On 3 August 2017, the Human Rights Committee (HRC) of the United Nations handed down a landmark ruling that Australia had breached its international human rights obligations because it did not allow same-sex couples in Australia to divorce, when they had legally married overseas. This decision comes at a time when the political temperature on the same-sex marriage debate in Australia is heating up.
While it is clear from the HRC decision that same-sex couples in Australia have a right to divorce, it is less clear whether they have a right to marriage and whether Australia will recognise it. Under the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth), marriage is currently defined as “the union of a man and a woman”. This definition was introduced in 2004 under then-Prime Minister John Howard. Before then, same-sex couples could allegedly marry.
There is no such thing as a funny dictatorship. This seemingly obvious point was highlighted with the death of Otto Warmbier, who was until recently imprisoned in North Korea. While Hollywood movies like Team America: World Police and The Interview have, from time to time, parodied the North Korean regime, Warmbier’s death is a stark reminder that this regime is not a joking matter.
On 11 April 2017 Attorney-General Senator the Hon. George Brandis deliver a public lecture at the TC Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland, on the “The Right of Self-Defence Against Imminent Armed Attack In International Law”. While the doctrine of self-defence against imminent attack is well established at international law the Senator seeks to place the doctrine a modern context in which states must take account of non-state actors who have the capability to commit harm transnationally, and in which alongside the threat of terrorism by physical attack lies the threat of cyber attack. The key, according the Senator, is placing the word “imminent” in this modern context.
The ILA (Australian Branch) is proud to be hosting the next biennial International Law Association Conference in Sydney from 19-24 August 2018. The organising committee is currently developing a program for the conference, and to that end we are calling for papers and panel presentations around the core theme of the conference: Developing International Law in Challenging Times. Details of the call, including information on how to make a submission, are set out in the flyer here.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses are a prominent feature of many modern International Investment Agreements (IIAs). They are included in nearly all the IIAs to which Australia is a party. Typically, an ISDS clause allows a foreign investor (often a corporation) to challenge a government decision before a panel of private arbitrators who have the power to make decisions and make awards that are binding and enforceable.
The Martin Place Papers are an occasional series published by the International Law Association (Australian Branch) to provide wider access to the proceedings and outcomes of ILA sponsored seminars and conferences. No 7 in this series has now been published. Martin Place Paper No 7,The International Law Context of Recent Developments in Indigenous Policy contains the proceedings of a seminar convened jointly by the ILA and the National Centre for Indigenous Studies (NCIS) at the ANU in late 2015.
The paper by ILA member Greg Marks, ‘Lifestyle choices? Closing down Aboriginal communities and international law’ examines the relevance of Australia’s obligations under the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) to policies aimed at closing down remote small Aboriginal communities. Such policies and their concomitant funding arrangements have been problematic to Aboriginal groups endeavouring to achieve their aspirations to live on and manage their traditional lands and waters. The analysis by Greg Marks indicates that the policies are also problematic in terms of Australia’s international legal obligations.
The second paper, by Dr Sean Kerins, ‘Indigenous Development in the Southwest Gulf of Carpentaria region of the Northern Territory: Opportunities and Challenges’ examines policies and developments in the Region from the viewpoint of international norms and expectations contained in instruments such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). This analysis is particularly relevant to the current controversy about the proposal to expand the huge McArthur River mine near Borroloola (see media coverage here).
To obtain a copy of Martin Place Paper No 7, contact the Secretary, ILA (Australian Branch) email@example.com. Cost is $20 per copy.
War generally affects the entire population, male and female. Yet within the portrayal of war, men are usually portrayed as the aggressors and perpetrators, and women as the helpless victims. Most of the literature on women and warfare, or women and genocide, analyses the role of women from a victim-centred perspective.
For our fourth profile of Women in International Law Month, Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Tridgell sat down with the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Professor Gillian Triggs. She is a highly accomplished international lawyer and academic, with experience on matters from commercial law to Indigenous rights.
Professor Triggs is the incumbent President of the Australian Human Rights Commission. Previously, she was Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney and Director of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law. Gillian has been a consultant on International Law to King & Wood Mallesons, the Australian representative on the Council of Jurists for the Asia Pacific Forum for National Human Rights Institutions, Chair of the Board of the Australian International Health Institute and a member of the Attorney General’s International Legal Service Advisory Council. She is the author of many publications on international law, including “International Law: Contemporary Principles and Practices” (Second Edition, 2011).
On 24 June 2006, the Philippines abolished the death penalty for all crimes within Philippine jurisdiction when Republic Act No. 9346 was enacted. A year later, the Philippines ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”). In doing so, the Philippines decided to absolutely and permanently abolish the death penalty.
Yet on 30 June 2016, Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro introduced House Bill No. 4272 into the House of Representatives. The proposed Bill reimposes the death penalty for drug-related offenses, including, amongst other acts, the importation, sale, trading, delivery, or distribution of dangerous drugs, and authorises hanging, firing squad, and lethal injections as modes of execution. On 7 March 2017, the House of Representatives passed the Bill by 217 votes to 54.
This paper, authored by Dr Christopher Ward in collaboration with the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, argues that, in light of the Philippines’ obligations under customary international law and other international treaties, notably the ICCPR and its Second Optional Protocol, the Senate should not pass this Bill.
The report is published here with the permission of Dr Christopher Ward (President of ILA Australian Branch).