Events on International Sanctions in London

I wanted to draw the attention of readers of this blog to two events on international sanctions which will be held by the London Centre of International Law Practice (LCILP) in London in March 2015.

The first is a two-day training workshop on International Sanctions in Practice: Legal and Business Implications (17-18 March 2015), which will address the whole range of legal and business issues raised by the implementation of international sanctions regimes, from coercive measures enacted by the UN Security Council and regional organisations, to ‘unilateral sanctions’ implemented by individual States, as well as comprehensive and sector-specific embargoes and ‘targeted’ measures against listed entities and individuals.

Drawing on case studies of various sanctions regimes currently in force, it will also focus on the multiple dimensions of growing legal challenges to sanctions brought before domestic and international courts and tribunals, or under other mechanisms.

The second event is a one-day conference on International Sanctions: Legal, Policy and Business Challenges (19 March 2015), co-sponsored by the International Law Association Study Group on UN Sanctions and International Law and the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies at Leiden University. It will bring together some of the most prominent experts on International Sanctions to argue on issues raised by sanctions in terms of international responsibility, human rights, available remedies, and impact on cross-border trade and investment, amongst others.

The discussion and findings of this conference will also be used to further shape the agenda of the International Law Association Study Group on UN Sanctions and International Law and to inform its work.

We look forward to meeting you in London in March!


The Iran-IAEA Joint Statement on a Framework for Cooperation: A Way Out of the Impasse?

On 11 November 2013, while the (overall successful) negotiations in Geneva between the P-5+1 and Iran had been postponed for a few days, direct talks in Tehran between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran proved fruitful. In Geneva, according to open source information, many differences have been solved and only minor gaps remain, and it appears that the main reason why an agreement has not been finalized during this round of negotiation lies in the fact that the position of the P-5+1 was not united, since the French delegation has adopted a ‘hard’ stance. At the same time, in Tehran IAEA DG Yukiya Amano and Mr. Ali Akbar Salehi, Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, signed a ‘Joint Statement on a Framework for Cooperation’. The document states that both parties have agreed ‘to strengthen their cooperation and dialogue aimed at ensuring the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme through the resolution of all outstanding issues that have not already been resolved by the IAEA’.

At first reading, the following observations may be made regarding this Joint Statement:

 

1. The ‘Framework for Cooperation’ reminds to some extent the ‘Work Plan’ that was agreed between the IAEA and Iran in August 2007, under which Iran pledged to provide over the course of the next few months, answers to questions from the Agency, as well as clarifications and access to information, regarding remaining ‘outstanding issues’ on its nuclear programme. The Framework appears less detailed at this stage than the Work Plan, but this may be explained by the fact that it is understood as a ‘first step’, during which Iran and the IAEA agree to implement a handful of ‘practical measures’ listed in an Annex (entitled ‘Initial Practical Measures to be Taken by Iran Within Three Months’) to the Joint Statement.

 

2. What is the legal nature of the Joint Statement and of the Framework it embodies? It may be observed at first sight that the Joint Statement matches prima facie the definition of a treaty contained in the 1986 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties between States and International Organizations or between International Organizations. Article 2(1)(a) of  the 1986 Vienna Convention defines a treaty as ‘an international agreement governed by international law and concluded in written form […] between one or more States and one or more international organizations. The Joint Statement is indeed an international agreement, and it has been concluded in ‘written form’. It is less certain that the Joint Statement be ‘governed by international law’, since this criterion refers to the presence of an intention of the parties to create obligations under international law (as opposed to mere mutual understandings regarding their behaviour). Indeed, it may be reasonably argued that given the terms chosen by the negotiating parties (‘[…] Iran and the IAEA will cooperate further with respect to verification activities to be undertaken by the IAEA to resolve all present and past issues. It is foreseen that Iran’s cooperation will include providing the IAEA with timely information about its nuclear facilities and in regard to the implementation of transparency measures […] – emphasis added), the Joint Statement is more of a nature of a preliminary agreement, a kind of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), and as such that its binding force is debatable. It may also be viewed as a mere Confidence-Building Measure (CBM), and as such voluntary and non-binding in nature. Given the unclear legal nature of the Joint Statement, it is unclear what would be the legal consequences of the non-fulfillment of an undertaking assumed under the Joint Statement. It is significant that in terms of implementation and ‘compliance’, the document merely provides that the IAEA ‘will report to the Board of Governors on progress in the implementation of these measures’, without further elaborating on the follow-up process.

