Burma’s Censored Census

By: Konstantinos Patsiopoulos

Blog Category: International Law & Race

Although not an official confirmation, a brief review of Burma on Wikipedia supports the proposition in TIME’s article that the Rohingya Muslim community have been discriminated against in the latest U.N. census.  Under the “Ethnic groups” category, Rohingya is not listed.  On February 25, 2014, TIME covered a story related to the release of a report alleging that the Rohingya people were victims of oppression by Buddhist-dominated government in Burma.  Roughly one month later, TIME reported that the Burmese government would not allow the Rohingya people to be identified on the census.

Since there have been accusations of involvement with U.N. officials, what remedial measures could the minority group take?  After approximately 140,000 Rohingya people have been essentially quarantined in displacement camps over the past two years, the minority group views this head-count procedure as just another discriminatory tool in the Burmese government’s arsenal.  Moreover, anti-Rohingya mobs have destroyed international aid boats and vehicles, which were transporting food, water, and medical supplies to the minority group.

Luckily, these reports and news articles caught the attention of the U.N. Population Fund, who expressed its concern.  Therefore, with U.N. assistance and continued international news coverage, remedial measures may be on the way for the Rohingya people.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.


Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, available at En.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burma (last visited Apr. 21, 2014).

Charlie Campbell, Burma Accused of ‘Crime Against Humanity’ Over Persecution of Rohingya, TIME (Apr. 21, 2014, 4:54 PM), available at http://time.com/9518/burma-rohingya-crime-against-humanity.

Charlie Campbell, Burma’s Racist Census Degenerates Into Violence, TIME, (Apr. 21, 2014, 10:00 AM), available at http://time.com/44891/burma-census-rakhine-rohingya.

Statelessness in the Dominican Republic and What It Says About International Law

By: C. Nicholas Konetski 

Blog Category: International Law & Race

For most Americans, proving their citizenship is not a difficult task. For example, if I want to prove that I am a U.S. citizen, I can simply show my birth certificate or passport. If I cannot find either of these documents, I can obtain a certified copy from the appropriate agency. This task, however, would be a lot harder if the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that required these agencies to deny my request for a copy and inform me that those documents should never have been issued to me in the first place. A similar situation is essentially what is happening to thousands of Haitians with Dominican citizenship.

As a result of a recent decision by the highest court in the Dominican Republic, over 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent could lose their citizenship. The Court’s ruling is based on the claim that their birth certificates are invalid due to “irregular circumstances.” The background for this decision dates back almost 100 years, during a time when thousands of Haitians migrated to the Dominican to work in the sugar industry. Until recently, birthright citizenship, or jus soli, was followed by the Dominican government. Under jus soli, any child born to a Haitian migrant worker was automatically a citizen of the Dominican Republic.

Over the next decade, Haitians enjoyed both citizenship and work. Naturally, they developed many ties to the Dominican Republic. Towards the end of the 20th century, the sugar industry came to a halt, leaving thousands of Haitians without employment. This surplus of idle workers sparked a feeling of animosity among the Dominican people towards the Haitian race. In response to these feelings, the Dominican government informally began denying citizenship to Haitians that were born there and deportations began to rise. A few years later, in 2007 and in 2010, the government reformed its constitution to no longer accept birthright citizenship. Even worse for the Haitian migrants, the government decided to apply these reforms retroactively. This meant that after 1929, any citizen who obtained their citizenship through jus soli was not actually a citizen because their birth certificate was given under “irregular circumstances.”

The effects of these constitutional reforms and the recent high court decision are being felt by thousands of Haitians who have now become stateless. Most of these people, having spent their whole life in the Dominican Republic, have never even been to Haiti and are unable to obtain Haitian citizenship. Furthermore, any child born during this time is unable to be registered and therefore may not have even have documentation to prove their existence.

