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Research & Litigation

Ask-a-Librarian: We Are Here for You

In Custodia Legis - 8 hours 15 min ago

This guest post is by the chief of the Law Library’s Public Services Division, Andrew Winston. Andrew has written several posts for the blog, including The Constitution Annotated–Impeachment ClausesFederal Courts Web Archive LaunchedA Visit to the Peace Palace Library, and The Revised Statutes of the United States: Predecessor to the U.S. Code.

Anna Price, legal reference librarian, at the Law Library of Congress Reading Room reference desk. Photo by Barbara Bavis. [Note: the photo is for illustrative purposes only; no staff are currently working in the Reading Room.]

Our reading room is closed, college campuses are quiet, and schools are empty. Learning, however, still continues. The Law Library wants to make sure that researchers know that we are still here for you, albeit online (and, alas, without the benefit of access to our print collection at the present).

If you’ve never taken advantage of our Ask-a-Librarian service, allow us to introduce you!

Through our online reference service, we can help you with:

  • Legal and legislative research assistance for US federal and state, foreign, international, and comparative law
  • Queries on resources unique to the Law Library of Congress

We typically respond within five business days (often faster!).

We can assist you by directing you to resources that may help answer your question or advance your research. However, there are a few things we cannot help you with:

  • Providing legal advice, interpretation, or analysis which could be interpreted as the practice of law (that includes interpreting pending or enacted laws and how they affect you)
  • Performing research for you or compiling bibliographies or legislative histories
  • Providing answers for student assignments

If you can’t find a resource on the Law Library website on your own, consider reaching out to us via Ask-a-Librarian. We’re here to help!

By the way, our colleagues in other parts of the Library of Congress are also here to help! Reference librarians from across the Library are monitoring all the Ask-a-Librarian sites and welcome your questions on other topics, too.

Categories: Research & Litigation

New Report Published: Airport Noise Regulations

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 03/27/2020 - 3:05pm

The Homestead, Hot Springs, Virginia. Airport, Gottscho-Schleisner Collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. //

As airlines and airports are limiting operations across the globe, many airports are significantly less busy and noisy than usual. However, they are not completely quiet and there are reports that some commercial airplanes continue to fly, without passengers.

In a recently-published report, Airport Noise Regulations, the Law Library of Congress looks at national strategies and rules for reducing noise from civil airports, including building regulations and tax penalties for airlines and airports that violate set noise level thresholds. The reports covers France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, as well as the European Union. Although all jurisdictions surveyed subscribe to the “balanced approach” of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), they have used different measures and approaches to attain the same goal of limiting and reducing the number of people affected by significant aircraft noise. We hope you find it interesting!

You can also search the Current Legal Topics or Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports pages for additional reports from the Law Library. To receive alerts when new reports are published, you can subscribe to email updates and the RSS feed for Law Library Reports (click the “subscribe” button on the Law Library’s website.

And please remember, you can always contact us via Ask a Librarian if you have a foreign or US law question.

Categories: Research & Litigation

New Report Compares Regulation of Gender Equality in the Middle East and North Africa

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 03/26/2020 - 9:00am

A recent Law Library of Congress report, Legal Provisions on Gender Equality, examines the legal provisions governing inheritance rights, the legal age of marriage, and the transmittal of citizenship through the mother in 18 Middle Eastern and North African countries. The countries surveyed include Israel, Iran, and 16 Arab countries (Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen).

Boiling over, by Mabel Lucie Attwell (May 30, 1914), Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress,

According to the report, constitutional provisions promoting the principle of gender equality may be found in many Arab countries. Gender equality in these countries, however, is usually subject to the standards of Islamic law that do not give women equal status with men. Israel does not have a one-document constitution but its Proclamation of Independence guarantees “complete equality . . . irrespective of religion, race, or sex.”

The report notes that Arab countries and Iran apply Islamic law to matters of inheritance. Under this law, a woman’s share of an inheritance is generally half that of a man. Israel is the only country in the Middle East that does not differentiate between males and females with regard to inheritance.

The Israeli Citizenship Law similarly does not differentiate between a husband and wife for purposes of acquisition of citizenship based on marriage to an Israeli citizen, nor does it differentiate between the parents based on their gender or marital status for purposes of conferring citizenship on a child. In contrast, Jordan, Qatar, and Lebanon do not allow mothers to transmit citizenship to their children. Countries such as Libya, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, condition such transmission on the child’s father being unknown or stateless. In Iran, women were unable to transmit citizenship to their children until the approval of a law allowing this by Iran’s Guardian Council in early October 2019.

