of business between governments. To the contrary, the Vienna Convention provides remedies –declarations of persona non grata or cessation of diplomatic relations, which I doubt are of much interest to the Maldives.

As the issuance of a second arrest warrant infuses urgency into talks, the western and India support for “inclusive” elections seems to tip the balance towards Nasheed, leaving an ad-hoc political settlement permitting Nasheed to contest the elections the most likely outcome.

BREAKING: Award in India-Pak Kishenganga Arbitration Delivered

The Kishenganga Tribunal at the PCA

The Kishenganga Tribunal at the PCA

A Tribunal constituted under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (also called the “Court of Arbitration” under the Treaty) today rendered its (partial) Award in a dispute between India and Pakistan over the construction of the Kishenganga hydro-electric power project by the former (previously covered here, here, and here). According to The Hindu, the Tribunal in its Award found that:

India can go ahead with the diversion of the waters of Kishanganga, a tributary of Jhelum, for hydro-electric power generation.

However, the court restrained India from adopting the drawdown flushing technique for clearing sedimentation in the run-of-the river project designed for generation of 330 MW power. India may have to adopt a different technique for flushing.

In the initial reports received by The Hindu it is learnt that the court also sought statistics on the environmental flows into the river downstream of the project.

To recall, Pakistan had originally requested the Tribunal to determine two issues:

1. Whether India’s proposed diversion of the river Kishenganga (Neelum) into another Tributary, i.e. the Bonar Madmati Nallah, being one central element of the Kishenganga Project, breaches India’s legal obligations owed to Pakistan under the Treaty, as interpreted and applied in accordance with international law, including India’s obligations under Article III(2) (let flow all the waters of the Western rivers and not permit any interference with those waters) and Article IV(6) (maintenance of natural channels)? [the “First Dispute”]

2. Whether under the Treaty, India may deplete or bring the reservoir level of a run-of-river Plant below Dead Storage Level (DSL) in any circumstances except in the case of an unforeseen emergency? [the “Second Dispute”]

From the above, it thus appears that the Tribunal found in favour of India on the issue of diversion (the “First Dispute”), but against it on the second issue of reservoir level (the “Second Dispute”).

As of writing this post, neither the Award nor a press-release was available on the Permanent Court of Arbitration website. As always, we hope that the Award will soon be made publicly available. ILCurry will bring you more detailed analyses as and when that happens.

UPDATE (19 Feb. 2013): The partial Award is now available on the PCA website here. A press-release is available here. According to the press-release:

In its Partial Award, which is final with respect to the matters decided therein, without appeal and binding on the Parties, the Court of Arbitration unanimously decided:

1. that the Kishenganga Hydro-Electric Project (KHEP) constitutes a Run-of-River Plant under the Treaty, and India may accordingly divert water from the Kishenganga/Neelum River for power generation by the KHEP in the manner envisaged. However, when operating the KHEP, India is under an obligation to maintain a minimum flow of water in the Kishenganga/Neelum River, at a rate to be determined by the Court in a Final Award.

2. Except in the case of an unforeseen emergency, the Treaty does not permit India’s reduction below “Dead Storage Level” of the water level in the reservoirs of Run-of-River Plants located on the rivers allocated to Pakistan under the Treaty. This ruling does not apply to Plants already in operation or under construction (whose designs have been communicated by India and not objected to by Pakistan)

The Court expects to be able to render its Final Award determining the minimum flow of water India would be required to release in the Kishenganga/Neelum River by the end of 2013.

 

More on this soon!

GMR, Maldives and International Law

I’ve been following the recent turn of events involving India’s GMR Group and the Republic of Maldives closely. The events raise very interesting issues relating to diplomatic protection, dispute settlement, and the international regulation of cross-border investment. These developments warrant closer scrutiny considering the growing public resentment against bilateral investment treaties (BITs) in India, following an adverse award by the Tribunal in White Industries v. India, with many calling for India’s renegotiation of, if not withdrawal from, these treaties and the investment arbitration mechanism.

