An Ethics of Just Judgment for Transnational Challenges

blog 3Laura M. Henderson

You are sitting at your desk – as an academic, lawyer, policy maker or judge. You are pondering a legal issue and need to figure out what the law on this matter means for the question at hand. It can be as simple as having to decide whether a tricycle falls under the local prohibition of vehicles in the park or as complex as a constitutional challenge to an intricate, transnational economic rescue plan. How should you decide how to interpret the applicable law? This contribution argues that a postmodern ethics of just judgment points the way forward. Such a mode of just judgment calls on our interpreter to constantly interrogate the boundaries of the law and to make decisions that preserve space for future renegotiations of those boundaries.

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Being Realistic About Law

giammarco-boscaro-eWpBNXRHfTI-unsplashThomas Riesthuis

Legal philosophers are often criticised for being out of touch with legal practice. At best, their theories provide a highly abstract but dated understanding of what law is. In a recent prize-winning book entitled A Realistic Theory of Law legal philosopher Brian Tamanaha argues that this often heard critique is true. Many legal philosophers fail to adequately explain how law and legal institutions function: they rarely succeed in addressing the current social context in which law is made and applied. Tamanaha maintains that this lack of attention to the complexity of legal practice is endemic to the field of jurisprudence today, but considers a particular jurisprudential strand of thought to be responsible for this neglect. As he explains: “Jurisprudence in recent decades has become increasingly abstract, specialized, and narrow. Analytical jurisprudence, dominated by legal positivists, has traveled the furthest in this direction.” If legal philosophers, and in particular those who are part of the analytical tradition of jurisprudence, fail to take law in context seriously, what aspects of legal practice should they be concerned with? In this blog, I critically assess Tamanaha’s realistic approach to law and contrast it with the approach I take in my recently defended doctoral thesis. Although I agree with Tamanaha’s critique of contemporary jurisprudence, I argue that legal theories that are out of touch with legal practice should be amended and further developed.

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Truth Commissions and Social Justice: Modesty is in Order

Brianne 3

Brianne McGonigle Leyh

From Peru to Canada to East Timor, following periods of serious conflict or gross human rights violations, societies often look to address the past in order to bring about greater accountability (trials), reparation (victim compensation), and truth (truth commissions). To date, more than 40 truth commissions have been established around the world, with the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission being the most well-known example. Generally speaking, truth commissions are officially sanctioned, temporary, non-judicial investigative bodies designed to produce a final report describing the patterns of violence and abuse, its causes and consequences (Hayner 2011 at 11-12). They do this by taking, collecting, and analysing statements from victims, witnesses, and perpetrators, holding public hearings, carrying out exhumations, and researching and investigating allegations of wrongdoing. The claimed benefits are wide-ranging: disclosure of the truth, creation of an historical record, promotion of national healing, individual catharsis, and acknowledgement and redress for victims. While there is debate about whether truth-seeking processes can deliver these benefits, they may be able to pay greater attention to social justice concerns than criminal trials or reparation processes can. In this blog, based on a recently published chapter in the book The Global Impact and Legacy of Truth Commissions, I explain why truth commissions, while contributing modestly to achieving social justice through their structures, processes and outcomes, cannot in themselves achieve these goals.

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Transformative Reparations for Victims under International Law: Changing the Game or More of the Same?

                                                                                          Julie Fraser & Brianne McGonigle Leyh

victims-rightsReparations are an old concept in both domestic and international law. Victims have long been repaired in some way for the harms they suffered themselves, to their families or property. Following World War II, victims received some type of reparation, usually paid by the State, for their profound losses, and just last year the Dutch Railways NS announced that it would pay reparations to victims for its role in transportation for the Nazi regime. In the USA there have been enduring discussions about the yet unpaid reparations for slavery. Along with these developments, there have been changes to the approaches taken to reparations. Firstly, reparations have been recognised as part of a victim’s right under international law. Secondly, critiques have arisen regarding the traditional approach of reparations that seeks to restore victims to the position they were in before the harm occurred. Academics and practitioners have criticised this approach as failing to address socio-economic disparities and unequal power structures, which may have led to the victimisation in the first place. The recent transformative justice movement, and transformative reparations in particular, grew out of the belief that it is ineffectual to place marginalised victims back into positions of marginalisation following serious harm. This blog, based on a recently published article, critically examines transformative reparations within the human rights and criminal context, and explores whether the concept of transformation is changing the game.

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Montaigne congresmiddag over registratie onderhandse pand- en cessieakten: toe aan vernieuwing?!

