Best international law books of 2013
We invited our authors and editors to share their picks for the best books in international law in 2013. Here are their choices.
“The best book in international law published in 2013 I have read is Sarah Dromgoole’s Underwater Cultural Heritage and International Law (Cambridge UP). It is a beautifully written account of a terribly complex area of international law (which brings together law of the sea, cultural heritage law and general international law). It explains things thoroughly and understandably, but without oversimplifying complicated debates.”
— Lucas Lixinski, author of Intangible Cultural Heritage in International Law
“The Prohibition of Torture in Exceptional Circumstances by Michelle Farrell (Cambridge UP) critiques the ticking bomb scenario by reading it as a fiction and one that seeks to render the realities of the everyday practice of torture both morally and legally invisible. Whilst Farrell engages with the ontics of the prohibition of torture within international law, her main thesis endeavours to get to the heart of the so-called torture debate by showing how the ticking bomb construct is able to, in the public domain, transform the figure of the alleged ‘terrorist’ into a bare life figure (recalling Agamben) that is excluded from the legal sphere through a Schmittian state of exception. Farrell’s thesis takes us away from a rather comfortable, but insufficient, rationalization provided both by the ticking bomb construct as well as the more conventional approaches of academics and lawyers to the torture debate, by providing a necessary critique of the relationship between law and violence.”
— Kathleen Cavanaugh, co-author of Minority Rights in the Middle East
“The accepted history of international criminal law is a story of irreversible progress leading to the unfurling of an international rule of law and an end to impunity. The Hidden Histories of War Crimes Trials (Oxford UP, 2013), a collection of essays edited by Kevin Jon Heller and Gerry Simpson, is a timely corrective to the elisions of such panegyrics. Colonial trials in Africa and Siam, Australian-orchestrated proceedings in the Asia-Pacific, atrocities in the Southern Cone of Latin America: these too, the volume’s contributors argue, are part of the field’s history. But it is not only the ‘under-told trial histories’ that are brought in from the margins. We learn too, for example in Grietje Baars’ contribution, of the systematic writing-out of official histories of the relationship between political economy and war. The field draws attention to ‘individual deviancy’ while eliding, and even obfuscating, the economic bases of atrocity: international criminal law as ‘capitalism’s victor’s justice’. For those tired of stale narrative arcs—‘from Nuremberg to The Hague’—or curious about the field’s ‘hidden histories’, the volume is highly recommended.”
— Tor Krever, Assistant Editor of the London Review of International Law
“Daniel Bodansky’s Art and Craft of International Environmental Law (Harvard UP, 2011), is an instant classic. I am using the book in preparation to teach a course on international law of the sea, with a focus on marine environmental protection. The study captures a lifetime of experience and wisdom to take the reader through the emergence of international law and policy, the stakeholders and institutions involved in its development, and how impediments to cooperation can be overcome. The great thing about the book is that it is a deep and sophisticated treatment of the theory and application of international environmental law, but the text unfolds at an engaging clip—a combination of historical thriller, game theory, and practical manual for continuing to build-out international environmental regimes. Throughout this book, Bodansky is masterful in carefully dissecting facts and values, and in distinguishing between the doctrine of law and the normative goals of policy. If I owned just one book on international environmental law, this would be it.”
— James Kraska is the author of Maritime Power and the Law of the Sea: Expeditionary Operations in World Politics
“My recommendation for a 2013 book would be the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare (Cambridge UP, 2013) edited by Michael N. Schmitt. An independent “International Group of Experts” (IGE) spent three years (with financial assistance from NATO) attempting to describe the existing international law for cyber-space. The resulting Tallinn Manual contains 95 separate rules on questions of state responsibility, the jus ad bellum, and the jus in bello along with detailed commentary for each rule. Simply put, the Tallinn Manual is a must-read for anyone interested in cyber warfare and I assume it’s already widely read within foreign and defense ministries across the Globe. You can disagree with its conclusions in some places — and I do in some key respects such as the Manual’s definitions of what cyber operations constitute a use of force and the need for an ‘attack’ to produce physical damage under the jus in bello. Nonetheless, I recommend reading the Tallinn Manual because it’s a necessary and important first step in delineating how international law operates in cyberspace. Indeed, some of the most important parts of the Manual are not the rules themselves so much as the Commentary’s discussion of paths not taken and areas of continuing disagreement among the IGE. All told, the Manual provides a map for future discourse that will surely be an increasingly important part of the international law conversation.”
— Duncan B. Hollis is the editor of The Oxford Guide to Treaties
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