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Archive for the ‘International Law’ Category

Understanding Private and Public International Law

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

The term International Law refers to the implicit and explicit agreements binding nation-states, and which system adheres to set values and standards. The difference from other legal systems is in the fact that it applies to international issues between nations or nations and private individuals. Under the banner of International Law, are Public International Law, Private International Law and Supranational Law.

This concept of International Law has existed for hundreds of years, but the more modern understanding of International Law was developed in the mid-19th century, after two World Wars caused the creation of the League of Nations, the International Labor Organization and other organizations responsible for developing standards for international agreements and the conduct of war. The League of Nations was formed as a result of the Treaty of Versailles, after World War I to assist in settling international disputes. However, the advent of World War II proved its lack of overall success and the League was replaced by the United Nations after the war.

The United Nations was created on June 26, 1945. Although there are other international organizations, the UN has become the most influential. Its purpose is to maintain security, promote peace, and generate friendly relations and cooperation internationally. The organization that provides judicial intervention in UN matters is the International Court of Justice.

Public International Law is that area of law that revolves around the relationships of subjects of the International Law, such as the United Nations, maritime law, international criminal law and the Geneva Convention. This also includes sovereign nations and, sometimes, movements within a nation for national liberation or even armed insurgency. These matters are governed by custom, consistent practices, or agreements, such as treaties. On occasion academic or expert legal opinions, as well as accepted standards of human behavior can also be used.

Private International Law (also known as conflict of laws) regards jurisdictional questions, such as where a case may be legally heard and what jurisdictional laws apply to the issues at hand. Private International law deals with conflicts that are between private individuals, and not between states, as in Public International Law.

Supranational law relates to the rights of different sovereign nations and how they are limited as to each other. What Public International Law differ from Supranational Law is the fact that in the Public International Law, nations have surrendered their decision making rights internationally to an outside common institution, like the United Nations.

One example of a situation where sovereign states have created a shared system of governance for the express purpose of social and economic benefit is the European Union. It is not, however, truly supranational, as the member states have retained the option to withdraw from the system at will. Another group of sovereign nations that are in the process of creating a form of supranational law is the East African Community, which includes the states of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda. Their goal is have such a system of governance in place by 2010.

Things to keep in mind if you are thinking of adopting a child from abroad

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

While the practice of adopting a child from another country has only just become somewhat mainstream in the past few years, the practice has been going on for generations as parents look to help one innocent life from outside of the United States. Before you start your journey, you should know that it is seldom easy, seldom cheap and can be fraught with more problems than you can imagine. Here are a few general tips for parents or singles looking to adopt a child from outside of the United States.

If everyone waited until they were financially secure to have kids, there would be a lot less parents out there since so many people never really reach the level of financial security they wish they could. However, if you are considering adopting a child from outside the US, especially if you are thinking about adopting a child from a third world country, you are going to need enough cash to get you through the process. The first thing you should consider doing is hiring an adoption lawyer to help walk you though the steps and let you know what to expect. Even the most straightforward and problem free adoption can be stopped, delayed or changed at the last minute and you need to have someone by your side prepared to deal with foreign governments and unscrupulous officials. Expect fees to come out of nowhere and rates to be increased right in front of you. Don’t expect others to have the same value for human life that you do.

If you’re hoping to learn a lot about the birth parents of the child you’re adopting, you will likely end up disappointed. If you’re lucky, you may learn about the birth mother at one point, but that would be the limit to any available knowledge. In most cases, the name and address of the birth father is never recorded so any chance to trace back heritage or a family tree is all but impossible. For obvious reasons, this can be tough for your adopted child to take when they are old enough to understand, so be prepared for that eventual conversation.

Probably the most important tip that experienced parents can share is that you don’t have to save the world and if you guilt yourself into feeling that way, not only are you going to be miserable but you likely won’t be able to provide the quality of life for multiple children or for a sick child that you would for one or possibly two healthy children. When you first see the photographs of the available children, it is going to be extremely tough to “pass” on a child, after all, it is a human life that you might have just doomed to misery, but try to remain positive that if you do adopt a child, you’re granting them their ultimate wish. You can’t adopt them all so try and take pride in the one you are able to help.

Best international law schools

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Every year, US News and World Report releases their lists of college and university rankings in every field imaginable. One of the most important lists they reveal is the one that ranks law schools. The rankings are so comprehensive that they are broken down into different kinds of law, including international law. Let’s take a look at the US News and World Report ranking for the best international law schools in the United States.

At the top of the list is NYU, New York University, one of the most exclusive law schools in the world. What makes NYU so good is the tiny size of their law school. Enrollment is limited to under 1500 total students so you know that you’ll be getting incredible one on one mentoring from the legendary staff on hand there, and although it isn’t cheap (about $40 grand a year) it is considerably less than many other law schools with a similar reputation.

