News & Updates
July 17, 2013
The Egyptian election commission announced on 24 June 2012 that Mohammed Morsi won the presidential election with 51.7 percent of the vote, exceeding the 48.3 percent of his contender Ahmed Shafik and effectively becoming Egypt’s first democratically-elected president. Yet since he assumed office in 2012, many questions have arisen as to the legitimacy of Morsi’s acts. He has been accused of governing in a totalitarian manner reminiscent of the Mubarak era. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets after Morsi temporarily granted himself unlimited powers to “protect the nation” and legislate without judicial review. Various opposition groups questioned the legitimacy of the assembly tasked with drafting the new Islamist-backed constitution. Many protested the purging of hundreds of Mubarak-era officials from government institutions. Some accuse Morsi’s policies of crushing Egypt’s tourism industry and the wider Egyptian economy.
On 30 June 2013, marking Morsi’s one-year anniversary in office, mass protests erupted across Egypt calling for the Morsi’s resignation. On 1 July, the Egyptian Army warned that it would intervene if the protesters’ demands were not met within 48 hours. On 3 July, defence minister Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, with the support of opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Ahmed el-Tayeb and Coptic Pope Tawadros II, declared that Morsi was dismissed from office. Morsi was arrested and taken to an undisclosed location.
On the same day, the Office of the Assistant to the President on Foreign Relations & International Cooperation issued a press release stating: “For the sake of Egypt and for historical accuracy, let’s call what is happening by its real name: Military coup.”
Is this press release correct in characterizing the 3 July events as a military coup? If so, what implications would a coup have on the legitimacy of the new Egyptian government? This essay examines these questions in light of international law and state practice.
In recent years, democratic governance has taken growing importance in legal theories providing for the recognition of new governments. Because democratic governance is incompatible with military coups, determining whether the military’s 3 July 2013 acts constitute a “coup” will have implications as to whether the interim government is legitimate under international law.
Three legal doctrines are used to inform whether a new government will be recognized as legitimate: the traditional doctrine, which is the most widely-accepted approach, and the Tobar and Estrada doctrines.
Traditional Approach (Effective Control Doctrine)
Under the traditional approach, States consider four factors in deciding whether to recognize a government: (i) effectiveness of control; (ii) stability and permanence; (iii) ability and willingness to fulfill obligations; and (iv) popular support (i.e., the acquiescence of the people to the government). The rationale behind these elements is to ensure that a new government is internally stable before being recognized by and entering into relations with other States that imply responsibilities and obligations.
Under the traditional approach, whether the new government formed in Egypt will be deemed legitimate will be based on a variety of factors that revolve around the effective control of the government over the State and its land and people. If the interim government organizes elections that exclude the Muslim Brotherhood or other organizations that effectively represent the people, thus disenfranchising part of Egypt’s population, the new government will not be deemed legitimate under the traditional approach.
Under the Estrada doctrine, in contrast, a State automatically recognizes all governments in all circumstances and at all times. A State applying the Estrada doctrine thus refrains from making any determination as to the legitimacy of new governments (including those that came into power by force). Under the Estrada doctrine, when a new government comes to power (through constitutional or extra-constitutional means), the relations between the State and third party States remain unchanged.
For the minority of States following the Estrada doctrine, whether the interim government has popular approval is irrelevant to its recognition and legitimacy. Governments that follow the Estrada doctrine automatically recognize new governments in order to refrain from passing judgment on the internal affairs of other States or giving implicit approval through recognition of the acts of the new governments.
Tobar Doctrine (Doctrine of Legitimacy)
Characterizing the 3 July events in Egypt as a “coup” is most problematic under the Tobar doctrine, also known as the doctrine of legitimacy. Under the Tobar doctrine, States do not generally recognize governments that come into power as a consequence of military coups or revolutions. The Tobar doctrine does however recognize as an exception new governments that come to power through a coup if the people, without coercion, affirm and accept the new government. States that follow this approach thus accept a new government when a coup is accompanied by an immediate vote confirming the new government or a national referendum approving a new constitution.
Over the past decade, the US and other countries have spent a great deal of resources discussing the importance of democratic governance. International organizations such as the OAS have adopted significant resolutions in this spirit, recognizing the incompatibility between a legitimate, democratic government and one that comes to power through violence and keeps power through a constant threat of the use of force.
The Tobar doctrine signifies a new trend in the past decade whereby States withhold their recognition of new governments where such governments take power in a manner contrary to basic principles of democracy. Accordingly, the UN in some cases will not allow a government to take a seat at the UN when the government was not democratically installed.
The Importance of Popular Support in Egypt
Given the importance of democratic governance under international law, one can see why so many States have been reluctant to characterize the 3 July 2013 events in Egypt as a “coup.” Such a characterization will have important consequences on the recognition of and establishment of diplomatic relations with the new Egyptian government. For this reason, many States are urging the interim council in Egypt to quickly proceed to parliamentary elections and a national referendum on the constitution. Only if the events of 3 July 2013 are accepted with popular support at the polls will they hold any legitimacy under international law. Egypt will however only reach that point if the interim government fulfills its promises to proceed quickly to a national referendum on the constitution and to hold fair and transparent parliamentary elections shortly thereafter. Only then can observers determine whether the 3 July events hold popular support in keeping with the spirit of representative democracy.
