International law

All Commons Briefing Papers
62 Documents
16.06.2015"Ever Closer Union" in the EU Treaties and Court of Justice case law
"Ever closer union" is an EU aim and is enshrined in the EU Treaties. Yet David Cameron would like to remove it - or to exempt the UK from it. This note looks at its history, its survival through several Treaty changes and its use by the EU Court of Justice.
09.06.2015EU exit: impact in key UK policy areas
If the UK left the EU, would UK citizens benefit? This would depend on how the Government filled any policy gaps left by withdrawal. In some areas, the environment, for example, where the UK is bound by other international agreements, much of the content of EU law would probably remain. In others, the government might decide to retain the substance of EU law, or to remove EU obligations from UK statutes. Much would also depend on whether the UK sought to remain in the European Economic Area and therefore continue to have access to the single market, or preferred to go it alone and negotiate bilateral agreements with the EU. This paper looks at the current situation in a range of policy areas and considers how it might change be if the UK left the EU.
05.06.2015Overview of military drones used by the UK Armed Forces
Remotely Piloted or Unmanned Aircraft, more commonly known as drones, have been described as the most contentious conventional weapons system currently in use. This note provides an overview of their use by the UK armed forces.
04.06.2015Iraq: calls for an inquiry and historical precedents
There were repeated calls for an inquiry into the 2003 invasion of Iraq from 2003 until the announcement of the Chilcot Inquiry in 2009
04.06.2015Exiting the EU: UK reform proposals, legal impact and alternatives to membership
The UK will hold a referendum on whether to stay in the European Union by the end of 2017, after the Government has negotiated reforms which will benefit the UK. The Prime Minister is expected to outline these reforms to the European Council in June 2015. What might the impact be of a decision to leave the EU? How would the UK leave? Would the UK join a different grouping of states or go it alone? Would EU or UK citizens or businesses have any vested rights? This paper considers the background to the EU referendum, the withdrawal process, various legal and constitutional issues and possible alternatives to EU membership.
19.05.2015EU External Agreements: EU and UK procedures
The EU concludes many international agreements with third States or international organisations. How does the EU negotiate these agreements and how does the UK scrutinise and ratify them? This note looks at the procedures and some of the problems linked to treaty negotiation and ratification in the EU and the Member States, with particular reference to the UK.
15.05.2015UK relations with Hong Kong: May 2015 update
This briefing surveys developments in Hong Kong since August 2014 and the UK's response. The Hong Kong Government is seeking approval for its proposals to elect the Chief Executive by universal suffrage in 2017. Critics argue that they are a sham.
08.05.2015Disputes over the British Indian Ocean Territory: developments since mid-2013
This briefing describes the main developments since mid-2013 in long-running disputes over the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). A new feasibility study has been conducted into whether some form of resettlement of the Chagos Islanders, who were forcibly removed over 50 years ago in anticipation of a US military base on Diego Garcia, is feasible. A Marine Protected Area established in 2010 by the then Labour Government was recently found to violate international law. No progress has been made on the issue of sovereignty. Mauritius claims sovereignty and the UK has undertaken to hand over the BIOT once it is no longer needed for defence purposes. However, negotiations are currently underway between the UK and US to extend the life of the US military base to 2036. Meanwhile, lawyers for the Chagossians continue to pursue litigation in the British Courts.
23.03.2015Civil war in South Sudan: a primer
South Sudan has been embroiled in a brutal civil war since December 2013. On one side is the government of President Salva Kiir Mayadit (Sudan People's Liberation Movement) and its' allies; on the other side is former Vice-President Riek Machar (Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition) and his backers. As some observers warned might happen at the time, the euphoria and optimism that attended South Sudan's independence in July 2011 has quickly been shattered. At least 2.5 million people currently face crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity. 1.5 million people have been internally displaced. An estimated 60,000 people have been killed. With the price of oil down and oil exports in decline, the country's economy is in a parlous condition. Peace talks have so far failed and observers now fear a return to all-out conflict.
24.02.2015In brief: accession of Palestine to the International Criminal Court (ICC)
Palestine has acceded to the Rome Statue - the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court.
20.10.2014UK-USA Mutual Defence Agreement
The Mutual Defence Agreement allows the US and UK to exchange nuclear materials, technology and information in order to improve their atomic weapon design, development and fabrication capabilities. The most important part of the MDA is due to expire at the end of 2014 and therefore an amendment treaty, which will extend this deadline to 2024, must be ratified by both States and brought into force by the end of this year.
17.03.2014Ukraine, Crimea and Russia
In November 2013 the Ukrainian government decided not to sign a planned Association Agreement with the EU and demonstrations ensued in the capital Kiev. The 'Euromaidan' demonstrations turned violent in early 2014 and in February, some European foreign ministers mediated a compromise, involving a unity government and early elections.
