Response to Department of Immigration discussion paper on Australian citizenship – Stephen Tully

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection issued a discussion paper entitled ‘Australian Citizenship – your right, your responsibility’ raising several questions, including whether Australia should deprive Australian mono and dual nationals of Australian citizenship.

This submission by Stephen Tully – a member of the ILA’s National Management Committee – reviews international legal material and the UK’s experience relevant to the questions raised, identifies the applicable prerequisites, standards and safeguards, and considers some possible domestic and international consequences for affected individuals and Australia.  It is available here.

Tully states in the executive summary of his submission that:

  1. Proposals to deprive Australians of citizenship which draw upon legislation taken from the United Kingdom (UK) must appreciate the particular international and national background to that legislation. The UK position cannot be transplanted into the local context without appropriate adaptation.
  2. An outcome which ensures that former Australian nationals are not rendered stateless would be consistent with international law on preventing statelessness. The deprivation of Australian nationality for dual nationals would be consistent with that objective.
  3. The international legal consequences of depriving dual national Australians of their Australian nationality must be understood. Other States may not be obliged to recognise and give effect to the deprivation of Australian nationality by Australia. With respect to both citizenship deprivation and the expulsion of aliens, Australia must also comply with existing international law (on statelessness, nationality and the protection of human rights) in addition to emergent international law concerning the expulsion of aliens.

Plain packaging of tobacco products in the WTO – Globalisation and the increase of tobacco usage – Pauline Wilson

This article is the second in a series that investigates and reports on the disputes over Australia’s tobacco plain packaging measure in the World Trade Organization (WTO).  Plain packaging for tobacco products has been debated intensively in the WTO for over three years and the panel is expected to continue until at least the first half of 2016 (see Australia – Certain Measures Concerning Trademarks, Geographical Indications and Other Plain Packaging Requirements Applicable to Tobacco Products and Packaging (WT/DS 435, WT/DS 434, WT/DS 441, WT/DS 458, WT/DS 467)) (28 April 2014).

The last article examined the introduction of plain packaging legislation in Australia, the efficacy of the measure and the challenges being brought against it at the WTO.  This article examines the relationship between trade liberalisation and tobacco usage.  In doing so, it highlights the important role of international courts and tribunals, including the WTO Panel and Appellate Body, in maintaining a  coherent international legal system.

Does trade liberalisation contribute to increased tobacco usage?

During the 1980s, the US threatened sanctions and retaliation under the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) against Japan, South Korea and Taiwan unless they opened their markets which were closed to foreign tobacco companies.  In response to this pressure, those countries opened their markets to foreign tobacco companies, increasing their populaces’ tobacco usage.  In 1989, the US challenged Thailand’s 1966 Tobacco Act for placing limitations on American tobacco companies.  A GATT panel found against Thailand in 1990, forcing it to open its market to tobacco multinationals.

These cases illustrate how international trade agreements and state pressure have indirectly facilitated the proliferation of western tobacco in developing countries, which increases rates of smoking.  A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO Report) has found that the link between trade liberalisation and increased tobacco consumption is strongest in low and middle-income countries. The WHO Report also found that foreign direct investment (FDI) leads to higher rates of tobacco consumption.  This is because FDI is an alternative pathway to accessing a foreign market with high barriers to trade.  The finding is in line with basic trade theory, which suggests that liberalising a market will increase competition and efficiency in the supply of a product to that market.  Other factors, including marketing, tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and the international movement of contraband and counterfeit cigarettes, have also contributed to the explosive increase in tobacco usage.

In order to combat the rise of tobacco consumption and disease globally, governments have employed increasingly strict tobacco control measures.  Australia was in fact not the first country to consider plain packaging for tobacco products.  New Zealand first recommended that cigarettes be sold only in white packs with black text and no colours or logos as early as 1989.  In 1995, the Canadian parliament passed a plain packaging law which was ultimately struck down by its Supreme Court.  Presaging the negative reaction of the tobacco industry to global plain packaging reform, Phillip Morris threatened to reduce future investment in Canada in response to its plain packaging laws.  Upon the release of Australia’s draft legislation, Imperial Tobacco stated it would ‘make every effort to protect its brands and associated intellectual property and … take legal action’.  The approaches of Phillip Morris and Imperial Tobacco reflect the tobacco industry’s general position, which is to pursue every avenue to challenge implementation of plain packaging.

Regional and bilateral free trade agreements provide one such avenue for tobacco control laws to be challenged.  For example, Philip Morris Norway made a challenge under the European Economic Area Agreement against Norwegian bans on the display of tobacco products at the point of sale.

The tobacco industry is also using its rights under international investment agreements to challenge tobacco control and regulation.  In addition to the challenges made under the Australia–Hong Kong bilateral investment treaty, Philip Morris Switzerland recently brought a similar claim against Uruguay, arguing that its tobacco packaging measures violate the Switzerland–Uruguay bilateral investment treaty.

The increase in bilateral and multilateral free trade and investment agreements provides tobacco companies with a resource with which to disrupt reform.

Supporting and internationally coherent legal system

Tobacco companies are seeking redress in domestic courts, international arbitral tribunals and the WTO. The use of multiple fora is contributing to the wider dilemma of ‘conflicting rules and clashing courts’.  This poses the threat of undermining international law generally because its diversification and expansion is leading to ‘the fragmentation of international law’.

