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Prisoners’ voting rights: a success story for the enforceability of the ECHR?

By Emily MacKenzie, NYU School of Law, (LL.M Candidate, 2011)

The last week has seen a tense discourse in political and legal circles in the UK centering on prisoners’ voting rights. This discussion in some sense represents the culmination of five years of debate about the enforceability of judgments made by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). In March 2004 the ECtHR held unanimously in Hirst v UK that the UK’s blanket ban on prisoners voting violated Article 3 Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Despite the rejection of the UK’s appeal to the Grand Chamber, and the obligation under Article 46 ECHR to enforce Strasbourg judgments, the government has to date failed to enact legal reform to implement this decision. Whilst there has been an ongoing consultation, it is not overly cynical to describe the process as merely ‘going through the motions.’ The unexplained delays, refusal to entertain the option of allowing all prisoners to vote, and the government’s consistent expression of its disagreement with the ruling all attest to this conclusion.

Repeated criticisms by the Council of Europe came to a head when the government failed to act on any of the proposals in time to allow prisoners to vote in the June 2010 election.  Last week, however, UK newspapers reported that the new coalition government is finally going to implement the judgment. (See coverage by The Guardian here.)  The exact program and timescale of reform remain unclear, but it seems to be generally accepted that a change is in the offing. The governmental attitude remains, however, that such reform is something imposed on the UK by Europe, that it is not something that the government wants, and that they will apply it as restrictively as possible. In light of this continued reticence, one may ask: why after five years of stalling is the government finally giving in?

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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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A Belated Thought on Wikileaks

by Graham Dumas (J.D. Candidate 2011)

I am a bit late in writing about the Wikileaks issue, but I would like to propose here a slightly different way of viewing the question through the lens of systems engineering. For a number of reasons, Wikileaks has presented to members of the military a simplified and seemingly less painful way to report violations of IHL, leading to a breakdown in, or rather an excursion from, the process the U.S. Military has been using to report, identify, prosecute, and ultimately prevent violations of military law and the law of armed conflict. To remedy this problem, the military should investigate both the demand and supply sides of the information pipeline, simplify the reporting process, and initiate a campaign to educate servicemen of the internal reporting channels available to them, the need to prevent extraneous leaks to the public, and the penalties for releasing classified information.  More after the jump.

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Cohen on Human Rights in China

On Saturday, the New York Times published an interview with NYU Professor Jerome A. Cohen regarding legal developments in China and the country's human rights record.  From the interview: “There are now some 200,000 judges, close to 180,000 prosecutors, roughly…

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The Effects of the ICJ Decision on Kosovo (if any) on the “Frozen Conflicts” of the Former Soviet Union

by Graham Dumas (J.D. Candidate 2011)

Note: This is a cross-post from my Russia-specific blog, Onion Domes and Oligarchs.

That yesterday’s advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice, Accordance with International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in Respect of Kosovo, was decided on extremely narrow grounds has already been noted elsewhere in the blogosphere. Further, its status as an advisory opinion of course means that it is non-binding (though widely respected) and pertains only to the question asked of the Court by the U.N. General Assembly.

Nevertheless, it may be interesting to apply to the context of the frozen conflicts in the former Soviet Union some of the principles discussed in and generated by the Court’s Kosovo opinion. After all, political leaders in Moscow have frequently (and threateningly) cited Kosovo as a precedent for the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, despite the obvious and numerous differences between these cases. A brief bit of analysis after the jump.

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