Tag Archive | "foreign policy"

Trump Versus the World

Photo Credit: Skye Gould/Business Insider

Photo Credit: Skye Gould/Business Insider

With the recent change of government in the United States (“U.S.”), there have been considerable reactions on the international level. To begin, many nations have expressed their incredible disdain for the choice of president, ranging from petitions to protests to motions to reduce trade with the U.S. Second, there is discussion of there being improper relationships between the U.S. government and the Russian Federation government, creating suspicion amongst the domestic population. Third, the executive orders resulted in outrage both domestically and internationally. Therefore, if the current US government continues to remain in power, it may result in broken treaties, sanctions, or worse, war.

During the presidential campaign in the U.S., many nation-states, began to discuss the future of their own nation with their political relation to the U.S. if Trump were to win the presidency. In the United Kingdom (“U.K.”), a petition was launched by a freelance journalist, Suzanne Kelly called for the banning of Trump and thus, the petition was taken to parliament for debate.[1] The parliament carried out heated discussions in regard of the whether to ban Trump from ever visiting the U.K. in response to the petition.[2] Many parliament members declared Trumps’ words as hate speech and feared how his ideas would increase tension between different communities[3]. There are some parliament members that are in support of Trump or in support of merely letting the U.S. determine their own fate.[4] After the election, despite the invitation to Trump from Prime Minister May, the Speaker of the House and other parliament members continued voicing their disapproval of the president, leading to the delay of any potential visit by Trump.[5] In the end, the U.K. government will have to determine whether a visit or ban will bring greater consequences to their country.

Other nations, such as Mexico, have taken more drastic responses by protesting the US presidency and the Mexican President himself, refuses to meet with Trump after heated tweets between the two parties.[6] Also, Trump desires to either renegotiate NAFTA or completely remove the U.S. as a party because of his belief that it sends U.S. jobs to Mexico, further infuriating the people of Mexico.[7] Not only does Trump preach that the Mexicans are stealing U.S. jobs, but he promised to build a wall with the Mexican tax dollars.[8] In response, both the Mexican government and the people came out in force against Trump.[9] On February 12, an estimated 20,000 protesters took to the streets in Mexico City to voice their objection to the U.S. president.[10] Organizers of the event stated, “they wanted to send a message that Mexico was united against Trump.”[11] The government appeared to heed their people’s displeasure of the U.S. president and set in motion a bill that would sever the corn trade with the U.S. and instead trade with Brazil and Argentina.[12]  With Mexico being the third largest goods trading partner, continued unflavored actions taken by Trump will only further hurt the U.S. rather than Mexico.[13] Unfortunately, if Trump continues his path of destruction, both the U.K. and Mexico may only be the beginning of allies turning against the U.S..

With the recent resignation/firing of Flynn, the former National Security Advisor to Trump, continued rumors regarding Trump and many other republican members being involved with the Russian government.[14] After Trump was declared the winner of the U.S. presidency, rumors began about the election being rigged with the assistance of Putin and his oligarchy, which eventually were proven valid.[15] The Obama Administration enforced sanctions against Russia for their violation of the U.S. democracy system, but with evidence of Flynn and Trump communicating with the Kremlin both after the election and inauguration, there are concerns for U.S. national security.[16] Continuous investigations have been performed on the Trump presidency and personnel, revealing more and more conveyance with the Kremlin, however Trump continues to deny any involvement or knowledge the actions taken, regardless of the mounting evidence.[17] Congress continues their debate and probing of Trump and his people, however, Trump criticizes them heavily for such actions, declaring those scrutinizing him “un-American”, increasing the mounting tension between the two branches of government.[18] However, with the recent discovery of the Russian spy ship off the eastern coast, both government officials and the public grow weary of Trump and his intentions despite his declaration of having no contact with Russia.[19] Debates are occurring all over the U.S. to determine how to respond to the ship and the high likelihood of Trump’s involvement with Putin and other Russian personnel.[20] Unfortunately, with no middle ground being reached in congress and no clear answer or response tactic from Trump, the ship remains off the coast, constantly reminding the U.S. people of a the national security threat Russia maintains over them.[21] Therefore, unless measures are taken by either the Judicial Branch, Legislative Branch, or the states, U.S. national security may be at great risk for either an invasion or all-out war with the Russian Federation.

Trump established a series of new executive orders shortly after taking office. The most controversial ones’ deal with the deportation of all “illegal” immigrant and the banning of any form of immigration from seven Arab countries. The executive order concerning the deportation of illegal immigrants expanded the power of ICE by providing several new categories of qualification of deportation under the guise of merely removing the “‘bad dudes’” as Trump states.[22] There are strong criticisms that the order’s intention is to remove all illegal immigrants, regardless of whether they have a criminal record or not.[23] In fact, it was calculated the order could result in the “deportation of 11 million illegals.”[24] An action that is generating a variety of responses, from those desperate to find a way to stay in the U.S. to racists coming out of the wood work to voice their hatred to the immigrants.[25] This order has had negative effects internationally, especially in Mexico, but the effects are mainly being felt in the U.S.. Millions of parents of U.S. citizens are facing deportation, ripping them away from their families and lives they have spent years building in the supposedly “land of dreams.”[26] Not only are families being torn apart, there are potential economic consequences of the action with the removal of so many individuals, ranging from loss of workforce and supplementing the economy.[27] Many cities have noted that Trump and the ICE officials are targeting specific neighborhoods and communities, indicating that the order was merely a smoke screen to further Trump’s racist agenda and disregard of the potential aftermath of his actions.[28] Also, cities that have declared sanctuary for the immigrants are now facing denial of federal funds, adding pressure for them to conform to the executive order.[29] If this continues, the U.S. will not only be divided in the context of families, but in terms of the U.S. people in regard for those in support and those against the order.