Fragmentation is characterised by Pieter Jan Kuijper as a ‘deplorable development’ which is brought about by a decrease in the application of general principles of international law in specialised jurisdictions, including WTO proceedings.  The International Law Commission (ILC), on the other hand, characterised it as a natural consequence of the expansion and specialisation of different areas of international law. Either way, WTO panels and the Appellate Body should be ensure that they interpret opposing norms harmoniously given the dangers of further fragmentation.

The ILC identifies several approaches to establish an internationally coherent legal system.  These include:

  • relationships of interpretation, where one norm assists in the interpretation of another using the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties;
  • relationships of conflict, which refers to the case where two norms that are both valid and applicable point to incompatible decisions so that a choice must be made between them; and
  • the principle of harmonisation, which is a generally accepted principle that when several norms bear on a single issue they should, to the extent possible, be interpreted so as to give rise to a single set of compatible obligations.

As providing security and predictability to the multilateral trading system is an overarching goal of WTO dispute settlement, it is important that this forum is able to harmonise the conflict between international trade and domestic and global health policy.

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is important to the harmonisation process as it clarifies existing standards and key protections in relation to public health and tobacco control.

The entry into force of the FCTC in 2005 was a decisive moment for global tobacco control. It is an evidence-based treaty developed in response to the globalisation of tobacco consumption and related harm. Ratifying the FCTC places all parties under an obligation of good faith (pacta sunt servanda) to abide by the minimum legal standards outlined in the treaty and to not to undermine the objectives set out in it. In addition to minimum commitments, parties are ‘encouraged to implement measures beyond those required by this Convention and its protocols’. This is further supported by the object and purpose of the FCTC, which states that the parties are ‘determined to give priority to their right to protect public health’. As of 2015, there are 180 parties to the FCTC in contrast to the WTO with 161 members. In fact, there are just eight WTO members not party to the FCTC, two of which are challenging Australia’s measure.

Another solution may lie in mechanisms found in non-WTO treaties with trade related aspects, including multilateral environmental agreements (MEA). The Cartagena Biosafety Protocol to the Biodiversity Convention — which has seven more signatories than the WTO — not only has a provision relating directly to trade and environmental agreements, but also advances the principle of mutual supportiveness. This is a principle by which international legal rules are to be understood and applied as reinforcing each other with a view to fostering harmonisation and complementarity, as opposed to conflicting relationships.

So far, no action affecting trade and taken under an MEA has been challenged in the WTO system.  However, the WTO Trade and Environment Committee recognises that MEAs provide internationally agreed solutions for trade problems, which it says better than one country trying to change another countries’ environmental policies on its own.  It is possible that the principle of mutual supportiveness, and other trade facilitative measures, can assist the WTO Panel and Appellate Body to interpret WTO provisions in a fashion which supports international legal coherence.

The next article in the series will look at how the FCTC should be used to interpret Australia’s obligations under WTO law in a manner which is consistent with general international law.

Pauline Wilson recently graduated from an LLM at the University of Amsterdam with a focus on international trade and investment law. Prior to that she graduated from the ANU with a combined Bachelor’s of Arts and Law.

Timor-Leste withdraws ICJ proceedings against Australia in relation to seizure of legal documents

On 12 June 2015, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) confirmed that Timor-Leste had officially withdrawn its case against Australia in Questions relating to the Seizure and Detention of Certain Documents and Data (see this ICJ Press Release).  Timor-Leste commenced the proceedings against Australia in December 2013 in relation to the seizure by ASIO of Timorese legal documents relating to the dispute between the two states before a tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration.  The arbitration concerns  the validity of the Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea following allegations that Australia spied on the Timorese Cabinet during the treaty negotiation process.  The resolution of the ICJ proceedings come only after Australia returned the seized documents.

The ICJ had previously indicated provisional measures (see the ICJ Summary) in March 2014.  The ICJ determined that the sovereign equality of states provided an inviolable right to confidential correspondence with their legal counsel.  Whilst undertakings given by Australia not to review the documents reduced the risk of disadvantage to Timor-Leste, orders were still given by the ICJ to fully protect Timor-Leste’s rights to their confidential legal documents.  The ICJ’s measures required that Australia:

(a)               ensure that the content of seized materials was not used to the disadvantage of Timor-Leste;

(b)              keep all documents, electronic data and copies of the data under seal; and

(c)               not interfere in communications between Timor-Leste and its lawyers in relation to the arbitration.

As the dispute between the two states has concluded at the ICJ, the central arbitration dispute will now resume.  Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, commenting on the withdrawal of the ICJ proceedings, stated that the Australia is ‘disappointed that Timor-Leste has decided to resume the arbitration against Australia’ and that ‘Australia will strongly defend the arbitration’ (see this DFAT Press Release).

Release of Amnesty International report on incarceration of Indigenous children

On 2 June 2015, Amnesty International published A brighter tomorrow: keeping Indigenous kids in the community and out of detention in Australia. A copy of the report can be accessed here and the summary is available here. As its name suggests, the report is a roadmap for the Australian government to improve its efforts to reduce the number of young Indigenous Australians incarnated in Australia.

