Discuss the various sources of international law, including customary and treaty law. With
respect to customary law, discuss how customary international legal principles become law, who is bound by those laws, and whether, and in what circumstances, a state may violate the
principles of customary international law. With respect to treaty law, discuss how treaties are
entered into, what limitations, if any, states can place on their acceptance of treaties, and how
treaty law interacts with domestic law.
- On September 16, 2001, five days after 9/11, former Vice-President Dick Cheney said “We
also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the
shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done
quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in, and so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.” Discuss the U.S. policy towards detainees during post-9/11 “War on Terror,” including the changes implemented by the Obama administration, including how these policies have either been in line with or in violation of the applicable international laws. As such, you answer should also identify and discuss what laws may be applicable to the treatment of detainees in the war on terror.
- In June 2002, in addressing recent graduates of West Point, President Bush stated, “We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systemically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long.” This approach became known as the Bush Doctrine. Discuss when the use of force in self-defense is justified under international law and how that doctrine has evolved in the post-9/11 era.
- On 19 March 2011, NATO forces initiated a military intervention in Libya to implement
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which authorized “Member States, acting
nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country.” The purpose of the resolution was to protect the Libyan civilians from alleged crimes against humanity being committed by former Libyan Leader, Colonel Muammar Al-Gadhafi’s forces. In this sense, the use of force was both a collective action and a humanitarian intervention. Discuss the use of force in humanitarian interventions under international law, including what limits, if any, should be placed on its use, and why?
- On October 11, 2011, it was revealed that U.S. agents had broken up an alleged plot by the of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. For the purpose of this answer you should assume that the allegations are true. If so, should the Iranian government be held responsible for the actions of the members of the Quds Force, and if so, what type of reparations would be appropriate? Your answer should discuss the various forms of state liability and reparations that may be available.
- The role of the concept of sovereignty has changed dramatically over time. Does the concept have any use in modern society? If so, what? What are the appropriate limits to a state’s sovereignty, if any? Should the international community be able to sanction a state by taking away its sovereignty? To what extent? Discuss.
- Over time, the concept of who is subject to international law, i.e. who is defined as an international legal person, has grown beyond traditional understandings which limited the idea to that of ‘states.’ In the modern international environment, many actors now find themselves potentially subject to international legal standards, both in domestic courts, and in international venues. One of the more interesting recent developments relates to concepts of whether there should be legal liability for Multi-National Corporations who allegedly conspire to violate international laws in foreign countries. Many individuals have sought redress against corporations for their alleged complicity in human rights atrocities committed throughout the world. The United States Supreme Court recently weighed in on the issue in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. (Links to an external site.). I would like you to discuss the Kiobel case, and whether you agree with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision. In your discussion, you should feel free to discuss subsequent cases that have sought to interpret the new standard laid down in Kiobel.
- Discussion Issue: As the toll of military conflict escalates in terms of both blood and treasure, as the human suffering attendant to war is on full display through modern communication, and as weapons become more destructive, the international community has begun to look for alternative mechanisms to military force to compel compliance with international law. Increasingly, that means the imposition of sanctions on the offending states and parties. Discuss the various types of sanctions, and whether or not you believe that sanctions are an effective means of compelling compliance with international law.
- Discussion Issue: In the post-9/11 era, the concept of international legal responsibility has evolved to arguably include indirect responsibility for the actions of non-state actors residing on a state’s territory. This was the position put forward by the United States to justify its invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Discuss the theories of state responsibility, and whether, in your opinion, international law should evolve to hold states liable for the activities of non-state actors residing on their territory.
- As the conflict with al Qaeda has progressed, the U.S. has increasingly used unmanned aerial vehicles (better known as UAVs or drones) to conduct lethal attacks in countries all over the world, including in countries where there are no active battlefields. Critics of this policy have claimed that such operations amount to extrajudicial killings and are forbidden under international and domestic laws. Proponents, on the other hand, argue that the attacks are necessary and lawful in the conduct of the war on terror, and that they prevent the loss of innocent lives. The question for discussion this week is simple: is U.S. policy employing the use of UAVs to conduct lethal strikes legal under international and domestic law?
- Discussion Issue: In recent years, the members of the United States Supreme Court have often fallen into disputes about whether or not the court should consider foreign laws in coming to its own decision. Recently, in Roper v. Simmons, the Supreme Court struck down the juvenile death penalty as contrary to the 8th Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. In reaching its conclusions, the Court relied, in part, on the fact that the U.S. was the sole remaining country that allowed for the juvenile death penalty, which provided evidence of its cruel and unusual nature. Certain members of the court, led by Justice Antonin Scalia, decried the courts reliance on foreign law and foreign court decisions. For your discussion posting, I would like you to state your position on whether or not the U.S. Court should consider foreign law in its rulings? Do the decisions of foreign courts and legislatures provide useful information to American Courts, or should they be inadmissible because of irrelevance?
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