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Restitution, Colonialism and the Courts

Colonial crimes are historical crimes. What at first seems to be very much evident, at closer look unveils one of the main challenges when tackling colonial injustices through the law. While disciplines like history and provenance research have been working on the question of colonial injustices for quite some time, legal scholarship has yet to find ways to integrate their findings into legal practice. This blog debate brings together scholars from various disciplines and asks the question: How can we achieve restorative justice through restitution?

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Rechtsstaatsmechanismus am Limit

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Volume 4,
Issue 3
October 2022

JUS COGENS

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03 Dezember 2022

A Constitution’s Hollow Promise

On 26 November 2022, the Taiwanese people had their authentic constitutional voice heard for the first time in history by casting votes in a referendum on a constitutional amendment that would lower the age of voting from 20 to 18, and that of candidacy from 23 to 18 except as otherwise provided by the Constitution or legislation.  Given that Taiwan’s current Constitution was adopted by a Constituent National Assembly in China in 1946 when Japan still held sovereignty over Taiwan de jure and all the previous constitutional amendments were adopted without receiving direct approval from the Taiwanese people, the holding of referendum itself is historic.  Yet, this latest round of constitutional reform on Taiwan’s road towards an ever more democratic politics ends up as a damp squib. Continue reading >>
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Law and the Challenge of Rehumanization

The report “We want them back”, published earlier this year, found at least 5958 human remains from colonials contexts in the collections of museums and scientific institutions in the geographical area of Berlin. The report, commissioned by the Berlin Senate, is the first systematic survey of the provenance of human remains from colonial contexts in Berlin’s institutions. Why – given the history – are these human remains still here? Where is the systematic effort to repatriate them and return them to their families and communities of origin? Continue reading >>
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02 Dezember 2022

We are Viktor Orbán

Rule of Law Mechanism at the Limit Continue reading >>
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Wir sind Viktor Orbán

Rechtsstaatsmechanismus am Limit Continue reading >>
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Possessions, Spoils of War, Belongings

Addressing colonial injustices by claiming restitution of artefacts and other belongings before German courts is undeniably a legal challenge for all stakeholders. As a shield against (potential) legal claims, museums, state authorities and some legal scholars have argued that there is no legal obligation for restitution of such belongings. Based on the stipulation that “colonial law has to be applied, even if it is no longer compatible with today’s views on law and justice”, this line of argument assumes that the acquisition of the possessions of colonized people by Europeans and subsequent transactions were generally considered lawful in the nineteenth century. In this contribution, we question this assumption. Continue reading >>
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Chancen-Gleichheit für Geduldete?

Neben dem X. Gesetz zur Beschleunigung von Asylverfahren hat der Bundestag am heutigen Freitag auch das sog. Chancen-Aufenthaltsrecht (CAR) für langjährig Geduldete beschlossen. Damit endet ein rund einjähriger Prozess, während dessen das CAR bereits früh eine Kontroverse hervorrief: Zahlreiche Bundesländer erließen sog. Vorgriffserlasse, die potentielle Adressat*innen des CAR bis zu dessen Inkrafttreten vor einer Abschiebung schützen sollten. Andere Länder setzten ihre Abschiebepraxis unbeirrt fort – gerade gegenüber potentiellen Adressat*innen. Der folgende Beitrag setzt sich mit dieser Praxis kritisch auseinander und zeigt auf, dass das CAR bereits vor Inkrafttreten eine Vorwirkung in Form eines Frustrationsverbotes entfaltete, das Ausländerbehörden irreversible aufenthaltsbeendende Maßnahmen untersagt. Continue reading >>
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The Autonomy of Sport and the Degeneration of an Ideal