The story…

To recall briefly, in 2010, the GMR Male International Airport Pvt. Ltd. (GMIAL) — a consortium of the Indian GMR Group (77%) and the Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad (23%) — was awarded a concession contract by the Maldivian government to build and operate the Ibrahim Nasser International Airport in Male for a period of 25 years. The contract, valued by some at over USD 500 million, is said to represent the single largest inflow of foreign investment in Maldivian history. GMIAL claims that it won the contract through an internationally competitive bidding process conducted by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation. For Maldives, the contract was approved and signed in 2010 by the government of President Mohamed Nasheed. As we all know, however, earlier this year, President Nasheed was ousted in what he alleged was a military coup, and a new government came to power. Reportedly, GMIAL’s concession contract was questioned by the new government soon after it gained power. Most recently, on 27 November 2012, the Maldivian Government issued a notice to GMIAL asking it to hand over the control and operation of the Male airport to the government by 7 December 2012, claiming that the concession contract was void. The Maldivian government has also stated at several instances that it will pay compensation to GMIAL (without giving any further details).

Meanwhile, an arbitration proceeding was commenced in July 2012. I have been unable to get more details on this, but presumably this was done pursuant to an arbitration clause in the concession contract (and not an investment treaty), with GMIAL commencing the proceedings against the Maldivian government following the problems it faced once the new government came to power in February 2012 (feel free to correct me on this, of course). To make matters more interesting, on 3 December 2012, the High Court of Singapore granted injunctive relief to GMIAL against the Maldivian government’s notice of 27 November, restraining it from “interfer[ing] with the rights of the Investor (GMR-MAHB consortium) under the concession agreement.” Following this injunction, however, the Maldivian government stuck to its position, stating that its decision was “non-reversible and non-negotiable” and that the that Singaporean “judge was incorrect in interpreting the law as, where compensation is adequate, an injunction cannot be issued and a court cannot issue such an injunction against a sovereign state.” Maldives has appealed the order before the Supreme Court of Singapore, with reports suggesting that the appeal has been allowed. As things stand right now, it seems like the Maldivian government will go ahead and take control of the Male airport from GMIAL on 7 December. At the risk of sounding too human, let me only note that there must naturally be a lot of worried foreign faces in Male right now. Reports also indicate that GMIAL had not obtained political risk insurance for its investment.

Enter the Government of India…

Once the Maldivian government issued its notice of 27 November, the Indian government took notice of GMIAL’s case. In its initial response, the Indian government noted that the Maldivian government’s action “sends a very negative signal to foreign investors and the international community” and that it would continue to be seized of the matter. Subsequently, following a call by the Indian industrial association ASSOCHAM to exercise diplomatic protection, reports indicate that the Indian government has suspended the disbursement of foreign aid for Maldives. Following the injunction granted by the High Court of Singapore, the Maldivian foreign minister also spoke to his Indian counterpart. In its latest press release, the Indian Ministry of foreign affairs has stated that Maldives should follow the rule of law and that it “expected that no arbitrary and coercive measures should be taken pending the outcome of the legal process underway. Resort to any such actions would inevitably have adverse consequences for relations between India and the Maldives.” Meanwhile, GMR has stated that it is committed to exploring all remedies available to it, including the option of going to the International Court of Justice (!).

So, what options for GMIAL now?

Right now, GMIAL is already part of a contractual arbitration proceeding against the government of Maldives. The arbitration is being controlled by the courts of Singapore — presumably the primary jurisdiction. If there is no misconduct on part of GMIAL (the IFC’s involvement certainly is very interesting, and rather redeeming), the arbitration might still lead to a NYC award enforceable somewhere.