 

3. Be it as it may, it appears that the Joint Statement is an important step forward, as well as a significant sign of goodwill by Iran, since the undertakings by Iran under the Joint Statement and its Annex go well beyond the obligations of Iran under its 1974 Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, and that in some respects (i.e. in terms of the provision of ‘advance’ information on contemplated new nuclear installations) they are (as far as it appears from the wording of the Annex) even broader in scope than those that a country is supposed to assume under an Additional Protocol (AP). However, Iran’s Safeguards Agreement cannot be deemed per se superseded by the Joint Statement. On the contrary, it is to be assumed that the Safeguards Agreement is applicable to the Joint Statement mutatis mutandis, or in other words that the Joint Statement is to be read in conjunction with the Safeguards Agreement, in particular as regards procedures and conditions of cooperation.

 

4. It may be reminded that the 2007 Work Plan had been satisfactorily implemented by Iran, which led the IAEA to issue a report in February 2008 stating it had been able to conclude that answers provided by Iran, in accordance with the work plan, were either ‘consistent with its findings’ or ‘not inconsistent’ with its own findings. As a consequence, the only remaining issue, according to the 2008 report, was ‘the alleged studies on the green salt project, high explosives testing and the missile re-entry vehicle’. This latter issue had not been considered as one of the ‘outstanding issues’ that the Work Plan was supposed to clarify, but it subsequently unfolded in such a way as to become the focus of the IAEA’s ‘concerns’, with important negative consequences such as the imposition of additional unilateral economic measures against Iran by some countries (whose doubtful legality I examined here, here and here). By the way it shall be reminded that one reason (maybe the main reason) why the issue of ‘alleged studies’ (now termed ‘Possible Military Dimension’) was not resolved since 2008 lies in the fact that the countries which provided the information to the IAEA did not accept that it be transferred to Iran, contrary to the relevant provision of the Work Plan (see para. III).

It is now to be hoped that, if supplemented in due course by technical and administrative understandings satisfactory to both parties and correctly applied, the Framework for Cooperation that the Joint Statement contemplates shall in turn address substantively all remaining ‘concerns’ expressed by the IAEA in its latest reports, and pave the way for the Iranian nuclear file to come back from the Security Council to a ‘routine’ IAEA scrutiny.


For the record: Israeli Chemical/Biological Weapons

For a better understanding of the regional context of the proposed dismantling of the Syrian CWs, it may be interesting to have a look at the article published in 2001 by Avner Cohen, ‘Israel and Chemical/Biological Weapons: History, Deterrence, and Arms Control’ The Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 8, No. 3 (Fall-Winter 2001), available here. Updated information on Israeli CW capabilities is also found on NTI’s website.


French Government Intelligence Assessment on CWs use in Syria

You may download here the full report (PDF in French) released by the French government on its intelligence assessment on the use of CWs in Syria. I heard this morning on France-Info a French MP labelling it a ‘Wikipedia-style’ report.


Compliance with nonproliferation treaties – the case of Iran revisited

This is to draw your attention on a piece on Iran’s (non-)compliance with its nonproliferation obligations that I have just posted on Ejil:Talk! It draws on my recent article on the same topic, a draft of which is available on SSRN, and which will appear in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of Conflict and Security Law.

