BOOK REVIEW – A Conviction In Question: The First Trial at the International Criminal Court

The Court and this trial were different. It was a Court for nearly all places and all times promising something most everyone in the world wanted badly, even if some state authorities remained wary. It was to bring tyrants to account, punish them according to their crimes, and give pause to others with tyrannical pretentions.



It was not just what kind of justice would be rendered for Lubanga. The Court itself was on trial.… Lubanga’s atrocities spoke for themselves, or so it appeared. They were well known in his country. They were well known abroad among the international organizations that had been forced to intervene to protect his victims, and they were well known among human rights organizations whose reporting brought his crimes to word attention. Something would have to go woefully askew for the trial to end up questioning the severity of the crimes. And yet, as the trial unfolded, the crimes became strangely and increasingly beside the point, buried under a spectacle of legal combat between counsellors who seemed more concerned with prevailing in the courtroom than worrying about what atrocities had been committed in Ituri and how to assign responsibility.


A Conviction In Question: The First Trial at the International Criminal Court, by Jim Freedman, University of Toronto Press, 2017, $32.95, 219 pages, pp. xiii, xvi-xvii

After reading Mark Kersten’s review of A Conviction In Question: The First Trial at the International Criminal Court by Jim Freedman, Professor Emeritus at Western University Ontario’s Department of Anthropology, I was intrigued. Could I have been so off on my assessment of the Lubanga trial? Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW – A Conviction In Question: The First Trial at the International Criminal Court”

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BOOK REVIEW – Incitement on Trial: prosecuting international speech crimes

[T]he man who prompted the deed was more guilty that the doer, since it would not have been done if he had not planned it.


Aristotle Rhetoric (2004:26)

By and large, there is not a great deal of social science research to support the claim that hate speech or inciting speech has a directly causal relationship to violence, and this mitigates against modes of liability like instigating/inducing/soliciting which include the elements of direct causation. There is, however, extensive empirical evidence indicating that denigrating speech has (often unconscious) conditioning effects on listeners and while not attaining the level of a sine qua non, may contribute to a set of conditions jointly sufficient to cause crime.


Incitement on Trial: prosecuting international speech crimes, by Richard Ashby Wilson, Cambridge University Press, 2017, Paperback $29.99, 356 pages, p. 17.

Professor Richard Ashby Wilson’s Incitement on Trial: prosecuting international speech crimes is an outstanding text on a frequently misinterpreted, if not ill-used, area of international criminal law – the crime of incitement. What distinguishes Incitement on Trial from many other texts on substantive international criminal law is that it is based in part on extensive original empirical research.

Before praise and criticism, reader beware: I have known Wilson since he was doing research for his book, Writing History in International Criminal Trials (another gem published by Cambridge in 2011), and had the privilege of participating with two other colleagues in a workshop conducted by Wilson as part of his field research for this text. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW – Incitement on Trial: prosecuting international speech crimes”

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Responding to Professor Roman Serbyn re Book Review: RED FAMINE – Stalin’s War on Ukraine

I received a comment on my review of Anne Applebaum’s latest book: RED FAMINE – Stalin’s War on Ukraine, from Professor Roman Serbyn.  Professor Serbyn is an historian, and a professor emeritus of Russian and East European history at the University of Quebec at Montreal, and an expert on Ukraine. He is well known for his books and many articles about Ukrainian history, particularly the Holodomor.  I thank Professor Serbyn for his comment and questions, and respond below. Continue reading “Responding to Professor Roman Serbyn re Book Review: RED FAMINE – Stalin’s War on Ukraine”

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BOOK REVIEW: Legal Responses to Transnational and International Crimes – Towards an Integrative Approach

Legal Responses to Transnational and International Crimes – Towards an Integrative Approach, edited by Harmen Van der Wilt and Christophe Paulussen, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2017, 301 pages, £90

As a triggering condition for international coordination through the suppression conventions – and thus for what we might call transnational criminal law – transnationality is a relatively vacant concept, probably because it has no obvious general moral or metaphysical content, and surprisingly little attention has been paid to it.


Neil Boister, Chapter 2, p. 33

Turn on the news on any given day and you are inundated with stories about mass atrocities, terrorism, human trafficking, piracy, money laundering, cybercrime, and so on. You hear journalists, politicians, pundits, and occasionally “experts” characterize these crimes as “international crimes.” But are they?

Because these crimes transcend national borders, having – to some extent – an international character, may give the impression that they neatly fit within the ambit of International Criminal Law. Piracy on the high seas is a good example. It most certainly has an international character, and while it has been considered an international crime, it is not in the strictest sense (or as scholars say, “international crime stricto sensu”), if one applies this definition to the “core crimes” prosecuted at the ICC, for instance. The same can be said for terrorism, human trafficking, cybercrime, and so on. It does not mean that under certain sets of circumstances, these crimes – such as cyber-terrorism – would not amount to crimes against humanity, and thus international crimes stricto sensu. Save for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide (and now for some states, aggression), these crimes are generally considered transnational crimes, falling within the ambit of Transnational Criminal Law (TCL) and are punished in national, as opposed to, international courts. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: Legal Responses to Transnational and International Crimes – Towards an Integrative Approach”

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Book Review – HOLODOMOR: Genocide or Extermination, or Does it Really Matter?

RED FAMINE – Stalin’s War on Ukraine, By Anne Applebaum, Allen Lane, 2017, 512 pages, £25.

 First, they took everything from the collective farm storehouse – everything that farmers earned for their “work days” (trudodni). Then they took forage, seeds, and then they went to the huts and took the last grain from the peasants that they received in advance,… They knew that the area sown was smaller, the amount of grain harvested was lower in 1932 in Ukraine. However, the grain procurement plan was extremely high. Isn’t this the first step towards the organization of famine? During the procurement, Bolsheviks saw there was extremely little grain remaining, yet they carried on and took everything away – this is indeed the way to organize a famine.