Age of marriage laws in the countries surveyed vary. Underage marriage is allowed by the religious courts of many Arab countries. In Bahrain, the minimum age for marriage is 16 for females, while Yemen allow females as young as nine years old to marry. In Iran, the minimum age of marriage for females is 13 with marriages at an even younger age requiring approval by the child’s guardian and a court. In Israel, the minimum age of marriage is 18, and marrying, officiating, or assisting in the marriage of a minor in the absence of judicial authorization granted under special circumstances is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment or a fine. The criminal liability associated with underage marriage in Israel, however, does not affect the validity of the marriage where it is recognized under the personal status law of the parties.

The report explains that Israel’s Family Violence Prevention Law, 1991-5751, authorizes courts and religious tribunals to issue protective orders, order participation in treatment plans, and confiscate weapons to protect women and other family members from domestic violence. Unlike Israel, Iran, Egypt, Qatar, Oman, and Yemen do not have anti-domestic violence laws. While a number of Arab countries have adopted provisions criminalizing marital rape, countries such as Jordan and Lebanon have not done so.

We invite you to review the information provided in our report. You can also browse the Current Legal Topics or Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports pages for additional reports from the Law Library on related issues such as: Constitutional Provisions on Women’s Equality (July 2011); Inheritance Laws in the 19th and 20th Centuries (Mar. 2015); and Spousal Agreements for Couples Not Belonging to Any Religion—A Civil Marriage Option? (Sept. 2015). To receive alerts when new reports are published, you can subscribe to email updates and the RSS feed for Law Library Reports (click the “subscribe” button on the Law Library’s website).

Categories: Research & Litigation

Legal Research Reports: Legal Provisions on Gender Equality

Law Library of Congress: Research Reports - Wed, 03/25/2020 - 10:00am

The Law Library of Congress is proud to present the report, Legal Provisions on Gender Equality.

This report discusses the legal provisions governing inheritance rights, the legal age of marriage, and the transmittal of citizenship through the mother in 18 Middle Eastern and North African countries, including Israel, Iran, and 16 Arab countries (Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen). To the extent applicable, the report also discusses constitutional provisions promoting gender equality in these countries.

This report is one of many prepared by the Law Library of Congress. Visit the Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports page for a complete listing of reports and the Current Legal Topics page for our highlighted and newer reports. 

Categories: Research & Litigation

Join Us for an “Orientation to Legal Research” Webinar on Federal Regulations

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 03/24/2020 - 8:46am

The following is coauthored by Anna Price, a legal reference librarian at the Law Library of Congress.

Harris & Ewing, photographer. “Wage-Hour Administrator and assistants. Washington, D.C., Sept. 14…” 1938. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Recently, the Law Library of Congress started a new webinar series on U.S. laws and legal resources. We welcome you to attend the next entry in this series, regarding tracing federal regulations, which will take place on Thursday, April 9, 2020, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.

This webinar will provide an overview of U.S. federal regulations, including information about the notice and comment rulemaking process, the publication and citation of regulations, and the tracing of regulations from the Code of Federal Regulations, to the proposed rule in the Federal Register, to the regulation’s docket.

This webinar will be presented by the Law Library’s bibliographic and research instruction librarian, Barbara Bavis. Barbara holds a BA in history from Duke University, a JD from the University of North Carolina School of Law, and an Master of Science in Library and Information Science (MSLIS) with a specialization in law librarianship from Catholic University.

To register for the webinar, please click here or call (202) 707-5080.

Categories: Research & Litigation Keeps You Up To Date With Email Alerts

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 03/23/2020 - 6:26pm

Our latest release concerns a lot of work on back end infrastructure that is being built to support future enhancements, such as adding new collections and alerts to the site. Since this work concerns building support for future alerts, I thought this would be a good opportunity to review the many alerts that currently offers.

Member profile page alerts. If you click “get alerts” at the top of a member profile page, you will receive an email each time a member sponsors or cosponsors a piece of legislation.

Saved search alerts. You can choose to save a search, and then choose to receive email alerts when there has been a change to your results set. Also, if you perform your search from the legislation homepage search form or the advanced search form, you can track specific changes to legislation.

Bill activity alerts. If you click “get alerts” at the top of the page for a bill that is in the current Congress, and which has not yet passed both chambers of Congress, you will receive an email each time there is activity on a bill or a new summary.

You can receive an alert when new activity is taken on a bill or when there is a new summary.

Congressional Record alerts. If you choose to get an alert from the Congressional Record, you will be alerted by email whenever a new issue of the Congressional Record is available.

Committee Schedule alerts. You can click “get weekly alerts” at the top of a committee schedule page and receive an email every Monday with the committee schedule for the coming week.

You can receive an alert each Monday when the committee schedule for the upcoming week.

Nomination alerts. You can click “get alerts” on a nomination to receive an email when new actions are taken on a nomination.

In addition to email alerts, offers a variety of RSS feeds that will let you know what the top ten, most-viewed bills are for a given week; what is on the House and Senate floor for a given day; when a bill is presented to the president for a signature; when new features are added to; and more.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Coronavirus Resource Guide

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 03/20/2020 - 8:37am

This is intended as a guide to laws, regulations and executive actions in the United States, at both the federal and the state level, and in various countries with respect to the new coronavirus and its spread. We are also including links to Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports that provide information to Congress about the novel coronavirus. In addition, we provide links to relevant federal agency websites. We intend to update this guide on at least a weekly basis for the immediate future.

