Cynical International LawSymposium

A rule to catch them all

How European policies on combating abuse of rights in tax law aim at countering cynicism by non-state actors

One of the legal regimes where cynicism is most prevalent in the eye of the public is tax law. After the so-called ‘Panama Papers’ and ‘Paradise Papers’ public debate on fair taxation of companies was rekindled at the World Economic Forum 2019, where Rutger Bregman stressed that it is cynical when people talk about philanthropic engagement, equality and transparency, yet ‘almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance’. …

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Cynical International LawSymposium

Back in time to Roman Law

Thoughts on an analogy of ‘Abuse of Right’ in International Law

The prohibition of abuse of right calls into question that branch of legal positivism that sees law as a ‘pure’ discipline with necessarily no connection with morality (the so-called exclusive positivism). Law prohibits something that is allowed within its own system, but that is rejected according to other rules (the rules of morality). Is the law therefore flawed? Is it cynical? One might object and say that if the prohibition …

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Cynical International LawSymposium

How to be cynical: some suggestions

Livestream of Prof. Gerry Simpson’s Keynote Lecture at the Conference ‘Cynical International Law?’, 6 September 2019

Watch here the livestream of Prof. Gerry Simpson’s Keynote Lecture, opening the Working Group of Young Scholars in Public International Law’s (Arbeitskreis junger Völkerrechtswissenschaftler*innen – AjV) and the German Society of International Law’s (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationales Recht – DGIR) joint conference Cynical International Law? Abuse and Circumvention in Public International and European Law held at Freie Universität Berlin on 6-7 September 2019. Find the conference program here. What might …

For further live updates on the conference on Friday and Saturday, follow Völkerrechtsblog’s Twitter account.

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Cynical International LawSymposium

Cynicism? Yes, please!

Embracing cynicism at the International Criminal Court

Debates surrounding cynicism in international law have an inherently negative focus. But why not try to take something positive-constructive out of the cynicism an institution is experiencing? Since there are few institutions, which are currently facing more cynical backlash than the International Criminal Court (ICC/Court), this piece will take a look at the reasons and at the question how cynicism manifests itself in the context of the Court and how …

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Cynical International LawSymposium

All’s fair in the law of war?

Legal cynicism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

On June 1, 2018, Razan Al-Najjar, a twenty-one-year-old Palestinian paramedic, was killed by Israeli fire during demonstrations along the Israel–Gaza border. Her death triggered intense debates concerning the facts and circumstances of the shooting: was Al-Najjar the target of the Israeli fire, as several human rights organizations concluded, or was the deadly bullet directed at other violent demonstrators, as the Israeli military found? Was she standing alone, with only other …

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Cynical International LawSymposium

The Edge of Enlightenment

The EU’s struggle with post-fascist cynicism

Recently, Harvard professor Steven Pinker’s book “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress”, which explores the effect of the Enlightenment on contemporary societies worldwide and also anti-Enlightenment movements in the West, became an international bestseller. Applying his findings about the age-old symbiotic relationship between certain elements of “Western civilization” and (post-) Fascism to certain developments both at the EU level and in individual member states, we can …

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Cynical International LawSymposium

An ideal at sea

International law and a ‘conflict through norm-genesis’ approach

International law is supposed to establish peace and prevent inter-state conflicts. At the same time, it is the central means for states to legitimize and communicate their claims in respect of the international community. For instance, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was designed to act as the ‘constitution for the oceans’ and to ‘promote the maintenance of international peace and security’ (Koh, 1982). Today, …

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Cynical International LawSymposium

From speaking truth to power to speaking power’s truth

Transnational judicial activism in an increasingly illiberal world

From San José to Karlsruhe, Strasbourg to New Delhi, in both the Global North and South, judges have been at the forefront of the establishment of a new jus gentium common to all humankind. Implicit in this narrative, however, lies the idea that transnational judicial activism has inherent progressive outcomes: the rule of law, human rights, or liberalism tout court are the necessary products of these new forms of judicial …

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Cynical International LawSymposium

International law beyond cynicism and critique

A plea for a legal scholarship that offers alternatives instead of reinforcing the status quo

Cynics do not have to look far: critical international law has uncovered the ways in which the forces of colonialism and imperialism have been present in the international legal system from its foundation to the present. According to David Kennedy, it is not only cynical use of law by despots but experts, including legal scholars, that –subtly but surely – enable, reproduce, legalize and legitimize this international legal system. With …

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Cynical International LawSymposium

Cynical International Law?

Announcement of the Online Symposium and Keynote Lecture Livestream

Cynicism and its relation to international law is a question that has so far not comprehensively been studied. Cynicism has been used in a cursory fashion by international lawyers, e.g. when denouncing the invocation of legal justifications by certain actors as ‘cynical’. Others have applied the concept to international lawyers and their attitude towards their own profession. But the concept of cynicism might also be applied to international law itself: …

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