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Book Review: Stacy’s Human Rights for the 21st Century

In the latest installment of book reviews, Nalini Gupta lauds Human Rights for the 21st Century, by Helen M. Stacy for providing a comprehensive analysis of human rights work. However, Gupta notes that Stacy risks oversimplifying the issues in her attempt to divide major critiques of the international human rights system into three categories: sovereignty, civil society, and multiculturalism.

By Nalini Gupta

In Human Rights for the 21st Century, Helen Stacy addresses the major critiques of the international human rights framework, offering suggestions on how to fill gaps in the current system in order to strengthen the framework. Stacy organizes the major critiques of the international human rights system into three categories: sovereignty, civil society, and multiculturalism. Responding to each of these critiques, she argues that the law and the courts must continue to play a critical role in the human rights system, but their role must be adjusted to adapt to the challenges posed by the current world order. Stacy’s book is a worthy read, providing a comprehensive analysis of the current challenges of the current human rights framework and offering interesting and practical proposals aimed at improving the present system.

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Book Review: Re-Envisioning Sovereignty: The End of Westphalia?

In this edition of our ongoing series of book reviews, Paul Mignano presents a critical but ultimately favorable take on Re-Envisioning Sovereignty: The End of Westphalia?a collection of interdisciplinary essays discussing the concept of sovereignty.


By Paul Mignano


Re-envisioning SovereigntyFor a concept that is so central to international relations and public international law, the meaning of “sovereignty” is surprisingly difficult to articulate. At its essence, Westphalian sovereignty is about the ability of a state to engage in political self-determination, to be considered a legal equal of other states, and to ensure non-interference of outside states in its own internal affairs.

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Alvarez on Opinio Juris

NYU Law Professor Jose Enrique Alvarez will be guest blogging this week over at Opinio Juris.  He uses his first post to outline the broad challenges facing the international investment regime.  From the post: When two of the leading capital…

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Book Review: Temkin’s The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair

This installment in our ongoing series of book reviews features J. Benton Heath’s assessment of Moshik Temkin’s The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair: America on Trial. In his review, Heath finds that Temkin’s book brings a unique international dimension to the analysis of the Sacco-Vanzetti affair, and reveals how events surrounding Sacco and Vanzetti informed ongoing dialogue on U.S. global dominance and domestic policy.

By J. Benton Heath

Two years after the 1927 execution of Italian-American anarchists Nicolai Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, H.L.Mencken wrote that their case “refuses to yield. . . . The victims continue to walk, haunting the conscience of America, of the civilized world.” Eight decades have passed since Mencken’s writing, yet Sacco and Vanzetti continue to stalk the public imagination, attracting renewed interest from scholars, journalists, commentators, and novelists. Temkin’s engaging and insightful work attempts to establish the historical place of Sacco and Vanzetti by focusing on the nationwide and transatlantic dimensions of their case. By focusing on the international reactions to the convictions and executions, and on the effects of foreign criticism, Temkin finds his own unique niche among the extensive scholarship on the case.

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The International Relations Value of Criminal Tribunals

By Graham Dumas, (J.D. Candidate 2011)

Much has been made in recent(ish) literature about the defects of criminal tribunals in post-conflict societies. Multiple authors over the past decade have rightly noted that such fora have dubious positive effects on the transitional justice process when viewed internally: tribunals fail to deter war criminals either because the chances of prosecution are very low, or because offenders act within the context of overwhelming social stress, often believing they are working for the greater good of society; as a measure of retributive justice, tribunals fail because the vast majority of perpetrators go unpunished; trials may upset the delicate balance of peace and conciliation, which in the end is the bedrock of ongoing stability in post-conflict societies. The list is long, and the points are largely valid.

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Book Review: Against the Death Penalty (Yorke ed.)

Continuing our ongoing series of book reviews, Alexanda McCown assesses Against the Death Penalty: International Initiatives and Implications, edited by Jon Yorke The book focuses on what empirically have been successful challenges to the death penalty and explores the relationship between public opinion and death penalty policy. However, given that the book discusses how life without parole might be an alternative to the death penalty that still violates human rights, this reviewer laments the book’s omission of other viable alternative sentences to the death penalty.

By Alexandra McCown

In November 2003, a jury delivered the death sentence to John Allen Muhammad, one of the two men behind the Washington, D.C.-area sniper attacks in 2002. The execution took place in 2009, almost six years to the day after his sentencing. If Muhammad had carried out the same crimes in Europe, he would not have been subject to capital punishment. In still other parts of the world, like the Caribbean, he may have received the death penalty, but ultimately his sentence would have been commuted since he remained on death row longer than five years. What accounts for regional differences in issuing (or not issuing) capital sanctions for heinous crimes such as the sniper attacks? Further, if Muhammad had received a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP) in the United States or any other country, would that really have been preferable to a death sentence? Can shorter sentences effectively punish the perpetrator and protect society from future crime while simultaneously respecting criminals’ human rights?

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