05.03.2014Combating violence against women and girls around the world
As 8 March, International Women's Day, approaches, this note briefly surveys efforts to combat violence against women and girls around the world, focusing strongly on those that involve the UK.
19.02.2014The Central African Republic: a primer on the current crisis
President Francois Bozize was overthrown in March 2013 by a rebel coalition called Seleka, which then installed its leader, Michael Djotodia, as the new president. However, the country remained in turmoil and 'self-defence groups' opposed to Seleka, called Anti-Balaka, took up arms. By late 2013, senior UN officials were warning the conflict had turned into one between the Muslim minority and the Christian majority. They said there was a real danger of genocide. While not disputing the seriousness of the crisis, many experts caution against over-simplified narratives of 'Christian versus Muslim' and question claims of possible genocide. Despite the arrival of French and African peacekeepers and the resignation of Michael Djotodia - recently replaced by an interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza, who heads an transitional government - violence continues in many parts of the country, with some now fearing de facto partition.
21.01.2014The Deep Sea Mining Bill 2013-14
Mrs Sheryll Murray MP came fourth in the ballot for Private Members' Bills and has introduced the Deep Sea Mining Bill 2013/14 which will receive its have its Report Stage on the 24 January 2014..
11.12.2013Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
16.10.2013The African Union, Kenya and the International Criminal Court
At an extraordinary summit of the African Union on 11-12 October 2013, heads of state and government agreed that Kenya should send a letter to the UN Security Council requesting the deferral of the ICC's ongoing proceedings against the President and Deputy President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, both of whom have been charged with crimes against humanity in the context of the post-election violence during 2007-08. Western governments face an acute dilemma. Until now, they have been strong supporters of the ICC's work in Kenya. However, in recent years, Kenya has become an active regional player in combating Islamist terrorism and recently suffered a major attack by al-Shabaab on a shopping mall in Nairobi. If the UN Security Council were to defer the proceedings, this would be the first time that this has happened since the Court's inception.
29.08.2013Conditions for using force in humanitarian intervention
Could the Government's legal position on intervention in Syria contribute to setting a new precedent?
29.08.2013Military interventions: some comparisons
01.07.2013Leaving the EU
The Treaty on European Union provides for a Member State to leave the EU, either on the basis of a negotiated withdrawal agreement or without one. If the UK were to leave the EU following a referendum, it is likely that the Government would negotiate an agreement with the EU, which would probably contain transitional arrangements as well as provide for the UK's long-term future relations with the EU. There is no precedent for such an agreement, but it would in all likelihood come at the end of complex and lengthy negotiations.
18.06.2013Syria: The legality of arming the rebels after the lifting of the EU arms embargo
Would arming the Syrian rebels be illegal, notwithstanding the lifting of the EU arms embargo?
16.04.2013The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands: tension between Japan and China in the East China Sea
Tensions between Japan and China in connection with long-standing rival claims to sovereignty over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea have deepened since September 2012, with nationalist sentiment being stirred up in both countries. Taiwan also claims the islands. Japan, which administers the islands, does not accept that there is a dispute to be resolved. China insists that there is. This note briefly summarizes the competing claims and reviews developments over the last six months or so.
21.02.2013Recognising the killings of Iraqi Kurds as genocide
The killings of thousands of Iraqi Kurds under Saddam Hussein's rule has been recognised by some as genocide, which has a specific definition under international law.
28.01.2013In brief: North Korea and the nuclear issue one year on from the succession
After a failed ballistic missile launch by North Korea in April 2012, an apparently more successful one took place in December, characterized at the time by the regime as a satellite launch. The UN Security Council passed a resolution further toughening sanctions. North Korea has responded to the new sanctions with its customary threatening rhetoric and has announced that it is preparing to conduct a third nuclear weapon test, following on from those undertaken in 2006 and 2009. This note surveys the state of play on the nuclear issue in the light of internal developments in North Korea, where Kim Jon-Un appears to have consolidated his power.
17.01.2013Antarctic Bill - Committee Stage
The Antarctic Bill is presented as a Private Member's Bill by Neil Carmichael MP. This note sets out the issues discussed in the Bill Committee on 21 November 2012. These included: the timing of the enactment of the provisions relating to the liability annex, compatibility with existing shipping liability provisions, and the wider issue of the future of the British Antarctic Survey.
20.12.2012Sri Lanka since the end of the civil war
Sri Lanka's civil war ended in May 2009. Since then President Mohinda Rajapakse has consolidated his power at home but has been unable to shake off international controversy about alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by the security forces during the final phase of the conflict. There are also grave doubts about whether the govermment is willing to promote the kind of regional autonomy that many observers believe is essential to avoiding renewed conflict in the longer-term.