United States Legislation

H.R.6201, Families First Coronavirus Response Act (signed by the President on 3/18/2020)

Public Law 116-123, Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act

Proposed legislation relating to the novel coronavirus can be searched through the Library’s website. You can search for legislation through the homepage or explore other Search methods. Here is a broad starter query that finds current legislation about COVID-19  You can then set up Alerts so you are notified any time there is an action on a bill.

You can also use to explore the Most-Viewed bills, check the Congressional Record or look up your members.

Presidential Actions

  • Proclamation No. 9996, 85 F.R. 15341: Suspension of Entry of Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus (applied to persons traveling to the U.S. who have been in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland within the preceding 14 days)
  • Proclamation No. 9994, 85 F.R. 15337:  Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19) Outbreak
  • Presidential Memorandum, 85 F.R. 15049: Making General Use Respirators Available
  • Proclamation No.9993, 85 F.R. 15045 : Suspension of Entry of Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus (applied to persons traveling to the U.S. who have been in the Schengen Area within the preceding 14 days)
  • Proclamation No.9992, 85 F.R. 12855: Suspension of Entry of Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus (applied to persons traveling to the U.S. who have been in the Islamic Republic of Iran within the preceding 14 days)
  • Proclamation No. 9984, 85 F.R. 6709: Suspension of Entry of Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus (applied to persons traveling to the U.S. who have been the People’s Republic of China in the preceding 14 days, excluding Macau and Hong Kong)

U.S. Government Agencies

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Coronavirus Tax Relief

U.S. Department of Treasury Deferral of 2019 Tax Payments

State Government Information

You can use the Law Library’s Guide to Law Online for U.S. States and Territories to locate information about state actions taken in response to the novel coronavirus. Each state or territory has its own page in the Guide: see for example New Mexico. Each state page is organized in the same way with links divided into the various categories such as Constitution or Executive. Links to a state governor’s office and state administrative regulations can be found under the Executive header on each page while existing laws and pending state legislation can be found under the Legislative header .

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has created a page with information about State Tax Filing Guidance during the novel cronavirus Pandemic.

Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports

CRS reports can be accessed and searched from a link on the homepage. To date, CRS has published 43 reports relating to the Coronavirus. We are listing some of the more recent reports below but here is a link to the full list of reports.

Law Library Posts

Law Library Global Legal Monitor Articles

Users can search for GLM articles using Topics including “Epidemics” or “Infectious or parasitic diseases.” Users can also set up RSS feeds by Topic or Country and receive an alert when a new article is published.

Law Library of Congress Legal Reports

  • Legal Responses to Health Emergencies (25 countries).  This report was published five years ago and we suggest you check our GLM and blog articles for additional information about new laws and regulations issued for any of the countries covered in this report.

As always, if you have any questions, please contact us through Ask a Librarian.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Historical Law Library Reports to be Published Online

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 03/20/2020 - 8:04am

Compulsory Voting in Various European Countries. Washington, D.C.: Law Library of Congress, 1965.

The Law Library of Congress has digitized and published its first batch of historical legal reports as part of a multi-year effort to archive and share thousands of these reports with researchers and other members of the public.

These first 250 digitized reports are now available through the Publications of the Law Library of Congress collection, which features research reports and other publications on a wide range of legal topics. The reports were prepared by the Law Library of Congress in response to requests or recurring interest from Congress and other federal government entities on issues concerning foreign, comparative, and international law (FCIL).

In addition to current research products on FCIL topics, this collection includes legal reports that have been previously unavailable to the public. The reports contain analysis of foreign and international law from the period of the 1940s to the present, and will be released in phases that include both digitized paper reports as well as older born-digital reports that have not previously been made available online through Please note: these reports are provided for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and do not represent the official opinion of the United States Government. The information provided reflects research undertaken as of the date of writing, which has not been updated unless specifically noted.

This project presents the opportunity to engage new audiences with works authored by the Law Library over the last several decades. It will expand digital access not only for the legal historians, policymakers, scholars, and foreign legal specialists who currently refer to Law Library reports, but also for students of history, government, public policy, and international relations, as well as to interested members of the public who would benefit from the ability to sort, browse, and download these historical reports all in one online collection.

As part of a joint effort to provide increased access to Library-generated research reports, the Law Library is proud to work with the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO), who will provide full bibliographic records for these newly available reports. In addition to their availability on, these reports will also be discoverable through the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP).

Legislation Concerning Wiretapping and Eavesdropping in Near Eastern and African Countries. Washington, D.C.: Law Library of Congress, 1965.