The second order, signed just days after his inauguration, Trump revoked indefinitely admission of Syrian refugees and other refugees from six other nations.[30] Like the order that came later, this order received mixed reactions across the U.S. and the world. First, many of the current refugees in the U.S. and those attempting to enter are facing potential removal or denial, despite having already made it to the U.S. or been granted refugee status.[31] These individuals are fearful of the prospect to be forced to return to the warzone or being separated from their families.[32] As a result of this ban and the effects it has had on thousands of individuals, the ACLU and other U.S. lawyers have stepped forward to provide legal support and guidance through the process, as well as declare a legal battle with the Trump Administration.[33] Not only have lawyers stepped up to provide assistance for the refuges and other immigrants, judges across the judicial circuits declared the ban unconstitutional and move for the removal of the order.[34] Unfortunately, many polls have revealed that there are a great deal of U.S. citizens support the ban, creating fiction amongst the population.[35] Not only does Trump receive some support domestically, he is encountering encouragement abroad to continue with such bans.[36] With Trump getting continued support to attempt a new form of the ban both domestically and internationally, it is unlikely that Trump will revoke any such ban, in fact, is more likely to execute more.[37] In the end, the orders from Trump will only hurt the U.S., whether it be domestically or internationally.

In conclusion, the current president of the United States is following through on his promises he declared during his presidential campaign. The United States use to be the positive voice and influence in the world under the Obama Administration. President Obama, to the best of his ability, improved both domestic and international relations of the U.S., always exhausting every prospective outcome to seek out the best action for all parties involved. Now, the progress that has been seen in the last 8 years is unraveling within a matter of months. Within days of his inauguration, the path of destruction began, denying people the right to enter or remain in the U.S., enticing the revoking of trade agreements and potentially alliances, and risking national security with Russia. As discussed, if Trump continues to remain in his position, there is no positive outcome for the U.S. or the world. In fact, it is very likely that we will lose almost all our allies and will end up in war with Russia, China, or a combination of nations that no longer wish to follow the U.S. under its’ current leadership. Therefore, hopefully, either the federal legislative or judicial branches or state governments will rise and halt the destruction. If not, the consequences will be even more severe than they are currently.

Kylie Frantz is the Cite & Source Editor for the Denver Journal for International Law & Policy and a visiting 3L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, originally from Drake University Law School.

[1] Block Donald J Trump from UK Entry, UK Government and Parliament (June 9, 2016), https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/114003; Donald Trump UK State Visit to be Debated in Parliament, CNN.com, Jan. 31, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/31/politics/donald-trump-parliament-state-visit-debate/index.html.

[2] British Lawmakers Debate Banning Donald Trump from the UK for ‘Hate Speech’, CNN.com, Jan. 18, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/18/europe/uk-parliament-debates-trump-ban/

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] UK Speaker ‘Strongly Opposed’ to Trump Speech in House of Parliament, CNN.com, Feb. 6, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/06/politics/uk-speaker-opposes-trump-parliament-speech/.

[6] Mexicans March Against Trump: ‘Bad Hombre for the Whole World’, CNN.com, Feb. 13, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/12/americas/mexico-trump-protest/; Mexican President Cancels Meeting with Trump, CNN.com, Jan. 27, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/25/politics/mexico-president-donald-trump-enrique-pena-nieto-border-wall/.

[7] David Jackson & Donovan Slack, Trump Soft Pedals NAFTA Criticism with Canadian PM, Says Mexico the Issue,

[8] David Agren, Mexicans March to Protest Trump – But Also Their Own Leaders and Politicians, Wash. post.  (Feb. 12, 2017), https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/mexicans-march-to-protest-trump–but-also-their-own-leaders-and-politicians/2017/02/12/6cc9b29a-efcc-11e6-a100-fdaaf400369a_story.html?utm_term=.20f86df74b7a.; Mexico Protestors March Against Trump’s Immigration Policies, BBC.com, Feb. 13, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-38952359; Mexico: We Will Not Pay for Trump Border Wall, BBC.com, Jan. 26, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38753826.  

[9]  David Agren, Mexicans March, Wash. post.  (Feb. 12, 2017); Mexico Protestors March, BBC.com, Feb. 13, 2017.  

[10] Mexicans March Against Trump, CNN.com, Feb. 13, 2017.

[11]  Mexico Protestors March, BBC.com, Feb. 13, 2017.

[12] Patrick Gillespie, Mexico is Ready to hit the U.S. Where it Hurts: Corn, Money.CNN.com, Feb. 13, 2017, http://money.cnn.com/2017/02/13/news/economy/mexico-trump-us-corn/.

[13] Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Office of the President, Mexico/United States Trade Facts, https://ustr.gov/countries-regions/americas/mexico.

[14] Flynn’s Firing Raises Questions that won’t go Away, The Economist (Feb. 16, 2017), http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21717034-what-are-presidents-ties-russia-and-does-he-have-control-over-his; Major Garrett, Trump Blames Media, Intelligence Community for Flynn Firing, Brushes off Russia Concerns, CBSNews.com, Feb. 16, 2017, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-blames-media-intelligence-community-for-flynn-firing-brushes-off-russia-concerns/.

[15] Flynn’s Firing, The Economist (Feb. 16, 2017); CIA: Russia Interfered with U.S. Elections, Snopes.com, Dec. 10, 2016, http://www.snopes.com/2016/12/10/cia-russia-interfered-with-u-s-elections/; Jeremy Diamond, Russian Hacking and the 2016 Election: What you need to know, CNN.com, Dec. 16, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/12/politics/russian-hack-donald-trump-2016-election/.

