Newsletter 2017/5
Newsletter 2017/5

Current Issue

Newsletter 2017/5

Asia and International Law 

Developments and news pertaining to Asia in various areas of IL 

Dispute Settlement ­– Jadhav Case (India v. Pakistan) - Provisional Measures (ICJ Press Release, 18 May 2017)

The Court indicates to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan that it must take “all measures at its disposal” to prevent the execution of an Indian national, Mr. Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, pending final judgment of the Court. In its Order indicating provisional measures, which was adopted unanimously, the Court also stated that the Government of Pakistan shall inform it of all measures taken in implementation of that Order. It further decided to remain seised of the matters which form the subject of the Order until it has rendered its final judgment.

See also: Some Thoughts on the Jadhav Case: Jurisdiction, Merits, and the Effect of a Presidential Communication (Law and Other Things, 12 May 2017)

Human RightsASEAN human rights law' taking shape (Bangkok Post, 10 May 2017)

Established in 1967, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year celebrates its 50th anniversary. In retrospect, the organisation has progressed well in accommodating differences between countries and has contributed much to fostering peace and cooperation in the region. We should also not forget the overly broad limitations on human rights in the guise of "morality", and an emphasis on "non-confrontation" interplaying with the ASEAN governmental attachment to sovereignty.  Stepping stones for future development of a human rights law include a call for ASEAN and its member countries to take the following actions. First, they should accede to all the international human rights treaties as binding law. Second, the grouping should build national systems to protect people's human rights. At the same time, it should open the door to regional mechanisms if there are no national remedies. Third, they should ensure that there is no retrogression when ASEAN instruments are drafted and adopted. Meanwhile, there should be value added to strengthen and not undermine international standards on human rights and democracy. 

ASEAN shelves declaration on rights of migrant workers (Jakarta Post, 28 April 2017)

ASEAN member states have failed to reach a consensus on a highly anticipated migrant workers' protection instrument, prompting the region's senior officials to shelve the declaration for the next summit in November. For months Indonesia and the Philippines had played up the adoption of the ASEAN Declaration on the Promotion and Protection of Migrant Workers' Rights, an instrument that would provide robust protection for all migrant workers in the region. Now, Jakarta found itself in the minority of those who insist on the declaration's legally-binding nature, as even Manila was resigned to the idea of a non-enforceable instrument, said Jose AM Tavares, the Foreign Ministry's director general for ASEAN affairs, who said Indonesia would need to rethink its strategy on pursuing an enforceable instrument. "The issue will [be discussed] beyond the upcoming ASEAN summit, even though there will still be a statement pushing for its adoption by year's end," Jose said after concluding a preparatory ASEAN senior officials meeting in Manila, emphasizing that ASEAN labor ministers would convene next month for a follow-up meeting. "We hope to conclude the instrument in the coming months, so that it can be tapped as an outcome document at the November leaders' summit," Jose added.

Thailand: Junta Entrenched 3 Years After Coup (Human Rights Watch, 21 May 2017)

Thailand’s junta has failed to fulfill pledges to respect human rights and restore democratic rule three years after the military coup, Human Rights Watch Asia director, Brad Adam, has said. The ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), led by Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, has instead prolonged its crackdown on basic rights and freedoms, and devised a quasi-democratic system that the military can manipulate and control. The new constitution, which was promulgated on March 6, 2017, ensures that NCPO members will not be held accountable for any of the many rights violations committed since taking power. It also strengthens and prolongs military control of the government even after an election that the junta promises to hold in 2018. “The new constitution whitewashes all junta rights violations, ensuring that Thai military leaders can continue to commit abuses without fear of prosecution,” Adams said.

International Economic LawTPP: 11 nations agree on preparation deadline (Business Times, 22 May 2017)

ASIA has been warned many times against creating a "spaghetti bowl" of conflicting trade agreements, and with trade chiefs from three major powers pushing their own ideas at a series of weekend meetings in Hanoi, the prospects for general agreement on an Asia-wide accord remained highly uncertain. During the two-day gathering, Japan succeeded in putting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) back on the table despite the fact that US President Donald Trump has said he will have no part of it, while Japan also agreed with Washington that a bilateral trade accord could be discussed. China, meanwhile, continued to recommend that the Regional Cooperative Economic Partnership (RCEP) be the centrepiece of a regional trade agreement in order to bring more countries (including itself) to the table. RCEP will be the subject of a further meeting in May in Hanoi.

China’s Belt and Road initiative presents risks and rewards for Southeast Asia (Today Online, 19 May 2017)

China has positioned itself as a global leader at the inaugural Belt and Road summit in mid-May. For countries in the region, President Xi Jinping’s ambitious and unprecedented initiative promising billions in infrastructure projects linking Eurasian trade routes is both alluring and risky, say observers. Concerns still abound over the viability and the geopolitical risks associated with the scheme, particularly at this early stage. But coming at a time when United States is turning inwards under President Donald Trump, Mr Xi’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) scheme to link dozens of economies in a China-centred trade and investment network could further draw Asia closer to Beijing.

