KENT LAW SCHOOL POSTGRADUATE CONFERENCE 2017: THE ROLE OF LAW IN MEETING CONTEMPORARY GLOBAL CHALLENGES

 

KLSPosterA3Lecture Theatre 2

Eliot College,

University of Kent.

Conference Programme

Monday, 5 June 2017 (DAY 1) 

9:30 – 10:00 Arrival and registration 

10:00 – 10:05 Welcome Address by Professor Toni Williams (Head of Kent Law School) 
10:05 – 10:15 Introduction of Professor Philippe Cullet by Luminita Olteanu (KLS Postgraduate Conference Committee) 
10:15 – 10:45 Keynote by Professor Cullet, SOAS, University of London 

10:45 – 11:00 Q & A Session 

11:00 – 11:30 – Coffee and Networking Break 
11:30 – 12:45 – International Human Rights Panel. Panel Chair: Professor Nick Grief 
1. Benjamin Goh LLM Candidate, University of Kent An affront to humanity? Critique and the claims of human rights 
2. E. Glevey LLM Candidate, Birkbeck, University of London What is the future for a World Court of Human Rights? 
3. Faraz Khan Yousafzai LLM Candidate, University of Kent Humans and terrorists: analyzing the human rights of terrorists in light of Pakistan’s military courts. 
12:45 – 13:15 Lunch Break 

Eliot LT2 Foyer 

13:15 – 14:30 – Transnational and International Criminal Law Panel. Panel Chair: Dr. Emily Haslam 
4. Aslihan Sagun LLM Candidate, University of Reading Transnational organized crime and the fight against this global challenge through law 
5. Patryk Gacka LLM Candidate, University of Warsaw Where to draw the semantic line between victims and perpetrators? Some reflections on the  Dominic Ongwen’s trials before the ICC
6. Mao Xiao LLM Candidate, University College London Lessons from the Tokyo Military Tribunal in prosecuting crimes of aggression: focusing on the principle of legality 
14:30 – 15:45 – Globalization Panel. Panel Chair: Professor Iain Ramsay 
7. Saad Almohammed Ph.D Researcher, Queens University Belfast Convergence foreign investment policies: what an emerging economy can learn from the US and UK 
8. Christelle Chidiac LLM Candidate, University of Kent The problems related to gender and economics internationally from a socio-legal as well as feminist perspective 
9. Lizzette Robleto de Howarth LLM Candidate, Birkbeck, University of London Are constitutions still relevant in the context of globalization? 
16:00 – 16:10 Remarks and Introduction of Professor Fiona Macmillan by Dr. José Bellido 

16:10 – 18:00 Annual Clive Schmitthoff Memorial Lecture by Professor Fiona Macmillan, Birkbeck, University of London 

Title: International Economic Law: Between Colonialism and Hyper-capitalism 

 

Tuesday, 6 June 2017 (DAY 2) 
9:15 – 10:30 Terrorism and International Law Panel. Panel Chair: Dr. Sara Kendall 
1. Mahmudul Hasan University of Development Alternative (UODA) (Dhaka, Bangladesh) Extra-legal factors are disregarded in international law that influence terrorism 
2. Claudia Candelmo

Valentina Nardone

Ph.D Researcher, Sapienza, University of Rome

Ph.D Researcher, Sapienza, University of Rome

Digital counter-terrorism strategies: when the net helps prevent tragedies 
10:30 – 10:45: Coffee Break 
10:45 – 12:00 Human Rights Panel. Panel Chair: Dr. Gavin Sullivan 
3. Taffney Clark-Piper LLM Candidate, University of Kent Is international and domestic human rights protecting privacy whilst governments introduce laws to combat terrorism when they Introduce invasive laws such as the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (Snooper’s Charter)? 
4. Tommy Chadwick LLM Candidate, Canterbury Christchurch University The legality of surveillance in the shadow of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 
12:00 – 13:15: Human Rights and Access to Justice Panel. Panel Chair: Dr Nicola Barker 
5. Zhang Tianze LLM Candidate, University College London Can the justice be reached with the profit? On the discussion of the third-party funding promoting access to justice. 
6. Devarshi Sen Deka LLM Candidate, University of Kent Clarifying international human rights law: case study of (UNDRIP & ‘Right to Development’) in the lives of the “originals”, India 
7. Işın Hazal LLM Candidate, University of Kent Cruel times queer ideas: how to become human as a queer person? 
13:15 – 14:00 Lunch Break 
14:00 – 15:30 Environmental Law and Interdisciplinary Studies Panel. Panel Chair: Professor Bill Howarth 
8. Kayode Adewale Ademola LLM Candidate, University of Kent An examination of international legal context on wastes management in developing nations. 
9. Tom Southern and

