This Day in International Law–April 17

By: Laurence Cromp-Lapierre |

April 17, 1895: China’s defeat at the hands of Japan

The Empire of Japan and the Qing Dynasty signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki, also referred to as the Treaty of Maguan, on April 17, 1895 in Shimonoseki . The treaty ended the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, and signified a clear victory for Japan. This war, which took place between August 1, 1894 and April 17, 1895, was primarily over the control of Korea. Namely, Japan wanted to end China’s influence over Korea. Through Article 1 of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, China acknowledged the full and complete independence and autonomy of Korea and renounced any claims to that country. According to the terms of the treaty, China also had to cede several parts of its territory to Japan, such as the Liaodong Peninsula and the islands of Formosa (known today as Taiwan) and Penghu (also referred to as the Pescadores).

This treaty caused a stir on the international stage. Indeed, the treaty expressly provided that China had to cede the Liaodong Peninsula, including the harbor city of Port Arthur, to Japan. As soon as the terms of the treaty became public, Russia, concerned about this acquisition, convinced France and Germany to participate in a diplomatic intervention (also known as the Tripartite Intervention). This intervention was aimed to force Japan to retrocede one of the conquered territories, the Liaodong Peninsula, to China. Because of the military superiority of those three countries, Japan had to adhere to the intervention and reluctantly withdrew its forces from the Peninsula in exchange of a 30 million kuping taels (450 million yen) indemnity. The Tripartite Intervention, and Japan’s reaction to it, were one of the causes leading to the Russo-Japanese War.

Laurence Cromp-Lapierre is an L.L.M. Candidate at Berkeley Law. She is a student contributor for Travaux.

This Day in International Law: February 20

By: Aaron Voit

On February 20, 2005, Spanish voters approved a treaty establishing a European Constitution. The Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe, as it was also known, would have given full legal force to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, guaranteeing European Union (EU) citizens and residents certain political, social, and economic rights. The Treaty also would have expanded Qualified Majority Voting, the system of voting used by the Council of the European Union that assigns weight to votes in accordance with country population, to other policy areas previously decided by unanimity among member states.

Facing low voter turnout from an apathetic electorate, the Spanish government hired celebrities to promote the treaty. The National Electoral Commission later denounced the Spanish government’s promotion of the treaty, requiring that the government’s campaign be purely informative. The European Constitution was ultimately approved in Spain with a historically low voter turnout, but despite approval from eighteen EU countries, the rejection from the French and Dutch brought the ratification process to an end.

However, two major substantive measures of the treaty have since been implemented. The Charter of Fundamental Rights became legally binding across the EU when the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force in 2009. The Treaty of Lisbon also implemented a new system of Qualified Majority Voting known as “double majority” which took effect in November 2014.

Aaron Voit is a J.D. candidate at Berkeley Law.  He is a student contributor to Travaux.

This Day in International Law – December 5th

By: Liana Solot

On December 5th, 1978, the Soviet Union (USSR) signs a “friendship treaty” with the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. This act was significant to international law, mostly because this treaty was later used as a pretext for the Soviet invasion. Major uprisings occurred regularly against the government led by members of the traditional establishment who lost their privileges in the land reform. The government responded with heavy military reprisals and arrested, and exiled and executed many Mujahideen (holy Muslim warriors). The Mujahideen belonged to a number of different factions, but all shared, to varying degrees, a similarly conservative ‘Islamic’ ideology. This led to the Soviet war in Afghanistan the following year, in December 1979, when the USSR organized a massive military airlift into Kabul. Soviet forces secured Kabul, against Darul Aman Palace. With Aman’s death, Babrak Karmal took place as Afghanistan’s new head of government.

 Liana Solot is an L.L.M. Candidate at Berkeley Law. She is a student contributor for Travaux.