AUWCL Faculty Presents Impactful Research at ASIL Annual Meeting in Trade, Arbitration, International Criminal Law, and Human Rights

The 2023 American Society of International Law (ASIL) 117th Annual Meeting was once again an opportunity to reaffirm AUWCL’s longstanding commitment to international law. In addition to AUWCL’s sponsorship of the annual Grotius Lecture, our international law faculty presented their cutting edge research on a diverse array of topics during the substantive panels of the Annual Meeting. Topics covered trade, arbitration and dispute resolution, international humanitarian law, and human rights. The following is a summary of the panels, with links to the recordings (provided where available).

COVID Vaccines and the International Trade Regime

Professor Padideh Ala’i presented at the panel on “Bridging The Gaps - Vaccine Inequity In The COVID - 19 Pandemic And Beyond.” She was joined on the panel by Roojin Habibi, Global Strategy Lab, York University; Jelena Madir, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; Luke McDonagh, London School of Economics; and Steven Solomon, World Health Organization.

Prof. Ala’i focused on the WTO’s role in the global reaction against the pandemic. She highlighted that while TRIPS waivers were an important tool to provide access for developing countries to vaccines, the need for providing solutions to the pandemic showed that the WTO sometimes must consider political considerations related to the countries’ economic development. She also pointed out that the WTO played an important role as an institution that provided transparency regarding trade-related measures adopted by member states to curb the pandemic.

For the entire recording of the panel, click here.

Reform of International Arbitration

Professor Horacio A. Grigera Naón presented on “Reform and its Challenges in the field of international arbitration.” He shared the podium with other recognized academics and practitioners in the field, i.e. Arif Ali, Dechert LLP; Helene Ruiz Fabri, Max Plank Institute Luxembourg for Procedural Law; Isabel San Martin, Lalive; and Amanda Tuninetti, Covington & Burling LLP.

The panel focused on why and what needs to be reformed in international arbitration. The speakers analyzed potential reform options in ISDS and international commercial arbitration, arbitrators & decision-makers, arbitration and court-related litigation, and investment treaty reform.

For the recording of this panel, click here.

Prospects for Prosecuting the Crime of Aggression in Ukraine

Professor Rebecca Hamilton presented on a panel about “Uniting for Accountability: A Special Tribunal for the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine.” She shared the podium with Amb. Korynevych (Ukraine); Amb. Christian Wenaweser, (Liechtenstein); Amb. Bill Taylor, former US Ambassador to Ukraine; Lithuanian Vice Minister of Justice Gabija Grigait?-Daugird?; and Professor Oona Hathaway, Yale Law School.

The panel developed on the need for the international community to tackle the issue of responsibility for the crime of aggression. They pointed out the complexities arising out of the fact that the International Criminal Court cannot prosecute the crime of aggression in the context of Ukraine due to jurisdictional limitations. Therefore, other ways to ensure accountability must be found. The panel discussed the possible creation of a special tribunal for the crime of aggression, including effective approaches for overcoming the immunities of Russia’s top leadership. The panelists anticipated that the UN Security Council may remain paralyzed due to the Russian veto. However, the Security Council is not the only relevant UN organ. Within the scope of the UN Charter and acting under the “Uniting for Peace” resolution, the General Assembly (GA) may also address matters of international peace and security. The panelists discussed the GA’s power to act for the creation of a special tribunal on the crime of aggression. They argued that such a tribunal could be established on the recommendation of the UN General Assembly by way of a treaty concluded between the UN and Ukraine.

The complete recording of this panel is available by clicking here.

Social Media and War

Prof. Hamilton also participated on the panel about “Content Moderation during Armed Conflict” (ILTechIG Business Meeting). She spoke on this panel alongside Evelyn Aswad, University of Oklahoma College of Law; Arturo J. Carrillo, George Washington University Law School; Nino Guruli, Oversight Board; and Alka Pradhan, Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions, U.S. Department of Defense.