18.07.2012Antarctica: the treaty system and territorial claims
The unique treaty system that protects the Antarctic is constantly updated and sometimes challenged. A current Private Member's Bill would implement recent changes in the UK.
03.05.2012Bangladesh: the International Crimes Tribunal
The Government of Bangladesh has re-established a long dormant International Crimes Tribunal to try people for alleged 'international crimes' committed during the 1971 war of independence. Eight men, all senior figures in opposition parties, currently face trial. While steps have been taken to strengthen the rules of procedure of the Tribunal, there are criticisms that the process still falls short of interntional standards.
30.04.2012The UK and Reform of the European Court of Human Rights
The UK holds the Chairmanship of the Council of Europe until mid-May 2012. The UK has Government supported proposals to reform the European Court of Human Rights contained in the Interlaken and Izmir Declarations and has proposed in the draft Brighton Declaration that more account be taken of the principles of subsidiarity and the margin of appreciation.
03.04.2012The Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union: views in other EU Member States
This Note looks briefly at views on the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union in the other EU Member States, the US, China and Russia.
15.03.2012Is it legal to use force against Iran?
The answer to this question depends largely on your view of whether Iran is about to use nuclear weapons.
28.02.2012Preventing and prosecuting piracy at sea: legal issues
The resurgence in piracy at sea, particularly hijackings off the coast of Somalia, has prompted a range of efforts to tackle it. These throw up a series of legal issues including the use of force by governments and private armed security guards, and transferring of suspects for trial or imprisonment. Library Standard Notes covering related issues include: Piracy at sea: overview and policy responses; Somalia: recent political, security and humanitarian developments; and Does Somali piracy have any 'developmental effects'?.
21.12.2011Convention against enforced disappearance
In 2006 the UN in 2006 adopted the International Convention on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance. It creates new obligations on states and establishes a new Committee to monitor implementation. So far only 30 states have ratified the Convention; the UK is not one of them
20.12.2011Drone attacks and the killing of Anwar al-Awlaqi: legal issues
Anwar al-Awlaqi, a dual US-Yemeni citizen described as the 'leader of external operations for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula', was killed by a US drone attack in Yemen on 30 September 2011. Whether this was legal under international or US law is a matter of considerable debate.
10.11.2011Convention on Enforced Disappearance
The 2006 Convention on Enforced Disappearance, which came into force in 2010, requires states that have ratified it to create new criminal offences in their domestic law and to adjust their laws on (for example) detention. The UK has not signed or ratified the Convention despite some pressure to do so.
08.11.2011Scotland, independence and the EU
If Scotland became independent, would it automatically remain a member of the European Union (EU) - or would it have to go through the whole accession process for new Member States, either alone or alongside the rest of the UK?
11.08.2011Palestinian statehood
Disillusioned with the US-led peace process, Palestinian leaders are seeking a UN resolution in September 2011 in favour of Palestinian statehood. The political implications of such a resolution are likely to be bigger than its legal ones. But despite the momentum gained by the Palestinian proposal, it is possible that external and internal opposition could delay the initiative.
28.06.2011The International Criminal Court: new crimes and a new Prosecutor
As the International Criminal Court (ICC) moves towards opening its fourth trial, its jurisdiction is being widened and its most public face, the ICC Prosecutor, is about to be replaced at the end of his term.
24.05.2011Declaration 25 of the Treaty on European Union: Danish Territories and whaling
Denmark has invoked Declaration No. 25 TEU in support of the whaling activities of its territories, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Denmark's reliance on this Declaration at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has prevented the EU from presenting a more united stand on whaling issues at the IWC.
16.05.2011Killing Osama bin Laden: has justice been done?
The US government has asserted that by killing Osama bin Laden on 1 May 2011, justice has been done. Its view is that the killing was clearly lawful. But the nature, timing and location of the killing have raised various questions under international law. The killing also has possible implications for future policies towards al-Qaeda as well as Libya and other countries.
04.05.2011International Court of Justice Opinion on Kosovo's declaration of independence
In July 2010 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that Kosovo's declaration of independence on 17 February 2008 did not breach international law. The legal scope of the Opinion is extremely narrow, but its political implications could be very wide.
06.04.2011Interpretation of Security Council Resolution 1973 on Libya
What the rules of engagement are in Libya, and how far coalition forces are allowed to go in protecting the civilian population are highly controversial. This note looks briefly at some of the current questions.
17.03.2011Wreck Removal Convention Bill 2010-11
This note briefly describes the Wreck Removal Convention Bill 2010-11; a Private Members' Bill sponsored by Dr Th&eacuterèse Coffey MP. The Bill provides measures to enable the United Kingdom to ratify and implement the International Convention for the Removal of Wrecks. It would insert new sections and a Schedule into the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.