Here is the abstract of the article:

The controversy over the Iranian nuclear programme is probably one of most sensitive contemporary instances of a situation involving legal issues related to compliance and enforcement of non-proliferation treaty obligations. The allegations put forward against Iran in this context are rarely formulated or substantiated in legal terms, nor grounded in a clearly identifiable legal basis or framework. This article aims at the identification of the specific international obligations that Iran would have breached or failed to comply with, whether contained in the NPT or in other non-proliferation agreements, and at the evaluation of the criteria or standards under which the occurrence of a failure or a breach of treaty commitments by Iran is to be assessed. It begins with an overview of the instruments comprising the safeguards system established pursuant to the NPT and monitored by the IAEA, then provides an account of the treatment by the IAEA of the Iranian nuclear program since 2002, which led the IAEA to declare that Iran was in non-compliance with its safeguards agreement, before assessing the IAEA’s findings, in light of relevant rules pertaining to both general international law and the NPT/IAEA legal framework for nuclear safeguards as lex specialis.

Your comments are welcome!


The supply of arms to opposition groups in Syria and international law

The Guardian newspaper has made available the text of a discussion paper by the Foreign Ministry of Austria circulated on 13 May 2013 to EU member states, forcefully rebutting British and French arguments for amending the European embargo on Syria to allow weapons shipments to the rebels.

The document, entitled ‘SYRIA: Austrian Position on Arms Embargo’, first puts forward several political and security arguments, among them the following (summary only):

 –          Lifting the EU arms embargo undermines the EU-Russia understanding that opens a window of opportunity towards a renewed political process.

 –          The ‘Syrian National Coalition for Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SOC)’ does not have full authority and control over all armed opposition groups and cooperates with groups which include various extremist and terrorist fighters.

 –          There are more than enough weapons in Syria.

–          The supply of arms to the opposition by EU member states constitutes an additional threat to the security of UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, which supervises the implementation of the 1974 disengagement agreement and the ceasefire between the Israeli and Syrian forces] peacekeepers, including from Austria.

But the most interesting part of the paper argues that the supply of arms to the Syrian opposition would be in breach of international law and EU law.

The main arguments developed in that respect deserve being quoted in full (I have only made minor typographical changes to the text and omitted certain developments):

1. The supply of arms to the Syrian opposition would amount to a breach of the customary principle of non-intervention and the principle of non-use of force under Art. 2 para. 4 of the UN Charter.

The principle of non-intervention is firmly established in international law. In 2007, former UK Legal Adviser Sir Michael Wood put it in a nutshell: “Intervention on the side of those opposing the Government […] is clearly prohibited” (The Principle of Non-Intervention in Contemporary International Law, Speech by Sir Michael Wood at a Chatham House International Law discussion group meeting held on 28 February 2007). In the 1984 Nicaragua Case the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rejected any alleged right for States to intervene in support of an internal opposition in another State, whose cause appeared particularly worthy for political or moral reasons: “The Court therefore finds that no such general right of intervention, in support of an opposition within another State, exists in contemporary international law” (para. 209). The ICJ also stated that acts constituting a breach of the customary principle of non-intervention would also, if they directly or indirectly involve the use of force, constitute a breach of the prohibition not to use of force in international relations, as embodied in Art. 2 para. 4 of the UN Charter. The continuing relevance of the Nicaragua Case was confirmed by the ICJ in its 2005 judgement in the Case concerning Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo: “In the case concerning Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America), the Court made it clear that the principle of non-intervention prohibits a State “to intervene, directly or indirectly, with or without armed force, in support of an internal opposition in another State” (para. 164).

2. The supply of arms to the Syrian opposition would violate EU Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP on the control of arms exports by EU Member States.