Reports released in this first batch cover a range of legal topics from regions across the globe, from Eastern and Western Asia to Europe and Africa, and are mostly concentrated in the 1960s-1980s. One word of caution about the legibility of some of these older reports: many were digitized from thin, carbon paper copies and have not been found in any other printed format. In many cases, these historical copies represent the only known remaining versions of the reports, and the presentation quality is not what is available in contemporary Law Library reports. Please note that, in this batch as well as in future updates to the collection, there will be a wide range in the original quality of the older reports released, not due to the quality of the scanning, but due to the poor print quality of the copies of the original reports themselves.

Users can now browse this growing trove of historical legal research and analysis through the Law Library of Congress’s Digital Collections page, and can look forward to seeing updates on a regular basis. New and recent reports will continue to be published on, but will later be available in the digital collection as well. A complete list of reports currently hosted on is available through the Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports and current legal reports are available on the Current Legal Topics section of

Categories: Research & Litigation

FALQs: India’s Government Response to COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus)

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 03/19/2020 - 9:05am

The following is a guest post by Tariq Ahmad, a foreign law specialist in the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress. Tariq has previously contributed posts on Islamic Law in Pakistan – Global Legal Collection Highlights, the Law Library’s 2013 Panel Discussion on Islamic LawSedition Law in India, and FALQ posts on Proposals to Reform Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws and Article 370 and the Removal of Jammu and Kashmir’s Special Status.

The Law Library of Congress has published a number of blog posts and Global Legal Monitor articles related to COVID-19 responses in different jurisdictions.

This post provides an overview of some of India’s responses to Covid-19 (or novel coronavirus) by the union (or central) government and at the state level. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) as of March 19, 2020, ““166 COVID-19 cases (141 Indians and 25 foreign nationals) have been reported in 18 states/union territories. These include 15 who have recovered and 3 reported deaths. Hospital isolation of all confirmed cases, tracing and home quarantine of the contacts is ongoing.” The states of Maharastra, Kerala, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh appear to be the most affected.

Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (NIH Image Gallery Feb. 21, 2020), used under Creative Commons license 1.0)

1What is the constitutional and legal framework for the management of epidemics and health emergencies?

India is a union of twenty-eight states and seven territories, with a constitutional division of legislative responsibilities between the union government and the states that are enumerated by legislative subject lists in the Seventh Schedule of India’s Constitution. Both the union government and the state governments are constitutionally empowered to legislate on matters related to public health. The union law deals with port quarantine, including in connection with seamen’s and marine hospitals, and interstate quarantine. State legislatures may provide for matters relating to public health and sanitation, hospitals, dispensaries, and prevention of animal diseases. The union government and states have concurrent jurisdiction to prevent transmission from one state to another of infectious or contagious diseases or pests affecting humans, animals, or plants.

The Epidemic Diseases Act 1897, a 125 year old British colonial era law, is the main legislative framework at the union level for the prevention and spread of dangerous epidemic diseases. It was enacted to “tackle the epidemic of bubonic plague that broke out in the then Bombay state at the time.” According to one news report, it has been “historically used to contain the spread of various diseases — swine flu, cholera, malaria and dengue.” Section 2A of the Act empowers the union government to take necessary measures and prescribe regulations to deal with dangerous epidemic disease at ports of entry and exit. Under section 2, states are empowered to take special measures or promulgate regulations to deal with epidemics within their jurisdictions. Thus, any state government, when satisfied that any part of its territory is threatened with an outbreak of a dangerous disease, and upon determination that the ordinary provisions of the law are insufficient for the purpose, may adopt or authorize all measures, including inspection of traveling persons and quarantine, to prevent the outbreak of the disease. Section 3 stipulates that any person who disobeys any regulation or order made under the 1897 Act may be charged with an offense under the Indian Penal Code and a person is liable, upon conviction, to a sentence of simple imprisonment for one month, a fine, or both. Section 4 states that no suit or legal proceeding will be initiated against any person or authority for anything done, or in good faith intended to be done, under the Act.

The law has been described as “archaic,” having “major limitations” including placing “too much emphasis on isolation or quarantine measures, but is silent on the other scientific methods of outbreak prevention and control, such as vaccination, surveillance and organised public health response.” Nor, according to one report, does it have provisions “to speedily set up management systems required for a coordinated and concerted response.” Some states have amended the law as far as it is applicable in their jurisdictions with “regard to introduction of isolation or quarantine of infected patients, travel or movement restrictions, prohibition of mass gatherings, closure of educational and other institutions, compulsory vaccination, etc.” In addition, some states have their own health acts, but as one expert has put it, these vary in “quality and content” and are “policing” acts aimed at controlling epidemics and do not deal with coordinated and scientific responses to prevent and tackle outbreaks.”

2What measures has the government taken to contain the virus?