Sosnovyi, Nova Ukraina 1942 (p. 333)

In 1929, Joseph Stalin, the General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, embarked on an agricultural collectivization policy that mutated into the deliberate and determined famine that killed over five million people in 1932-33 in the USSR, nearly four million of whom were Ukrainian peasants. The Holodomor,  as it is known, “a term derived from the Ukrainian words for hunger – holod – and extermination – mor” (p. xxiv), is the subject of RED FAMINE – Stalin’s War on Ukraine, the latest book by Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of Gulag and National Book Award finalist for Iron Curtain.

RED FAMINE is a disturbing and compelling read for anyone interested in understanding the evils orchestrated by Stalin and implemented by his close associates, apparatchiks, enforcers, and, sadly, Ukrainian collaborators, against Ukrainian peasants, intellectuals, and political elites. The horrors Applebaum chronicles in page after page from official documents, private communications, secret speeches, diaries, personal accounts, letters, and even poetry, are mind-numbing. Continue reading “Book Review – HOLODOMOR: Genocide or Extermination, or Does it Really Matter?”

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Book Review – The Refugees, by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Corsair 2017, £12.99, 209 pages

In this era of Syrian and Libyan refugees flooding Southern and Eastern Europe to escape war, millions of Rohingya fleeing ethnic cleansing in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, and threats to deport child immigrants in the United States (US), escaping into fiction about refugees seems counterintuitive. However, I am able to report that The Refugees, from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen, is just the ticket.

Nguyen, himself a Vietnamese refugee and a professor at the University of Southern California, gives us eight short stories that will grab you in the moment and leave you thinking long after. Knowing there were only eight stories made me want to parcel them out, like a box of fine chocolates. Continue reading “Book Review – The Refugees, by Viet Thanh Nguyen”

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Book Review – Part II: Research Handbook on Transitional Justice

Research Handbook on Transitional Justice, Edited by Cheryl Lawther, Luke Moffett, Dov Jacobs, Edward Elgar Publishing, £195, 576 pages

In my previous post, I introduced the broad concepts discussed in Research Handbook on Transitional Justice (Transitional Justice), edited by Cheryl Lawther and Luke Moffett of Queen’s University Belfast and Dov Jacobs of Leiden University and commented on some of the strengths and weaknesses of the individual chapters. In this post, I will provide my views on the debates surrounding the topic of transitional justice and outline some of the challenges in achieving transitional justice that I have witnessed through my experience working in the field in post-conflict areas. Continue reading “Book Review – Part II: Research Handbook on Transitional Justice”

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Book Review – Part I: Research Handbook on Transitional Justice

Research Handbook on Transitional Justice, Edited by Cheryl Lawther, Luke Moffett, Dov Jacobs, Edward Elgar Publishing, £195, 576 pages

If you are planning on taking a course on transitional justice or are simply interested in knowing more about it (what it is or what it is claimed to be), or if you are working in the transitional justice field or its close cousin, the development field, I recommend Research Handbook on Transitional Justice, edited by Cheryl Lawther and Luke Moffett of Queen’s University Belfast and Dov Jacobs of Leiden University (Transitional Justice). Continue reading “Book Review – Part I: Research Handbook on Transitional Justice”

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Book Review Part 2 — The Force of Logic: Using Formal Logic as a Tool in the Craft of Legal Argument by Stephen M. Rice

 

The Force of Logic: Using Formal Logic as a Tool in the Craft of Legal Argument by Stephen M. Rice (National Institute of Trial Advocacy, 2017) 290 pages, $ 75.

Part 2                               

It is claimed that 90% of the legal issues raised in domestic United States cases can be resolved through deductive reasoning, where the conclusion is mandated through two propositions. I would say the same is essentially true with legal issues in cases before the international(ized) tribunals and courts. Continue reading “Book Review Part 2 — The Force of Logic: Using Formal Logic as a Tool in the Craft of Legal Argument by Stephen M. Rice”

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BOOK REVIEW Part 1 – THE FORCE OF LOGIC: Using Formal Logic as a Tool in the Craft of Legal Argument, by Stephen M. Rice

 

The Force of Logic: Using Formal Logic as a Tool in the Craft of Legal Argument by Stephen M. Rice (National Institute of Trial Advocacy, 2017) 290 pages, $ 75.

 Part 1

The lawyer’s job, when confronted by an argument with an errant logical structure, is to focus on the architecture of the argument. Herein lies the problem: many lawyers are not trained in formal logic enough to spot these logical errors. Even when they do sense the errors, they do not have language tools to talk about them. … The problem with an argument with an errant logical structure is neither a fact problem nor a law problem. Instead, it is a logic problem and many lawyers are not well armed to talk about logic: what logic is, what logic’s role is in legal argument, and importantly, how to describe and talk about problems of logical form.1Stephen M. Rice, The Force of Logic: Using Formal Logic as a Tool in the Craft of Legal Argument (National Institute of Trial Advocacy, 2017), Chapter 1.2. 

Stephen M. Rice

Professor Stephen M. Rice of Liberty University School of Law (Lynchburg, Virginia) correctly observes that while lawyers employ a variety of tools in describing why an argument misleads, distorts, ignores relevant facts, or mischaracterizes the law, few are equipped with the tools to describe the errors in the logical form of an argument. It is not as if every legal argument challenged will invariably entail a logical error, or that the application of logic is the be-all and end-all of legal argumentation, but it is another important, if not indispensable, weapon in the lawyer’s arsenal.   Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW Part 1 – THE FORCE OF LOGIC: Using Formal Logic as a Tool in the Craft of Legal Argument, by Stephen M. Rice”

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