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2016 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

2. Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Jus Cogens

Author : Dinah Shelton

Published in: Netherlands Yearbook of International Law 2015

Publisher: T.M.C. Asser Press

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Abstract

The doctrine of jus cogens attracts fierce advocates as well as strong sceptics, who debate the nature, functions and even the existence of such norms. Like Sherlock Holmes, the idea of jus cogens emerged as a concept in the imagination of writers. Over time both Sherlock Holmes and jus cogens have generated widespread belief in their reality, but it is a reality that is subjectively shaped by each follower. Early publicists creating and developing international law posited the existence of extra-consensual norms that constrained the exercise of state sovereignty, a theory that emerged in large part from Christian theology with its notions of overriding divine law. Later publicists argued that non-derogable norms originate either in natural law, ‘necessary’ law, the ‘dictates of the public conscience’, ‘universal law’, or international moral imperatives. Some recent scholars rely on the Vienna Conventions on the Law of Treaties to argue to the contrary that norms of jus cogens do not fundamentally differ from other international rules in their origin; they emerge only from state consent, being identified ‘by the international community of states as a whole’ as peremptory norms. Within the literature as to the origin of jus cogens, in the absence of state practice, theorists differ in their views of the functions the concept serves, some arguing that it is limited in application to treaty law. Others assert that such norms act to place absolute limits on the conduct of states, governments and individuals and establish a hierarchy of norms. This article examines the origin of jus cogens in doctrine and the scant evidence to be found in state practice. It also examines the functions of jus cogens, questioning whether these remain largely literary and theoretical, with an impact like Sherlock Holmes that derives primarily from belief in its existence.
Footnotes
1
Although most of the facts about Sherlock Holmes are in the public domain, this paragraph relies on Starrett 1950, at v–xviii.
 
2
Issue 12: The final problem. http://​www.​sherlockholmes.​stanford.​edu/​print_​issue12.​html. Accessed 5 April 2015.
 
3
Starrett 1950, at xii.
 
4
Of 3000 persons surveyed in 2008, 58 % expressed the view that Sherlock Holmes was a real person. Winston Churchill didn’t really exist, say teens, Telegraph, 4 February 2008, http://​www.​telegraph.​co.​uk/​news/​uknews/​1577511/​Winston-Churchill-didnt-really-exist-say-teens.​html. Accessed 5 April 2015.
 
5
As of 2011, ‘[t]wenty per cent of Britons believe the likes of Sherlock Holmes and Blackadder are based on historical personalities.’ One in five Britons think Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple and even Blackadder were genuine historical figures, Daily Mail Reporter, 5 April 2011, http://​www.​dailymail.​co.​uk/​news/​article-1373505/​One-Brits-think-Sherlock-Holmes-Miss-Marple-Blackadder-historical-figures.​html#ixzz3WElS4ehm. Accessed 5 April 2015.
 
6
For historical development of jus cogens, see, Robledo 1982, at 10–68.
 
7
For a discussion of early attempts to ascertain limits on the exercise of sovereignty, see Kadelbach 2006, at 21; Haimbaugh 1987, at 207–211.
 
8
For critical assessments, see, e.g. Schwarzenberger 1967, at 29–30; Schwelb 1967, at 961 (referring to ‘the vagueness, the elasticity, and the dangers of the concept of international jus cogens’); Sztucki 1974; Christenson 1988; Danilenko 1991; Weisburd 1995.
 
9
1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 1155 UNTS 331; 1986 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties between States and International Organisations or between International Organisations, UN Doc. A/CONF.129/15.
 
10
Bianchi 2008.
 
11
The earliest evidence of treaty practice indicates that the entire international obligation was perceived as originating in divine mandates and any trespass of borders or subjugation of one country by another was regarded as a violation of the divine established order and a grave offence which could lead to immediate sanction by the gods of the breaching party, Amnon 2012.
 
12
Gentili 1933.
 
13
Grotius 1625.
 
14
Ibid.
 
15
Wolff 1764, para 5.
 
16
de Vattel 1758, para 9.
 
17
Chitty 1849, at ix (citing Wolff 1764). ‘[T]he law of nations certainly belongs to the law of nature: it is, therefore, on account of its origin, called the Natural, and, by reason of its obligatory force, the necessary law of nations.’
 
18
Ibid., at xiii.
 
19
Pufendorf 1710, at Book ii, Chapter iii, Section 23.
 
20
Chitty 1849, at xi.
 
21
Ibid.
 
22
de Vattel 1849; Criddle and Fox-Decent 2009.
 