All EU Member States have agreed to abide by Common Position 2008/944/CFSP defining common rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment when assessing applications to export items listed in the agreed EU Common Military List. An objective assessment of the Criteria in Art. 2 of Common Position 2008/944/CFSP according to the agreed guidance of their interpretation and implementation in the EU’s User’s Guide (User’s Guide to Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP defining common rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment, Doc. 9241/09, 29 April 2009) must lead to a denial of any export licence applications for the envisaged supply of arms to the Syrian opposition:

  • Criterion 2(c) (human rights and humanitarian law): Member States shall deny an export licence if there is a clear risk that the equipment might be used in the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law. The UN Commission of Inquiry reported that “war crimes, including murder, extrajudicial killings and torture, were perpetrated by anti-Government armed groups” (Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, A/HRC/21/50, 16 August 2012).
  • Criterion 3 (internal situation): Member States shall deny an export licence for military technology or equipment which would provoke or prolong armed conflicts or aggravate existing tensions or conflicts in the country of final destination. The User’s Guide does not foresee that arms would be supplied to opposition groups involved in an armed conflict and places particular attention on the role of the end-user in a conflict.
  • Criterion 4 (regional peace, security and stability): Member States shall deny an export licence if there is a clear risk that the intended recipient would use the military technology or equipment to be exported aggressively against another country or to assert by force a territorial claim. Despite the 1974 cease-fire agreement, Syria and Israel remain in a state of war, which was recently reignited by Israeli air and missile strikes. The Syrian opposition has not declared to respect the cease-fire, the disengagement agreement or the area of separation.
  • Criterion 5(b) (national security of Member States): Member States shall take into account the risk of use of the military technology or equipment concerned against their forces or those of Member States and those of friendly and allied countries. […]
  • Criterion 6 (behaviour of the buyer as regards its attitude to terrorism, the nature of its alliances and respect for international law): […]
  • Criterion 7 (risk of diversion): […]

3. The supply of arms to the Syrian opposition would amount to a violation of Security Council resolution 2083 (2012) establishing an arms embargo against individuals and entities associated with Al-Qaida. […]

4. Member States supplying arms to the Syrian opposition would incur State responsibility for aiding and assisting in the commission of internationally wrongful acts.

According to Art. 16 of the ILC Articles on State Responsibility a State which aids or assists another State in the commission of an internationally wrongful act is internationally responsible if (a) that State does so with knowledge of the circumstances of the internationally wrongful act ; and (b) the act would be internationally wrongful if committed by that State. The Commentary inter alia states “a State may incur responsibility if it […] provides material aid to a State that uses the aid to commit human rights violations. In this respect, the UN GA has called on member States in a number of cases to refrain from supplying arms an other military assistance to countries found to be committing serious human rights violations” (para. 9). When applying these principles to the envisaged supply of  arms to the Syrian opposition, it is to be considered that war crimes, including murder, extrajudicial killings and torture, are perpetrated by anti-Government armed groups in Syria, as reported by the UN Commission of Inquiry, as well as suicide bombings and attacks against and hostage-taking of UNDOF peacekeepers, as is known from the daily news. Should supplied arms be used by armed opposition groups in Syria in the commission of internationally wrongful acts, the States who had supplied these arms and had knowledge of these acts would incur State responsibility for their aid an assistance in the commission of such acts.

[end of document]

A comment on the Austrian position

The arguments set out in the Austrian paper are in my view well-founded and persuasive, particularly those based on the principle on non-intervention and the relevance of the Nicaragua Case (see on the topic the articles on the Nicaragua Case 25 years after published in 2012 in the Leiden Journal of International Law), and deserve being taken into account very seriously by the decision-makers of countries which advocate allowing weapons shipments to the Syrian rebels.

There is another point that was not mentioned by the paper. Regarding the responsibility issue raised in para. 4 of the document, I would add that if the proposed amendment to the arms embargo is adopted in the framework of the EU CFSP, the 2011 Draft articles on the Responsibility of International Organizations (DARIO) would also be relevant. Indeed, in that situation, international responsibility might also be incurred by the EU itself, in addition to the responsibility of EU member States. Article 17(1) DARIO provides that

[a]n international organization incurs international responsibility if it circumvents one of its  international obligations by adopting a decision binding memberStates or international organizations to commit an act that would be internationally wrongful if committed by the former organization.