Alessandro Lanuto

LLM Birkbeck, University of London and

University College London

How is domestic law affected by the impacts of diaspora movements? 
10. Simon Malih LLM Candidate, University of Kent Transboundary movement of hazardous wastes: implications of dumping of wastes in sub-Saharan Africa 
15:30 – 16:00 

Announcement of the prizes: Dr Sinéad Ring 

Closing Remarks: Isdore Ozuo (KLS Postgraduate Conference Committee) 

And it came to pass: A reflection on the CeCIL Annual Graduate Conference 2017.

One of the highlights of this year’s Centre for Critical International Law (CeCIL) programme at Kent Law School was the graduate workshop which took place on Friday, 24 March 2017 at the new Wigoder law building. The workshop which captured the theme for 2016/17 academic session – ‘Vulnerability and Resilience’ witnessed presentations from PhD and LLM students. Notably, postgraduate students from the Brussels School of International Studies participated in the event for the first time. Professor Vasuki Nesiah of New York University who delivered the CeCIL annual lecture on 23 March 2017 was there to comment and provide feedback on the research papers by the students.

The first session was chaired by Dr Emily Haslam and it started off with the ‘Vulnerable Absent Subjects of International Law’ whereby the presenter, Faraz Khan made a case for an advanced recognition of water and animals in international law. For him, ‘water gives life’ to its immediate environs and should be protected at all cost. This incisive discourse on object-subject dialectic in international law was followed by the work of Dervashi Sen Deka which he titled ‘Understanding Vulnerability and Resilience from the lens of India’s Supreme Court.’ The paper engaged with the jurisprudence emanating from the apex court in India on the rights accruing to women, here seen as the most vulnerable in India, for violations and abuses suffered in the workplace and elsewhere. Interestingly, the Court, as the work noted, has gone ahead of the legislative arm of government to advance the protection of women by employing various international treaties and declarations. The last presentation brought another ingenious and penetrating dimension to the issue of water in international law. Here, Mia Tamarin tackled the political economy of water with the title ‘Vulnerability and Resilience in International Water Resource Sharing’.

Dr. Jastine Barrett headed the second session which commenced at 11:45am with a presentation by Liv Moe. In her work, Liv dealt with the strategic motivation behind violence against civilians in conflicts. The work noted the many theories for why rebel groups use violence against civilians and attempted to extend these theories to include the motivation for government violence in the context of the conflict in Sri Lanka. Hannah Gauss, the second presenter, took up a rather challenging task under International Humanitarian Law on the classification of the Syrian conflict and the weapons sanctioned by  jus in bello. The paper opted for International Armed Conflict (IAC) and arrived at a considered position that war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed in Syria. This paper was followed by the classic and impressive work of Benjamin Goh on ‘Between Law and Iconoclasm: The Al Mahdi Palindrome’. The research, adopting the methods peculiar to Law and Humanities scholars, offered a powerful critique of the 2016 decision of the International Criminal Court in the Prosecutor v Al Mahdi. The paper implicated the Court in the unbalanced and unsatisfactory narrative observable in criminal law jurisprudence, especially, when a guilty plea is made.

The last session had four presenters and was chaired by Dr. Luis Eslava. The first delivery came from Isdore Ozuo on the judicialization of arms control before the International Court of Justice. The paper examined the failure, or better still, the abdication of judicial responsibility on the part of the ICJ in arms control cases starting with the 1974 Nuclear Test cases to the decision in the Marshall Islands cases. The work, by noting the compromissory clause in the new Arms Trade Treaty, ended with a narrative of hope in the quest by states to involve the ICJ in arms regulation. This was followed by another interesting work on a contemporary issue by Roberto Scrivano. He examined the applicability of the law of war in cyber warfare and raised several legal questions surrounding cyber warfare. The third and last presentation came from Eric Loefflad and Peter Boyle respectively. Whilst Eric thoroughly engaged with the doctrine of effective control and why it matters under international law, Peter, on the other hand, advanced the course of NGOs in investor-state arbitration under the title ‘Supping with the devil- Could NGOs better further their objectives by using rather than protesting the investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism?’ After much comments and feedback from the Kent Law School community, the workshop came to a close around 4 pm.