In addition to this contractual arbitration proceeding, it has also been suggested that GMR should take the dispute to the ICJ. This obviously is not possible (since only States can seize the ICJ), but it is still important to see if India can exercise diplomatic protection and espouse GMR’s claim. Once India has domestically taken a decision to go to the ICJ, there are two ways to proceed: to submit the dispute to the Court by a special agreement, or to invoke the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction under Article 36(2) of the ICJ Statute. The problem with the latter is that the Maldives has not submitted a declaration accepting the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction under Article 36(2) of the ICJ Statute. India has a declaration, thus symbolically accepting the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction, but the acceptance is made practically worthless by a massive list of 12 reservations, thus giving away with one hand, what it took with the other. Therefore, unless Maldives accepts the Court’s jurisdiction and India does away with its reservation,  the only way out is for India and Maldives to seize the Court through a Special Agreement. Obviously, that would require a lot of convincing and diplomatic rigmarole, but it will be interesting to see how this develops.

Until now we’ve looked at the private (contractual) dispute settlement proceeding underway and the unlikeliness of a public dispute settlement proceeding at the ICJ. I am sure that there is at least a theoretical possibility of going to the domestic courts in Maldives. I do not know  enough about the courts there to comment on their independence, which I have to presume because of my ignorance. That’s the domestic public (court) option then. Of course, we are only talking of options here for finding jurisdiction. Whether GMIAL eventually succeeds in any of these proceedings will depend upon the specific facts of the case (e.g., GMIALs conduct), the terms of the concession contract and the applicable law.

But, what about investment arbitration?

Apart from all these options, there could have also been an option for GMR/GMIAL to commence a legal dispute under an investment treaty between India and the Maldives. I say “could” because, to my knowledge, there is no bilateral investment treaty between India and the Maldives. Further, I do not know of a trade agreement (including the SAFTA) between the two that includes an investment chapter. Without an investment treaty in place, the option of a treaty based arbitration does not exist. Having said that, it is still an option worth reflecting on. If nothing else, then only to think about India’s BIT program. This is particularly relevant given India’s first (and only public) loss in the White Industries arbitration under the India-Australia BIT. Post White Industries there has been a growing opposition in India against BITs and investment arbitration (some extreme voices, and some milder caveats). But, the discussion until now has been rather reactionary, operating in the shadows of White Industry. This turn of events involving the Maldives offers another perspective to inform the discussion, i.e. the utility of investment treaties in protecting outward FDI from India.

The first obvious question is: why doesn’t India have a BIT in place with the Maldives? As I set out to find an answer to this question, I proceeded on the assumption that the Indian BIT program was designed mainly to attract inward FDI, rather than protect outward FDI. My cursory empirical research, however, suggests otherwise. For example, of the top 15 destinations for outward Indian FDI, India does not have a BIT currently in force with only three states (US, UAE and Singapore), in addition to the Channel Islands and the British Virgin Islands (but I suppose India’s BIT with UK applies to these territories). The situation is similar for other developing countries, with India having a BIT with many of the states favored by Indian investors in Africa and Asia. Whatever the original intentions then, the design of India’s BIT program is not aimed at attracting FDI alone. Maldives  just happened to be one unlucky place? Maybe. Anyway, the point here is that any good BIT program for a growing economy should not only be designed for attracting inward FDI, but should account for outward FDI from that economy. India’s BIT program, at least on paper, appears to meet this standard since India has concluded investment treaties with several top destinations for outward FDI from India.

Will the Indian investor please stand up?

Another important insight to be gained from the Maldives story relates to the role of the industry in shaping India’s BIT program. Thus far, the participants in the discussion on Indian BITs have included the occasional academic, the disgruntled domestic lawyer (paywalled), the principled international lawyer (also paywalled), and a rather passive Indian government. There are good reasons for taking into account the perspective of an actual beneficiary of the BIT program, i.e. the Indian investor. Otherwise, any eventual policy risks becoming ultimately ineffective and irrelevant. Indian investors and companies can begin by forming a forum for discussing issues relating to international protection of investments. They could carry out a periodic survey of the most popular destinations for outward FDI from India, and make responsive suggestions to the government’s BIT program with specific countries. Individual investors concerned about the investment climate in countries with no BITs could ask the Indian government, through this channel, to try and negotiate one. To my knowledge, no such forum currently exists, with only commerce chambers like ASSOCHAM and FICCI making reactionary comments in specific cases. With growing outward FDI by Indian firms, a systemic analysis of the benefits of investment treaties for protection of outward Indian FDI by all stakeholders involved would certainly be helpful.

