Recently, Both the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Chinese government have made separate announcements concerning space exploration and opening it to the private sector. Taking cues from the history of the United States, both the ESA and the Chinese government hope that by including private enterprises in space exploration will help drive innovation, increase expertise and compete with U.S. companies. While the ESA’s announcement was broad, asking for any and all ideas that will help the ESA further the goal of new technology, mining and space exploration. The Chinese government, however, will break its own monopoly on its space program by now allowing private companies to invest in space programs.These announcements, however, begs the question of who will be the new leading authority in space technology and exploration. With NASA currently paying Russia to shuttle its astronauts to space. As well as private US companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic increasing their presence in the public and private sector markets. It looks as though a modern day “Space Race” may be on the horizon. Typically, with increased competition we see an increase in innovation. As seen during the 1960’s “Space Race” between the United States and the Soviet Union. However, the current situation differs, whereas then, there was popular national support, backed with governmental funds, a decade was dedicated to a single cause of putting a man on the moon. Today, while there may be some national support for space exploration in general, trust of the government and for-profit corporations may be at an all time low. Will these announcements prompt a greater international dialogue on the desire and need for space exploration. Will opening up the ability of many countries to operate outside of Earths atmosphere fuel global support? These announcements may provide many opportunities for nations with space agencies to unite in a common goal or may create decisive rifts for in accomplishing national goals.
The article can be found here.
By Bryce Myrvang
By: Andrew Fleming
A recent article in The Guardian outlined the struggles of a group of fisherman who make their living fishing the Caspian Sea. Due to the effects of pollution and over-fishing in the Caspian the fisherman are experiencing lessening yields making it extremely difficult for these fisherman and many like them to make a decent living. This article does a good job of shining a personal spotlight on a global problem. According to a National Geographic article by Fen Montaigne, some scientists are reporting as much as a 80% decline in some ocean fish populations due to the effects of pollution and over-fishing. With the increasing popularity of seafood, the problem will only increase in magnitude unless something is done.
While international quotas do exist in an attempt to regulate commercial fishing, they are not always followed. A problem Montaigne discusses in the context of Blue Fin Tuna fishing. When quotas are exceeded, more fish enter the market and the prices are driven down forcing local fisherman to either exceed quotas in order to produce enough fish to feed their families or comply and risk being forced out of business. One way to combat this could be to impose harsher penalties for exceeding the quotas, particularly if the violator is a large scale fishing organization. Another problem is that the quotas are only applicable to the signatories of the treaties imposing them, therefore fisherman of some countries only have to comply with any self-imposed regulations that may or may not exist. If these problems are not addressed, more and more local fisherman will be forced to close up shop having a detrimental impact on many cultures that traditionally subsist off the marine resources. That’s not to mention any larger environmental impact over-fishing and marine pollution will have on the planet. Are there any other ways you can think of to protect marine resources as well as local fishermen?
By Upendra D. Acharya
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday warned Congress that a “bad deal” being negotiated with Iran would destroy Israel. He indicated that no deal is better than the deal now being negotiated.
Many have observed that Netanyahu demonstrated his patriotic commitment to the Israeli people by making the U.S. Congress his forum for re-election, and that Republicans used the prime minister to gain votes and donations from the American Jewish community and its supporters. This is nothing new, just politics as usual.
Of course, there is a potential constitutional issue concerning whether the Speaker of the House had the authority to invite a foreign leader to speak on a foreign policy matter.
Also, Israel’s interests are always a special foreign policy concern of the United States. The U.S. has not only provided a huge amount of economic and military aid to Israel, but also has stood behind Israel many times before the United Nations and in many other international forums. However, the immediate concern is the “deal.”
The merit of the issue is whether there should be a deal with Iran. Netanyahu suggests that there should be no deal because it is inevitably going to be a bad deal, that any deal with Iran would make it more capable of enriching and possessing nuclear weapons, and that Iran has pledged to destroy Israel. The prime minister has long been lobbying the U.S. against Iran’s nuclear program. And Iran certainly has been working toward making nuclear weapons. However, there has not been a single bit of proof that Iran possesses nuclear weapons.
The Obama administration is working with members of the International Atomic Energy Agency to complete the deal. It does not seem that Netanyahu’s speech is going to slow down or halt negotiations.
Russia and Iran have made bilateral deals to develop nuclear power plants. In this context, “do nothing” could be the worst option since doing nothing has not stopped Iran from expanding its nuclear capacity, or from making deals with Russia for its power plants. From 1992 to date, do nothing has done nothing.
So, it is in the interest of both the U.S. and Israel that a deal be made; not only to stop Iran from producing nuclear weapons, but also push Russia to behave in a transparent manner when dealing with Iran on nuclear power plants. Under international law, Iran is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and can legally seek to have a peaceful nuclear energy program under the treaty.
What are the apparent current possibilities?
Do nothing, which would allow Iran to continue building its nuclear capability, and looking for more partners like Russia.
Russia will keep making deals with Iran on nuclear enrichment programs, and no Israeli prime minister can stop Russia from doing so.
Use force, with the U.S. and Israel destroying Iran’s known nuclear facilities. But if the Iranian public decides that Iran has the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and sees the enrichment activities as matters of national need and pride, the use of force would be counterproductive by inspiring more extremist groups. And there is no guarantee that Iran would not restart its enrichment program.
Deal with Iran, which is the last and the best option. The U.S. and Iran would continue working toward completing a deal. It would be better if Congress and Israel worked with President Obama to ensure that the terms and conditions in the deal stipulate that Iran cannot enrich nuclear material to a level that would make nuclear weapons possible. If Iran carries on, there will be internationally agreed upon consequences, with Iran strictly following all IAEA inspection and monitoring requirements.
It is important for Congress, the president and even the American public to understand that the U.S. is required to address the entire global front in its foreign policy matters, which are interrelated and complex. Any small or large mistake could have domino effects in its foreign policy matters and global leadership. U.S. foreign policy must consider that in the 21st century, nations will be much more interdependent than at any other time in the past.
Upendra Dev Acharya is an associate professor at Gonzaga Law School and is the faculty advisor for the Gonzaga Journal of International Law.
This article originally appeared in the Spokesman-Review on March 7, 2015. You can find the original article here:
By Bryce Myrvang
Recently, The United States government, particularly the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has taken preliminary steps to encourage and regulate commercial development on the moon. It has been proposed that the FAA will use their “existing launch licensing authority to encourage private sector investments in space systems by ensuring that commercial activities can be conducted on a non-interference basis.” However, this raises regulatory issues not only within the the United States government but for foreign space-faring nations as well. All of which have an interest in lunar property rights and mineral rights but have not been adequately discussed since the 1970’s. A 1967 United Nations treaty that, in part, governs activity on the moon, may provide a legal framework from which to build a regulatory infrastructure for the U.S. and other nations. It will, however, have to include both national interests as well foreign interests. Needless to say, these regulations are in their infancy. But with growing public awareness of the viability of commercial space flight and exploration, there are barriers that the United States, as well as foreign nations with an interest in space regulations will need to overcome.
Source Article can be found here.
By Adrian Mejia
In 2016, 80 individuals will own a level of wealth equivalent to that of the world’s poorest 3.5 million individuals. This is not the beginning of a sci-fi blockbuster starring Matt Damon. That, is what we learned from a recent report from the anti-poverty NGO, Oxfam. In addition to widely publicizing its findings, Oxfam has presented a plan at the World Economic Forum on how governments can tackle the widening gap. While we continue to hear more on inequality in terms of how it violates an innate sense of what we consider to be fair, it is important to step back and consider why it actually is corrosive. After all, if everyone where well-off what would be the problem with some of us having a lot more than others? A problem of inequality is not necessarily a problem of poverty.
Social Epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson, tell us that we now have the data to point to exactly what is wrong with unchecked inequality. This social scientist concludes from comparative studies, that societies with “large income differences,” suffer from more pervasive social problems. These “include physical and mental illness, violence [including higher rates of homicide], low math and literacy scores among young people, lower levels of trust and weaker community life, poorer child well-being, more drug abuse, lower social mobility and higher rates of imprisonment and teenage births.” Worthy of note is the fact that in these societies, “The police, prisons and public services needed to defend ourselves against these problems are expensive and often not very effective.”
These are the real costs to leaving gross inequality unaddressed. The bigger the economic distance between people, the more people feel disrespected, the more people feel disrespected, the higher the propensity for societal breakdowns.
Putting this in the context of the global community, it follows that a wide gap between the world’s rich and its poor, would be a cause of global strife. What are the costs associated with global inequality?
Larry Elliot and Ed Pilkington, “New Oxfam report says half of global wealth held by the 1%” The Guardian January 19, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jan/19/global-wealth-oxfam-inequality-davos-economic-summit-switzerland
Quotations in this article come from Wilkinson article.
Richard Wilkinson, “Why inequality is bad for you — and everyone else,” CNN November 6, 2011, http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/06/opinion/wilkinson-inequality-harm/index.html
By: Andrew Fleming
According to a NY Times article, A British court ruled against GCHQ, a British intelligence service, that in conjunction with the NSA collected and shared private information retrieved from personal computers without the owners’ knowledge. The Internet has allowed for new lines of communication to be formed and knowledge to be shared. This has brought people from many different backgrounds closer together allowing for the formation of a larger global community. However, this increased connectivity also has risks. The increased use of digital storage and the Internet has led to the private information of people to be increasingly vulnerable to theft. It will be interesting to see how laws will develop on the international level to better protect citizens globally.
In “Globalizing Justice,” Dr. Uprety and Dr. Jehani underscore the correlation between legal structure and development. The authors examine this relationship from the perspective of jurists viewing international relations through the lens of developing countries. The main objective of this book is to refute hasty conclusions offered to explain the failed attempts to transfer a legal system from one society to another – namely from a developed nation to a developing nation. Rather than ignorantly blaming the societies receiving the transplanted legal structure, this book examines the systemic failures of the contemporary international legal structure. The current state of international justice and the deficiencies associated within are summarized in an effort to emphasize the need for an alternative, rights based approach to development. Such an alternative approach necessitates an international decision making environment that is truly international, rather than a system financed by and organized to serve the interests of powerful states.
Readers will benefit from the authors’ keen insight on the topic, undoubtedly garnered from their international professional background – both have experience in senior legal positions at the World Bank. To start, the authors provide a thorough overview of the current international justice system. The overview varies in depth, on one hand examining the broad reaching landscape of the international justice system, and on the other, exploring the deeply rooted jurisprudential tension regarding the definition of international law. This examination includes whether international law should be approached through the lens of a realist or formalist. The book’s focus then turns to the problems and possible solutions related to globalizing justice.
The authors point to four main problems that hinder the progress of global justice. First, the anachronistic nature of the United Nations is examined, with special attention given to the flawed approach to participation and power sharing. Also addressed are the conflicts of laws between high and low developed nations and the resulting preservation of the status quo, especially the high-developed nations’ technological superiority. The second problem relates to the contradictions in trade and human rights interplay. The authors assert that modern globalization is solely focused on economic globalization, and in effect, allows basic human rights and individual dignity to be a mere afterthought. Third, the oligopolistic form of the international law making system is analyzed to emphasize the fact that the voices of high-developed countries drown out the low-developed countries; thus, the international law making system promotes the wealthy countries’ interests rather than promoting the development of justice. The fourth problem, interdependent growth, relates to the fact that each nation is driven to protect its own political, economic, and local interests rather than promote global interests.
The authors’ analysis of the problems related to global justice introduces a discussion addressing the need for a just legal system. Interestingly, the authors concede that a one-law-fits-all approach to improving global justice is futile; rather, a just global legal system should integrate the varied spiritual and philosophical foundations of each society. From this, it can be gathered that despite each society’s differences, an overlap of foundational justice is possible among the varied spiritual and philosophic approaches. To illustrate the point, the authors examine the common thread of justice development running through religions and philosophies ranging from Hindiusm, Judaism, Islam, to Ghandhi’s and Rawls’ theories of justice.
Dr. Jehani and Dr. Uprety’s analysis leads to many conclusions about the current international justice system’s ability to address globalizing justice, especially in developing nations. The underlying result is that the current system functions as a mechanism to transplant high-developed nations’ law wholesale to developing nations. As is no surprise to the authors, the transplant is not effective. Dr. Jehani and Dr. Uprety are of the opinion that misplaced blame is given to the receiving countries. Rather than continue to blame various aspects of the receiving societies, the authors examine the complex systemic flaws in the international justice system. While there is no cut and dry solution to the problem, Dr. Jehani and Dr. Uprety highlight the nonnegotiable ideals that must permeate any proposed improvement or solution.
Transitioning from the discussion of the need for a just legal system, and distilling the discussion of various approaches to justice, the authors note that regardless of the philosophical and spiritual source, a successful approach to the development of justice is one where the decision makers are the ultimate beneficiaries. This approach is known as the rights based approach.
The authors assert that a rights based approach to developing global justice would be an improvement on the current framework. The current framework for development is focused on the industrialization of low-developed countries, and in effect does away with the historical identity of the society. On the surface, industrialization may appear to be progress because the low-developed countries are aligning with the high-developed countries’ consumer based society. However this runs contrary to a rights based approach because the low-developed countries are not the ultimate beneficiaries of the development. The authors suggest that the current economic oriented measures of global development such as gross national product and general wealth accumulation must be replaced with measures relating to human existence and human dignity. Discussed in parts five and six, the authors posit that reforming the current international justice system and implementing the proposed rights based approach to development requires an international and domestic law-making arena where all voices are heard.
After a comprehensive analysis diving into the intricacies of the need, the alternative, and the method and implementation of the proposed alternative, the authors step back and provide a holistic conclusion. The authors repeat that the current international justice system is certainly not international, and requires a massive overhaul rather than minor adjustments.
An extraordinary feature of this book is the broad coverage of the intricacies related to the international justice system. The authors provide a thorough historical account of the developments that created the modern system. The historical foundation is established to contextualize the authors’ comments and criticism. The authors’ product represents a comprehensive analysis of the problems involved and offers persuasive improvements to the currently flawed international justice system. Both the specialist as well as the novice will benefit from this book because the reader is introduced to the landscape of international justice while provided with an intricate examination of the topic. For the specialist, Dr. Jehani and Dr. Uprety’s distinguished backgrounds provide unique insights on international law, making “Globalizing Justice: Deficiencies in the Quest and Discontents of World Development” an essential read.
In the spring of 2014, the world was kept on its toes with the daily news coming from Ukraine. Russia played an important role in this affair, keeping up threats of invasion of Crimea and abundant military action. In the end, Crimea held a referendum regarding its independence and subsequently was annexed into the Russian Federation. Putin’s “new vassal” was on everybody’s minds. In regards to international law, however, the process of declaring independence and annexation is much more complex. Peoples are guaranteed the right to self-determination under the Charter of the United Nations on the one hand, but on the other, the Charter also protects states’ territorial integrity. With the incident in Crimea, these two fundamental principles of international law experienced a major clash. In this article, after briefly introducing the facts of the Crimea Crisis, the author will examine both the state’s right to territorial integrity and the peoples’ rights to self-determination in the specific case and circumstances of Crimea. In doing so, the author takes into account the Quebec test and also the potential formation of regional customary law in the area of the former Soviet Union. Finally, this article strives to answer the question of the illegality of the annexation of Crimea by Russia.
The current conflict between Ukraine and Russia about the Ukrainian breakaway of the autonomous republic of Crimea and the special-status city of Sevastopol  raises fears of a new war in Europe, as well as serious questions about the impact of international law. In particular, claims that Russia’s intervention in Crimea were as legitimate as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) 1999 intervention in Kosovo , and that the claims to independence of both territories are of similar value, are misguided . In this article, the fundamental principles of public international law, which are relevant to the situation in Crimea, will be explained and the question as to whether the breakaway of Crimea from Ukraine is legal under international law will be answered. While the primary aim of this article is to address the compatibility of Russia’s intervention in Crimea with international (customary) law, it will be shown in the course of this text that there is not only no “moral equivalence”  between the invasion of Crimea in 2014 and NATO’s Operation “Allied Force” in 1999, but also differing facts .
Crimea’s declaration of independence brings two fundamental concepts of international law into conflict with each other: territorial integrity and self-determination. Crimea’s vote for independence, which appears to be marred not only by the presence of Russian armed forces but also by very serious irregularities such as the absence of voter lists and multiple votes, is only legally relevant if international law allows for secession of Crimea from Ukraine as a permitted form of expressing the right to self-determination.
For hundreds of years, Crimea has been part of Russia , like Ukraine, which experienced only a few troubled years after World War I outside the Russian and Austrian Empires prior to becoming part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Union, USSR) . In 1954, when both Ukraine and Russia were part of the Soviet Union, Crimea was transferred from Russia to Ukraine . What was an internal matter at the time has now become an international question. In 1994, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the new separate Russian Federation, together with the United States and the United Kingdom (UK), agreed to safeguard the borders of the independent nation of Ukraine in the Budapest Memorandum . At the same time, Ukraine gave up the nuclear arsenal it had inherited when the USSR fell apart . While Ukraine has lived up to its part of the deal, its sovereignty is now at stake .
States have a legally protected right to the preservation of their territorial integrity . The fact that this is commonly referred to as territorial sovereignty already indicates the origin of the concept. The right to territorial integrity is a natural consequence of the sovereignty of the state in question. State sovereignty is one of the most fundamental principles of international law . Despite the increasing importance of human rights, non-state actors, and international organizations, states remain key building blocks of the system of international law .The state’s territorial integrity is a key component of state sovereignty as it is protected not only under customary international law but also under Article 2 (1) of the Charter of the United Nations (UN Charter), which protects the “sovereign equality of all [nations]” . As such, the obligation to respect other states’ sovereignty is a fundamental norm not only within the UN Charter but within public international law in general, i.e. customary international law, supported by longstanding state practice and opinio juris.
Likewise, Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter prohibits the use of armed force in international relations, although Article 51 of the UN Charter allows for the use of armed force as self-defense and for the defense of allies and Chapter VII of the UN Charter allows for the UN to take action to preserve or restore peace . While Russia claims that the armed forces operating in Crimea are not Russian regulars , international law has long recognized that states can also be held responsible for acts committed by armed groups which are de facto under the control of a foreign state . This very much appears to be the case with regard to the Russian-speaking forces operating in Crimea.
Russia’s claim that the ousted president Viktor Yanukovych had consented to an intervention does not hold water, as Russia claims that the invitation came after the ouster . As Mr. Yanukovych was no longer in office (regardless of how he lost it ), he was no longer in a position to invite Russia to invade Ukraine . If Russia had been serious about restoring the elected president to power in Ukraine against the will of the Ukrainian parliament, it at least should have tried to follow the path taken by the United Nations Security Council in Haiti  and by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Sierra Leone  in 1998 .
Some claim that Russia is entitled to operate in Ukraine as a consequence of Russia’s close relationship with Ukraine . Such a view is reflective of an imperialist approach  in which imperial centers claim powers over the periphery . This approach is often tempting for powerful states and spheres of interest and influence that have been claimed for a long time. What Russia claims with regard to Ukraine (and in 2008 with regard to Georgia) is a status that does not see Russia and Ukraine to be equally sovereign . This is not the same as being de facto economically dependent on another state, nor is it the same as being in a politically or economically weaker position in a group of nations, such as the European Union, in which membership is voluntary. President Putin is said to have told the younger President Bush in 2008 “that Ukraine is not even a country. Part of its territory is in Eastern Europe and the greater part was given to us” . At the end of the day, it is legally problematic whether Russia claims to rule parts or all of Ukraine directly. Such imperialism in which some states rule over others against the will of the latter is incompatible with the principle of the sovereign equality of states which is enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations .
As obligations which are contained in the UN Charter, the duty to respect the sovereignty of other states and the duty to refrain from using armed force unless explicitly permitted by the UN Charter have a particularly important status in international law as Article 103 of the UN Charter makes it clear that obligations under the UN Charter “shall prevail” over other obligations under international law .
International Law also gives peoples a right to self-determination. However, the population of Crimea consists of three ethnic groups: Ukrainians, Russians and Tatars . While Ukrainians and Russians already have states of their own, the majority of the Crimean Tatars remember historic injustices suffered by the Tatars at Russian hands  and support Crimea’s continued stay in Ukraine .
Article 1 (2) of the UN Charter describes as one of the goals of the UN the “develop[ment of] friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples” . The next question then is whether this goal amounts to an obligation of states within the meaning of Article 103 of the UN Charter. If this is not the case, the territorial integrity of Ukraine takes precedence over the right to self-determination. In general, there are only very few indicators of a clear hierarchy in international law beyond Article 103 of the UN Charter  and falling within the scope of this norm would give the principle of self-determination a particularly high legal status. However, in the case at hand this question can be left open because there are several ways in which the right to self-determination can be exercised. As states are to be also the first guarantors of the rights of peoples , self-determination of a people should first be realized within the existing state. International law is, even more so than national legal systems, reactive rather than creative and, although it often positively influences the development of national norms, it is relatively conservative in nature, which is a logical consequence of the ultimate raison d’être of international law—the preservation of peace.
Therefore, international law places so much emphasis on legal certainty and the protection of existing states. This does not mean that the right to self-determination cannot lead to successful claims for independence:
The right of self-determination does not of itself give rise to a legal right for a state to intervene in the territory of another state, whether directly or through private actors. Where a people are being oppressed and force is being used against them by their own state, it is, I would argue, possible for them to seek and obtain military assistance of a defensive kind from another state. This is preferably through a resolution of the UN, as collective action by a number of states or as part of a self-defense agreement. However, a unilateral military action where there is no such oppression or force is unlawful .