[16] Flynn’s Firing, The Economist.

[17] Michael S. Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti, & Matt Apuzzo, Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts with Russian Intelligence, N.Y. Times (Feb. 14, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/14/us/politics/russia-intelligence-communications-trump.html; Erin Kelly, 5 ways Congress is Investigation Russia-Trump ties, USA Today (Feb. 17, 2017), http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2017/02/17/5-ways-congress-investigating-russia-trump-ties/98001652/.

[18] Steve Holland & Patricia Zengerle, U.S. Lawmakers push for Answers on Trump Team’s Russia ties, Reuters.com, Feb. 16, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-idUSKBN15U1IK.

[19] Christine Hauser, Trump, the Russian Ship, and Suspicious Minds, N.Y. Times (Feb. 16, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/us/politics/russian-ship-vessel-usa.html; Ryan Browne and Barbara Starr, Russian Spy Ship Lurks off Connecticut Coast, CNN.com, Feb. 16, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/15/politics/russian-spy-plane-off-connecticut-coast/.

[20] Hauser, Trump, the Russian Ship, N.Y. Times (Feb. 16, 2017).

[21] Id; Browne, Russian Spy Ship, CNN.com, Feb. 16, 2017.

[22] Tal Kopan, Trump’s Executive Orders Dramatically Expand Power of Immigration Officers, CNN.com, Jan. 28, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/28/politics/donald-trump-immigration-detention-deportations-enforcement/;

[23] Id.

[24] Julia Jacobo & Lauren Pearle, Trump’s Order may mark 11 Million Undocumented Immigrants for Deportation: Experts, ABCnews.com, Jan. 26, 2017, http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trumps-order-mark-11-million-undocumented-immigrants-deportation/story?id=45050901.

[25] Id.

[26] Karma Allen, Fearing Deportation, Undocumented Mother of four Takes Refuges in Denver Church, ABCnews.go.com, Feb. 16, 2017, http://abcnews.go.com/US/fearing-deportation-immigrant-mother-takes-refuge-denver-church/story?id=45525882; Astrid Galvan & Jacques Billeaud,  Phoenix Immigrant Mother Deported to Mexico amid Protests, Chi. Tribune (Feb. 9, 2017), http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-phoenix-immigrant-mother-deported-20170209-story.html.

[27] Max Ehrenfreund, The Potentially Severe Consequences of Trump’s Deportation Plans, N.Y. Times (Nov. 14, 2016), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/11/14/what-donald-trumps-deportation-plans-would-do-to-american-businesses/?utm_term=.70c47189722a;

[28] Under Trump Order, Immigration Agents raid ‘Target-rich’ communities in Texas, elsewhere, DallasNews.com, Feb. 11, 2017, http://www.dallasnews.com/news/immigration/2017/02/10/trump-order-immigration-agents-raid-target-rich-communities-texas-elsewhere.

[29] Oliver Laughland, Carrie Wong, & Sabrina Siddiqui, ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Endangered by Trump Order Threatening to cut Federal Funds, The Guardian, (Jan. 25, 2017), https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/25/sanctuary-cities-trump-executive-order-immigration

[30] Dan Merica, Trump Signs Executive Order to keep out ‘Radical Islamic Terrorists’, CNN.com, Jan 30., 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/27/politics/trump-plans-to-sign-executive-action-on-refugees-extreme-vetting/index.html.

[31] Id; Krishnadev Calamur, What Trump’s Executive Order of Immigration Does – and Doesn’t Do, The Atlantic Daily (Jan. 30, 2017), https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2017/01/trump-immigration-order-muslims/514844/

[32] Jared Malsin, ‘It’s Tearing FaMilies Apart.’ 6 Stories of Lives on hold due to Trump’s visa ban, Time Magazine (Feb. 2, 2017), http://time.com/4649876/donald-trump-visa-ban-executive-order-lives/.

[33] Jonah Engel Bromwich, Lawyers Mobilize at Nation’s Airports After Trump Order, N.Y. Times (Jan. 29, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/29/us/lawyers-trump-muslim-ban-immigration.html; Liam Stack, Donations to ACLU and Other Organizations Surge After Trump’s Order, N.Y. Times (Jan. 30, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/30/us/aclu-fund-raising-trump-travel-ban.html.

[34]  Michael D. Shear, Nickolas Kulish, & Alan Feuer, Judge Blocks Trump Order on Refugees amid Chaos and Outcry Worldwide, N.Y. Times (Jan. 28, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/28/us/refugees-detained-at-us-airports-prompting-legal-challenges-to-trumps-immigration-order.html.

[35] Scott Clement, Americans are more Split on the Trump Travel Ban Than You Might Think, Wash. Post (Feb. 13, 2017), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/02/13/americans-arent-rejecting-trumps-immigration-ban-outright-but-it-has-a-tough-road-ahead/?utm_term=.2784814b18e5; Richard Pérez-Peña, Trump’s Immigration Ban Draws Deep Anger and Muted Praise, N.Y. Times (Jan. 28, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/28/us/trumps-immigration-ban-disapproval-applause.html.

[36] Pérez-Peña, Trump’s Immigration Ban, N.Y. Times (Jan. 28, 2017).

[37] Id; Shear, Judge Blocks Trump Order, Wash. Post (Feb. 13, 2017).

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Where do Clinton and Trump stand on U.S. intervention?

Republican Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump speaks during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Thursday, July 21, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Republican Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump speaks during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Thursday, July 21, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

What should be the U.S. role in the world?

In the current election cycle, the debate on this vital question is especially focused on America’s military interventions — interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and hesitation in Syria — which provide some indicators for reflection. As both presidential candidates have spoken on the topic, it is essential to review their positions.