The CeCIL workshop was enriching in all ramification. First timers, like the present author, savoured the experience of presenting at a workshop and benefitted greatly from the responses and questions posed by the audience on their research. The joy of being listened to, coupled with the exchange of knowledge and ideas at the workshop left all participants happy and satisfied. Indeed, there was a quantum leap in our understanding of the theme of the workshop – vulnerability and resilience in particular, and the practice of international law in general. The posers and issues raised by the various research papers would continue to agitate the mind of all those present at the event. It was a great step for aspiring academics and a boost to the students especially those at the Masters level.

The very last remark came from Dr Luis when he said: ‘Thank you all for coming, see you next year.’ And the author wondered, who knows the theme that would be addressed by CeCIL next year? Who knows those that would be privileged to present their work then? As these thoughts linger, one thing is certain; CeCIL graduate workshop which started in 2015 has come to stay and it will continue to groom practitioners and academics in the field of international law.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                              – Isdore Ozuo

 

Photo credits: H. Gauss

CeCIL Annual Lecture and Workshop (2017)

 

In this year’s CeCIL Annual Lecture Professor Vasuki Nesiah (New York University) delivered a fascinating talk entitled ‘Reparations: The Jagged Time of Catastrophe’ that perfectly encapsulated this year’s theme of ‘vulnerability and resistance.’ In this lecture Vasuki explored the possible link between reparations in two different, and typically divergent, capacities. On the one hand, there are questions of reparations for historical injustices including slavery and colonialism. On the other hand, there is the understanding of reparations as they exist within the international human rights regime. In locating a site that demonstrates such a link, Vasuki turns our attention to the violent British suppression of the Mau Mau uprising in 1950s/60s colonial Kenya and the recent litigation of these events brought in the UK court system. Here it was shown how allowing the claims of the Mau Mau survivors to proceed required a tremendous degree of legal innovation to link the actions of formally abolished colonial authorities and the discretion of the currently existing British state.

 

In making this link, Vasuki highlighted the phenomenon of ‘joint criminal enterprise’ whereby the actions and responsibilities of the colonial government and the current UK government are connected not by the existence of a continuance legal system, but by a common purpose. For Vasuki, this ability to link parallel timelines has vast critical potential in expanding the scope of what should be appropriately considered when thinking about reparations as a legal right. Such a method offers a alternative to the dominant view of transitional justice as the singular and conclusive settling of accounts in a linear capacity. This talk was followed by an in-depth discussion and it is safe to conclude that those of us within the Kent Law School community who work on issues of structural violence, historical injustice, and claims for redress have found much enduring inspiration in hearing about Vasuki’s cutting edge-work.

 

The conversation on vulnerability and resistance in international law continued into the next day with the CeCIL annual workshop where Kent students were showcased their work. Here many fascinating presentations were given on a broad array of subjects from an equally broad array of perspectives and methodology. Amongst the topics discussed were international legal personality, arms control, the expanding role of NGOs, cyber warfare, the relationship between cultural heritage and international criminal law, the liability of the Assad regime for war crimes, and much, much more. Additionally, the workshop was greatly enriched by students from the Brussels School of International Studies. This allowed for a excellent interaction between the members of Kent’s various campuses. Furthermore, all student presentations prompted interesting conversations and our honoured visitor Vasuki was extraordinarily generous in providing feedback. While we look forward to many excellent CeCIL years to come, this year will be a particular difficult act to follow.

 

Eric Loefflad

Before Easter: Encountering the Impersonal

A POST BY BENJAMIN GOH (LLM STUDENT in LAW AND THE HUMANITIES, 2016-2017)

 

Last Sunday saw the forcible removal of a passenger aboard a United Airlines flight who had refused the airline’s offer to take his seat for one of its employees. Putatively a lawful exercise of the airline’s rights, the violent extraction culminated in the (now ‘viral’) scene of a security officer dragging the man down the aisle as if he were an unclaimed cadaver. The dragging of the inert body, later confirmed to be that of a doctor of Vietnamese descent, terrorised the remaining passengers and, belatedly, the remote viewers.

