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ARBITRARY WITHHOLDING OF CONSENT TO HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE IN SITUATIONS OF DISASTER

  • Sandesh Sivakumaran (a1)
Abstract

Following a large-scale disaster, such as a major earthquake, tsunami or cyclone, tens of thousands of persons are often displaced, suffer from food shortages and in need of medical assistance. In situations in which the State affected by the disaster does not meet the needs of the affected persons itself, humanitarian assistance from outside the State might be required. This article considers the role of consent to external humanitarian assistance on the part of the affected State. As there is no single overarching treaty in the area of humanitarian assistance in situations of disaster, the article explores the role of consent in the various disaster-specific, subject-specific and region-specific treaties as well as in the soft law instruments in the area. Although the instruments take seemingly different approaches to the subject, a common standard is identified, namely that consent on the part of the affected State is required before external assistance can be provided but that consent cannot be arbitrarily withheld. The article then goes on to give content to the arbitrary withholding standard, breaking it down into its substantive and procedural elements. These include the meaning of the term ‘arbitrary’; the requirement to provide a reason for the withholding of consent; legitimate grounds for withholding consent; and the actor that assesses the justification. Regard is had for State practice in the context of disasters as well as other areas of the law in which similar tests are used.

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1 For the purposes of this article, the International Law Commission's definition of a disaster will be used, namely ‘a calamitous event or series of events resulting in widespread loss of life, great human suffering and distress, or large-scale material or environmental damage, thereby seriously disrupting the functioning of society’. Armed conflicts are excluded. Draft Articles 3 and 21, adopted by the ILC on first reading. International Law Commission, Report on the work of its sixty-sixth session, A/69/10, 86.

2 On which, see eg The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned (February 2006).

3 See GA Res 46/182 (1991); Principles of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Response Programmes, Principle 2; Principles and Good Practice of Humanitarian Donorship, Principles 5 and 6; Sphere Project, Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response, Core Standard 3.

4 On needs assessments, see, in particular, IASC, Operational Guidance for Coordinated Assessments in Humanitarian Crises (March 2012); IASC, Multi-Cluster/Sector Initial Rapid Assessment (March 2012).

5 See, in particular: ILC, Draft Articles on Protection of Persons in the Event of Disaster (hereinafter ‘Draft Articles’); IFRC, Guidelines for the domestic facilitation and regulation of international disaster relief and initial recovery assistance; IFRC, Model Act for the Facilitation and Regulation of International Disaster Relief and Initial Recovery Assistance.

6 See Heath, JB, ‘Disasters, Relief, and Neglect: The Duty to Accept Humanitarian Assistance and the Work of the International Law Commission’ (2011) 43 NYUJIntlLaw&Pol 419; Allan, C and O'Donnell, T, ‘A Call to Alms? Natural Disasters, R2P, Duties of Cooperation and Uncharted Consequences’ (2012) 17 JC&SL 337; Allan, C and O'Donnell, T, ‘An Offer You Cannot Refuse? Natural Disasters, the Politics of Aid Refusal and Potential Legal Implications’ (2013) 36 Amsterdam Law Forum 36; MC Trascasas, ‘Access to the Territory of a Disaster-Affected State’ in A de Guttry, M Gestri and G Venturini (eds), International Disaster Response Law (TMC Asser Press 2012) 221.

7 On the response to cyclone Nargis, see ASEAN, The Story of the ASEAN-Led Coordination in Myanmar: Compassion in Action (ASEAN 2010).

8 See Part IV.

9 Allan and O'Donnell, ‘A Call to Alms?’ (n 6) 337, 355.

10 Draft art 14, as adopted by the ILC on first reading.

11 See below, Part III.

12 See Part IV.

13 eg Tampere Convention on the Provision of Telecommunication Resources for Disaster Mitigation and Relief Operations, art 4(5).

14 Art 3(a). Likewise, art 4(a)(2) provides that ‘The Supporting State shall send only those Civil Defence Units requested or accepted by the Beneficiary State.’

15 eg Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency, art 2.

16 ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response, art 3(1).

17 Art I(a).

18 Operative para 3 (emphasis added).

19 See, in particular, FM Deng et al., Sovereignty as Responsibility: Conflict Management in Africa (Brookings 1996).

20 Operative para 6.

21 Art 10(1).

22 Annotations to the Draft Guidelines for the Domestic Facilitation and Regulation of International Disaster Relief and Initial Recovery Assistance (26 October 2007) 24.