08.02.2011Parliamentary scrutiny of treaties: up to 2010
Before 2010 the UK Parliament had no formal role in the ratification of treaties, which is a matter for the Government under the Royal Prerogative. There were however several ways in which treaties were scrutinised by Parliament before the Government ratified them, for example under the 'Ponsonby Rule'. There have been calls for Parliamentary scrutiny of treaties to be enhanced, including through creating a dedicated treaty scrutiny committee.
08.02.2011Parliament's new statutory role in ratifying treaties
Parliament now has a new statutory role in ratifying treaties: the government must lay most treaties before Parliament for 21 sitting days before it can ratify them, and the Commons can block ratification indefinitely. However, there is no statutory requirement for a debate or vote, and parliament cannot amend treaties.
04.08.2010The Gaza flotilla attack and its aftermath
Summary of the attack on the flotilla, arguments surrounding its legality, the Israeli investigations into the raid and its political outcome
01.06.2010Sudan, 2003-09
In order to make sense of Sudan's present and possible futures, it is vital to know something of its recent past. This is the purpose of this Standard Note, which provides a detailed account of events in Sudan, including their regional impact, between 2003 and 2009. It will not be updated.
25.03.2010Universal jurisdiction
The UK has universal jurisdiction under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 (and other legislation) for a limited number of serious international crimes. It also has an obligation under international law to prosecute or extradite those suspected of war crimes or torture anywhere in the world. There are few such prosecutions in the UK but arrest warrants have been sought for private prosecutions. The Government is consulting on a change to the law on private prosecutions for universal jurisdiction offences, and the UN is conducting a review of the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction.
26.02.2010The legal basis for the invasion of Afghanistan
The military campaign in Afghanistan was not specifically mandated by the UN, but was widely (although not universally) perceived to be a legitimate form of self-defence under the UN Charter. This note outlines the self-defence justification for military action.
22.02.2010Applying to the European Court of Human Rights
This Note looks at the procedure for taking a complaint about an alleged breach of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights. It replaces SN/IA/191
20.04.2009The International Criminal Court: Current Cases and Contemporary Debates
This note is intended to offer a brief overview of the current work of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the contemporary debates which surround it.
23.03.2009In brief: Camp Ashraf and the Geneva Conventions
Camp Ashraf in Northern Iraq houses members of the People Mujahedin of Iran. These people were regarded as 'protected persons' under the Fourth Geneva Convention when Ashraf was under US control. On 1 January 2009 control of Ashraf passed fom the US to the Iraqi Government, and concerns have been raised about how its inhabitants will be treated.
20.03.2009Geneva Conventions and United Nations Personnel (Protocols) Bill [HL] (Bill 69 of 2008-09)
This short Bill is intended to amend two UK Acts to enable the Government to ratify two international agreements protecting military medical personnel and humanitarian workers. In line with the protocols, the Bill would firstly sanction and protect the 'red crystal' as a new symbol to protect humanitarian personnel in armed conflict instead of (or in addition to) the existing red cross or red crescent; and secondly extend the definition of protected UN workers to include those delivering humanitarian, political or development assistance in peacebuilding operations and those delivering emergency humanitarian protection.
The 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising was commemorated on 10 March 2009. This Note provides brief background for Members and their staff. It is neither comprehensive nor exhaustive.
13.03.2009Sexual and gender-based violence: global trends and perspectives
This Note is intended as an introduction to some key trends and perspectives on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) around the world.
17.06.2008Reinventing humanitarian intervention: Two cheers for the Responsibility to Protect?
Reinventing humanitarian intervention: Two cheers for the Responsibility to Protect? House of Commons Library Research Paper 08/55.
22.07.2004Iraq:legal issues at the handover
Iraq: legal issues at the handover. House of Commons Library Research Paper 04/59.
02.06.2003Iraq: Law of Occupation
Iraq: law of occupation. House of Commons Library Research Paper 03/51.
13.03.2003Iraq: Developments since UN Security Council Resolution 1441
Iraq: developments since UN Security Council Resolution 1441. House of Commons Library Research Paper 03/22
21.11.2002Iraq and UN Security Council Resolution 1441
Iraq and UN Security Council Resolution 1441. House of Commons Library Research Paper 02/64.
20.09.2002Iraq: the debate on policy options
Iraq: the debate on policy options. House of Commons Library Research Paper 02/53.
28.03.2001International Criminal Court Bill (HL) (Bill 70 of 2000-01)
International Criminal Court Bill (HL) (Bill 70 of 2000/01). House of Commons Library Research Paper 01/39.