Game changer: how newspapers can stimulate legal unity in Europe

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In the May 16th edition, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung lets us have it right between the eyes: ‘Is the ECJ ruling justified?’. This question, enclosed in a polling-feature, regarding Opinion 2/15 on the EU’s powers to conclude the EU-Singapore Trade Deal, is intriguing – perhaps even revolutionary. Probably for the first time, a European newspaper included internet polling to shed light on the public debate over ECJ decision making. Such a ‘popular judicial culture poll’ works two ways. It is not only a useful public opinion indicator, it also encourages readers to think about the European Court of Justice (ECJ) not as some alien institution but rather as part of the national public debate. As I will argue in this blog post, this popular judicial poll is one of the most recent ‘bottom-up’ signs of alignment between European judicial cultures, that is, the ideas and practices regarding judging and judicial organisation which have developed over time.
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Religion is a building block not a stumbling block for the integration of Muslims

integration-1777535_960_720Again, as a result of the recent terrorist attack in London, members of the Muslim community are increasingly being portrayed as ‘different': they are painted as religious fundamentalists who cannot separate politics from religion; who treat women as being inferior to men; and who offer the cold shoulder to LGBT. There are calls for the banning of certain orthodox Muslim religious organisations; the exclusion of religious symbols from public life; the constitutional entrenchment of ‘our values'; and the active ‘integration’ of Muslims into mainstream society. During his 2011 speech before the Munich Security Conference then Prime Minister Cameron called for replacing the passive tolerance of recent years by a much more active, muscular liberalism: “A passively tolerant society says to its citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It stands neutral between different values. A genuinely liberal country does much more. It believes in certain values and actively promotes them.”  Continue reading

Disdain for Law and Democracy: A Red Flag in Radicalization Processes

psychologyRadicalization and associated issues such as extremism and terrorism are important problems in our world. Various radical belief systems are associated with the problems of radicalization, extremism, and terrorism. These belief systems include extreme Muslim beliefs as well as radical right-wing and left-wing beliefs. Due to its importance and complexity, I am currently writing a book on why people radicalize. The book, to be published in 2018 by Oxford University Press, aims to provide an accessible, advanced, and up-to-date assessment of what is going on inside people’s heads with respect to fairness issues and radicalization. The book reviews several instances of radicalization and theories of radicalization. The book also introduces a framework to understand radicalization. In developing this framework I propose that perceived unfairness is a key antecedent of various radicalization processes, especially when these perceptions are combined with uncertainty or other threats and with insufficient correction of self-centered impulses. Continue reading

Montaigne Researchers Present at the Annual Asian Law Institute Conference in Manila, Philippines May 2017

18588815_1680478885312981_6466588618611950346_oThe 14th Asian Law Institute conference was hosted by the College of Law of the University of the Philippines from 18 to 19 May 2017 in Manila. Qiao Cong-rui, Julie Fraser, and Niu Ming, PhD Candidates and researchers with the Montaigne Centre, participated in the conference. The conference brought together academics and professionals from Asia and the world to discuss issues related to the theme “A Uniting Force? – ‘Asian Values’ and the Law.” Over 100 papers were presented relating to this theme, addressing a wide range of legal fields including commercial law, constitutional law, criminal law, and international law. The conference was divided into six sessions and comprised 36 panels. Academics and professionals contributed to the discussions concerning the concept of ‘Asian values’ by looking at legal and institutional arrangements or systems of key Asian countries. 

By Julie Fraser, Qiao Cong-rui, and Ming Niu

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Procedural review: a solution for the European Court of Human Right’s problems?