 The ILC’s commentary on that provision refers to a statement of the legal counsel of WIPO according to whom

 [. . .] in the event a certain conduct, which a member State takes in compliance with a request on the part of an international organization, appears to be in breach of an international obligation both of that State and of that organization, then the organization should also be regarded as responsible under international law.

 It appears thus that in the event that arms supplied to armed opposition groups in Syria be used by the latter in the commission of internationally wrongful acts, the international responsibility of both the EU as an international organization and of the EU Member States might be simultaneously incurred.

 In any case, it will be interesting to follow the matter, and in particular to see whether proponents of arms supply to opposition armed groups in Syria will put forward international legal arguments supporting their position.

 


On the scope of IAEA safeguards in Iran

The latest IAEA DG Report on Iran (‘Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran’, 21 February 2013, GOV/2013/6) contains in its conclusion the usual statement, found in previous reports, according to which: 

While the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and LOFs declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement, as Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation, including by not implementing its Additional Protocol, the Agency is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities (para. 62). 

What is interesting is that there has been a light change, more precisely an addition, in the footnote (fn. 61) supposed to support such statement, by comparison with the same text in previous IAEA reports. The addition is shown in italics below:

The Board has confirmed on numerous occasions, since as early as 1992, that paragraph 2 of INFCIRC/153 (Corr.), which corresponds to Article 2 of Iran’s Safeguards Agreement, authorizes and requires the Agency to seek to verify both the non-diversion of nuclear material from declared activities (i.e. correctness) and the absence of undeclared nuclear activities in the State (i.e. completeness) (see, for example, GOV/OR.864, para. 49 and GOV/OR.865, paras. 53-54). 

As Dan Joyner has already shown here, GOV/OR.864 does not in fact support the ‘completeness’ argument but on the contrary evidences divergences on the issue within the Board at the time.

So it seems (and it is quite plausible) that this additional reference has been added by the IAEA in an attempt to counter Joyner’s arguments referred to above. The same reference may be found in the ‘legal’ paper issued by ISIS/Heinonen/Goldschmidt/Persbo et alii recently, which was intended to establish the inacurracy of Joyner’s ‘dangerous claim’.

I’m afraid that this additional reference to GOV/OR.865, paras. 53-54 is no more conclusive than the reference to GOV/OR.864, para. 49. The relevant summary of the BoG discussion may be found as an annex to a 1995 IAEA GC document.

The context of the relevant IAEA BoG discussion is to be reminded. In 1995 the IAEA DG exposed the measures envisioned under the ‘93+2’ programme for updating the safeguards system (which led to the adoption of the Model Additional Protocol), and invited the BoG to confirm, inter alia, that:

The purpose of comprehensive safeguards agreements is the continuing verification of the correctness and completeness of States’ declarations of nuclear material in order to provide maximum assurance of the non-diversion of nuclear material from declared activities and of the absence of undeclared nuclear activities ‘ (in ‘Strengthening the Effectiveness and Improving the Efficiency of the Safeguards System’, Report by the Director General to the Board of Governors (GOV/2784), 21 February 1995, para. 110).

At the March 1995 session of the BoG, such ‘invitation’ was largely debated. The United States, Australia and Japan, inter alia, endorsed the specific proposal contained in para. 110 of GOV/2784 (quoted above). But the proposal also met with significant opposition from several members of the Board. For instance, the governor from Cuba, stated that

[t]he aim of comprehensive safeguards agreements was to detect swiftly any diversion to non-peaceful uses of significant quantities of nuclear material, and the means of doing so was by verifying the nuclear material declarations of States. Therefore, the Board could not confirm what was recommended in paragraph 110. A of the document within the current legal framework.

Similar reservations were formulated among others by Mexico, India, Pakistan, China, Algeria, Turkey, the Russian Federation.

The most elaborated criticism of the DG’s invitation came from the governor from Brazil, Ms. Machado Quintella, whose statement is worth being quoted extensively:

regretfully her delegation had some difficulty in accepting the present wording of paragraph 110, although it believed that there would be scope for consensus after some adjustments, as no one was likely to deny the desirability of increasing the level of assurance provided by the safeguards system. All were committed to strengthening the system; the question on which views differed was how to achieve that common goal.