23 Art 3(2).

24 IDI Resolution, The Protection of Human Rights and the Principle of Non-Intervention in Internal Affairs of States, art 5.

25 IDI Resolution, Humanitarian Assistance, art VIII(1).

26 Guiding Principle 25(2).

27 See Cohen, R, ‘The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement: An Innovation in International Standard Setting’ (2004) 10 Global Governance 459.

28 Operative para 4.

29 ILC draft art 14(1), as adopted by the ILC on first reading.

30 Finland (on behalf of the Nordic States) (A/C.6/66/SR.21, para 60), El Salvador (A/C.6/66/SR.22, para 13), Colombia (A/C.6/66/SR.22, para 27), Czech Republic (A/C.6/66/SR.23, para 19), Austria (A/C.6/66/SR.23, para 24), Israel (A/C.6/66/SR.23, para 33), France (A/C.6/66/SR.23, para 39), Niger (A/C.6/66/SR.25, para 54), Chile (A/C.6/66/SR.24, para 9), India (A/C.6/66/SR.25, para 13), Romania (A/C.6/66/SR.25, para 19), Pakistan (A/C.6/66/SR.25, para 6), Ireland (A/C.6/66/SR.25, para 22), Egypt (A/C.6/66/SR.25, para 36), Sri Lanka (A/C.6/66/SR.27, para 20), European Union (A/C.6/66/SR.21, para 56), IFRC (A/C.6/66/SR.25, para 43).

31 Fifth report on the protection of persons in the event of disasters, by Eduardo Valencia-Ospina, Special Rapporteur, A/CN.4/652, 9 April 2012, para 34, referring to China (A/C.6/66/SR.23, para 42), Russian Federation (A/C.6/66/SR.24, para 37), Portugal (A/C.6/66/SR.24, para 66), Pakistan (A/C.6/66/SR.25, para 7).

32 ILC draft art 14(2), as adopted by the ILC on first reading.

33 Fifth report on the protection of persons in the event of disasters, by Eduardo Valencia-Ospina, Special Rapporteur, A/CN.4/652, 9 April 2012, para 36, referring to Finland (on behalf of the Nordic States) (A/C.6/66/SR.21, para 60), El Salvador (A/C.6/66/SR.22, para 13), Spain (A/C.6/66/SR.23, para 50).

34 Cuba (A/C.6/66/SR.24, para 27), Indonesia (A/C.6/66/SR.24, para 70), China (A/C.6/66/SR.23, para 42).

35 Mohonk Criteria for Humanitarian Assistance in Complex Emergencies, art III(4).

36 IFRC/ICRC, The Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief, Annex I: Recommendations to the Governments of Disaster Affected Countries, para 2. See also Draft Principles of International Relief in Natural Disaster Situations, art 3(b), in RJ Hardcastle and ATL Chua, ‘Humanitarian Assistance: Towards a Right of Access to Victims of Natural Disasters’ (1998) 325 IRRC 589, 608 (‘Where victims in the receiving State do not receive the humanitarian assistance necessary to sustain life and dignity in natural disasters, the receiving State is obliged to allow qualified organizations to provide such aid.’).

37 Allan and O'Donnell, ‘A Call to Alms?’ (n 6) 337, 355.

38 Allan and O'Donnell, ‘An Offer You Cannot Refuse?’ (n 6) 36, 40.

39 CESCR, General Comment No 12, para 17.

40 ICESCR, art 2(1).

41 Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations of States in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Principle 34.

42 CESCR, General Comment No 3, para 10. See also CESCR, General Comment No 14, para 47; CESCR, General Comment No 15, para 41.

43 CESCR, General Comment No 3, paras 13–14.

44 CESCR, ‘An Evaluation of the Obligation to Take Steps to the “Maximum of Available Resources” under an Optional Protocol to the Covenant’, UN Doc E/C.12/2007/1, 10 May 2007, para 5.

45 Fourth report on the protection of persons in the event of disasters, by Eduardo Valencia-Ospina, Special Rapporteur, A/CN.4/643, 11 May 2011, paras 59–60.

46 GA Res 46/182, operative para 6.

47 Principle 25(2).

48 See above, Part II.c.

49 International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, Protocol on the Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons.

50 Art I(b)

51 eg Framework Convention on Civil Defence Assistance, art 3(a); ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response, art 11(2).

52 Additional Protocol I, art 70(1). The situation of belligerent occupation is treated differently and is not therefore considered here.

53 ICRC, Commentary on the Additional Protocols of 8 June 1977 to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 (ICRC/Martinus Nijhoff 1987) 819.