This post focuses on the first four of the report’s 16 recommendations. These have been selected because they relate to Australia’s international treaty obligations. These recommendations also have relevance beyond the sphere of indigenous incarceration as they concern potential incompatibilities between criminal legislation in states and territories and Australia’s international obligations.

The report’s first four recommendations can be distilled into two categories. The first recommends that the Australian government legislate to override state and territory laws that do not conform with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Amnesty International says that this would encompass laws which:

  1. do not allow courts to observe the principle that detention is a measure of last resort for any person up to and including the age of 17 (including, for example, section 9 of the Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2014 (Qld));
  2. impose a mandatory minimum sentence on a child or young person up to and including the age of 17 (for example, the Australian Criminal Code Act 1913 (WA));
  3. treat a child or young person up to and including the age of 17 as an adult for the purposes of criminal prosecution (such as the Youth Justice Act 1992 (Qld)); and
  4. treat a person below the age of 12 as criminally responsible, noting that the principle of doli incapax continues to apply up to the age of 14 (which Amnesty International says occurs Australia-wide).

The second category of recommendations concerns Australia’s status with respect to the CRC and the Convention Against Torture. Amnesty International recommends that Australia:

1. withdraw its reservation to article 37(c) of the CRC

Article 37(c) provides, inter alia, that, ‘every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child’s best interest not to do so…’.

Australia accepts this part of article 37(c) ‘only to the extent that such imprisonment is considered by the responsible authorities to be feasible and consistent with the obligation that children be able to maintain contact with their families, having regard to the geography and demography of Australia’

Amnesty International says that Australia’s reservation results in the imprisonment of adults with children and refers to recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child to have the reservation withdrawn (see CRC/C/15/Add.268 at [7] and CRC/C/AUS/CO/4 at [9])

2. ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture

The Optional Protocol provides for a system of regular visits by independent international and national bodies to participating states to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman and or degrading treatment or punishment.

3. become a party to the Third Optional Protocol to the CRC, which establishes an individual complaints mechanism     for children.

Whereas the second category of recommendations can be practically implemented by the Australian government, the suggestion that the Commonwealth override state laws raises controversial questions. The report provides little information as to how the Commonwealth should implement those first category recommendations by overriding state and territory legislation that is inconsistent with the CRC. The Commonwealth could pass legislation that relies on its powers under section 51 (xxix) of the Australian Constitution to make laws with respect to external affairs. However, such targeted assaults on state and territory jurisdictions would be unwelcome and likely resisted. A more consensus-driven approach whereby the states and territories themselves bring their laws into line with the CRC would likely be more successful, but would require effort from all levels of government. Certainly, Amnesty International’s report would have benefited from an increased focus on implementing solutions in this area.

Nonetheless, the report provides important food for thought about how Australia’s international obligations can be the impetus for domestic action that improves outcomes for indigenous young people.

7th Annual International Arbitration Moot 2015

The NSW Young Lawyers International Law Committee is hosting the 7th Annual International Arbitration Moot 2015 in Sydney.

The information brochure and application form can be found here.

The main round of the moot will take place on 29 August 2015, with finals to be held on 1 September 2015.

The moot problem will involve a contractual dispute between two international companies. The problem will raise procedural issues (such as the rules of the arbitration institution and the jurisdiction of the Tribunal) and substantive issues (relating to the parties’ rights and obligations arising from the construction of the contract between them).

The event is open to young lawyers, law graduates and law students.

Applications close Friday 26 June 2015.

Please contact Erika Williams at if you require further information.

ILA Committee Update: International Commercial Arbitration Committee — Judith Levine

Can users of international commercial arbitration safely assume the process is confidential?  Do international arbitrators possess ‘inherent powers’ beyond what is specified in the arbitral rules?  These are two topics recently examined by the International Law Association’s (ILA) International Commercial Arbitration Committee (Committee).

As noted in the Editors’ welcome entry, one aim of the ILA Reporter is to provide updates on the work and progress of the ILA’s international committees.

The International Commercial Arbitration Committee

International arbitration has been a subject of interest for the ILA since as early as 1895.  The current International Commercial Arbitration Committee is composed of 53 members from over 30 countries, including professors, judges, arbitrators, private practitioners and staff of international organisations.

The Committee meets in different locations around the world, approximately three times a year. The Australian Branch has two members — Hague-based Judith Levine and Sydney-based Damian Sturzaker and an alternate, Jason Clapham.  Having members in both hemispheres helps ensure that an Australian representative is present at each meeting.  There are other ways for ILA Australia branch members to participate in the Committee’s work. For example, for the recent project on confidentiality, young lawyers from the ILA Victoria Chapter helped compile information and draft a submission on Australian case law and legislation, which was used for the Committee’s final report.

The cumulated reports of the Committee form a valuable body of work and contain recommendations based on experience in national jurisdictions and international practice.  Blog readers are encouraged to look back at reports of the past decade, including on ‘Public Policy as a Bar to Enforcement of International Arbitral Awards‘ (New Delhi Conference, 2002); ‘Res Judicata and International Arbitration‘ (Berlin Conference, 2004); and ‘Lis Pidens and Arbitration‘ (Toronto Conference, 2006).  This post will focus on the two most recent topics examined by the Committee: ‘Confidentiality in International Commercial Arbitration‘ (The Hague Conference, 2010); and ‘Inherent and Implied Powers of Arbitral Tribunals‘ (Washington DC Conference, 2014).