In another world…

I should conclude by presenting the scenario had an investment treaty been in force between India and the Maldives. For the investor (GMR/GMIAL), this would have provided another forum for lodging its claim against the Maldives, and having it adjudicated in a timely manner according to international standards for investment protection. For the Indian government, an investment treaty and an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism would have avoided the process of exercising diplomatic protection. It could have merely pointed GMR in the direction of the treaty, and could have avoided engaging in “gunboat diplomacy” by issuing threats of canceling foreign aid. In other words, a BIT could have depolitcized the international dispute. I should point out that the benefits of BITs and investment arbitration for India and Indian investors do not suggest that such a treaty would have been prejudicial to Maldives. A range of defenses would have been available to the Maldives, including many based on GMR/GMIAL’s misconduct (if any). As examples, I would only cite the cases of Fraport and Malicorp, both involving airport concession contracts which were terminated by the host State. In both treaty arbitration proceedings, the claims of the investors were rejected on grounds relating to investor misconduct (the Fraport award was subsequently annulled, but for different reasons). So, in another world, at another time, everyone could have lived happily ever after (almost)!

Update (7 December 2012): As my friend Manu Sanan points out, India actually does have an investment treaty with Singapore in the form of an investment chapter in the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement. Thus, India does not have an investment treaty with only two out of the top 15 destinations for outward Indian FDI.

Indian SC delivers judgment in Kaiser, overrules Bhatia

Readers interested in international arbitration would be aware of what have been called the “misgivings”of the Indian courts on international arbitration. The Supreme Court has rendered several controversial judgments on the Indian Arbitration Act of 1996 in the past, none being more infamous than the Bhatia International judgment. In Bhatia, the Court held that Part I of the Indian Arbitration Act is also applicable in proceedings for the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards, even though Part II of the law deals with the “enforcement of certain foreign awards”, unless the applicability of Part I has been excluded by the parties. A result of this was that Indian courts could set-aside foreign arbitral awards under Section 34 of the Act contained in Part I. This was considered anomalous by many in the international arbitration community in so far it allowed Indian courts seized with the enforcement of foreign awards (“secondary jurisdication”) to not just deny enforcement, but even set-aside the foreign arbitral (a task usually reserved for the courts of the “primary jurisdiction” — the seat).

Now, in Kaiser Aluminium, the Court has overruled Bhatia, holding that there is complete “segregation” between Parts I and II of the Indian Act. With this, the Court moves towards an understanding of the proper functions of the courts of the primary and secondary jurisdiction:

Thus, it is clear that the regulation of conduct of arbitration and challenge to an award would have to be done by the courts of the country in which the arbitration is being
conducted. Such a court is then the supervisory court possessed of the power to annul the award. (para. 128)

The Court concludes:

198. In view of the above discussion, we are of the considered opinion that the Arbitration Act, 1996 has accepted the territoriality principle which has been adopted in the UNCITRAL Model Law. Section 2(2) makes a declaration that Part I of the Arbitration Act, 1996 shall apply to all arbitrations which take place within India. We are of the considered opinion that Part I of the Arbitration Act, 1996 would have no application to International Commercial Arbitration held outside India. Therefore, such awards would only be subject to the jurisdiction of the Indian courts when the same are sought to be enforced in India in accordance with the provisions contained in Part II of the Arbitration Act, 1996. In our opinion, the provisions contained in Arbitration Act, 1996 make it crystal clear that there can be no overlapping or intermingling of the provisions contained in Part I with the provisions contained in Part II of the Arbitration Act, 1996.

No doubt, the judgment would be welcomed by the international arbitration community to the extent it brings Indian law and practice in conformity with internatioanal practice and standards.