July 15, 2013
As a Teen Advisor for Girl Up, I was honored to attend Malala Day 2013 at the United Nations to hear Malala Yousafzai give her first public speech since being shot by the Taliban in October 2012 for daring to attend school. Joining Malala to help celebrate her 16th birthday were hundreds of youth from around the world. Dozens of organizations sent representatives to the daylong conference and celebration, including Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation campaign for girls’ and women’s rights. While I was blown away by Malala’s speech, there were plenty of other aspects of the day that were inspiring in their own right. In the middle of the opening ceremony, the youth delegates took a break to sing “Happy Birthday” to Malala!
Malala speaking at the United Nations – NBC News
The UN Special Envoy for Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, presented the Youth Courage Awards for Education to seven courageous young people who stood up for their right to an education. Only one of the seven, 21 year old Ashwini Angadi from India, was able to attend to accept the award, and it was really inspiring to hear her acceptance speech. Ashwini overcame a visual impairment to take a job at an IT firm which she later left to become a full time advocate for young people.
Eleven of over 500 delegates gave two minute speeches sharing their stories and what inspired them to work for universal education. One delegate (Munira Khalif, another Girl Up Teen Advisor) read a spoken word piece; another shared an essay about the role dance played in her life journey. The diversity of the speeches matched the diversity of the delegates from dozens of countries.
After the opening ceremony, the delegates attended breakout sessions about topics as varied as global citizenship and access to education. At a Fair where a variety of education and empowerment organizations talked about their work, one of the most interesting booths was hosted by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, the wildly popular, long-running PBS children’s TV show. They explained how the versions of the show that air abroad differ from the one shown in the U.S. by reflecting certain realities of life in different regions of the world. Two great examples are that in malaria-prone areas of the world, Sesame Street puppets, like the kids watching the show, sleep under bed nets; in areas where HIV is prevalent, an HIV-positive character joins the puppet cast.
At the closing ceremony, Gordon Brown, former UK prime minister, gave an incredible speech about the significance of efforts by young people in gaining access to education for all. He reminded us of how vitally important our work is, and how we in the international community cannot fail children by denying them a chance to learn. It was a great reminder of our mission, and that we still have much work to do before achieving our goals.
The courageous Malala, in whose honor we gathered, is the epitome of grace and strength. We all will benefit from the lessons she teaches us in years to come on this symbolic day. I will forever cherish my memories of Malala Day 2013 and hope that others, especially young people, get the chance to hear her speak in the future.
July 11, 2013
In his new book, The Anatomy of Violence, Adrian Raine introduces us to neurocriminology, a new field within the neurosciences that focuses on the biological origins of violent behavior. He explains that, “The dominant model for understanding criminal behavior has been, for most of the twentieth century, one built almost exclusively on social and sociological models. My main argument is that sole reliance on these social perspectives is fundamentally flawed. Biology is also critically important in understanding violence, and probing through its anatomical underpinnings will be vital for treating the epidemic of violence and crime afflicting our societies.”
Raine writes about his 35 years of research to uncover and validate the connection between a range of violent behaviors and areas of the brain known to control feelings of fear and guilt, as well as the process of making “good” decisions. The theory that the brain could drive antisocial behavior was soundly rejected, along with the work of scientists like Raine, by the field of Criminology during most of those years, but now, in the 21st Century, great strides in molecular and behavioral genetics coupled with “…revolutionary advances in brain imaging…” provide the platform for accepting and understanding the biology of violence.
The link between violence and anatomy – CNN
This book is written for a general audience, and perhaps for the first time, many readers will actually understand what is shown on a brain scan. The author uses examples of antisocial behavior from various criminal cases—some highly publicized—including serial murder to domestic violence, to demonstrate his work on identifying the commonality of both biological and social impairments among perpetrators. On the biological side, brain injuries occurring in utero and at birth as well as low heart rates emerge as important in Raine’s studies. On the social side, maternal rejection in the first year of life appears to be a key factor in understanding violence. This biosocial model, then, embraces both biological and social risk factors as causes for antisocial behaviors.
Raine takes us from a personal perspective as a victim of criminal violence himself to considering violence as a matter of Public Health worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) calls violence “a global public health problem.” Some experts estimate that, in the U.S. alone, the total cost of dealing with violence is half a trillion dollars a year. This adds urgency to the work that Raine and his colleagues are doing. With a new understanding of violence grounded in science, and guided by neuroethics, biological and social interventions for prevention and treatment can turn the tide of unchecked violence worldwide.
July 7, 2013
My name is Francis Hweshe, Im a freelance journalist and indie filmmaker based in Cape Town. I understand that the Archbishop Desmond Tutu has spoken against fracking and I thought our initial trailer on fracking featuring South African Goldman Prize Winner and anti-fracking activist Jonathan Deal would be interesting. The links to the trailer are below.