What the world can learn from scenes at the United States Capitol Today, January 06, 2021 as Electoral College Votes are counted

By Matthew Nyanplu

Angry mobs, mainly pro Trump supporters today stormed the United States Capitol as Electoral College Votes are being counted to certify Democratic Joe Biden’s win of the US Elections of November 03, 2020. Mr Trump has not accepted defeat, and his supporters are hoping to take it by force.

These are some lessons we can learn from today’s scenes at the United States Capitol:

1.) If Mr Donald Trump was the President of a third world country, he would have out-rightly rigged the elections, and deployed state security forces to hold on to power. Today, the United States, the “greatest” nation of earth gets a feel of what dictators in third world countries do.

2.) Thankfully, we can trust the strength of US Institutions that this broad day power grab, no matter what, will not see the light of day. We believe the United States is strong enough to ensure that the will of its majority citizens who voted Joe Biden is respected. It says much about the difference between third world and consolidated democracies; and this is why leaders in third world countries often tamper with State Institutions. Because it is exactly at these moments that they endear state institutions to act towards their selfish ends, in violation of popular will. We trust the US will fend off this challenge and hopefully its citizens will NEVER toy with authoritarian tendencies.

3.) The third lesson is to us citizens from third world countries; we should also NOT toy with authoritarian and illiberal tendencies. As the United States situation shows to us, even the most sophisticated democracy is fragile, and democracy can be lost. As we vote, in spite of whatever disapproval of the political status quo, we should NEVER be tempted to try “non politicians” in political positions as high as the Presidency. The consequences are dire, most especially if such a figure shows gross disregard for established precedents and the most basic tenets of democracy, free expression. It can get worse as we see from the United States today. Mr Donald Trump is trying to superimpose himself on the people of the United States by stealing away the power that they took away from him on November 03, 2020. If this were a third world country, and Mr. Trump finding it difficult to get his will through, the military would have helped him, and we know too well the consequences, a civil war could be the ultimate end, and lives would be lost, maybe in the hundreds of thousands. Thankfully, we trust the United States is sophisticated for this, and we hope she fends this off and moves forward. The world is watching and the world looks to America for leadership of the free world.

Matthew Nyanplu is Student Chief Editor of this blog. He is pursuing a master of arts in international affairs at Johns Hopkins SAIS Europe.

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How the lack of an internationally coherent definition of trafficking-in-persons obscures the act, and abets perpetrators

Human trafficking continues to affect human lives around the world. It turns out that perpetrators find loopholes in the inconsistent definition of the act across countries to ply their trade. Different countries rely on their penal codes to define what constitutes a crime and what does not. But traffickers find havens in the fact that across borders, definitions diverge. Who a trafficker is in a particular country may differ based on criminal statutes. But the trade booms across borders. In this series looking at trafficking-in-persons, student bloggers Amber Malone and Nicolas Carpenter take on the issue and suggest ways how countries can coordinate their definition of the crime to act in a coordinated way against perpetrators, save victims, restore their human rights and dignity and stamp out the act.

Human trafficking is among the most pervasive crimes committed in the world. Human trafficking is present in every country and every region of the world. There seem to be no exceptions in terms cultures, economic prosperity, or political system. Wherever there is economic activity there is human trafficking. No one would dispute that human trafficking threatens lives, livelihoods and human dignity. Indeed, traffickers harm their victims and threaten the rule of law in the countries they operate. The European Union places it amongst other challenges to human rights and democracy as it robs victims of the right to self-determination, bodily autonomy, and the ability to provide for themselves. Undoubtedly it harms the individual’s human rights and is not conducive to any human society.

But what is human trafficking? The foremost obstacle in confronting human trafficking is simply creating an accurate perception and forming an agreed-upon definition among ordinary citizens, NGOs, and Governments. Without a coherent understanding of what human trafficking is perpetrators cannot be prosecuted, and victims will remain invisible in the discussion on rights enjoyment and protections. Without a better understanding of trafficking, identifying victims and giving them the help and support they need to escape exploitation become impossible.

Standing in the way of understanding human trafficking is the fact that organizations tasked with combating it define trafficking differently. The United Nations for example, defines it as, the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them.” While the U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as: “the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” The difference is subtle, but important because to label an infraction a crime, such must be defined by statute. The American DHS only concerns itself with forced labor or sex work while the UN contends any use of force to exploit someone—for any reason—is human trafficking. The differences in definitions alters who is considered a perpetrator or a victim of trafficking. This is only a small sample of how differing Government and institutional arrangements define trafficking, and not how the differing definitions maybe influenced by different institutional goals. An NGO operating in the European Union to end trafficking among migrant communities will engage based on a different definition, while a law enforcement agency tasked with prosecuting perpetrators within the same location may use a different definition. The inconsistency in definition then creates a loophole which is exploited by perpetrators.