23
de Vattel 1849, at 7 and 9.
 
24
He cites first the 1847 Pandecten of von Glück I who refers to those laws which categorically prescribe an action or prohibit it and whose binding force is absolute. Suy 1967, at 19.
 
25
Ibid., at 18.
 
26
Hall 1924, at 382–383; Oppenheim 1905, at 528.
 
27
Rozakis 1976, at 2.
 
28
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 1967, at 10.
 
29
Ibid., at 12.
 
30
de Page 1962, at 111.
 
31
Tomuschat 1993, at 210–211.
 
32
von Verdross 1937, at 574 and 576.
 
33
G.G. Fitzmaurice, Special Rapporteur, Third report on the law of treaties, 10th session of the ILC, A/CN.4/SER.A/1958/Add.l, 1958, at 41.
 
34
Ibid., at 28.
 
35
Schwarzenberger 1965, at 457.
 
36
International Law Commission, Fragmentation of international law: difficulties arising from the diversification and expansion of international law, Report of the Study Group of the International Law Commission, 58th session, UN Doc. A/CN.4/L.682, 13 April 2006, at 181 (Fragmentation of international law).
 
37
Ibid., 182. Jus publicum was not only public law, but all rules from which individuals could not depart.
 
38
von der Heydte 1932. The author cited, in particular rules indispensable and necessary to the existence of every legal order, e.g. pacta sunt servanda and the obligation to make reparation for damages.
 
39
Delbez 1964, at 317–318. The object of a treaty is unlawful when the obligations it contains are contrary to prior conventional obligations, rules of customary law or rules based on universal morality of an imperative character. See also Cavare 1962, at 69 (agreements cannot be contrary to ‘le droit commun de l’humanité’); and Reuter 1961, at 466–467.
 
40
J.L. Brierly, Special Rapporteur, Report on the Law of Treaties, UN Doc. A/CN.4/23, 14 April 1950, at 246 ff.
 
41
H. Lauterpacht, Special Rapporteur, Report on the Law of Treaties, UN Doc. A/CN.4/63, 24 March 1953.
 
42
Ibid., para 5.
 
43
Ibid., para 4.
 
44
Corfu Channel Case (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland v Albania), ICJ, Merits, Judgment of 9 April 1949, at 22.
 
45
McNair 1961, at 213–214.
 
46
Ibid., at 215.
 
47
‘Les règles de droit international n’ont pas un caractère imperatif. Le droit international admet en conséquence qu’un traité peut avoir n’importe quel contenu … L’appréciation de la moralité d’un traité conduit aisément à la reintroduction du droit naturel dans le droit des traités.’ Guggenheim 1953, at 57–58. See also Morelli 1951, at 37; The Case of the S.S. Lotus, PCIJ, Judgment 9 of 7 September 1927, at 18.
 
48
Kelsen 1945, at 110 ff.
 
49
Scelle 1932, Première Partie, at 3; and Scelle 1948, at 5 ff.
 
50
Oppenheim 1905, at 528.
 
51
Hall 1924, at 382.
 
52
The Oscar Chinn Case, PCIJ, Judgment of 12 December 1934, Separate opinion of Judge Schücking, at 149–150.
 
53
Schwarzenberger 1965, at 477.
 
54
Brierly 1936, at 218–219.
 
55
Lauterpacht 1937, at 153 ff.
 
56
Ibid., at 306–307.
 
57
International Law Commission, Report of the International Law Commission on the work of the second part of its seventeenth session, 17th session of the ICL, UN Doc. A/6309/Rev.1, 3-28 January 1966, at 247 ff.
 
58
The draft article was adopted at the Vienna Conference largely as suggested, save for the addition of primarily the words ‘accepted and recognised by the international community of States as a whole.’ U.N. Conference on the Law of Treaties, Summary records of the plenary meeting and of the meetings of the Committee of the Whole, 1st session, A/CONF.39/11, 1968, at 471.
 
59
Australia, Belgium, France, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Switzerland and Turkey. U.N. Conference on the Law of Treaties, Summary records of the plenary meeting and of the meetings of the Committee of the Whole, 2nd session, A/CONF.39/11/Add.1, 12 May 1969, at 107.
 
60
New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia, United Kingdom, Gabon, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia and Malta. Ibid.
 
61
Sztucki 1974, at 158.
 
62
Shaw 2008, at 97. ‘[O]nly rules based on custom or treaties may form the foundation of jus cogens norms.’
 
63
See, e.g. Byers 1997, at 212 (jus cogens rules are derived from the process of customary international law).
 
64
Questions relating to the Obligation to Prosecute or Extradite (Belgium v Senegal), ICJ, Judgment of 20 July 2012, at para 99.
 