Donald Trump is usually described as a champion of non-intervention and Hillary Clinton the opposite. The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd described the candidates as “Donald the Dove, Hillary the Hawk.”

As a broad generalization, this is perceived as an accurate portrait, but the record is not so clear, especially in Trump’s case. In his March interview with The Washington Post’s editorial board, Trump questioned the need for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United States’ continued involvement in it. This he has reiterated on several occasions.

Trump suggested to The New York Times that he might withhold military assistance to defend the Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — from invasion by Russia, unless the countries under attack have fulfilled their pledge to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense. This despite the unqualified assurance in the NATO treaty that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all, and all members will come to the aid of one under attack. Just as Trump has questioned the U.S. commitment to NATO, he has also wondered about the benefits from our involvement in Asia.

Trump fervently opposes nation-building and regime change, and considers all U.S. military alliances as burdens. His prior statements show that he has supported many foreign policy decisions he now lambastes. To illustrate, in the past, he has favored intervention in Syria to create safe zones. He endorsed the ouster of Saddam Hussein and he never opposed the Iraq war until after it had begun. In 2007 and 2008, he often spoke favorably about the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, which he now calls a mistake; the same applies to Afghanistan. He also called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s removal “a good thing.” Similarly in Libya he supported the overthrow of Moammar Khadafy.

John Noonan, an adviser to Jeb Bush on national security, and dozens of Republican foreign policy experts signed onto a letter describing Trump’s policies “wildly inconsistent and unmoored.”

As to Clinton, Mark Landler wrote in The New York Times Magazine about Clinton’s “appetite for military engagement abroad,” based upon her “foreign policy instincts … grounded in cold realism about human nature.”

She is perceived as a person who believes in displays of force. Her firm support for the intervention in Libya and persistent, albeit unsuccessful, efforts within the Obama administration to provide meaningful support to the rebels in Syria at the outset of the civil war, are well known. She, too, favors safe zones there. Even after the tragic events in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, in which Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens lost his life, she stoutly defends the Libyan intervention as justified. Now that the U.S. is using airstrikes in support of the U.N.-backed central unity government in Libya, she endorses this action, as well.

No matter who is the next president, the U.S. cannot disengage from the world. Granted, there are limits to U.S. power to spread

Republican Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump speaks during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Thursday, July 21, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Republican Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump speaks during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Thursday, July 21, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

and freedom — and it is widely acknowledged that America is already spread too thin to be effective in many places. But there is no denying the fact that America must play an important role in the world and it is critical that it use military power not only in the defense of national interests, but also in concert with others when atrocity crimes — such as genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing — occur.

America must firmly support the evolving international law doctrine of every state’s responsibility to protect human lives from these crimes, no matter where they are committed.

Ved Nanda (vnanda@law.du.edu) is Thompson G. Marsh professor of international law and director of the Ved Nanda Center for International and Comparative Law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

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This article was originally posted by Ved Nanda as a Denver Post OpEd which can be found here.

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Lawsuit challenges Japan’s high standard for refugees

Fumio Kishida

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, right, visits Zaatari refugee camp near Mafraq, some 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the Syrian border. Credit to: Asian Correspondent. http://cdn.asiancorrespondent.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Mideast-Jordan-Japan_Crav_opt.jpg

In early March, four Syrian men filed a lawsuit against Japan’s Ministry of Justice, challenging the rejection of their refugee applications.  The group arrived in Japan in 2012 and applied for refugee status, citing the potential for persecution for their participation in pro-democracy protests against the Syrian government.  The Ministry rejected their refugee status in early 2013, and instead granted them each a temporary residence permit under a “humanitarian perspective.”  This type of permit allows the men to work full time and to participate in the national health care and other social programs.  But while this seems like a compromise, the permits must be renewed every year, unlike refugee certificates which are permanent; and permit holders are excluded from certain assistance programs such as language training and employment help that the government grants to certified refugees.  Perhaps the greatest disadvantage the lack of refugee status prevents for the Syrians is the difficulty, or near impossibility, it is to get their families into the country.  Their lawsuit seeks to obtain official refugee status and the full rights and protections that it provides.

Japan’s Immigration and Refugee Recognition Act explicitly refers to the 1951 Convention in its definition of “refugee” as well as in the reasons a temporary refuge may be granted at the border.  Further, the Ministry of Justice itself uses the Convention’s definition of a refugee in its guidelines for refugee status.  The Convention defines a refugee as a person who has a “well-founded fear” of persecution.  In practice, the Ministry tends to grant refugee status to those who are in danger of being “personally targeted” by their home government which, according to the lawsuit, is a higher standard than what the Convention requires.

The Convention’s language of having a “well-founded fear” is too vague on its face to offer any sort of guidance, and the term has no further definition anywhere in the Convention.  Instead, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), provides a handbook to “guide government officials, judges, practitioners, as well as UNHCR staff applying the refugee definition.”  In this handbook, the UNHCR considers the term “well-rounded fear” to have both a subjective and objective element.  Subjective in the person’s motivation for seeking the refugee status; and objective in viewing that motivation within the context of their country of origin or what brought about the motivation in the first place.  When considering whether there is a “well-founded fear”, the UNHCR places most of the weight on the subjective element while the objective element provides a context to assess the credibility of the refugee.