In ‘Two Versions of the Imaginary’ (1951), Maurice Blanchot suggests that the uncanny image of the cadaver terrifies us because of a certain self-resemblance: ‘the lamented dead person begins to resemble himself’ (82). The dead body is not the Ideal Imago behind which the ‘I’ conceals its imperfections, discontinuities, and dependencies. Rather, it is the neutral image of the image that recalls the impersonality of the person: the incessant dying which precedes, haunts, and survives the living. Signifying nothing but the absence of signification, the present absence of the cadaver shatters the fascinating mirror image that purports to guarantee the presence of truth in the world: the fantasy of the civilised human with universal rights.

But as troubling as the encounter with the impersonal might be, this rediscovery of the aperture in the imaginary is also that which draws us out of ourselves. The strangeness of the cadaver, in its infinite distance, issues a demand for a response from the living. What does the other want from me?

Of course, the man was not ‘really’ dead. But in a very ‘real’ sense, he was forcibly sunk into his image: the image of his image, the impersonal image, which is the image of death. And he and others are perpetually at risk of death in its manifold forms: a risk that risks being screened by the idealising juridical myths (‘dignity’, ‘equality’, ‘humanity’) into which we escape, in spite of all the exceptional spaces of law. If it is legally possible for each of us today to be the cadaver dragged across the aisle, what does it say about our law and its founding myths? Is the juridical language of human rights adequate to advance its claims? Is there no ‘outside’ in which to locate an alternative language to perform one’s responsibility for the other?

For those who have asked, these are some of the questions the law and humanities pathway has urged me to ask.

Key references:
2. Maurice Blanchot, ‘Two Versions of the Imaginary’ in The Gaze of Orpheus and Other Literary Essays (Station Hill Press 1981).

‘Display at Your Own Risk: Andrea Wallace at Kent’

A POST AUTHORED BY NATASHA USHERWOOD, LLM STUDENT

During our ‘Intellectual Property and Industrial Practices’ seminar on 27th February 2017 we were joined by Andrea Wallace, our guest lecturer from the University of Glasgow. Through her research, Andrea has looked widely into the role of cultural heritage institutions within the public sector and the issues arising from associated IP rights. Specifically, Andrea’s research considers how the increasing need for such institutions to commercialise and keep pace with technology notably through digitisation has impacted on the public domain. Indeed, these issues in turn raises important questions on the cultural, ethical and legal issues at hand.

What is interesting is that at present, when a museum makes a digital surrogate work available to an organisation such as Flickr Commons or the Google Art Project the same permissions and uses are not necessarily then made available on the museums own website. Furthermore, Andrea identified problems in cultural institutions where the information that has been attached to the digital surrogate actually contradicts that information displayed within its online policy.

During our seminar I found Andrea’s ideas on museums creating ‘surrogate’ works, essentially as new works to which rights are attached most persuasive. Moreover, these works would then be better protected and their rights more efficiently recognisable online through their metadata which may then encourage museums to create more surrogate works.

The long-term benefits of such a system would arguably benefit the museum, public and the creator or the work alike. Metadata stores detailed information on the process and edits of a surrogate work created. Where a user downloads and reuses a surrogate work, perhaps in an open source exhibition it in theory becomes detached from the relevant use policy and context of the museum which would be lost forever if not attached to the digital surrogate and preserved through its metadata. This then allows further reuse of the work as well as information on the location of where the original work is held and by who it was created. Furthermore, any restrictions that may then apply to the reuse of the surrogate work is clear to the user, such information might desist unauthorised reuse of the works.

Andrea’s research project ‘Display at your own Risk’:

(http://displayatyourownrisk.org/wallace-exhibition-methodology/) is well worth a look at. Andrea may well have identified a greater system of copyright protection for surrogate works in cultural institutions. Particularly as digital cultural heritage continues to develop at an increasing rate, so does the technology of creating different forms of digital surrogates and ways of sharing them online. Copyright law in comparison is lagging behind and often leaves a void between the enjoyment of the public and the preservation of cultural heritage.

 

Call for Papers: The Role of Law in Meeting Contemporary Global Challenges.

 

The Kent Law School Graduate Conference Committee is pleased to announce that its fifth LLM Conference will take place on 5th and 6th of June 2017.