The Football World Cup in Qatar is but the tip of the iceberg of the mounting problems for UEFA/FIFA. Scandals. Corruption. Cozying up to the autocrats and feeling right at home in their company. Arrogance bordering on ignorance coming from the very top of the governing bodies. The list of serious ailments that beset the system of football governance goes on. As a result, one might argue that not much of substance can be added to the topic. Yet, as will be argued here, there is still a constitutional and discursive potential to push forward the discourse on the broken system of football governance. There is important space for constitutionalists to fill by offering a voice of critical reflection, insights and by pointing out signposts for the future. Continue reading >>
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01 Dezember 2022
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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Commission needs to get its message out to Hungarians loud and clear that it is trying to fight corruption in Hungary so that EU money can be used to benefit the Hungarian people and not just Orbán’s circle of cronies. Hungarians would definitely appreciate that if they knew it. But the Commission’s press release today has been drowned out by Orbán’s use of state funds to flood the zone with his message that the Commission doesn’t care about the Hungarian people and is responsible for all of the economic pain they feel. Continue reading >>
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Restitutionsbegehren, Recht und Provenienzforschung

Die Frage der Restitution sowohl von sog. menschlichen Gebeinen als auch von sog. Raubkunst hat in den letzten Jahren zunehmend mehr Aufmerksamkeit bekommen. Unter Restitution versteht man dabei die Verpflichtung, den Zustand wiederherzustellen, der vor der Rechtsverletzung bestand, z.B. durch die Freisetzung widerrechtlich gefangen gehaltener Personen, aber eben auch in Form von Rückgaben von Gegenständen. Der Workshop „Restitutionsbegehren vor deutschen Gerichten“ am European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) hat Wissenschaftler*innen verschiedener Disziplinen zusammengebracht, um darüber nachzudenken, welche Rolle das Recht für die Aufarbeitung von kolonialem Unrecht und Kolonialverbrechen spielt. Continue reading >>
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Demokratie in der Supra-EU

Heute soll CETA, das Umfassende Wirtschafts- und Handelsabkommen der EU mit Kanada, durch den Bundestag gebracht werden. Die absehbare Zustimmung von Bundestag und Bundesrat zu CETA darf nicht dazu führen, die verfassungsrechtliche und demokratietheoretische Problematik der „Ausschüsse“ einfach ad acta zu legen. Die EU ist dabei, das Regieren mittels transnationaler Ausschüsse oberhalb der EU systematisch auszubauen, insbesondere im Rahmen umfassender Freihandelsverträge. Dies bedarf dringend klarer Leitplanken und Stoppschilder seitens des Bundesverfassungsgerichts. Continue reading >>
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30 November 2022

The Pitfalls of Enhanced Cooperation

There has been a public debate among academics and politicians on whether Hungary should be required to join the European Public Prosecutor’s Office as a condition to receive EU funds according to the different milestones. Joining the EPPO would send a clear message that Hungary takes ending public corruption seriously and a more general sign that it wishes to be a part of the European family. However, this proposal will not be legally possible to implement, thus illustrating the key problem with enhanced cooperation as a form of European integration. Continue reading >>
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29 November 2022

Conflating the Powers of the Commissarial and the Sovereign Dictator in Tunisia

On July 25, 2022, a year after Tunisian President Kais Saied declared a state of emergency and with only 28 percent of eligible voters participating, Tunisia ratified its new Constitution. Saied’s use of wide emergency powers to help sideline parliamentary opposition and support the constitution-making process, contradicts the underlying rational that emergency powers are needed in democratic states to defend the existing constitutional order against urgent and exceptional threats to the state. To preclude the potential misuse of emergency powers a state’s constitution should be designed to prevent the entity exercising emergency powers from simultaneously claiming that they represent the ‘broad popular will’ of the people. Continue reading >>
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Judges as Guardians of Promises

On 16 November, the Minister for Equality accused the Spanish judiciary of being macho-ist: “macho-ism can compromise both the impartiality and the integrity of judicial systems; macho-ism may make judges apply the law erroneously and wrongly”, said the Minister. After much criticism, Podemos, in support of the Minister, rounded up her argument: “Spanish judges are fascists”. These comments are part of an intense battle that is being fought between the government (Psoe/Podemos) and the Spanish Popular Party regarding the renewal of the Spanish General Council for the Judiciary, the judges’ governing body. Continue reading >>
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Weder Festung Europa, noch Gefängnis Europa