54 Official Records, vol XII, 336, para 27 (FRG).

55 Official Records, vol XII, 336, para 28 (USA), para 29 (Netherlands), para 30 (USSR), para 31 (UK).

56 ICRC (n 53) 819.

57 M Bothe, KJ Partsch and WA Solf, New Rules for Victims of Armed Conflict: Commentary on the Two 1977 Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (Martinus Nijhoff 1982) 434.

58 Additional Protocol II, art 18(2).

59 ICRC (n 53) 1479; S Sivakumaran, The Law of Non-International Armed Conflict (OUP 2012) 331; E-C Gillard, Cross-Border Relief Operations – The Legal Framework (OCHA Occasional Policy Papers No 7, forthcoming 2015).

60 See eg SC Res 2139 (2014) (on Syria); Letter of Submittal [of APII] from the Secretary of State to the President, Detailed Analysis of Article 18, in Message from the President of the United States Transmitting the Protocol II Additional to the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of Noninternational Armed Conflicts, Concluded at Geneva on June 10, 1977 (US Government Printing Office, 1987) 6.

61 SC Res 2139 (2014).

62 Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, ‘Statement to the Press on Syria’, 28 March 2014, available at <http://www.unocha.org/sites/default/files/ERC%20Valerie%20Amos%20Statement%20to%20the%20Press%20on%20Syria%2028%20March%202014.pdf>.

63 For the view of the Secretary-General, see Report of the Secretary-General on the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 2139 (2014), S/2014/365, para 51.

64 See eg Gillard, E-C, ‘The Law Regulating Cross-Border Relief Operations’ (2013) 95 IRRC 351; Ryngaert, C, ‘Humanitarian Assistance and the Conundrum of Consent: A Legal Perspective’ (2013) Amsterdam Law Forum 5; Various signatories, ‘Syria: Open Letter to the UN on Humanitarian Aid’, 28 April 2014. But cf N Modirzadeh, ‘Strong Words, Weak Arguments – A Response to the Open Letter to the UN on Humanitarian Access to Syria (Part 1) Opinio Juris, 12 May 2014, available at <http://opiniojuris.org/2014/05/12/guest-post-strong-words-weak-arguments-response-open-letter-un-humanitarian-access-syria-part-1/>.

65 Heath, ‘Disasters, Relief, and Neglect’ (n 6) 419, 456–8.

66 Allan and O'Donnell, ‘A Call to Alms?’ (n 6) 337, 361.

67 ASEAN Agreement, art 3(1) (emphasis added).

68 ICRC (n 53) 1479.

69 See above, pp510–511.

70 GA Res 43/131 (1988); GA Res 45/100 (1990).

71 Bruges Resolution, art VIII(1).

72 Guiding Principles on Humanitarian Assistance, Principle 4; Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, Principle 3; Council of Europe Recommendation Rec(2006)6; ILC draft art 12(1), as adopted by the ILC on first reading.

73 ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response, art 3(2); Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency, art 16(1); Inter-American Convention to Facilitate Disaster Assistance, art IV(a); Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency, art 3(a); Tampere Convention, art 4(8).

74 Principle 4 (emphasis added).

75 Operative para 4 (emphasis added).

76 See eg France (A/C.6/66/SR.23, para 39); Argentina (A/C.6/66/SR.24, para 10); Ireland (ibid, para 22); Algeria (ibid, para 33).

77 A/C.6/66/SR.23, para 33.

78 A/C.6/66/SR.23, para 45.

79 A/C.6/66/SR.24, paras 117 and 119.

80 Allan and O'Donnell, ‘An Offer You Cannot Refuse?’ (n 6) 36, 37 and 40.

81 Gillard (n 59) 21.

82 Netherlands (A/C.6/66/SR.23, para 48). See also the suggestion in Report of the International Law Commission: Sixty-second session, A/65/10, para 323.

83 IDI, Bruges resolution (2003) art VIII(1).

84 OR XII, 336, para 27 (FRG). See above, p512.

85 Bothe, Partsch and Solf (n 57) 434.

86 See SC Res 2165 (2014); Statement of the Emergency Relief Coordinator (n 62).

87 See eg HWR Wade and CF Forsyth, Administrative Law (OUP 2009) 295.

88 Leader v Moxon (1773) 2 W Bl 924.

89 Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd v Wednesbury Corporation [1948] 1 KB 223, 229. See further, Lord Woolf et al., De Smith's Judicial Review (Sweet and Maxwell 2013) 599–627.