The decisions of the Dominican government have been heavily criticized on an international level. The Inter-American Commission has had these issues brought to its attention and has spoken out against the government’s actions. In addition, the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as the U.S. Department of State, have both denounced the unjust treatment of these Haitians. Still, nothing has been done to effectively solve the problem.

The injustices that are occurring in the Dominican are just another example of the shortcomings of International law. The right to nationality, which has seemingly been lost for these Haitians, is one that is guaranteed by the Inter-American Convention. Unfortunately, because of under-funding and the lack of an enforcement mechanism, the Inter-American System cannot adequately protect that right. Furthermore, international cases and complaints often move too slowly to evoke change, which has been a problem in some of the cases against the Dominican government. The various treaty bodies within the UN can issue reports and comments, but while they are persuasive, they are not binding.

Thus, there is a problem not only with the situation in the Dominican Republic, but also with the ability of the international community to effectively respond to these problems. In order to put an end to the racial and ethnic discrimination by governments throughout the world, international law, as well the organizations that have a duty to uphold it must be strengthened.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 


Veronica Aragón, Statelessness and the Right to Nationality, 19 Sw. J. Int’l Law 341 (2013).

Julia Harrington Reddy, Don’t be Fooled by the Dominican Republic’s Judicial Laundering of Racism, Open Society Justice Initiative (Mar. 11, 2014), available at http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/dont-be-fooled-dominican-republicsjudicial-laundering-racism.

Natalia Lippmann Mazzaglia & Pedro F. Marcelino, Migratory Policy as an Exclusionary Tool: The Case of Haitians in the Dominican Republic, 3 Laws 163 (2014).

Mark Kurlansky, Dominican Republic Makes Racism the Law, Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines (Jan. 6, 2014), available at http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/dominican_republic_makes_racism_the_law_20140106.

Racism In The International Criminal Court

By: Jason Staloski

Blog Category: International Law & Race

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is located in the Netherlands and was established in 2002. The ICC was created in order to prosecute individuals charged with either genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, or crimes of aggression. The ICC currently has jurisdiction over 122 states where these crimes occur. Recently, the African Union (AU) has levied allegations against the ICC claiming that the institution is racially discriminatory in deciding which cases to prosecute.

To support their allegation of racism, the AU notes that every prosecution pursued by the ICC originated from a country located in Africa. At the most recent AU Summit, the member nations of the AU unanimously agreed that a sitting head of state in a member nation of the AU should be hauled in front of ICC in response to William Ruto, the sitting Deputy President of Kenya, being forced to attend his trial in front of the ICC regarding the pending crimes against humanity charges. While the AU has not threatened to withdraw from ICC jurisdiction, the possibility has been discussed by AU nations.

Hailemariam Desalegn, chairperson of the African Union and Ethiopian President, has stated that, “The process [of the ICC selecting who to prosecute] has degenerated into some kind of race hunting.[1]” The ICC has defended itself by stating that a majority of its member nations come from Africa, therefore, it is only logical that there would be more cases arising from AU nations. The ICC also defended itself by indicating that of the 8 current investigations regarding AU nations, four of the ICC was requested by that state itself to investigate.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 


Richard Lough, African Union accuses ICC prosecutor of bias, Reuters (Apr. 5 2014), available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/01/30/ozatp-africa-icc-idAFJOE70T01R20110130.

Jacey Fortin, African Union Countries Rally Around Kenyan President, But Won’t Withdraw From The ICC, International Business Times (Apr. 5, 2014), available at http://www.ibtimes.com/african-union-countries-rally-around-kenyan-president-wont-withdraw-icc-1423572.

Al Mariam, The International Criminal Court on an African Safari?, Salon, (Apr. 5, 2014), available at http://open.salon.com/blog/almariam/2013/09/29/the_international_criminal_court_on_an_african_safari.