In addition, the gray area among refugees, stateless persons, and trafficked victims presents some conceptual challenges and, thus, hinders the provision of protection. In addition to refugees, stateless persons and trafficked victims are entitled to their fundamental human rights.  However, not all stateless persons or trafficked victims are refugees, and a substantial number of persons in both categories move irregularly. Stateless persons are not considered citizens of any State. Stateless persons can be refugees and, in this case, are entitled to the protections delineated in the 1951 Refugee Convention. For those who are not refugees, the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons regulates the services provided for stateless persons to ensure their full enjoyment of rights. Many stateless individuals risk becoming victims of trafficking. In addition, while trafficked victims maintain nationality even when they are moved across borders, traffickers may confiscate documents proving identity, essentially rendering their victims stateless. This scenario is particularly concerning as states lacking cooperative and efficient measures are unable to verify identities for repatriation. Trafficked victims – depending on their circumstances– who have been moved across international borders also should be protected as refugees until they are returned to their countries of origin.

Adding to the confusion is the wildly inaccurate portrayal of human trafficking in popular media. Such portrayal has so many inaccuracies attached to it that few people have a firm understanding of what trafficking in persons is. Movies and television programs create images of mobsters abducting tourists and young women being kidnapped in vans. Popular images of trafficking again obscure who is a victim. The stereotype is that underage girls are the primary target of trafficking. While it is true that women are in most circumstances at greater risk than men, in specific circumstances, more men than women are targeted for trafficking.

This leads to the second misconception popular culture has created around trafficking about why victims are trafficked in the first place. The misconception being that trafficking is most often done for the purposes of sex work. This is not always the case. In the parts of the European Union, labor trafficking is far more prevalent than sex trafficking. Wrapped up in the misconception about why victims are trafficked is again the question of who is trafficked. People of all genders can be and are labor-or-sex trafficked.

A third misconception about trafficking caused by popular culture is the medium through which people are trafficked. Images of victims being abducted by armed strangers is largely inaccurate. Many people are introduced to trafficking by people they know. Individuals can be victimized by or become victims of their acquaintances, friends, and even domestic partners. Recruiters use social media and the internet to great effect when finding new preys. Another popular trope is victims being taken from one country and forced to work in another. This is in fact not only trafficking, it is also smuggling. It is possible for victims to be both trafficked and smuggled but smuggling and trafficking are two different crimes, and conflating them makes it difficult to respond to either crimes effectively. It is true that international migrant workers are at risk of being trafficked, but many are trafficked after they arrive in a new country. All these confusions and incoherence in definitions make human trafficking difficult to combat.

The evident lack of a coherent definition of trafficking-in-persons between countries, and the fact that the crime is largely perpetrated across borders, in a sense, abets perpetrators. And until countries can coordinate their actions, efforts to stamp out the practice may continue to be elusive. Low reporting numbers from victims, the inability or unwillingness of law enforcement agencies to bring trafficking charges —or worse, the criminalizing of victims, and countless other challenges stand in the way of prosecuting traffickers and bringing justice to victims. For governments, civil society organizations, and society at large, responding to human trafficking with a clear-eyed understanding of the issue will go a long way in crafting and exacting effective countermeasures to stamp it out.


Amber Malone is a second-year Graduate Student in International Affairs at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). She previously worked in Public Policy and Communications with the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi.

Nick Carpenter is a first year Graduate Student in International Relations at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His concentration is Strategic Studies, focusing on global security challenges and how to address them.

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Save the date! The CCSDD will restart September 1


Ciao amici!

We hope you are staying safe and enjoying your summer! We at the CCSDD would like to wish our loyal followers a warm and restful August, and inform you all that we will resume our activities on September 1st. Until then, arrivederci!

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NATO’S Aspirations in the Constitutional Preamble of Ukraine: Distorting Historical Roots of the Constitution or Reflecting Societal Changes?

Click here to read about how states such as Ukraine formalize their desire for NATO membership within their own constitutions, according to CCSDD and Bocconi University professors Justin Frosini and Viktoriia Lapa.

