Michael Byers

Michael Byers holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Unfrozen Sea: The Arctic Grail

Michael Byers, 22 March 2007

‘Where has all the ice gone?’ Joe Immaroitok asked. It was 24 October last year, and he was staring at Foxe Basin. A shallow expanse of ocean the size of England, the basin usually freezes over by early October, enabling the Inuit to travel across to Baffin Island to hunt caribou. This winter, the local council in Igloolik was considering chartering a plane to take the hunters...

War Crimes: the limits of self-defence

Michael Byers, 17 August 2006

‘I entirely understand the desire, and indeed need, for Israel to defend itself properly,’ Tony Blair said on 14 July. ‘As a sovereign nation, Israel has every right to defend itself,’ George W. Bush said on 16 July. By the time these statements were made, the IDF had bombed Beirut’s international airport, destroyed roads, bridges, power stations and petrol...

The most important upcoming decision on Britain’s future might be made three days before the general election, when representatives from 188 countries gather in Manhattan to consider the future of the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The NPT codified a bargain between the five states which then possessed nuclear weapons – Britain, China, France, the Soviet Union and the...

On Thinning Ice: When the Ice Melts

Michael Byers, 6 January 2005

“It’s difficult to overstate the perilousness of the situation. Climate change, instead of occurring slowly over millennia, will soon outpace the ability of many species to adapt and evolve, and not just in the Arctic. An article a year ago in Nature estimated that between 15 and 37 per cent of terrestrial species – that is, more than a million discrete forms of life – will be extinct by 2050. In any case, climate change is already disrupting the lives of millions of human beings. According to James Morris, the executive director of the World Food Programme, the number of people suffering food crises as a result of natural disasters has tripled in the last thirty years. Such effects are usually attributed to a combination of overpopulation, widespread deforestation and degrading soils, but weather events brought about by climate change can provoke and exacerbate humanitarian crises.”

The CIA could not break the former Iraqi president. After nearly seven months of interrogation and solitary confinement, a fit and imperious looking Saddam Hussein surveyed the US-financed Iraqi special tribunal, smiled and then pronounced: ‘This is theatre. Bush is the real criminal.’

Dishevelled, confused and compliant when captured, Saddam must have seemed the perfect puppet...

Reasons to Comply: international law

Philippe Sands, 20 July 2006

Not since World War Two has the nature and adequacy of international law provoked such a debate, both in Britain and abroad. A great number of international agreements have been adopted over the...

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