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Prisoners’ voting rights: a success story for the enforceability of the ECHR?

By Emily MacKenzie, NYU School of Law, (LL.M Candidate, 2011)

The last week has seen a tense discourse in political and legal circles in the UK centering on prisoners’ voting rights. This discussion in some sense represents the culmination of five years of debate about the enforceability of judgments made by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). In March 2004 the ECtHR held unanimously in Hirst v UK that the UK’s blanket ban on prisoners voting violated Article 3 Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Despite the rejection of the UK’s appeal to the Grand Chamber, and the obligation under Article 46 ECHR to enforce Strasbourg judgments, the government has to date failed to enact legal reform to implement this decision. Whilst there has been an ongoing consultation, it is not overly cynical to describe the process as merely ‘going through the motions.’ The unexplained delays, refusal to entertain the option of allowing all prisoners to vote, and the government’s consistent expression of its disagreement with the ruling all attest to this conclusion.

Repeated criticisms by the Council of Europe came to a head when the government failed to act on any of the proposals in time to allow prisoners to vote in the June 2010 election.  Last week, however, UK newspapers reported that the new coalition government is finally going to implement the judgment. (See coverage by The Guardian here.)  The exact program and timescale of reform remain unclear, but it seems to be generally accepted that a change is in the offing. The governmental attitude remains, however, that such reform is something imposed on the UK by Europe, that it is not something that the government wants, and that they will apply it as restrictively as possible. In light of this continued reticence, one may ask: why after five years of stalling is the government finally giving in?

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Video from Arctic Symposium

NYU Law has posted video of our Oct. 22 symposium on “International Law and Environmental Protection in a Melting Arctic.”  Below is the keynote address, given by Peter Taksoe-Jensen, Danish Ambassador to the United States.  The Ambassador’s speech begins at 25:34, preceded by short introductions from Jose Alvarez and Herbert Rubin.

See more video after the jump.

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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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