Rather, the last step of secession may only be taken if a number of conditions are met which have long been recognized as being part of public international law and therefore binding upon all states and all who wish to exercise the right to self-determination . Declaring independence is only the most far-reaching manner in which to do so. On lower levels, a number of different options exist . While independence played an important role in the decolonialization era of the 1960s, many peoples that could claim this right will not aim for all-out independence but for a protection of their rights within an existing state. This is a model usually claimed in multi-ethnic states and by indigenous peoples.
International customary law requires that, in order to become an independent state, the peoples who wish to exercise the right to self-determination have to be oppressed in such a manner as to make meaningful self-determination within the original state essentially impossible . This test was elaborated in more detail in the Canadian decision concerning the possible secession of Canada’s French-speaking province of Québec . Investigating not only Canadian law but also analyzing Public International Law, the court established the Québec test, which reflected the existing customary law .
At this time, there are, however, no indicators that the people of Crimea would be discriminated against by the Ukrainian authorities . Unlike the Kosovo-Albanian population in Kosovo in 1999, the Russian-speaking people who live in Crimea in 2014 did not have to fear genocide . Crimea enjoys a degree of autonomy which is unrivaled by any other part of Ukraine . As the conditions of the Québec test have not been met, the people of Crimea are only permitted to exercise the right to self-determination (assuming that there is a Crimean people which can claim this right ratione personae to begin with) within the Ukrainian state and cannot secede from Ukraine.
Yet, one might wonder if the Québec concept is still a rule in customary international law. After all, there have been successful claims for independence in recent years, such as the dissolution of the former Czechoslovakia , the break-up of the former Yugoslavia  and of the former USSR , as well as the independence of South Sudan  and East Timor . While the dissolution of Czechoslovakia was consensual  and therefore cannot be compared to unilateral secessions, the independence claims by countries such as Slovenia, Croatia, or Kosovo are comparable at first sight from Crimea’s secession .
Claims to independence by countries such as South Sudan, East Timor, or Kosovo are considered successful because many other states have recognized the independence of these states . Recognition by other states is not legally necessary for the emergence of a new state . The case is different however, when virtually all states refrain from recognizing the new entity . This is because statehood requires a territory, a population, and an effective government . The latter requires that the government is actually able to engage in international relations—but if all states deny recognition, this is not possible—simply because no state will then enter any relations. There are a number of precedents for this—for example the homelands in South Africa, which had been declared independent states by South Africa during the Apartheid era . These areas, Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, and Ciskei were not recognized and the collective non-recognition meant that they never were true states . The same is valid for the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) , the Georgian breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Transnistria, Somaliland, or Nagorno-Karabakh .
Apart from the Russian Federation, no state recognized the statehood of the Republic of Crimea . This indicates that there might have been a lack of recognition, which was so severe as to prevent the Republic of Crimea from actually attaining statehood . Collective non-recognition does not require a complete non-recognition, but also includes cases in which just one or two countries have recognized a state or in which only non-recognized entities have recognized an entity as a state . Russia’s willingness to deal with the de facto government of Crimea is insufficient to establish Crimea as an independent state. The situation in Crimea is therefore comparable to the legal position of the TRNC.
It has to be noted that between the declaration of independence and the incorporation of Crimea and Sevastopol into the Russian Federation, there was not much time for other states to consciously refrain from recognizing the Republic of Crimea as a state , which leaves open the issue of whether the lack of recognition actually amounts to a collective non-recognition in this case. The short-lived nature of the Republic of Crimea, which lasted only a few days between the declaration of independence and its absorption by Russia, plays into the hands of Russia because the time of independence was too short for a collective non-recognition by the international community . Even though no other state apart from Russia recognized the Republic of Crimea as a state, the absence of recognition by other states might not necessarily amount to a collective non-recognition as other states simply did not have enough time to even reflect on the issue and make a decision whether or not to recognize this alleged new state. Yet, the legal position of the now former Republic of Crimea at the time it claimed to exist was significantly stronger than that of other would-be states, such as the TRNC, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, or Transnistria, all of which have claimed statehood for years without achieving much (if anything) in terms of recognition and without any effective foreign policy governance. In these cases, time has shown that, for example, the TRNC is not a state within the meaning of international law . By quickly incorporating the constitutive elements of the alleged Republic of Crimea (Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol) into the Russian Federation, Moscow has at least avoided this verdict. This is not to say that the Republic of Crimea actually ever was a state – in fact, all appearances indicate that it was as little a state as the so-called TRNC is .
The successful claims to independence mentioned earlier have one thing in common: these states were able to declare independence because the people in question had been marginalized in the old state. In other words, countries like East Timor, Kosovo, South Sudan, Slovenia, or Croatia pass the Québec test. In this sense, it is much easier to make the case for the independence of the aforementioned states than for Crimea. The Crimean case is on a different level altogether and can only be compared to Abkhazia, South Ossetia, or the TRNC . The Baltic states as well as Montenegro’s claim to independence is different in nature as they only regained the independence they enjoyed prior to the occupation  (the situation is slightly more complicated with regard to Ukraine, which saw several competing claims to statehood in the time between the end of World War I and its inclusion in the Soviet Union). On the other hand, recognition has been widely denied to South Ossetia and Abkhazia , where the Québec test’s requirements were not met. This indicates that the Québec criteria still reflects the existing customary international law. However, the declaration of independence by former Soviet states (except the Baltic states  and, somewhat, Ukraine) as a result of independence referenda at a time when there was not the same level of oppression indicates that there might be a willingness of the international community to allow for unilateral declarations of independence even if there is no longer an overwhelming degree of oppression.
The same is indicated by the manner in which the government of the United Kingdom treated the discussion of the planned independence referendum in Scotland. If the UK government maintained that the Québec test was reflective of the current rule of international law in this regard, this should have been made clear. Instead of denying the legality of the proposed referendum under international law per se, the UK government merely spelled out consequences, such as an unwillingness to let an independent Scotland use the British Pound as a common currency . This lack of clarity on the part of UK authorities and the unwillingness of the UK government to prevent the proposed referendum  indicate a weakening of the existing customary law rule. Also, the fact that Spain refuses to recognize Kosovo due to fears over potential independence claims by the Basque Country and Catalonia further complicates the matter unnecessarily . If Spain were to take the Québec standard seriously and trust in the strength of international law, it would not have to fear Kosovo’s independence as a precedent as long as the conditions within Spain do not deteriorate to the level that would allow for secessions. In itself, these reactions to the mere possibility of independence claims, though, are not sufficient to change the existing customary international law.
On the other hand, it has to be noted that the Québec decision was made in 1998  and hence years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. With the exception of the proposed Scotland referendum, the independence declarations by Kosovo, South Sudan, and East Timor, the post-1998 cases that are widely accepted by the international community were in compliance with the Québec test.
It can therefore be concluded that, in general, the conditions spelled out in the Québec test still describe the current customary international law.
There is, however, the possibility that a norm of regional customary international law  has been formed in the region of the former USSR (minus the Baltic states). According to Article 72 of the 1977 Constitution of the Soviet Union , every republic of the USSR had the right to secede from the USSR . Accordingly, from the perspective of the other Soviet Republics, the republics which gained independence in the early 1990s did so without having to fulfill the normal conditions of customary international law which were identified later in the Québec decision. Although with regard to every other state, a stricter standard might have been applicable, unless a regional customary law rule identical to the rule contained in Article 72 of the 1977 Soviet Constitution exists.
The question then, has to be whether the dissolution of the USSR created an instant rule of regional customary international law that would also be applicable to the secession of Crimea from Ukraine or if this was merely an application of Article 72 of the Constitution of the USSR, which would not be applicable to the current situation. The fact that not only other former republics of the USSR but other states around the world have recognized the statehood of countries such as Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, and the other newly independent states on the territory of what used the be the Soviet Union  indicates that indeed a different standard applied to the dissolution of the USSR. At least this argument is noteworthy unless one were to assume that Russia’s dominance over the other Soviet republics was sufficient to amount to a level of oppression which would allow for secession anyway. The fact that the Soviet Union’s Constitution gave the republics a legal status not unlike that of constituent states in other federal nations, such as the states which make up the United States, Germany’s Länder, or Switzerland’s Kantone, indicates that despite massive human rights violations, the Soviet republics (with the exception of the occupied Baltic states and, to some extent, Ukraine, which had been conquered by Russia ) were not marginalized to a degree which would have made secession based solely on international customary law evidently possible.
This question, however, does not need to be answered in order to determine the legality of Crimea’s claim to independence. This becomes clearer when one looks at the four earlier cases of independence claims in the region in recent years: Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh. Like Crimea, none of these territories was a republic within the meaning of Article 72 of the 1977 USSR Constitution . In all of these cases, the customary international law conditions for independence, as spelled out in the Quebec test, were not met at the time when they declared independence: the mere fact that there is an independence movement and a popular desire for independence does not allow for secession, especially not if the people in question are treated like any other group of citizens and with respect for their individual and collective human rights . Even if there was in the early 1990s an instant customary international law norm regarding secessions in the territory of the former USSR (minus the Baltic states), such a rule does not apply to Crimea today because earlier independence claims by other non-republic territories were not even supported by the majority of former USSR states: among the states in the territory of the former USSR, only Russia recognizes South Ossetia and Abkhazia , as well as Transnistria as independent states, Armenia claims that Nagorno-Karabakh is part of its own territory –and the four territories recognize each other as independent states. As Russia’s position with regard to Transnistria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia (and Armenia’s position with regard to Nagorno-Karabakh) is similar to that of Turkey with regard to the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, these recognitions are insufficient in order to indicate the statehood of these territories. Like the TRNC, these territories are not independent states. The situation of Crimea on March 17, 2014 was identical .
Therefore, the Québec test applies to the situation in Crimea. Unlike in the case of Kosovo, the people of Crimea were not subjected to widespread violations of their rights to an extent that a unilateral secession would have been warranted. The claim by the Crimean leadership that their case is as legal as Kosovo’s secession from Serbia  does not hold water. Neither does their reference to the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion  regarding the declaration of independence by Kosovo .
It has to be concluded that in the absence of persecution of the Crimean population by the Ukrainian government  the conditions of the Québec test are not met and that accordingly the right to self-determination cannot be utilized by Crimea for the purpose of breaking away from Ukraine. Accordingly, Crimea remains part of Ukraine. It is not impossible that the customary international law in this regard will change in the future, but with the current state of the law, Crimea’s claim for independence does not have a legal basis in international law. Under customary international law, it has long been illegal for states to recognize violations of the territorial sovereignty of another state as legal if in fact they are not . Russia’s claim is not only “weak” , it is not convincing in light of the existing customary international law.
Accordingly, Russia not only must refrain from using armed forces in Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, but is also prevented by international law from recognizing the referendum of March 16, 2014, in which an overwhelming majority of Crimeans is said to have voted to secede from Ukraine and to join Russia . Russia’s recognition of Crimea as an independent state on March 17, 2014, is as illegal as the recognition of the alleged independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia was after Russia’s 2008 war against Georgia. Likewise, Russia’s claim on March 17, 2014, that Crimea is now a part of the Russian Federation is invalid .
However, as Russia enjoys veto power in the UN Security Council, Ukraine’s possibilities to seek help from the UN Security Council in order to preserve the peace with Russia appear extremely limited. Even if Ukraine was able to hold Russia accountable in the International Court of Justice, it would be the Security Council that would eventually be tasked with enforcing any judgment against Russia. Russia’s veto power would make this practically useless, in particular since it requires Security Council and General Assembly action to take away rights from a member state under Article 5, sentence 1, of the Charter of the United Nations . In so far, it appears that while Ukraine’s rights under international law are being broken, there is little recourse available in the realm of peaceful dispute settlement. While Ukraine would be permitted to use armed force in order to secure its borders, the new government in Kyiv has shown considerable restraint in light of Russia’s overwhelming military might.
These practical effects of Russia’s superior military power combined with its economic dominance over Ukraine and its veto power in the UN Security Council show that a collective security system is not always enough to protect states. In the long run, a truly fair international law will require the abolishment of the veto power and the creation of other kinds of safeguards that allow the UN to work effectively without putting it at risk of being abused. As the UN is an international, not a supranational, body, any such changes will require the consent of all UN member states, which is highly unlikely, at least in the seriously foreseeable future. It is therefore necessary to find an effective solution within the existing international legal system. As things stand today, Ukraine has very few options to react effectively to Russia’s violations of international law. The close economic and political ties to Russia and Ukraine’s failure to forge a closer association with the West in the form of NATO or EU membership have turned it into a relatively easy target, as was the case with Georgia in 2008 .
Like in the case of NATO’s 1999 intervention in Yugoslavia , the case of Crimea shows that international law is not irrelevant but that, to the contrary, the international community needs clearer rules. As other European states witness independence movements for example in Scotland, Catalonia, the Basque Country, Padania, and Venice, clearer legal rules with regard to the declaration of independence from an existing state and the intervention by other states are needed. As states (which might fear to be at the receiving end of this particular idea at some future date) are unlikely to even want to touch the issue of independence movements, it will be left for customary international law to provide a solution at some point in the future. As things are standing today, it can only be hoped that in the future, independence movements will look more like those in Scotland, Catalonia, or Quebec than those in Crimea, Kosovo, or the Basque Country. Yet, if history is any guide, one might doubt that the development of international law in this regard will happen without further bloodshed.
With the annexation of Crimea, “Moscow is challenging the fundamental international norms on which the European state system relies: territorial integrity and the sanctity of borders” . For many modern states, which are based on the post-1945 international legal order, including even economically powerful states as, for example, Germany , this return to the 19th century  comes as a shock. It is of the interest of the international community as a whole that Russia’s attempt at a return to a darker age in international law is repelled. This has to be done with the tools available under international law. In this context, Russia’s veto power in the Security Council of the United Nations provides a formidable obstacle. In particular, the precedent set in 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly’s “Uniting for Peace” Resolution  might well be argued to have become customary international law. However, were Russia to stabilize the situation in Crimea (and it very much looks like this at this time), there would still be a violation of international law – not necessarily a threat to international peace but “merely” an occupation.
Even if the situation in Crimea would have warranted expression of a desire for self-determination, which could have resulted in Crimea breaking away from Ukraine, it has to be kept in mind that a large number of Ukrainian citizens use the Russian language in everyday life and that there is no oppression of Russian-speakers in Ukraine that would allow secession .
Today, Ukraine and other former Soviet states (minus the Baltic states) are perceived by the Russian leadership not only as neighbors with a long history but as Russia’s sphere of influence which other states ought to respect . If this reminds one of the Monroe doctrine, it is worth remembering that this doctrine was formulated in 1823 . In a sense, Russia seems to have taken a jump back in time to the first half of the 19th century, to a time before the sovereign equality of nations. In contrast to European states’ colonial endeavors beyond the seas in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Australian-Pacific area, Russia’s empire has for the greatest part been geographically continuous in the sense that it developed first overland and then to adjacent areas with Russian presences in Hawai’i, Alaska, and California . This might explain the mindset, which places such a claim on locations such as the former Soviet states. After all, Russia and the lands it claims to be in its sphere of influence share both geographic vicinity and a colonial history . From an American perspective, it is difficult to find an example that would parallel Crimea’s significance for Russia: the Philippines and the Pacific Island nations which gained independence from the United States in the 20th century hardly have the same cultural significance for Americans as Crimea has for Russia. Even in a European context, the symbolic importance of Crimea is hard to match elsewhere. From a European perspective, the relationship between Britain and Ireland or between France and Algeria comes to mind or—if one wants to stretch the example a bit by placing emphasis on language as a connecting component—between Germany and Austria. In historical terms, though, Crimea’s political and cultural importance for Russia transcends these examples from other countries. This, however, does not free the Russian Federation from its obligations under international law, in particular, Ukraine’s right to territorial integrity. The fact that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, referred to the annexation of Crimea as a reaction to the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in recent years  is indicative of this imperial outlook.
For several years, Russia has claimed a special relationship with the former Soviet states and has made a distinction in its foreign policy between foreign policy in the proper sense of the term and foreign policy in its so called “near abroad,” in other words, the former USSR . In a sense, Putin does not see Ukraine as Russia’s sovereign equal . The same applies to Crimea and the people who live there: President Putin’s view of the Crimean Tatars is particularly telling, as it exhibits an almost traditional colonial worldview of apparent superiority of Russians over Tatars, without excluding them completely from the imperial project . To quote from the speech he gave on the occasion of the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol:
True, there was a time when Crimean Tatars were treated unfairly, just as a number of other peoples in the USSR. There is only one thing I can say here: millions of people of various ethnicities suffered during those repressions, and primarily Russians. Crimean Tatars returned to their homeland. I believe we should make all the necessary political and legislative decisions to finalize the rehabilitation of Crimean Tatars, restore them in their rights and clear their good name.
In other words, while admitting that injustice was done to the Crimean Tatars in the past, they have no reason to complain because others suffered much more. In particular, in light of the horrors of the Holodomor , these words will sound painful to many Ukrainians. The phrase “clear their good name”  somehow implies a wrongdoing on the part of the Tatars that would require ethnic Russians to forgive them for past acts. Here, the perpetrator becomes the victim and the victims of injustices are somehow to blame for what happened in the past. What Putin refers to as “the rehabilitation of the Crimean Tatars”  is more than an attempt to win support for Russia among the Tatars – the choice of words also indicates a need to include the Tatars in the Russian society. Would Putin consider the Tatars to actually be Russian citizens from the moment the self-proclaimed Republic of Crimea has been annexed by the Russian Federation, this would hardly be necessary. Although one has to be careful not to read too much into this statement, apart from the signature ceremony, there was hardly even the pretense of equality between the Russian Federation and the so-called Republic of Crimea.
Russia might not desire an all-out annexation of Eastern Ukraine (although this can no longer be ruled out), but at the very least the Putin government seems to want to weaken Ukraine so much that Ukrainian membership in NATO or the EU effectively becomes impossible . The Russian government might feel factually encircled by NATO in the West, Islamic nations in the South, and a rising China in the East. Russia has histories of confrontations with all three neighbors, ranging from the Cold War to the Chechen Wars and the Sino-Soviet Border Conflicts of 1969. The terrorist attacks in Volgograd in late 2013 serve as a reminder that the end of the Second Chechen War was not the end of Russia’s conflict with militant Islam . While relations with China appear to be relatively cordial , Russia cannot rule out future Chinese territorial ambitions towards Russia’s Far East, and it is unable to project force in the region to the same extent the world’s most populous country could, should it choose to set its sights on the sparsely populated area to its north. Many in Russia have seen NATO’s eastward expansion as a humiliating defeat by the former Cold War rival .
It comes as no surprise that Russia’s attempt to regain a sense of greatness has found a victim in Ukraine: relations with China are generally good at the moment, the war against Islamist terrorism does not lend itself to a quick and easy victory, and other states which have left Russia’s orbit are members of NATO (like the Baltic states, which were occupied by the USSR for decades and are now members of both NATO and the EU ) or at least the EU (like Finland, which was part of Russia until 1917 ). Taking into account that the central Asian states, which emerged after the dissolution of the USSR, pose almost as little a threat to Moscow’s power as Belarus, this essentially leaves Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Georgia as opponents. The latter has been dealt with by Russia in 2008, as NATO will hardly accept a new member that still has open territorial disputes, although this option is not completely excluded . Despite the admission of Cyprus to the EU, it appears likely that the EU will not offer full membership to Georgia as long as the issues of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are not settled permanently—but on June 27, 2014, the EU signed association agreements with Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia . This opens the door to potential future accession, although—as the Turkish bid shows—this is a process that can take a very long time . Russian-Azeri relations have to be seen in light of the conflict between Russia’s ally Armenia (which did not ratify a planned association agreement with the EU) and Azerbaijan, as well as in the Turkish support for Azerbaijan. However, as EU-Azeri negotiations continue, it remains to be seen how Russia would react to Azerbaijan moving closer to the EU. The same can be said for Moldova, where separatists in Transnistria have already called for incorporation of their self-declared state, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, into the Russian Federation . It has been speculated that by fermenting unrest in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, Russia could be laying the groundwork for an invasion and eventual annexation of these parts of Ukraine for the purpose of building a land-bridge connecting Russia proper with Crimea or even Transnistria . Like in the case of the overt 2008 war against Georgia, Russia is now using force (albeit less overtly) to prevent former USSR states from joining the EU and/or NATO. In the case of Armenia, which in 2013 refused to ratify a planned association agreement, political pressure was sufficient for Russia to achieve the desired outcome . In Georgia and Ukraine, armed force has now been used in 2008 and 2014 respectively. In all cases Russia has acted like an imperial power.
This imperial mindset does not see the need for legal justifications in case of an intervention , which is hardly surprising when one takes into account that the periphery is seen neither as sovereign nor as equal. It is not simply that international law is weak per se; rather, it appears that the Russian leadership does not believe that it fully applies in the relationship between the imperial center and the vassal. If this is indeed the rationale driving Moscow, then the annexation of Crimea is not a return to 1954 (the year Crimea was transferred from Russia to the Ukraine ), nor to the Cold War, nor to the early 19th century concept of spheres of influence. Instead, at least in this regard, Russia seems to have gone back to the idea of client republics. This is a step back to 1823, the year of the Monroe doctrine . Russia’s policy towards the states of the “near abroad” is a return to a concept similar of France’s client republics, which were set up in the late 18th and early 19th centuries . It behooves the international community to remember the fate of these entities under the French Empire, which emerged soon thereafter. For the time being, however, it appears as if Eric Posner’s summary of the situation remains correct. On March 1, 2014, he wrote: “1. Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine violates international law. 2. No one is going to do anything about it” . Law is meant to protect those who cannot protect themselves by force against more powerful adversaries. In the case of Crimea, it is not international law that has abandoned Ukraine. It is Russia that is stepping away from modern international law.
