Tag Archive | "France"

Critical Analysis: The Resurgence of the Modern Baby Box

Baby hatches (also called baby boxes) are not an entirely modern concept, as their use can be traced back to medieval times.  Their purpose has also largely remained the same: to allow a mother to anonymously leave the child in a safe and protected place, the baby box, when she feels she is not capable of providing for the child.  The child’s father or other family members can utilize the baby box as well.  Whether the mother is leaving the baby at a local hospital, church, or charity, mothers do so for different reasons, be it to avoid having an abortion or female infanticide (in some countries), or to leave an illegitimate or disfigured child in the care of others.  However, the resurgence of the baby box in numerous countries throughout Europe and Asia has spurred a hotly contested debate between the desire of the mother to leave the baby anonymously and the right of the child to discover the identity of his or her parents, a conflict that may never be resolved.

This is a baby hatch fixed in a wall near a hospital in Berlin, Germany. Image Source: AP

This is a baby hatch fixed in a wall near a hospital in Berlin, Germany. Image Source: AP

In Germany, there are nearly 100 baby boxes in existence.  Generally, the baby is cared for by the providers of the baby box before going through Germany’s legal system for adoption.  In some instances, a mother has the opportunity to return to the site where she left her baby and reclaim him or her within a certain time period.  After a set time, however, the mother cannot return to reclaim the baby and the adoption will be final.  However, the entire operation of baby boxes in Germany is at odds with the country’s laws.

Abandoning a baby is illegal in Germany, and the country’s Constitution provides its citizens with the right to know who their parents are and gives fathers a right to help raise their children.  So allowing the continued operation of the baby boxes falls within a legally gray zone, one that strongly nods towards the social policy that is the foundation of its existence.  Supporters of the baby boxes view them as a last hope for women who are unable to shoulder the burden of taking care of their baby.  Those in opposition believe that baby boxes send the wrong message to society that women can hide their pregnancies and then abandon their babies.  For now, Germany appears to be allowing the operation of the baby boxes despite strong criticism against their existence.

In France, the law gives women the right to have an anonymous birth and a right for their identity be kept secret from their child if they so desire.  The European Court of Human Rights upheld the law in 2003, stating it does not violate the European Convention on Human Rights.  However, the operation of baby boxes in France, Germany, and other countries clashes with the right of a child to know or preserve his or her identity, which is guaranteed in Article 8 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Article 7 also gives a child the right, as far as possible, to know and be cared for by his or her parents.  If a country allows a mother to legally leave her child in a baby box, the child will never know the identity of his or her parents let alone be given the opportunity to be cared for by them.

The continuing conflict between the mother’s desire and (in some countries) right to give birth anonymously and the child’s right to know and be cared for by his or her parents is prevalent in not only Europe but other corners of the world as well.  Whether or not governments will continue to allow the operation of baby boxes in the midst of a debate with no clear right or wrong answer is yet to be determined.

Laura Brodie is a 2L and a Staff Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

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Critical Analysis: Central African Republic Sees International Intervention

On December 5th, the UN Security Council unanimously authorized the deployment of French troops and the African Union Mission in Central Africa (MISCA) with the hopes of stemming the sectarian violence that is plaguing the Central African Republic.  On the 9th, the 1,600 French troops will attempt to begin disarming the fighting groups and restore order.  French Defense Minister is quoted saying that “first we’ll ask nicely, and if they don’t react, we’ll do it by force.” The Security Council also made it clear that the UN should be prepared to further bolster efforts in the CAR.  Provisions included requests that the Secretary-General undertake contingency preparations for the transformation of MISCA into a peacekeeping operation within three months.

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French troops will begin efforts to restore order to the Central African Republic caused by violent Seleka rebel fighters. Image: AFP

In March of 2013, the existing government was ousted by the Seleka rebels when they seized the capital and leadership.  Since that time attacks on Christians and those loyal to the former Bozize regime by the predominantly Muslim Seleka forces have increased in number.  In response, self-defense groups known as “anti-balaka” have formed and perpetrated retaliatory violence.  Consequently, an environment of fear prevails throughout the CAR and the populace is divided along religious lines.  In the day preceding the passage of the UNSC resolution, more than 100 were killed in the capital of Bangui alone.  According to the Red Cross, an additional 394 were killed on the following Sunday.

