Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Scheldt River Dispute (Part II) : Hedwige Polder

See our previous blog of September 9, 2009 on this matter, Scheldt River Dispute (Part I)

New developments in the "eternal" Scheldt River dispute between Belgium and the Netherlands have led to calmer waters

In its weekly meeting of 9 October 2009 the Dutch Cabinet finally decided to compensate the loss of nature due to proposed dredging works in the Western Scheldt Estuary by means of flooding the Hedwige Polder. A controversy, because of strong opposition by the local population. The Cabinet concluded that no satisfying alternative was available. Flooding the polder will enable the Netherlands to fulfill its international and European treaty obligations on nature compensation and to ameliorate its relations with Belgium, especially the Flemish Region. Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende also stated that the Government intended to carry an administrative procedure on the deepening of the Western Scheldt before the Dutch Council of State to a successful conclusion. Aiming at the positive effects of new special dredging techniques, he is hoping to win the case with a stronger defence.

A short history of the Scheldt River dispute

The Scheldt is a transboundary river which originates in North-Western France and runs through Western Belgium and the South-West of the Netherlands. The Scheldt Estuary is shared between Belgium and the Netherlands. The Dutch section of the estuary is called the Western Scheldt, and is of vital importance as navigation channel to the port of Antwerp. Since the separation of Belgium from the Netherlands in 1839, the free navigation of the Scheldt and the maintenance and improvement of the navigation channel have been a bone of contention and legal controversy.

The Separation Treaty of 1839 contains some important provisions for the freedom of navigation on the Scheldt: the Statute of the Western Scheldt. This statute applies Article 108 to 177 of the Final Act of the Vienna Congress (1815) to all trans-boundary watercourses that form or cross the Dutch-Belgian border. These articles deal with the freedom of navigation, and the obligation of the States to carry out the necessary works ('travaux nécessaires') for safeguarding the navigability of the river. Ever since the conclusion of the Separation Treaty, the interpretation of the words 'travaux nécessaires' has been the most important legal Scheldt issue between the two countries and even continues to be in present day negotiations.

Several attemps have been made to revise the Scheldt Statute, but it was not until 1994 that significant progress was made. Both countries negotiated a package of new water agreements in which the issue of deepening the Western Scheldt was linked to issues of water division in the Meuse River and of water pollution of both the Rivers Scheldt and Meuse. Belgian State reforms and the conclusion of the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes contributed to these developments.

In 1994 the Convention on the Protection of the Scheldt against Pollution was signed by France, the Netherlands and the Belgian Regions of Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels to improve water quality of the river. In 1995 Flanders and Netherlands agreed on the Convention on the Deepening of the Navigation Channel in the Western Scheldt.

Recent developments

A new Scheldt Convention was signed in 2002 to amend the 1994 Convention, thereby implementing new European Union community law, Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy (Water Framework Directive). And finally in 2005 Flanders and the Netherlands reached agreement on a series of new treaties on the international management of the Scheldt Estuary, which enables an even further deepening of the navigation channel.

Clearly, all these developments have shed another light on the old Separation Treaty of 1839. Both parties do still interpret this Treaty differently as do various international lawyers, but new international and European environmental law demands a new approach. As a result a small polder, the Hedwige Polder, will be flooded to compensate loss of nature by deepening the navigation channel of the Western Scheldt.

Peace Palace Library catalogue

- systematic index: Scheldt

- subject heading: Scheldt River

Recommended books and articles

D'Argent, P., "L'évolution du Statut juridique de la Meuse et de l'Escaut : une mise en perspective des Accords de Charleville-Mézières du 26 avril 1994", in : Revue belge de droit international, 30 (1997), no. 1, pp. 133-171 [1]

Franckx, E. et C. Van Assche, "Les commissions fluviales bilatérales : développements récents concernant l'Escaut", in : Droit du pouvoir, pouvoir du droit : Mélanges offerts à Jean Salmon, Bruxelles : Bruylant, 2007, pp. 1241-1275 [2]

Gosseries, A., "The 1994 Agreements concerning the Protection of the Scheldt and Meuse Rivers", in : European Environmental Law Review, 4 (1995), no. 1, pp. 9-14 [3]

Limburg, G.H.W.M., "Joint Commissions under Regional Boundary Waters Treaties between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Neighbouring Countries : a Brief Survey", in : Hague Yearbook of International Law, 21 (2009), pp. 95-100 [4]

Maes, F., "The Content of the Agreements on the Protection of the Rivers Scheldt and Meuse", in : Revue belge de droit international, 30 (1997), no. 2, pp. 661-681 [5]