The lack of a forceful reaction by Western governments to Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine emboldens the Russian leadership . When the West, without recognizing Russian sovereignty over Crimea (which would be illegal ), does not stop Putin, no favor is done to Russia either. Instead of integrating Russia into the European unification project, Putin is resurrecting not merely the Soviet Union but continues Russia’s imperial history, of which the Soviet Union and the Cold War dominance over Eastern Europe were merely one or two episodes.
But if no meaningful response is found, the international community has abandoned international law in the face of Russian power. In the long run, Russia, too, will benefit if the international community takes a stand and defends international law in general and the sovereign equality of nations in particular because it will enable Russia to remain an active player in a globalized world. Hiding behind the borders of its empire and living on the basis of an economy which only includes the empire and the vassals already did not work during the time of the Warsaw Pact. In today’s connected and globalized planetary economy, it would appear outright impossible. Russia now has to choose between freedom and empire.
From the perspective of international law, such an imperial approach has several consequences beyond the legality of Russia’s actions with regard to Ukraine. In the current crisis between Russia and Ukraine, the rule of law is “of direct relevance” , indeed of utmost importance. It appears that the Russian leadership sees Russia as an empire. If one no longer believes in the concept of the sovereign equality of nations, it is only logical that one believes that different rules apply to the powerful. In so far, from the Russian perspective, the situation is not much different from the colonial time when great powers shared the world between them.
In recent decades, wars between states have become rare and it can be argued that the codification of the concept of sovereign equality of states in the UN Charter  and its widespread acceptance by states have had a significant pacifying function in this regard. Russia’s treatment of both Georgia and Ukraine indicates a willingness to abandon the consensus of the sovereign equality of nations. It has to be assumed that the actions of the Russian leadership are calculated and rational. In fact, the events in Georgia and Ukraine make the case for proponents of the rational choice theory of international law: “Rational choice folks think that international law works best (in fact, works at all only) when states have a rational self-interest to cooperate around certain legal norms and institutions. But where states no longer have such a rational self-interest, states will depart from those legal norms” .
It appears that the current Russian leadership has a greater interest in shoring up support at home and in restoring Russia to what is perceived as greatness than it has in remaining a reliable member of the international community. This does not mean that Russia will isolate itself. In fact, like during the Cold War, Russia is actively cooperating with like-minded states, for example through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Eurasian Union . The latter has the potential to give shape to Russia’s imperial ambitions while the former opens the door for cooperation with China. Since the loss of its status as a superpower at the end of the Cold War, the idea of a multipolar world has been around in Russia. Yet, Russia cannot turn back time and pretend that the last twenty-five years have not happened. Any dreams of a world shared by imperial powers will conflict with a reality, which has seen individual empowerment on an unprecedented scale thanks to globalization and technological progress. At the same time, European integration has advanced to a degree that should give Russian leaders pause. Pro-European protests were the beginning of the protests of the former regime in Kyiv. Many (in particular young) people in Ukraine see their future with the European Union rather than with Russia. The same could apply to Russia. Russia’s choice therefore is also one of facing the challenges and opportunities of the future alone or as part of Europe.
The Russian people deserve better than an un-free empire, isolated from freedom and progress. Being part of Europe does not mean that Russians have to give up values that are perceived as typically Russian. President Putin seems to fear freedom because true freedom and democracy would mean that he would not rule Russia forever. Everyone under Russia’s jurisdiction has fundamental human rights and other European states have an obligation to defend human rights. In so far, Ukraine’s inter-state complaint against Russia before the European Court of Human Rights is laudable as it not only serves Ukraine’s interests but the interests of European society at large.
The author thanks Vanessa M. Frese, University of Fribourg.
*Associate Professor for Fundamental and Human Rights, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland; admitted to the bar in Germany (Rechtsanwalt); Doctor in Social Sciences (Law), Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
. Sevastopol has long had a special status under first Soviet and later Ukrainian law and was not part of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea within Ukraine; the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol are claimed to have formed a new, independent state—the Republic of Crimea. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, Address by President of the Russian Federation (Mar. 18, 2014), http://eng.kremlin.ru/news/6889 (President Putin refers to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as “the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol”). After a referendum, Russia has annexed this allegedly independent state, and the Russian Federation now considers the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to be a federal subject of the Russian Federation (the Republic of Crimea) and Sevastopol to be a federal city. René Värk, The Incorporation of Crimea into Russia: Legal Perspective, Diplomaatia (Apr. 2014), http://www.diplomaatia.ee/en/article/krimmi-liitmine-venemaaga-oiguslik-vaatenurk/.
. Putin, supra note 1. The same claim was also made by the separatists in the self-declared Republic of Crimea. See Christian Marxsen, Crimea’s Declaration of Independence, EJIL: Talk! (Mar. 18, 2014), http://www.ejiltalk.org/crimeas-declaration-of-independence/; Putin Compares Kosovo’s 2008 Independence to Russia’s Annexation of Crimea; Others Disagree, FOX News.com (Mar. 19, 2014) http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/03/19/putin-compares-kosovo-2008-independence-to-russia-annexation-crimea-others/; Crimea is not Kosovo, The Baltic Times (Mar. 24, 2014), http://www.baltictimes.com/news/articles/34610/#.VEsE-IvF94V.
. Patrick Goodenough, Crimea Vote: Putin Cites Kosovo ‘Precedent’, CNS News.com (Mar. 15, 2014), http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/crimea-vote-putin-cites-kosovo-precedent; Bojana Barlovac, Putin Says Kosovo Precedent Justifies Crimea Secession, Balkan Insight (Mar. 18, 2014), http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/crimea-secession-just-like-kosovo-putin; see also Marko Milanovic, Crimea, Kosovo, Hobgoblins and Hypocrisy, EJIL: Talk! (Mar. 20, 2014), http://www.ejiltalk.org/crimea-kosovo-hobgoblins-and-hypocrisy/ (Milanovic considers the cases of Kosovo and Crimea to be similar enough as to be legally relevant: “even if Kosovo and Crimea are legally distinguishable, they are still close enough. The West’s position on Crimea is undeniably undermined by their previous stance regarding Kosovo, and they can only blame themselves for that.” Milanovic also cites the speech by the Vladimir Putin cited in note 1).
. Robert Marquand, Crimea Vote: Five Reasons Why Putin’s Ukraine Case Falls Apart, The Christian Science Monitor (Mar. 15, 2014), http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/2014/0315/Crimea-vote-Five-reasons-why-Putin-s-Ukraine-case-falls-apart-video.
. Paul Roderick Gregory, Enough of Moral Equivalence on Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Already!, Forbes (Mar. 13, 2014, 5:32 PM), http://www.forbes.com/sites/paulroderickgregory/2014/03/13/enough-of-moral-equivalence-on-russias-invasion-of-ukraine-already/.
. See Chris Borgen, Kosovo, South Ossetia, and Crimea: The Legal Rhetoric of Intervention, Recognition, and Annexation, Opinio Juris (Apr. 2, 2014, 8:04 PM), http://opiniojuris.org/2014/04/02/kosovo-south-ossetia-crimea-legal-rhetoric-intervention-recognition-annexation/ (comparing the situation in Crimea with the situation in Kosovo in 1999).
. Terry Atlas, Ukraine Gave Up Nuclear Arms in 1994 Deal Russia Flouts, Bloomberg (Mar. 5, 2014, 1:34 PM), http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-05/ukraine-gave-up-nuclear-arms-in-1994-deal-russia-flouts.html; see also Joshua Keating, So Much for the Budapest Memorandum, Slate, (Mar. 19, 2014, 12:53 PM), http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_world_/2014/03/19/the_budapest_memorandum_in_1994_russia_agreed_to_respect_ukraine_s_borders.html.
. “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purpose of the United Nations.” U.N. Charter art. 2, para. 4, https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/CTC/uncharter.pdf; see also Michael Wood, Territorial Integrity, Encyclopedia Princetoniensis: The Princeton Encyclopedia of Self-Determination, http://pesd.princeton.edu/?q=node/271 (last accessed Jan. 2, 2015).
. Bob Reinalda, Non-State Actors in the International System of States, Ashgate Research Companion to Non-State Actors (Bob Reinalda ed., 2011) available at https://www.ashgate.com/pdf/SamplePages/Ashgate_Research_Companion_to_Non_State_Actors_Intro.pdf.
. Bill Chappell & Mark Memmott, Putin Says Those Aren’t Russian Armed Forces in Crimea, NPR Online (Mar. 4, 2014, 7:05 AM), http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/03/04/285653335/putin-says-those-arent-russian-forces-in-crimea.
. Gregory H. Fox, Ukraine Insta-Symposium: Intervention in the Ukraine by Invitation, Opinio Juris (Mar. 10, 2014, 11:00 AM), http://opiniojuris.org/2014/03/10/ukraine-insta-symposium-intervention-ukraine-invitation/.
. See S.C. Pres. Statement 1998/5, U.N. Doc. S/PRST/1998/5 (Feb. 26, 1998), available at http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/PRST/1998/5 (discussing UN approval of the ECOWAS action in Sierra Leone).
. See Matthew Heywood-Cunliffe, What Europe Can Do for Crimea, A Resonance of International Community About the Situation in Crimea, One Europe (Mar. 30, 2014), http://one-europe.info/losingthebattlewhycrimeaisgoneforgood; Henry D’Souza, The Age of Neo-Imperialism: Western Hyprocrisy in Ukraine and Capitulation in Palestine, Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding (Apr. 21, 2014), http://www.ccun.org/Opinion%20Editorials/2014/April/21%20o/The%20Age%20of%20Neo-Imperialism,%20Western%20Hypocrisy%20in%20Ukraine%20and%20Capitulation%20in%20Palestine%20By%20Henry%20D’%20Souza.htm; John Lloyd, Russia’s Imperialism vs. Globalization, Reuters (Mar. 21, 2014), http://blogs.reuters.com/john-lloyd/2014/03/21/russias-imperialism-vs-globalization/.
. Angela Stent, Putin’s Ukrainian endgame and why the West may have a hard time stopping him, CNN (Mar. 4, 2014), http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/03/opinion/stent-putin-ukraine-russia-endgame/.
. An ally of Putin and the speaker of Russia’s upper chamber, Valentina Matviyenko, stated in March that Crimea would “become an absolutely equal subject of the Russian Federation.” Henry Chu & Sergei L. Loiko, Tension Escalates as Russia Presses Claims for Ukraine’s Crimea, Los Angeles Times (Mar. 7, 2014) (emphasis added), http://articles.latimes.com/2014/mar/07/world/la-fg-wn-russia-ukraine-crimea-referendum-20140307.
. Stent, supra note 29; see also Timothy Snyder, Putins Projekt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Apr. 13, 2014), http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/die-gegenwart/ukraine-putins-projekt-12893812.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2/ (discussing the historic relationship between Ukraine and Russia against the backdrop of the current conflict).
. Stefan Kirchner, Relative Normativity and the Constitutional Dimension of International Law: A Place for Values in the International Legal System?, 5 German L. Rev. 47, 50 n. 23 (2004), available at http://www.germanlawjournal.com/pdfs/Vol05No01/PDF_Vol_05_No_01_47-64_European_Kirchner.pdf.
. Eric Lohr, Russia and the Crimean Tatars: The Burdens and Challenges of History, Religion & Politics (May 28, 2014), http://religionandpolitics.org/2014/05/28/russia-and-the-crimean-tatars/.
. Noah Snider, Mindful of Past, Most Tatars Fear a Russian Future, N.Y. Times (Mar. 13, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/14/world/europe/crimean-tatars-on-guard-against-joining-russia.html?_r=0.
. Kristen Hausler & Robert McCorquodale, Ukraine Insta-Symposium: Crimea, Ukraine and Russia: Self-Determination, Intervention and International Law, Opinio Juris (Mar. 10, 2014), http://opiniojuris.org/2014/03/10/ukraine-insta-symposium-crimea-ukraine-russia-self-determination-intervention-international-law/.
. Press Release, Ukraine’s Crimea Envoy EU to Move Beyond Expressing Solidarity to Action, European Parliament (Mar. 3, 2014), http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/content/20140303IPR37432/html/Ukraine’s-Crimea-envoy-asks-EU-to-move-beyond-expressing-solidarity-to-action.
. Hajrudin Somun, Five Reasons Why Crimea Cannot be Compared with Kosovo, Today’s Zaman (Apr. 13, 2014,) http://www.todayszaman.com/news-344554-five-reasons-why-crimea-cannot-be-compared-with-kosovo-by-hajrudin-somun-.html.
. See Anastasiia Tatarenko, The Legal Status and Modern History of Crimean Autonomy, Verfassungsblog.de: On Matters Constitutional (Apr. 2, 2013), http://www.verfassungsblog.de/en/the-legal-status-and-modern-history-of-crimean-autonomy/#.U9QJhMaIKQo.
. See generally, Michael Kraus et al., Irreconcilable Differences?: Explaining Czechoslovakia’s Dissolution, (Michael Kraus & Allison Stanger eds. & trans. 2000) (discussing the dissolution of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic).
. Contrary to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the unilateral claims of independence of states such as Slovenia, Kosovo, and Crimea have just that in common, the unilateral character of their claims.
. Cf. Alison K. Eggers, When is a State a State? The Case for Recognition of Somaliland, 30 B.C. Int’l & Comp. L. Rev. 211, 214-15 (2007), available at http://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/iclr/vol30/iss1/12 (Somaliland has yet to be recognized by other states and is not likely to be considered “successful” until it is).
. See Nurullah Yamili, What is Meant by State Recognition in International Law?, Ministry of Justice: Turkey, 5 (2009), available at http://www.justice.gov.tr/e-journal/pdf/LW7081.pdf; see also Ian Brownlie, Principles of Public International Law 86 (7th ed. 2008).
. The so-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” is only recognized by Turkey, while all other states only recognize the Republic of Cyprus. See Alexander H. Berlin, Recognition As A Sanction: Using International Recognition Of New States To Deter, Punish, And Contain Bad Actors, 31 U. Pa. J. Int’l L. 531, 551-52 (2009).
. None of the entities mentioned above have been internationally recognized; therefore, they do not fulfill the requirement of an efficient government and, thus, cannot be states in the meaning of international law. See Christopher J. Borgen, Introductory Note to Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence, 47 I.L.M 461, 464 (2008), available at http://www.asil.org/insights/volume/12/issue/2/kosovos-declaration-independence-self-determination-secession-and.
. See Chris Borgen, From Intervention to Recognition: Russia, Crimea, and Arguments over Recognizing Secessionist Entities, Opinio Juris (Mar. 18, 2014, 11:34 AM), http://opiniojuris.org/2014/03/18/intervention-recognition-russia-crimea-arguments-recognizing-secessionist-entities/ (discussing the recognition of so called “Republic of Crimea”).
. See Jan Christoph Nemitz, Kollektive Nichtanerkennug Illegar Staaten. Grundlagen und Folgen einer International Koordinierten Sanktion, Dargestellet am Beispiel der Turkischen Republik Nord-ZypernI, 6 Chinese J. Int’l L. 3, 784-85 (2007) (book review), http://chinesejil.oxfordjournals.org/content/6/3/784.full.pdf+html?sid=4b122a91-4d48-4bcf-b2f3-d3474c038c04 (stating the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is not collectively recognized and defining collective non-recognition).
. Anna Dolidez, Ukraine Insta-Symposium: Potential Non-recognition of Crimea, Opinio Juris (Mar. 17, 2014, 11:29 PM), http://opiniojuris.org/2014/03/17/ukraine-insta-symposium-potential-non-recognition-crimea/.
. As opposed to creating a new state or enjoying independence for the first time. See Roland Rich, Recognition of States: The Collapse of Yukoslavia and the Soviet Union, 4 Eur. J. Int’l L. 36, 37, 47 (1993), available at http://www.ejil.org/pdfs/4/1/1207.pdf.
. The three Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania should not be considered to be former Soviet states as they had merely been occupied by the Soviet Union, temporarily losing their independence but not their original identity.
. See RR Donnelly, Choosing Scotland’s Future 35, 44 (Scottish Executive 2007) available at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/194791/0052321.pdf (an overview of the Scottish referendum for independence of 2014); see generally Scotland’s Future (Scottish Government 2013), available at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0043/00439021.pdf.
. President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, Statement on Major Issues on South Ossetia and Abkhazia (Aug. 26, 2008), http://archive.kremlin.ru/eng/speeches/2008/08/26/1543_type82912_205752.shtml (formally recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia).
. See June Vidmar, Crimea’s Referendum and Secession: Why it Resembles Northern Cyprus More than Kosovo, EJIL: Talk! (Mar. 20, 2014), http://www.ejiltalk.org/crimeas-referendum-and-secession-why-it-resembles-northern-cyprus-more-than-kosovo/ (concluding that the situation in Crimea is comparable to the situation in Northern Cyprus).
. Accordance with International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in Respect of Kosovo, Advisory Opinion, 2010 I.C.J. 403 (July 22), available at http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/141/15987.pdf.
. While such persecution is allegedly feared by Moscow, no evidence has been presented that the Russian-speaking population in Crimea would be at any serious risk from the new Ukrainian government. Cf. Värk, supra note 1.
. Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion, 2004 I.C.J. 13 (July 9), available at http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/131/1677.pdf.
. Alison Smale, Twin Shocks Shake Foundation of German Power, N.Y. Times (Apr. 18, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/19/world/europe/twin-shocks-shake-roots-of-german-power.html?src=rechp.
. Cf. Steven Erlanger, Russian Aggression Puts NATO in Spotlight, N.Y. Times (Mar. 18, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/19/world/europe/russias-aggression-in-crimea-brings-nato-into-renewed-focus.html?_r=0.
. Alissa de Carbonnel, Putin Says Annexation of Crimea Partly a Response to NATO Enlargement, Reuters (Apr. 17, 2014, 3:12 PM), http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/17/us-russia-putin-nato-idUSBREA3G22A20140417.
. Cf. Russia: Ethnic Relations and Russia’s “Near-Abroad”, Encyclopedia Britannica Online, 78, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/513251/Russia/274475/Ethnic-relations-and-Russias-near-abroad (last updated Oct. 10, 2014).
. The term is Ukrainian for “death by forced starvation” and refers to the artificial famine imposed by Stalin’s regime. See Holodomor Facts and History, Holodomor, http://www.holodomorct.org/history.html (last visited Jan. 2, 2015).
. Andrew Katz, Group Threatens Olympics in Claiming Responsibility for Russia Bombings, Time (Jan. 20, 2014), http://world.time.com/2014/01/20/group-threatens-olympics-in-claiming-responsibility-for-russia-bombings/.
. Both Russia and China are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and both states have announced an interest in increasing military cooperation. Shannon Tiezzi, China, Russia Seek Expanded Defense Cooperation, The Diplomat (Nov. 19, 2014), http://thediplomat.com/2014/11/china-russia-seek-expanded-defense-cooperation/.
. Anne Applebaum, The myth of Russian humiliation, Washington Post (Oct. 17, 2014), http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/anne-applebaum-nato-pays-a-heavy-price-for-giving-russia-too-much-credita-true-achievement-under-threat/2014/10/17/5b3a6f2a-5617-11e4-809b-8cc0a295c773_story.html.
. NATO Member Countries, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/nato_countries.htm (last updated Mar. 27, 2014); EU Member Countries, European Union, http://europa.eu/about-eu/countries/member-countries/ (last visited Jan. 2, 2015).
. The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement was at the roots of the initial protests against the former Ukrainian Government. See generally Association Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and Ukraine, of the other part, 2014 O.J. (L 161), 3, available at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:L:2014:161:FULL&from=EN.
. Eberhard Rhein, EU must prepare for membership of Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia, EurActiv (July 3, 2014), http://www.euractiv.com/sections/europes-east/eu-must-prepare-membership-moldova-ukraine-and-georgia-303273.
. Peter Leonard, Russia’s Latest Move In Ukraine Could Be A Potential Land-Link To Crimea, Business Insider (Aug. 27, 2014), http://www.businessinsider.com/russia-ukraine-battle-bridge-crimea-2014-8.
. See Adam Taylor, What History can tell us About Russia, Crimea and Vladimir Putin, Wash. Post (Mar. 18, 2014), http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/03/18/what-history-can-tell-us-about-russia-crimea-and-vladimir-putin/.
. See French revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, Encyclopedia Britannica Online, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/219456/French-revolutionary-and-Napoleonic-wars (last updated July 15, 2014).
. Eric Posner, Russia’s Military Intervention in Ukraine: International Law Implications, EricPosner.com (Mar. 1, 2014), http://ericposner.com/russias-military-intervention-in-ukraine-international-law-implications/.
. See Volker Zastrow, Alarm, Frankfurter Allgemeine (Apr. 13, 2014), http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/ausland/kommentar-lieben-und-verstehen-wir-deutsche-die-russen-wohl-kaum-12892906.html.
. It appears that this has been Putin’s aim for the past fifteen years. See Svetlana Alexlijewitsch, Putins neues Russland: Wer nicht jubelt, ist ein Volksfeind, Frankfurter Allgemeine (Apr. 15, 2014), http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/debatten/svetlana-alexijewitsch-ueber-putins-russland-12895308.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2; see also Steven Lee Myers & Ellen Barry, Putin Reclaims Crimea for Russia and Bitterly Denounces the West, N.Y. Times, (Mar. 18, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/19/world/europe/ukraine.html?_r=0.
