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Law School Hosts International Law Journal Symposium, Forces Without Borders: Non-State Actors in a Changing Middle East

On February 17 and 18, scholars from various countries and disciplines gathered at Myron Taylor Hall for the 2012 International Law Journal symposium, Forces Without Borders: Non-State Actors in a Changing Middle East. International law has traditionally focused on states, but Forces Without Borders explored the role and legal status of increasingly-prominent non-state forces – including protesters, women’s rights groups, religious organizations, corporations, and others – in the “Arab Spring.” 

Professor Jordan Paust of the University of Houston Law Center delivers the keynote speech. Professor Jeremy Telman, Valparaiso University School of Law. Students look on as Professor Paust delivers the keynote. Professor Bernard K. Freamon, Professor, Seton Hall University School of Law.


Jordan Paust delivered the keynote address, which considered the importance of dignity as an international legal value, as well as the idea of self-determination assistance in Libya and other contexts. Hannibal Travis gave a paper exploring the complex set of forces contributing to the Arab Spring. Shima Baradaran presented research on international safeguards against terrorism based on an experiment in which her research team posed as religious charities seeking to incorporate anonymously in a number of different countries.

Cornell’s own Chantal Thomas, professor of law and director of the Clarke Initiative for Law and Development in the Middle East and North Africa, moderated a panel entitled “Women: Visibility, Rights, and a Status in Flux,” which featured Erika George of the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, Hedayat Heikal of Cleary Gottlieb, and Ann Mayer of The Wharton School.

In his paper, D.A. Jeremy Telman of Valparaiso University Law School used the contemporary Middle Eastern context to examine certain strengths and weaknesses of rationalist international theory. Based on field research in Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt in the Spring of 2011, Karima Bennoune of Rutgers School of Law presented a paper on the interaction of fundamentalism and women’s rights groups. Dr. Yaël Ronen from UCLA School of Law presented a paper exploring the human rights obligations of non-state territorial entities.

Finally, Jens Ohlin, associate professor of law at Cornell moderated a panel entitled “Transitional Rule of Law, Human Rights, and the State/Non-State Dichotomy,” featuring Bernard K. Freamon of Seton Hall Law, Scott MacLeod of the American University in Cairo, and Moria Paz of Stanford Law School.

Various members of the Journal organized the symposium, including Ann Eisenberg ‘12, Sarah Heim ‘13, Andrew Orr ‘12, and Courtney Finerty ‘13.  The Journal will publish an issue devoted to the symposium, and video from the event will eventually be available online.