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Book Review: Foreign Policy of the European Union—Assessing Europe’s Role in the World. By Federiga Bindi and Irina Angelescu (eds.)

Foreign Policy of the European Union—Assessing Europe’s Role in the World sets out to treat the foreign relations of the EU in a holistic, all-encompassing manner. For this purpose the book is divided into five parts, each of which develops a different perspective on the EU’s external actions.

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Book Review: Cipriani’s Children’s Rights and the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility

This installment in our ongoing series of book reviews looks at Children’s Rights and the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility by Don Cipriani. Michael Gigante’s review takes a critical eye towards the arguments Cipriani advances in favor of requiring all nations to establish a minimum age of criminal responsibility.

By Michael V. Gigante

Children’s Rights and the Minimum Age of Criminal ResponsibilityIdeas about the proper role of criminal responsibility in juvenile justice tend to fall along a welfare-justice continuum. The welfare approach, prominent at the birth of the modern notion of a juvenile justice system, essentially dismissed the notions of competence and criminal responsibility for children. State authorities intervened to make benevolent decisions on behalf of children, who were portrayed as objects without liberty rights. On the other end of the continuum, the justice approach—towards which clear shifts have occurred in recent decades—places criminal responsibility and children’s alleged competence at the center of juvenile justice. Accountability, due process, and punishment are the foundations of this approach. In Children’s Rights and the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility: A Global Perspective, Don Cipriani points out the flaws of both these approaches and describes the merits of a children’s rights approach as a way to mediate between the tensions of the welfare and justice approaches.

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Book Review: Stacy’s Human Rights for the 21st Century

In the latest installment of book reviews, Nalini Gupta lauds Human Rights for the 21st Century, by Helen M. Stacy for providing a comprehensive analysis of human rights work. However, Gupta notes that Stacy risks oversimplifying the issues in her attempt to divide major critiques of the international human rights system into three categories: sovereignty, civil society, and multiculturalism.

By Nalini Gupta

In Human Rights for the 21st Century, Helen Stacy addresses the major critiques of the international human rights framework, offering suggestions on how to fill gaps in the current system in order to strengthen the framework. Stacy organizes the major critiques of the international human rights system into three categories: sovereignty, civil society, and multiculturalism. Responding to each of these critiques, she argues that the law and the courts must continue to play a critical role in the human rights system, but their role must be adjusted to adapt to the challenges posed by the current world order. Stacy’s book is a worthy read, providing a comprehensive analysis of the current challenges of the current human rights framework and offering interesting and practical proposals aimed at improving the present system.

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Book Review: Re-Envisioning Sovereignty: The End of Westphalia?

In this edition of our ongoing series of book reviews, Paul Mignano presents a critical but ultimately favorable take on Re-Envisioning Sovereignty: The End of Westphalia?a collection of interdisciplinary essays discussing the concept of sovereignty.


By Paul Mignano


Re-envisioning SovereigntyFor a concept that is so central to international relations and public international law, the meaning of “sovereignty” is surprisingly difficult to articulate. At its essence, Westphalian sovereignty is about the ability of a state to engage in political self-determination, to be considered a legal equal of other states, and to ensure non-interference of outside states in its own internal affairs.

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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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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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Book Review: Begley’s Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters

This installment in our ongoing series of book reviews takes on Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters by lawyer/novelist Louis Begley.  Hugh Murtaugh’s complimentary review of Begley’s work intertwines the Dreyfus and the Guantanamo narratives.  Both Begley and this reviewer conclude with the same lament from Proust: “As for asking oneself about its value, not one thought of it now . . . . It was no longer shocking. That was all that was required.”

By Hugh K. Murtagh

The story of Guantanamo Bay is not over. President Obama will not be able to shutter the island prison until at least 2011, and then only by moving the remaining detainees to a stateside facility. Time passes, details emerge: the “Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures” find their way onto the internet; a military judge will not allow the prosecution of a terrorist leader because he has been so badly abused; Sami al-Hajj, the al-Jazeera journalist held for years on changing unsubstantiated charges, is finally released to Sudan, with his diaries.

