The Peace Palace building
The Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, seat of the International Court of Justice | Photo: ICJ, wikimedia commons | Public Domain

Chemical Attacks under the Convention against Torture: A New Possible Avenue?

On the 8th of June 2023, Canada and the Netherlands initiated proceedings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Syria for violating the Convention against Torture (CAT) by inter alia using chemical weapons against the civilian population. This would be the first time ever that the ICJ  had the opportunity to deal with chemical weapons in contentious proceedings. This blog post will briefly summarize the most pertinent legal questions and political implications that arise in the context of the ICJ proceedings. It will be demonstrated that the prohibition of chemical weapons is not based on a single legal framework. Rather, we need to look at the chemical weapons taboo comprehensively and from a perspective of multi-normativity.


Two penguins at the shore with a ship in the background and a boat that has people with orange jackets on it.
Danco Island, Antarctica: The small island is a landing spot for tourists and home to a Gentoo penguin colony. | Photo: Derek Oyen via Unsplash

Is Antarctica Still Exceptional? The Case for “Co-opetition” at the South Pole

Antarctic diplomacy has famously shielded the continent of peace, science, and environmental protection from outside conflict and war. This “exceptionalism” is now being tested by Russia’s war against Ukraine and the belief that international strategic competition between great powers is spilling over into the Antarctic. In order to keep the Antarctic exceptional, however, it would be wise to refocus on what has made Antarctic diplomacy so successful in the first place: cooperation in order to compete, or “co-opetition.”


International Criminal Court Building in The Hague
Es bleibt abzuwarten, wie die Mitgliedsstaaten mit dem Haftbefehl verfahren werden. | Photo: OSeveno via wikimedia commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Der Haftbefehl des Internationalen Strafgerichtshofs gegen Putin – Eine völkerrechtliche Einordnung

Am 17. März 2023 hat der Internationale Strafgerichtshof (IStGH) Haftbefehle gegen Vladimir Putin und eine Präsidialbeamtin erlassen. Diese Entscheidung hat große Teile der Fachwelt überrascht und wirft einige Fragen auf: Auf welcher Basis kann der IStGH Putin verfolgen? Was wird ihm und der Präsidialbeamtin vorgeworfen? Ist er als amtierender Präsident vor Verfolgung besonders geschützt? Welche Staaten sind verpflichtet, den Haftbefehl umzusetzen? Was sind die politischen Folgen für Putin, das Gericht und das Völkerrecht? Der Blogbeitrag geht auf diese Fragen vor allem aus völkerrechtlicher Sicht ein.


Russian Ambassador sits at the Security Council, holding a printed page with images up in the air.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia speaks at Security Council meeting in New York, accusing Ukraine of developing biological weapons under the tutelage of the United States. | Photo: © picture alliance / Pacific Press | Lev Radin

Muddying the Waters: Official Russian Disinformation on Chemical and Biologial Weapons

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, chemical and biological weapons have once again attracted international attention due to disinformation efforts on the part of Russian officials. International forums which oversee the ban on these weapons are being used to accuse Ukraine and its allies of violating their legal obligations. Many of Russia’s accusations regarding chemical weapons resemble the patterns of deception observed in the past, while disinformation on biological weapons is displaying somewhat novel characteristics. Yet, there are tangible ways of counteracting such disinformation, thereby protecting the ban on chemical and biological weapons.


Night-time view of the Palais de Nations in Geneva
The conference outcome shows that some form of multilateral disarmament is possible even under dire circumstances. Photo: Una Jakob

The 9th Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention

From November 28 to December 16, 2022, the States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) met in Geneva for the 9th Review Conference. Their task was to review the operation of the BWC and to negotiate a new programme of work for the next five years. Even though the conference took place in a tense geopolitical climate, States Parties agreed some useful measures, such as a new intersessional working group that will address a range of topics including compliance with and verification of the BWC. Despite some shortcomings, the conference outcome represents an achievement considering the current international security and arms control realities.