With this framework in mind, will the Syrian refugees’ case against the Ministry be successful?  The answer, naturally, depends most notably on the Ministry’s use of “personally persecuted” when determining refugee status.  Assuming that the terms “personally persecuted” mean that the person is being targeted by their home government and will be arrested the moment they step off the plane, it would seem that the Ministry puts more weight on the objective element of having a “well-rounded fear” instead of the subjective element as the UNHCR states.  Indeed, if a requirement for refugee status is to be a target, then this would effectively do away with the term “well-founded fear of persecution” and replace it with “actual persecution.”  Supporting this interpretation are further explanations in the UNHCR handbook.  A refugee’s fear of persecution, according to the handbook, need not be based on their own personal experiences or the fact that they have previously been persecuted.  The fear could be based on persecution of people in a similar situation, or persecution of friends or family.  The UNHCR further considers that “fear” applies both to those who have actually been persecuted and those who wish to avoid being persecuted.  The Ministry’s standard of “personally persecuted” could be found to be incompatible with 1951 Convention and the standards of the UNHCR.

Japan has been a party to the 1951 Convention since 1981 and has given no reservations or declarations to any provision.  As such, the Ministry of Justice should be bound by the provisions in the Convention and it is likely that it has applied a higher standard than is necessary.  If the lawsuit is successful, it will provide hope for the hundreds of refugee seekers who have been denied the status due to Japan’s rigid and restrictive system.

Leonard Large is a 3L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and is Candidacy Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: Germany takes center stage in diplomacy

Logo_Review2014

Credit: http://www.zif-berlin.org/fileadmin/uploads/ueber_zif/bilder/News-Bilder/Logo_Review2014.png

In order to reevaluate its foreign policy approach, Germany conducted a review (“Review 2014”) last year.  Review 2014 included multiple town hall meetings with German voters and debates among foreign policy experts around the world.  Even during Review 2014, voters’ and experts’ opinions and approaches changed.  Initially, the majority of German voters disagreed with the statement “Germany should be more engaged internationally.”  This position changed, however, as 2014 progressed.

When looking back at 2014, and the world events contained therein, it is no wonder Review 2014 transformed.  The Ebola crisis in Africa; Ukraine, Russia, and Crimea dispute; continued fighting between Israel and Hamas; the rise of ISIS; and the revival of the Euro crisis when Greece rebelled against austerity just to name of few, the Western powers were spread thin.  Germany, as France was preoccupied in Africa, the United States involved in the Middle East, and the United Kingdom taking, what some would say, a negligible stance on foreign policy, left Germany to attend to the crises occurring in Europe: Ukraine, Russia, and Crimea and the Euro and Greece.

Chancellor Angela Merkel showed her stamina in diplomacy when working to resolve these disputes.  Chancellor Merkel takes the approach that it is always better to keep talking than to fuel conflict.  Germany’s history essentially forces Germany to take this approach, however.  World War II and the politics surround the Berlin Wall are still too fresh to ignore.  Any fueling of the fire or unilateral action by Germany, automatically brings back feelings of a not so distant past.  Regardless of why Germany and Chancellor Merkel takes this approach, their persistent diplomacy and “ethical” methodology sits well with German citizens.

As a result of these events and Germany’s responses, Review 2014 led to the following goals:

These goals were posted online where Review 2014 encourages visitors to continue the conversation as Germany’s foreign policy evolves.

Review 2014 has evolved into a social platform to discuss and change Germany’s foreign policy approach.  Should other countries use a similar review process to address foreign policy or is this process unique to Germany?  Engaging citizens is never a bad idea and it would not be surprising to learn that the majority of Western citizens likely agree with the statement “speak softly and carry a big stick,” putting diplomacy before fueling a conflict.  However, other Western countries do not need to tread as lightly when making changes to foreign policy because they do not have the same recent tainted past.  Opening up discussions regarding politics to citizens using a social platform appears to be a unique way to communicate with voters, but let’s withhold any firm judgment for 18 months to see what Germany does with the goals from Review 2014.

Alicia Guber is a 3L and the Editor in Chief on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy. 

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ISIL fighters marching in Raqqa, Syria.

Uncertainty of U.S. Government Intervention over ISIS

One of the predominant issues in recent world news has been the current actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and the tensions that the U.S. and Syria now face in response to those actions.  The issue is not new, especially since the ISIS group has prospered since U.S. troops left the Syria and Iraq region in 2011, but the conflict has been escalating this year to a breaking point.  This article will explain the origins of ISIS, detail the current state of affairs in Syria and Iraq, and explain the current political struggle the U.S. has in addressing this threat, including the legal implications of taking action against the group in Syria.

As background, the Islamic State in Iraq was created by Abu Ayybu al-Masri in 2006, and was originally a part of al-Queda.  The current leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, took over control after Abu Ayyub al-Masri was killed in 2010.  The group then absorbed another militant group in Syria in 2014 and changed their name to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in April 2013.  In February 2014, al-Queda renounced all association with ISIS in due to months of infighting, and because ISIS was considered too violent. In March, ISIS started its military campaign by first taking over the Syrian city of Raqqa, and now currently controls territory in both Iraq and Syria.  ISIS continues to terrorize parts of northern and western Iraq as well as parts of Syria.

ISIL fighters marching in Raqqa, Syria.

This undated file image posted on a militant website on Jan. 14, 2014, shows fighters from the al Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria. Image Source: ABC News, AP.

One of the unique tensions with ISIS is that many of their fundamental principles go beyond those held by other Muslims.  ISIS believes that all of the Muslims in the world should live under one Islamic state which shall ruled by sharia rule.  The goal for ISIS is to create its own Islamic State in the region between west and northern Iraq and eastern Syria. Their ruthless tactics have not only created tensions with Western States and Syria’s President Assad, but have also created tensions with other al-Queda jihadists groups like the Jabhat al-Nusra group who is now clashing with ISIS, and starting to fight against ISIS to slow down their progress.