Atrocities committed by both sides of the conflict rise to the level of war crimes according to investigators from the UN and Human Rights Watch. The problems confronted by the Central African Republic are compounded by the absence of stability and central governance.  The African Union Mission MISCA and the potential for an expanded UN peacekeeping mission are directed at building local capacity.  The United States has made a $40 million dollar financial contribution to MISCA because of this concern specifically as seen in a statement from US Secretary of State John Kerry, “The United States sees no evidence that the CAR transitional government has the capacity or political will to end the violence, especially the abuses committed by elements of the Seleka rebel alliance that are affiliated with the government.”

The coming weeks and possibly months will demonstrate whether the French forces can help bring stability to the CAR.  Some of the problems confronted by peacekeepers will be dealing with the religious tensions, the potential for trafficking in conflict minerals, and trying to neutralize largely de-centralized fighting forces.  The UNSC asked that all States take measures to prevent the sale or transfer of weapons, supplies, and funding to fighting groups in the CAR.  Regardless of what manifests in the future for the Central African Republic, a clear international mandate has been expressed with the hopes of restoring order, stopping the ongoing violence, and preventing future conflicts.

Jordan Edmondson is a 2L and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: Same-Sex Marriage Globally – Where Does the U.S. Stand?

The Netherlands became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in December 2000. (The Pew Forum)

The Netherlands became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in December 2000. (The Pew Forum)

This month, France’s and Britain’s Parliaments are voting on same-sex marriage laws that will re-define the institution of marriage. France’s Socialist party voted to define marriage as an agreement between two people of the same or opposite sex. Although the proposed laws are currently met with opposition from many conservative parties, both countries are poised to legally recognize same-sex marriage, with the French National Assembly expecting to pass the measure on Febraury 12th.  Britain is expected to follow the footsteps of France shortly thereafter, as evidenced by overwhelming support for the measure from the British House of Commons during a February 5th vote. The world-wide attention surrounding this hot-button issue emphasizes the building anticipation for the United States Supreme Court’s hearing of Hollingsworth v. Perry and U.S v. Windsor, both controversial same-sex marriage cases scheduled for oral argument in late March.

In 2001, The Netherlands became the first country in the world to legally recognize same-sex marriage, gaining tremendous support from the Dutch Parliament in a 107-33 vote. Several countries followed suit shortly after, including Belgium, Spain, Canada, Sweden, South Africa and Norway. To date, around a dozen countries legally support same-sex marriage. Most recently, last June, Denmark supported a gender neutral bill allowing gay marriages through church weddings or civil registry; although, Denmark was the first nation to legalize same-sex unions in 1989. Nepal is also on course to legalize same-sex marriage.

While many nations still do not permit same-sex individuals to marry, and some still even criminalize same-sex relations, there is a mounting trend globally towards ending marriage inequality. Evan Wolfson, Founder and President of Freedom to Marry, stated: “With France, England and Wales poised to become the next countries to embrace the freedom to marry, it’s clear that the momentum we see here in the United States for ending marriage discrimination is, in fact, a global movement toward greater freedom.” Furthermore, the United Sates “cannot afford to fall behind its closest allies and trade partners in this global economy.”

President Obama’s statements last May supporting gay marriage, in which he recognized “the fact that – for a lot of people – the word marriage is something that provokes very powerful traditions and religious beliefs, ” had hugely significant political effects. President Obama reinforced his position by becoming the first President to address gay marriage rights in his inauguration speech. While some states have passed freedom to marry laws, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in the upcoming cases, which address both the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s same-sex marriage ban, will shed light on the momentum of gay marriage rights at the federal level.

The global landscape of marriage equality has gradually shifted since the beginning of the 21st Century. With the anticipated addition of both France and Britain to the ranks of those countries that legally support gay marriage, more pressure is placed on United States to end marriage discrimination.

            Lydia Rice is a 2L and a Staff Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

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Critical Analysis: French President Visits Mali as French Troops Battle Islamist Militants

Armed Islamist fighters race near the Mauritania-Mali border on May 21st. (Magharebia)

Armed Islamist fighters race near the Mauritania-Mali border on May 21st. (Magharebia)

On February 2nd, French President Francois Hollande visited Mali, where French forces have been battling Islamist militants.  “We are serving a cause defined within the United Nations’ framework … to bring the entire Malian territory under the legitimate authority of the Malian president and then the leaders who will be elected by the Malians,” stated Hollande.  Mali, a former colony of France, requested French assistance as Islamist militants seized Konna on January 10.  After a military coup, Islamic extremists took over much of Northern Mali last year.  With France’s assistance, the key cities of Konna, Timbuktu, and Gao are now back under Malian control. 