Meijerink, S.V., Conflict and Cooperation on the Scheldt River Basin : a Case Study of Decision Making on International Scheldt Issues between 1967 and 1997, Dordrecht [etc.] : Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999, XIV, 357 p [6]

Samkalden, C. en Th. Berger, Advies Verdieping van de Westerschelde in volkenrechtelijk perspectief, Amsterdam : Amsterdam International Law Clinic, 2001, 29 p [7]

Suy, E. en K. Wellens, "Is het water tussen België en Nederland niet diep genoeg ? : volkenrechtelijke aspecten van de verdieping van de Schelde", in : Rechtskundig Weekblad, 63 (1999), no. 17, 553-559 [8]

Tombeur, H., "Volkenrechtelijke aspecten van de exclusieve verdragen inzake de bescherming van Maas en Schelde", in : Tijdschrift voor bestuurswetenschappen en publiekrecht, 51 (1996), no. 4, pp. 211 [9]


Internationale Scheldecommissie (in Dutch)

Commission internationale de l'Escaut (in French)

Ontwikkelingsschets 2010 Schelde-estuarium (in Dutch), with an English summary: Long term vision and 2010 Development Outline

Islam and Assisted Reproductive Technology

Since the birth of the world first test tube baby, Louise Brown in 1978, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) has helped many childless couples successfully produce families in all corners of the globe. Current developments regarding Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) treatments have sparked debates among religious groups in many Islamic nations resulting in many different viewpoints.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) involves treating a woman with hormones in order for the ovaries to produce several eggs. At the proper time in the treatment cycle, the follicles in which the eggs are developing are aspirated with a needle using ultrasound guidance. The eggs are then placed with sperm in the embryo culture laboratory where successfully fertilized oocytes (zygotes) are allowed to develop for several days. A limited number of zygotes are then transferred into the uterus cavity in hopes of achieving a successful pregnancy. [1]

Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) have thus caused major changes in human reproduction which in turn affects the way in which Islam and religion in general regard procreation. In Islam, attempts to cure infertility can be considered mandatory. In Islamic nations as well as in most countries the family functions as a cornerstone in society. Children are therefore highly desired. However, in Islamic countries, if allowed, IVF treatments can only be practiced if it involves a husband and a wife and if it is performed during the span of their marriage. [2]

With the exception of Iran, most Islamic nations do not allow third party donations. In the late 1990’s Ayatollah Ali Hoseyni Khāmene’i, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a religious proclamation or a ‘ fatwa’, that allows for donor technologies, eggs as well as sperm donation to be used. [3] This puts Iran, a predominantly Shi’a Muslim nation, in an extraordinary position opposite the Sunni Islamic World where all forms of third party donations are strictly prohibited by religious decrees and Islamic medical ethics.
In 2003, the Iranian parliament passed Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) legislation with the approval of the Guardian Council, a religious commission that must endorse a bill before it becomes law. The law determines that egg donation is allowed contingent on the condition that the husband marries the egg donor in a temporary marriage according to Shi'a Islam.[4] This way, all three parties involved are married.
Direct sperm donation, on the other hand, is prohibited by law since a sperm donor cannot marry a woman who is already married and whose husband is infertile. Noteworthy is that Iranian law does allow for embryo donation, which consists of an egg - and a sperm cell, to be used to deal with both male a female infertility. This means that an embryo can come from a married couple and can subsequently be given to another married couple.
However, the legal process of artificial insemination does not allow for a woman to donate her own egg cell in case she has an infertile husband. She is therefore unable to strengthen biological relations with the child.
Nonetheless, these recent developments regarding Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) have reshaped traditional concepts of family life and parenthood in Iran. This also demonstrates that ancient religious practices and modern technology can be reconciled in such a manner that both can be advanced.

[1] The influence of Catholicism, Islam and Judaism on the ART, Bioethical and Legal debate; A comparitive Survey of ART in Italy, Egypt and Israel by M.R. Bundren in University of Detroit Mercy Law Review, Vol. 84 (5) 2006/2007, p. 720

[2]Religious views regarding treatment of infertility by ART
by J.Schenker in Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics, Vol. 9, No.1, 1992.