On the directions of Prime Minister Modi, a high level Group of Ministers (GOM) was “constituted to review, monitor and evaluate the preparedness and measures taken regarding management” of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has been coordinating the efforts of the central government “in order to mitigate the impact of the outbreak in India.” On March 11, 2020, the GOM decided that the MoHFW should advise all state and union territories to invoke section 2 of the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897, so that all advisories being issued by the MoHFW, the states and union territories, are enforceable. On the same day, the union government invoked section 69 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, to delegate powers of the Home Secretary, who is chairman of the National Executive Committee (NEC), which is a coordinating and monitoring body for disaster management, to the secretary of the MoHFW. Unlike the Epidemic Disease Act, this law “provides for an exhaustive administrative set up for disaster preparedness.” On March 14 the union government declared COVID-19 as a notified disaster and assistance is available under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF), which was established also under the Disaster Management Act.

Here are just some of the guidelines and guidance recently issued by the MoHFW (for a complete list click here):

Some states and union territories have also issued emergency measures and regulations (Karnataka being the first State to issue regulations) for their own jurisdictions pursuant to the Epidemic Disease Act to deal with COVID-19:

These regulations and measures vary but can include provisions on duties and obligations of hospitals and laboratories, powers of district administrations to implement containment measures (sealing off geographical areas, barring entry or exit of containment area, designating quarantine facilities, and closure of schools, offices, etc. and banning mass gatherings), and combatting COVID-19 related misinformation. The WHO also stated that various measures have been taken by central and state/union territory ministries “in terms of strengthened community surveillance, quarantine facilities, isolation wards, adequate PPEs, trained manpower, rapid response teams for management of COVID-19.”

3What are some of the travel and other visa restrictions that India has imposed in response to COVID-19?

India has been issuing travel advisories from January 17, 2020, with increasingly more stringent travel restrictions as the virus grew more virulent and global. On March 11, 2020, the government of India imposed visa and other travel restrictions that are enumerated in a consolidated advisory published by the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Bureau of Immigration (the bureau also has an FAQ document on the new restrictions). The advisory suspends most visas of those who have not entered into India, including all tourist visas, and went into effect on March 13, 2020. It does not apply to visas issued to official passport holders, such as diplomats, members of the UN or other international organizations, those on “[e]mployment, project visas and those who are operating aircrew of scheduled commercial airlines.”

Under the new advisory, travel to India for Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card holders is also suspended until April 15, 2020. This does not apply to OCI card holders who are already in India presently. Any foreign national (including OCI cardholder) who “intends to travel to India for compelling reasons may contact the nearest Indian Mission for a fresh visa.”

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has also issued compliance restrictions that must be followed:

i. Passengers traveling from/having visited Italy or Republic of Koreaand desirous of entering India will need certificate of having tested negative for COVID-19 from the designated laboratories authorized by the health authorities of these countries. This is in enforcement since 0000 hrs of 10th March, 2020 and is a temporary measure till cases of COVID-19 subside.

ii. All incoming travelers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after 15th February, 2020 shall be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days. This will come into effect from 1200 GMT on 13th March 2020 at the port of departure.

iii. Incoming travelers, including Indian nationals, are advised to avoid non-essential travel and are informed that they can be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days on their arrival in India.

iv.  Indian nationals are further strongly advised to refrain from travelling to China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, Japan, France, Spain and Germany.

Additional travel advisories published on March 16 and 17 have temporarily prohibited travelers from entering India from Afghanistan, Philippines, Malaysia, the European Union, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey and United Kingdom and expanded compulsory quarantine for additional countries. As the situation and response are changing daily, for a complete list of travel advisories visit the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare website and for the current travel and visa restrictions related to Covid-19 visit the Bureau of Immigration website.

Categories: Research & Litigation

FALQS: Qatar’s New Counterterrorism Law

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 03/18/2020 - 12:00pm

The following is a guest post by George Sadek, a foreign law specialist at the Law Library of Congress who covers Arabic-speaking countries.

Map of Qatar. Central Intelligence Agency, 1995. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division,

The Middle East region is a theater for the activities of multiple terrorist groups. Accordingly, countries in the region, especially Arab countries, have adopted various new laws in an effort to combat the problem. In this post, I discuss a new counterterrorism law enacted by the State of Qatar. It is the latest counterterrorism legislation issued by an Arab country.

1. What is the aim of the new law?

On December 27, 2019, the Amir of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, issued Law No. 27 of 2019 on Combating Terrorism. The Law is a comprehensive legal instrument aimed at combating terrorism in Qatar and abroad. It enhances the penalties imposed on acts of terror in the Penal Code and classifies any violent acts against a government facility to be acts of terrorism. It also enables the prosecution of Qatari citizens who commit acts of terror or join terrorist groups either abroad or in the country. Finally, it establishes the National Counter Terrorism Committee and the National Sanctions List of terrorist persons and entities.