Mali achieved independence from France in 1960, and after years of being ruled by military dictators, the country held democratic elections in 1992.  In 2012, however, Malian soldiers led a coup and overthrew the democratically elected leader, resulting in a power vacuum that allowed militant Islamist groups to seize control of northern Mali.  The Islamists had joined forces with the Tuaregs, a historically oppressed nomadic group from Northern Mali.  In 2012, as the Islamists pushed south, France responded to the pleas for assistance from the Malian Government, and has since reclaimed many seized cities.

The Islamists established strict Sharia law as they seized cities from the North and began pushing their way South, threatening Mali’s capital city, Bamako. Human rights groups claim that floggings, rapes, killings, and other torture are rampant in these areas.  Mali Minister of Justice Malick Coulibaly referred the situation to the International Criminal Court, and “the ICC Prosecutor has responded to the referral by announcing that her office will conduct a preliminary examination to determine whether an investigation should be opened.”

The militant Islamists in Northern Mali are allegedly the same group responsible for the recent hostage crisis in Algeria, which resulted in the deaths of twenty-three hostages and at least one American.  Mokhtar Belmokhtar , a militant who has sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the crisis.  The Islamist group operating in Northern Mali, Ansar Dine, is backed by AQIM, and some believe that the hostage crisis in Algeria was fueled by France’s intervention in Mali.

Although the United States is increasing its involvement in Mali, U.S. policy prohibits direct financial assistance to the Malian Government because the current Government is in place as a result of a military coup.  However, the U.S. Air Force “has flown at least seven C-17 cargo missions into Mali, carrying 200 passengers, mainly French troops, and 168 tons of equipment,” according to Pentagon spokesman Major Robert Firman.  The United States’ increased assistance is considered legal because France notified the United Nations Security Council “that its mission in Mali is being offered at the request of the African country’s government, which is fighting ‘terrorist elements,’” claims Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. James Gregory.

Lisa Browning is a 2LE at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor on the DJILP. 

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Critical Analysis: Mali’s Plea for Help Results in French Troops

Group 11 Blog Post(2)

Fighters of the Islamic group Ansar Dine standing guard at Kidal airport in northern Mali. (CNN)

After a plea from Mali’s interim president, Dioncounda Traoré, French troops were sent in last Thursday to help combat an Islamic group, closely associated with Al Qaeda, that has taken over parts of Northern Mali. The group has instituted Shariah Law in the region, dealing out harsh punishments such as hand and feet amputations, whippings, and even in one reported case, the stoning of a couple who was accused of having children out of wedlock. The police chief cut off his own brother’s hand as his brother was strapped to a chair, stating “[w]e had no choice but to practice the justice of God.” Despite international threats and the United Nations Security Council approval to initiate a military campaign to drive out the group, these rebels seem undeterred.

Mali, originally a French territory, gained its independence in 1960 and held its first democratic election in 1992. The country, however, has faced turmoil over the years resulting in government coups. The Islamic extremist are just the last in a line of those who have gained power, taking over two –thirds of northern Mali last year.

The U.N.-approved plan originally involved a retrained Mali army, backed by African troops from the Economic Community of West African states, entering the region and retaking the area. The European Union was to help train the troops and France was to serve as a guide, with the United States providing intelligence and airborne reconnaissance. The plan, however, has been slow to commence. France was never intended to be involved in the actual fighting, but the situation seems to have changed. The French president took sudden action by sending in troops on Thursday. The action was meant to be a “sudden blow” to the rebels and a short-lived involvement. Instead, it has turned into a “drawn-out military and diplomatic operation.” When asked about France’s unexpected involvement, a French official stated that the alternative is “another Somalia.”

The African countries that committed troops are finding it difficult to get their operations off the ground. Many believe that France’s action will stimulate the slow process and force European and African countries to move at a faster pace. However, others are asking why France took such action in the first place.

Despite some criticism, the entire African region supports the involvement along with various European countries. David Cameron, Prime Minster of the United Kingdom, stated on Friday that “those who believe that there is a terrorist, extremist Al Qaeda problem in parts of North Africa, but that it is a problem for those places and we can somehow back off and ignore it, are profoundly wrong.”

