London may still be for the moment the “libel tourism” capital of the world for affronted folk, but Paris has its strong points, too, if the case of Professor Joseph H. H. Weiler is anything to go by. A professor of law at NYU and the editor-in-chief of the European Journal of International Law, Professor Weiler was summoned to appear in French criminal court to defend himself against a complaint of criminal libel lodged by Dr. Karin N. Calvo-Goller, a senior lecturer at the Academic Center of Law & Business in Israel. The basis for her complaint? Professor Weiler approved the publication of a review of her book, The Trial Proceedings of the International Criminal Court. ICTY and ICTR Precedents, written by Professor Thomas Weigend, Dr. jur., Professor of Law, Director of the Cologne Institute of Foreign and International Criminal Law and currently Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Cologne, a review with which she disagreed and which Professor Weiler declined to withdraw upon her complaint to him.
Yes, that’s right: a bad review — which actually was not as bad as all that — by a German, published by an American of a book written by an Israeli has led to action in a French court.
The story is all over the academic blogosphere, as well it might be. But you can find a quick summary in the polemic on Opino Juris, and a brief speculation about the connection to France in a piece on Conflict of Laws .net (Dr. Calvo-Goller was born in France and may be a French national). But for the full story you couldn’t do better than to read the editorial [direct link to PDF] by the accused in the EJIL that the accused publishes: it is a model of a fair and full exposition of the facts, given that they all happened in print, published or otherwise.
Here you’ll find, first of all, a link to the review, itself a mere four paragraphs long! Then there follows the exchange of letters, involving, among other things, an offer by Professor Weiler to publish a statement by Dr. Calvo-Goller alongside the review, an offer she declined. Finally, Professor Weiler makes an appeal for financial assistance. As you can well imagine, an appearance in a foreign criminal court — even one destined to be brief, I hope — will prove to be expensive.