Despite efforts by Jabhat al-Nursa to slow progress, ISIS has continued to expand into Iraq and Syria.  They have recently taken Mosul, Iraq’s second most populated city, as well as an oil field in Syria.  Although the ISIS’ movement across the land is of significant concern to President al-Assad, the concern that impacts the U.S. is the mass casualties and humanitarian violations that ISIS commits every time it conquers another region.  Some of the crimes included killing captured Syrian soldiers, killing Kurds in Iraq, and recently the beheading of American journalist, James Foley, which occurred in Syria.  UNICEF estimated that the ISIS in now responsible for the displacement of up to 25,000 Yazidis and the death of 40 children.  As a result of the tensions in Iraq, the U.S. has lunched airstrikes into Iraq to slow ISIS’s progress, but have yet to launch airstrikes into Syria because of the potential political and legal repercussions.

One of issues with the U.S. potentially deciding to launch airstrikes in Syria is the potential legal ramifications.  One of the issues is that Syria may not be able to fight the ISIS on their own, because their counter-attack is based only a mutual dislike of the ISIS by certain groups, like Jabhat al-Nursa.   At this point, the U.S. does not have a stated policy on how they will proceed, but some now believe that the U.S. may choose to use force for Syria.  One of the questions for an U.S. action may be whether there is a justification for use of force under international law.   Part of the justification may be that the U.S. is using the threat to come to the aid of Iraq.  Another justification would be to either use a Security Council Resolution or receive consent from Assad to use force.              Depending on the political ramifications, the U.S. may decide to use either justification.

At this point there situation appears to be at a standstill.  President Obama appears to be weighing the potential of expanding the airstrikes into Syria.  Part of the issue would be if the U.S. decides to strike that action could be considered an act of aggression against Syria.  On the other hand, if Obama decides to work with President Assad it may be considered an act of support of Assad, something which could be difficult considering the allegations the Assad has been turning a blind eye to al-Queda fighters using Syria as a base camp for training.  Regardless of what President Obama decides, this is an issue that will continue to be prevalent in world news until resolved.  The key will be resolving the issue in manner that both protects the citizens at risk and ensures that tensions between the U.S. between Syria do not rise more than that in a manner that is legally justifiable.

Katelin Wheeler is a 4L at the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, and Business Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

 

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Critical Analysis: Mexico Claims United States Executions Violate International Law

On Wednesday, January 22, 2014, Texas executed Edgar Arias Tamayo, a Mexican citizen convicted in 1994 for murdering a police officer.  Mexican diplomats were required to be notified of his arrest under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, but the Mexican consular did not receive notification, and Mr. Tamayo was never informed of his rights under the Convention.

The Mexican government claims that the execution violated international law.  Both the Obama Administration and the Bush Administration urged Texas to reconsider and allow Mr. Tamayo and similarly situated prisoners another hearing, stating that they feared repercussions for American citizens arrested abroad.  “In the past five years, Texas has executed two other Mexicans convicted of murder who raised similar claims.”

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The ICJ has held that the U.S. violated its treaty obligations under the Vienna Convention by failing to allow Mexican citizens on death row to have access to their consulate after their arrest. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

In 2008, Jose Ernesto Medellin was executed in Texas after being convicted for the rape and murder of two teenage girls.  “Medellin’s capital appeal was an unusual one that pitted President Bush against his home state in a dispute over federal authority, local sovereignty and foreign treaties.”  Medellin was not informed of his rights under the Vienna Convention, and did not receive the chance to meet with Mexico’s consular.  President Bush demanded that Texas allow a new hearing for Medellin in light of a 2004 decision handed down by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).  The ICJ ruled that the United States had violated its treaty obligations under Article 36 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which spells out the rights of citizens detained in other countries. According to the ICJ, Medellin and 50 other Mexican citizens on death row in America were improperly denied access to their consulate after their arrest.

Medellin’s lawyers took the issue to the Supreme Court.  They argued that a bill was pending in the United States Congress that would give Medellin, and other Mexican citizens denied access to the consul, a new hearing, and, in light of the pending legislation, that the execution should be put off until the bill could be passed.  Some members of the Democratic Party “urged Texas Gov., Rick Perry, a Republican, to postpone executions ‘in order to provide Congress with the time needed to consider this situation.'”

However, the United States Supreme Court ruled that President Bush did not have the power to order Texas to give Medellin a new hearing.  The Court stated that the ICJ’s judgments could not be forced on individual states, and that the President did not have the authority to “establish binding rules of decision that pre-empt contrary state law.

Again, in 2011, another Mexican citizen, Humberto Leal Garcia Jr., who was denied access to the Mexican consulate after his arrest, was executed. The Obama Administration urged Texas to delay the execution citing United States foreign policy interests.  The United States Supreme Court refused to delay the execution, based on Garcia’s argument that legislation was pending that would allow federal courts to review cases such as Garcia’s.  Commenting on Congress’s lack of action on the issue, the Supreme Court reasoned “It has now been seven years since the ICJ ruling and three years since our decision in Medellín I … If a statute implementing [the ICJ decision] had genuinely been a priority for the political branches, it would have been enacted by now.”  Although four dissenting Justices agreed with the Solicitor General’s argument that Garcia’s execution “would place the United States in irreparable breach” of international law, Garcia was executed.

Congress has been on notice since 2008 that the Supreme Court will not intervene on behalf of foreign nationals denied their rights under the Vienna Convention until Congress enacts appropriate legislation. As evidenced by the execution of Edgar Tamayo Arias on Wednesday, January 22, 2014, Congress has yet to act in this urgent issue.  Meanwhile, the United States remains in violation of its international treaty obligations.  Congress should act quickly and with urgency to allow the United States to uphold its obligations under the Vienna Convention.

Lisa Browning is a 3L and the Training Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy. 