2.  How does the Law define terrorism?

Law No. 27 of 2019 consists of 42 articles. Article 1 covers various terms and definitions, such as a terrorist crime, a terrorist entity, punishment list, financial assets, freezing of assets, conventional weapons, unconventional weapons, financial institutions, non-government organizations, legal person, and natural person. The Law follows the definitions used by International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism for the terms “terrorism” and “financial assets that belong to terrorist entities or persons.”

The Law defines a terrorist crime as a violent act causing injury and death of people when the purpose of such act is to terrorize a group of people or to obligate a government or an international organization to act or refrain from acting. The Law also defines an act of terror as a violent crime committed against a government facility. (Art. 1.)

The Law defines financial assets that belong to a terrorist entity or person as assets of every kind, whether tangible or intangible, movable or immovable, legal documents or instruments in any form, including electronic or digital, evidencing title to, or interest in, such assets. (Id).

3.  What is the scope of application of the Law?

The provisions of the Law apply to Qatari citizens who commit acts of terrorism inside the country and abroad. (Art. 2(2).)

4.  What are the main crimes and their penalties under the Law?

The law enhances the penalties contained in the Penal Code pertaining to crimes of terrorism. If the sentence for a terrorist offense was previously life imprisonment, the Law increases the punishment to the death penalty. (Art. 3(1).) Likewise, life imprisonment replaces a term of imprisonment of 15 years. (Art. 3(2).) Finally, a penalty of 15 years of imprisonment replaces a term of imprisonment for 10 years. (Art. 3(3).)

Crimes punished by death and life imprisonment

Under the Law, individuals who use the internet in committing or plotting a terrorist act can be punished by death or life imprisonment. (Art. 4 (para. 1).) Life imprisonment also applies to individuals who join terrorist organizations (art. 4 (para. 2)); individuals who supply terrorists with the technology to commit a terrorist act (art. 5); and individuals who coerce someone else to join a terrorist group (art. 6). A person who provides any form of training to others in order to carry out a terrorist crime must be punished by life imprisonment or a term of imprisonment of not less than 15 years. (Art. 8 (para. 1).)

In addition, if a person obtained or possessed an unconventional weapon to carry out a terrorist attack, he or she must be punished by imprisonment for life. (Art. 9 (para. 2).) (The Law defines unconventional weapon as nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons or substances that have the power to kill persons, or to cause dangerous harm to people, environment, and buildings.) Such a person must be punished by death if the attack resulted in deaths. (Art. 9 (para. 3).) Any person who kills a law enforcement officers must be punished by death. (Art. 14 (para. 4).) Life imprisonment applies to a person who kidnaps a law enforcement officer or one of the family members of a law enforcement officer. (Art. 14 (para. 2).)

Crimes punished by a term of imprisonment of 15 years

Any person who uses his managerial position in a non-government organization to entice other individuals to commit a terrorist act must be punished with a term of imprisonment between 10 and 15 years. (Art. 7.) The same penalty applies to any person who enables someone who committed a terrorist crime to escape (art. 10(3)) and to a person who received any training abroad from terrorist entities (art. 11 (para. 3)). If a person uses a conventional weapon (“cold weapons,” firearms, bombs, and C-4) to commit a terrorist act, he or she must be punished by a term of imprisonment between 5 and 15 years. (Art. 9 (para. 1).) Any person who hides weapons that will be used, or have already been used, in a terrorist crime must be punished by a term of imprisonment of between 15 years and life. (Art. 13.)

5.  What are the powers of the Public Prosecution under the Law?

The Public Prosecution has the right to investigate crimes of terrorism by ordering the audio and video surveillance of communications and obtaining access to information systems used by the suspected perpetrators. (Art. 24.) The Public Prosecution may also order that messages of all kinds, publications, parcels, and telegrams be impounded. (Art. 25.) Furthermore, the Public Prosecution may order the review or collection of any data or information relating to accounts, deposits, trusts, safe boxes, or any other transaction with banks or other financial institutions. (Art. 26.) If there is sufficient evidence of guilt of the accused person, the Public Prosecution may issue a temporary order preventing the accused person from disposing of his/her property or managing it, or to take any other provisional measures. The order may include the property of the spouse and minor children of the accused person. (Art. 27.)

Qatar law books at the Law Library of Congress. Photo by George Sadek.

6.  What is the National Counter Terrorism Committee?

The Law establishes “The National Counter Terrorism Committee at the Ministry of Interior.” Members of the Committee will be appointed by the Minister of Interior. (Art. 28.) The Committee is responsible for implementing the counterterrorism strategies of the State of Qatar and coordinating antiterrorism efforts carried out by different government bodies. The Committee is also in charge of public awareness campaigns educating the public about the dangers of terrorism. (Art. 29.)

7.  How does the Law regulate the statute of limitations for terrorist acts, and periods of pretrial detention?

Under the Law, there is no statute of limitation for terrorist crimes. (Art. 21.)