Lina Jasinskaite is a 3L at the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law and a staff editor at the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: A Fiscal Cliff Leading to Where?

Midnight, January first marks the twilight hour for Americans who have been holding their breath before taking the plunge that is the fiscal cliff. This cliff was meant to serve as a deterrent for Republicans and Democrats to reach a mutual compromise and avoid immediate spending cuts and tax hikes. However, both sides refused to work together until New Year’s Day when they were finally able to pass legislation with a House vote of 257 in favor and 167 against. This legislation responded to concerns about tax hike but delayed talks on spending cuts for another two months. In his White House remarks following the Bill’s passage, President Barack Obama was happy to announce that he “will sign a law that raises the taxes on the wealthiest of Americans . . . while preventing a middle-class tax hike.” But, with an increased tax rate on individuals who earn over $400,000 and households that bring in over $450,000, where do these increases end?

And you thought your taxes were high.(Telegraph)

And you thought your taxes were high.
(Telegraph)

In France, President Francois Hollande’s – at least temporary – solution to his country’s budget problem is also to tax the wealthiest French, like Obama is doing in the United States. Hollande’s proposal is to hike up taxes to a staggering 75% for those who make over €1 million and a comparatively small, yet still startling number of 45% for those who make over €150,000. However, despite these seemingly outrageous increases, this plan is only expected to save around €30billion, which would only lower the French deficit from 4.5% of national output this year to 3% next year.  Not to mention that this plan is only predicted to raise around €500 million: a modest sum for such a shocking tax. And like the United States, France is also crippled by record unemployment and fears of economic stagnation. People are worried that the French government’s harsh tax rates will block innovation and force the super wealthy to move elsewhere.

On December 29, 2012, the French President’s 75% tax rate was struck down as unconstitutional. Mr. Hollande himself even acknowledged that the “75 percent rate was always a symbolic political gesture,” as it was set to expire in a few years and as currently written would only affect a few thousand taxpayers. Additionally, the estimated modest tax revenues were not expected to solve any of France’s major monetary problems, and would act as “little more than a bucket of water in France’s deficit sea,” which reached around €85 billion this year alone. The tax was ruled unconstitutional because it “applied unevenly to different households with the same combined income.” For example, a household with a combined income of €1.7 million would be exempt from the tax so long as no one individual made over €1 million. Once an individual earns over the €1 million benchmark, the entire household is taxed 75% on their combined income. Building on concerns that the tax would force wealthy French citizens to leave the country in pursuit of a new home country that would not so severely tax their earnings, estimates have come out reporting that at least 5,000 wealthy citizens would plan on leaving France if the tax was passed. Award winning French actor Gérard Depardieu is rumored to be one of those packing his bags Belgium, where the maximum tax rate is only 50% of income. But for now, the 75% tax hike is invalidated but the 45% tax rate for those making over €150,000 remains in play.

Even after the invalidation of his high tax plan, the French Socialist President remains adamant about keeping the spirit of the tax alive and maintains that France “will still ask more of those who have the most.” One political consultant observed that “[g]iving up the 75 percent tax without a fight would be an admission of weakness.” However, others remain skeptical of the tax and argue that going forward with Hollande’s plan, even in a modified form, would amount “to turning France into Cuba without the sunshine.” It seems that Hollande, like Obama, metaphorically remains between a rock and a hard place when it comes to taxes and the right path to take moving forward.

After reaching a compromise to temporarily stall the fall over the fiscal cliff, Americans are left wondering where they are to go from here? Is a super high tax increase, like the one in France, in their future? Or is there a better path to take? For now, the answer remains unclear. But one thing is for certain: Americans and the French must both be able to repay their current debts to the international community. Constantly increasing tax rates on the wealthy, however, creates disincentives for people to work hard. And people working hard to earn more and therefore spend more money would add to overall revenue in the future. If simply raising taxes every few years continues to be the trend, citizens might start evading taxes, like in Italy, or decide to work significantly less and force other people to pick up the slack. While one can certainly argue the merits of raising taxes in certain instances, it becomes harder during economic recessions. This disheartening future, where people work less and get paid less, would certainly prove disastrous for governments if tax evasion becomes a desirable alternative for citizens. For now, both the Americans and the French need to keep their eyes to the future and not confuse short-term gains with long-term sustainable reform.

Mara Essick is a 2L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor on the Denver Journal of International and Policy.

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