. Julian Ku, Russia Reminds the World (and International Lawyers) of the Limits of International Law, Opinio Juris (Mar. 2, 2014), http://opiniojuris.org/2014/03/02/ukraine-russia-international-law-governing-use-force/.
“This sacred Privilege is so essential to free Government, that the Security of Property; and the Freedom of Speech, always go together; and in those wretched Countries where a Man cannot call his Tongue his own, he can scarce call any Thing else his own .”
Across the United States and dozens of other “Western” countries, the concept of freedom of expression is considered a human right. More than that, it is deemed a fundamental human right. Numerous treaties and national constitutions protect the right to express oneself freely without criminal, physical, or sociological repercussions. Nevertheless, there exists a disconnect between how Western nations understand and protect freedom of expression and how predominantly-Muslim nations understand and protect freedom of expression. Many, if not all, Muslim countries place restrictions on freedom of speech that are contrary to internationally-mandated norms. The question is, why? Is it because of Islam itself? Is it because of these countries’ histories and governments? Is it because of Middle Eastern or Islamic culture?
The answer is not so simple. A close look at a few Muslim nations offers strong evidence that history, culture, and religion all have an impact on these non-Western, majority-Muslim societies as they try to determine whether and to what extent freedom of speech should be recognized and protected. This paper will analyze the development of freedom of expression in the Western-dominated international law realm as we know it today in comparison to the development (or lack thereof) of that same freedom in the predominantly-Muslim states of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.
The selection of these three particular states was a wholly deliberate one. Not only does Islam’s influence on the government differ in every state, but so do the laws granting and regulating freedom of expression. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan share the same predominant religion, but their government structures, cultural heritage, languages, and overall view of human rights are across the board. The rationale for using Turkey as a case study is that it is technically a secular state, but it still has a number of constitutionally-mandated exceptions to its protection of expression . Saudi Arabia is on the other end of the spectrum. The Basic Law of Saudi Arabia names the Qur’an as the nation’s official constitution , but fails to protect expression in any way. Jordan falls in the middle of the other two states: its Constitution contains a provision protecting the right of free expression like Turkey, but it infers a reservation of right to suppress speech that is insulting to Islam or the monarchy . Thus, an in-depth look at these three states, alongside Islam’s teachings on speech, will offer a more accurate and thorough analysis when comparing the Muslim world’s development of freedom of expression to the Western world’s.
As previously mentioned, there are several international treaties protecting an individual’s right to freedom of expression. For purposes of this article, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) set forth the basic principles regarding speech that are universally accepted. Scholars have deemed these two documents as evidence of a universal belief that the protection of human dignity is of utmost importance and should be protected “. . .by a body of law that stands above the law of individual states” . The UDHR in particular has gone from a mere United Nations’ General Assembly resolution to part of customary international law . Thus, despite the fact that some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, are not UDHR signatories or refuse to acknowledge the principles it sets forth, they are still bound by it.
Both the UDHR and the ICCPR have individual articles protecting freedom of expression. Article 19 of the UDHR stipulates that “[e]veryone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” . Article 19 of the ICCPR essentially guarantees the same thing, although it notes that expression is protected whether it is in the form of oral communication, writing in print, art, or any other medium of expression . Interestingly, the ICCPR article also gives a brief list of certain state restrictions of freedom of expression that are acceptable under international law, including respecting others’ reputation and protecting national security, public order, public health, or public morals . Both Jordan and Turkey signed and ratified the ICCPR without any reservations – meaning they agreed to comply with Article 19 . Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, never signed the ICCPR .
For several centuries, and particularly over the past 200 years, freedom of expression has gone through a constitutional, philosophical, and political evolution in the West . While there is still dispute over the appropriate extent of freedom of expression, Western societies have come to the agreement that expression is a fundamental right at its core. Since the West prizes individual autonomy, it is easy for the Western population to accept that a person has an inherent right to express themselves freely. This belief stems from the Western understanding that the international system rests on a set of shared universal values that are more important than the interests of the government .
Despite the current emphasis on human rights, Western nations were not exactly quick to arrive to the “individuals have fundamental rights” party. It was a process that began with philosophers dating back to Plato and Euripedes , and was heralded by ancient Greek politicians. According to Pericles, freedom of speech was what truly set Athens apart from Sparta . However, it was not until the 1600s in England when political dissidents actually began demanding more speech, press, and petition rights .
The concept of freedom of speech in 17th century England stemmed from the idea that political speech deserved particular protection . The emergence of freedom of political speech was fueled by two separate movements: first, the push toward parliamentary privilege and second, the commoners’ push toward the rights to print and petition . Members of parliament realized that in order to responsibly create effective laws, they needed to be able to freely engage in discussion – even discussion that was highly critical of the issue at hand . However, Parliament often butted heads with the monarch over parliamentary privilege . While the privilege had become an accepted practice within the chambers of the House of Commons, King James was quick to inform them that he held the key to the “privilege” and could revoke it at any time .
The commoners’ demand for freedom of speech only helped strengthen politicians’ call for their own freedom of speech on the floors of Parliament. Printers, publishers and authors were desperate to disseminate information without government interference. At the time, religious and political members of the English hierarchy saw the printing press especially threatening to their power . The British monarchy was left rather vulnerable to public criticism as its members left the Catholic Church in favor of the Church of England . In order to curtail dissidence or uprisings, the government required authors to obtain licenses before publishing anything from a book to a newspaper .
A pro-democracy political group known as the Levellers was well aware of the power of the printing press and – rather unsuccessfully – championed the right to petition and for freedom of speech soon after the battle over parliamentary privilege . After the Levellers quickly fell apart in 1650, two men published a series of letters and essays on liberty under the pseudonym of the ancient Roman politician Cato . “Cato’s” works echo the ideas that the Levellers had set in motion several years before: government officials are trustees of the public, and therefore, the public has a right to know and criticize what officials do . The essays gained quite a bit of traction and helped promulgate the significant changes in British government in the latter half of the 17th century . Parliament was finally able to secure parliamentary privilege with the enactment of the English Bill of Rights in 1689, which said “[t]hat the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of parliament” .
Ordinary citizens of England sought their own right to freedom of speech in the following decades, but continued to face resistance and punishment from the British government and monarchy . It was not until the American Revolution and the ratification of the United States Bill of Rights that a government recognized that every citizen (theoretically) had a right to freedom of speech and petition .
One of the reasons why Muslim nations, as well as non-majority Muslim nations in Africa, are skeptical of holding out freedom of speech as a fundamental right is because they had little to no influence on the human rights documents that govern international law today . Western nations dominated the San Francisco Conference, where the United Nations was technically created . Plus, at the time the UDHR was created, many Muslim and African nations were still colonies of the same European powers that were leading the charge for universal freedoms in the United Nations . Thus, there was a disconnect between what the West was practicing (i.e., disrespect for human rights such as self-determination) and what it was preaching (i.e., all humans are born with certain inherent rights – including self-determination). For Muslim and African countries, this contradiction serves as proof that universal rights did not – and still do not – exist .
Even though most African and Muslim states ratified the Universal Declaration after they gained their independence, they were still at a disadvantage because “those emerging African and Asian states were not only late comers to an already established concept and framework, but also lacked the human and material resources to make a significant original contribution” . Furthermore, these newly independent states have continued to cast a wary eye on the documents and human rights ideals that their former colonizers have championed in the past half-century . To the former colonies, the “universality project” is merely the West’s ploy to establish cultural imperialism, sustain the rest of the world’s dependency on developed nations, and trample their right to self-determination .
Scholar Samuel Huntington suggested that the West and the Islamic world’s disagreement over whether universal rights are truly Western rights is actually part of a larger cultural conflict . This leads us to how Islamic culture does not quite fit into the Western puzzle of universal rights.
So even if Muslim countries did not have a hand in creating freedom of expression human rights documents, but they ratified them anyway, why do they still have such varying views on freedom of speech and implementation of human rights? The answer lies in cultural relativism and the teachings of Islam itself.
Opponents of universal rights often promulgate the concept of cultural relativism as the reason for their hesitation to adopt those rights, and the theory may indeed offer insight into why Muslim nations are hesitant to accept freedom of expression as a fundamental right the same way that Western states accept it. At its core, cultural relativism argues that there is no such thing as universal human rights because different cultures have different outlooks on morality, truth, and inherent rights . In other words, each culture prioritizes values differently, which makes it impossible to determine which rights are fundamental to each human being . This makes cultural relativism a counterargument to strict interpretation and implementation of international human rights laws, such as the UDHR and the ICCPR . Those two documents epitomize the idea that no matter how diverse the world is, all mankind believes that human dignity ought to be preserved and the law that protects human dignity should supersede any national laws on the same matter .
Under the Western concept of human rights, the rights of the individual – not necessarily the rights of the community – reign supreme . The philosophical rationale behind this viewpoint is the belief that there are certain fundamental values that rise above the values of the nation-state as a whole . The West assumes that the international norms it has created are not only neutral, but can also be reconciled with Islamic Law . The problem with this assumption is that the individual values that the West prioritizes the most are the same ones that the rest of the world prioritizes the least . This does not work because Islamic culture, in contrast to Western culture, places a greater emphasis on community interests than individual interests . Muslim scholars have explained that Islam focuses on “uniting mankind and cultivating love and understanding among people” .
When proponents of universal rights ignore the fact that the concept of universal rights was a predominantly-Western creation, they make it easier for non-Western societies to dismiss their argument . Cultural relativists can then draw attention to the fact that the West is ignoring its colonial past, trying to eliminate the sense of community in non-Western states, and still attempting to dominate the rest of the world any way it can. This then makes it easier for cultural relativists to persuade non-Western peoples that the Western origin of these alleged fundamental human rights are not reconcilable with non-Western culture . Cultural relativists can instead argue that the idea of universal rights is a Western attempt to disrupt and weaken some cultures’ emphasis on community and harmony.
Cultural relativism can also make it troublesome to implement rights such as freedom of expression in Muslim countries. History shows that imposing certain rights – even rights that most people have agreed on as fundamental – is easier said than done. While international declarations spell out the right to freedom of expression, there are no documents that explain how to actually successfully implement or enforce that right . Attempts to democratize the media in places such as Kosovo and Bosnia are prime examples of this . Thus, while the UDHR and ICCPR promise to ensure that every person has the freedom to express themselves, they provide no means of actually guaranteeing that the aforementioned freedom is granted: “[w]ithout enforcement, the impressive guarantees made by human rights instruments lose much of their force” . So, as far as countries like Turkey and Jordan are concerned, there is no way for them to be held accountable for failure to uphold the promises of the UDHR and ICCPR – even though they have ratified both documents .
Islam’s legal heritage does not have exact equivalents of modern international human rights . A look into the sources of religious guidance in Islam, as well as the culture that has developed around it, offer some insight into why this is. It is noteworthy that the literal definition of the word “Islam” is “submission” . Muslims across the world have adopted different interpretations of Islam, but one thing that has remained constant across various Muslim populations is a focus on Islamic law, supplied by the Qur’an and the practices and sayings of the Holy Prophet – which emphasize the importance of community . These views replace other cultures’ emphases on “corporate identity,” such as the family, tribe, and nation . “It is especially intended to preclude any sense of a personal, autonomous identity” .
This is not to say that there is no place for freedom of speech in Islam. On the contrary, Islam recognizes an individual’s right to freedom of expression . However, as Dalia Mogahed from the Gallup Center of Muslim Studies explained in a recent interview with National Public Radio, there seems to be a disconnect between the actual teachings of Islam regarding freedom of expression and how Muslims actually view the right to freedom of speech .
First, the Qur’an is the source of Islamic law, and Muslims consider it to be the word of God. The Qur’an stipulates that people are only supposed to speak truthfully, speak “in a manner that is best,” speak kindly, and avoid using inappropriate speech . Muslim scholars have explained Islam “promotes free speech when our intention is to serve a good purpose, promote peace, bring people closer to God and unite mankind” . The rationale behind these principles is to create a community free of discord where people are guaranteed freedom of speech, but are also ensured fairness, the right to disagree with one another, and justice . Speech is supposed to have a positive impact on people and create peace rather than create conflict. Nevertheless, “Islam does not prescribe any worldly punishment for unseemly speech. So people who insult should not be persecuted,”  contrary to the numerous laws that Muslim countries have been prone to enact.
Second, Muslims across Africa and Asia do not always understand freedom of speech in black and white terms. The one similarity that seems to exist across Muslim populations is that, in principle, freedom of speech should exist as a right . However, in practice in the Middle East, “there is this concept of protecting not only individuals, but ideas like religion” . To Middle Easterners, freedom of expression is the ability to defend Islam’s dignity, as well as the ability to criticize the government . Most Muslims in the Middle East believe that freedom of expression relates to both political speech and blasphemy, but really only protects political speech . But in instances when there is a conflict between a human right, such as free speech, and an Islamic principle, some interpretations of Islam will argue that the latter should be respected, even if it is detrimental to the former . This approach is directly opposite to the Western approach. Current international human rights theory does not allow for derogation from human rights obligations even when human rights law conflicts with religious law . Despite this, Islam’s hold on government seems to have weakened, according to some scholars . This may be due to the fact that Islam can be interpreted in different ways. It may also be because some Islamic states have tried to reduce the influence of Islamic fundamentalists by taking away powers previously belonging to religious leaders and giving them back to the state .
In order to better understand the free speech laws and attitude toward human rights in the Republic of Turkey, it is worth looking at some of its history and demographic statistics. Turkey has gone through several political reformations since its modern formation as a state in 1923 . As recently as 1997, the citizens overthrew their Islamic government in favor of a more secular and democratic one . While the nation has attempted to maintain a stable democracy for decades, it has often fallen victim to coups and military takeovers . The purpose of the country’s political transformation in the 1920s was to establish a secular state, and since then, the military has often taken it upon itself to enforce democratic principles . It is currently a republican parliamentary democracy . Approximately three-fourths of its 80 million population fall into the “Turkish” ethnic category, stemming back to the Ottoman Empire . Of the remaining twenty-five percent of the population, nearly twenty percent are Kurdish, and the rest are other minorities . Almost the entire population is Muslim, while a miniscule 0.2 percent of the population identify as Christian or Jewish .
Turkey is often described as a state in “Eurasia” – it is neither entirely Asian nor entirely European . In order to understand the gray-continental area that Turkey falls in, one need look no further than the fact that Turkey’s attempts to join the European Union (EU) have been stalled for decades. The nation has been trying to gain full membership to the EU since 1987, but it was not until 2002 that it was even given the go-ahead to begin accession talks . More than ten years later, it has yet to become a full-fledged member. Observers have suggested that the hold up to accession may stem from Turkey’s less than stellar human rights record . It has gone through periods of martial law and consistent ethnic discrimination . Its constitution grants freedoms spelled out in documents such as the European Convention of Human Rights, but then limits those grants through clauses such as “publication[s] shall not be made in any language prohibited by law” . Ethnic tensions between the Turks and Kurds have led to the Turkish government targeting the Kurds’ right to free speech . Tracing back to Islam’s value on community, the Turkish people seem to be more concerned with maintaining Turkish community and identity than the speech rights of Kurds – so much so that they are willing to eliminate traces of the Kurdish culture .
However, Turkey’s shutout from the EU has led to a vicious cycle: the more obvious it is that the EU is not going to grant it membership, the more freely Turkey violates human rights, particularly freedom of speech . This suggests that respect for human rights in Turkey stems more out of an obligation to adhere to European (which are arguably Western) standards than out of a belief that humans innately have some fundamental rights.
Out of the three countries discussed in this paper, Turkey’s constitution offers the greatest protection of freedom of speech . However, the document splits freedom of thought into a separate article from freedom of speech, and offers more protection to the former. First, under Article 25,
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought and opinion. No one shall be compelled to reveal his thoughts and opinions for any reason or purpose, nor shall anyone be blamed or accused on account of his thoughts and opinions” .
Second, in Article 26, the Constitution guarantees everyone freedom to express and disseminate information orally, in written form, in pictorial form, or any other form of media without governmental interference in most circumstances . However, the article grants the government authority to restrict the freedom of expression for the purposes of
“. . .national security, public order and public safety, the basic characteristics of the Republic and safeguarding the indivisible integrity of the State with its territory and nation, preventing crime, punishing offenders, withholding information duly classified as a state secret, protecting the reputation or rights and private and family life of others, or protecting professional secrets as prescribed by law, or ensuring the proper functioning of the judiciary”.
It is important to note that while the Turkish Constitution provides certain exceptions to the guarantee of free speech, it still differs from its Saudi and Jordanian counterparts in that it does not rely on Islamic principles as a basis for the exceptions . In fact, some of the exceptions seem to mirror the acceptable exemptions mentioned in both the UDHR  and the ICCPR . The exceptions for protecting against crime and prosecuting offenders lend themselves to the UDHR exception allowing for regulations that maintain public order . The exception for maintaining national security could arguably fall under that category as well. However, since those same Turkish exceptions can apply during peacetime, they do not lend themselves to the ICCPR exception – which only allows for derogation from the ICCPR rights in times of public emergency . When it comes to maintaining national security, a stronger argument could be made that suspension of freedom of speech in order to protect national security is a right protected through the ICCPR’s public emergency exemption . While religion does not play a part in the other listed exceptions, those exceptions are still problematic under Westernized international law because they have no basis or authority in the UDHR or the ICCPR. The other listed exceptions, including protecting the rights and reputation of others or protecting professional secrets, do not fit into either the UDHR or ICCPR’s permissible exemption categories .
This is a good time to also mention that the Turkish constitution actually does not mention Islam at all . The only times it refers to religion is when it states that it is a secular state , guarantees equality before the law regardless of religious belief , and guarantees the right to freedom of religion .
Since passing its constitution, the Turkish government has enacted a number of laws regulating free speech, including the 2004 Press Law , the Turkish Prevention of Terrorism Act, and two additions to the Penal Code . These laws are overly broad, intrusive on the rights of journalists in particular, and have been consistently enforced despite the European Union’s open disapproval.
The Turkish Prevention of Terrorism Act (Anti-Terror Act), which was enacted as the government was attempting to squash a Kurdish rebellion in the early 1990s, is a statute that criminalizes terrorist threats . The problem with the law, according to Reporters Without Borders, is that its definition of “terrorist” is incredibly broad and places harsher punishments on those who commit the “crime” through the media . In 2010 alone, the law was used to imprison nearly three dozen people for a total of 365 years . The law drew even more international attention after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) hailed the Turkish government into its chambers in the case Halis v. Turkey . That case involved the government’s imprisonment of a book reviewer following his conviction under the Anti-Terror Act . The government claimed the writer’s “positive opinions” of the Kurdish separatist movement in his review constituted the distribution of propaganda of an illegal separatist terrorist organization . Turkey argued before the ECHR that its actions were legal because they were done to protect national security . While the Court conceded that the Turkish government had a legitimate interest in protecting national security when it passed the law, it found that the plaintiff journalist’s right to freedom of expression was still unfairly violated because the government’s punishment was disproportionate to his rights .
An interesting aspect of the Halis case is that it was heard by the European Court of Human Rights, which is the enforcement mechanism for the European Convention on Human Rights. The European Convention on Human Rights is similar to documents such as the United Nations Charter, the UDHR, and the ICCPR in that it was drafted and enacted by the major “western” state actors. It aims to protect many of the same rights, such as the right to free expression, freedom of religious beliefs, protection from unjust punishment, and equality . So, in the Halis case, a Westernized court used a Westernized international document to assess the validity of a secular – but predominantly-Muslim-populated – state’s criminal law and conviction .
Next, the government adopted two provisions to the Penal Code that have had implications on freedom of expression. Penal Code Section 125 criminalizes criticism of the Turkish police or Turkish government institutions . Penal Code Section 301 is even broader, making it a crime to denigrate “the Turkish nation” . Persons convicted under the latter provision face up to three years in prison, and the government was initially unafraid to use it to prosecute individuals to the fullest extent . Furthermore, the punishment of Turkish citizens who were guilty of denigrating “Turkishness” while in another country would increase by one-third . In two high profile cases in 2006 and 2007, a journalist and a Nobel laureate were charged under the law for commenting on the role Turkey played in the Armenian genocide in the early 1900’s . As will be discussed below, three years after introducing Article 301, the government has backed off from enforcing the law, but only did so after mounting pressure from Western influences, such as the European Union and NGOs .
The majority of information on the status of freedom of expression in Turkey only covers the status of freedom of the press. This is likely because journalists are facing the brunt of Turkey’s speech laws. In fact, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported that there were nearly 100 journalists imprisoned in Turkey in 2012 . That being said, non-journalists do not always escape the wrath of the government under these laws. Students, professors, and even some of the most religious Muslims have been prosecuted under the various laws . Although it appears at first glance that the victims of free press come from a cross-section of Turkish society, upon further investigation, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace found “that the imprisonment of journalists has a distinct Kurdish dimension and is largely based on anti-terrorism legislation” . More than 80 percent of imprisoned journalists had either reported on a “Kurdish issue” or the Ergenekon case . The latter is a nationalist group that has been banned for allegedly trying to destabilize Turkey .
Other nongovernmental organizations have voiced their concerns about Turkey’s freedom of expression laws, particularly through special reports. As of 2013, Turkey’s press is “partly free,” based on Freedom House’s freedom scale . The rationale for its score? For one thing, Turkey has imprisoned more journalists than any other country in the world . Freedom House noted that these imprisonments are the direct result of Turkey’s failure to uphold its free-expression guarantees in its constitution . Also, despite the fact that Turkey has attempted to loosen its iron fist on the press by punishing violators of its press laws with fines instead of prison time, the legislature has failed to remove some of the harsher laws targeting the press . If anything, the Turkish government has actually increased its power to censure and punish reporters, and the judiciary is doing nothing to stop it. For example, the Constitutional Court approved the removal of a provision to a press law that required prosecutors to file complaints against journalists within a fairly narrow timeframe . Outsiders have criticized the judiciary for equating pure expression of an alternative or critical idea to the actual intention to incite violence .
