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The Society annually bestows three book awards, known as ASIL Certificates of Merit, for a "preeminent contribution to creative scholarship;" in "a specialized area of international law;" and for "high technical craftsmanship and utility to practicing lawyers and scholars." The winners are selected by the Society's Executive Council on the nomination of the Book Awards Committee and are presented at the Society's Annual Meeting.
The 2016-2017 Awards Committee is Chantal Thomas (chair), Margaret de Guzman, David Gantz, Gary Horlick, and Peter Tomka. Chantal Thomas graciously provided the following descriptions of the selected works as well as the Committee's grounds for selecting this year's nominees.
In the category "creative scholarship," the Awards Committee selected David L. Sloss, The Death of Treaty Supremacy: An Invisible Constitutional Change. (Oxford, 2016).
In The Death of Treaty Supremacy: An Invisible Constitutional Change, Professor David Sloss explains-- without casting aspersions—how lawyers and courts, not legislatures, effectively freed US states in practice from the requirement of complying with treaties. The volume speaks to the historically troubled relationship between domestic civil rights and international human rights, showing how this turn by the courts limited the reach of U.S. international law obligations to invalidate instances of domestic governmental discrimination, from post-World War II treatment of Japanese nationals to Southern Jim Crow. In this fascinating account, Professor Sloss further demonstrates how these jurisprudential moves led directly to the tragic tale of Mr. Medellin and the logical exposure of US travelers—including international lawyers reading this—to similar mistreatment abroad. The implications go well beyond consular assistance to the entire question of the position of the United States in a system of international law that, in other respects, it helped so much to build. This is a trenchant and powerful case study with profound implications for our understanding of the relationship between international and foreign relations law in the United States.
In the category "specialized area," the Book Awards Committee selected Petros C. Mavroidis, The Regulation of International Trade, Volumes 1 & 2. (MIT Press, 2016).
In writing The Regulation of International Trade, Professor Mavroidis (Columbia Law School and the University of Neuchatel), has called on a professional lifetime of studying and teaching international trade law. Volume I focuses on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade from the negotiations in 1945-46 to the present day jurisprudence of the Dispute Settlement Body. Volume II analyzes the World Trade Organization Agreements on Trade in Goods, including not only those concluded during the Uruguay Round but also the few negotiated during the ill-fated Doha Round, such as the Trade Facilitation Agreement. In each instance it presents a picture of the law, including primary, secondary and case law, along with an analysis of relevant literature and Professor Mavroidis’ own critique. In his introduction Professor Mavroidis states that his objective was to “write a book that would be accessible to lawyers, political scientists and economists.” The Committee believes that he has fully succeeded in doing so.
In the category "technical craftsmanship," the Book Awards Committee selected Andrew Clapham, Paola Gaeta & Marco Sassòli, The 1949 Geneva Conventions: A Commentary. (Oxford, 2015).
The 1949 Geneva Conventions: A Commentary collects the insights of over 60 international law experts. The volume’s in-depth analysis of the four Geneva Conventions is organized not as a traditional article‑by‑article commentary, but rather thematically by subject matter, making it an accessible research tool for academics and practitioners alike. This is a timely publication in light of recent developments in the nature of armed conflicts and in the related fields of human rights law and international criminal law. The exemplary technical craftsmanship the book exhibits, together with its thorough analysis, make it a must-read for those interested in understanding and applying the Conventions.
Gabriela Femenia is Foreign and International Law Librarian and Lecturer at Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.