Immigration Reform: The Corker-Hoeven Amendment

By: Carla Arias

Blog Category: International Law & Race

“The plight of undocumented immigrants in the United States, notably the substantial number of migrants who crossed the border from Mexico, is a major political issue south of the Rio Grande.”[1]

In an attempt to decrease illegal immigration and border disputes, which have plagued the United States for decades, the Obama administration dedicated time and resources to comprehensive immigration reform.[2] In June 2013, the U.S. Senate approved the Corker-Hoeven amendment, which involves a doubling of U.S. border patrol agents to approximately 40,000 agents. Of the 40,000 agents, 38,405 agents are to be stationed in the U.S-Mexico borderlands.[3] Additionally, the amendment entails the use of military-like surveillance in the borderlands, including the use of drones for aerial surveillance.[4] Along with an increase in border patrol agents and military-like surveillance, the amendment calls for fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. [5] Although the amendment will increase safety along the border, it fails to address the root cause of why immigrants leave home and migrate to the United States. As a result, “[t]he passage of the Corker-Hoeven amendment is a stark reminder of the need to put an end to an insatiable boundary and immigration policing, one whose feeding is strongly tied to the state’s ability to provide for true human needs.” [6]

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.  

[1] Nick Parker and Jim Acosta, U.S. , Canada, Mexico agree to streamline border controls, CNN (Feb 19, 2014), available at http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/09/politics/us-mexico-canada.

[2] Joseph Nevins, The Impossible, Costly Dream: Border Security, Northern American Congress on Latin America (June 26, 2013), available at http://nacla.org/blog/2013/6/26/impossible-costly-dream-border-security

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

Australia’s Public Divided on Racial Discrimination Amendments

By: Andrew Schneidman

Blog Category: International Law & Race

Australia announced major amendments to its Racial Discrimination Act that effectively reduce legal constraints on discriminatory speech.  Since 1975, and until now, the Act banned actions “reasonably likely . . . to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate others because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin.”  The new amendment removes from the Act the words “offend, insult, humiliate,” banning only actions “reasonably likely . . . [to] intimidate” or “vilify.”  Moreover, the Act grants a major exemption, legalizing actions of racial intimidation made for any genuine purpose in the public interest.  The change comes in the wake of the opinion handed down in Eatock v. Bolt, a 2011 case where a newspaper columnist was found to have breached the Act when he published two articles targeting fair-skinned Aborigines.

The amendment has triggered a public debate, with opponents arguing the amendment bolsters bigotry, and supporters claiming the amendment bolsters free speech.  Opponents contend that the amendments will open the floodgates to racial discrimination in all public discussions.  They fear the amendments’ exemptions are too broad, effectively endorsing acts of public discrimination in any public forum.  Supports reason that the amendments correctly shift racial discrimination claims from the perspective of the group claiming to be offended to “the perspective of a reasonable member of the Australian community.”  They maintain that the amendments simply bar frivolous lawsuits against innocent citizens.

Time will tell the true effect of Australia’s amendments to its Racial Discrimination Act, but one thing is clear: Australia’s courts have less say in matters of discriminatory speech.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 


Gay Alcorn, Locked in a war of words to define free speech, The Sydney Morning Herald (Mar. 29, 2014), available at http://www.smh.com.au/national/locked-in-a-war-of-words-to-define-free-speech-20140328-35oi1.html.

Gillian Triggs, Race law changes seriously undermine protections, The Australian (Mar. 28, 2014), available at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/race-law-changes-seriously-undermine-protections/story-e6frg6zo-1226866727210#.

Martin Gilmour, Discrimination law change strengthening free speech, The Examiner (Mar. 29, 2014), available at http://www.examiner.com.au/story/2183828/discrimination-law-change-strengthening-free-speech/.

For “Better” or For “Worse”: Aftermath of Zimbabwe’s Racial Land Redistribution

By: Kyle Byard
Blog Category: International Law & Race

Beginning in 2000, Zimbabwe underwent a drastic change in land ownership among its citizens. President Robert Mugabe, a staunch revolutionary, implemented a fast-track land reform policy that essentially redistributed farmland from white farmers to black farmers. The racial basis of this land redistribution is pretty blatant. During an interview, President Mugabe stated, “Zimbabwe belonged to the Zimbabweans, pure and simple.” He believes white Zimbabweans, or “British settlers,” have a “debt to pay” for taking the land illegally from the original, indigenous people of Zimbabwe.