                                                                                         Paulien van Dijk & Anna Berlee

belastingdienstHet registreren van onderhandse akten bij de Belastingdienst is een ouderwets proces. De papieren akte wordt voorzien van een bewijs van registratie, waarna het papier weer wordt teruggezonden naar de registrerende partij. Dit jaar moet de evaluatie van de Registratiewet 1970 plaatsvinden. Hoewel deze evaluatie in het kader van het convenant tussen de belastingdienst en de KNB plaatsvindt, biedt deze evaluatie een mooie gelegenheid om de huidige vorm van registratie onder de loep te nemen. Daarom is op donderdag 11 april jl. het congres ‘Registratie onderhandse pand- en cessieakten: toe aan vernieuwing?/!’ georganiseerd door Montaigne Centrum onderzoekers Jan Biemans en Anna Berlee. Tijdens dit congres deelden wetenschappers en mensen uit de praktijk hun visie over de huidige manier van registreren en de mogelijke vernieuwing daarvan. Het werd snel duidelijk dat het trage papieren registratieproces niet meer binnen deze tijd past en we op zoek moeten gaan naar een passend elektronisch systeem dat voldoende waarborgen biedt. Een voorbeeld van een online register bestaat al in België. Biedt dit ook een oplossing voor het ouderwetse systeem in Nederland? Of biedt blockchaintechnologie dé uitkomst?

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Milieudefensie summons Shell: Similar obligations for States and companies when it comes to CO2 reduction?

Blog ClaireClaire Loven

In October 2019, The Hague Court of Appeal rendered an important judgment in the Urgenda case. Urgenda is a Dutch foundation fighting for a sustainable society, which started a legal case to force the Dutch government to adopt more stringent climate policies. In that case, The Hague Court of Appeal found a violation of Articles 2 (right to life) and 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and ordered the Dutch State to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 per cent by the end of 2020. Inspired by this judgment, the NGO Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands), together with several related organisations, has taken yet another step in climate change litigation in the Netherlands by summoning Shell, one of the largest oil companies in the world. Although Milieudefensie is petitioning a company instead of a State, the claim is the same as the one against the State in the Urgenda case. Milieudefensie requests the court to order Shell to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. This claim is founded on the argument that Shell is guilty of hazardous negligence and violates human rights because of its (lack of a) climate policy. This argument shows that Milieudefensie has not only taken a further step in climate change litigation, but also contributes to the trend of increasingly holding private actors accountable for human rights violations. In this blog, I discuss Milieudefensie’s claim in more detail, and analyse whether, and how, human rights arguments can be used to impose greenhouse gas reduction orders on private actors. Lees verder

De Wet Bibob en de aanpak van criminele motorbendes

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Rebels motorcycle club members ride from Meckering to Perth on September 12, 2013 in Perth, Australia. An estimated 1000 Rebels from chapters all over Australia gather for the road trip across the country to Perth.  (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Benny van der Vorm

Het is al vaker gesignaleerd: de Nederlandse rechtstaat wordt bedreigd door ondermijnende criminaliteit. Over de vraag wat nu precies wordt verstaan onder deze vorm van misdaad bestaat onduidelijkheid, maar we zijn het erover eens dat hard moet worden opgetreden tegen ondermijning. Als we op de website van het Regionaal Informatie en Expertise Centrum en het Landelijk Informatie en Expertise Centrum (hierna: RIEC-LIEC) afgaan, moeten wij hierbij voor denken aan criminele motorbendes. Het zal weinigen zijn ontgaan dat criminele motorbendes het zwaar krijgen te verduren. Regelmatig wordt het publiek op de hoogte gehouden van successen en tegenvallers van ‘justitie’ in de aanpak van motorbendes. Om deze criminele motorbendes zo effectief mogelijk aan te pakken wordt een arsenaal aan juridische wapens ingezet. Zo kan deelneming aan een criminele organisatie ten laste worden gelegd kunnen er fiscale maatregelen worden genomen om de motorbendes financieel te treffen, kan de vereniging civielrechtelijk worden ontbonden en kan het bestuursrecht een bijdrage leveren aan het sluiten van clubhuizen. Een gecombineerde inzet van al deze maatregelen moet ertoe leiden dat het gevaar dat uitgaat van criminele motorbendes in de kiem wordt gesmoord. Ook de Wet Bevordering integriteitsbeoordelingen door het openbaar bestuur (hierna: Wet Bibob, ook wel beschouwd als het paradepaardje van de bestuurlijke aanpak van georganiseerde misdaad) kan een bijdrage leveren aan de bestrijding van criminele motorbendes. Wat kunnen we van deze wet (vooral niet) verwachten? Lees verder

Collection of bodies in Mosul: An act of revenge, humanity – or both?