The panel elaborated on how social media platforms have become an important part in any armed conflict around the world, from those in Ethiopia, Myanmar, Israel-Palestine, to most recently, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Social media contributed to raising awareness about the conflict, coordinate relief efforts, organize protests, and document war crimes and human rights violations. However, social media can also be used by parties to the conflict to facilitate attacks, spread propaganda, and incite violence.  In Russia’s attack against Ukraine, for example, social media platforms adopted different policies to respond to online speech concerning the conflict. As warfare and technology evolve, the panel discussed to what extent should social media companies follow international humanitarian law standards to respect human rights, and, alternatively, how does the concurrent application of human rights law in regulating online speech and other digital rights affect the rights and obligations of the parties in conflict.

Accountability and War Reparations for Ukraine

Professor Paul Williams presented on the panel about “Accountability and Reparations in Ukraine.” This panel also counted on the participation of Professor Gregory Gordon, The Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law; Darin Johnson, Howard Law School; Michael P. Scharf, Case Western Reserve University School of Law; Milena Sterio, Cleveland State University College of Law; and Oleh Vretsona, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.

The panelists discussed transitional justice and accountability issues related to the Ukraine conflict.  Panelists compared other conflicts and post-conflict situations with the current situation in Ukraine to assess what the best approaches might be to transitional justice in Ukraine. The discussion addressed, for example, the work of international prosecutorial mechanism, such as the ICC, and recent proposals for the development of an aggression tribunal. They also addressed the issue of reparations, which they considered part and parcel of any transitional justice model that might be implemented in Ukraine.

Professor Susana SáCouto addressed the issue of accountability also at the Annual Meeting’s Closing Plenary on a panel entitled "Pursuing Global Accountability for Atrocity Crimes: Needs, Challenges and the Path Forward." The panel took place at the National Press Club with Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack and President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Ivana Hrdli?ková, among others.

The panel discussed the breakdown of international law as a result of Russia’s attack against Ukraine, which stands in contrast to the rapid response based on international law from many international organizations and states to counter and help solve the conflict. Some have described this quick reaction to the crisis as a success or a renewed opportunity for international law. The panel addressed opportunities for further application of international law beyond the situation in Ukraine, as conflicts, wars, and other crises persist in other areas around the world. The panel explored these situations and identified the needs, challenges, and path forward to greater accountability.

International Law and Gender-Based Violence

Professor Susana SáCouto moderated the panel entitled "A Hopeful Conversation: Overcoming impunity for sexual and gender-based violence," with Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack and Special Adviser on Gender Persecution to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Lisa Davis, among others.

The panel observed that states are increasingly using universal jurisdiction to hold perpetrators of international crimes to account, including for gender-based crimes. At the same time, UN bodies, in particular the UN Human Rights Council, have created more than a dozen investigative mandates with expansive functions that go beyond the traditional focus on state responsibility to also emphasize criminal investigations aimed at helping establish individual criminal responsibility. Calls for the creation of a Standing Independent Investigative Mechanism that would arguably tie many of these developments together, making them more effective and efficient, and better coordinated are also gaining attention. As these developments continue apace, the panel discussed how they could continue in a principled and coherent way, including by helping combat the scourge of selectivity in international criminal justice and centering on the interests of victims.

Hear a podcast of the session here.

During the ASIL’s Women in International Law Interest Group (WILIG) Business Meeting, Prof. SáCouto was awarded the Scholarship Prize for the book "Gender and International Criminal Law," coedited with Valerie Oosterveld and Indira Rosenthal, and spoke on a panel discussion on gender mainstreaming in international law. The panel discussed the research presented in the book, inquiring on whether and how feminist work speaks to and permeates the ‘mainstream’ of international legal scholarship and practice. The panel reflected on how gender has become part of the mainstream of international law, how that mainstream sometimes misunderstands gender, and how gender is excluded from the mainstream in certain ways. Yvonne Dutton, Professor at Indiana University McKinney School of Law, moderated the panel. Panelists included Valerie Oosterveld, Western University Faculty of Law; Catherine O’Rourke, Durham Law School; Indira Rosenthal, University of Tasmania; and Patricia Viseur Sellers, ICC Office of the Prosecutor.