In an era of increasing globalisation, there is a need to scrutinise the role of law in addressing the challenges associated with this development. There is an intensifying need to tackle the growing world population; migration and refugee crises arising from war and natural disasters; climate change and environmental degradation; manipulation of communication technologies against states and citizens, and national and transnational crimes.

The conference will focus on exploring law’s role in meeting global challenges in areas including but not limited to: Economic and Environmental issues, Global Policymaking, Technology, Targeted Killings, International and Transnational Crime, the Internet and Communication Technologies, Mass Migration and Shared Security/Global policing. The conference seeks to critically engage the legal and theoretical framework underpinning these issues and suggest possible alternatives.

Therefore, the Committee welcomes papers that discuss the theme of the conference from legal and other various academic perspectives. Abstract submissions should be no longer than 300 words and should be sent to lawgradconference@kent.ac.uk. Please note that full paper submissions are requested for consideration for the three prizes which are available for the best internal paper, the best external paper, and the best poster.

CONFERENCE SPEAKERS

Professor Philippe Cullet of SOAS, University of London will deliver the keynote.

The annual Clive Schmitthoff Memorial Lecture will be delivered by Professor Fiona Macmillan from Birkbeck, University of London at 4.00 pm on Monday, 5th June 2017.

IMPORTANT DATES:

Deadline for submission of abstracts: 15th April 2017

Notification of acceptance: 30th April 2017

Final paper submissions to be considered for a prize: 25th May 2017

For any enquiries, please contact lawgradconference@kent.ac.uk  

We look forward to seeing you on 5th and 6th June 2017 at The Role of Law in Meeting Contemporary Global Challenges.

Environmental Law in Practice

This post is by Andrea Schiber and is cross-posted with the KLS Law News Blog.

For the first seminar in the LLM Environmental Law Seminar Series 2016/2017, Kent alumnus Rufus Howard spoke about his journey from gaining an LLM in Environmental Law and Policy at Kent to becoming Director of Sustainable Development at Royal HaskoningDHV and beyond.

During the seminar, delivered on Monday 17 October, Rufus explained how the skills he had gained during his LLM had helped him throughout his career, his first job after graduating being a position at AMEC as an Environmental Consultant. Skills he highlighted, included: an appreciation of written/academic English, attention to detail, critical analysis, and the confidence to go back to the start of an issue and work through the information (or possible solutions) systematically.

Rufus currently specialises in the impact assessment of complex assets and contentious infrastructure projects. Moreover, he provides strategic advice to international businesses, financial institutions and governmental departments on environmental and social risk management. His work takes him all across Europe, Libya, Kazakhstan, South Africa and the USA.

He advocated the benefits of professional development through membership of appropriate institutions, such as the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA), the Institute of Directors (IoD), and/or the UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA). As well as providing opportunities for networking and participation in projects, Rufus said membership offers benefits such as career development and certification (in addition to employment and education), and support for their members.

Whilst Rufus continues to work part-time, he is undertaking a PhD at Kent to further develop and consolidate his career and knowledge. His working thesis title is: ‘Industry Evidence Programme: A Systematic and Evidence Based Approach to Impact Assessment.’

Rufus was thanked for sharing his divers and interesting experiences of environmental law in practice by the student organising committee (Simon Malih – Chairperson, Grant Williams -Introducer, and Harry Haycraft – Reporter), fellow students and lecturers.


The LLM Environmental Law Seminar Series has been designed specifically for students with an interest in the environmental law modules offered within the School’s one-year Master’s in Law programme, the Kent LLM.

Kent LLM students can graduate with a specialism in either Environmental Law orInternational Environmental Law by (i) opting to study at least three (out of six) modules from those associated with the specialism of their choice and by (ii) focusing the topic of their dissertation on their chosen specialism.

More information about environmental law research, events and academics at Kent can be found on the Environmental Law mini-site. More information about studying the Kent LLM (and choosing your specialism) can be found on our postgraduate pages.

Why an LLM? Why Kent? by Lumi Olteanu, LLM (Intellectual Property) Candidate.

canterburyWell, I guess the answer to the first question, in most situations, would depend on what one’s goals, both on the professional and personal level, are.