90 Motor Vehicles Manufacturers Association of the United States v State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (1983) 463 US 29, 43 (US Supreme Court).

91 Art 9(1).

92 HRC, General Comment No 35, CCPR/C/GC/35, 16 December 2014, para 12; HRC Comm No 305/1988, Van Alphen v The Netherlands, para 5.8; HRC Comm No 458/1991, Mukong v Cameroon, para 9.8; HRC Comm No 1134/2002, Gorji-Dinka v Cameroon, para 5.1.

The focus of this section is on international standards. However, the position is largely the same at the regional level.

93 See eg HRC Comm No 305/1988, Van Alphen v The Netherlands, para 5.8.

94 See eg HRC Comm No 132/1982, Jaona v Madagascar, para 14.

95 Art 17(1).

96 HRC, General Comment No 16.

97 ICCPR, art 12(4); HRC, General Comment No 27, para 21.

98 See eg HRC Comm No 488/1992, Toonen v Australia, para 8.3; HRC Comm No 903/1999, Van Hulst v Netherlands, para 7.6.

99 See eg HRC Comm No R.11/45 Guerrero v Colombia, paras 13.2–13.3; HRC Comm No 45/1979, Pedro Pablo Camargo v Colombia, paras 13.2–13.3.

100 CS Kasturi, ‘Foreign Aid? No Thanks’ The Telegraph (Calcutta, India), 7 July 2013.

101 Fourth report on the protection of persons in the event of disasters, by Eduardo Valencia-Ospina, Special Rapporteur, A/CN.4/643, 11 May 2011, para 74. See also Report of the Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, UN Doc A/65/282, 1 August 2010, para 82; Gillard (n 59) 24.

102 Heath, ‘Disasters, Relief, and Neglect’ (n 6) 419, 464.

103 Case Concerning Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Djibouti v France) [2008] ICJ Rep 177, 231, para 152.

104 Fourth report on the protection of persons in the event of disasters, by Eduardo Valencia-Ospina, Special Rapporteur, A/CN.4/643, 11 May 2011, para 74. See also Heath, ‘Disasters, Relief, and Neglect’ (n 6) 419, 458.

105 De Schutter, O et al. , ‘Commentary to the Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations of States in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ (2012) 34 HRQ 1084, 1157–8.

106 Breen v Amalgamated Engineering Union [1971] 2 QB 175, 191 (per Lord Denning).

107 M Shapiro, ‘The Giving Reasons Requirement’ [1992] The University of Chicago Legal Forum 179, 184.

108 Fourth report on the protection of persons in the event of disasters, by Eduardo Valencia-Ospina, Special Rapporteur, A/CN.4/643, 11 May 2011, para 74.

109 See Loevy, K, ‘The Legal Politics of Jurisdiction: Understanding ASEAN's Role in Myanmar's Disaster, Cyclone Nargis (2008) (2015) 5 Asian JIL 55.

110 Art 3(e).

111 On needs assessments, see IASC, Operational Guidance for Coordinated Assessments in Humanitarian Crises (March 2012); IASC, Multi-Cluster/Sector Initial Rapid Assessment (March 2012).

112 See Allan and O'Donnell, ‘An Offer You Cannot Refuse? (n 6) 36, 40.

113 Quoted in ‘Villagers Search for Food After Losing All to Mexico's Killer Floods’, Agence France-Presse, 12 October 1999.

114 Press Guidance on India's position on Tsunami relief assistance, New Delhi, 21 January 2005, available at <https://www.indianembassy.org/archives_details.php?nid=606>.

115 Quoted in S Sengupta, ‘Pride and Politics: India Rejects Quake Aid’, New York Times, 19 October 2005.

116 Quoted in ‘Pakistan Floods ‘‘Kill More Than 400’’ over Past Fortnight’, BBC News (online), 28 September 2012, available at <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-19763569>.

117 ‘Floods: British Government Turned Down Dutch Help’, Channel 4 News, 14 February 2014, available at <http://www.channel4.com/news/floods-british-government-turned-down-dutch-help>.

118 Art 10(1).

119 CESCR, General Comment No 4, para 13.

120 Quoted in B Malkin, ‘Chile Earthquake: Nation in Shock as Death Toll Climbs’, The Telegraph, 28 February 2010.

121 ibid.

122 IFRC, Stronger Together: The Global Red Cross Red Crescent Response to the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami (IFRC 2013) 70.

