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The Limits of Legal Pluralism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 May 2012


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Copyright © Foundation of the Leiden Journal of International Law 2012

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1 See, e.g., Halberstam, D., ‘Local, Global, and Plural Constitutionalism: Europe Meets the World’, in Weiler, J. H. H. and De Burca, G. (eds.), The Worlds of European Constitutionalism (2011), 150CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Tamanaha, B. Z., ‘Understanding Legal Pluralism: Past to Present, Local to Global’, (2008) 30 Syd. LR 375Google Scholar; Michaels, R., ‘Global Legal Pluralism’, (2009) 5 Annual Review of Law and Social Science 243CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2 See, e.g., M. Koskenniemi, ‘Fragmentation of International Law: Difficulties Arising from the Diversification and Expansion of International Law, Report of the Study Group of the International Law Commission’, UN Doc. A/CN.4/L.682 (2006); Fischer-Lescano, A. and Teubner, G., ‘Regime-Collisions: The Vain Search for Legal Unity in the Fragmentation of Global Law’, (2003–04) 25 Mich. JIL 999Google Scholar; Wellens, K., ‘Fragmentation of International Law and Establishing an Accountability Regime for International Organizations: The Role of the Judiciary in Closing the Gap’, (2003–04) 25 Mich. JIL 1159Google Scholar.

3 On this, see Tamanaha, supra note 1; Michaels, supra note 1.

4 N. Krisch, Beyond Constitutionalism: The Pluralist Structure of Postnational Law (2010); Halberstam, supra note 1.

5 Krisch, supra note 4, at 6.

6 Already captured by M. Koskenniemi in From Apology to Utopia: The Structure of International Legal Argument (2006).

7 Walker, N., ‘Beyond Boundary Disputes and Basic Grids: Mapping the Global Disorder of Normative Orders’, (2008) 6 International Journal of Constitutional Law 373CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 Maduro, M. Poiares, ‘Courts and Pluralism: Essay on a Theory of Adjudication in the Context of Legal and Constitutional Pluralism’, in Dunoff, J. L. and Trachtman, J. P. (eds.), Ruling the World? Constitutionalism, International Law, and Global Governance (2009), 356CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Halberstam, supra note 1.

9 Krisch, supra note 4, at 14–22.

10 Ibid., at 14.

11 Ibid., at 21.

12 Take, for instance, the reactions of the United Kingdom to the implications of the Hirst case (ECtHR, Judgment of 30 March 2005, Hirst v. The United Kingdom (No. 2)) in which the United Kingdom was urged to abolish the voting prohibition for prisoners. Many MPs protested against the ‘the British submission to foreign judges’ and the alleged infringement of sovereignty; see, on this controversy, ‘Prisoners’ Voting Rights: Britain's Mounting Fury over Sovereignty’, The Economist, 10 February 2011, available at; think, in the same vein, about the French and Dutch dismissal of the European Constitution.

13 Krisch, supra note 4, at 15–16, 27–68.

14 See, e.g., SirWatts, A., ‘The International Rule of Law’, (1993) 36 GYIL 15Google Scholar; P. Allott, Towards an International Rule of Law: Essays in Integrated Constitutional Theory (2005).

15 Krisch, supra note 4, at 38.

16 Ibid., at 68.

17 E.g., Koskenniemi, supra note 6.

18 Krisch, supra note 4, at 68.

19 Ibid., at 16–17.

20 Ibid., at 17.

21 Ibid., at 78–89.

22 Ibid., at 81, 84–5.

23 Ibid., at 103.

24 Ibid., at 275.

25 In a way, it could be seen as sacrificing legal certainty for justice.

26 Maurice Adams and Willem Witteveen have recently made the same sort of distinction between an institutional perspective, which is focused on formal hierarchic norms (who has ultimate sovereignty?), and a material perspective, which is focused on the quality of norms, in Adams, M. and Witteveen, W., ‘Gedaanteverwisselingen van het recht’, (2011) 86 Nederlands Juristenblad 540Google Scholar.

27 See, e.g., E. Benvenisti and G. Downs, ‘Will National Court Cooperation Promote Global Accountability? The Judicial Review of International Organizations’, manuscript, 2009; Halberstam, supra note 1; Poiares Maduro, supra note 8.

