The Human Rights Committee’s Views in Sayadi v. Belgium: A Missed Opportunity

December 29, 2009

Abstract: The article provides a critical review of the Human Rights Committee’s views in Sayadi v. Belgium, a case dealing with United Nations Security Council (UNSC) terrorist blacklists. The case raised many complex issues of international law, most notably the question whether UNSC resolutions can prevail over human rights treaties by virtue of Art. 103 of the UN Charter. This issue – one of truly fundamental importance – has cropped up in several important recent cases which either addressed it or avoided it, including Kadi before the courts of the European Union, Al-Jedda before the UK House of Lords, and Behrami before the European Court of Human Rights. Regrettably, the Committee’s decision did not do justice to the complexity and the gravity of the matters raised before it, as it failed to tackle the norm conflict issue head on and ignored the Charter’s supremacy clause altogether. Such an approach advances neither the cause of human rights, nor the coherence of international law as a legal system.

Review: This is an interesting little article that builds out the centrality of Art 103 of the UN Charter and its increasing importance in a world where the UNSC is adopting a policing function rather than a tribunal of last resort. A raft of cases have dealt with the conflict between UN Charter obligations and IHR instruments in different ways. This article is a good overview of the case law if you’re not familiar with this particular area although Sayadi v Belgium itself contributes nothing to the jurisprudence (which is the author’s main criticism of it).

Details: Marko Milanović (Belgrade Centre for Human Rights), The Human Rights Committee’s Views in Sayadi v. Belgium: A Missed Opportunity (Goettingen Journal of International Law, Vol. 1, No. 3, p. 519, 2009).

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Did Obama Just Endorse the Responsibility to Protect?

December 13, 2009

And this becomes particularly important when the purpose of military action extends beyond self-defense or the defense of one nation against an aggressor. More and more, we all confront difficult questions about how to prevent the slaughter of civilians by their own government, or to stop a civil war whose violence and suffering can engulf an entire region.

I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. That’s why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace.

– Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech.

This is Obama, and therefore the United States for which he speaks, endorsing the ‘strong’ version of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) which justifies intervention outside, and without recourse to, the UN.

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