Der ukrainische Präsident Zelenskyy vor einem großen Bildschirm, auf dem eine Videokonferenz mit dem UN-Sicherheitsrat zu sehen ist.
Präsident Zelenskyy spricht nach russischen Raketenangriffen zum UN-Sicherheitsrat. | Photo: President of Ukraine via flickr | CC0 1.0

Der Ukraine-Krieg und das Völkerrecht. Ist das Gewaltverbot nun endgültig tot?

Der Einmarsch Russlands in die Ukraine erschüttert erneut das Vertrauen in das Völkerrecht: Er stellt einen besonders schwerwiegenden Verstoß gegen das Gewaltverbot der UN-Charta dar. Das Gewaltverbot untersagt Staaten die einseitige Androhung und Anwendung militärischer Gewalt außer zu Zwecken der Selbstverteidigung bei einem bewaffneten Angriff (Art. 2, Abs. 4 in Verbindung mit Art. 51). Dieses Verbot hat Russland gebrochen. Versetzt das dem bereits mehrfach totgesagten völkerrechtlichen Gewaltverbot endgültig den Todesstoß?


Protesters in front of the White House, dressed in red with black hoods over their heads holding a sign that reads: "Free the Uighurs". Another protester to the right holds a sign that reads "Shut down Guantanamo"
Activists protest in front of the White House against Chinese treatment of the Uyghur population. | Photo: Daniel Lobo via flickr | CC BY 2.0

The Xinjiang Police Files and the Visit of the UN High Commissioner: Will This Open Up New Opportunities?

The treatment of the Uyghur population  by the CCP has been an ongoing concern for the last 5 years. Over this time information has leaked from government and security sources which indicates that grave human rights violations and potentially even crimes against humanity have been committed. The UN High Commissioner has recently visited China and the Xinjiang region and in this context the newest significant trove of information was released, showing once more the human rights abuses. Yet it is unlikely that any multilateral action will be taken, outside of diplomatic efforts. As there are few avenues to address these human rights violations in international law, the more diplomatic approach that can be seen in the visit of the High Commissioner should be supported.


Image shows the Second Peace Conference at The Hague in 1907.
The core of the law of neutrality was established in the Hague Convention of 1907 | Photo: CC BY 3.0

Assistance to Ukraine: Moving away from the neutrality paradigm

The Ukrainian government has requested other states to provide military material, which Germany and other states have acted on. Russia asserts that states making such deliveries are involving themselves in the conflict and would regard such deliveries as military targets and treat them accordingly. Targeting vessels carrying such deliveries is using force against the state sending these materials, which is not allowed unless a state becomes a party to the conflict. Consequently, it is important to determine when a state is no longer neutral and what the difference is between not being neutral and becoming a party to the conflict.


Zersplitterter Marmor
Der Angriff auf die Ukraine ist ein offener Bruch des Völkerrechts und eine machtpolitische Aggression gegen die bestehende Weltordnung. | Photo: Tom Barret auf Unsplash

Frieden am Ende? Die Eskalation im Russland-Ukraine-Konflikt und die Rolle der Friedenspolitik

Russland hat den Krieg begonnen. Der Angriff auf die Ukraine und die Anerkennung der „Volksrepubliken“ Donezk und Luhansk sind ein offener Bruch des Völkerrechts und eine machtpolitische Aggression gegen die bestehende Weltordnung. Die unmittelbaren Opfer sind die Menschen in der Ukraine. Die Kritik und Erbitterung des Westens ist groß. Ebenso die Enttäuschung über das Scheitern der eigenen Deeskalationsbemühungen. Ist mit dem Frieden auch die Friedens- und Sicherheitspolitik am Ende? Und mehr noch: War der Kurs der Vergangenheit, auf Diplomatie, Ausgleich und gemeinsame Sicherheit zu setzen verkehrt, wie jetzt von vielen behauptet wird?