See also: Race for supremacy: India, Japan plan alternative to counter China's OBOR (Business Standard, 16 May 2017)

International OrganisationsASEAN’s Legal Architecture Critical to Addressing Transboundary Challenges (Asia Foundation, 17 May 2017)

With the geopolitics of Southeast Asia and changing rapidly and substantially, an opportunity presents for a timely and thoughtful deliberation on the role ASEAN can play in the region. This enduring union of 10 member states has made great strides in becoming a formidable regional body. At the same time, the region is facing radically new and complex security and economic challenges. ASEAN is in a distinct and timely position to ably guide its members toward more sustainable security and prosperity in the years ahead, and to lead member states in the development of a uniquely ASEAN jurisprudence. In order to effectively grapple with those daunting challenges, ASEAN must consider new and innovative transboundary solutions, and work more deliberately across borders to enhance regional collaboration and implement existing agreements. The need to sustain a common regional identity and organizational coherence requires a fundamental rethinking of ASEAN’s institutional capacity and the reach of the ASEAN Secretariat. It is now imperative for ASEAN to help strengthen legal norms and establish effective rule-making systems in ASEAN member states so that the region can cope with the security and economic challenges it is facing.

Law of the SeaChina, ASEAN countries agree on COC framework (Xinhua, 18 May 2015)

Senior officials from China and ASEAN countries have agreed on a framework for the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea. The consensus came during the 14th senior officials' meeting on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). The meeting, co-chaired by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and Singapore's Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs Chee Wee Kiong, was held ahead of the upcoming China-ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting in July. The approval of the framework was reached earlier than scheduled, Liu told the press after the meeting, adding that according to the work plan, China and ASEAN countries were expected to finish consultation on the draft framework for the COC by the first half of this year.

Law on DevelopmentOngoing forest destruction has put Asia-Pacific at risk of missing global development targets (UN News, 22 May 2017)

The destruction of forests in many Asian countries continues apace, threatening the realization of global sustainable development goals by the 2030 deadline, according to the United Nations agricultural agency. “While forests are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they continue to be degraded and lost at a rate of 3.3 million hectares per year,” warned Patrick Durst, the Senior Forestry Officer at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. “In this region, forests continue to be converted to agriculture, destroyed and replaced by man-made infrastructure, housing, mining, and other land uses. Forest fires also continue to pose a threat to the region,” said Mr. Durst. When the SDGs were formulated and agreed upon in 2015, forests were explicitly mentioned in order that they be aided through the protection, restoration and promotion of sustainable forests while halting and reversing associated land degradation and the loss of biodiversity.

Use of ForceUN condemns DPR Korea’s ballistic missile launch (UN News, 22 May 2017)

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has urged Pyongyang to return to the path of denuclearization saying the latest ballistic missile launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a threat to peace and security in the region. DPRK fired the missile while the UN chief was in Beijing for the Belt and Road Forum. Addressing President Xi Jinping, Mr. Guterres highlighted the shared aims of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as deepening connectivity in infrastructure, trade and finance. The missile was reportedly fired from a base in the north-west DPRK, near the border with China. The UN Security Council also strongly condemned the ballistic missile launches. In a press statement, the Council expressed utmost concern at DPRK’s highly destabilizing behaviour and “flagrant and provocative defiance” of the body by conducting the missile launches in violation of the country’s international obligations under relevant Council resolutions.

AsianSIL Announcements and Events

6th AsianSIL Biennial Conference
Seoul, Korea
25-26 August 2017

The 6th Biennial Conference of the Asian Society of International Law will be in Seoul, Friday 25 to Saturday 26 August 2017. The conference will be hosted by the Korean Chapter of the Asian Society of International Law, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea. The theme of the conference is “Asia and International Law in Times of Uncertainty”. The biennial conference will be preceded by a half-day workshop for junior scholars on Thursday, 24 August. Click here for more details.

Call for Abstracts – Second Annual "International and Comparative Disaster Law Essay Contest"
Deadline for submission of abstracts: 7 July 2017

This announcement calls for the submission of abstracts not exceeding 500 words for consideration for the second annual “International and comparative disaster law essay contest.” This contest is co-sponsored by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the American Society of International Law Disaster Law Interest Group (ASIL DLIG), the Jean Monnet Module on “International and EU Law” at Roma Tre University and the International Disaster Law Project (IDL) of the Universities of Bologna, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Roma Tre and Uninettuno. The contest is open only to students enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at any university (anywhere in the world) at the time of submission. Further information on abstract and potential topics/issues can be found here.

Call for Submissions – Asian Journal of International Law

The Society’s Journal is soliciting submissions for future issues. Articles should be between 8,000 and 12,000 words (excluding footnotes) and be submitted exclusively to the AsianJIL, with publication subject to double-blind peer-review and editorial discretion. For details on style and the submission process, as well as information on how to subscribe, visit For enquiries, please email Many articles are available FREE for download at We encourage readers to make full use of this opportunity to access the latest international law scholarship. Please also visit our Facebook page and recommend AsianJIL to your friends and colleagues.

NUS Centre for International Law (CIL) ASEAN Documents Database

The ASEAN Documents Database is a free, user-friendly, internet resource of selected ASEAN and International Law Documents. About than 600 selected ASEAN documents and 260 International Law documents are now included in the database. Please click here to access the database.