Recent Committee Work: Confidentiality

The Committee’s last report surveys current law and practice to test the assumption commonly held by parties that their international arbitration proceedings are confidential.  The report identifies problems that may arise as a result of inconsistent confidentiality rules, sets out findings and offers recommendations, including two model clauses.  The Committee decided to limit the scope of its report to international commercial arbitration, consciously excluding discussion of confidentiality as it relates to investor-State arbitration.  The investor-State context was seen as giving rise to distinct policy concerns that may warrant different approaches and solutions that have since been the subject of a separate set of rules on transparency promulgated by UNCITRAL.

The Committee found that confidentiality is an important feature of international commercial arbitration but that many users incorrectly assume that arbitral proceedings are inherently confidential. In fact, many national laws and arbitral rules do not currently provide for confidentiality and those that do vary in their approach and scope. The report notes that arbitration confidentiality obligations bind the parties to the dispute and their agents and representatives, as well as arbitrators, arbitral institutions and tribunal secretaries, but not others involved in a case (like witnesses). Where a tribunal has jurisdiction over an arbitral confidentiality dispute, it may use a range of remedial powers, such as ordering injunctive or declaratory relief, awarding damages, barring the introduction of evidence procured in breach of confidentiality, or treating the breach as a breach of the underlying contract.

The Committee recommended that:

  1. The best way safely to ensure confidentiality (or non-confidentiality) across many jurisdictions is to provide for it by express agreement (prior to or during the arbitration);
  2. In the absence of contractual provisions on confidentiality, arbitrators should consider drawing the attention of the parties to confidentiality and, if appropriate, addressing the issue in terms of reference or a procedural order at the outset of proceedings;
  3. Express agreement to confidentiality should specify the scope, extent, duration of the confidentiality obligation, the exceptions to it, and how it may be enforced;
  4. Given that confidentiality provisions do not normally impose obligations on third parties involved in the arbitral process(like witnesses), it should be incumbent upon the participant in the arbitration who brings the third party into the proceedings to make reasonable efforts to obtain their express agreement to preserve confidentiality; and
  5. Reasonable exceptions to an obligation of confidentiality may include:
    • prosecuting or defending the arbitration or proceedings related to it (e.g. for enforcement/annulment);
    • responding to a compulsory order or request for information of a governmental or regulatory body;
    • making a disclosure required by law or by the rules of a securities exchange; or
    • seeking legal, accounting or other professional services, or satisfying information requests of potential acquirers, investors or lenders.

The topic currently under consideration by the Committee is ‘Implied and Inherent Powers of Arbitral Tribunals’.  Unlike the confidentiality project, this topic was not limited to commercial arbitration and, in fact, many of the examples in the report were drawn from investment treaty disputes.  As with the confidentiality project, Australian members actively participated in discussions and contributed research papers and sources that are referenced in the report.

The report introduces the topic by noting that party agreement is the foundation of every arbitration, and poses the following questions:

[A]rbitrators are sometimes confronted with situations that are not addressed by either the parties’ arbitration agreement or the applicable curial law and rules.  What, if any, powers do the arbitrators have to deal with those situations?  What is the source of those powers?  What is the limit of them?

The report reviews the common law origins of inherent and implied powers and discusses various situations where such powers may be relevant to international commercial arbitration, including:

  • Powers relating to procedure (e.g. determining the seat, bifurcating proceedings, deciding on evidentiary matters, permitting non-party participation);
  • Powers to issue interim relief (e.g. to seek a stay of court proceedings, to stop criminal proceedings, to stop disclosure of documents, and to take steps to prevent the exacerbation of the dispute or to maintain the integrity of the arbitral proceedings);
  • Powers related to decision-making (e.g. to deal with new objections to jurisdiction, to order summary dismissal, to award interest);
  • Powers to safeguard against misconduct and perceived improprieties (e.g. to deal with vexatious claims or bad faith conduct, to allocate costs as a sanction, to disqualify counsel); and
  • Powers of revision (e.g. to modify a decision in light of new evidence).

The Committee conceptually divides the sources of power into three categories:

  • powers implied by textual sources (the parties’ agreement, applicable rules and law governing the arbitration);
  • discretionary powers of procedure (stemming from the right to oversee proceedings); and
  • inherent powers necessary to preserve jurisdiction (stemming from the duty of arbitrators to protect the integrity of proceedings and render an enforceable award).

While implied and discretionary powers remain subordinate to party agreement, inherent powers cannot be so restricted, and therefore, according to the Committee, ‘should be used narrowly, proportionately and only so far as necessary to accomplish the exigencies of the particular situation’.

The Committee’s recommendations are targeted at:

  • Parties — who should understand that tribunals have inherent and implied powers and realise that, within limits, they may by agreement confirm, expand or constrict arbitral powers;
  • Arbitrators — who should always first look to the arbitration agreement, rules governing proceedings and relevant law to assess the scope of their authority in any given situation. Only if those sources do not adequately resolve the issue, should they consider whether to act on the basis of implied, discretionary, or inherent authority (in that order). Before exercising such powers, arbitrators should elicit the parties’ views and assistance to fashion the most appropriate solution, taking into account their legal background and the law governing the arbitration. Arbitrators should explain their reasoning for exercising implied, discretionary or inherent powers, which may help the award to withstand review at enforcement or actions to set aside proceedings; and
  • Courts — which should appreciate that arbitrators often have some power to act beyond the explicit boundaries set by the laws and rules governing an arbitration.