Next up is Columbia University, another school known around the world for having a legendary law program. Full time enrollment at Columbia’s law school is even smaller than NYU (1200) and the cost is similar as well ($43000 per year). Since Columbia is located right in the heart of New York City, just like NYU, you will often find that people who apply to one will apply to the other since there is very little drop off in prestige at either school.

Coming in third is Harvard Law. Located in beautiful Cambridge, Mass, Harvard offers a law school experience second to none and is even a slight bit cheaper per year ($39,000) than Columbia or NYU. The enrollment at Harvard Law is a bit higher than both Columbia or NYU (1700) but there really isn’t any law degree that will open more doors and impress more people than a degree from Harvard.

The first dark horse of the list comes in at number four. Georgetown University is known by more people as a basketball powerhouse than anything else, but the Washington D.C. based university also has one of the most respected international law programs in the world. With a competitive enrollment of only 1600 people and a full time tuition rate of just under $40,000, Georgetown is serious player in the world of high end law schools. Besides, what better place to examine international law than in Washington D.C.?

Coming in fifth is tie between Yale University in Connecticut and American University in Washington D.C. American offers a tantalizing combination of affordable tuition ($37,000) and low enrollment (1200) that helps it win over suitors who may wish for a better learning environment than other schools on the list, while Yale strictly appeals to those with money to burn thanks to a tuition over $43,000, but it can’t be beat when it comes to one on one interaction with your professor. The enrollment of Yale Law was only 586 in 2007.

As you can see, there are many fine international law school choices in the United States, but you had better bring your savings if you plan on attending.

International investments and the law

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that one of the most active and powerful parts of international law is the part regarding investments and money. Every year, countries spend trillions of dollars investing in each other for raw materials, manufacturing, mining, lumber and much, much more. Sometimes, these contracts can seem lopsided or one country can appear to be taking advantage of another unfairly. You can also have situations where threats or collusion can occur that can influence why one country agreed to something, even if it appears that they don’t have that country’s best interests in mind. If it wasn’t for international law and international courts, cases like these would never be resolved and almost no international trading would get done. Let’s take a look at how international law influences trade around the world.

With more and more attention being paid to the environment, world wide agreements such as the Kyoto Protocols have changed the way that international business is done, even if countries like the United States haven’t signed off on it yet. However, critics sight the Kyoto treaty, and many environment treaties like it, as a major roadblock to doing business in an efficient way. Say country A wants to open up a huge mine in country B. In the past, the mine was dug and the ore or diamonds were taken out, but now, environmental treaties require that certain standards be met along the way. These standards may help things be done in a more earth-friendly way, but those extra costs that are rung up will likely cut into profits or even deter the two countries from doing business at all. If the treaties are ignored, both countries could face fines or other stiff penalties from international courts for violating the treaty. These environmental treaties are considered extremely unfair to developing countries that don’t have the advanced technology at their disposal to operate mines and do other such operations in an environmentally friendly way. The argument over environmental treaties and their impact on business and investments will continue into the future as conditions like global warming get worse and the demand for natural resources increases as well.

On a completely different front, international law can influence things like copyright and can cause a company to have to invest millions or even billions to change decades of their product to meet the new laws. The perfect example was the recent battle between the World Wildlife Fund and the World Wrestling Federation. The World Wildlife Fund filed a suit in international court saying that they had the rights to the initials WWF, and they won. The wrestling organization was then forced to abandon those initials and completely rebrand itself, a process that any company would dread. They were even forced to go back through their extensive tape library that consisted of hundreds of thousands of hours of footage and digitally remove any mention of the WWF name or logo. The cost of such a project is literally unquantifiable.

The New York Convention

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

When it comes to solving cross border disputes, many different companies and countries have multiple options available to them. Most people look towards the courts as a way to solve international incidents, but vast differences in laws make the usual court set up almost impossible, that’s why more and more countries look to arbitration as a way to quickly, efficiently and satisfactorily solve minor international shipping disputes. While some countries had working agreements on how these arbitration hearings were to work, it wasn’t until the historic New York Convention, also known as the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards in 1958 that mandated a format that was generally agreeable amongst most major counties. Today, this convention has helped lay the groundwork for the resolution of thousands of minor and major international shipping disputes.

Probably the biggest thing standing in the way of this convention working out was the subject of enforceability. One country would agree that a particular form of arbitration should be legally binding around the world but another country would find flaws in the formula or they would perceive that particular style of arbitration as being biased towards one side, one religion or one way of doing business. The titanic challenge that the 1958 convention faced was how to present arbitration as a catch-all that everyone could agree with. After a significant amount of debate that ruled out other alternate forms of dispute resolution, mediation was decided upon and a general format was put into place that, with a few extra bits and pieces added, is still in effect to this very day.

