Centennial ASIL Meeting is Historic with Many Prominent Speakers and a Guaranteed Learning Opportunity for Foreign & International Law Librarians
Submitted by Heidi Frostestad Kuehl
Pritzker Legal Research Center, Northwestern University School of Law
The American Society of International Law (ASIL) held its 100th Annual Meeting, "A Just World Under Law," from March 29th to April 1st at the Fairmont in Washington D.C. The meeting had a historic lineup of speakers, including Justice Higgins of the International Court of Justice, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and record attendance by practitioners, scholars, and students from around the world. Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the conference was the opening roundtable among Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Retired Justice O'Connor, Judge Higgins, and ASIL President-Elect Jose Alvarez (security was tight, but I managed to get seating in the third row after waiting in a long queue of conference attendees while browsing foreign and international book vendors!). This event was moderated by Gwen Ifill, who is the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week and Senior Correspondent for "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," and included debate about the war in Iraq, the U.S.'s obligations under international law and human rights conventions, use of force in an era of new terrorist threats, Bush's foreign policies, governments in the Middle East, the Supreme Court's citation to foreign judgments in recent years, and historical reference to post-World War II foreign policy and democratization (see transcript of the lecture). Because of the openness of the debate and coverage of numerous topics by the moderator, it was fun to get a better perspective of Secretary of State Rice's background (she's a Russian foreign policy expert, especially post-World War II) and hear more about Bush's current policies, as well as get the unique perspective of retired Justice O'Connor about the U.S. treatment of international law and, especially, treaty obligations.
I also attended many sessions relating to the extraterritorial application of human rights norms, as this is increasingly a popular discussion after U.S. actions in Guantanamo, and the rise of international criminal tribunals. According to one session, there are more than fifty tribuanals and quasi-tribunals today and international arbitration continues to be on the rise. However, with this many international courts and appeals to higher courts, such as the European Court of Human Rights, there are sometimes divergent views on cases with the same facts and an overall lack of universality in the rule of law emerges. Before Thursday evening's lecture, I had a chance to browse the many international law vendors' stands, such as Oxford University Press, Kluwer Law International, and Oceana, and even bumped into fellow FCIL-SIS member Jenny Selby (University of Michigan) before Justice Kennedy's Thursday evening plenary address. The ASIL conference is always such a wonderful way to meet new foreign and international law librarians and see old friends and mentors (I highly recommend it for newcomers!). Even though this session was also extremely full, I managed to get a good seat near the front and enjoyed Kennedy's emotional address to the ASIL membership about genocide and universal obligations. He encouraged civility to further the legal profession and thought that we should lead by example in international institutions. Because he was very generous with his time, he had a chance to reveal many international human rights issues, such as the acts in Darfur, poverty in third-world countries, the AIDS epidemic, and corruption of certain governments. After this session, a group of foreign and international law librarians were fortunate enough to attend a dinner hosted by FCIL librarian Marylin Raisch (Georgetown) at a delicious Vietnamese restaurant in Georgetown. This was a great chance to chat with everyone and meet new people in our interest group.
To further meet with fellow FCIL law librarians on Friday morning, I attended the breakfast hosted by Kelly Vinopal at ASIL's Tiller House, and we thoroughly enjoyed a lecture on "Preservation and Access: Records of International Criminal Courts" given by Trudy Peterson, who is an archivist for those courts. In addition to talking about her personal experiences with the preservation of materials of five temporary international criminal courts, she created a bibliography of resources on preservation for these archives. She revealed that there are all types of materials that need to be preserved [videotapes, audio, electronic, physical models...] and often the governments are at odds with the UN about access to the information, analysis of potential users, and the national courts' preservation. As she mentioned, communities often want the court records from the criminal proceedings for memorialization purposes and for the explanatory power of the records, as well as proximity to the tribunals and people who might need them most but this requires continual staffing by lawyers and archivists. The rest of Friday's sessions were filled with interesting topics, such as gender issues in international law, international environmental law, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, international trade relations, and the plenary address by Justice Rosalyn Higgins. On Saturday morning, there was also an in-depth session on the judicial enforcement of treaties, which focused on self-execution of treaties and the "Charming Betsy" canon, and a session promoting EISIL given by FCIL-SIS members Marci Hoffman (Berkeley) and Jill Watson for those researching international law outside the United States and working overseas. Overall, the ASIL Centennial conference was a memorable one---numerous opportunities to meet others in our profession, prominent speakers, and excellent lectures and topics for this momentous occasion.
International Law: 100 Ways It Shapes Our Lives (ASIL 2006) - Here are some of my favorite excerpts from this brochure given out at the conference:
1. Having a wider variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to choose from during the winter. [1994 Marrakesh (or Uruguay Round) Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization]
2. Knowing that the Feta cheese you buy is from Greece and that the Tequila you buy comes from Mexico. [1883 Paris Convention for Protection of Industrial Property & the Madrid Arrangement (1891), then GATT of 1947, followed by the Lisbon Agreement (1958) for the Protection of Appellations of Origin]
3. Making it easier, at airports and other points of entry to the country, to bring home imported goods. [UN Commission for Trade and Development]
4. Driving freely and legally in another country. [1949 UN Convention on International Road Traffic]
5. Adopting foreign-born children safely and fairly. [1993 Hague Adoption Convention]
For a complete list, see
International Law: 100 Ways it Shapes Our Lives
at the ASIL website!
World leading archivist Trudy Haskamp Peterson (at table's end) spoke to an International Law Librarians program sponsored at ASIL on March 31, 2006. Her remarks focused on her work dealing with the preservation of and access to records collected for temporary international criminal courts.