For many LLM students, these could mean academic “maturation”, a pathway to specialization into a particular field of law that they found interesting during undergraduate courses, or, why not, while practicing a certain profession, or even a new beginning in a whole new realm, or opening up one’s mind and soul to new opportunities. When I used to read about all the things listed above, before starting the LLM here at Kent and while working as a lawyer (working almost 60 hours of week, because, you know, this is what lawyers do), I have to admit that it all seemed like empty words or even cheap philosophy. The flaw in my reasoning was that I was very superficial in judging such an experience, I was reaching conclusions without actually experimenting the LLM life, just because I was thinking that “good things” or “good outcomes” are not possible and don’t just happen to people.

Fortunately, seven months after the first LLM thought had passed through my mind, life happened, whatever that means, and I have found myself in the Canterbury campus, living a dream which I was initially afraid to even “dream”.

So, why did I a choose Kent? The teaching methods that the KLS proposed for the subjects that I was interested in and the critical and cutting-edge approaches were indeed essential for my decision to come to Kent. However, there was another thing that somehow steered me to Kent. I have to recognize that I had applied for two other LLM programs based in London. However, after I had written the application letters for each of these three schools offering LLM programs (the one for Kent and the other two for the London-based law schools) I noticed that the one which reflected my personality, my true self and professional goals was the one for Kent.

Maybe, at a subconscious level, I was fascinated by the paradisiac location of the campus in Canterbury, and I found it very easy to get informed about the KLS through the friendly web site of the University and thanks to the courtesy and efficiency of the KLS staff. Now, I know for sure that all of the above are accurate and I have discovered additional advantages of being a KLS LLM student.

The most enchanting feature of the LLM program is its flexibility which allows you to choose three modules per semester from a wide variety of law subjects pertaining to different areas of law.

For example, you may choose to study Contemporary Topics in Intellectual Property pertaining to the Intellectual Property pathway – which I think is a one of a kind module which I could not find on the list of other LLM programs, focused on the very latest trends and developments in this area and Labour Rights in a Global Economy which pertains to the International Law pathway. So basically, the sky is the limit in terms of what to study J

Then there are a lot of FREE non-mandatory workshops and lectures available almost on a daily basis which aim at developing and/or improving, including but not limited to ones writing skills and soft skills (such as the Global Skills Award Program or the events organised by the Student Learning Advisory Service)(additional details will be available in a future post). I have registered for most of them to be honest because I know that such sessions are not only effective but are also a good training for a future job. Not to mention that when you have a real job you don’t have the time and the peace of mind necessary to assimilate properly all the information and tips which such training offer.

I am now living on campus (which is a first for me – I never experienced living in a dorm before) with other postgraduate students studying different master programs and I can say that this is truly amazing. Besides the fact that students here have such a diverse cultural background, I constantly learn about new subjects from different disciplines, which, invariably are connected to my desired LLM specialization which is Intellectual Property. Most of my flat mates are studying Computer Sciences, and this eventually led to discussions about the insights of the architecture of applications which we use on our smartphones and, eventually, discussions about how these are protected by copyright.

So, I am pretty sure that other universities offer similar LLM programs, similar campus conditions (of course I don’t think they offer landscapes like the one below, but anyways J) however KLS promises and so far has offered to me a life experience which will hopefully remain embedded in me for a lifetime.

THE COST OF LITIGATION: FURTHER REFLECTION ON THE WELCOME WEEK FILM SCREENING – THE WOMAN IN GOLD (2015). By Izunna Isdore Ozuo.

 

800px-gustav_klimt_046The film screening and discussion of the Woman in Gold* was part of the Welcome Week package organized by the Kent Law School for the Postgraduate Taught Students. Dr. Simone Wong, a Co -Director of Graduate Studies had earlier informed the LLM students that attendance to the film screening was as important as attendance to the compulsory Legal Research and Writing Skills Training Module – LW919 which will appear as pass or fail in our final transcript. Dr. Emily Haslam and Dr. José Bellido were there to moderate the discussion on the film screening. As expected, almost everybody attended the session.

The film centres on the recovery of a 1907 painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer (later renamed Woman in Gold) from the Austrian Government by Maria Altmann. The theme of the movie cuts across various aspects of law which include law and justice; law and cultural heritage, property law, wills law, restitution, the jurisdiction of courts, the lawyer-client relationship, international law, etc. However, of interest in this short discourse is the cost of litigation in various jurisdictions as the other areas were duly discussed in class.