Future Committee Work?

As noted on the ILA website, the Inherent Powers report will be tabled for finalisation at the 2016 conference in Johannesburg.  Future topics for the committee are being considered and suggestions are welcome to be sent to:

Judith Levine is Senior Legal Counsel at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague (PCA), where her duties include serving as Registrar in the Philippines v China UNCLOS arbitration. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA). Neither the views expressed in this blog entry nor the ILA Committee Reports are attributable to the PCA or ACICA.

Life as a UN Special Rapporteur – Professor Surya Subedi OBE

On 5 May 2015, Professor Surya Subedi OBE delivered a speech at the University of Leeds on his time as UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia from 2009 to 2015.  Professor Subedi is Vice-President of the ILA Nepalese Branch and Member of the ILA British Branch.

The lecture is titled ‘Life as a UN Special Rapporteur’ and the ILA Reporter is proud to make available a copy to its readers. To access the speech, please click here.

The life of a Special Rapporteur is described by Professor Subedi as that of ‘an international diplomat, a human rights activist, a human-rights law academic, and a government adviser – simultaneously’ (p. 38). The speech is an insightful and entertaining story of what it means to juggle these ‘hats’ at the same time. 

Professor Subedi’s role took some interesting turns during his time in office. At one point, he became the de facto mediator between the Cambodian government and opposition during the political stalemate following disputed 2013 elections.  At other times, he operated as a government critic and was very nearly declared persona non-grata by Cambodian authorities. Whilst such status is apparently something of a ‘badge of honour’ in the international human rights community, Professor Subedi says that he is happy enough with his OBE from Her Majesty the Queen of the UK.

Professor Subedi’s style as Special Rapporteur was characterised by robust critique layered in soft diplomatic language.   Indeed his style earned him the dubious title of ‘old whisky in a new bottle’ from the Cambodian Prime Minister. In the Editors’ views, coming from the man the subject of the criticism, that’s a pretty good nip.


A genocidal act: The forcible transfer of Bosnian Muslims from Srebrenica (with reference to Krstic and Jelesic) – Sophocles Kitharidis

The term genocide is commonly seen within political and legal dialogues as describing atrocities of great ‘diversity, magnitude, and character’ (David Scheffer, ‘Genocide Atrocity Crimes‘ (2006) 1(3) Genocide Studies International 229).  In the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, genocide attaches to specific acts ‘committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group’ (article 2).

Referring to the forcible transfer of Bosnian Muslims from Srebrenica, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) held in the Prosecutor v Krstic (Krstic) that ‘an intent to destroy only part of the group must nevertheless concern a substantial part thereof, either numerically or qualitatively’ (at [6]–[8]).  In addition, in Prosecutor v Jelisic (Jelisic) the ICTY Trial Chamber argued that ‘it is widely acknowledged that the intention to destroy must target at least a substantial part of the group’ (at [82]).

Examination of the meaning of ‘intent’, ‘substantial part’ and ‘destruction of part of a group’ is crucial to deconstructing the act of genocide within the context of forcible transfer.  This post will seek to contribute to this area by exploring the act of genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina and examining the ICTY’s characterisation of the forcible transfer of Bosnian Muslims from Srebenica in Krstic and Jelesic.

Genocide, the ICJ and the development of a ‘Greater Serbia’

In examining the concept of genocide and the intention of the Serbian leadership during the 1992 mass killings in the former Yugoslavia in The Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Bosnia and Herzegovina v Serbia and Montenegro) (Genocide Case), the International Court of Justice (ICJ) held that Bosnia’s argument

does not come to terms with the fact that an essential motive of much of the Bosnian Serb leadership — to create a larger Serb State, by a war of conquest if necessary — did not necessarily require the destruction of the Bosnian Muslims and other communities, but their expulsion (at [372]).

This statement is concerning because it seems to suggest that forcible transfer is not a relevant consideration in determining whether or not genocide has taken place.  For this reason, among others, the ICJ’s acquittal of Serbia of the act of genocide has proved controversial (see, eg, Katherine Goldsmith, ‘The issue of Intent in the Genocide Convention and Its Effect on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: Toward a Knowledge-based Approach’ (2010) 5(3) Genocide Studies and Prevention 238).

Vice President al-Khasawneh J issued a dissenting opinion in the Genocide Case, stating:

[c]oupled with population transfers, what other inference is there to draw from the overwhelming evidence of massive killings systematically targeting the Bosnian Muslims than genocidal intent? If the only objective was to move the Muslim population, and the Court is willing to assume that the Bosnian Serbs did not only that which is strictly necessary in order to achieve this objective, then what to make of the mass murder? If the Court cannot ignore that population transfer was one way of achieving the Strategic Goals, then why should it ignore that, in fact, the Bosnian Serbs used this method as one of many — including massive killings of members of the protected group (at [41]).

The destruction of a ‘substantial part’ of ‘part of a group’

As described above, genocide is the commission of a ‘prohibited act’ ‘with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group’.  The prohibited acts are set out in article 2  and include, for example, killing or causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.