Moreover, having read the Court’s decision once, in my opinion the Court’s engagement with international arbitration at a conceptual level would go a long way in promoting consistency and sound practice in the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards in India. I have long believed that the problems relating to the enforcement of foreign arbitration awards in India have resulted from a failure of the Indian courts to conceptually engage with international arbitration. Thus, for example, Indian courts have, in my opinion, relied overly upon textual and contextual tools of interpretation, without promoting a conceptual understanding of international arbitration first. Kaiser seems to mark a welcome departure from this trend. The counsels and the Court have for the first time engaged in a thorough analysis of fundamental issues such as the territoriality and delocalization of international arbitration. Whereas these terms may be very familiar to international arbitration lawyers, the discussion in India hitherto has almost always avoided this framework. So, apart from the welcome commercial implications of the decision, I hope that the judgment would also help promote a better understanding of international arbitration in India, both amongst the courts and the scholars. Indeed, now that the Bhatia saga is over, and with the attempt in Kaiser to conceptually analyze arbitration, hopefully we can move on to further fine tuning Indian arbitration law to the demands of the transnational economic order.

The full-text of the judgment (.pdf) is available here.

New Issue: TL&D on WTO Dispute Settlement

Trade, Law and Development, a scholarly journal published by National Law University Jodhpur, has published its latest issue on dispute settlement at the WTO. As Prof. Joel Trachtman rightly notes in his editorial, legitimacy and development are the two underlying themes of the special issue. On legitimacy, Gabrielle Marceau and Mikella Hurley discuss transparency and public participation in WTO dispute settlement proceedings. Particularly interesting is their attempt at comparing transparency at the WTO with other fora. Arthur Daemmrich writes about epistemic contests and the legitimacy of the WTO. Based upon a case study of the Brazil — Upland Cotton dispute, Daemmerich presents an expertise based account of the contemporary legitimacy of the WTO. On the theme of development, Jan Bohanes and Fernanda Garza present a comprehensive study on the participation of developing countries in WTO dispute settlement, arguing that the greatest constraints for developing country participation in WTO dispute settlement are at the domestic level. Sonia Rolland presents a developmental account of the implementation stage of WTO disputes. Also in the issue, Simon Lester discusses the development of standards of appellate review and Claus Zimmerman discusses the absence of retrospective remedies at the WTO — legal and institutional issues which remain relatively under-explored.

It’s a great issue, and you should head here to browse through the entire content.

I should perhaps also point out that TL&D has been ranked as the best law journal in India, as well as the fifteenth best in the world in the field of international trade, by the Washington & Lee Law Journal Rankings (the most comprehensive of this sort). Congratulations to the editors and staff of the journal — it is heartening to see such efforts towards improving legal scholarship in India.

India Requests WTO Panel in CVD Dispute with the US

Following the US request for the establishment of a panel to adjudicate on the dispute with India over a ban on the import of certain poultry products, Reuters reports that India has also requested for the establishment of a panel in a dispute against the US over certain countervailing duty imposed by the latter on steel products imported from India (noted previously here). This certainly seems to be another episode in the saga of tit-for-tat disputes actions at the WTO. If that be the case, in addition to China, the US is now active on a second front (of course, there are many differences between the actions and motivations of India and China).

Back from Break, with a Summer Update!

Apologies for the extended summer break (not for the lack of thoughts or developments, though).

Let’s begin with a recap of what’s been happening for India at the international stage over the summer:

The ICJ and Justice Bhandari’s election:

1. Justice Bhandari was finally sworn-in as a judge of the International Court of Justice on 19 June 2012 (right before the Diallo judgment was read). For those interested, here’s a photo of Justice Bhandari being sworn in, and a video of him making the (rather short) solemn declaration (the oath).

