Student-written International Law Exam Questions - Fall 2003
One or more of the following questions will appear on the final exam as either a required or an optional question.
Note that some of these questions may have been edited and thus may
differ in material ways from the versions submitted. Read
them carefully even if you wrote them! I should also note that in
certain cases I believe I have spotted (or added) an issue or two that
was not in the outline answer provided.
As regards the questions submitted but not included on this list, the
majority of them asked for essays that seemed to me to be impossible to
write a decent answer in a hour; some others were very well written but
seemed to invite answers that focused primarily on political or
strategic considerations rather than legal ones; a few were either very
hard to understand, were set in the future (law changes....), or
required counter-factual hypotheses that seemed very contrived.
Thank you all for taking this assignment seriously, and for your hard
The Kingdom of Ruritania has decided that the best defense is a good
offense. Accordingly, it sends spies to assassinate all foreign heads
of state that are “actual or suspected enemies of Ruritania.”
Several other countries begin to take similar measures, each attempting to kill the head of an enemy state. Some succeed.
Contrania is a state sharing a border with Ruritania. The Prime
Minister of Contraria was recently assassinated, and Contrainian
intelligence reports that Ruritanian spies are responsible for the
murder. Contrania therefore makes its own, unsuccessful,
attempt on the life of the Ruritanian leader.
Contrania then decides to lodge a complaint with the Security Council
of the United Nations, pursuant to Article 35 of the U.N. Charter,
claiming that Ruritania is “violating international law” by its policy
Ruritania responds by arguing before the Security Council that:
1. the “custom” among states of not assassinating heads of state has changed due to recent events, and
2. its policy of assassinating heads of state falls
within the provisions of Article 51, “self-defense,” in a broad
understanding of preemptive self-defense.
How should Contraria respond?
In 1990, the President of the United States signed, and the
Senate ratified, a treaty with Captain Hook, the ruler of Neverland
following a military coup. One of the provisions of this agreement
provided for the extension of the customs waters of the United States
to include the territorial waters of Neverland.
In 1991, Peter Pan and his Lost Boys wrested control of Neverland from
Hook, who fled to the United States to avoid charges of torturing some
of the Lost Boys. Later that same year, Congress, overriding a
Presidential veto, passed the Pixie Dust on the High Seas Act, which
made the possession of pixie dust with the intent to distribute a
Shortly thereafter, Neverland’s Head of State and the President of the
United States signed an executive agreement agreeing that the customs
waters of the United States would no longer extend to the territorial
waters of Neverland.
Last week, the US Coast Guard, on patrol inside the territorial waters
of Neverland, exercised what it called its “right of approach” on a
flagless vessel carrying Tinkerbell and four and a half tons of pixie
dust. Upon inspection, the Coast Guard found the boat to be of
Neverland registry. Tinkerbell was returned to the United
States and charged with possession of pixie dust with intent to
distribute. Neverland has objected to this.
In all of the following, assume Neverland is a party to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
1. [60%] Which if any of the US actions described above were legal under
international law? Which if any were illegal under international
2. [20%] As a matter of US domestic law, does the US have jurisdiction
to prosecute Tinkerbell for violation of the Pixie Dust on the High
3. [20%] Suppose Tinkerbell argues, and the Neverland Head of State
confirms, that the pixie dust was property of the Neverland government,
that Tinkerbell is an agent of the state of Neverland, and that the
dust was to be sold to raise money for the State of Neverland’s
government-run Home for Aged Crocodiles. Would this change
your answer to any of the above? Why or why not?
[Global discontent is threatening the security of Middle Earth. A
war is brewing between the People's Republic of Rohan and the Nation of
Mordor. The success of this war largely depends on the possession
of one golden ring.]
In anticipation of a war with the People's Republic of Rohan, the
Nation of Mordor adopted Mordor Law No. 222, authorizing the Mordor
government to "nationalize all golden rings belonging to foreign
citizens who will not swear allegiance to Sauron as their king."
In accordance with this law, the Mordor Army seized a golden ring from
Gollum, a citizen of Mordor. Gollum had previously stolen the
ring from Frodo Baggins, a citizen of the United States of the
Shire. The ring had been entrusted to Frodo's care by Aragorn, a
citizen of Rohan.
After attempting diplomatic recovery of his ring, Aragorn brought an
action for conversion in the Court of Rohan, against the present
possessor of the ring, Sauron. Aragorn alleges that he is the
direct descendent of the original owner of the ring, and that he is the
rightful owner of the ring by reason of familial succession.
Sauron contends that even if Aragorn can prove ownership of the ring by
familial succession, the Court of Rowan is barred from granting any
relief by reason of the Act of State Doctrine.