Many other organizations have long echoed Freedom House and Carnegie’s sentiments. In 2011, Reporters Without Borders noted that the judiciary is “dominated by an obsession with ‘security,’” and the legal system defends the government more readily than ordinary citizens . This is especially problematic since the laws are vague and repressive, leaving prosecutors and judges with heavy leeway . By 2013, Amnesty International came to the conclusion that Turks were most likely to be prosecuted for speaking out in favor of Kurdish rights . It noted that more than 200 journalists suspected of being members of the Kurdish Communities Union found themselves at the center of “large-scale trials” . The Committee to Protect Journalists echoed Amnesty International’s findings, noting that the journalists jailed for their “involvement” with Kurdish political groups were merely reporting on those groups’ views and activities . Furthermore, seventy percent of journalists imprisoned under the Anti-Terror Law were Kurds whom the prosecutors claimed “were using news coverage to create the kind of societal chaos conducive to a coup” .
While naming and shaming does not always result in countries submitting to international political pressure, the condemnation contained in one particular report likely had a significant impact on Turkey’s somewhat less restrictive press laws . In 2012, the European Commission placed the “limitations of press freedom squarely at the heart of its concerns about the country” in its annual report on Turkey’s progress . In other words, the Turkish government’s refusal to respect freedom of expression is the main thing shutting it out of the European Union .
Of all of its laws and restrictions on freedom of expression, Turkey’s Penal Code Article 301 has drawn the most scrutiny from outsiders . Turkey pulled back on its stringent enforcement of Article 301 of the Penal Code only after some public criticism from “Western” groups ranging from the European Council to Freedom House to Amnesty International . Less than two months after Freedom House issued a press release condemning Article 301, the New York Times reported that Turkey was easing the restrictions on free speech . The amendment to Article 301 was heralded as “a key measure of the democratic maturity of this Muslim Country as it tries to gain acceptance to the European Union” . However, while the law technically remains on the books, and the rest of the world thinks the Turkish population is becoming increasingly liberal, scholars note that Turkish society is as much to blame for the strict regulations on free expression as is the Turkish government . These scholars assert that Turks have a strong sense of nationality, and the nation as a whole still suffers from “insecurity” and “low self-esteem” after being born out of the chaos of World War I .
The observations of a Turkish lawyer and critic of Article 301 offer the most telling insight into the clash between Islamic values and Western notions of free speech. Speaking to the Times, Huseyin Durdu “looked stricken” when asked to contemplate what would happen if Article 301 was banned altogether – something he was actually advocating for . “People would be insulting each other. It would be conflict and chaos,” he said . This seems to be a reflection of the Islamic principle that only the truth should be spoken so that conflict can be avoided. Atilla Yayla, a professor who was condemned under Article 301, echoed Durdu’s sentiments, but noted that “I don’t like insulting people. I can usually make my point without it” .
The Anti-Terror Law has also drawn its fair share of condemnation from the international community. In April 2013, more than twenty years after the law was first passed, the Turkish Parliament passed a series of amendments to the law that were intended to help bring it into accordance with the standards set forth in the European Convention on Human Rights . Once again, parliament’s change of heart came after outside Western parties, such as the Council of Europe, the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the U.N. Human Rights Committee, called on Turkey to protect journalists’ rights instead of taking them away . The nation faced a major blow when the European Court of Human Rights handed down a ruling in 2010 holding that the Turkish government not only failed to protect a Turkish-Armenian journalist, but that it also “failed to adequately investigate his murder and infringed on his right of freedom of expression” . Prior to his death, the journalist had been charged and tried under the aforementioned Penal Code Article 301 .
Even when one considers the number of journalists imprisoned in Turkey and the targeting of Kurdish supporters, its legal and social atmosphere seems like a haven for free expression when compared to Saudi Arabia’s legal and social atmosphere. The difference in acceptance of free speech appears to be directly related to Islam’s role in governmental affairs. Interestingly, 100 percent of the populations of both nations identify themselves as Muslim . A key difference between Saudi Arabia and Turkey is that the former still has a monarchy and lacks a secular government . In fact, it identifies itself as a Muslim nation at the outset of its leading legal document . Islamic principles repeatedly appear in the justice system, legislative system, and the government at large .
Before addressing the speech laws and Western perceptions of Saudi Arabia, it is worth touching on some of the basic aspects of Saudi history, government, and culture. The Al Saud family has ruled Saudi Arabia since the nation’s modern-day inception in 1932 . Twenty-four government ministries, whose heads are appointed by the monarch, help govern the 27 million Saudi citizens . Most of the nation’s rulers have focused heavily on economic development, whether it be forming the Gulf Cooperation Council, or establishing state schools and state universities, or developing nationwide infrastructure that supports modern technology and healthcare . But the nation is perhaps most economically famous for its grip on the oil industry. Saudi Arabia controls the largest petroleum reserves in the world – which has led the capital in particular to remain an economic and political force to be reckoned with .
Western ideals and their influence on Middle Eastern affairs play a significant role in the tension between Saudi Arabia and the West. For one thing, the Saudi government, while technically an ally of the United States in the War on Terror, has faced a great deal of condemnation from the Western world . The Saudi government has also faced a problem of internal resistance from its own citizens over the past several decades: some seek more secularization like Western nations, while others seek more religious restrictions to combat the ever-increasing presence of Western society in Arab culture and Islam . In terms of people who fall into the latter category, the Saudi government has a vested interest in stifling out extremists – not because it believes that religious extremism is in and of itself a bad thing, but because extremists could threaten the stability of the country, and thereby the stability of the government . The Saudi government’s fear of the power of its own citizens was never more evident than when its neighboring countries began experiencing rebellions in 2011 . Saudi Arabia has been heavily invested in maintaining the status quo in the Middle East, and throughout the Arab Spring, the government used its resources to help the governments of nearby nations in turmoil . Moreover, the king bribed Saudi citizens, promising them more than $100 billion in “domestic incentives” if they abstained from protesting like their neighbors .
Despite the Saudi government’s attempts to control its own constituents and geographic region from Western influences, it has forged a well-known, close, and sometimes strained relationship with the quintessential Western nation: the United States . Although both countries strive for stability in the Middle East, the approaches they have taken to maintain that stability have oftentimes been at odds . On one hand, the Saudi government represses and bribes its own people, but seems to recognize there is a limit to that repression that it cannot go past . It was in full support of using military force to stop the Assad regime in Syria from using chemical weapons against Syrians . On the other hand, rumors have circulated that the Saudis are less than pleased that the United States is now in “talks” with Shia-dominant Iran – Sunni Saudi Arabia’s rival . In more recent years, Saudi Arabia has been rather vocal about its distrust of international organizations such as the United Nations. Even when Saudi Arabia obtained an otherwise highly-coveted temporary seat on the United Nations’ Security Council in October 2013, the government renounced its seat because it believed that the Security Council had failed to fulfill its duties in bringing about peace in Syria and resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict .
What was particularly interesting about the Security Council situation was that the Saudi diplomats initially lauded their election as a “defining moment” in Saudi Arabia’s history . However, the government back home in Riyadh did not share this sentiment . The contradiction between the Ministry’s initial push for acceptance into the Security Council and the Saudi government’s subsequent disdain for the Security Council is arguably a demonstration of the internal conflict within the government over the role of the West and how far the Saudis should venture into Western affairs and concerns .
Based on the language of Saudi Arabia’s laws and governing documents, its primary concern, particularly when it comes to freedom of expression, is preserving the integrity of Islam . Every speech law not only mentions respect of Islam as a requirement in all forms of expression, but mentions Islam several times across several articles in the same document . Islam and Sharia “suffuse” the text of the Basic Law, making them a major theme of the document . These references range from the declaration that Islam is the national religion, to declaring two Islamic holy days as national holidays, to setting the Islamic lunar calendar as the nation’s official calendar . Since Sharia is the national law, it regulates both Saudi residents and the government. Other national laws are considered subordinate to Sharia . This is a stark contrast to the laws of Turkey, which as explained at length above, never mention religion as a condition on speech – let alone make references to Islam in particular .
Because of Islam’s importance in all aspects of Saudi life, the nation has been described as the defender of Islam . Saudi Arabia spends a significant amount of money and other resources to maintain Islamic holy sites and uphold its interpretation of Islamic law . The nation has consequently adopted a reputation around the globe as the face of an international “struggle against Western corruption” . However, the religious environment is not as uniform as the government would like the rest of the world to believe. Some provinces have a majority Shiite population, in contrast to the Sunni royal family and national government, and carry a Western “feel” . Plus, scholars have noticed that the government tries to project an image of religious and tribal discourse in order to maintain stability within the country, but that image weakens when the country is faced with crises that reveal the clash between the discourse and the actual practices of the monarchy .
The major “documents” setting up the government and legal framework of Saudi Arabia are rather unique. One document is the Basic Law of Governance, which explains the role of the government, the values of Saudi society, and rules regarding economic issues, among other things . The other governing “document” is the Holy Qur’an, a book that Muslims believe to be the direct word of God. However, the Basic Law defers to the Qur’an. Article 1 of the Basic Law stipulates that “[t]he Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a fully sovereign Arab Islamic State. Its religion shall be Islam and its constitution shall be the Book of God and the Sunnah (Traditions) of His Messenger . . . .” . In other words, the Qur’an is the supreme law of the land, and all laws must fall into accordance with the Qur’an. Furthermore, the state is required to use Sharia law, also known as Islamic law, as the mechanism to protect human rights . These direct references to Islam, particularly the four references in the very first Article of the Basic Law, offer an extreme contrast to the Constitution of Turkey, which does not contain references to Islam despite its predominantly Muslim population .
Based on its numerical placement in the Basic Law, it seems that freedom of expression rights are not of significant importance in Saudi Arabia. Article 39 provides that
“Mass and publishing media and all means of expression shall use decent language and adhere to State laws. They shall contribute towards educating the nation and supporting its unity. Whatever leads to sedition and division, or undermines the security of the State or its public relations, or is injurious to the honor and rights of man, shall be prohibited. Laws shall set forth provisions to achieve this” .
The language of this particular article echoes much of the Islamic sentiment on speech rights; i.e., one must only speak the truth and speak in a way that fosters community rather than discord . Islamic principles have only continued to heavily influence subsequent national laws, at least according to Western NGOs . As will be discussed more at length below, at least two other Saudi Arabian national laws and their amendments concentrate on banning speech that contradicts Sharia Law or insults religious leaders .
Article 39 also seems to suggest that the media has a privilege to exist, rather than a right to exist . The use of the phrase “the media shall function in a way” insinuates that rather than protecting the rights of the media, it is merely allowing the press to exist if certain conditions are met . From a constructionist standpoint, if the media is not “educating the masses and boosting unity” it will be shut down . Plus, anything that is offensive to dignity is open to both regulation and punishment .
Information on the many Saudi laws that regulate freedom of expression is scarce. Various NGOs have reported that the Saudi government has issued a number of laws and decrees in recent years, particularly after the Arab Spring in 2011. That being said, tracking down the full language of these laws and regulations is tricky. Among the laws that the nation has passed include Royal Decree 1700/Mim Ba, which took jurisdiction over the media away from the judiciary and handed it to the Ministry of Culture and Information . In April 2011, as the Arab Spring was in full swing, another royal decree banned “the reporting of news that contradicts Sharia (Islamic law), undermines national security, promotes foreign interests, or slanders religious leaders” . The decree also granted the government the power to place lifetime bans and fines of up to $133,000 on journalists who violated the decree .
Another important law regulating freedom of expression is the Law of Printing and Publication, which governs everything from radio and television to advertising to bookshops to drawing and writing . It requires all specified “publishers” to obtain a license prior to publishing or printing, and it sets strict restrictions on who can obtain a license in the first place . The applicant must be male , must be at least 25 years old, must have a good reputation, and must “have a suitable qualification in accordance with the provisions of the Implementing Regulations” . The Implementing Regulations mentioned in the fourth criterion are not included in the final act itself, but are apparently a separate document. Individuals who meet the criteria must then pay the government a fee .
This law does not just curb freedom of speech through its license application process; it also limits freedom of expression through its requirement that publishers follow the tenants of Islam . References to Islam run rampant through the law, constantly reminding the reader that anyone who fails to follow Islamic tenants is in direct violation of the law . First, Article Three declares that the purpose of all printed material should be, among other things, promoting the “call to Islam” . Second, the law guarantees freedom of expression in Article Nine, but only on the condition that the publication of such expression abides by Sharia . Third, Article Eighteen notes that materials published outside of the kingdom will only be approved for distribution and/or printing within the kingdom if the materials are “freedom from anything insulting to Islam,” among other things .
Finally, Saudi Arabia’s Anti-Cyber-Crime Law is a somewhat older provision used to prosecute individuals for expressing sentiments that the government deems as harmful to public morals and Islam. Passed in 2007, this royal decree states in Article 2 that one of its purposes is to combat cybercrime in order to protect “public Interest [sic], morals, and common values” . Article 6 goes on to declare that a person who produces, prepares, transmits, or stores “material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy through the information network or computers” is subject to five years in prison and a hefty monetary fine .
It is important to note that these laws are not merely sitting on the books unused. Individuals have been consistently prosecuted under one law or another, and in some cases, individuals are forced to flee the country . Repeat offenders receive even harsher punishments .
Based on the stark contrast between the laws protecting freedom of expression in Western countries and even places like Turkey, one would be correct in assuming that outsiders disapprove of the way that Saudi Arabia approaches expression, speech, and the press. Freedom House placed the country in the “not free” category, citing the government’s stronghold on speech that is generated domestically and internationally; its Big-Brother-like monitoring, censoring, and blocking of websites; its strict and religiously-backed licensing requirements; its cronyism (every daily newspaper in Saudi Arabia is privately owned, but each owner has some affiliation with the Saudi royal family); and its creation of a social environment where journalists self-censor out of fear of the government .
Reporters Without Borders (RWB) has consistently condemned the government for imprisoning journalists and “cyber-activists.” It appears from RWB’s press releases that these criminal prosecutions are usually the result of someone violating a law that forbids expression that the government considers insulting to Islam . RWB ranked Saudi Arabia 163 out of 179 countries studied in its annual press freedom report, placing it ahead of Cuba, China, Iran, and Syria, but behind Egypt, Russia, and Malaysia . Apart from its annual report, RWB also denounced the Saudi government for sentencing a cyber-activist, Raef Badawi, to seven years in prison after he supposedly offended Islam under the country’s Anti-Cyber-Crime Law . The government claimed that Badawi had created and moderated a website that openly insulted religious officials and Islam . Apparently Badawi had failed to remove a third-party’s comment that was allegedly blasphemous . The judge also tacked on an additional three months to the young man’s sentence for alleged “parental disobedience” .
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is one of the few organizations that has directly addressed the possibility that Islam has a profound impact on Saudi Arabia’s inability to protect speech in a way that is consistent with international standards. It noted that the government believes that its own interpretation of Islamic law is “the only necessary guide to protect human rights” . While the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also noted that Islamic principles have a stronghold on speech in Saudi Arabia, it only did so when discussing the government’s discriminatory practices toward Shia Muslims’ religious practices and beliefs . HRW was only concerned with how the Saudi government’s interpretation of Islam has restricted the religious speech of citizens who do not agree with its interpretation of Islam. HRW did not discuss how the government’s interpretation of Islam has influenced other speech. Also, it is interesting to note that neither Carnegie nor HRW explained Islam’s view on freedom of expression. In fact, neither NGO compared the general understanding of freedom of speech principles in Islamic law to the freedom of speech principles in Saudi law.
Legal scholars are none too impressed with Saudi Arabia’s freedom of expression record either. One argued that even the few laws and committees that the government alleges it has created in hopes of improving freedom of expression are mere drops in the bucket when compared to the power of the king .
Watchdog organizations and scholars have pointed out that Saudi Arabia has failed to protect an individual’s right to express himself, but the criticism that Saudi Arabia has faced is less than that of Turkey . One could argue that this inconsistency is due to Saudi Arabia’s economic influence through its stronghold on the oil industry; its important role in fighting the War on Terror; or its blatant disregard for joining traditionally Western human rights initiatives and appeasing Western international and non-government organizations . Perhaps because of the country’s economic strength and its advantage as an ally, the West has been a little more willing to allow Saudi Arabia’s free speech (and human rights) transgressions slip by without as much condemnation as it would otherwise. Or perhaps the West has resigned itself to the belief that Saudi Arabia simply cannot change.
There are a few examples in academia where scholars have been rather lenient on Saudi Arabia’s free speech record. For example, some have gone so far as to praise the Basic Law for being brutally honest when blatantly refusing to grant certain freedoms to its citizens . One lawyer, a graduate of Yale Law and a practicing attorney in Saudi Arabia’s capital, argues that unlike the governing documents in other North African and Middle Eastern countries, which fail to uphold their promise to respect democratic governance and human rights, the Basic Law of Governance is “unabashedly honest” . It makes no guarantee of democratic elections, of protecting human rights, or holding government officials accountable for its action . Instead, it rejects the more traditional expressions of constitutionalism in favor of “a powerful executive circumscribed only by historical practices and Islamic ideas of governance” . It seems rather perplexing to applaud a sovereign for openly declaring that it will deprive its citizens of their rights, particularly when the international community as a whole has decided that the sovereign has no authority to deprive those rights except in very limited circumstances . It is also a perplexing argument when one considers that Islam requires that people respect human rights.
Another American scholar, Dawn Nunziato, echoes the sentiment that Saudi laws are honest . She notes that while the Saudi government’s restrictions on online speech are particularly hostile, they are at least transparent . Not only do they give citizens clear notice of what type of speech is and is not permissible, but they explain why the speech is being censored in the first place . It is true that this type of notice may be more open and readily available to the average citizen when compared to states that fail to offer notice at all. However, Saudi Arabia’s notice on internet censorship is not as clear as Nunziato seems to suggest. The notice fails to explain what factors must be satisfied in order for speech to be offensive or harmful . It also fails to explain what Saudi societal norms should be . It also allows the government to engage in viewpoint discrimination. The government gets to decide what is offensive or harmful, what is a tenet of Islam, and what are societal norms .
While these various third-party observers mention that Islam and Sharia have an influence on Saudi laws and society, they do not place all the blame for the restrictive expression laws on religion. At the same time, these observers fail to at least address the possibility that cultural relativism and the tenants of Islam make it harder for Saudi society to come into accordance with the UDHR and ICCPR. The latter point is understandable, considering that it would be viewed an attack on Islam to proclaim that Islam makes it difficult for societies to adhere to human rights ideals. However, based on Islam’s influence on Saudi Arabia’s speech laws (and its influence on Jordan’s speech laws, as discussed below), the international community has to come up with a way to reconcile the speech principles promulgated in Islam with the free speech guarantees promulgated in documents like the UDHR and ICCPR. If the international community truly wants to make some sort of progress in the realm of freedom of expression in a predominantly-Muslim nation, this issue must be addressed.
The Kingdom of Jordan is a Middle Eastern constitutional monarchy primarily comprised of people of Arab descent . Like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, Jordan has a large Muslim population, but with only 92 percent of the 7.9 million people in the nation identifying as Sunni Muslim, Jordan has the smallest Sunni population per capita of the three nations surveyed in this note . Generally speaking, Jordanian society and government is a mix between those of Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Its legal system has elements of Sharia, similar to Saudi Arabia, but also follows the tenants of civil law, similar to Turkey . Its constitution protects citizens’ rights, similar to Turkey’s constitution, but also grants the government the power to limit those rights in certain circumstances, similar to Saudi Arabia .
The Jordanian press is a mix of independent organizations and government-owned entities. The government has its own television station, radio station, and newspaper, but has allowed for independent news sources to exist so long as they meet certain criteria . Namely, it requires that all publishers obtain licenses before beginning operation . So, even though there are a number of independent print news sources in the kingdom, they are still subject to government scrutiny . Until recently, the Ministry of Information kept tabs on publications and issued licenses for media outlets, but King Abdullah II dissolved the ministry and handed off its responsibilities to other government bodies .
While religion is an important aspect of everyday Jordanian society, the more urban areas are rather Westernized. Movie theaters play foreign films, theater companies put on plays and ballet performances, and internet cafes are readily accessible in Amman . Even though the government has control over the media, Western movies, television shows, and music are often featured on radio and television stations .
Jordan’s Constitution guarantees citizens freedom of opinion, unlike its Saudi counterpart, but stops short of guaranteeing freedom of expression to everyone at all times. Article 15 declares that “[e]very Jordanian shall be free to express his opinion by speech, in writing, or by means of photographic representation and other forms of expression, provided that such does not violate the law” . However, the Constitution seems to grant the government a loophole in regard to regulating the press. In Sections (ii) and (iii), the Constitution hints that it will allow for certain limits to be place on the freedom of press and freedom of publication “except in accordance with provisions of the law” . It is not entirely clear which “provisions of the law” that the Constitution is referring to. Critics have noted that the “law” mentioned in the Constitution is actually a set of unclear laws that often gives rise to arbitrary prosecutions .
Section (iv) of Article 15 goes even further by openly allowing the government to derogate from its responsibility to protect the right to freedom of speech during times of crises: “[i]n the event of the declaration of martial law or a state of emergency, a limited censorship on newspapers, publications, books and broadcasts in matters affecting public safety and national defence [sic] may be imposed by law” .