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Critical Analysis: Domestic Proposals for Prohibiting Fracking in a Global Perspective

Residents in Fort Collins and Broomfield, two cities in Colorado, will vote in November on whether to place 5-year moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” within city limits. Groups in both cities want to prevent fracking operations in order to allow more time for scientists to gather information on the effects fracking has on public health and the environment. The efforts of the groups in these cities reflect a greater trend in small towns across America to limit fracking operations in their municipalities. The potential environmental concerns are the largest motivation behind this trend, but it is also imperative to consider what the effects of banning fracking will mean in a global context.

fracking-oil-pump-embed

Fracking has been a divisive issue within the U.S.

Fracking is the procedure by which a combination of liquids and chemicals are pumped into a well until extreme pressures fracture the rock around the well. The fractures then act as conduits for oil and gas to collect and to be pumped back up the well to the surface. This method, combined with horizontal drilling, has permitted U.S. companies to extract oil and natural gas from what one reporter has called “otherwise unproductive” oil and natural gas wells.

The increased use of fracking in America has created a recent energy boom. According to a recent study, U.S. natural gas reserves have increased by 58% since 2007. A report in the Wall Street Journal stated that the “U.S. has inventories of crude oil and refined products, including the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to cover 269 days of net imports, based on a rolling 12-month average.” The fracking processes that resulted in such surplus reserves have been linked to adding “more than $1,200 last year to the discretionary income of the average U.S. family.”

Although increased fracking has created many benefits, fracking has also been under intense criticism. Fracking has the potential to pose dangers to both human and environmental safety, earning the title of “one of the most destructive energy processes practiced today,” according to the Global Exchange. Further, the water used in fracking has the potential to intermingle with drinking water, which is especially alarming because the chemical compounds used in fracking have been cited as including chemicals known to cause cancer. Fracking also poses environmental concerns regarding the amount of water used, the potential for the release of pollutants, and as causing human-induced seismic activity. Anti-fracking groups also point to incidental environmental concerns from fracking, including the environmental damage necessary to reach the drill site and the storage of wastes generated from the fracking process, as reasons for prohibiting fracking.

Fracking and American Foreign Policy

From a domestic US foreign policy perspective, the view on the use of fracking is largely optimistic. The most readily apparent benefit from the fracking energy boom is that America will be less dependent on oil imports from the Middle East. Less reliance on oil from the Middle East has the potential to mitigate the effects that turmoil in the Middle East will have on oil supplies and rises in prices. Loren Stephy, writing for Forbes, states that increased output of American oil and natural gas from fracking “will provide a shield from the sorts of supply disruptions that could result from an attack on Syria.” Further, according to Keith Smith, writing for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, American allies in Europe are “clearly benefiting significantly from the U.S. gas glut.” The U.S. has been able to export natural gas to its European allies as a result from increases in domestic fracking usage. Natural gas exports to Europe translate into less reliance on imports into Europe from Russia, which has long used its natural gas exports to influence and pressure European nations.

While increased domestic fracking is seen as a benefit in terms of U.S. foreign policy, the optimistic view of less reliance on Middle Eastern oil and increased security of U.S. European allies relies on the assumption that the current levels of oil and gas output of fracking will continue unabated. As Business Insider writer Rob Wile notes, there is no consensus on how long the current fracking boom will continue to last. Although Wile’s study ultimately concludes that the energy boom will continue for some time, the fact there are differing opinions on the duration of the energy boom highlights the uncertainty inherent to projections of future domestic oil and gas output. As a result, the optimistic view of the potential gains wrought from increased domestic fracking in terms of foreign policy must be tempered by the potential for the current energy boom to bust.

International Reaction to Increased Fracking in the U.S.

America’s energy boom has also drawn positive reactions from nations around the world. Just as the U.S. views exporting natural gas into Europe as a benefit from its foreign policy perspective, that view is shared by European nations who are eager to be less reliant on Russian natural gas. Many countries view the U.S. energy boom as mitigating the dangers associated with nuclear energy. In light of the disaster at Fukushima, many nations are reconsidering their nuclear energy programs, with France seeking to reduce nuclear power to 50% by 2025 and Germany striving to eliminate their nuclear energy reactors by 2022. Countries seeking to reduce their nuclear energy programs are viewing the U.S. energy boom as the means to achieve nuclear-free energy programs.

While some nations are viewing the U.S. energy boom with enthusiasm, other nations are less receptive. With America becoming more self-sufficient in terms of its energy needs, OPEC nations are faced with the potential of losing the influence their oil-rich nations are able to wield in international politics. Saudi Arabia is particularly threatened by the American energy boom not only because oil exports to the U.S. have been reduced, but also by the prospect of the export of U.S. fracking technology to nations like India and China who are eager to lower their own dependence on oil from the Middle East. Further, the fracking process itself is under attack, having been banned outright in nations like France and Bulgaria, which may serve as a source of tension between the U.S. and other nations in discussions on the environment.

Conclusion

Myopically focusing on local concerns fails to account for the larger geopolitical context of the use of fracking. When voters in Broomfield and Fort Collins, and in numerous other small towns across America, enter the ballot booth in November to decide whether to impose a moratorium on fracking, their decisions have an international dimension. Voters are not only deciding whether or not to permit fracking, they are also determining possible reassessments of American foreign policy and alterations in the relationships America has maintained with the rest of the world. The fracking decisions, properly considered in their global context, may very well have ripple effects far beyond the city limits of Fort Collins and Broomfield, and the potential consequences of these decisions must be considered before voters determine whether to prohibit fracking.

Greg Henning is a 3L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Senator Gary Hart

Sen. Gary Hart Wants a New “Grand Strategy” for the U.S.