The crime of genocide is  somewhat unique as it requires that two forms of mens rea or intent be established.  The first is that a person must commit a prohibited act with intent.  The second layer of intent is genocidal intent or dolus specialis, which is the intent to destroy the group. As provided in Prosecutor v Akayesu, the

[s]pecial intent of a crime is the specific intention, required as a constitutive element of the crime, which demands that the perpetrator clearly seeks to produce the act charged … [and] the crime of genocide lies in the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group (at [498]).

In Jelisic, the ICTY discussed two ways in which genocidal intent may be established:

[i]t may consist of desiring the extermination of a large number of members of the group in which case it would constitute an intention to destroy a group en masse. However, it may also consist of the desired destruction of a more limited number of persons selected [i.e. leadership of the group] for the impact that their disappearance would have upon the survival of the group as such. This would then constitute an intention to destroy the group ‘selectively’ (at [82]).

The Trial Chamber in Jelisic also ruled that the act of genocide may be conducted within a ‘limited geographic zone … limited to the size of a region or … a municipality’ (at [83]). This was revisited in Krstic, where the Trial Chamber  resolved that

the physical destruction may target only a part of the geographically limited part of the larger group because the perpetrators of the genocide regard the intended destruction as sufficient to annihilate the group as a distinct entity in the geographic area at issue (emphasis added) (at [590]).

‘Part’ must be interpreted as a large or substantial part of the group at hand, and with the ability to have a significant impact on the entire group (at [43]). This test has been reformulated thus:

  • in Jelisic as ‘targeting at least a substantial part of the group’; and
  • in Prosecutor v Sikirica where the court found that there must exist intention to destroy a large number of a group that is relative to the entire population of that group, and as such, negatively impact the survival of that group.

How then does forcible transfer tie in with establishing the existence of intent to destroy whole or part of a group?

With regard to the situation in Srebrenica, the Court in Krstic held that whilst the act of forcible transfer is not itself a genocidal act, it may be taken into account as evidence of the existence of genocidal intent (at [33]).  Shahbuddeen J, in his partially dissenting opinion argued that

standing alone, forcible transfer is not genocide. But in this case the transfer did not stand alone, and that indeed is the basis on which the Appeals Chamber rejected the defence argument that it showed that there was no genocide. It was part — an integral part — of one single scheme to commit genocide, involving killings, forcible transfer and destruction of homes. In particular, it showed that the intent with which the killings were done was indeed to destroy the Srebrenica part of the Bosnian Muslim group. (at [35])

A more conservative approach was adopted by the Trial Chamber of the ICTY in Prosecutor v Brdjanin (Brdjanin).  The Court agreed with the view expressed in Kristic that while the act of forcible transfer does not itself constitute genocide, it does not give reason to prevent the use of this act being relied on as evidence to demonstrate intent.  However, the Trial Chamber qualified this rule by stipulating that it is not appropriate to use forcible transfer as substantial evidence of the actual destruction of a particular group, ‘since that would in effect mean the consideration, as it were through the back door, of forcible displacement as an underlying act’ (at [975)]).

In Brdjanin ,the Court was ultimately not satisfied that the forcible transfers of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats gave rise to specific intent.  It stated that

the existence of the specific intent required for the crime of genocide must be supported by the factual matrix.  The extremely high number of Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat men, women and children were forcibly displaced from [Autonomous Region of Krajina] … particularly when compared to the number of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats subjected to the acts enumerated in Article 2(4)(a), (b) and (c) [of the Genocide Convention], does not support the conclusion that the intent to destroy the groups in part, as opposed to the intent to forcibly displace them, is the only reasonable inference that may be drawn from the evidence (at [976]).


It is indisputable that establishing the crime of genocide is difficult.  This is due, in large part, to the difficulty of proving that genocidal intent was present in the mind of the perpetrators.  The act of forcible transfer — despite not being a ‘prohibited act’ — may assist a court to determine that there existed genocidal intent.  In certain situations, the forced transfer of persons belies a wider strategy to bring about the physical destruction of a race by removing a people from a region and thereby eliminating the residual possibility that the group could be reconstituted in the area.

Sophocles Kitharidis is a public international law adviser and consultant to the International Affairs Division of the Thai Ministry of Justice. He is the former Vice President of the International Law Association (Victoria) and he holds a Master of Laws in Public International Law from the University of Melbourne. 

Export of legal services in Asian Markets: the Indian context — Molina Asthana


Asialink Business’ latest research report — Australia’s Jobs Future: The rise of Asia and the services opportunity — produced in collaboration with ANZ and PwC, demonstrates that by 2030, services can become Australia’s number one export to Asia in terms of total value added, supporting a million Australian jobs in the process.

The export of professional services, including legal services, are also expected to rise. However, there are barriers faced by legal service providers who wish to operate in Asia, including nationality and residency requirements, limited recognition of Australian qualifications and limits on foreign investment in local firms.

Australia–China Free Trade Agreement

The conclusion of a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) with China (ChAFTA) is likely to lead to a surge in the export of services (although the final FTA is yet to be signed). China has offered Australia the best services commitments it has ever provided in an FTA (with the exception of China’s agreements with its Special Administrative Regions — Hong Kong and Macau). Most importantly, they include new or significantly improved market access for Australian services, including legal services (see the factsheet prepared by DFAT on ChAFTA’s key outcomes). Australian law firms will be able to establish commercial associations with Chinese law firms in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. This will allow firms to offer Australian, Chinese and international legal services with a commercial presence in China, without restrictions on the location of clients.