65
See Restatement (Third) of Foreign Relations of the United States, para 102, note 6. The Restatement cites the U.N. Conference on the Law of Treaties, Report of the proceedings of the Committee of the Whole, UN Doc. A/CONF.39/11, 21 May 1968 at 471–472 (comments of the chairman).
 
66
See Sztucki 1974, at 97.
 
67
See ibid., at 64. ‘[T]he introduction of a consensual ingredient into the concept of jus cogens leads inevitably, in the ultimate instance, to the very negation of that concept.’ See also Siderman de Blake v. Republic of Argentina, 965 F.2d 699, 715 (9th Cir. 1992) (stating that jus cogens norms ‘transcend … consent’).
 
68
International Law Commission, Draft articles on the responsibility of states for internationally wrongful acts, with commentaries, 53rd session of the ILC, UN Doc. A/56/10, 2001, at 84–85.
 
69
Fragmentation of international law, paras 329–409.
 
70
von Verdross 1937, at 574.
 
71
Ibid.
 
72
Ibid.
 
73
Ibid., at 575.
 
74
See, e.g. commentary to draft guides 3.1.5.4 and 4.4.3. International Law Commission, Guide to practice on reservations to treaties with commentaries, 63rd session of the ILC, UN Doc. A/66/10/Add.1, 2011. See also Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (New Application 2002: Democratic Republic of the Congo v Rwanda), ICJ, Judgment of 3 February 2006, Separate Opinion of Judge Dugard, para 9 (discussing the effect of reservations that violate jus cogens); Principle 8 of the International Law Commission, Guiding principles applicable to unilateral declarations of states capable of creating legal obligations, with commentaries thereto, 58th session of the ILC, UN Doc. A/61/10, 2006, Principle 8.
 
75
It appears that states have ignored other opportunities to invoke the doctrine. For example, various bilateral agreements that allowed secret interrogation of prisoners suspected of terrorism could have been challenged on the basis that they condoned and facilitated the commission of torture, but no challenges were mounted. See Donohue 2008, at 108.
 
76
Aloboetoe and others v. Suriname, IACtHR, Reparations and Costs, Series C No. 15, Judgment of 10 September 1993.
 
77
Ibid., para 56.
 
78
Ibid., para 57.
 
79
See, e.g. the Yusuf and Kadi cases, in which the European Court of First Instance (CFI) held that it could review the resolutions for compatibility with jus cogens because Security Council resolutions themselves must respect the fundamental peremptory norms of jus cogens. Case T-306/91, Yusuf v. Council [2005] ECR II-3533; Case T-315/01, Kadi v. Council and Commission [2005] ECR II-3649. The Court found the contents of jus cogens to be the ‘mandatory provisions concerning the universal protection of human rights … intransgressible principles of international customary law.’ Kadi v. Council and Commission, para 231.
 
80
H. Lauterpacht, Special Rapporteur, Report on the law of treaties: legality of the object of the treaty, 5th session of the ILC, UN Doc. A/CN.4/63, 24 March 1953, Article 15, at 154 (emphasis added).
 
81
Sir H. Waldock, Special Rapporteur, Second report on the law of treaties: treaties void for illegality, 15th session of the ILC, UN Doc. A/CN.4/156 and Add.1–3, 1963, Article 13(3), at 52.
 
82
See U.S. v. Ernst von Weizsaecher, Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremburg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law No. 10, IMT Ministries Case No. 11/Vol. 13, October 1946–October 1949, at 96–97. See also U.S. v. von Leeb, Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremburg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law No. 10, The High Command Case No. 12/Vol. 11, October 1946–May 1949, at 476.
 
83
See Jurisdictional Immunities of the State (Germany v Italy, Greece intervening), ICJ Merits, Judgment of 3 February 2012, paras 92, 95 and 97. Concerning the consequences of jus cogens on jurisdiction, see also Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo, para 64. See also Jones and Others v. United Kingdom, ECtHR, Nos. 34356/06 and 40528/06, 14 January 2014, para 198 (finding that ‘by February 2012, no jus cogens exception to State immunity had yet crystallised’).
 
