ASIL's 102nd Annual Meeting: The Politics of International Law


Add to My Calendar Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Universal Jurisdiction: It's Back!
9:00am – 10:30am Ballroom I
Co-sponsored by the Dispute Resolution Interest Group

Although there is no consensus on the scope and operation of universal jurisdiction, several states have enacted laws authorizing their courts and law enforcement authorities to exercise universal jurisdiction -- that is, jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute an individual for crimes alleged to have been committed anywhere in the world. While there are no agreed global standards on such exercise, a few NGOs have proposed certain governing principles. The panel will discuss the rationale behind universal jurisdiction, its scope, and its limits, including state practice and selected case studies.

Moderator: Ved Nanda, University of Denver School of Law


  • Christopher Hall, Amnesty International
  • Wolfgang Kaleck, Republican Lawyers Association
  • Diane Orentlicher, Open Society Institute
  • David Stewart, U.S. Department of State
  • Peter Weiss, Center for Constitutional Rights

ASIL 102nd Annual Meeting: The Politics of International Law
April 9-12, 2008
Washington, DC
Politics and policy are interwoven with international law. The relationship between the two is reciprocal. While politics influence international law, international law also influences domestic and international politics. Critics contend that international law is really the deployment of power politics, and that resolving disputes under the auspices of international law in a judicialized forum serves only to "launder" the rule of the powerful. Admirers of internationalism and international institutions, on the other hand, contend that the legalization of power has a civilizing effect that leads to some of the most effective forms of law-making, ranging from good governance standards promulgated by the IMF or the World Bank to sanctions imposed under Security Council authority.

Is there international law that stands separate from politics? International institutions, from the WTO to the World Bank, from the ICC to the World Court, are creatures of politics as well as law. The decisions of governments to participate in those organizations or other international law initiatives are often based on domestic politics - one thinks of the Kyoto Protocol and the International Criminal Court. Yet the politics of international law are not only a reflection of domestic concerns. As international law becomes more pervasive and intrusive on previously sovereign domains, and as international institutions wield more influence, more people are examining and questioning the politics of those institutions.

The Society s exploration of the relationship between international law and politics comes at a time of political change. 2007 and 2008 bring elections and potential new leadership in four of the five permanent Security Council member states. What attitudes will these political leaders take towards international law, and what reactions in other leaders will those attitudes provoke? And how will changes in the domestic political landscape of these and other countries affect the future formulation and implementation of international law? The 2008 ASIL Annual Meeting will address these and other related issues in a series of over thirty panels featuring leading practitioners, scholars, and government officials.

Last modified 

April 10, 2008