ECHRHuman rights cases often concern politically sensitive matters. An example is the case the European Court of Human Rights decided two weeks ago on the Beslan hostage taking drama. In 2004, about 800 children and 300 of their parents were taken hostage in a school in Beslan, Russia, and were held in the school building under very harsh conditions. Several of the male hostages were executed in full view of the children. After unsuccessful negotiations with the hostage takers, the authorities decided to storm the school and end the siege. Much is unclear about what happened, but some powerful explosions occurred, killing dozens of people, and a fire broke out, which killed even more children and their parents. Over 330 people lost their lives and hundreds more were wounded. Not satisfied with the way in which the authorities responded to the occurrences, some of the victims and their relatives approached the European Court of Human Rights and asked it to examine if the Russian authorities had done enough to protect their lives and safety. Given the context of terrorism and civil strife in the North Caucasus, the case was of tremendous political sensitivity. Moreover, the facts were disputed and it was far from clear who should be considered to bear primary responsibility for the killing of so many children and their parents – the terrorists or the Russian authorities. Clearly, thus, this is an extremely hard case for the European Court of Human Rights to decide, and the question may arise what approach it should choose in dealing with it. Continue reading

Emerging Role of Expert Opinions in Chinese Criminal Justice

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Photo by Wang Qiufei, Dongfang Law Firm, China

On 13 March 2017, I left the Netherlands for Beijing to begin a week of meeting Chinese practicing lawyers about their experiences working within the criminal justice system. My overall observation is that the popular discourse for enhancing China’s criminal procedural fairness is not only a concerted sentiment, but also a concrete effort among professionals in the field.

Below, I reflect upon key insights I obtained during a lively training session, and then offer two remarks on how scholars can play a role to improve the world’s largest criminal justice system through knowledge exchange and practical cooperation. Continue reading

Local Resident Committee: Promoting access to justice for migrant women domestic helpers in China

Hukou_zhChina has undergone great transformation in the turbulent years since the establishment of the new government in 1949. New practices have been woven with old traditions into a complicated social background. This has many implications, including for the living status of migrant women working as domestic helpers in China. According to estimates, there are more than 270 million migrant workers with rural living registration (Hukou) working in urban areas, who are therefore excluded from various public services and social benefits supported by urban governments. With an increasing number of women in China entering the labour market, gender discrimination, the gender pay gap, and occupation segregation are still conspicuous in practice. With the economic boost and labour expansion, millions of domestic workers are in need throughout China, yet their basic human and labour rights are not guaranteed by law. An extreme illustrative case about the poor working situation is that of Cai Minmin, a rural migrant girl working as a domestic servant who was abused for five years by her host, which perhaps reveals the tip of an Iceberg. Continue reading

The Rainy Season in Java: Researching the Role of Islamic Law and Institutions in Promoting Women’s Right to Family Planning in Indonesia

blogFraserSix weeks of melting humidity, spicy food, tropical vegetation, and endless traffic. I was in Indonesia to research how women’s reproductive rights and family planning are protected, with a particular focus on the role of Islamic laws and institutions. This is a complex topic, requiring expertise in matters of women’s rights, public health, demographics, and Islamic law. My visit to Indonesia was part of a crash course in all these fields – a type of sink or swim scenario. My experience there highlighted the role of non-state actors in the promotion and protection of human rights, and the need for domestic constituents working within their communities to secure such rights. I chose Indonesia as my case study as it is the largest Muslim state in the world, has strong plural legal systems and Islamic institutions, and has faced barriers in promoting and protecting women’s reproductive rights. As it turned out, Indonesia was an excellent choice, and a good teacher.

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International Studies Association Conference in Trump Country: Discussing civil society documentation of serious human rights abuses

conference-room-768441_960_720From 22 – 25 February, I travelled to the US to attend the 58th annual International Studies Association (ISA) conference entitled ‘Understanding Change in World Politics’. The theme could not be more relevant as we witness significant changes to the world political scene, most notably under the new Trump administration in the USA. A willingness by political leaders such as Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Rodrigo Duterte, and others to violate or be dismissive of human rights norms, underscores the important role played by civil society actors in holding leaders to account.
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Unity of law in the application of the duty of consistent interpretation?

This blog considers whether unity of law should be strived for in the EU law remedy of the duty of consistent interpretation and, if so, how this could be achieved. I explain why it is necessary to differentiate between the national and the EU level when addressing this question. I argue that unity of law is not a pie in the sky on the EU level but that, on account of differences in the national methods of interpretation, the degree of unity will probably not be the same on the national and the EU level. To conclude this blog, I suggest three ideas to achieve a high degree of unity in the application of the duty of consistent interpretation on the national level, and that the Dutch could perhaps learn something from the Germans in this respect.
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