It can be observed in the film that the Restitution Committee set up by the Austrian government denied the claims of Maria Altmann. Upon the denial of the claim of the paintings which included that of Bloch- Bauer (Woman in Gold), Maria and her attorney returned back to the US as the option available to them in Austria was elusive.  Maria and her attorney are informed that they can approach the Austrian Court for redress if they are disgruntled or dissatisfied with the decision of the Committee. However, the bad news is that the sum of $1,800,000 was required to be deposited in order to pursue the case in court based on the estimated worth of the property. Maria’s cause was then abandoned as she cannot afford such huge sums of money. At this juncture, it is worthy to note that litigation is not free in any jurisdiction. However, the amount payable by a prospective litigant or claimant varies from one jurisdiction to another. As the writer of this post is a Nigerian, it is apt that the happenings in that jurisdiction be examined in line with our reflection.

Basically, the hierarchy of courts can be found in section 6(5) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). In the said provision, we have amongst other courts the Federal High Court and the High Court of the State. These two courts are courts of coordinate jurisdiction but do not exercise the same jurisdiction except in certain matters. In essence, whereas the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court can be found in section 251 of the Constitution, that of the High Court of the States can be found in section 272 of the Constitution.  The cost of filing an action in both courts differs. The amount claimed by a litigant determines the fee payable by that litigant. However, it is relatively cheaper to pursue a claim at the State High Court than to pursue the same claim at the Federal High Court. Some litigants even abandon their claims when the matter falls within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court due to attendant cost just like our Maria in the Woman of Gold lost hope and went back to the US when she was informed of the cost of pursuing the claim in Austrian Court. Little wonder the US court recognised that the Austrian Court provided inadequate means for the resolution of the dispute due to the prohibitive cost to file the action.

As a matter of fact, in matters where the Federal High Court and State High Court can exercise jurisdiction, litigants avoid the Federal High Court and opt for the State High Court in a bid to avoid payment of heavy fees. For instance, the Federal and the State High Court in Nigeria can entertain fundamental right matters as it affects a person whose right is being, has been or likely to be infringed on. Since both courts can exercise jurisdiction in matters of fundamental rights, the question now is; can a person approach any of the courts in a bid to enforce his or her fundamental rights? The answer appears to be in the negative. Some judicial authorities are of the view that any fundamental right action sought to be enforced by a person at the Federal High Court must relate to actions of a federal agency. In other words, if the wrong complained of was done by a federal agency or body then the State High Court cannot exercise jurisdiction in such matters and vice versa.  Despite this position of various judicial authorities and at the risk of an action being struck out for want of jurisdiction, fundamental right actions against federal bodies or agencies are still being filed at the State High Court due to the cost attendant with filing the action at the Federal High Court. In the alternative, litigants are known to grudgingly reduce the amount claimed in a bid to pay a lesser sum. A person who ordinarily would have claimed over a million dollar would reduce the claim so as to afford the fee payable.

Interestingly, some litigants after the release of National Human Right Commission Standing Order 2015 now approach the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission to claim trillions of Naira as no filing fees or deposit are made at the Commission. This is opposed to what is obtainable in regular courts where fees are paid.  Although it is doubtful whether such claims will succeed in view of so many factors ranging from the powers and jurisdiction of the Commission, the status of the Commission as an inferior tribunal etc. Clearly, the outrageous claims at the Commission reveal that many persons are relinquishing their rights due to the cost of litigation. This post is not a call for drastic measures or actions to be taken in various jurisdictions to review the admissibility of claims in terms of cost. This is because removal of fees payable by prospective litigants will not only promote the filing of frivolous suits but will encourage litigation which amongst other things is time-consuming, filled with procedural hitches and less friendly.

Although the Woman in Gold celebrates arbitration over the traditional litigation, it must be pointed out that sometimes litigation or the possibility of litigation brings the parties to the arbitration table. In essence, potential defendants usually show nonchalant attitude towards alternative dispute resolution except there is an ongoing litigation or one is threatened. This is evident in the Woman in Gold when the Austrian government approached Maria Altmann for settlement after the US Supreme Court ruled in favour of Maria Altmann that she can maintain the action against Austria in a US court.

The Woman in Gold and the stimulating discussion that followed was indeed golden. Most of the LLM students with their diverse backgrounds shared their views about the legal issues that arose from the film screening. The analysis by the students was awesome and we look forward to similar discussions throughout our LLM programme.

 

*Woman in Gold is a film written by Alexi Kaye Campbell and directed by Simon Curtis. The film was released in 2015. Studio: The Weinstein Company.

