Monday, December 20, 2004

Final Exam

Posting has been light recently due to the demands of end-of-the semester grading. For those who didn't have the privilege of taking International Organizations and Law this semester, here's the final exam:


On Christmas morning, you are surprised to find a handwritten note inside a present you’ve just opened. It reads:

HELP!!! I am being held along with over 400 of my fellow citizens in a forced labor camp in the Kingdom of North Pole. We are forced to work making toys 364 days a year. We are paid only a few dollars each day. The factory doors are locked from the outside so that we are confined to the workplace 24 hours a day. Although we have beds here and are given food each day, we are treated like prison inmates or slaves. Please, help us.

[signed] Biff
North Pole Elf-Determination Council

As a young international human rights lawyer, you recognize the significance of this plea for help and you decide to investigate further. A quick internet search turns up (1) references to sweatshops in North Pole in each of the last two editions of the U.S. State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices; (2) a series of three articles in the Washington Post focusing on allegations of serious human rights abuses in North Pole; and (3) a Human Rights Watch report entitled Santa Claus or Satan Claus? The Use of Forced Labor in North Pole. North Pole, you learn, is a state party to each of the major international human rights covenants and their optional protocols.

You attempt to contact Biff by phone, but a receptionist disclaims any knowledge of a person named Biff, an organization called the North Pole Elf-Determination Council, or a toy factory in North Pole. Based on the Department of State and Human Rights Watch reports, you feel certain the factory exists and that the note you have received is not a hoax.

Issue 1. Has a human rights violation occurred in Biff’s case? What specific rights, if any, have been violated? Does your answer to either of these questions change depending on whether the sweatshop in which Biff lives and works is state-owned or privately owned?

Issue 2. Within the human rights system of the United Nations, what are your options for obtaining relief for Biff? What conditions must be satisfied before you can pursue these options?

Your work within the human rights system of the United Nations succeeds in forcing the sweatshop in which Biff works to make some modest improvements in labor conditions. In fact, during one of the brief vacations that workers are given, Biff and several of his colleagues leave North Pole and make their way to the United States where they apply for refugee status. Biff contacts you and urges you to file suit on his behalf against Santa Claus, the operator of the notorious North Pole slave labor camp. Having never been given the pony you always wanted for Christmas when you were a child, you are only too eager to sue Santa.

Issue 3. To which court do you take your case? What argument do you make for the jurisdiction of that court? How would the determination that Santa Claus is the head of state for North Pole affect your legal strategy?