The pretrial detention period for terrorist crimes is 15 days, which can be extended. However, it must not exceed 180 days. (Art. 23.)

8.  What is the Sanctions List?

The Law establishes a “Sanctions List,” also known as the “Terrorist Designation List.” (Art. 31.) The List includes the names of individuals and entities suspected of; enabling and training terrorists or funding, sponsoring, carrying out, planning, promoting, and enticing crimes of terrorism. (Art. 32(2)(a).) Those crimes could be carried out against the interests of the State of Qatar inside the country or abroad. (Art. 32(2)(b).) The National Counter Terrorism Committee will publish the List on its website. (Art. 32(2)(c).) The Committee will also recommend the persons and entities to be included on the Sanctions List. Based on the suggestions of the Committee, the General Prosecutor will issue a decision to add those names to the list. (Art. 32(2).) The General Prosecutor will also send the names on the List to foreign countries and international organizations, including the U.N. Security Council. (Art. 33.)

An entity or a person on the List can submit a petition to the General Prosecutor to remove their name. The General Prosecutor must refer those petitions to the National Counter Terrorism Committee, which reviews them and gives its feedback. The General Prosecutor has the power to remove a person or entity’s name if there is no ground to keep their name on the List. (Art. 34.)

9.  What are the legal consequences of listing a natural or legal person on the Sanctions List?

Natural Person

Natural persons whose names are on the Sanctions List will be apprehended once they arrive in Qatar or leave the country. The person’s passport will be confiscated and his/her financial assets will be frozen. (Art. 38(1).)

Legal Person

The headquarters of a legal person on the Sanctions List will be shut down. All financial assets belong to the legal person will be frozen. Natural persons are prohibited from joining such a legal person or funding its activities. (Art. 38(2).) The Law defines “legal person” as any entity that establishes a working relationship with a financial institution and owns financial assets, including a company, institution, and non-government organization.

10.  How has the Law been received?

Legal scholars, such as Mohamed al Tamimi, have endorsed the Law. They consider that the Law assists Qatar to achieve its goal of combatting terrorism and terrorist entities by enhancing the penalties for the offense of recruiting people to join terrorist groups. Also, Nahar Rashed al Na’aimi, a Qatari attorney, has supported the measure adopted by the State of Qatar to create the National Counter Terrorism Committee to coordinate the efforts of different government agencies in combating terrorism and the recruitment of individuals to join terrorist groups abroad.

Another scholar, Abd Al Hasan Al Fatees, a professor at the University of Qatar College of Law, has stated that Law No. 27 of 2019 adheres to all international standards set forth by the UN conventions on combatting terrorism and terrorist financing. According to Fatees, the Law is one of the most advanced antiterrorism laws in the region.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Legal Research Reports: Airport Noise Regulations

Law Library of Congress: Research Reports - Wed, 03/18/2020 - 11:37am

The Law Library of Congress is proud to present the report, Airport Noise Regulations.

This multinational report on airport noise regulations surveys the laws of the European Union; six of its Member States (France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden); and the United Kingdom.  Noise thresholds typically vary between the surveyed jurisdictions as well as between individual airports, taking into account both geographic and commercial interests. All jurisdictions surveyed require that noise from airports be taken into account when planning and zoning new residential areas and airports. Other methods for limiting noise levels include the imposition of taxes or fines on airlines or airports that violate established noise thresholds.

This report is one of many prepared by the Law Library of Congress. Visit the Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports page for a complete listing of reports and the Current Legal Topics page for our highlighted and newer reports. 


Categories: Research & Litigation

Join us for our first all virtual Herencia Transcribe-a-thon!

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 03/17/2020 - 4:13pm

Image detail from Royal Order of June 26, 1741 concerning payment of annuities by the city of Zaragoza in compliance with the regulations on this matter, approved and ratified on October 9, 1734.

[Click here for the Spanish version of this post/Haz clic aquí para la versión en español.]

On Thursday, March 19, 2020, starting at 8:00 a.m. EDT we will be LIVE in a completely virtual Transcribe-a-thon for our new crowdsourcing campaign, Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents. Participants can transcribe, review, and tag documents from our collection of Spanish Legal Documents, which contains print and manuscript documents from Spain from the 15th through the 19th centuries including royal decrees, papal bulls, legal opinions, judgments, and royal orders.

Here’s how you can get involved:

Visit our Herencia homepage to start transcribing documents here! 

Our staff from By the People and the Law Library of Congress will hold two sessions for WebEx Office Hours that volunteers can join and ask questions about the collection and the transcription process. These will be held from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

For the 12:00 p.m. WebEx Office Hours Meeting, click here!

For the 3:00 p.m. WebEx Office Hours Meeting, click here!

You can ask questions, and learn more about the collection with hourly updates from our Twitter accounts at @LawLibCongress and @CROWD_LOC.

Join can also join the conversation on our History Hub page.