ChAFTA also includes a framework to advance mutual recognition of services qualifications and to support mutual recognition initiatives by professional bodies in Australia and China. This is not the case with other Asian countries, where barriers continue to exist and hinder negotiations for the conclusion of FTAs.

Relationship between the Australian and Indian legal sectors

Through my own involvement in building the Australian–Indian relationship in the legal sector, I am aware that there is an interest on the part of law firms, universities and judiciaries in both countries to develop deeper ties. However, international law firms and practitioners are faced with huge barriers if they intend to set up business or practice in India.

With the growing trade between the countries, and India becoming an important international market, it will be necessary to have lawyers with expertise in both jurisdictions or for clients to have easy access to experts in both jurisdictions.

Because Australia and India are both common law countries, it should be easier for lawyers to transfer their skills across jurisdictions and make positive contributions to each’s legal systems.

The legal market in Australia is comparatively more open. However, from the perspective of the Indian legal sector, that comparative openness is largely academic; it is unlikely that Indian legal firms would be in a commercial or strategic position to enter the Australian market. There are no restrictions on establishment of foreign firms in Australia and foreign lawyers are allowed to work in Australian firms, provided they do not give advice on Australian law or profess to hold local qualifications. Australia’s accreditation requirements for foreign practitioners are still quite onerous, with up to 12 subjects and a year of practical training required before being permitted to practice in an Australian jurisdiction (See the Law Council of Australia’s publication on the admission of foreign practitioners).

On the other hand, the Indian market is much more restrictive: neither joint ventures nor foreign direct investment (FDI) in the legal sector is permitted. Foreign law firms have to largely rely on fly-in-fly-out arrangements and work with Indian law firms. In addition, foreign firms are not permitted to represent local clients in India. The accreditation requirements for foreign practitioners wishing to work in India can also be quite onerous (see this summary of the qualification process prepared by the International Bar Association).

Given these restrictions, it is imperative that wide-ranging reform be undertaken to open up the Indian legal market so that foreign firms can establish local offices and foreign lawyers can practice within India. There is also a continuing need for mutual recognition of academic legal qualifications that allows for the free movement of legal experts.

Towards deeper Australia–India legal ties

The Indian Department of Commerce has recommended a two-phase road map for the liberalisation of the legal professions. The reforms are discussed in detail here.

The first phase would include domestic regulatory reforms, implemented simultaneously with the opening of international arbitration and mediation services in foreign investment law and international law practices. Phase Two would include opening up non-litigious and non-representational services in Indian law.

However, there remains strict and ongoing opposition to FDI and third party ownership of law firms. Further, reservations continue against foreign firms who have third party non-lawyer funding from entering the Indian legal market. There is also hesitancy in respect of multi-disciplinary practices from entering the legal sector, including the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms.

The issue of reciprocal access for Indian lawyers is to be clarified at a later date.

Approval has been given for the implementation of the LLP structure in India, as well as permission for law firms to issue brochures, open websites and access bank finance. An increase in professional indemnity limits has been agreed to in-principle by representative bodies of the Indian Bar.

Deeper ties between would also be fostered if lawyer had the ability to go for internships or secondments at law firms in the other country. Thankfully, the road map also seeks to address this issue.

Despite these recommendations a lot remains to be done before it can be said that the Indian legal market is ‘open for business’. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is working on finalising an FTA between Australia and India and the legal sector is one of the areas that it will address. To support this process, I have made a formal submission to DFAT suggesting a collaborative approach be adopted and that this be based on professional gains, academic gains, sharing of judicial advancements and commonality of legal systems. My submission will be available on the DFAT website shortly and this post will be updated to include the link when it is live.

Molina Asthana is a Principal Solicitor with the Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office. She is the President of the Victorian Chapter of the International Law Association, Chair of the International Law Section of the Law Institute of Victoria and Treasurer of the Asian Australian Lawyer’s Association. She has significant experience in the Indian jurisdiction.

Case Note: Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide – Sarah Fitzgerald


In February, the International Court of Justice handed down its decision in Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide (Croatia v Serbia) and concluded that Croatia and Serbia did not commit genocide during the events of 1991–95 after the break up of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). The proceedings were brought by the Republic of Croatia in 1999, with Serbia filing a counter-claim in 2010, resulting in a 16 year court case and a lengthy judgement (with an outcome considered by one commentator as virtually inevitable) that ultimately dismissed both parties claims of genocide. Whilst many commentators question the point of the case (neither Serbia and Croatia wanted to withdraw due to political pressure) and lawyers on both sides privately expressed little expectation of winning prior to judgment, the decision does provide some interesting comments on the application of the Genocide Convention and is a reminder of the narrowness of the legal definition of genocide.


After the break up of the SFRY, approximately 20,000 people are thought to have died and millions displaced, during the 1991–95 conflict. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has not charged any former leaders from Serbia or Croatia with genocide. It has previously ruled that genocide occurred in Bosnia at Srebrenica (where 8,000 Bosnians were killed over a number of days), but found that Serbia was guilty of failing to prevent genocide and punish the perpetrators.

