20 October, 2020

Sovereignty - what is it ?

 "Do you want to see sovereignty back?  Then vote to leave the EU."  That was the headline to an article in The Telegraph 8th February 2016.  It suggested that, by being in the EU, the United Kingdom had lost its sovereignty but what does that word actually mean?

There is a large amount of discussion in texts on International Law as to what a STATE actually is; how one comes into being; how one ceases to exist.  Basically, a State in international law has a population, defined territory (including airspace and water adjacent to the land territory), a government and the capacity to enter into relations with other States.  Moreover, it will be recognised as a State by other States and, of course, States can enter into alliances with eachother or other agreements (such as trade treaties, extradition treaties etc).  It is said that the State has SOVEREIGNTY. 

A Codified Constitution for the UK ?


The United Kingdom's constitutional arrangements are essentially political in nature as opposed to being based on a legally binding formal (or codified) constitution. The political nature of the arrangements continues to be true even though there are a number of "constitutional" Acts of Parliament such as those creating devolved legislatures / government for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.  One consequence of the political nature of the arrangements is that conventions play a considerable part by setting out the behaviour expected of individuals in particular situations. For example, it is by convention that Royal Assent is not withtheld for a bill which has passed through all its parliamentary stages.  Another example is that, by convention, Her Majesty appoints as Prime Minister the individual who appears most likely to be able to command a majority in the House of Commons - normally the leader of the political party which has gained the most seats at a general election.

Constitutional reform continues to be on the radar of the various political parties contesting the 2019 election but the proposals on offer fall short of making a commitment to a formal written, or codified, constitution for the UK even though recent events, particularly in connection with Brexit, have again raised the question of whether such a constitution would be desirable.

It is now 27 years since Lord Scarman called

12 December, 2019

Gambia v Myanmar (1) - International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice (ICJ):

ICJ - 10 December 2019
The ICJ exists by virtue of Chapter XIV of the United Nations Charter.

Article 92 of the Charter states - "The International Court of Justice shall be the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It shall function in accordance with the annexed Statute, which ..... forms an integral part of the present Charter.  The Statute sets out the Organization of the Court (Chapter I), the Competence of the Court (Chapter II), Procedure (Chapter III), Advisory Opinions (Chapter IV) and, finally, Chapter V sets down the process for amending the Statute.

The Statute

21 March, 2019

Radovan KARADŽIĆ - appeal


On 12 May 1992, Radovan Karadžić was elected as the President of the Presidency of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

From 17 December 1992, he was the sole President of Republika Srpska and the Supreme Commander of the armed forces of Republika Srpska.

He was sentenced by an ICTY Trial Chamber to 40 years' imprisonment on 24 March 2016.

26 February, 2019


The International Court of Justice has handed down an Advisory Opinion concerning the Chagos Islands - where the important military base Diego Garcia is located.  The ICJ found that the process of decolonialisation of Mauritius was not lawfully completed when the country acceded to independence and that the UK is under an obligation to bring to an end its administrattion of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible.

The Guardian 25 February 2019.
Advisory Opinion of 25 February 2019
Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965 (Request for Advisory Opinion) 

Press release No. 2019/9 


The Court's Opinion:

12 February, 2019

14 March, 2018

A note on the Chemical Weapons Convention

On 4th March 2018, a "nerve agent" - referred to as "Novichok" (newcomer) - was used in Salisbury, England - CBS News 13th March 2018.  The UK Prime Minister - Mrs Theresa May - stated that it was "highly likely" that Russia was responsible for this - see her Statement of Monday 12th March to Parliament. 

In this post of 23rd August 2013, chemical weaponry was discussed in connection with the conflict in Syria.

The Chemical Weapons Convention lies at the heart of the position in international law regarding chemical weaponry.

03 December, 2017

ICTY Final Judgments - Prosecutor v Jadranko Prlić and others

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has delivered its final judgment prior to the Tribunal closing on 31st December.

On 29th November, the Appeals Chamber pronounced its judgement in Prosecutor v. Jadranko Prlić et al., in what was the Tribunal’s most voluminous appeal as well as its final case.  Read the Tribunal's announcement.

The Appeals Chamber affirmed

22 November, 2017

Mladić convicted at ICTY

The Guardian 22nd November 2017.

Ratko Mladić, the former commander of the Bosnian Serb army, has been sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague.

The one-time fugitive from international justice faced 11 charges, two of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and four of violations of the laws or customs of war. He was cleared of one count of genocide, but found guilty of all other charges. The separate counts related to “ethnic cleansing” operations in Bosnia, sniping and shelling attacks on besieged civilians in Sarajevo, the massacre of Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica and taking UN personnel hostage in an attempt to deter Nato airstrikes.

Delivering the verdicts, Judge Alphons Orie said Mladić’s crimes “rank among the most heinous known to humankind and include genocide and extermination."

21 November, 2017

International Court of Justice - UK loses seat

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations - UN Charter Chapter XIV.  The court operates according to its Statute and Judges serve for 9 year terms and they may be re-elected by the United Nations. 

Judge Christopher Greenwood was elected to the court in November 2008 and was willing to be re-elected.  However, it became clear that he was not securing sufficient support within the UN General Assembly and his candidacy was withdrawn - The Guardian 20th November  and  BBC 21st November - How UK lost ICJ place to India

The result