84
With respect to national court decisions, in Jurisdictional Immunities of the State the Court cited to decisions in Canada, Greece, New Zealand, Poland, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom where sovereign immunity was acknowledged even in the face of allegations of jus cogens violations. Jurisdictional Immunities of the State, para 96. For the United States, intermediate courts have rejected an implied exception to sovereign immunity where the foreign State was accused of violating jus cogens norms. See Siderman de Blake v. Argentina; Princz v. Germany, 26 F.3d 1166 (D.C. Cir. 1994); Smith v. Libya, 101 F.3d 239 (2d Cir. 1997; and Sampson v. Germany, 250 F.3d 1145, (7th Cir. 2001). For immunity of officials, compare Ye v. Zemin, 7t383 F.3d 620, ,(7th Cir. 2004), at 625-627; Matar v. Dichter, 563 F.3d 9 (2d Cir. 2009), at 14–15; Giraldo v. Drummond Co., 493 Fed. Appx. 106 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (acknowledging immunity of foreign government officials despite allegations of jus cogens violations), with Yousuf v. Samantar, USSC, No. 08–1555, 1 June 2010.
 
85
Jurisdictional Immunities of the State, para 95.
 
86
Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo, at para 64.
 
87
La Cantuta v Peru, IACtHR, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Series C No. 162, Judgment of 29 November 2006, para 160. ‘As pointed out repeatedly, the acts involved in the instant case have violated peremptory norms of international law (jus cogens). Under Article 1(1) of the American Convention, the States have the duty to investigate human rights violations and to prosecute and punish those responsible. In view of the nature and seriousness of the events, all the more since the context of this case is one of systematic violation of human rights, the need to eradicate impunity reveals itself to the international community as a duty of cooperation among states for such purpose. Access to justice constitutes a peremptory norm of International Law and, as such, it gives rise to the States’ erga omnes obligation to adopt all such measures as are necessary to prevent such violations from going unpunished, whether exercising their judicial power to apply their domestic law and International Law to judge and eventually punish those responsible for such events, or collaborating with other States aiming in that direction. The Court points out that, under the collective guarantee mechanism set out in the American Convention, and the regional and universal international obligations in this regard, the States Parties to the Convention must collaborate with one another towards that end.’
 
88
First discussed in the Myrna Mack Chang case, this notion of aggravated violations has been repeatedly cited in the Inter-American Court. Myrna Mack-Chang Case, IACtHR, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Series C No. 101, Judgment of 25 November 2003.
 
89
Koskenniemi 1997.
 
90
Dupuy 1995, at 14–16.
 
91
Salcedo 1997, at 588.
 
92
Fragmentation of international law, paras 31–32.
 
93
Draft articles on responsibility of states for internationally wrongful acts, with commentaries, at 84–85.
 
94
Jurisdictional Immunities of the State (Germany v Italy), ICJ, Application of 23 December 2008.
 
95
Ibid., para 80.
 
96
Ibid., para 84.
 
97
Al-Adsani v. UK, ECtHR, No. 35763/97. 21 November 2001. See also the following cases decided the same day as Al-Adsani: Fogarty v. UK, ECtHR, No. 37112/97, 21 November 2001; and McElhinney v. Ireland and UK, ECtHR, No. 31253/96, 21 November 2001. For a critique of the case, see Clapham 2007.
 
98
Jorgic v. Germany, ECtHR, No. 74613/01, 12 July 2007, para 68.
 
99
International Law Commission, Summary records of the 673rd to 685th plenary meetings, 6–22 May 1963, A/CN.4/SR.673–685, at 63.
 
100
Henkin 1981, at 15; Sohn 1982.
 
101
Bianchi 2008, at 496.
 
102
Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo.
 
103
Judge Antonio Cancado-Trindade exercised considerable influence over the development of Inter-American jurisprudence during his time on the Court. For specific matters discussed by the Commission and the Court, see, e.g. Domingues v United States, IACHR, Case 12.285, Report No. 62/02, 22 October 2002, para 49; Juridical Condition and Rights of the Undocumented Migrants, IACtHR, Advisory Opinion, Series A No. 18, 17 September 2003, at 95–96.
 
104
In stating that jus cogens has been developed by international case law, the Court wrongly cited two judgments of the ICJ, as neither of them discusses the subject, namely Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Preliminary Objections (Bosnia-Herzegovina v Yugoslavia), ICJ, Preliminary objections, Judgment of 11 July 1996, at 595; and the Barcelona Traction, Light and Power Company, Limited (Belgium v Spain), ICJ, Second Phase, Judgment of 5 February 1970, at 3.
 