28 Her Majesty's Treasury v. Mohammed Jabar Ahmed and Others, [2010] UKSC 2.

29 Joined Cases C-402/05 P and C-402/05, Kadi and Al Barakaat International Foundation v. Council and Commission, [2008] OJ C285/2.

30 See Benvenisti and Downs, supra note 27.

31 See Halberstam, supra note 1; D. Halberstam, ‘Constitutional Heterarchy: The Centrality of Conflict in the European Union and the United States’, in Dunoff and Trachtman, supra note 8, 326; Poiares Maduro, supra note 8.

32 See Krisch, supra note 4, at 109–52.

33 Krisch, supra note 4; see, e.g., his chapter on the decisions regarding the UNSC resolutions, at 153–88.

34 See, e.g., Ahmed and Others, supra note 28.

35 Kadi, supra note 29.

36 See, e.g., Benvenisti, E., ‘Reclaiming Democracy: The Strategic Uses of Foreign and International Law by Domestic Courts’, (2008) 102 AJIL 241CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Benvenisti states that national courts use international law primarily for their own interest, namely ‘to expand the space for domestic deliberation, to strengthen the ability of national governments to withstand the pressure brought to bear by interest groups and powerful foreign governments, and to insulate the national courts from intergovernmental pressures’, at 242.

37 In Kadi, the ECJ stressed that the European legal system constitutes an autonomous legal order, which permitted them to take a dualist position. As such, they circumvented Art. 103 of the UN Charter (Kadi, supra note 29); in Ahmed and Others, the UK Supreme Court used the dualist position as well and examined whether the parliament that implemented the UN Charter in 1946 would have agreed with these specific counterterrorism sanctions. In so doing, they circumvented the obligations of the UN Charter and created the possibility of a new democratic check; Ahmed and Others, supra note 28; see also subsection 4.1.

38 Take, for instance, the reservations made by Islamic countries to many human rights treaties. These reservations are in a way comparable to the Solange approach taken by the German Bundesverfassungsgericht in the European context, which is seen by Krisch as a pluralist tendency. Both form an ex ante restraint on the basis of values. Legal pluralism favoured by Krisch would open the possibility of ex post reviewing on the basis of the same values. Examples of protection of national interests are the British Horncastle case (R v. Horncastle and Others, [2009] UKSC 14) and the Medellin decision of the US Supreme Court (Medellin v. Texas, 552 US 491 (2008)).

39 UNSC Res. 1267, UN Doc. S/RES/1267 (1999) was issued in 1999 after the bombings of the US embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi and targeted at Usuma Bin Laden and the Taliban regime that provided a safe haven for al Qaeda; UNSC Res. 1373, UN Doc. S/RES/1373 (2001) was issued just after the 9/11 attack and had a wider mandate, since it considered all terrorist organizations.

40 UN Act, Art. 1(1).

41 Ahmed and Others, supra note 28, at 16.

42 Ibid., at 45–7, 143, 173–7.

43 Ibid., at 14.

44 Ibid., at 202–5.

45 Krisch, supra note 4, at 164.

46 Ahmed and Others, supra note 28, at 45.

47 Benvenisti and Downs, supra note 27, at 18.

48 Kadi, supra note 29, at 279–91; see also regarding this aspect of the judgment Halberstam, D. and Stein, E., ‘The United Nations, the European Union, and the King of Sweden: Economic Sanctions and Individual Rights in a Plural World Order’, (2009) 46 CMLR 13Google Scholar.

49 Kadi, supra note 29, at 282.

50 Ibid., at 303.

51 See, e.g., T. Biersteker et al., Addressing Challenges to Targeted Sanctions: An Update of the ‘Watson Report’, (2009); D. Cortright et al., ‘Human Rights and Targeted Sanctions: An Action Agenda for Strengthening Due Process Procedures’, issued by the Sanctions and Security Research Program (2009); look also at the improvements made by the UN Security Council, such as the instalment of an ombudsperson and a focal point.

52 Halberstam, supra note 1, at 184–90.

53 Krisch, supra note 4, at 172 (emphasis in original).

54 R v. Horncastle and Others, [2009] UKSC 14, at 11.

55 Ibid., at 14.

56 Medellin v. Texas, supra note 38, at 24.

57 Krisch, supra note 4, at 172.