100. What the Board was being asked to approve in subparagraph 110.A was not a confirmatory interpretation of document INFCIRC/153, but rather a new concept regarding the purpose of comprehensive safeguards agreements – one that would require the modification of existing agreements or their amplification by additional legal instruments.

101. As things stood at present, the purpose of existing comprehensive safeguards agreements was to verify that there was no diversion of nuclear material to the manufacture of nuclear weapons or of any other explosive device. Confirming what was stated in subparagraph 110. A, that the purpose of such agreements was the continuing verification of the correctness and completeness of States’ declarations of nuclear material, would thus represent a substantial departure, with no legal basis, from the original purpose as defined in paragraph 2 of document INFCIRC/153 and in Article III(l) of the NPT.

102. The assertion made in paragraph 5 of document GOV/2784 regarding the intentions of the drafters of document INFCIRC/153 was entirely uncorroborated by the records of the Board’s Safeguards Committee (1970), which she had studied at length. In approving the concept put forward in document GOV/2784 regarding the purpose of comprehensive safeguards agreements, the Board would therefore not be confirming previous understandings, but introducing new ideas which would require amendments or protocols to existing agreements in order that the envisaged new safeguards measures might be applied. Such measures could, of course, be introduced on the basis of bilateral arrangements between the Agency and each Member State concerned, but there was as yet no proper legal basis for changing the Agency’s safeguards system from one aimed at the verification of non-diversion to one aimed at verification of the non-existence of undeclared activities.

103. Verification of the absence of undeclared nuclear materials or activities required actions that had not been considered by the drafters of document INFCIRC/153 […].

109. With regard to paragraphs 2, 3 and 4, where there were references to the continuous development of safeguards, she believed that technological developments in the safeguards field should not be confused with the evolution of the safeguards system itself. The system had evolved from one based on safeguards agreements deriving from the Statute to one based on comprehensive safeguards agreements deriving from document INFCIRC/153, but a safeguards agreement was a legal instrument not subject to evolution; if additional undertakings were to be entered into, that called for a protocol or some other form of additional legal instrument acceptable to the parties.

110. The statement in paragraph 6 that in February 1992 the Board had reaffirmed the requirement that the Agency provide assurance regarding the correctness and completeness of nuclear material declarations by States was misleading: that requirement had been affirmed not as a general principle, but in respect of the initial inventories of two specific countries – and on both occasions Brazil had expressed reservations.

(for the full statement see IAEA Board of Governors, Record of the 860th meeting, supra note 185, paras. 99-110)

This review of the Board discussions shows that it can hardly be contended that there has been a subsequent agreement regarding the interpretation or application of INFCIRC/153-type CSAs between States parties to the IAEA Statute and/or parties to the NPT, in the meaning of Article 31.3(b) of the 1986 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties between States and International Organizations or between International Organizations, which would have resulted in an extension of the IAEA’s mandate, allowing it to verify both the non-diversion of nuclear material from declared activities (i.e. correctness) and the absence of undeclared nuclear activities in the State (i.e. completeness).

Reading the summary of discussions within the BoG during the subsequent GOV/OR.865 meeting, I do not see that the States opposed to the wording of para. 110 of GOV/2784 (as mentioned above) changed their minds in the meantime, nor that the final endorsement by the BoG of the Chairman’s ‘summing-up’ (which contains indeed a reference to the ‘completeness’ argument, but appears to be above all an endorsement of the ‘general direction of Programme 93+2’) is to be interpreted as a subsequent agreement (or, to quote the IAEA, a ‘confirmation’) on the correct interpretation of paragraph 2 of INFCIRC/153 (supposed to require the IAEA to seek to verify both the correctness and the completeness of declarations made by States under their CSAs).

I would welcome any comments on this issue. Thanks in advance!