In the past two decades, Jordan has enacted or amended a handful of laws related to expression . Some of these laws benefited the public at large, such as the Right of Access to Information Law, but overall, they have decreased Jordanians’ ability to exercise their speech rights . These laws echo Saudi Arabia’s belief that information disseminated over the internet, particularly information that is viewed as a threat to national security, must be monitored and filtered. It seems that in practice, the laws are more likely to be used to punish individuals for questioning the king or the government than for making statements related to Islam.
Jordan’s first press law, the Press and Publications Law, was one of the few expression laws that empowered citizens as opposed to the government . Passed in 1993, the law protected a person’s right to establish a newspaper and required the government to use judicial review before suspending or closing a newspaper . However, that particular press law did not remain intact for long. In the five years after the law’s enactment, the media fell under attack for allegedly ruining Jordan’s image and threatening national security after it published information contradicting and criticizing the government . The government responded by passing the Press and Publication Law of 1998 to curtail the media . That new law, along with its amendments, had significant implications on freedom of expression. It restored the government’s licensing power, substantially raised the fines for breaking the law, added more content-based restrictions on free speech, gave some government bodies the authority to censor foreign publications even before they made it into Jordan, and created a prior restraint by requiring authors to submit two copies of “any book to be published to the Kingdom to be deposited with the PPL prior to publication” .
In recent years, the government has taken steps towards regulating internet expression as much as print expression. For example, the government passed the Information Systems Law just before the Arab Spring ignited . Among other things, the law grants police the authority to search website offices and gain access to their computers without a warrant . The law tightened restrictions on online news outlets under the guise of regulating cybercrime, and observers considered it to be a step in the direction of oppressive regimes like in Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia . In another instance, members of the Jordanian Ministry passed a regulation that cut government employees off from access to almost fifty news websites . In yet another case, the Court of Cassation, which is the highest judicial authority in Jordan, recommended that the Press and Publications Law be extended to online and other electronic media .
Finally, Jordan’s Penal Code also hinders freedom of expression through its provisions on defamation and libel. A person found guilty of either defamation or libel is not just subject to civil penalties like in many Western societies, but rather, imprisonment for up to three years .
Despite Jordan’s best efforts to curtail criticism of its policies in its own press, it has been unable to escape the criticism of Western NGOs, foreign governments, scholars, and news outlets outside its borders. Like Saudi Arabia, Jordan fell into Freedom House’s “not free” category in 2012 , was ranked in the bottom 25 percent of countries in the Reporters Without Borders rankings , and was consistently called out in the international media for its internet censorship activities. In October 2013, a group of NGOs wrote an open letter to King Abdullah expressing their “deep concern” about the legal restrictions on websites and the application of the Press and Publications Law .
Freedom House based Jordan’s designation as a “not free” press state on criminal laws, prosecution of journalists, and lack of access to information . During its investigation for its annual report, Freedom House found that the government allows for some criticism of it and its policies, but still tries to influence the media when it can . Even international news agencies found themselves the victim of the Jordanian government’s wrath . It stopped providing Agence France-Press official transcripts and government notices after the agency reported that some Bedouin tribes were accusing Queen Rania of corruption . The NGO also found the national legislature’s amendment to the Press and Publications Law that created specialized criminal courts for the prosecution of violators of the law particularly alarming . Another troubling feature of the press environment was the fact that the government still used the numerous expression laws to “stifle” dissenters, even though it usually released the journalists arrested under those laws without trying them . But Jordan’s former Minister of Information and Communication offered up one of the most damning comments on the state of press freedom in Jordan when he resigned from his position, noting that the then-proposed amendments that aimed to strengthen the government’s grip on the media were a “blow to press freedom” .
Reporters Without Borders ranked Jordan 134 out of 179 countries surveyed in its Press Freedom Index . Jordan actually dropped six spots from the previous year’s list because of a new royal decree that restricted freedom of information, particularly online .
Human Rights Watch has consistently published articles condemning the Jordanian government’s prosecution and harassment of journalists. In April 2012, it reported that a journalist was imprisoned after writing an article suggesting the king had intervened in a corruption investigation . The journalist and his publisher were charged with “subverting the system of government” . In September 2013, HRW reported that the publisher and the chief editor of a news website were arrested and charged with “disturbing relations with a foreign state” after posting a YouTube video that showed one of the princes of Qatar dancing and showering with women . In every instance, HRW called on the Jordanian government to drop the charges and stop hindering the journalists’ right to free speech .
The United States Government has been none too impressed with Jordan’s expression laws either. The State Department (State) listed Jordan’s restrictions on freedom of expression as one its “most significant human rights problems” . In its annual human rights report, the State cited to instances in Jordan where a newspaper reporter was fired after he criticized the government, where the government tracked university students’ speech, and where the government prosecuted political activists for their speech . It noted that self-censorship runs rampant because journalists fear government prosecution and heavy fines if they publish materials on sensitive subject matters, such as political reform .
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) office in Amman released a detailed analysis of the Jordanian media environment in 2012 . It found that while Jordan has ratified human rights treaties guaranteeing freedom of expression, its national laws and practices violate those treaties . One particular violation included the passage of an amendment to the Press and Publication Law that allowed for the law to cover online media . This amendment came after the King and his government vowed to reform legislation in a way that favored freedom of expression . UNESCO found it troubling that Jordanian reporters do not adhere to professional journalism standards, lack accountability, and are constantly self-censoring out of a fear of legal and physical threats .
However, unlike some of the NGOs and the State, UNESCO offered suggestions to the Jordanian government on how it can improve its media environment. In its media analysis, it stated that it had submitted a document to the government in 2011 that detailed its policy advice regarding freedom of expression . More specifically, it explained how the country could encourage the existence of a free press .
The international media challenged the Jordanian government’s practices from a slightly different angle. They latched onto Jordan’s wide-scale ban on news websites in the summer of 2013 . The Christian Science Monitor, for example, reported that the government of Jordan had blocked access to 263 news sites that had failed to comply with a 2012 national law requiring online media to register with the government . The 2012 law was yet another one of Jordan’s responses to the Arab Spring . The reason why so many online news sources had failed to comply with the law was two-fold. For one, they saw the statute as a form of excessive governmental interference with the media . They didn’t agree with the law in principle. But second, many of the owners of online media were simply unable to meet the strict requirements of the law . In order to register, they not only had to submit a registration fee, but the editor-in-chief of the operation was required to be a member of the Jordanian Journalists’ Syndicate (a government entity) for at least four years .
The government fired back at the media’s complaint that the law was too strict and repressive. It released a statement saying that “[t]he blocking is not intended to restrict freedoms . . . but the goal of this action is to organize the work of these websites, protect them, and keep from allowing those from outside the profession to inhabit the label of journalists . . . .” .
The academic literature published by scholars on Jordan’s expression laws is scarce. It seems that they have focused more on Jordan’s neighbors – particularly Saudi Arabia . Nonetheless, the few who have analyzed Jordan’s speech environment have concentrated on its constraints on the media . The Penal Code is seriously problematic because it remains incredibly vague, even after numerous amendments . One Jordanian journalist explained how difficult it is to comply with the Penal Code, when he explained that something as simple as “writing about the Jordanian currency could be explained as harming the national interest and writing about the influx of Iraqis in the advent of the war could be explained as sparking sectarian strife” . Overall, although Jordan does restrict speech on many occasions, scholars have noted that its laws are still more tolerant toward press freedom compared to Saudi Arabia .
The case studies of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan presented in this paper demonstrate the different ways countries with majority Muslim populations address freedom of speech. Despite their shared religion, the fact of the matter is that these countries’ differing cultures, histories, and statuses in the international political realm seem to have the biggest influence on the level of protection that they give to speech. The case studies show that it is erroneous to say that Islam is the definitive reason for these countries’ restrictions on free speech. For example, in the case of Turkey, the restrictions on the press stem from ethnic tensions, not from Islam itself. On the other hand, in Jordan, the restrictions on the press stem from the government’s attempts to control its image. Both countries are almost entirely made up of Muslims, and while the latter incorporates elements of Islam into government and law, the former does not.
The brief analyses of Turkey, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia’s treatment of free speech demonstrate how societal differences – i.e. cultural relativism – influence how effectively societies can incorporate free speech into their countries. These societal differences cross over into religious matters; different societies have different interpretations of Islam and have differing views on what role it should play in government. The Saudi monarchy, for example, decides how to implement Islamic law in the kingdom. The Turkish government, on the other hand, is shut off from religion altogether. It does not attempt to apply religious law or interpret religious tenants or documents for its citizens. Cultural relativism gives a rationale for why freedom of speech is more readily recognized in a predominantly Muslim country like Turkey, but not a country like Jordan: Turkish culture is different than Jordanian culture. Religion plays less of a role in the public realm in the former than it does in the latter.
Islam’s influence on the laws and societal beliefs in countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan is not something to be ignored. It is a piece in the cultural relativism puzzle that helps explain why speech is not as readily protected in some Muslim countries as it is in secular or Western countries. Islam places more of an emphasis on fostering community and avoiding discord. Its teachings lend some support to free, but truthful, speech and go so far as to frown upon punishment for inappropriate or antagonistic speech. Islamic teachings on speech mirror the Western views on speech in that they refuse to punish individuals who do convey controversial, false, or antagonistic speech – at least in this world.
Despite Islam’s influence on Turkish and Jordanian society and culture, it is not a driving force behind their reluctance to protect speech rights – at least not explicitly in their laws. National security is often offered as a rationale for restricting speech rights. All of this is strong evidence that Islam is not the sole reason why nations with large Muslim populations place less emphasis on the right to express yourself freely.
History demonstrates that the evolution of speech rights in Western countries was a slow process, and the people within those countries adopted free speech values as it became necessary to enhance their political dominance and their need for open political discussion. Western society has steadily been working toward the belief that freedom of speech is an inherent right for at least four centuries. What began as grassroots efforts to let printers publish without governmental repercussions slowly evolved into a belief that the ability to express oneself is a fundamental human right. Predominantly Muslim countries are just beginning the journey toward recognizing certain fundamental individual rights. Just as Western societies were unable to declare free speech a fundamental right overnight, these majority-Muslim societies also cannot be expected to declare free speech a fundamental human right. This is not to say that these nations are off the hook for censoring, fining, and imprisoning individuals who speak in a manner that the governments or society deems unnecessary or unsavory. These outspoken individuals have a right to express themselves, and they deserve protection, regardless the extent to which their society believes that freedom of speech ought to be protected. Nevertheless, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan’s history, along with their cultural and religious features, must be taken into consideration when trying to understand their views on free speech and when trying to help those countries move toward greater expression protections for all their citizens.
Turks, Saudis, and Jordanians have not spent the past several centuries fighting for free speech, unlike their Western counterparts. Free speech protections were not really on the former’s radar. Beyond “speaking the truth,” free speech did not play a substantial role in society at all. But as these countries have faced forms of protest, revolutions, and changes in political regimes in recent years, they have begun realizing the necessity of freedom of speech. From that standpoint, the Muslim world’s realization that political speech deserves particular protection mirrors one of the Western world’s earliest movements towards recognizing free speech as a fundamental right. Like the Levellers and the members of British Parliament in the 1600s, citizens of these Muslim countries are recognizing how protecting speech allows for better governance. Muslim societies are just beginning the journey toward free speech, whereas Western societies like England, France, and the United States have recognized free speech as an inherent right for at least 300 years.
An analysis of freedom of speech perceptions in the West as opposed to these Muslim countries shows that the critics of free speech protections are usually Western. So the outsiders who try to explain to these Muslim states how to protect speech are approaching the problem with a uniquely Western viewpoint. They already have a prolonged history of fighting for speech rights, and that history does not necessarily include incorporating religious tenants into justifications for human rights. This is like comparing apples to oranges, and it results in a culture clash.
Cultural and religious ideals are not the only factors in the differing views on freedom of speech. The legislative history and language of the actual legal instruments declaring speech as a fundamental human right are another reason why Muslim nations are reluctant to fully embrace the Western notions of free speech. Turkey, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia had little to no influence on the creation of human rights documents like the UDHR. Plus, UDHR and ICCPR offer no game plan on how to implement these rights into societies. This is problematic for non-Westernized countries, particularly since their free speech history is more limited.
A firm conviction that speech is worthy of a great deal of protection will not happen overnight in countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. The process of changing public and government sentiment regarding free expression will likely happen slowly. When assisting these nations in their free speech endeavors, the West will have to include considerations of these nations’ histories, cultures, and religious beliefs. Condemnations from Western government and NGOs is not enough. Until both the West and Muslim countries can figure out how to reconcile these aspects of Muslim societies with Western ideals of free speech, it is likely that the condemnations from Western governments and NGOs will go unheeded.
*J.D., The University of Alabama School of Law (2014); B.A., The University of Alabama (2010). The author would like to thank former Under Secretary of State Maria Otero for helping the author realize her passion for international human rights and for being such an inspirational advocate and diplomat; Professor Dan Joyner for his help throughout the writing process of this comment; Knox Thames for encouraging her to take on a project of this magnitude; and her parents and brother for their unwavering support throughout law school.
. John Trenchard & Thomas Gordon, Cato’s Letters, No. 15, Feb. 4, 1720: Of Freedom of Speech: That the Same is Inseparable from Publick Liberty (Ronald Hamowy, ed., Indianapolis: Liberty Fund) (1995) available at http://lf-oll.s3.amazonaws.com/titles/1237/Trenchard_0226-01_EBk_v6.0.pdf.
. Const. of the Republic of Turk., Nov. 7, 1982, Pt. 2, Art. 26.
. Basic Law of Governance, Mar. 1, 1992, Art. 1 (Saudi Arabia).
. Const. of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Jan. 1, 1952, Ch. 2, Art. 15, available at http://www.kinghussein.gov.jo/constitution_jo.html.
. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, supra note 8. See signatories to the ICCPR, available at https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/MTDSG/Volume%20I/Chapter%20IV/IV-4.en.pdf.
. Harris Zafar, Making Islamic Sense of Free Speech, The Washington Post, (Jan. 14, 2013) http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/making-islamic-sense-of-free-speech/2013/01/14/95fc0b5a-5ec0-11e2-90a0-73c8343c6d61_blog.html.
. Mayer supra note 40, at 325.
. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook 2013-14: Turkey (Central Intelligence Agency, ed., Washington D.C. 2013) available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/print/country/countrypdf_tu.pdf (June 20, 2014).
. Turkey, OpenNet Initiative, 341-42 (Dec. 18 2010) https://opennet.net/sites/opennet.net/files/ONI_Turkey_2010.pdf (“The Turkish military powers consider themselves to be the guardians of secular democracy and in the past have actively pursued this role, resulting in the forced removal of elected governments on a number of occasions. The Turkish military has developed a long history of involvement in politics, and as a result the government remains dependent upon it to maintain a balance between religious and secular institutions.”).
. Id. at 27-28 (noting that in the 1990s, Turkey banned the use of the Kurdish language – effectively hampering the speech of one-fifth of its citizens. It also went so far as to eliminate Kurdish nationalism by imprisoning individuals who referred to the Kurdish population as Kurdish rather than “mountain Turks.” The Turkish Parliament’s first Kurdish member was sentenced to fifteen years in prison after she said “I shall struggle so that the Kurdish and Turkish peoples may live together in a democratic framework.”).
. Id. at 27-28 (“In truth, the government has demonstrated that it is willing to cooperate on free speech given a realistic prospect of EU membership, but has regressed when the prospect did not seem as realistic.”).
. Id. at art. 26 (“Everyone has the right to express and disseminate his/her thoughts and opinion by speech, in writing or in pictures or through other media, individually or collectively. This freedom includes the liberty of receiving or imparting information or ideas without interference from official authorities. This provision shall not preclude subjecting transmission by radio, television, cinema, or similar means to a system of licensing.”).
. UDHR Res. 217, supra note 7 (it is arguable that Articles 28 and 29 provides a loophole for upholding Article 19’s guarantee of freedom of expression. Article 28 notes that “everyone is entitled to a social and international order.” However, that right is qualified by the notion that the “order” should allow for the complete realization of the rights guaranteed in the Declaration. Article 29 allows for limitations on the UDHR’s named rights if it is determined that such limitations are needed to meet “the just requirements of morality, public order, and the general welfare in a democratic society.”).
. ICCPR Res. 2200, supra note 8, at art. 4 (in Article 4, the signatories agree that parties “may take measures derogating from their obligations under the present Covenant to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation” in a time of public emergency. However, the derogating measures cannot violate other international laws and cannot discriminate solely on the ground of “race, colour, sex, language, religion or social origin.”).
. ICCPR Res. 2200, supra note 8, at art. 4.
. Id. (this should not be read to say that there is a blanket exception for national security emergency situations under the ICCPR. Such an exception only applies in certain circumstances. If the threat is imminent or ongoing, then it seems more likely that a provision suspending freedom of speech on those grounds would be permissible under the ICCPR. However, there is still a question of whether Article 26 of the Turkish Constitution is even in accordance with the ICCPR since it does not explicitly state whether the exceptions apply solely in times of public emergency).
. Johann Bihr & Jean-Francois Julliard, A Book is Not a Bomb!, Media and Justice in Turkey, Mistrust and Repression, Reporters Without Borders 14 (June 2011), available at http://en.rsf.org/IMG/pdf/rsf_report_turkey_2011_en.pdf; see also Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2012: Turkey, 341-43 (2012), available at https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/FOTP%202012%20Final%20Full%20Report.pdf
. Jo M. Pasqualucci, Criminal Defamation and the Evolution of the Doctrine of Freedom of Expression in International Law: Comparative Jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, 39 Vand. J. Transnat’l L. 379, 412 (2006).
. Id. at ¶¶ 36-39.
. It is also worth noting here that unlike Saudi Arabia and Jordan, Turkey is actively trying to obtain membership to the European Union— which is an organization that is dominated by some of the biggest “Western” states.
. Amnesty International, Turkey: Article 301: How the law on ‘denigrating Turkishness’ is an insult to free expression, 1 (Mar. 1, 2006), http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/EUR44/003/2006/en/1a24fcc9-d44b-11dd-8743-d305bea2b2c7/eur440032006en.pdf.
. Marc Pierini & Markus Mayr, Press Freedom in Turkey, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 5-6 (2013), available at http://carnegieendowment.org/files/press_freedom_turkey.pdf (noting that more specifically, most of the individuals who are prosecuted are – according to the government – leaders or members of a terrorist organization or are creating propaganda for such an organization.)
. Id. (these statistics were based on reports from the OSCE. An updated list of imprisoned journalists in Turkey including recent releases, is available at http://www.osce.org/fom/119921?download=true.)
. Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2013: Turkey, 379 (2013) available at https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/FOTP%202013%20Full%20Report.pdf; see also Pierini & Mayer, supra note 126, at 4 (“Although ranking is not necessarily the most significant parameter, it appears that between 2005 and 2011-2012, Turkey dropped by 50 places in the Reporters Without Borders annual Press Freedom Index to 148, two places below the Democratic Republic of the Congo and two places ahead of Afghanistan.”). In contrast, almost every “Western” state received a “free” press status designation. These states include Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. However, Norway and Sweden tied for the designation of “most free” nation in terms of freedom of the press.
. Freedom House: Turkey, supra note 130, at 380 (“Constitutional guarantees of press freedom and freedom of expression are only partially upheld in practice. They are generally undermined by provisions in the penal code and the criminal procedure code, and by the country’s strict, broadly worded antiterrorism law, which effectively makes many types of investigative or critical journalism tantamount to terrorist activity.”).
. Amnesty International Report 2013: The State of the World’s Human Rights, Amnesty International (Dec. 7, 2014, 12:15 AM), http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/turkey/report-2013#section-151-3.
. Pierini & Mayr, supra note 127, at 4 (analyzing the European Commission report on Turkey). The European Commission, alongside the Council of Europe, initially decides whether a state can join the European Union. The Commission delivers a legal opinion to the Council detailing whether the applicant state has abided by the accession criteria set forth in the Treaty on the European Union. See The Accession Process for a New Member State, EUROPA, at http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/enlargement/ongoing_enlargement/l14536_en.htm (Dec. 7, 2014, 12:30 AM).
. Sarah Paulsworth, Turkish Parliament Approves Amendments to Anti-terrorism Legislation, Jurist (Apr. 12, 2013), http://jurist.org/paperchase/2013/04/turkish-parliament-approves-amendments-to-anti-terrorism-legislation.php.
. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook 2013-14: Saudi Arabia (Central Intelligence Agency, ed., Washington D.C. 2013) available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/print/country/countrypdf_sa.pdf (June 20, 2014).
. Christopher M. Blanchard, Cong. Research Serv,, RL 33533, Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations, summary (Congressional Research Service, ed. June 14, 2010), available at http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/145596.pdf.
. Id. (No country elected as a temporary member to the UN Security Council had ever renounced its seat. According to an official statement by the Saudi foreign ministry, “Accordingly, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, based on its historical responsibilities towards its people, Arab and Islamic nations as well as towards the peoples aspiring for peace and stability all over the world, announces its apology for not accepting membership of the Security Council until the Council is reformed and enabled, effectively and practically, to carry out its duties and responsibilities in maintaining international peace and security.”)
. Id. at 128. (Fandy seems to be insinuating that the monarchy does not actually practice what it preaches. In other words, the monarchy is not following the religious tenants or laws that it is enforcing on the rest of Saudi society.)
