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Law

In light of last month’s VI Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, it seems obvious and commendable that the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, would call on the leaders of the region Friday to help coordinate the fight against transnational organised crime. The threat is, he claimed, the “main challenge to security in our hemisphere.” Insulza’s call comes on the heels of the adoption in Cartagena of Mexico’s proposal to create an Inter-American Centre for Coordination against Transnational Organised Crime. It is clear that dealers in drugs, arms and human trafficking (these items increasingly the wares of the same criminal merchants) do not limit their activities to the confines of national borders.  And …

After a long and expensive trial, the Special Court for Sierra Leone will finally give its verdict on whether former Liberian president Charles Taylor is guilty or innocent of war crimes and crimes against humanity. While there is little doubt Taylor commanded militias that were responsible for some horrific acts of violence in his home country, Liberia, today’s judgment will consider the extent to which he should be held responsible for ordering and condoning various war crimes (including murder, sexual violence, and enslavement) committed in neighbouring Sierra Leone. Amongst Western governments and their publics, there is widespread agreement that prosecuting Taylor has been the right and proper thing to do. The West considers the Special Court of Sierra Leone as …

The majority of today’s nation states have adopted largely restrictive asylum policies whereby not everyone with a ‘well-founded fear of prosecution’ and on sturdy legal grounds are granted asylum. As a result, there is a trend towards privileging asylum seekers with ‘exceptional’ claims, something that scholars see as problematic. This post discusses these problems and the counter-productive nature of an asylum system where ‘exceptionalism’ is privileged. Within restrictive asylum systems, specific narratives are often required of asylum seekers to ensure a successful claim. To this end, asylum seekers often adapt or embellish their claims to fit the specific criteria.  This was revealed in The New Yorker’s story on Caroline, a young African immigrant without papers who was applying for asylum …

A Conversation with Rakim Brooks Background: On February 26, 2012, 17 year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed as he was walking home to his father’s house in a community in Sanford, Florida. Unarmed, Martin was seen carrying an iced tea and a bag of Skittles candy, when 28 year-old George Zimmerman opened fire on the boy, resulting in his death. Until yesterday, under the auspices of self defence and through the protection of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, Zimmerman had not been arrested for a crime that the civil rights community insists was motivated by racial prejudice.  Public outrage regarding the handling of the incident (no doubt including the decision not to arrest Zimmerman) resulted in the resignation of …

The web is rightly abuzz with analysis of the Supreme Court’s impending consideration of the US Affordable Care Act, usually known as Obama’s health care bill. Today is the second day of oral arguments. Of the many interesting aspects of the case, the role of precedent stands out. Implicit in much of the discussion on which precedents the Court will follow is that precedent actually matters.  I think it does; others think not.  We shall see. The broader discussion is over whether the Court will be willing to strike such a major law on a weak legal case. The legal issue is whether the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution — 16 words that grant Congress the authority to regulate ‘commerce …