[3] The ‘ Iranian ART Revolution’: Infertility, Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), and third-party donation in the Isamic Republic of Iran by Mohammad Jalal Abbasi – Shavazi, Marcia C. Inhorn, Hajiieh Bibi Razeghi-Nasrabad, and Ghasem Toloo in the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 4:2, 2007, p. 4
[4] Making Muslim babies; IVF and gamete donation in Sunni versus Shi’a Islam by M.C. Inhorn in Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 30 (4), 2006, p 427-450


Procreation and Islam


Shia Islam

Biomedicine and Human Rights

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mare Liberum 1609-2009

A Great Grotian Gathering took place at the Peace Palace on December 12, 2009.
The International Conference on “The History and Influence of Mare Liberum” brought together Grotian specialists from all over the globe. It was the conclusion of a “Mare Liberum” festival in The Hague, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Grotius’ famous book “Mare Liberum”.
The program offered a wide variety of distinguished speakers on various perceptions of Grotius’ work, ranging from the colonial view to the private and international law view in the morning session, to modern international law of the sea and piracy in the afternoon parallel sessions.
Highlight of the conference was the presentation of the first copy of a new English translation of Mare Liberum to the President of the International Court of Justice Judge Owada :
Hugo Grotius Mare liberum 1609-2009. Original Latin and English Translation”. Edited and annotated by Robert Feenstra, General Introduction by Jeroen Vervliet. Leiden : Brill 2009. ISBN 9789004177017.

It is a beautifully edited book with well chosen illustrations (178 pages), two introductions, a facsimile edition of the Latin text (Leiden, 1609), the new revised English translation and precious indexes. In his general introduction Jeroen Vervliet explains why Grotius wrote Mare Liberum in one of the most turbulent episodes of Dutch history, how he conceived and formulated his ideas, and how his opponents like William Welwood , John Selden and Seraphim de Freitas reacted.
Robert Feenstra, professor emeritus of legal history at Leiden, in his introduction, explains his almost lifelong occupation with Grotius. He describes the process of the meticulous verification of references, corrections, sources, annotations and different translations, comparing various editions. The result is a fascinating story of scientific research that yielded this critical edition.

This new book fits perfectly in the Grotian research tradition at the Peace Palace Library, started by Jacob Ter Meulen (librarian from 1924 till 1952) and now continued by Jeroen Vervliet, the present librarian, and professor Feenstra who made ample use of the Peace Palace Library Grotius collection.
The Peace Palace Library has started a “Mare Liberum – Wiki – Research Guide”, a new way to facilitate research, offering easy access to library material, bibliographic information and external links. This guide is a flexible tool embedded in a network of thematic guides, to keep researchers up to date with the latest development in this field.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Copenhagen Climate Change Conference

Today, Monday 7 December 2009, governmental representatives from 192 countries are starting two weeks of negotiations in Copenhagen which should eventually result in a new global treaty on climate change. Two years ago, at the UN climate conference held in Bali, governments agreed, with the adoption of the Bali Road Map, to start work on a new global agreement attempting to forge a global framework on carbon emissions to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which will expire in 2012.

In Italy in July 2009, the G8 and a number of large developing countries agreed that the average temperature rise since pre-industrial times should be limited to 2°C. In principle the new treaty should curb the growth in carbon emissions enough to keep the world within that limit.

In order to achieve this goal developed countries will need to agree to cut their emissions more aggressively between now and 2020, while developing countries should curb the future growth of their emissions. Developed countries will also have to agree on substantial financial assistance to the developing world to introduce renewable technologies and other climate-control measures and on the governance structures that will have to be created to oversee this. A third area for discussion is the carbon trading scheme aimed at ending the destruction of the world's forests by 2030.

The overall aim is to ensure that the world's output of CO2 begins to decline by 2020. If this is not achieved, temperatures will likely rise by more than 2°C and take the world into uncontrollable global warming according to the predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is a scientific intergovernmental body set up by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide decision-makers with an objective source of information about climate change.

The Copenhagen conference takes place within the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), adopted at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992. The meeting in Copenhagen is the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the UNFCCC. According to the Bali Road Map the framework for climate change mitigation beyond 2012 needs to be agreed upon within the next two weeks.

Whatever the outcome in Copenhagen, further negotiations in 2010 will certainly be necessary for the final conclusion of any new climate change treaty.

Friday, December 4, 2009


We regret to say
No new blog today

Our message is in rhyme
Because this is the time

When we in Holland celebrate
Tomorrow evening very late

Sinterklaas’ birthday
Who, so the legends say

Sails to Holland every year
To bring joy, but also fear

For those who have been good this year
many presents will appear

The ones who have been bad and vain
Will be taken back to Spain

Next week after these festivities
We’ll continue our blog activities!