. Human Rights Watch, Annual World Report: Saudi Arabia, 4-5 (Jan. 2012), available at http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/related_material/saudiarabia_2012.pdf (this publication was part of Human Rights Watch’s annual World Report. HRW noted that King Abdullah amended the 2000 Press and Publications Act in 2011 to include a prohibition on speech that harms various religious leaders’ reputations, including members of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars, the chief mufti, any government official, or any government institution.).
. Arab Political Systems: Baseline Information and Reforms – Saudi Arabia, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 10-11 (2008), available at http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/Saudi_Arabia_APS.doc. (noting that the Basic Law fails to provide specific guarantees of the freedom of expression, assembly, political participation, or belief).
. Law of Printing and Publication of 2003, Royal Decree No. M/23, 3/9/1424 A.H. (Oct. 28, 2003) (Saudi Arabia), http://www.saudiembassy.net/about/country-information/laws/Law_of_Printing_and_Publication.aspx. (Article Two stipulates that “[t]he following activities shall be governed by the provisions of this Law: printed matters; pre-printed preparatory services; printeries; bookshops; drawing and writing; photography; importation of films and videotapes, sale or rent thereof; tape and recording discs; radio, television, cinematographic or theatrical artistic works; televisions and broadcasting studios; the Offices of Foreign Information Media and their reporters; publicity and advertisement; public relations; publication; distribution; journalistic services; production, sale or renting of computer programs; information studies and consultations; copying and reprography; any activity suggested to be added by the Ministry and approved by the Prime Minister.”).
. Id. (while the requirement that the individual be male is not spelled out directly, it is insinuated through the language of the article. For example, it declares “He shall be a Saudi national” and “He shall not be less than 25 years of age. . .” Also, one can assume that there is a gender requirement based on the fact that Saudi Arabia is notorious for its restrictions on women’s legal rights (or lack thereof)).
. See, e.g., RWB Appeals to King Abdullah to Pardon Jailed Citizen-Journalist, Reporters Without Borders (Dec. 9, 2014), http://en.rsf.org/saudi-arabia-rwb-appeals-to-king-abdallah-to-09-12-2014,47356.html (after Raef Badawi, a blogger and cyber-activist, was arrested for writing blog posts criticizing the lack of fundamental freedoms within Saudi society, his wife and three children fled the country. Badawi had fled Saudi Arabia at least once before his latest arrest).
. See e.g., Seven Years in Jail and 600 Lashes for Cyber-Activist, Reporters Without Borders (Aug. 6, 2013) http://en.rsf.org/saudi-arabia-seven-years-in-jail-and-600-lashes-06-08-2013,45021.html (the aforementioned Badawi was forced to leave Saudi Arabia in 2008 after the government accused him of insulting Islam online. When he later returned to the country and set up a new website, he was once again prosecuted under the Anti-Cyber-Crime Law and faced a more severe punishment).
. Freedom House: Saudi Arabia, supra note 204, at 323-25 (for example, the government prevents citizens from criticizing it online by routing all internet traffic through a state-run proxy. It also censors any information it deems blasphemous).
. Reporters Without Borders, World Press Freedom Index 2013 (2013), available at http://fr.rsf.org/IMG/pdf/classement_2013_gb-bd.pdf. (Turkey was ranked 154, while Jordan was ranked 134. The United States came in at 32. RWB uses surveys to calculate its rankings, and looks at six different indicators in order to determine a country’s final score. These indicators include media independence, environment and self-censorship, pluralism, transparency, infrastructure, and legislative framework).
. Id. (for example, the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, which is the governmental body responsible for monitoring and filtering internet content, explains in detail on its website what speech it filters, why it filters it, and how it filters it. Filtered materials are those that are considered “of an offensive or harmful nature to society” and “which violate the tenets of the Islamic religion or societal norms.” Nunziato argues that this is evidence that the government is “clear about the mechanism by which it effectuates this filtering.”).
. Introduction to Content Filtering, Internet Services Unit, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, http://www.isu.net.sa/saudi-internet/contenet-filtring/filtring.htm (last visited Dec. 7, 2014, 1:29 PM).
. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook 2013-14: Jordan (Central Intelligence Agency, ed., Washington D.C. 2013) available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/jo.html (June 20, 2014).
. Jordan: Health and Welfare, Encyclopedia Britannica (2013), available at http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/306128/Jordan/23357/Health-and-welfare#toc23359.
. Kamel Labidi, Is Jordan the latest enemy of press freedom online?, The Guardian, Aug. 21, 2010, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/aug/21/jordon-cyber-law-press-freedom-online.
. International Free Expression Groups Call for an End to Internet Censorship in Jordan, Reporters Without Borders, Oct. 8, 2013, http://en.rsf.org/jordan-international-free-expression-08-10-2013,45296.html (the signatories included Reporters Without Borders, Freedom House, Committee to Protect Journalists, Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, and the I’lam Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel, among others. A total of 22 organizations signed the letter).
. Jordan: Publisher, Journalist Charged in State Security Court, Human Rights Watch, Apr. 25, 2012, http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/04/25/jordan-publisher-journalist-charged-state-security-court.
. Media Environment Analysis for Jordan, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Office, Amman (last visited Dec. 7, 2014, 2:40 PM), http://www.unesco.org/new/en/amman/communication-information/capacity-development/media-environment-analysis-for-jordan/.
. Id. (the media analysis failed to elaborate on the actual explanation it had given to the Jordanian government. It did, however, say that UNESCO was working with the European Union on two projects in Jordan. One involves enhancing professional and accurate media reporting on the electoral process, and the other involves support of democracy, civil society, and media in Jordan).
. Elizabeth Barber, Why Jordan Orders Ban on 263 News Sites, Christian Science Monitor, Jun. 6, 2013, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2013/0606/Why-Jordan-orders-ban-on-263-news-sites.
PEMEX, PEÑA NIETO AND PETRO-CANADA: NAFTA AND MEXICAN ENERGY REFORM WITHIN THE CHANGING NORTH AMERICAN CRUDE LANDSCAPE
Table of Contents
I. Introduction………………………………………………………………….. 42
III. Free Trade…………………………………………………………………… 46
IV. Pemex…………………………………………………………………………. 46
V. Previous Reforms Of Pemex…………………………………………… 49
VI. NAFTA………………………………………………………………………… 51
VII. Energy Under NAFTA……………………………………………………..51
VIII. Foreign Investors Under NAFTA……………………………………..52
IX. The Canadian Energy Scheme Under NAFTA…………………….53
X. The Mexican Energy Regime Under NAFTA…………………….. 55
XI. The Need To Reform Pemex…………………………………………….56
XII. North American Pressures To Reform Pemex……………………56
XIII. Hydraulic Fracturing………………………………………………………56
XIV. Keystone XL…………………………………………………………………..58
XV. Peña Nieto’s Proposed Reform of Pemex……………………………59
XVI. Peña Nieto’s Reform’s Reception In Mexico………………………62
XVII. An Unanticipated Ally…………………………………………………….63
XVIII. Peña Nieto’s Reform’s Intersections With NAFTA ………….64
On January 1, 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada, and Mexico took effect. By the end of 1993, Canada produced 1.68 million barrels of crude oil per day (MBPD), exported 0.516 MBPD, and sent 83.5 percent of its crude oil exports to the United States. Nineteen years later, Canada’s crude oil production rose to 3.14 MBPD, exports rose to 1.58 MBPD, and 99 percent of its exported crude oil went to the United States. This progression equates to an 86 percent increase in total crude oil production, a 201 percent increase in crude oil exports, and a 260 percent increase in the number of barrels sent to the United States since NAFTA’s enactment.
Similarly, in 1993, Mexico produced 2.67 MBPD of crude oil, exported 1.32 MBPD, and sent 25 percent of its crude oil exports to the United States. Yet in 2012, Mexico’s crude oil production fell to 2.59 MBPD, exports fell to 0.79 MBPD, and 48 percent of its crude oil exports went to the United States. These developments equate to a three percent decline in total crude oil production; a 40 percent decline in crude oil exports and a 15 percent increase in the number of barrels sent to the United States. To summarize the juxtaposition, since NAFTA’s enactment, Canada increased its U.S. crude oil exports by 260 percent while Mexico, in the same period, only increased its U.S. crude oil exports by 15 percent.
Explanations for the disparity are multifarious. The factors contributing to this difference include history, culture, geology, law, and technology. In addition to analyzing these factors, this article names certain current consequences and potential implications of NAFTA within the changing North American crude oil landscape. Within this context, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s proposed energy reform is introduced and discussed. A meaningful discourse on these topics begins with an introduction to state-owned oil companies in Canada and Mexico.
Petro-Canada was Canada’s state-owned oil company from 1975 to 2004. Petro-Canada has been entirely privately-owned for a decade, has a short history, and is not particularly significant in the current North American crude oil landscape. With these caveats noted, an introduction to Petro-Canada serves as useful context, particularly when considering potential long-term implications of Peña Nieto’s proposed reform of the Mexican state-owned oil company, Pemex.
In 1973, world oil prices quadrupled due to the Arab oil embargo following the Yom Kippur War. In response, the Canadian government turned its focus to energy security. In addition to external motivation, the Canadian government faced two internal pressures to act: 1) foreign (e.g., U.S.) companies predominantly controlled its oil sector and; 2) the Canadian Arctic appeared increasingly attractive as large amounts of oil were recently discovered in Alaska. In order to stave off rising oil prices, deliver secure energy to its citizens, and participate in the development of its own resources, the Canadian government created Petro-Canada as a Crown Corporation in 1975.
The company received $1.5 billion in start-up capital to implement broad powers for exploration, research and development, and refining and marketing of Canadian oil. Petro-Canada received federal subsidies and enjoyed special exploration rights. The Canadian government also instituted a “made in Canada” price for oil which was substantially below world market prices. Canadian oil exports were taxed to pay for the consumer and corporate subsidies.
Petro-Canada quickly became popular as a symbol of Canadian nationalism. However, in 1991, plummeting oil prices and new government leadership led the Canadian government to sell 30 percent of the state-owned company. Over the next decade, the government slowly sold its ownership in installments. By 1995, Canadian government owned only 19 percent of the company and Petro-Canada was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In 2004, the Canadian government sold its remaining share of the company for $3.2 billion, completing the privatization of Petro-Canada.
Petro-Canada’s sale yielded over $5.7 billion, and was the largest Canadian governmental privatization to date. The Canadian Parliament’s website states: “The total gross proceeds . . . from the sale . . . are estimated to have exceeded taxpayers’ total investment by almost $750 million.” The Canadian government views the sale of the company as a necessary action, characterizing Petro-Canada as having grown “inefficient, oversized and debt-ridden.” But not all Canadians are happy to have seen Petro-Canada privatized. Some Canadians would have preferred to keep Petro-Canada under state control. This is because in addition to the loss of secure jobs for Canadians, the profits from oil price increases are accruing to foreign investors rather than the Canadian citizens.
Further to this analysis is the idea that Petro-Canada’s privatization combined with the regulations of NAFTA act as the “one-two punch” for Canada’s sovereignty over its oil resources. There is some legitimacy to this analysis and, admittedly, national policies with consequences for sovereignty should be considered with the utmost scrutiny.
With these concessions noted, globalization and free trade are not passing trends. In fact, the adoption of free trade policies is gaining momentum around the globe. Globalization and free trade inherently have a homogenizing effect on national policies and frequently require renunciation of sovereignty. Further, homogenization and renunciation of sovereignty are part and parcel of globalization and free trade. The goal of free trade, and a requirement of globalization, is to provide the private sector with a uniform predictable legal and investment climate free of individual nations’ protectionist preferences. The energy industry, although an area of entrenched interests, is no exception.
While it is accurate to say that Canada forfeited sovereignty over its oil, this negative treatment is not the only valid analysis. Rather, Canada should be considered an early-adopter of free trade energy policy. It was on the front end of a trend. Early-adoption has its benefits. Canada has, and will continue to, accrue the benefits of its early-adoption.
Canada gained the “first-mover advantage” in free trade oil. A “first mover” has a “form of competitive advantage that a company [or in this case, country] earns by being the first to enter a specific market or industry.” Central to the first-mover advantage is the concept that the “first-mover” usually accumulates enough market share, expertise, and customer loyalty to remain “on top” of the particular market segment.
Specifically, as the “first-mover,” Canada increased its access to, and preference within, the United States crude oil market. Generally, early-adopters of free trade enjoy a “head start” over subsequent developing nations that will eventually gain access to the free trade sphere and increase competition. As the “first-mover,” Canada enjoyed a decade-long “head start” before the next “class” of free trade countries entered the free trade marketplace. Other countries have, and will continue to adopt free trade policies. As they do, these countries will also concede sovereignty in exchange for increased access to international trade and investment. Canada was the first country to complete this process. As a result, it has an advantage.
III. Free Trade
As of 2013, the United States has Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with twenty countries. The United States is currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a regional FTA, with Australia, Vietnam, and ten other Asia-Pacific countries. As recently as November 2013, the TPP negotiators unanimously reported “significant progress after six days of intensive meetings.” NAFTA’s influence also spread south in the form of the Dominican Republic – Central America – United States Free Trade Agreement of 2004 (CAFTA-DR).  With this introduction to Petro-Canada and free trade, the discussion turns to Mexico’s oil giant, Pemex.
Pemex is Mexico’s state-owned oil monopoly. Pemex played a significant role in the NAFTA negotiations and continues to play a large role in the North American crude oil landscape. This is because Pemex remains under state-control today and is among the largest oil producers in the world. Pemex has a large workforce, is an icon in Mexican politics and culture, and is the target of Peña Nieto’s proposed Energy Reform Initiative (ERI). As such, Pemex requires a more complete introduction than Petro-Canada.
By 1911, British and American companies were extracting commercial quantities of crude oil in Mexico. This attracted the attention of the Mexican government, which claimed all mineral rights for the state as part of its 1917 Constitution. Twenty years after the Constitution was signed, strife between Mexican oil workers and their foreign managers resulted in a protracted labor strike. In 1938, Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas, citing the 1917 Constitution, responded by expropriating all oil resources and facilities of foreign companies to create Pemex.
Seventy-five years after its creation, Pemex has become a giant. It is one of the top eight oil producers in the world. In 2012, Pemex employed 151,000 Mexicans and recorded $126.6 billion in revenue. Pemex is the second largest company in Latin America, second only to Brazil’s Petrobras. As a result of its cultural importance and the size of its union and revenue, Pemex wields significant clout as a Mexican employer, a political force, and a source of national pride.
As there is no Canadian or United States equivalent, it is difficult for the rest of North America to appreciate Pemex’s iconic status within Mexican culture and politics. In May 2013, the Center for Economic Research and Teaching published a survey entitled Mexico, the Americas and the World. The survey consulted 535 business and governmental leaders, academics, media organizations, and 2,400 ordinary citizens. The survey concluded that 65 percent of Mexicans were opposed to foreign involvement in Pemex. The study provided the following commentary:
. . . . . . . . .21st Century Mexico. . . is not opposed to opening up to the world, with the exception of the oil sector. Mexicans show strong and growing feelings of pride, identification with and attachment to their nationality. . . . The high level of national pride is not opposed to cultural and economic openness. . . . with the sole exception being the oil industry.
Despite its prowess and revenue, Pemex struggles to be profitable. In 2010, with revenues in excess of $120 billion, Pemex lost $3.8 billion. There are a number of factors contributing to the company’s unprofitability. The most important factors are organization, culture, and technology.
First, Pemex has an organizational problem. Despite the fact that Pemex spends only seven dollars to drill one barrel of crude, and that same barrel sells for around 100 dollars, Pemex lost $29 billion dollars from 2007 to 2012. This is because Pemex was never treated as a profit-making endeavor. Some experts estimate that Pemex is over-staffed by as much as five-fold. Structurally, the production side of the company turns a profit but the refining business does not. If Pemex were a private company accountable to shareholders, the company would not have been allowed to maintain these inefficiencies.
Second, Pemex has a tax problem. Again, Pemex is not viewed as a profit-making expedition. Pemex’s taxes compensate for the lack of taxes collected from the rest of the Mexican economy. As a result, Pemex has a disproportionate tax burden. In fact, Pemex’s tax revenue makes up about one third of Mexico’s federal budget. Pemex currently hands over around 55 percent of its earnings to the federal government. In 2012, Pemex paid a record $69.4 billion in taxes on $69.6 billion in pre-tax profits, effectively a 99.7 percent tax rate.
In comparison, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company is taxed at 69 percent, Brazil’s Petrobras at 25 percent, and Royal Dutch Shell at 31 percent. In the United States, the largest taxpayer in 2012 was ExxonMobil. Exxon recorded $452.9 billion in revenue and paid $31.05 billion in taxes. While Exxon had three and half times the revenue of Pemex, the company had a 55 percent smaller tax burden, a $38.4 billion difference. As a result of its disproportionate tax burden, Pemex reinvests a much smaller amount in exploration activities than its peers.
Third, Pemex has a technology deficiency. Annual crude oil production has dropped each year since 2004. In 2013, Pemex is estimated to produce just 2.54 MBPD. This equates to a 34 percent decrease in total production in under a decade. In September 2013, Pemex’s Deputy Director of Exploration, José Escalera, stated that, “insufficient investment in technology is the main reason for Mexico’s declining oil production.” Most of the downturn can be attributed to a single field, Cantarell, which once produced 2.1 MBPD. In 2012, Cantarell produced 0.40 MBPD, an 81 percent decrease in just a few years.
Pemex has experienced significant growth in production and political influence since its creation. At times, leaders within the Mexican government have attempted to reform Pemex. The reforms face the challenge of addressing an unwieldy issue with entrenched and well-connected interests. In general, the reformers have not been up to the task. Previous reforms were blocked by other factions in the government, resisted during implementation, or simply inadequate from conception. For this article, an introduction to the reforms of the twenty-first century is sufficient.
V. Previous Reforms Of Pemex
In 2000, Mexican President Vicente Fox promised to modernize Pemex. Fox took a number of steps to curb the company’s influence. He introduced a revised tax code to reduce the government’s reliance on Pemex, but this reform was blocked in Congress. Fox appointed an external board of businessman to oversee Pemex, however, Congress objected and the board was dissolved. Fox’s government also criminally charged PRI (the opposition party) with diverting $120 million from Pemex to illegal campaign funds.
Fox attempted to improve the company and reduce his government’s overdependence on the monopoly. Ultimately, Fox was unsuccessful at substantive reform. However, Fox did bring attention to Pemex’s entrenchment and introduced the idea of tangible changes. Fox should be given additional credit as he pursued reform during the “boom years” of Pemex. Now that Pemex’s production has declined for eight consecutive years, the idea of reform is more palatable.
After Fox, came Felipe Calderone. The Calderone government successfully reformed Pemex with the 2008 Energy Reform. The 2008 Reform changed Pemex’s organizational structure to more closely mimic the organization of other oil giants worldwide. The most important change was the four new independent, professional positions added to the board of directors. The new board seats require private sector experience as a means to increase the lacking technical qualification of the board. Prior to the reform, five of eleven board seats were reserved to the Pemex union. Now the union holds five of fifteen total seats. Although the union’s influence on the board was reduced, reserving seats for the union is a feature unique to Pemex.
In sum, Mexico has one of the most, if not the most, closed arrangements in the oil industry. It is largely accepted that the lack of outside involvement in Pemex has hindered innovation, technological advancement, and annual production. With this introduction to the North American state-owned oil companies, the discussion turns to the contrasting Canadian and Mexican energy regulatory schemes under NAFTA. The differences between the two countries’ energy outcomes are the largest variances in the treaty.
NAFTA was enacted to promote economic competitiveness and growth by easing the movement of goods and services between its member countries. NAFTA created the world’s largest free trade area, encompassing over 450 million people who produce 17 trillion dollars of goods and services. NAFTA was largely an extension of the Canadian – United States Free Trade Agreement (CUSFTA) of 1988 and incorporated the terms of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
NAFTA took effect in 1994 and saw the last of its policies implemented by 2008. It removed most tariffs and restrictions on trade between the member nations.
NAFTA contemplated a wide range of topics including agriculture, investments, textile, automobiles, telecommunications, intellectual property, and energy. Nineteen years after its enactment, economists are calling NAFTA a resounding success. However, there is still some tension surrounding NAFTA within unions and consumer advocacy groups. These groups argue that NAFTA has resulted in outsourcing and lower wages. The following section introduces NAFTA’s provisions governing energy and foreign investment.
VII. Energy Under NAFTA
Each NAFTA country relies significantly on the other member countries to buy and sell oil and gas. Canada and Mexico supply about one-third of the total United States oil imports. Despite this natural interdependence, NAFTA’s Chapter Six, which regulates energy trade, perpetuated two distinct bilateralisms rather than creating a unified regulatory scheme. This is because Mexico negotiated significant exemptions to the energy and investment regulations.
Under Chapter Six, NAFTA imposes two broad constraints on energy law. The first constraint is Article 604 which prohibits export taxes on all energy goods, unless that same tax is placed upon energy goods for domestic use. This provision bars the United States and Canada from adopting a two-price energy scheme to shield its citizens from volatile world oil prices – a tactic previously employed under Petro-Canada. The second constraint is Article 603, which imposes a blanket prohibition on all energy export controls with limited circumstances. Article 605 restricts Canada and the U.S. from imposing export controls on energy resources. In other words, Canada and the United States must maintain a proportionate supply of oil to be available for export purchase.
At this point, it is important to note that the Canadian government officially refutes this reading of the “Proportionality Clause.” Canada unilaterally issued a declaration interpreting Article 605 as not requiring Canada to export energy resources at “any given level or proportion.”  The “Proportionality Clause” and its implications are discussed in greater depth in a later section of this article.