Depending on how one is affected, this reform program is considered a failure or a success. White farmers have faced violent takeovers of their land, resulting in the death of about eighteen farmers and a majority of farm workers being “driven away from their homes.”  Under the program, nationality of white farmers is irrelevant; they are viewed as “British settlers,” not citizens of Zimbabwe. There have also been negative effects on the economy, including growths in unemployment, hyperinflation destroying Zimbabwe’s currency, and the declination of wheat, coffee, tea, and maize production.

On the other hand, this program has had a positive effect on black farmers of Zimbabwe. The land reform turned 6,000 white farmers into 245,000 black farmers, most of which were too poor to obtain land through other means. As a result of this program, black farmers obtained small plots of land, which they continue to work. While certain crops’ yields have plummeted, tobacco production has risen and become a major cash crop. In 2011, black farmers shared $400 million in tobacco growth, each averaging $6000 of income. New investments in land have also reached the country’s infrastructure, such as the construction of schools, dams and roads.

There is no easy solution to this racial division of land. President Mugabe has alienated a portion of Zimbabwe’s citizens – white farmers. The land reform diminishes or strips them of their livelihood and forces them to start anew elsewhere. Even though some may have been born as a Zimbabwean, white farmers are seen as “visitors.” This program fights oppression with oppression – accepting violence and intimidation as a means to an end. However, this policy allows black farmers to advance in an industry where they have faced many difficulties. It allows black Zimbabweans to take control of their land and find economic success where they originally had little or none. It, in turn, gives them a sense of nationalist pride after the years of white-minority rule. The effects of the new economy have hit Zimbabwe hard, and the change in its agricultural market will require time for adjustment.

In the end, only time can tell where Zimbabwe goes from here.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.  


Brook Amos, Recognizing Historical Disparages to Help Zimbabwe Move Forward, J. Gender Race & Just. (Oct. 02, 2009), http://blogs.law.uiowa.edu/jgrl/

Mugabe Denies Blame for Zimbabwe, CNN (Sept. 24 2009), http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/africa/09/24/zimbabwe.mugabe.amanpour/index.html?_s=PM:WORLD

Colin Freeman, The End of an Era for Zimbabwe’s Last White Farmers?, The Telegraph, June 26, 2011, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/zimbabwe/8598458/The-end-of-an-era-for-Zimbabwes-last-white-farmers.html

Godfrey Marawanyika, Thank You, Mr. Mugabe: Zimbabwe’s Forced Land Redistribution Led to Huge Controversy – but it has Transformed the Lives of Thousands of Small Farmers, The Independent, Nov. 05, 2013, available at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/thank-you-mr-mugabe-zimbabwes-forced-land-redistribution-led-to-huge-controversy–but-it-has-transformed-the-lives-of-thousands-of-small-farmers-8923229.html

Prof. Ian Scoones, Robert Mugabe’s Violent Seizure of White Farms Liberated Zimbabwe’s Agriculture Sector, Int’l Bus. Times, Nov. 25, 2013, available at http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/zimbabwe-robert-mugabe-benefits-land-reform-524929

Lydia Polgreen, In Zimbabwe Land Takeover, a Golden Lining, N.Y. Times, July 20, 2012, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/21/world/africa/in-zimbabwe-land-takeover-a-golden-lining.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Spring/Summer 2014 Blog Topics

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 The Widener Journal of Law, Economics and Race would like to announce the topics of our Spring/Summer 2014 blogs!


Our blogs will feature the following four topics:

      1)  Domestic Violence Issues and the Law, Economics, & Race

2)  International Law & Race

3)  The Economics of Environmental Regulation

4)  Religion & Race 


New blog entries will be added every Monday. Thank you for supporting the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race!