25 July 2019

JOURNAL: Journal of the History of International Law XXI (2019), No. 2 [Special Issue: Revisiting State Socialist Approaches to International Criminal and Humanitarian Law, ed. by Raluca GROSESCU & Ned RICHARDSON-LITTLE]

(image source: Brill)

Revisiting State Socialist Approaches to International Criminal and Humanitarian Law: An Introduction (Raluca Grosescu & Ned Richardson-Little)
This introductory essay provides an overview of the scholarship on state socialist engagements with international criminal and humanitarian law, arguing for a closer scrutiny of the socialist world’s role in shaping these fields of law. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the historiography on post-1945 international law-making has been generally dominated by a post-1989 sense of Western triumphalism over socialism, where the Soviet Union and its allies have been presented as obstructionists of liberal progress. A wave of neo-Marxist scholarship has more recently sought to recover socialist legal contributions to international law, without however fully addressing them in the context of Cold War political conflict and of gross human rights violations committed within the Socialist Bloc. In contrast, this collection provides a balanced understanding of the socialist engagements with international criminal and humanitarian law, looking at the realpolitik agendas of state socialist countries while acknowledging their progressive contributions to the post-war international legal order.

The Protagonism of the USSR and Socialist States in the Revision of International Humanitarian Law (Giovanni Mantilla)
The USSR and Socialist states played a crucial and still largely underappreciated role in the re-negotiation of international humanitarian law (IHL) in 1949 and 1977. Drawing on new multi-archival research, I demonstrate that the support of the Soviet Union and Socialist Bloc states was essential to the negotiation of key legal achievements with regard to non-traditional conflict forms and actors, including rules on internal conflicts, national liberation war, and irregular fighters. They exerted influence chiefly through concerted action to create or side with majority coalitions alongside neutral Western or Third World countries, forcing their principal Western foes to accept rules they found undesirable. Yet Soviet-Western interactions in the re-making of IHL were not simply confrontational. In the 1970s, as Cold War hostilities cooled, East and West engaged in partial backdoor cooperativeness, leading to critical features of the Additional Protocols I and II, including rules for the protection of civilians and IHL oversight.

Socialist Internationalism and Decolonizing Moralities in the UN Anti-Trafficking Regime, 1947–1954 (Sonja Dolinsek & Philippa Hetherington)
In the late 1940s, state socialist governments proclaimed that commercial sex did not exist under socialism. At the same time, they were enthusiastic participants in the drafting of a new UN Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. This article explores state socialist involvement in the global moral reform drive accompanying the 1949 Convention. It traces the ideological coherence between Socialist Bloc and ‘Western’ delegations on the desirability of prostitution’s abolition. Conversely, it highlights splits on issues of jurisdiction, manifesting in the Soviet call for the eradication of the draft Convention’s ‘colonial clause’, which allowed states to adhere to or withdraw from international instruments on behalf of ‘non-self-governing territories’. We argue that critiques of the colonial clause discursively stitched together global moral reform and opposition to imperialism, according socialist and newly decolonized delegations an ideological win in the early Cold War.

State Socialist Endeavours for the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to International Crimes: Historical Roots and Current Implications (Raluca Grosescu)
This article analyses the role of Eastern European socialist governments and legal experts in encoding the non-applicability of statutory limitations to international crimes. It argues that socialist elites put this topic on the agenda of the international community in the 1960s through two interrelated processes. On the one hand, legal scholars cooperated with Western European lawyers in order to enforce the idea that the international crimes codified by the Nuremberg Charter should not be subject to prescription. On the other hand, Eastern European governments proposed and enabled – through their cooperation with African and Asian states – the adoption of the 1968 UN Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, this instrument became an important tool for advancing prosecutions of international crimes committed under dictatorships and violent conflicts, particularly in Central Eastern Europe and Latin America.

The Drug War in a Land Without Drugs: East Germany and the Socialist Embrace of International Narcotics Law (Ned Richardson-Little)
This article examines how the German Democratic Republic (GDR) engaged with the problem of international anti-narcotics law and how it came to embrace the global drug war. The international anti-narcotics system provided a means of signalling the GDR’s normalcy to the international community and allowed East Germany to highlight its absence of drug abuse at home as a demonstration of socialism’s superiority in comparison with the narcotics abuse crisis of the capitalist world. By the 1980s, however, the GDR’s support for the international prohibition of drug trafficking shifted from one of competition with the West to that of collaboration. Through cooperation between international experts from both East and West, GDR elites abandoned earlier concerns about state sovereignty to endorse the global harmonization of drug laws as part of the 1988 Vienna Narcotics Convention.

Crimes against the People – a Sui Generis Socialist International Crime? (Tamal Hoffmann)
Crimes against humanity is one of the core crimes in international criminal law, whose existence is treated as a natural reaction to mass atrocities. This idea of linear progress is challenged by this article, which demonstrates that in post-Second World War Hungary an alternative approach was developed to prosecute human rights violation committed against civilian populations. Even though this concept was eventually used as a political weapon by the Communist Party, it had long-lasting effects on the prosecution of international crimes in Hungary.

Book reviews:

  • System, Order, and International Law: The Early History of International Legal Thought from Machiavelli to Hegel, edited by Kadelbach, Stefan, Thomas Kleinlein, and David Roth-Isigkeit (Claire Vergerio)
  • Restricted Access Opfer – Die Wahrnehmung von Krieg und Gewalt in der Moderne, written by Svenja Goltermann (Milos Vec)

(source: ESILHIL Blog)

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