Senator Gary Hart

Senator Gary Hart

On Saturday, November 5th former United States Senator Gary Hart spoke at the 44th Annual Sutton Colloquium in International Law.  Hart’s talk, entitled “Strategy, Collective Security, and the Global Commons” focused on the need for a new “grand strategy” in tackling U.S. foreign security threats and global economic concerns.

Hart began by painting the scene in history: the Cold War ended over 20 years ago, yet NATO has yet to define a twenty-first century mission. Hart said that during the Cold War, it was sufficient for the U.S. policy maker to “merely react” to foreign events as they arose, taking protectionist measures such as tightening borders.  But in the last decade, the United States has been met with a wave of new realities that call for a major reformation of national security policy.

These “new realities” are both military an economic.  First, nation-state wars are in decline.  The events of September 11, 2001 forced the U.S. military to recognize non-state actors and engage in irregular, unconventional warfare.  Second, the economy of the United States has fundamentally changed over the past decade.  Hart pointed out that information has replaced manufacturing as the economic base of the nation.  “Globalization and information are eroding the sovereignty of nation states,“ he said.

In light of these new economic and military realities, Hart said that a unilateral approach to foreign security and international economic interests is “no longer possible.” He emphasized that new global threats cannot be adequately addressed by one military or one nation alone.   In crafting a new grand strategy on national security and foreign relations, Hart provided three guiding principles: (1) economic innovation, (2) networked sovereignty, and (3) integrated security.

First, Hart discussed a need for investing public funds and private capital in science, research, and education.  He said that the U.S. will only be able maintain its global position over time through creativity and economic innovation, and that such measures cannot be financed with borrowed money.

Second, Hart discussed the idea of networked sovereignty, emphasizing the need to work with other nations to identify and fight common threats before those threats become toxic.  He suggested networking public health services through common databases to quarantine viral pandemics, and working with other countries to create an enforcement mechanism for an international treaty on green house gas reduction.

Finally, Hart discussed the creation of an integrated security network through which member states could work together to confine local conflicts.  To exemplify how an integrated security network could operate, Hart discussed the creation of a zone of international interest in the Persian Gulf, where importing nations could work together to suppress conflict in the region and ensure a continuous supply of oil.

Despite the optimistic message of the talk, audience members expressed concern at Hart’s lack of specifics. Amid the recession and national debt crisis, investment in research and education seems unlikely and impractical.  It also seems unlikely that Department of Defense, faced with massive budget cuts, is capable of spearheading the development of the globally networked security programs Hart so adamantly discussed.  Hart admitted that he didn’t have all the answers but said that the U.S. needs to keep “trying new things” until it makes affirmative progress on these issues.

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Barack Obama & the Arab Spring

Long-Term International and US Foreign Policy Implications of the Arab Spring

Panalists Dr. Paul Williams, a Professor at American University, Lt. Col. Rachel VanLandingham of the United States Air Force, and Dr. Robert Hazan, a Professor at Metropolitan State College of Denver discussed the international and U.S. policy implications of the Arab Spring in a late afternoon panel of the Sutton Colloquium.  Dr. Williams started off the discussion with remarks about the U.N Security Council Resolution 1973 (“Resolution 1973”) that allowed for a no-fly zone over Lybia and authorized all necessary measures to protect civilians.  Dr. Williams compared Resolution 1973 to previous unsatisfactory action taken in Bosnia, Darfur and Rwanda.  Unlike previous humanitarian intervention efforts, Resolution 1973 could serve as a clear legal blueprint for future humanitarian intervention.

Barack Obama & the Arab Spring

Barack Obama & the Arab Spring

Lt. Col. VanLandingham noted that Resolution 1973 strengthened the view that abuses in one country can affect global security and underscored the willingness of states to intervene to protect civilians.  She also stated that although Resolution 1973 was not a “reigning vindication” of the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine (“R2P”), it brought the doctrine closer to a binding legal norm.  Dr. Hazan stressed the importance of the U.S. and other like-minded nations being part of the humanitarian movement.  However, he also cautioned that now is the time for states to engage in active discussions regard humanitarian intervention.  Given the current state of the global economy states may find it more difficult to provide humanitarian aid in the future.

This cautionary language begs the question: how should a state balance the needs of its own citizens with the Responsibility to Protect and humanitarian aid and intervention.  As mentioned by Dr. Hazan, as the economic state of the Eurozone worsens and the U.S. economy continues in its state of instability, international humanitarian aid may take a backseat to domestic concerns.  By way of example, several U.S. polls found that a majority of Americans favor cutting foreign aid over other spending cuts.  It should be noted, however, that the percentage of the budget that is spent on foreign aid is miniscule in comparison to the expenditures such as healthcare and defense.

Resolution 1973 arguably brought R2P closer to a binding legal norm, however, R2P is a narrow doctrine limited to mass atrocities and implemented multi-laterally, i.e. via a Security Council Resolution.  In its international sense, R2P focuses on the responsibility of States to halt and prevent “mass atrocity crimes” (war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity).  If the situation in a state does not rise to the level of a mass atrocity, assisting States may not be as likely to intervene absent a Security Council Resolution or other political pressure.  States, however, should be cautious about withholding humanitarian aid in light of the notion that, as noted by Lt. Col. VanLandingham, abuses in one country can certainly impact global security.  Regardless of whether a state’s citizens are put in immediate danger, it should not sit idly by while abuses are committed in a foreign state.

Resolution 1973 can hopefully serve as a blueprint for future action.  As President Obama stated, “working in Libya with friends and allies, we`ve demonstrated what collective action can achieve in the 21st century.” A brutal dictator was removed from power without putting any U.S. troops on the ground.  Resolution 1973 should serve as a model for future intervention, however, the international community should be weary that humanitarian intervention could be undermined by political pressure to deal first with domestic concerns.

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