Photo credit: Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (The Woman in Gold) is a 1907 painting by Gustav Klimt available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portrait_of_Adele_Bloch-Bauer_I

 

‘Horticulture, Not Money Culture’ Business and the Environment – Towards A Sustainable Future in Indonesia by Hashim Djojohadikusumo

IMG_20160415_115442860_HDRMy entire time at the Southeast Asian Studies Symposium was intellectually enlightening, and I attended a number of talks by fantastic speakers. However, Hashim’s keynote left the deepest impression on me as it spoke about a sustainable future as an actual possibility. It is unlikely to hear any positivity when discussing climate change, as the general consensus seems to be that whatever actions undertaken are too little, too late, and that the damage is irreparable.

Into this narrative comes Hashim, a ray of hope. In his presentation, he stated that it is now possible to embark upon reforestation, protect wildlife, produce sustainable food, pay a living wage, and make a profit. He ‘put his money where his mouth is’, by divesting his interests in oil, gas and polluting industries and then investing in environmentally friendly initiatives. He spoke of supporting ‘horticulture, not money culture’, but also of an exciting new enterprise of reforesting that can turn a significant profit. By making an environmentally sustainable business-model, other businessmen could be persuaded to act not charitably (or only charitably), but in their own self-interest.

IMG_20160415_180005000Hashim reported that it was possible to take destroyed land and restore it to a thriving rainforest ecosystem in a mere twelve years, a fraction of the time previously believed. In the area he worked on in Indonesia, rains returned due to the rainforest increasing moisture levels, wildlife returned, and what had been a barren desert was now a thriving ecosystem. Studies showed that ground-water levels had increased. We now know it can be done, and that it costs a mere $2005 to reforest a hectare with commercially viable trees and plants which turn a healthy profit as well as providing local residents with employment – thereby incentivising them to protect the forest.

What was previously a barren scrub land, inhabited only by weeds and rats was now a bio-diverse environment. It also provides a profitable alternative to palm oil plantations.

The Palm Sugar Tree (although a plant, not a tree) is a huge part of the commercial viability of rainforest reforestation. It provides a sugary juice that can be used to make low glycemic index sugar as well as ethanol. One hectare produces three times as much sugar as a sugar cane plantation, and the Palm Sugar Tree secretes all year. It’s roots burrow 12 metres into the soil – relocating large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It also stores a great deal of water and restores the area’s water resources.

I was intrigued to hear that the Palm Sugar Tree (PST) grows well only in a bio-diverse environment. Therefore, the best economic plan is to grow PST is as part of a mixed tropical rainforest – promoting a biodiversity that will beneficial for all. I like to think of this as mother nature ‘hitting-back’. Ensuring that if we want to make use of this plant’s special properties, it must be as part of something beneficial to the entire ecosystem, rather than cultivating a PST plantation

IMG_20160415_174522322With a predicted five-fold increase in population in Nigeria by 2100, it is a prime candidate for sustainable development – and this kind of reforestation project is ideal. The profitability of the sustainable rainforest is of great benefit to the environment and the economy. Aside from sugar and ethanol, the rainforest can also replace oil use, produce biodegradable plastic, organic fertiliser as well as provide a habitat for endangered species. This organic fertiliser can then be used to enable forestation of vast swathes of the world’s expanding deserts and degraded land without the use of chemical fertilisers!

‘The world must also be reforested – 1.2 billion hectares to be replanted in the next 40 years for the earth to have a sustainable future’.

Self-interest is the best way to get things done. The level of economic return – 25% as opposed to the 19% return on Palm Oil according to McKinsey – will incentivise business people as it will be in their selfish, self-interest to do the right thing.

With natural forests disappearing at an alarming rate – it is estimated that there will be no forest cover in Indonesia in 25 years – and the implications this has for planetary health as a whole.

Hashim passionately believes that there are exciting future investment opportunities that allow businesses to protect the environment and turnover a healthy profit.

It is inspirational to hear of hope, and to hear from a businessman who terminated his involvement in oil and gas polluting industries for moral reasons, and who is trying to rewrite the narrative on profit and environmental protection, showing that the two are not mutually exclusive.

For more on this topic, listen to this speech, given in Paris, on youtube: https://youtu.be/CMv4vMIntSI

Reviewed by Jodie Satterley

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