François Prize

Report of the Jury – François Prize 2014

The jury of the François Prize 2014 received a record-number of 25 submissions, covering a wide range of international law topics. Most of them are on public international law. Only a few concern private international law. The jury notes this development with some concern, but refrains from any speculations as to the cause.

The members of the jury have assessed the submissions on the basis of anonymity: the names of the authors, their supervisors and their universities or institutions were not known to them. They have read and reviewed all submissions according to the following criteria: originality and relevance of the subject, systematic and logical way of thinking, quality of the legal analysis and conclusions, style and language use, and finally the presentation of the paper. In the view of the jury, the quality of most of the submissions is high.

The jury discussed the submissions in a meeting on 24 June 2014. During that meeting, consensus was reached about a shortlist of four submissions. Further deliberation led the jury to the unanimous decision that two submissions stood out due to their very high quality. It concerns the following two:

  1.  ‘Anti-whaling activism in the Southern Ocean and the international law on piracy: An evaluation of the requirement to act for ‘private ends’ and its applicability to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’.
  2. ‘Humanitarian Intervention. Responses to the Legal Paradigm’.

The first thesis, about ‘Anti-whaling activism’, looks at the question whether under the international law definition of piracy, the actions of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in the Antarctic waters against the whaling activities of the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research can be considered actions ‘for private ends’, within the meaning of Art. 15 of the 1958 Convention on the High Seas and Art. 101 of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

In Chapters I and II of the thesis, the international law definition of the concept ‘piracy’ and the different views on the requirement ‘for private ends’ are subjected to a thorough analysis, in light of the genesis of the existing international treaties and state practice. The reasonable case is made that even though piracy as an international crime has a long history, the exact scope of the requirement ‘for private ends’ is still not clear and remains a controversial concept. That is especially problematic when the alleged acts of piracy have been committed in pursuit of a political agenda. In Chapter III, the conclusions of the first two chapters are applied to the case of Sea Shepherd and the Institute of Cetacean Research and assessed in light of judgments of national courts. The author concludes that, contrary to popular belief, the argument that political aspirations can deprive piracy of its illegal nature, is tenuous.

The jury is of the opinion that the author of this thesis has shown to possess exceptionally sharp analytical skills and a strong, independent legal mind. In all parts of the paper, the arguments are to the point and the reasoning is well-structured and focused. The paper has been documented in an exemplary way. In the view of the jury, this is an excellent thesis on an interesting and topical subject.

The second thesis, about ‘Humanitarian intervention’, addresses the scope of this concept and how it might be improved. To answer this question, the author first of all looks at the current legal paradigm. The thesis not only focuses on the role of the United Nations in the development of this concept, but also on the changing views, since 1945, about such matters as war, on the increasing importance attached to human rights, and the rise of new theories, such as the ‘Responsibility to Protect’.

Subsequently, the paper discusses the various opinions regarding the question whether the UN Charter provides a basis for humanitarian intervention or, on the contrary, prohibits it, as well as the question how to deal with the alleged illegality of ‘humanitarian intervention’. In this context, Franck and Hakimi’s ‘excusable breach’ approach and Buchanan’s ’disobedience’ approach are addressed. In the final chapter the author attempts to liberate the concept from the rigidity of the ‘status quo bias’ of international law and he does so by referring to the discussion whether or not codification of the humanitarian intervention concept is desirable.

The jury is of the opinion that the thesis provides a clear picture of the current status of the discussions on the concept of ‘humanitarian intervention’. The topic is popular among students, but this thesis may be distinguished because of its careful presentation and consideration of arguments, its exceptionally clear argumentation and its penetrating presentation of the tension between positive law and morality. In the view of the jury, this is a beautiful and lucidly written piece of work.

Although both works can be qualified as outstanding, the jury has decided unanimously, taking into account the assessment criteria mentioned before, that the thesis on ‘Anti-whaling activism’ be nominated for the François Prize 2014 and that the thesis on ‘Humanitarian intervention’ be nominated for an honourable mention.

The Board of the Royal Netherlands Society of International Law has adopted these nominations. Consequently, the François Prize 2014 is awarded to mr. Arron N. Honniball for his paper entitled ‘Anti-whaling activism in the Southern Ocean and the international law on piracy: An evaluation of the requirement to act for ‘private ends’ and its applicability to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’, and mr. Itamar Magid receives honourable mention for his paper entitled ‘Humanitarian Intervention: Responses to the Legal Paradigm’.

Utrecht, 7 November 2014

The Jury

L. Strikwerda

E. Lijnzaad
Member of the Jury

Ch.Y.M. Paulussen
Member of the Jury

François Prize
Arron N. Honniball

At the Annual Meeting in Utrecht on 7 November 2014
the J.P.A François Prize was awarded to:

mr. Arron N. Honniball

Click here for the text of the prize winning paper

mr. Itamar Magid received honourable mention.