AbstractInternational law prohibits slavery and slavery-like practices under treaties that have been in force for more than a century. Yet, contemporary forms of slavery are one of the prevailing challenges for the international community, with 40.3 million people in modern slavery on any given day in 2016. The State has been largely overlooked as a perpetrator or accomplice in the global movement to eradicate modern slavery. The hand of the State can however be found in contemporary cases of modern slavery. This article identifies five scenarios of State involvement in modern slavery and aims to uncover and bridge the responsibility gap.
On October 18, 2017, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom delivered an important judgment on diplomatic immunity. It was the first time the Supreme Court had considered the implications of human trafficking for the scope of diplomatic immunity. As Lord Sumption noted, "[s]ince there is some evidence that human trafficking under cover of diplomatic status is a recurrent problem, this is a question of some general importance."
Four features make states potentially different to other litigants. First, states are still the principal player in international law—they are the parties to treaties, members of international organizations, and the makers and breakers of customary international law. They also establish courts, decide on budgets, and elect the judges. Second, states enjoy immunity from jurisdiction and from enforcement measures—courts are obliged to consider such immunity in limine litis and on their own initiative. Third, states, whether they are democracies or dictatorships, are political entities. Fourth, sovereignty is associated with notions of honor, dignity, and comity.
I was a silent observer in deliberations and readings at the ICJ for fifteen cases, and my opinion of those was very positive. Laborious, yes, time-consuming, yes. But in the end, it improves the outcome. What I find so striking about the ICJ in comparison to other courts and so important with its status as the principal judicial organ is that it is the judges who hold the pen. There is a drafting committee of three judges, but after that the judges have readings where they engage with the draft paragraph by paragraph for the first reading, page by page for the second reading. In most cases this process leads to a net improvement in the final result, so I can see from an efficiency point of view it may not be ideal, but for the authority and the quality of the judgment I think it is very important.