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“Freedom of the Profession versus the Health Emergency: The Physical and Spiritual Protection of the Lutheran Citizen”

CCSDD researcher, Dr. Giuseppina Scala, has published a short chronicle on the Swedish government’s measures affecting the right to profess the Lutheran religion within the Kingdom of Sweden during the COVID-19 emergency. Her contribution is available on the DiReSom (Law and Religion in Multicultural Societies)
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The Rojava Experiment: Ideological Manifesto or New Legal Order? – Taysier Roberto Mahajnah


Taysier Roberto Mahajnah


The construction of the nation-state brings conflicting and contradictory elements. Hannah Arendt underlines that if these elements are subject to the State as a coerced apparatus to the functions of the Nation,[1] the conflictual aspects then become concretely worrying when the political borders do not overlap with ethnic ones, creating fractures within the democratic order. Secessions and declarations of independence could mitigate, in the short term, these fractures. In the same way, from these instruments, could be born again a nation-state with a different ethnic minority who will be affected. The punctum dolens, therefore, is not the legal instrument used; it is the State structure that manifests itself in a fragile way towards ethnic issues, especially present in the panorama of North-African and Middle-East countries. For this reason, it becomes necessary to consider a system that is an alternative to the state configuration, in which the powers (judicial, legislative, and executive) live in the social body. From this observation arises the fundamental question: “Can democracy exist without a state?” To answer, it is necessary to reconstruct one of the most important experiments: the “Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria”, commonly known as “Rojava”, a de facto autonomous region that is building its legal order on the anti-state idea. I will try to analyze the main pillars of “Rojava” such as its Constitution and its legislative and judicial functioning to understand if, despite the absence of a State apparatus (precisely a headless State), a binding legal order can exist.

Continue reading

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Forza Italia!


Friends of the CCSDD, please consider donating to the GoFundMe fundraiser by Elif Nisa Polat:

Forza Italia!

The Fondazione Sant’Orsola ONLUS, in agreement with the Policlinico, has activated a fundraising campaign in support of the hospitals and healthcare staff in Bologna. This campaign will support 2 organizations in the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy:

1. Sant’Orsola Foundation, which supports hospitals in Bologna and health workers who are on the frontlines of the fight against the Coronavirus.

2. Civil Protection Agency, which provides wide-range support in identifying infected individuals, logistics, and emergency response.

The proceedings of this campaign will be split in half between those institutions in order to provide support to those trying to limit the spread of the virus and those treating patients. Even a small donation can help this campaign reach its fundraising goal. And if you cannot make a donation, please feel free to share and help spread the word!

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“European Constitutional Courts and Transitions to Democracy” – Francesco Biagi

We are very pleased to announce that CCSDD Researcher Francesco Biagi’s new book, European Constitutional Courts and Transitions to Democracy, is out! The volume, published by Cambridge University Press, brings together research on democratization processes and constitutional justice by examining the role of three generations of European constitutional courts in the transitions to democracy that took place in Europe in the twentieth century. Using a comparative perspective, Biagi examines how the constitutional courts during that period managed to ensure an initial full implementation of the constitutional provisions, thus contributing – together with other actors and factors – to the positive outcome of the democratization processes. Congratulations Francesco!

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CCSDD visits Maastricht conference: “EU Agencies as ‘Inbetweeners’? The Relationship between EU Agencies and Member States”


This past Wednesday and Thursday (December 4-5), our very own Dr. Marko Milenkovic took part in the “EU Agencies as ‘Inbetweeners’? The Relationship between EU Agencies and Member States” conference at Maastricht. Dr. Milenkovic served as the chair of panel 6, titled “EU Agencies and Member States: political and judicial accountability.” During the conference, participants discussed future activities for The Academic Research Network on EU Agencies & Institutional Innovation (TARN) network.

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Queen Mate!

December 10, 2019

Justin O. Frosini, Adjunct Professor of Constitutional Law

In his latest for Eastwest Magazine, Professor Frosini examines the September British court ruling that the prorogation of parliament called by Boris Johnson was illegal, and the ensuing divergent support base for the Queen after she approved Johnson’s advice. “It goes without saying that arguing in favour of abolishing the Monarchy is perfectly legitimate, but accusing the Queen of violating the Constitution because she did not stop Boris Johnson’s unlawful prorogation of Parliament is simply untenable.”

Read the full article here at https://www.bipr.eu/newsandviews.cfm?id=2B294A44-F5CD-4EFB-7883EAEA7E8E5133

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