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Alvarez on Opinio Juris

NYU Law Professor Jose Enrique Alvarez will be guest blogging this week over at Opinio Juris.  He uses his first post to outline the broad challenges facing the international investment regime.  From the post: When two of the leading capital…

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Book Review: Temkin’s The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair

This install­ment in our ongo­ing series of book reviews fea­tures J. Ben­ton Heath’s assess­ment of Moshik Temkin’s The Sac­co-Vanzetti Affair: Amer­i­ca on Tri­al. In his review, Heath finds that Temkin’s book brings a unique inter­na­tion­al dimen­sion to the analy­sis of the Sac­co-Vanzetti affair, and reveals how events sur­round­ing Sac­co and Vanzetti informed ongo­ing dia­logue on U.S. glob­al dom­i­nance and domes­tic policy.

By J. Ben­ton Heath

Two years after the 1927 exe­cu­tion of Ital­ian-Amer­i­can anar­chists Nico­lai Sac­co and Bar­tolomeo Vanzetti, H.L.Mencken wrote that their case “refus­es to yield.… The vic­tims con­tin­ue to walk, haunt­ing the con­science of Amer­i­ca, of the civ­i­lized world.” Eight decades have passed since Mencken’s writ­ing, yet Sac­co and Vanzetti con­tin­ue to stalk the pub­lic imag­i­na­tion, attract­ing renewed inter­est from schol­ars, jour­nal­ists, com­men­ta­tors, and nov­el­ists. Temkin’s engag­ing and insight­ful work attempts to estab­lish the his­tor­i­cal place of Sac­co and Vanzetti by focus­ing on the nation­wide and transat­lantic dimen­sions of their case. By focus­ing on the inter­na­tion­al reac­tions to the con­vic­tions and exe­cu­tions, and on the effects of for­eign crit­i­cism, Temkin finds his own unique niche among the exten­sive schol­ar­ship on the case.

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The International Relations Value of Criminal Tribunals

By Gra­ham Dumas, (J.D. Can­di­date 2011)

Much has been made in recent(ish) lit­er­a­ture about the defects of crim­i­nal tri­bunals in post-con­flict soci­eties. Mul­ti­ple authors over the past decade have right­ly not­ed that such fora have dubi­ous pos­i­tive effects on the tran­si­tion­al jus­tice process when viewed inter­nal­ly: tri­bunals fail to deter war crim­i­nals either because the chances of pros­e­cu­tion are very low, or because offend­ers act with­in the con­text of over­whelm­ing social stress, often believ­ing they are work­ing for the greater good of soci­ety; as a mea­sure of ret­ribu­tive jus­tice, tri­bunals fail because the vast major­i­ty of per­pe­tra­tors go unpun­ished; tri­als may upset the del­i­cate bal­ance of peace and con­cil­i­a­tion, which in the end is the bedrock of ongo­ing sta­bil­i­ty in post-con­flict soci­eties. The list is long, and the points are large­ly valid.

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Book Review: Against the Death Penalty (Yorke ed.)

Con­tin­u­ing our ongo­ing series of book reviews, Alexan­da McCown assess­es Against the Death Penal­ty: Inter­na­tion­al Ini­tia­tives and Impli­ca­tions, edit­ed by Jon Yorke The book focus­es on what empir­i­cal­ly have been suc­cess­ful chal­lenges to the death penal­ty and explores the rela­tion­ship between pub­lic opin­ion and death penal­ty pol­i­cy. How­ev­er, giv­en that the book dis­cuss­es how life with­out parole might be an alter­na­tive to the death penal­ty that still vio­lates human rights, this review­er laments the book’s omis­sion of oth­er viable alter­na­tive sen­tences to the death penalty.

By Alexan­dra McCown

In Novem­ber 2003, a jury deliv­ered the death sen­tence to John Allen Muham­mad, one of the two men behind the Wash­ing­ton, D.C.-area sniper attacks in 2002. The exe­cu­tion took place in 2009, almost six years to the day after his sen­tenc­ing. If Muham­mad had car­ried out the same crimes in Europe, he would not have been sub­ject to cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment. In still oth­er parts of the world, like the Caribbean, he may have received the death penal­ty, but ulti­mate­ly his sen­tence would have been com­mut­ed since he remained on death row longer than five years. What accounts for region­al dif­fer­ences in issu­ing (or not issu­ing) cap­i­tal sanc­tions for heinous crimes such as the sniper attacks? Fur­ther, if Muham­mad had received a sen­tence of life in prison with­out the pos­si­bil­i­ty of parole (LWOP) in the Unit­ed States or any oth­er coun­try, would that real­ly have been prefer­able to a death sen­tence? Can short­er sen­tences effec­tive­ly pun­ish the per­pe­tra­tor and pro­tect soci­ety from future crime while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly respect­ing crim­i­nals’ human rights?

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