Notable legal arguments

The claim was brought under the Genocide Convention, and the Court found that the crime of genocide consists of the actus reus (physical element) and mens rea (mental element) which must constitute dolus specialis (specific intent). Regarding intent, the Court stated that

‘intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such’ is the essential characteristic of genocide, which distinguishes it from other serious crimes.

It is regarded as a dolus specialis, that is to say a specific intent, which, in order for genocide to be established, must be present in addition to the intent required for each of the individual acts involved. (at paragraph 132)

Croatia argued that its attacks were not indiscriminate and did not violate international law. Serbia argued that even if attacks had been conducted in compliance with international humanitarian law, they could still constitute the actus reus of genocide.  The Court however, stated that they would not ‘rule, in general or abstract terms, on the relationship between the Convention and international humanitarian law’ (at paragraph 153) and held that they did not have the power to determine disputes relating to obligations under customary international law (or international humanitarian law or international human rights law).

The Court considered Croatia’s claim and found that members of the ethnic group (in its pleadings Croatia defined the group as the Croat national or ethnical group on Croatian territory not contested by Serbia) had been killed by or suffered serious mental or bodily harm from Serb forces, constituting the actus reus element.  Other claims put forward by Croatia, such as deprivation of food and medical care, were not established by Croatia and therefore did not constitute the actus reus element.

The Court found that members of the Serbian group had been killed or suffered serious mental or bodily harm, also constituting the actus reus element. However, other claims put forward by Serbia of looting and the destruction of property, did not constitute the actus reus element.

Ultimately, dolus specialis was missing from both parties’ claims. The Court said at paragraph 440 that such intent must be ‘the only reasonable inference that can be drawn from the pattern of conduct it relied upon was the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the Croat group’. This ‘only reasonable inference’ requirement sets a high bar, and the Court found that Serbia’s assault on Vukovar was to expel the Croats, not destroy, and Croatia’s expulsion of Serbs in Krajina was also missing the specific intent to destroy.

Serbia also put forward an argument about ICTY case law, contending that decisions by the Appeals Chamber of the ICTY should not be given more weight than the Trial Chamber’s. Serbia used the Gotovina case as an example: the Trial Chamber was unanimous in their conviction, but the Appeals Chamber acquitted by a majority of three to two, meaning that a majority across the Gotovina case judged Croatian forces guilty. Unsurprisingly, the Court rejected Serbia’s argument and found at paragraph 471 that they must give greater weight to the Appeals Chamber Judgement, whilst ‘ultimately retaining the power to decide the issues before it on the facts and the law’.

The Court also discussed the weight to be given to charges of the ICTY. Serbia considered that the Court should accord it some degree of probative value, but Croatia said that as the Prosecutor has discretion to determine what charges to bring, that does not mean that there is no evidence for the existence of a different charge.  The Court did state however that they could not

fail to note that the indictment in the case of the highest ranking defendant of all, former President Milosevic, did include charges of genocide in relation to the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, whereas no such charges were brought in the part of the indictment concerned with the hostilities in Croatia. (at paragraph 187)


Judge Trindade’s dissent (which was almost as long as the judgment itself, and concluded with a quadragesimus quintus point summary) should be noted, as he largely used the principle of humanity as a basis for arguing that the acts constituted genocide. There is a detailed analysis by Professor Dov Jacobs of that dissent here, which notes the irony of using ‘facts and values’ to conclude that genocide occurred, when ‘values’ and ‘conscience’ are used by many as justification for genocide.

Future relations

The judgment cannot be appealed and the Court’s final statement at paragraph 523 encourages ‘the Parties to continue their co-operation with a view to offering appropriate reparation to the victims of such violations, thus consolidating peace and stability to in the region’. Croatia became a member of the European Union in 2013 and now supports Serbia’s application for membership. However, one obstacle to Serbia’s application is the resolution of wartime issues, including the extradition case of Australian citizen Daniel Snedden, wanted in Croatia for crimes committed during 1991–93.

High Court the final avenue for Australian war crimes suspect Daniel Snedden

A former ICTY prosecution witness against the late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, Daniel Snedden (also known as Dragan Vasiljkovic) is wanted by Croatian authorities on charges of three war crimes offences alleged to have occurred during his time commanding a ‘special purpose’ Serbian paramilitary unit between 1991 and 1993. Mr Snedden is alleged to have commanded troops who tortured and killed prisoners of war and to have commanded an assault where civilians were killed.

Mr Snedden has been held in Australia and has challenged his extradition for over eight years, with the Federal Court dismissing the latest appeal. Mr Snedden’s lawyers are filing an application to the High Court to review procedural fairness and the Minister’s interpretation of the Geneva Conventions. Mr Snedden’s lawyer, Dan Mori (who previously represented David Hicks), said that his main concern is that Mr Snedden will not be protected by the Geneva Convention upon return to Croatia. Mr Mori has previously said that he was intrigued by Mr Snedden’s case

because it raises issues about the fairness of having an extradition process that does not require the requesting country to provide any evidence. So, based on a 15-page document, someone has been locked up for almost eight years.

The High Court application is not likely to be determined for a number of months.

Sarah Fitzgerald is a solicitor at an international law firm in Sydney. She has previously interned at the Supreme Court Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.