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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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Volume 4,
Issue 3
October 2022



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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 >>

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 >>

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 >>
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 >>
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 >>

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 >>

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 >>

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 >>

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 >>

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 >>
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 >>
25 November 2022

Anger Hath No Privilege

On Wrath Continue reading >>

Dem Ingrimm keinen Freibrief

Über den Zorn Continue reading >>

Migrant Workers and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

When we are enjoying the beautiful game these days, we should not forget that hundreds or even thousands of migrant workers, mostly from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Sri Lanka have allegedly lost their lives in Qatar when working on stadium and other infrastructure constructions in view of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. FIFA as the overarching, but private international football governing body in charge of the organization of the World Cup is not, as such, liable under the ECHR neither. It has, however, its headquarters in Switzerland. Is this enough to hold Switzerland, a party to the ECHR, liable for human rights violations in Strasbourg? Continue reading >>

Merkwürdiges und Bedenkenswertes bei der Wahlprüfung in Berlin

Die Wahlen zum Deutschen Bundestag im September 2021 wurden in Berlin zusammen mit Wahlen zum dortigen Abgeordnetenhaus und den Bezirksvertreterversammlungen durchgeführt, obendrein noch mit einem Volksentscheid gekoppelt. Das Wahlgeschehen war bekanntlich von erheblichen Pannen begleitet, das Wort „Chaos“ wird regelmäßig zur Beschreibung der damaligen Zustände in den Wahllokalen benutzt. Aber auch das ergangene Urteil und seine Begründung werfen etliche Fragen auf. Continue reading >>

The High Stakes Israeli Debate over the Override

Following the 2022 elections to Israel’s legislature (Knesset), a hardcore right wing coalition is in the process of forming. Each of the potential partners in this coalition fantasizes about introducing an override clause into the Israeli constitutional system for different political motivations. However, the result would be the same. It would allow the Knesset to disproportionally infringe upon constitutional rights. Continue reading >>

#DefendingTheDefenders – Episode 2: Belarus

In the second episode of Defending the Defenders, we talk to Dmitri Laevski about the rule of law and human rights in Belarus. Dmitri is a criminal attorney turned human rights lawyer in the wake of the 2020 presidential elections. He takes us through the recent history of the rule of law in Belarus, from realising that the concept he learned about in university didn't really exist in practice to the organisation of the legal professions in the last decade to the rule of law crackdown in 2020 and ever since. Continue reading >>

Einmal Top, einmal Flop

Zu Beginn einer Pandemie ist vieles erlaubt – aber doch nicht alles. So lassen sich die ersten beiden Hauptsacheentscheidungen des Bundesverwaltungsgerichts (BVerwG) vom 22. November 2022 zu Coronamaßnahmen aus der Anfangsphase der Pandemie (hier und hier) grob zusammenfassen. Konkret ging es um Vorschriften der Sächsischen Corona-Schutz-Verordnung und der Bayerischen Infektionsschutzmaßnahmenverordnung. Damit steht fest: Bayern hat im Überbietungswettkampf der Länder um die schärfsten Corona-Maßnahmen die Grenzen der Rechtsstaatlichkeit überschritten. Continue reading >>