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


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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Het rapport van de Commissie rechtseenheid bestuursrecht

eenheidEen rechtsgeleerde, vakgebiedoverstijgende dialoog naar aanleiding van een op een wankel politiek koord balancerend rapport

Rolf: Zeg Ivo, wat vind jij als notoire rechtspleging-watcher eigenlijk van het rapport van de Commissie rechtseenheid bestuursrecht [bijlage bij Kamerstukken II 2015/2016, 34389, nr. 9]? Weliswaar is inmiddels het wetsvoorstel Organisatie hoogste bestuursrechtspraak, ten behoeve waarvan het rapport is opgesteld, ingetrokken [Kamerstukken II 2016/2017, 34389, nr. 23], maar het rapport geeft volgens mij wel interessante gezichtspunten als het gaat om het belang van rechtseenheid en rechterlijke rechtsvorming. Hoe lees je dit als echte civilist? Continue reading

Rechtseenheid in de EU interne markt: op het snijvlak van eenheid en diversiteit

flagaueHoe kan de diversiteit aan lidstatelijke ‘sociale systemen’ worden verenigd binnen een one-size-fits-all benadering van Europese marktintegratie? Dit is wellicht de voornaamste uitdaging van Europese marktintegratie en de rechtseenheid van het Europese recht. Daarbij wordt constant gebalanceerd op een snijvlak van eenheid (van het Europese recht) en diversiteit (van lidstatelijke belangen). Een breed gedeelde perceptie is dat deze scheidingslijn steeds onduidelijker wordt. Dat gebeurt enerzijds omdat steeds meer kwesties worden geharmoniseerd via richtlijnen, reguleringen en vormen van soft law. Anderzijds bestaat er een perceptie dat het Hof van Justitie van de Europese Unie (hierna: Hof) deze balans bedreigt op basis van neoliberaal getinte ‘activistische rechtspraak’. Het Hof wordt op regelmatige basis geconfronteerd met de uitdaging de sociale diversiteit van de lidstaten te verenigen met de Europese integratiedoelstellingen. Op rechtspraak van het Hof is veel kritiek vanwege het feit dat lidstaten ingrepen in ‘nationale aangelegenheden’ steeds meer zien als een onrechtmatige inmenging in de vormgeving van ‘hun eigen’ publieke belangen. Het vinden van een juiste balans tussen eenheid en diversiteit is daarmee in toenemende mate van belang voor de rechtseenheid en de stabiliteit van de Europese Unie. Brexit is daarvan wellicht het voorbeeld in extremis. In deze en toekomstige blogs zal ik proberen tot een typologie te komen van de verschillende redenering op basis waarvan het Hof tot oplossingen komt in ‘moeilijke zaken’. Dat wil zeggen: de zaken die zich bevinden op het snijvlak van eenheid en diversiteit. Op welke wijze weet het Hof de uniforme toepassing van interne marktrecht te verenigen (of niet) met de sociaal economische diversiteit van de lidstaten en zou dat beter kunnen?   Continue reading

The Urgenda judgement: legislature and government under intensive judicial supervision

Writing something about the Urgenda judgement (Rechtbank Den Haag 24 June 2015, ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2015:7145) might seem abundant at this point. After all, a lot of literature about the judgement has already been published. Is the judgement really so special? That can, with good reason, not be denied.

The Urgenda Foundation is the organisation for sustainability and innovation which aims to together with companies, governments, civil organisations and individuals, make the Netherlands sustainable more quickly. This foundation has filed a civil case against the State, because according the foundation while the government has recognized the urgency of the climate problems, it has taken insufficient action to prevent dangerous climate change. In the Urgenda judgement the State, on the basis of the standard of due care observed in society as set out in article 6:162 of the Dutch Civil Code, is subject to a periodic penalty payment ordered to reduce the annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2010 by at least 25 percent compared to the 1990 levels. The relevant international provisions for the case cannot be relied on at law at the national judge, in the sense that they are unsuitable to be directly applicable as positive law in the national legal system and they are therefore not binding on all persons as provided in articles 93 and 94 of the Dutch Constitutions. However, the court applies the so-called consequential effect. The latter means that the court, in applying the national open standards, such as the standard of due care observed in society, takes into account international provisions that are not binding on all persons as provided in articles 93 and 94 of the Dutch Constitution.


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