Werden in der Europäischen Union bald nicht nur ausländische Direktinvestitionen in die EU (inbound), sondern auch Investitionen europäischer Unternehmen in Drittstaaten (outbound) einer hoheitlichen Investitionskontrolle unterzogen? Während die EU-Kommission erste Andeutungen hierzu macht, läuft in den USA die Diskussion bereits heiß – bis ins Weiße Haus. Continue reading >>
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War, Schengen, and the Rule of Law

On 22 November 2022, the European Commission (EC) published its final report on Romania under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) and proposed the mechanism be terminated. While this is an early Christmas present to the ruling elite of Romania, it certainly isn’t one for the rule of law – neither in Romania nor the EU. It’s been nearly 16 years since the CVM was established at the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU in January 2007. Setting and monitoring benchmarks, its aim is to support both countries in overcoming shortcomings relating to the rule of law, especially the independence of the judiciary and fight against corruption. While Bulgaria was considered to have successfully fulfilled all benchmarks by 2019 and the mechanism was lifted, the case is different for Romania. Continue reading >>
28 November 2022

Ernüchternde Klimakonferenz und ihre Lehren

Die diesjährige UN-Klimakonferenz wurde mit kaum positiven Ergebnissen abgeschlossen. Es ist auf globaler Ebene nicht gelungen, sich auf ehrgeizigere Klimaschutzziele zu einigen. Zwar gab es in einigen Bereichen positive erste Schritte, komplexe Verhandlungspunkte wurden aber größtenteils auf das nächste Jahr verschoben. Dabei fand die COP27 in Sharm el Sheikh unter schwierigen Bedingungen statt. Hier ein kurzer Überblick, welche Ergebnisse – auch am Rande der offiziellen Verhandlungen – trotzdem erzielt werden konnten und was wir für das nächste Jahr lernen können. Continue reading >>
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In Hungary, the Law Changes Every Day but It Doesn’t Get Better

The EU Commission has agreed with us that the laws that we have analyzed in our series of four blogposts did not in fact constitute an effective anti-corruption plan. And the Commission has attached a €13.3 billion price tag to non-compliance. Now the Hungarian government is scrambling to unlock this cash by introducing two additional laws that attempt to address the Commission’s concerns. But these new laws repeat the errors of the prior laws. They create the appearance of an independent corruption-fighting system while digging in political allies at all of the chokepoints and tying up whistleblowers and anti-corruption fighters in red tape. The new laws do not make things better and they may even make things worse. Continue reading >>
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Inequality of Harms, Inequality of Arms

On November 8th 2022 Channa Samkalden, lawyer for Esther Kiobel and three other widows of executed Nigerian community leaders, announced that her clients would be ending their lawsuit against Shell. Uncertainty about the outcome, combined with the fact that the case had already been (unsuccessfully) going on for over 20 years in multiple fora, had made the four widows decide to withdraw the appeal, “not without disappointment and frustration”. In this blog, I discuss this case's remarkable procedural history and why it, set against the particular facts of the case, illustrates the fundamental procedural unfairness between large corporations and victims trying to hold them to account. Continue reading >>
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Juristocracy Strikes Back

Once again, Brazil’s highest electoral court finds itself taking the spotlights in the international media for its incredibly fierce – and, admittedly, also controversial – involvement in the country’s elections. As an institution deeply committed to the defence of democracy and its electoral processes, it has gone to previously unimagined lengths to secure that political competition stays within high standards of freedom and fairness, even in face of the most effortful attempts of subverting the electoral game. The Court’s latest headline is no different. Continue reading >>
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26 November 2022

Nicht tragfähig begründbar

Wenig überraschend hat das Bundesverfassungsgericht die sog. Sonderbedarfsstufe für alleinstehende Erwachsene in Aufnahmeeinrichtungen und Gemeinschaftsunterkünften für verfassungswidrig erklärt. Es knüpft an seine vor allem seit 2010 entwickelte Rechtsprechungslinie an und lässt die Absenkung von Leistungen wie bei den Sanktionen 2019 an fehlenden Erkenntnissen des Gesetzgebers scheitern. Continue reading >>
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