105
See the following Inter-American Court of Human Rights cases: Bayarri v Argentina, IACtHR, Preliminary Objection, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Series C No. 187, Judgment of 30 October 2008, para 81; Martiza Urrutia v Guatemala, IACtHR, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Series C No. 103, Judgment of 27 November 2003, para 92; Tibi v Ecuador, IACtHR, Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Series C No. 114, Judgment of 7 September 2004, para 143; Bueno-Alves v Argentina, IACtHR, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Series C No. 164, Judgment of 11 May 2007, para 76; Case of the Rochela Massacre v Colombia, IACtHR, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Series C No. 163, Judgment of 11 May 2007, para 132; Case of the Miguel Castro-Castro Prison v Peru, IACtHR, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Series C No. 160, Judgment of 25 November 2006, para 271.
 
106
La Cantuta v Peru, para 160. ‘Access to justice constitutes a peremptory norm of International Law and, as such, it gives rise to the States’ erga omnes obligation to adopt all such measures as are necessary to prevent such violations from going unpunished, whether exercising their judicial power to apply their domestic law and International Law to judge and eventually punish those responsible for such events, or collaborating with other States aiming in that direction.’
 
107
Ibid., para 157. See also Ríos et al. v Venezuela, IACtHR, Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Series C No. 194, Judgment of 28 January 2009; Tiu-Tojín v Guatemala, IACtHR, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Series C No. 190, Judgment of 26 November 2008. ‘[W]e should reiterate to the State that the prohibition of the forced disappearance of persons and the related duty to investigate them and, if it were the case, punish those responsible has the nature of jus cogens. As such, the forced disappearance of persons cannot be considered a political crime or related to political crimes under any circumstance, to the effect of preventing the criminal persecution of this type of crimes or suppressing the effects of a conviction. Additionally, pursuant with the preamble of the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance, the systematic practice of the forced disappearance of persons constitutes a crime against humanity and, as such, entails the consequences established in the applicable international law.’ Tiu-Tojín v Guatemala, para 91. See also Perozo et al. v Venezuela, IACtHR, Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Series C No. 195, Judgment of 28 January 2009, para 157 (citing La Cantuta v Peru).
 
108
Victims of the Tugboat ‘13 de Marzo’ v Cuba, IACHR, Case 11.436, Report No. 47/96, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.95 Doc. 7 rev., 1997, at 146–147.
 
109
Maia 2009, at 277.
 
110
Prosecutor v. Furundzija, Trial Chamber, Judgment, Case No IT-95–17/1-T, 10 December 1998, para 153.
 
111
See, e.g. Bouzari v. Iran, [2004] 71 O.R.3d 675 (Can.) (holding that the prohibition against torture does not entail a right to a civil remedy enforceable in a foreign court).
 
112
Al-Adsani v. Kuwait was litigated in English courts before it was submitted to the European Court of Human Rights. For the Court of Appeal’s judgment see Al-Adsani v Government of Kuwait (No 2) (1996) 107 ILR 536.
 
113
See, e.g. Siderman de Blake v Republic of Argentina. But see Yousuf v Samantar, 699 F.3d 763 (4th Cir. 2012), (holding ‘that jus cogens violations are not legitimate official acts and therefore do not merit foreign official immunity.’).
 
114
‘The [federal] district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States’. Judiciary Act of 1789, ch 20, §9(b) (1789), codified at 28 USC §1350.
 
115
Filartiga v Peña-Irala, 630 F.2d 876 (2nd Cir 1980). The United States Supreme Court decisions arising under the ATCA, including Sosa v Alvarez-Machain, 542 US 692 (2004), reprinted in (2004) 43 ILM 1390, do not mention jus cogens.
 
116
Bianchi 2008, at 507.
 
117
Ibid., at 504.
 
118
Arrest Warrant of 11 April 2000 (Democratic Republic of the Congo v Belgium), ICJ, Judgment of 14 February 2002, Joint separate opinion of Judges Higgins, Kooijmans, and Buergenthal, para 73.
 
119
The ILC’s report on fragmentation of international law stated as follows: ‘disagreement about [jus cogens’] theoretical underpinnings, scope of application and content remains as ripe as ever’. Fragmentation of international law, para 363.
 
120
International Law Commission, Report of the International Law Commission, Jus cogens (Mr. D.D. Tladi), 66th session, UN Doc. A/69/10 Annex, 2014.
 
121
Draft Articles on State Responsibility, para 3.
 
122
Grotius 1625. For a detailed review of Grotius’ religious sources, see Husik 1925.
 
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Metadata
Title
Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Jus Cogens
Author
Dinah Shelton
Copyright Year
2016
Publisher
T.M.C. Asser Press
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-6265-114-2_2

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