Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Word(s) up

Those of us who've labored at international law learned long ago that the just about the last place to find the meaning of terms in our field was the standard domestic reference.
Not at any more: Black's Law Dictionary has gone global.
That's the takeaway from the Autumn 2009 edition of The Green Bag, now celebrating its 13th year as "an entertaining journal of law."* Adjudging the newest edition of Black's "a product of its time," an article entitled "Timely Definitions" cites 8 "new entries" as cases in point.
A definition in 1 of the 8 entries alludes to the globalized nature of contemporary practice, for it traces a term not obviously international -- "advance-fee fraud" -- to its "believed" origins in Nigeria.
Fully 4 of the remaining 7 terms deal specifically with matters of interest to specialists in international or foreign relations law. These indeed reflect our times, ranging from "conflict diamond" to "national-security letter" to "waterboarding."
The 4th term in this latter group?

complementarity principle. International law. The doctrine that a country with control of a person accused of violating international criminal law has the jurisdiction to charge and try a person. · Because the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court is complementary to the criminal jurisdiction of countries, that tribunal can assert jurisdiction over the accused person only if the country is unable or unwilling to undertake a genuine investigation and prosecution. – Sometimes shortened to complementarity.

This new entry, in particular, underscores that lawyers need to know a lot about law's operation at inter- as well as -national levels.

* To which yours truly was pleased to have contributed "Under Deconstruction: International Criminal Law in a Postmodern World," 3 Green Bag 2d 369 (2000).

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