2. On the debate surrounding Justice Bhandari’s nomination (see this for some background), two main criticisms have been leveled against Justice Bhandari’s nomination by India for the ICJ. The first, as reflected here, argues that as a national judge with little or no real experience in international law, Justice Bhandari’s nomination by the Indian national group of the PCA reflected absurd decision making. From an international legal perspective, the underlying assumption of this view is thus: “a judge may be well-versed with domestic legal traditions, but one assumes that a Judge at the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, responsible for adjudicating on questions of international law (Article 38), would possess knowledge of international law!” The second criticism, as argued by Arghya Sengupta in an OpEd in The Hindu, takes issue with the nomination of Justice Bhandari, a sitting Supreme Court Judge, by the government of India on grounds of undermining the independence of the Supreme Court Judge (Justice Bhandari). As much as I understand, and perhaps even agree with, some of the sentiments behind these arguments, I still disagree with several individual arguments inherent in these criticisms, especially in light of the rather inchoate state of the international legal profession in India. However, I’d save my thoughts on this for later.

3. I’ve blogged about a right to Information application seeking information on Justice Bhandari’s nomination earlier. In response, the Ministry of External Affairs denied some information on Justice Bhandari’s nomination on the ground that the RTI Act allows withholding information related to strategic interests of the country, and besides it would also affect canvassing for Justice Bhandari. Now, the Central Information Commission has asked the MEA to provide the requested information. Interestingly, the CIC has also asked for the Indian national group of the PCA to answer some of the queries (could an argument be made here that the national group is not a “public authority” for the purposes of the RTI Act?).

Moving on to the Enrica Lexie incident (covered previously here and here):

There’s been considerable discussion on the international legal aspects of the incident.

1. Duncan Hollis, over on Opinio Juris, takes a look at the incident through the prism of the SS Lotus case decided by the PCIJ.

2. A debate in The Hindu captures the essential position and arguments both for and against the jurisdiction of Indian courts over the Italian marines. Samir Saran and Samya Chatterjee argue that the Indian courts do not have jurisdiction. Prabir Purkayastha and Rishabh Bailey, referring to Article 97 of the UNCLOS and the SS Lotus judgment, argue that Indian courts “also” have jurisdiction over the incident (as opposed to exclusive jurisdiction of Italy). Finally, Samir Saran disputes the above interpretation of Article 97 and also makes a very interesting argument based on the Indian Merchant Shipping Act.

3. Meanwhile, and perhaps more importantly, Judge Gopinath of the Kerala High Court has rendered (a reasonably well crafted) judgment in the writ petition filed by the Italian marines arguing that Indian courts do not have jurisdiction. The Court ruled that the Indian courts can exercise jurisdiction over the Italian marines under the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure as they were within India’s contiguous/exclusive economic zone. It addressed a number of other important matters such as the sovereign immunity of the marines (held no sovereign immunity), the “compatibility” of several national laws (including the SUA Act) with the UNCLOS (held are “compatible”), and the relevance of past precedence (the Raymund Genacio case — differentiated on facts). Particularly interesting is the Court’s interpretation of the UNCLOS. For example, in defining valid exercise of sovereign authority by India in the territorial-, contiguous-, and exclusive economic zones under the UNCLOS, it notes:

To hold that a coastal state has no right whatsoever to protect its nationals exercising their legitimate rights inside the coastal state’s CZ/EEZ, would be nothing but a total travesty of justice and an outrageous affront to the nation’s sovereignty. Such a view would mean that any day, any passing-by ship can simply shoot and kill, at its will, fishermen engaged in earning their livelihood; and then get away with its act on the ground that it happened beyond the territorial waters of the coastal state. Such a view will not merely be a bad precedent, but a grossly unjust one, and will go against all settled principles of law. (para. 33)

At the WTO:

1. On 25 June, the DSB established a Panel with standard terms of reference in the poultry dispute between the US (complainant) and India (DS430: India — Measures Concerning the Importation of Agricultural Products).

2. According to news reports, the US has threatened to challenge India’s compulsory license for Nexavar at the WTO. This comes after reports that India’s commerce minister had defended the WTO consistency of the license.

Bilateral Investment Treaties/Arbitration:

1. The Sistema dispute appears to be moving forward, with the six-month notice period nearing its end and the selection of a legal team by India. Several names have been suggested, including Mr. Rodman Bundy, Prof. Donald McRae and Senior Advocate A K Ganguli.