123 Fourth report on the protection of persons in the event of disasters, by Eduardo Valencia-Ospina, Special Rapporteur, A/CN.4/643, 11 May 2011, para 71. For suggested indicia, see Heath, ‘Disasters, Relief, and Neglect’ (n 6) 419, 472–3.

124 IFRC, Legal Issues from the International Response to Tropical Storm Stan in Guatemala (IFRC 2007) 17–18.

125 Nelson, T, ‘Rejecting the Gift Horse: International Politics of Disaster Aid Refusal’ (2010) 10 Conflict, Security and Development 379, 390.

126 See eg ASEAN, Compassion in Action: The Story of the ASEAN-Led Coordination in Myanmar (ASEAN 2010) 38–9.

127 Law and Legal Issues in International Disaster Response: A Desk Study (IFRC 2007) 14.

128 eg Tampere Convention, art 4(2); ASEAN Agreement, art 11(3).

129 Gillard (n 59) 24.

130 Report of the Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, UN Doc A/65/282, 1 August 2010, para 81; Fourth report on the protection of persons in the event of disasters, by Eduardo Valencia-Ospina, Special Rapporteur, A/CN.4/643, 11 May 2011, para 73.

131 Art 4(2)(d).

132 F Harrison, ‘Iran Offers US Katrina Oil Relief’, BBC News (online), 6 September 2005, available at <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4218986.stm>.

133 On which, see eg Drury, AC, Olson, RS, and Van Belle, DA, ‘The Politics of Humanitarian Aid: US Foreign Disaster Assistance, 1964–1995’ (2005) 67 The Journal of Politics 454; Allan and O'Donnell, ‘You Cannot Refuse?’ (n 6) 36.

134 Heath, ‘Disasters, Relief, and Neglect’ (n 6) 419, 473–4.

135 Gillard (n 59) 24.

136 Quoted in M Lacey, ‘U.S. Offers Storm Aid to Cuba Only through Relief Groups’, New York Times, 4 September 2008.

137 ibid.

138 Quoted in ‘Two-thirds of Bam Residents Believed Dead in Earthquake’, 28 December 2003, Haaretz (Israel), available at <http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/two-thirds-of-bam-residents-believed-dead-in-earthquake-1.109943>.

139 Nelson, T, ‘Rejecting the Gift Horse: International Politics of Disaster Aid Refusal’ (2010) 10 Conflict, Security and Development 379, 390.

140 ‘US Aids ‘‘Axis of Evil’’ Iran’, BBC News (online), 28 December 2003, available at <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3350583.stm>.

141 S Sengupta, ‘Pride and Politics: India Rejects Quake Aid’, New York Times, 19 October 2005.

142 See quote from Bothe, Partsch and Solf (n 57).

143 Nelson, T, ‘Rejecting the Gift Horse: International Politics of Disaster Aid Refusal’ (2010) 10 Conflict, Security and Development 379.

144 IFRC, Stronger Together: The Global Red Cross Red Crescent Response to the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami (IFRC 2013) 103.

145 ASEAN, Compassion in Action: The Story of the ASEAN-led Coordination in Myanmar (ASEAN 2010) 23–4.

146 See Fisher, D, ‘Domestic Regulation of International Humanitarian Relief in Disasters and Armed Conflict: A Comparative Analysis’ (2007) 89 IRRC 345, 355–6.

147 See above, p518.

148 See eg HRC Comm No 132/1982, Jaona v Madagascar, para 14.

149 Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons [1996] ICJ Rep 226, para 25.

150 ICRC (n 53) 819 (emphasis added).

151 Bruges Resolution, art VIII(1). See also Gillard (n 59) 23.

152 ICCPR, art 2(1).

153 The ERC is the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

154 IASC, Operational Guidance for Coordinated Assessments in Humanitarian Crises (March 2012) 22.

155 Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, Statement to the Press on Syria (n 62).

156 Again, it would be improper and impractical were the affected State to have to share its assessment with each and every State, international, and non-governmental organization.

157 Heath, ‘Disasters, Relief, and Neglect’ (n 6) 419, 464.

158 Fourth report on the protection of persons in the event of disasters, by Eduardo Valencia-Ospina, Special Rapporteur, A/CN.4/643, 11 May 2011, para 49.

159 Heath, ‘Disasters, Relief, and Neglect’ (n 6) 419, 458.

This Article was written whilst a Global Research Fellow at NYU School of Law and its Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ). Thanks are due to Emanuela-Chiara Gillard, Aofie Nolan, Sangeeta Shah, and participants at a CHRGJ presentation for comments on earlier drafts.

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