International arbitration also has other advantages over a court system that may or may not favor one country over another. The international arbitration system that was agreed upon at the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards in 1958 sought to make arbitration hearings unappealable, so they couldn’t be fought for years in a court-like system that everyone found frustrating. The site where the arbitration hearing is held is almost always (expect for rare examples) on neutral ground so that both sides of the dispute feel comfortable with what is being ruled on.

While the firm nature of international arbitration is one of its biggest selling points, the people who crafted the convention rules also understood the fact that arbitration can’t always be a one size fits all scenario. There are several different kinds of arbitration with different rules in place for different kinds of disputes. Both sides of the dispute must agree on the type of arbitration they are going to have so that the case can move forward. This flexibility has been a huge reason why the arbitration system is still functioning and popular today.

As you can see, the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards in 1958 was a major step in opening up world trade. Disputes and conflicts will always happen, the challenge is finding a dispute resolution mechanism that is agreeable to the overwhelming majority of the world and, for now, that has been accomplished.

What does International Law deal with?

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Many of us have heard of international law, but most of us don’t really understand what international law deals with. If someone leaves the United States and breaks a law in another country, one of two things usually happens: they are tried in that country for breaking their laws or they are extradited to the United States and they stand trial there. So what does international law govern, exactly? Let’s browse the headlines and see if we can find some timely international law cases going on in the world right now.

While war is one of the most terrible inventions of man, international law plays a huge part in enforcing the laws of war and many civil rights agreements that pertain to war, such as the Geneva Conventions. For instance, the Nuremburg Trials after World War II was an international court of law that sought to punish members of the Nazi party and other people who fought on the side of the Axis. People were sent to jail for running the terrible concentration camps and for other war crimes. War crime tribunals aren’t a thing of the past, either. There are currently ones being held in the former Yugoslavia pertaining to the ethnic cleansing and war that happened there recently and there are even rumors that war crime tribunals will be held after the Iraq war and could include such well known politicians as former Australian Prime Minister John Howard and even some members of the United States government. These are just a few of the cases heard under international law.

In the European Union, there is an international law court set up to try to govern and resolve disputes between member countries. Think of it as a “supreme court” of Europe, where the individual countries are almost like individual states in the US. This court can help to resolve trade disputes, monitor fair elections and much more. Since the European Union is a fairly new construct, the rules, regulations and authority of this international court is still be defined and refined, but as long as the EU exists, there will be a court enforcing international law governing it.

Some international courts govern areas far smaller than an entire continent. The International Court of Justice may have a far reaching name, but in reality, they govern maritime and fishing disputes between various countries. You can imagine how difficult this can be for various fishing fleets fishing in nearby waters who have different standards for what fish can be kept, what can be killed and other such problems. It may not make the same kind of impact as the EU court or war crimes tribunals, but they are absolutely vital to that industry that a court exists that gives legally binding rulings that everyone involved must follow.

As you can see, the reach of international law is truly fascinating to study. Every day, international courts and governing bodies make thousands of binding rulings that help shape the world we live in.

What to do when you have a case that involves international law

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

It is a nightmare scenario that plays out far too often in this world: you are visiting another country on vacation and everything is going fine and then all of a sudden you find yourself embroiled in an international incident that has you behind bars and thousands of miles away from home. Here are a few tips you can follow if you ever find yourself on the wrong side of the law outside of the United States of America.

Recent stories in the news have put the problem of vacationers having legal problems in the countries that they are vacationing in the spotlight. A number of horror stories have come out of Middle Eastern countries like the UAE in the last few months so it is easy to understand why the interest in international law is at an all time high. In these cases, visitors to the UAE were arrested and held for months on end without trial after 1/8000th of a gram of cannabis was found on the bottom of one person’s shoe, and another man was held for a significant period of time after poppy seeds from a muffin were found on his person. He was held in connection for possession of opiates. Of course, these types of cases are literally the worse case scenario and are extremely unlikely to happen to you, but getting arrested during your international vacation is still serious business.

First off, if you are arrested, don’t say a thing until you are given access to a lawyer or a barrister of some kind. In most Western countries, you are given the option of having a lawyer by your side at all times, and anything you say can and will be used against you, just like here in the US. Even if the cops seem friendly or they say that they want to help you, ask if you are being held; if you are not, ask to leave. If you are, ask for lawyer.

Second, if you are given a phone call, and in most places it is mandatory, call the United States embassy in the country you are living in and get help. This might be the most important phone call you can make because it is the only thing you can do to alert others of your situation. Do not call your lawyer at home as they will not be able to help you and don’t call your family, although that might be the first impulse you have. You can get the phone numbers for the United States embassies all over the world from this website

Finally, it is important to stay calm and don’t admit to anything you didn’t actually do. You may kiss your rights away if you admit to a crime under duress that you didn’t commit. Hopefully, your host country will notify the embassy of your arrest even if you don’t so help should be on the way in a matter of hours. Even if you are released, contact your embassy right away and let them know what happened so there are no problems when you try to leave.