2. Several NGO’s have written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressing concern over the ongoing US-India BIT negotiations. Their main attack appears to be against investor-state dispute settlement provisions.

3. In Nepal, a breakaway faction of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has said that it will work towards scrapping of the recently concluded BIT with India.

4. The latest on the Vodafone BIT dispute is that it is moving forward with India not agreeing to Vodafone’s demands. Reports suggest that Prime Minister Singh would soon take a decision on Vodafone’s plea “seeking an undertaking that the [retrospective] amendment would not apply to it.”

And, finally, here’s the quote of the summer by none other than India’s (“underachieving“) Prime Minister:

“there are no international solutions to India’s problems”

- Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, returning from his trip to Los Cabos for the G20 and Rio.

A Freudian slip now, Mr Singh? : )

US Requests WTO Panel in Poultry Dispute with India

According to a USTR press release, the US is pressing ahead with a request for the establishment of a panel in DS430 to decide upon US claims “regarding the Government of India’s restrictions on imports of various U.S. agricultural products, including poultry meat and chicken eggs.” (I have discussed the dispute and the request for consultation previously.)

Although the panel request is not yet up on the WTO website, the USTR press release provides the following background:

India is asserting it has the right to impose import restrictions on countries whenever they report outbreaks of low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI), the only kind of avian influenza found in the United States since 2004. The relevant international guidelines as well as the relevant science do not support the imposition of measures of the type India is maintaining on account of LPAI.

[...] India appears to have acted inconsistently with its obligations under the SPS Agreement, including by failing to base its measures on international guidelines or a valid risk assessment and by failing to ensure that its measures do not unfairly discriminate against imports from countries such as the United States.

Benn McGrady offers some thoughts on this development over on the O’Neill Institute Blog.  Referring to the other dispute recently initiated by India against the US over CVDs on certain steel products from India, McGrady notes, that “[t]his consultation [CVD] was initiated by India shortly after the consultation concerning agricultural imports was initiated by the US, suggesting something of a tit-for-tat claim and counterclaim dynamic”. In fact, recent reports continue to suggest that India could soon file another dispute against the US over certain visa fees imposed by the latter, which would only further the perception of such a dynamic at work between the two countries. McGrady also makes a reference to India’s protest against the US placing it on the “Priority Watch List” in the US Special 301 Report (Recall also the voices of protest against India’s first compulsory license issued earlier this year). As of now, such a reactionary dynamic seems to be confined to the realm of WTO disputes, however, it will be interesting to see if it ends up defining India-US economic relations in other areas (such as the proposed bilateral investment treaty, for example).

Korean Professor Appointed to WTO Appellate Body

According to latest reports, Prof. Seung Wha Chang, a professor of law at Seoul National University, has been appointed as a member of the WTO Appellate Body. Prof. Chang will fill in the vacancy arising out of the resignation of Mr. Shotaro Oshima, a Japanese national and diplomat who resigned from the AB on January 7. Here is his unofficial biography from the Harvard website:

Seung Wha Chang has been a Professor of Law at Seoul National University School of Law since 1995 and has taught international trade, international business transactions, and international arbitration. Professor Chang also taught as Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, NYU, Duke, Georgetown, UCLA, NUS and other law schools. Prior to teaching, he practiced at Covington & Burling and was a Judge of the Seoul District Court. Professor Chang served as a WTO Panelist for seven highly profiled dispute settlement proceedings including US-FSC and Canada-Aircraft II. He is one of the leading arbitrators in the Asia-Pacific region and regularly serves as an arbitrator (sole, co-arbitrator or chair) for ICC and other leading arbitral institutions. Professor Chang is currently Co-President of APRAG and also serves as Chairman of Korean Council for International Arbitration and Member of the ICC International Court of Arbitration.

ILCurry wishes Prof. Chang the best for his term at the AB. Our best wishes also to Mr. Oshima for a healthy and fulfilling post-AB life!