VIII. Foreign Investors Under NAFTA
The goal of NAFTA’s Chapter Eleven is to provide investors of member countries with a predictable legal climate. The Chapter contains a variety of new rights and protections for investors and investments within NAFTA countries. Section A of the Chapter guarantees investors a minimum standard of treatment in the judicial system of a foreign country and other rights and prohibitions.
Section B of Chapter Eleven “establishes a mechanism for the settlement of . . . disputes that assures both equal treatment among investors of the Parties in accordance with the principle of international reciprocity and due process before an impartial tribunal.” The ability to initiate a binding dispute resolution process against a member government if it allegedly fails to adhere to the Agreement’s regulations is the most powerful and controversial right accorded to foreign investors in NAFTA.
The ability to initiate binding dispute resolution against a sovereign nation is controversial because when a foreign corporation is awarded damages in such a tribunal, the taxpayers of the losing nation “foot the bill.” This is a novel right and not unanimously welcomed. While this new right is applauded by the private sector, others submit that companies allowed to operate and invest in another country are enjoying a privilege and should be deferential to their host nation rather than having the ability to “twist the arm” of a foreign government in a closed-door arbitration.
IX. The Canadian Energy Scheme Under NAFTA
The “Proportionality Clause” in Article 605 requires that the share of total supply available for export purchase may not fall below the average level in the previous 36 months. In other words, Canada may not reduce the proportion of the energy resources it exports. During the NAFTA negotiations, Canada had little choice when it came to the “Proportionality Clause,” as it had previously agreed this term under CUSFTA. The “Proportionality Clause” was an important term for the United States to secure as its appetite for oil continued to rise and energy security was a popular priority.
Hypothetically, if Canada raises energy production in an effort to meet its own shortages, Canada would be forced to increase exports in order to maintain the proportion. Likewise, if Canada decided to increase energy conservation, it would be unable to cut exports by a greater proportion than the reduction of its own domestic usage. To be clear, the Proportionality Clause only governs government action to restrain export activity, not “market forces.” Conceivably, this means that the Canadian, or another, market could out-bid Americans for more than their proportion of Canadian energy resources.
As noted above, the Canadian government has refuted this interpretation of the “Proportionality Clause.” Canada unilaterally issued a declaration interpreting NAFTA Article 605 as not requiring Canadian energy crisis exports at “any given level or proportion.” The Canadian Parliament’s website provides its interpretation of the clause:
Contrary to some claims, NAFTA does not commit Canada to exporting a certain share of its energy supply to the United States regardless of Canadian needs . . . the only significant limitation NAFTA places on Canada is that it prevents the Canadian government from implementing policies that interfere with the normal functioning of energy markets in North America. Provided they have the demand and can pay the price, Canadian consumers could conceivably buy 100% of all energy produced in the country without violating NAFTA.
With Canada’s official interpretation noted, it is peculiar that while Canada currently exports more than half of the total crude oil it produces to the U.S., it imports crude oil from abroad to meet its own increased domestic needs. In 2007, while Canada produced 1,014 million barrels of crude oil and exported 658 million barrels to the United States, it also imported 313 million barrels. This is because, while western Canada produces significant amounts of crude oil, eastern Canada does not. To the casual observer, western Canadian crude oil would be shipped to eastern Canada. The opportunities (i.e. regulations) of NAFTA leave eastern Canada with an increased reliance on imports.
Prior to CUSFTA, a greater percentage of western Canadian crude oil was shipped to eastern Canada where it met a greater percentage of the crude oil demand in these provinces. The energy export provisions of NAFTA resulted in the rapid growth in crude oil exports to the United States and a reduction of inter-provincial crude oil shipments. In effect, CUSFTA and NAFTA redirected the western Canadian crude oil from flowing east to flowing south. Eastern Canada has historically relied on crude oil imports to some degree, but tellingly, the increase in crude oil exports to the United States is accompanied by a similar increase in crude oil imports to eastern Canada.
Under a non-Canadian interpretation of the “Proportionality Clause,” it is theoretically possible that Canada, one of the most resource-wealthy nations in the world, could experience oil shortages because under NAFTA the country is compelled to export. To make matters more interesting, Canada does not have significant strategic petroleum reserves, thus increasing the country’s energy vulnerability.
X. The Mexican Energy Regime Under NAFTA
As noted above, NAFTA’s Chapter Six perpetuated two separate bilateralisms. Mexico negotiated important exemptions to NAFTA’s energy and investment regulations. Chapter Six reiterated Canada’s CUSFTA commitments to a deregulated, integrated, free-market economy. However, the laws governing energy trade south of the Rio Grande remain Mexican. The other NAFTA parties failed to loosen the Pemex monopoly over Mexican oil.
Energy was non-negotiable for Mexico. Chapter Six of NAFTA is titled “Energy and Basic Petrochemicals,” yet the opening sentence of the chapter is an unusual one: “The Parties confirm their full respect for their Constitutions.” This was an appeasement directed at Mexico. It was a coded recognition of the Mexican government’s constitutional exclusivity to mineral rights.
NAFTA Annex 602.3 explains “full respect” for the Mexican Constitution, and reserves a list of activities including “exploration, exploitation and refining of crude oil . . . production of artificial gas and basic petrochemicals.” No private investment or participation is allowed in these industries. Some private participation was accepted by the Mexican government subject to its approval. With this introduction to the country-specific outcomes under NAFTA, the discussion can return to Pemex.
XI. The Need To Reform Pemex
With all due respect and at the risk of seeming overbroad, Pemex is hindered by bureaucratic practices, passé, and approaching a decade of production declines. Despite its plentiful crude oil supply, Mexico imports 80 percent of the petrochemicals used in the country. Without reform bringing new investment and technology, Mexico will become a net importer of petrochemicals in the next decade. This possibility should serve as an admonition to Mexican traditionalists clinging to the nationalistic fervor of the days of expropriation long ago. Peña Nieto’s proposed Energy Reform Initiative (ERI) is a unilateral action by the Mexican government for the benefit of Mexico. It is not required by NAFTA or any other international agreement. Assuming current trends continue, Pemex will decline in domestic and international influence, as well as production and revenue. The ERI is, first and foremost, in the best interest of Pemex, the Mexican government, and Mexican people. Some protectionists are resistant, but reform is required for the ultimate longevity of Pemex and union jobs. Without reform, Mexico will see a waning in tax revenue, exports, and well-paying jobs. Without reform, Pemex is unsustainable.
XII. North American Pressures To Reform Pemex
The proposed ERI is a Mexican creation. However, it is important to note two North American forces increasing the pressure to reform Pemex. The first pressure is the expansion of hydraulic fracturing as a technique to extract previously out-of-reach oil. A second, lesser pressure is the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline.
XIII. Hydraulic Fracturing
The recent boom in United States oil production has set the nation on a path to displace Russia as the world’s top oil-producing country by the end of 2014. This idea was unheard of just a few years ago. The production boom has been driven by the oil and gas industry’s use of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” to reach previously inaccessible oil. Fracking is a complicated technological feat. It involves injecting a chemical mixture deep into the ground at high pressure to crack rock and allow oil or gas to flow.
The expansion of fracking has significantly aided the United States’ economic recovery. It also reduces the United States’ dependency on oil imports. Still, fracking is controversial. Many submit that the technique contaminates ground water and can cause small earthquakes. France and Bulgaria are the only countries with national bans on fracking. However, there is regional resistance to the technique in Western Europe and the northeastern United States. Still, many countries are eager to jump on the fracking bandwagon as a means to grow their economies and energy production.
Fracking has opened significant new supplies of oil in the U.S. and changed the domestic market. In California, fracking has led to what is being called a “new gold rush.” The massive, untapped oil reserves of the Monterey Shale formation in Central California are estimated to contain over 15 billion barrels of oil. This is five times as much as the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota. The California legislature responded with the state’s first piece of fracking legislation.
The new California law requires monitoring of well water before and after companies drill, and mandates that the names and concentrations of the chemicals used in the process are made public. This is not the case on the federal level as chemicals used in fracking are exempt from water disclosure law following the 2005 legislation on the matter.
While the public debate on fracking is far from over and legislative landscape attempts to keep up with the private sector, many countries and companies are betting big on fracking. U.S. technological and geological expertise is required if Pemex wishes to frack safely and successfully. On its face, fracking appears to be a feasible option to reverse Mexico’s production declines.
XIV. Keystone XL
The Keystone XL Pipeline is a proposed 1,179-mile, 36-inch-diameter crude oil pipeline beginning in Alberta and extending to Nebraska. With a Presidential Permit in 2013, the Keystone XL Pipeline could be operational by 2015. The pipeline will have capacity to transport 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day to Gulf Coast and Midwest refineries. This would reduce U.S. dependence on oil from South America and the Middle East by up to 40 percent.
The U.S. Department of State’s Draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement regarding Keystone XL concluded that the pipeline would have “no material impact” on carbon emissions.” While Keystone has environmental opposition, it is widely speculated that the proposed pipeline is inevitable. The Keystone proposal does not include Mexico or Pemex. But it is not difficult to deduce why the pipeline increases the need for reform. An increase in Canadian oil sent to the United States would mean a reduction in the need for Mexican oil. Some experts believe that after Keystone XL is built, the U.S. will see oil prices go up. This argument rests on the premise that oil is traded on a global market. The counterargument is that building Keystone XL will create a surplus of oil on the Gulf Coast and allow for increased exports into the world market. TransCanada, the company behind Keystone, has projected that the incremental supply of Canadian crude oil brought into the United States will put “downward pressure on [prices for] refined products.” Regardless of whether the price for oil goes down for Americans or not, it can be reasonably surmised that if Keystone is built it will decrease the U.S. demand for Mexican oil.
With this introduction to the internal and external pressures to reform, the discussion turns to Peña Nieto’s proposed Energy Reform. Inevitably, this article, like any examining proposed legislation, may fall behind the most current iteration as the legislation will likely undergo a series of revisions until it is passed. Noting this liability, this article analyzes Peña Nieto’s original Energy Reform proposal of August 2013.
XV. Peña Nieto’s Proposed Reform of Pemex
On August 12, 2013, Mexican President Peña Nieto presented his Energy Reform Initiative. The ERI aims to improve Pemex’s transparency, increase competitiveness, and leverage the best practices and technology of private companies. For this discussion, the four most important elements of the proposed ERI are introduced. The aspects include: the permitting of profit-sharing contracts with private companies; a revised tax scheme; an organizational restructuring; and processes for improved transparency. The first element of the ERI permits Pemex to sign profit sharing contracts with the private sector “where appropriate to the national interest.” The goal is to leverage private companies’ best practices and technologies. This reform will help Pemex “generate cheaper energy for all Mexican families” while the state maintains “absolute control of the oil.”  The private contracts are profit-sharing only. All ownership of the oil would remain Mexican. Private industry commentators welcome the proposed change but believe the reform does not go far enough. Private companies would prefer ownership rights over profit-sharing; presumably because they think they can turn a greater profit with the oil than Pemex can. This reform is the primary source of contention for the Mexican people, as it would open Pemex to “foreign influence.” As previously noted, private involvement in Pemex is opposed by 65 percent of Mexican citizens. The fear is that the private partners will eventually increase their influence. Conceptually, with continued liberalization, foreign companies could gain ownership rights over oil or undue influence within the Pemex organization. This reform is feared to be the first “splinter” in the once-impenetrable shield for Mexican interests that Pemex shouldered for 75 years. This reform also opens Pemex to increased NAFTA Chapter Eleven liability. This is discussed in a later section of this article.
The second element of the ERI proposes a new tax scheme for Pemex. The tax reform’s stated goal is to allow Pemex to be “fully competitive by international standards.” As noted above, Pemex is taxed at a much higher rate than other private and state-owned oil companies. The official rhetoric is that new tax regime changes the Mexican state’s posture from “a tax collector for short-term needs” to an “owner of the oil wealth with a long-term vision.”
Currently, over half of Pemex’s tax bill comes as an annual fee based on oil and gas proceeds. “The proposed reform would reduce [that] rate from 71.5 percent to 60 percent in 2015 and then to ten percent in succeeding years.” The ERI introduces a new royalty scheme indexed to market fluctuations and shifts Pemex onto Mexico’s 30 percent corporate income tax rate.
The ERI’s stated aim is to reduce Pemex’s total tax burden. Yet, the details of the Reform do not leave many with confidence that this will be the result. In fact, former Pemex CEO, Jesus Reyes Heroles, said “in effect, . . . the plan was tantamount to maintaining the status quo under a different name,” further stating, “[a]ctually, they don’t reduce the tax burden on Pemex,. . . [t]hey change the structure.” Critics fear that Mexico’s fiscal reform will not collect as much tax revenue as estimated. This scenario could lead the Mexican government to take additional fees from Pemex to make up for shortfalls, an ability the government retains under Peña Nieto’s proposal.
The third element of the ERI reorganizes Pemex into two divisions: 1) Exploration and Production, which focuses on oil and gas extraction; and 2) Industrial Transformation, which includes the refining business. This element attempts to address Pemex’s structural inefficiencies.
The fourth element of the ERI sets to improve processes and conditions for transparency and accountability at Pemex. Pemex will adopt the “best practices for transparency to the Mexican people concerning projects, domestic procurement, and shared utility contracts.” This element attempts to address the pervasive perception that Pemex is plagued with inefficiency and corruption. On its surface, the proposed ERI addresses Pemex’s largest challenges of structure, taxation, and technology. While the proposed Reform is less extensive than private oil conglomerates would have preferred, the proposal has enjoyed a positive reception in the private sector. Chevron stated that it welcomes any decision by Mexico that provides new investment possibilities. Shell also expressed measured optimism stating that “Mexico could benefit from working with energy companies.” This brings the discussion to the reception of the proposed ERI in Mexico.
XVI. Peña Nieto’s Reform’s Reception In Mexico
Peña Nieto was elected on a promise to put Mexico back in “the big leagues” of global emerging markets, a position it lost in the past decade with the rise of China and Brazil. In the “honeymoon” phase of his six-year term, Peña Nieto has taken advantage of his popularity and political capital. Peña Nieto has already taken on entrenched interests and powerful unions through his EducationReform. The education reforms were signed into law on February 25, 2013, despite opposition from the teacher’s union. The teacher’s union is the second most powerful union in Mexico, second only to Pemex.
Like the Education Reform, Peña Nieto’s the greatest resistance for Energy Reform does not come from Congress, but from working-class Mexican citizens. Peña Nieto must convince the Mexican people that reform is best for Pemex and their country. Peña Nieto’s proposal is likely to get congressional approval but has already caused nationalistic demonstrations. Andrés López Obrador, who lost the past two presidential elections, has called the Energy Reform “treason” and “pledge[d] to mobilize his supporters to stop it.”
On Peña Nieto’s inauguration anniversary in December 2013, tens of thousands of people were reported to have taken to Mexico City’s streets to protest Peña Nieto’s Energy Reform.  The crowd made up of teachers, union members, and activists was joined by López Obrador, who said, “we are here to avoid a big robbery.” Although some of the rank and file within the Pemex union oppose Peña Nieto’s proposal, he can ultimately rely on the union’s support. This is because Peña Nieto’s PRI party and the Pemex union are historical political allies. Perhaps more importantly, the competing PAN energy reform proposal, seeks to dissolve the Pemex Union. This leaves Peña Nieto’s proposal as the most viable option for the Pemex union.
At bottom, political observers speculate that Peña Nieto’s proposed Energy Reform will receive Congressional approval as it likely has the two-thirds majority support required to pass. Enrique Kraze, a prominent Mexican historian, summarized the importance of the proposed Energy Reform, stating: “If Mexico passes this bill, and we have peace in the streets, then the country will make an important leap forward[.]”
XVII. An Unanticipated Ally
Environmentalists should support Peña Nieto’s proposed Reform of Pemex. The process of extracting oil from tar sands produces higher rates of greenhouse gas emissions when compared to oil extracted from traditional oil fields.  These additional emissions are present before the oil traverses thousands of miles of sensitive terrain across the United States to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. The main risk of the current model, and Keystone XL future, is the possibility of oil spills along pipelines and railways. A pipeline spill would pollute air and water supplies and harm migratory birds and other wildlife. “The [U.S.] Department of Interior has expressed [its] concerns that the [U.S.] State Department is ignoring the potential impact the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline could have on wildlife, waterways and national parks.”
Together, this presents Mexican oil as a more environmentally-sensitive alternative to Canadian tar sands oil. With the infusion of private companies’ technology and expertise, Pemex should argue that its oil, which travels by tanker, provides the U.S. and global markets with “cleaner” crude oil when compared to the Canadian alternative.
XVIII. Peña Nieto’s Reform’s Intersections With NAFTA
NAFTA’s Chapter Eleven permits a private investor of one NAFTA party to seek damages from another NAFTA party that allegedly violated a NAFTA provision. Peña Nieto’s proposed ERI creates a new area for NAFTA Chapter Eleven claims. Under the ERI, more private companies will be partnering more frequently and more significantly with Pemex. The greater number of partnerships and the more significant the partnerships, the greater stakes and likelihood of disputes.
Previously, Pemex had enjoyed a bright line separation from NAFTA-style liabilities. The proposed ERI blurs this bright-line barrier. How private firms and Pemex operate together in this newly created space will determine if the Mexican taxpayers could be “on the hook” paying damages to a foreign company for violations of NAFTA.
Pemex has over $120 billion in revenue. Even a few hundred million dollars lost in arbitration would only be nominally damaging to the company or Mexican citizens, fiscally-speaking. However, NAFTA arbitration would be culturally and politically harmful for Pemex and Peña Nieto. The idea of Mexican citizens paying for an alleged breach of NAFTA because Pemex partnered with a foreign company would be a difficult pill for many Mexicans to swallow. Another analysis of Peña Nieto’s proposal is that within the NAFTA context, the Energy Reform is the first splinter that could, in the long-term, lead to the breaking of Pemex as a state-owned company. Private companies, through superior technology, experience, and capital could gain increased influence in Pemex or the Mexican government. If the private-public partnerships succeed, the private companies with a new foothold in Pemex could seek ownership of the oil produced. Then, once private ownership or additional influence is established, perhaps over the decades Pemex could eventually go the way of Petro-Canada; and be sold in pieces on the open market.
Mexican economic liberalization has been a slow process and is far from complete. It would be naïve for Mexico and other developing nations to ignore the macroeconomic implications of free trade. Under NAFTA, the value of Mexican exports to the United States “grew from $39.9 billion in 1993 to $210.8 billion in 2007, an increase of 437 percent.” Over this period, the Mexican gross domestic product grew by 46 percent. With an increasingly open environment for foreign trade and investment, and a large and growing domestic market, Mexico will grow increasingly attractive as a destination for foreign investment and trade.
Turning to the North American crude oil landscape, the United States and Canada have successfully created complementary systems for efficient integrated distribution of oil and gas between the two countries. While both the United States and Canada are ready and willing to include Mexico in an integrated market, Mexico has elected to take a more cautious approach. This approach has tradeoffs. Mexico’s hesitation in regards to energy integration was not unexpected given the cultural and political significance of Pemex. As a result of Mexico’s NAFTA reservations, its energy industry remains entirely in its own control. However, it can by surmised that this approach also played a large role in Pemex’s eight-year production decline.
It is easy to suggest that Mexico’s energy reservations are a major flaw in NAFTA. Yet, perhaps the NAFTA drafters did not expect the agreement to trigger immediate across-the-board changes to Mexican oil. Perhaps, taking a longer view, NAFTA should be seen as a lever to pry open the Mexican oil sector over time. It can be safely said that some loosening has been achieved. Peña Nieto’s proposed ERI is hailed as the most significant change to Pemex in its 75-year history. With all of this taken into account, NAFTA should be considered a success in the energy sector. Indeed, the “Principles” of NAFTA Article 601 cite to the goal of enhancing the role of energy “through sustained and gradual liberalization.” Perhaps, the liberalization of the Mexican oil industry is playing out just as, or even better than, the NAFTA drafters expected.
. North American Free Trade Agreement, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, http://www.ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/north-american-free-trade-agreement-nafta (last visited Mar. 8, 2014).
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. Id. at 22.
. Id. at 15-16.
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. World Law Group, supra note 138.
. Id.; Herrara & Román, supra note 140.
. See generally, supra notes 133-134.
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. Herrara & Román, supra note 140.
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. See generally Scheherazade Rehman, A New World Order?, U.S. News, (Oct. 15, 2012), http://www.usnews.com/opinion/ blogs/ world-report/2012/10/15/rise-of-china-brazil-point-to-creation-of-new-world-order.
. See Jorge Balan, Mexico’s Peña Nieto takes on teachers in bold education reform, World Review, (March 22, 2013), http://www.worldreview.info/content/mexico-s-pena-nieto-takes-teachers-bold-education-reform.
. See Randal C. Archibold, Powerful Leader of Mexican Teachers’ Union Is Arrested, The New York Times, (Feb 26, 2013), http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/27/ world/americas/leader-of-mexican-teachers-union-arrested.html?_r=0; see also David Agren, Move afoot in Mexico to rein in strong oil union, Monitor Global Outlook, Dec. 10, 2013, http://monitorglobaloutlook.com/mexico-might-rein-in-powerful-pemex-union/.
. Laurence Iliff, Mexico Moves to Overhaul Oil Industry, The Wall Street Journal, (Aug. 12, 2013), http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324085304579008762332445236.
. 1000s protest Mexico president’s energy reforms, presstv.ir, (Dec. 2, 2013), http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/12/02/337751/1000s-protest-penas-energy-reforms.
. Oscar Lopez, A Giant Falls: Pemex Must Partner up for the Benefit of Mexicans, 1 Cornell Int’l L.J. Online 22 (2013).
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