Sroor Al-HosayniKatharine Fortin

Last week, I listened to a podcast in NPR’s Rough Translation series that was on collecting the dead in Mosul, Iraq in 2018. The podcast is about Sroor Al-Hosayni, a 23 year old Iraqi woman who heads a team of volunteers who remove dead bodies from the rubble of Mosul, eight months after the city was liberated from its occupation by the Islamic State (IS/ISIS). Fascinated, I did more digging on the internet and found that Sroor’s work as a ‘body-collector’ has also been covered by the BBC and VICE news. In this post, I use these sources to recount the main parts of Sroor’s role as a ‘body collector’ and show how her story brings to light a set of rules in international humanitarian law (IHL) on ‘the collection of the dead’ that rarely get any attention in academic writings. Sroor’s story vividly illustrates the necessity of the rule that parties to an armed conflict should search for and collect the bodies of the dead ‘without distinction’ i.e. without taking account of their affiliation. The fact that Sroor gets into trouble with the authorities for collecting IS bodies evidences wider trends of counter-terrorism legislation impeding humanitarian action. Sroor’s story also illustrates the danger that the unsupervised removal of bodies may not only pose a health and security risk, but may also interfere with the gathering of forensic evidence needed in war crimes prosecution.

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De anti-vaccinatiesaga: over boekverboden, anti-vaxxers en spierballentaal van het kabinet

                                                                                        Manon Julicher


We worden overspoeld met alarmerende berichten over een dalende vaccinatiegraad. Deze zou zo erg teruglopen dat de groepsimmuniteit voor bepaalde ziekten in gevaar komt. Daarom heeft staatssecretaris Blokhuis van Volksgezondheid vorig jaar een vaccinatie-alliantie opgericht. Samen met ouders, artsen en deskundigen zet hij in op voorlichting om het belang van vaccinatie duidelijk te maken. Wat dan absoluut niet meehelpt, is dat online verkoopplatform allerlei anti-vaccinatieboeken hoog in zijn ranglijstjes aanprijst. Volkskrant heeft onderzocht dat de top-5 zoekresultaten bij de term ‘vaccinatie’ bij louter bestaat uit niet-wetenschappelijke boeken die kritisch zijn over vaccinatie. Een ondermijning van alle inspanningen van de afgelopen tijd, vindt Blokhuis. Daarom heeft hij opgeroepen de zogenaamde ‘anti-vaxxboeken’ uit de etalage te halen, of misschien zelfs wel helemaal niet meer te verkopen. In reactie gaf aan dat het boeken niet vooraf wegens hun inhoud weert. Het is aan de koper om te bepalen wat wel en niet gelezen wordt. Maar – en nu komt het – voor die boeken die volgens de wet niet verkocht mogen worden zegt het verkoopplatform een uitzondering te maken. Hè? Boeken die niet verkocht mogen worden? Maar we hebben in Nederland toch een censuurverbod? Precies dit censuurverbod gooien we altijd in de strijd als het belang van de Nederlandse Grondwet ter discussie staat. Kan de wetgever dan toch zomaar de verkoop van boeken verbieden? En ook als dat mag, is een verbod op anti-vaccinatieboeken dan wel wenselijk? In dit blog een juridische verkenning.

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Artificial intelligence in courts: A (legal) introduction to the Robot Judge

2548749Stefan Philipsen & Erlis Themeli

The exercise of government power is increasingly automated. Modern technology makes it possible to reduce the direct human involvement in a great variety of government domains. Human involvement in domains like tax and social security is already limited to the most complex cases. One of the questions this development raises is whether artificial intelligence (AI) will also impact other branches of government, besides the executive. Last month the Estonian ministry of Justice ordered the design of a ‘Robot Judge’ to help the judiciary fight backlogs in the Estonian small claims procedure. And as futuristic as a ‘Robot Judge’ may sound, the Estonian efforts do not stand alone. Also in the Netherlands, the use of AI by the judiciary is on the political agenda. This makes sense since the use of AI by the judiciary holds many promises. Procedures are expected to be cheaper, faster, and less biased. However there are, as with the automation of executive government decisions, also concerns. In this blog we give a short introduction to the development of the Robot Judge.

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