24 February, 2010

The Falkland Islands - Oil and Gas Exploration - Dispute

It is reported that a dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom over exploration for oil near to the Falkland Islands has been escalated to the United Nations. See The Times 24th February 2010.  The dispute over oil and gas is in addition to the claim by Argentina for sovereignty over the islands - referred to by Argentina as Islas Malivinas.  This is a complex issue which will merit a more detailed post in the near future. Since 1982, Britain has maintained a stronger military presence in the South Atlantic region than it did previously.

Addendum: 3rd March 2010 - it seems that whilst America is saying they remain neutral on this issue, they seem to be cosying up to Argentina - The Times.   It could be a genuine offer by the US to mediate but the official  British position seems to be that there is nothing to mediate about and that is probably the Argentine position also.  Argentina very recently secured support for its stance from other South American States.   Like it or not, without resolution this issue will fester and will have to be sorted out sooner or later.

22 February, 2010

British Police used a drone illegally

Interestingly, Merseyside Police in the UK have been using a drone unlawfully - Telegraph 22nd February.  Apart from the obvious dangers of flying such an aircraft near to other aviation operations (e.g. Liverpool Airport) this development is raising further concerns about civil liberties.  Many fear that the U.K. has become a surveillance society or a form of Panopticon State.

It appears that the drone was used to catch a thief - see Daily Mail.  For another view on the Merseyside "drone" see here.

16 February, 2010

Drones - is their use breaching international law?

The use of military drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAV) has been questioned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions (Mr Philip Alston).  The issue is whether they are being used for such executions.  Mr Alston is concerned that they may be being used in a framework which breaches international humanitarian or human rights law.  He also claimed that strikes have killed civilian targets.  

Does the use of a drone really differ all that much from a squad of soldiers coming over the hill and shooting the enemy?  Is their use both legal and a legitimate military response?  Is there a legal difference between their use in Afghanistan as opposed to Pakistan?  See:


and also see UN Involvement in Afghanistan which is authorised by UN Security Council Resolutions.

The International Security Assistance Force and the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan

An interesting website relating to Extrajudicial Executions is that of the Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice, New York University School of Law

An interesting item appears on Opinio Juris.  Alan Dershowitz defends Israeli assassinations in Dubai.  Something of a comparison is made with the use of drones.

13 February, 2010

Torture - allegations of UK complicity

Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn
from "Man was made to mourn" by Robert Burns (1759-96)

The cruel and hideous practice of torture has been with the human race since time immemorial and considerable ingenuity has been applied to finding new ways of inflicting excruciating pain on a fellow human being.  Attempts to eradicate this evil have been well-intentioned but it seems that little more than minimal success can be claimed since there is unequivocal evidence that torturers continue to flourish in many parts of the world - see here for a reasonable summary of recent uses of torture.  "The torturer has become, like the pirate or the slave trader before him, hostis humani generis, an enemy of all mankind" - (case of Filartiga 1980 US Court of Appeals, Second Circuit).

This week saw the English Court of Appeal (Civil Division) give judgment in the case of R (Binyam Mohamed) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs [2010] EWCA Civ 65.   This judgment was concerned with whether 7 paragraphs could be included in the court's judgment.  The Foreign Secretary argued that they should not be included since to do so would damage intelligence sharing arrangements with the USA.  This was the so-called "control principle."  The court found against the Foreign Secretary.

Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states - "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."   Those words have been repeated in, for example, the United Nations Convention against Torture or other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment 1980.    They also appear in Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The 1980 Convention defines torture in Article 1 and imposes on States a number of duties including, by Article 2, a duty to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture.  The prohibition against torture shall be absolute and shall be upheld also in a state of war and in other exceptional circumstances" - see 1980 Convention.  Of course, the 1980 convention is dealing with torture (as defined in the convention) and does not deal with the infliction of ill-treatment falling short of torture, for example, degrading treatment.  This is a major difference between the 1980 convention and the European Convention on Human Rights which does extend its protection beyond the infliction of torture.

The British government claims that it takes its obligations seriously and that it adheres to the law - see Foreign and Commonwealth Office 12th February 2010.