The Supreme Court of the People's Republic of Rohan considers the
non-justiciability of acts of foreign states to be a principle of
international law. However, it is against Rohan domestic policy
and laws to nationalize property without affording adequate
compensation. In accordance with these policies, the Republic of
Rohan has a law prohibiting its courts from applying the act of state
doctrine, if the challenged state act is in violation of well
established principles of international law. Rohan Law No. 334
"Courts in the Republic of Rowan shall not rely upon the act of state
doctrine to decline to adjudicate a case in which a claim of title or
other right to property is asserted based on a confiscation, or other
taking, in violation of the principles of international law."
(1) Please explain whether Sauron's use of the Act of State Doctrine
should succeed in barring Aragorn's claim? In doing so, please
discuss the effect of the Mordor Law 222, if it is declared in
violation of international law by the Court of Rohan?
(2) Would your answer change if, since the commencement of this suit,
the Nation of Mordor has collapsed and a new regime has emerged?
Could the European Union (EU) – as it currently stands and
without taking its planned enlargement into consideration – be
considered a state under International Law, like the US is presently?
Consider the Bush Administration’s New National Security Strategy of
the United States, as stated on the bottom of page 994 in the casebook:
“We must be prepared
to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able
to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United
States and our allies and friends…
Given the history and facts surrounding Saddam Hussein’s regime in
Iraq, was the US justified under International Law in taking preemptive
measures against Iraq in 2003? Why or why not?
For centuries, international law recognized that
nations need not suffer an attack before they can take actions to
defend themselves against forces that present an imminent danger of
attack. Legal scholars and international jurists often conditioned the
legitimacy of preemption on the existence of an imminent threat – most
often a visible mobilization of armies, navies, and air forces
preparing to attack.
We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries.
The United States has long maintained the option of
preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national
security. The greater the threat, the greater the risk of inaction –
and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to
defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place
of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our
adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.
The United States will not use force in all cases to
preempt emerging threats, nor should nations use preemption as a
pretext for aggression. Yet in an age where the enemies of civilization
openly and actively seek the world’s most destructive technologies, the
United States cannot remain idle while dangers gather.
We will always proceed deliberately, weighing the
consequences of our actions. To support preemptive options, we will:
- build better, more integrated intelligence
capabilities to provide timely, accurate information on threats,
wherever they may emerge;
- coordinate closely with allies to form a common assessment of the most dangerous threats; and
- continue to transform our military forces to
ensure our ability to conduct rapid and precise operations to achieve
The purpose of our actions will always be to
eliminate a specific threat to the United States or our allies and
friends. The reasons for our actions will be clear, the force measured,
and the cause just.”
Two years ago, the countries of Urbania, Resourcia,
Factoria, and the United States entered into a multilateral free trade
and fair working conditions agreement (the "FTFWC"). The terms of the
agreement ensure the free movement of goods and prohibit workers from
putting in more than 85 hours of work per week, with an exception for
lawyers, and provides for a minimum wage equivalent to US $5.00.
The trade agreement was signed and ratified by all the parties.
Prior to the agreement, all of the signatory states,
along with the majority of other non-signatory states had minimum wage
requirements substantially similar to those in the agreement.
Nearby Lowagea has decided not to join the
FTFWC. The United States and Urbania continue to trade with
Lowagea, as it has a huge supply of Reallineed, manufactured by a
state-owned company. Lowagea has never agreed that the minimum
wage is a good thing and has never provided one. It was recently
discovered that Reallineed can be used in cell phones as a radiation
buffer; in order to encourage other countries to buy more Reallineed,
Lowagea began having its Reallineed manufacturers work 100 hours a week
for $.75 an hour in order to decrease its production costs.
Although the Lowegean constitution proclaims the absolute rights of the
workers, it appears that workers who refuse to work for all of their
assigned periods are being chained to their machines without food,
water, or bathroom breaks until they are finished.
Last year, New York State passed a statute
prohibiting any persons or companies subject to NY state jurisdiction
from trading with Lowagea or any other country that trades with
Lowagea. Urbania alleges that as a result of this statute, the
United States is in breach of the FTFWC. Resourcia alleges that
Lowagea is in violation of international law.
Discuss the validity of these allegations, whether
and how they might be decided, and also any other legal issues arising
from these facts which seem likely to have legal consequences.
John Doe, a citizen of both Canada and Syria, claims
that in 2002 he was detained at Kennedy International Airport in New
York by United States authorities while on his way home to Toronto
after a family vacation abroad. Doe alleges that the US
authorities then flew him to Syria and handed him over to Syrian
authorities, who tortured him for one year in order to extricate
information about his alleged links to an Al Qaeda sleeper cell in
Canada. John Doe was released by Syrian authorities after one
year because they concluded he had no link to Al Qaeda. Doe
states that he repeatedly begged US authorities not to send him to
Syria because he would be tortured or killed there.
Advise Doe as to his legal recourse, if any, against the United States government.