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Book Review: Clarke’s Fictions of Justice

This edition of our ongoing series of book reviews offers a critical but ultimately positive take on Kamari Maxine Clarke’s Fictions of Justice: The International Criminal Court and the  Challenge of Legal Pluralism in Sub-Saharan Africa. This book review is particularly timely, as the recent ECCC verdict in the “Duch” trial reminds us of that court’s landmark decision earlier this summer, which rejected one controversial form of “joint criminal enterprise” liability.  Kelly Geoghegan’s review, published in issue no. 42:3 of JILP, takes the opportunity to level her own criticism, or skepticism, at JCE theory.

By Kelly Geoghegan

Fictions of Justice is Kamari Maxine Clarke’s searching anthropological critique of both the international rule of law movement and its flagship tribunal, the International Criminal Court (ICC). Clarke explores the unspoken assumptions, or “fictions,” that underlie this movement, showing that these assumptions privilege Western ideas of justice over African ones and obscure the post-colonial economic forces behind Africa’s turmoil. Ultimately, Fictions of Justice is an anthropological work, not a legal text. Still, the book has potent insights to offer legal practitioners, particularly activists working “on behalf of victims” to achieve “universal” ideals of justice.

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Book Review: The Least Worst Place (Karen Greenberg)

Continuing with the theme of armed conflict, detention, and terrorism, the latest installment in our occasional series of book reviews addresses Karen Greenberg’s The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 DaysThis review may also be found in Issue 42:3 of the Journal of International Law and Politics.

By John Wunderlin

In the preface to The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 Days, Karen Greenberg briefly sets out the aim of the book: to describe the early days of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, in which few abuses occurred despite incredibly trying circumstances, and to ask whether this narrative sheds any light on how later abuses came to occur and how such abuses might be avoided in the future. Perhaps in deference to the complexity and difficulty of the subject, Greenberg never tries to formulate the lessons as a set of policy prescriptions. Nevertheless, she succeeds in developing a strong understanding of how certain forces and circumstances gathered to create a disaster at Guantanamo while other forces worked to keep disaster at bay.

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Book Review: Terrorism, War and International Law (Myra Williamson)

This occasional series will highlight the book annotations that constitute the back pages of every issue of the NYU Journal of International Law and Politics.  We are beginning with this review of Myra Williamson’s Terrorism, War and International Law: The Legality of the Use of Force Against Afghanistan in 2001, because it raises the crucial question of the right of States to use force in self-defense against non-State actors.  This issue sits in the background of much of the current debates about the use of force, most recently in Professor Alston’s Targeted Killings report.

By Graham F. Dumas

Myra Williamson’s Terrorism, War and International Law: The Legality of the Use of Force Against Afghanistan in 2001 comes at a time when the conflict in Afghanistan is returning to the fore of U.S. foreign policy and as the fight against terrorism continues to expand. Yet many of the legal questions surrounding this conflict were simply glossed over at the time of the invasion and have not yet been satisfactorily resolved.

Basing her argument mainly on legal history, Williamson asserts that the use of force against Afghanistan could not be legally considered self-defense according to the U.N. Charter because there was no armed attack for the purposes of Article 51, because the Security Council did not authorize unilateral force in Resolution 1368, and because Al Qaeda’s actions could not be attributed to the Taliban. Similarly, the author argues that the invasion of Afghanistan was not legal under customary international law because it was neither necessary nor proportionate, and there was no immediate threat of attack in the weeks following September 11.

In vigorously asserting the illegality of the invasion of Afghanistan, Williamson raises a number of interesting points
and provokes a great deal of thought, especially with respect to the many weaker links in the argument for the invasion’s lawfulness. As she notes, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has held on numerous occasions that Article 51 applies only to armed attacks by states, and the link between Al Qaeda and the Taliban is indeed tenuous, especially under a classical interpretation of the law. Particularly insightful is the study of the opinio juris of various NATO members with respect to that organization’s declaration that an armed attack occurred; the author suggests that what appeared to be a unanimous declaration that September 11 was sufficient to trigger the inherent right of self-defense was in fact anything but. Despite these effective points, Terrorism, War and International Law is a disappointing and ultimately unsuccessful effort which leaves out more than it includes, treats as fact several highly contentious claims necessary to support the main thesis, and often fails to address the post-Afghanistan era’s most pressing legal questions.

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