If you would like to participate you can learn more about transcribing this historical collection by watching our previous webinars:

How and Why to Transcribe Herencia / Password:  RtXH4sM@

Cómo y por qué transcribir Herencia / Contraseña: fQ7SJjZ@

How and Why to Host a By the People Transcribe-a-thon / Password: xPQ8gRM*

Como organizar un maratón de transcripciones de By the People / Contraseña: nGkERe3$

Categories: Research & Litigation

Join Us for the “Orientation to Legal Research Webinar Series” on U.S. Federal Statutes

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 03/13/2020 - 9:30am

The following is a guest post by Anna Price, a legal reference librarian at the Law Library of Congress.

Leffler & O’Halloran, contributors. Opening of Congress (House Chamber). 1979. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

As we discussed in an earlier blog post, the Law Library of Congress recently rolled out a new webinar series on U.S. laws and legal resources. We welcome you to attend our upcoming webinar on U.S. federal statutes, which will take place on Thursday, March 19, 2020, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.

This webinar will provide an overview of U.S. statutory and legislative research, including information about how to find and use the U.S. Code, the U.S. Statutes at Large, and U.S. federal bills and resolutions.

This webinar will be presented by Elizabeth Osborne, a legal reference specialist at the Law Library. Elizabeth holds a BA in justice from American University, a JD from the Brooklyn Law School, and a Master of Science in Information Science from the University of Tennessee.

To register for the webinar, please click here or call (202) 707-5080.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Recent Legislation Enacted by Italy to Tackle COVID-19

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 03/12/2020 - 3:11pm

The following post is written by Dante Figueroa, a senior legal information analyst at the Law Library of Congress, he has recently written on the Italian Parliamentary Library and Spanish Legal Documents (15th to 19th Century)

As of March 11, 2020, 10,590 persons have tested positive for COVID-19 in Italy, with an additional 827 dead from the coronavirus. With 7,280 cases, the northern Lombardy region is the most affected in the country.

Stringent containment measures were enacted on March 8, mainly affecting the northern regions of Italy (about 14.4 million people: 10 million in Lombardy  and 4.4. in Emilia-Romagna).

Since February, the Italian government’s response to the outbreak of the virus has gradually become more severe, so that currently the stringent measures initially enacted for the northern regions are now in place for the whole national population of 60 million.

Map of Italy. Image by Susan Taylor-Pikulsky, Law Library of Congress.

In this post I highlight four pieces of legislation that have been enacted to tackle the effects of the outbreak since February 23, 2020. They are presented chronologically, from the most recent to the oldest:

1. Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers of March 9, 2020

On March 9, 2020, the Italian government issued a new regulation (Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers (Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri) approving urgent measures to contain the contagion from the COVID-19 virus throughout the whole national territory. The Decree forbids any form of gathering of people in public places or open to the public throughout the whole national territory (art. 1(2)) and extends the suspension of all sporting events established for specific regions by the Decree of March 8, 2020 (art. 1(1)(d)) to the whole national territory (Decree of March 9, 2020, art. 1(3)). All these measures remain in force until April 3, 2020, and repeal any provisions of the Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers issued on March 8, 2020 (art. 2.).

2. Ministry of Interior Directive of March 9, 2020 on “Checks in the Reinforced Containment Areas”

On March 9, 2020, the Ministry of the Interior (Ministero dell’Interno)issued a Directive on “Checks in the Reinforced Containment Areas,” which was addressed to prefetti (administrators of provinces and metropolitan cities) throughout the national territory. The directive list the following measures:

    • The immediate call of the Provincial Committees for public order and safety to assume coordinating measures (art. 1);
    • Specific indications for the control of limits established in the displacement of persons in and out of the country in containment areas (art. 2), in particular:
      • Movements may only be authorized based on work situations or situations of necessity or based on health reasons to be attested through a self-affidavit; quarantined persons or those deemed positive with the virus are under an absolute duty to remain in their dwellings, with no exceptions (art. 2(a));
      • The same controls are mandatory throughout all national road infrastructure and transportation systems (art. 2(b));
      • Controls in the national railway system and at Italian airports (with the exclusion of passengers in transit) also includes the use of “thermoscan” on travelers (art. 2(c)-(d));
      • Concerning Schengen and non-Schengen flight departures, the self-affidavitd are required only for residents of the territories under control; for Schengen and non-Schengen arrivals, passengers must justify the purpose of their trips upon entry (art. 2(e));
      • The same controls must be applied in Venice for cruise passengers, whose disembarkment is prohibited and they must return to their places of origin (art. 2(f)); and
      • Non-compliance with these guidelines is punished according to article 650 of the Criminal Code, unless a more serious offense takes place (art. 4).

Map of quarantined regions in Italy. Image by Susan Taylor-Pikulsky, Law Library of Congress.


3. Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers of March 8, 2020

On March 8, 2020, the Italian government issued a Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers, on Further Provisions Implementing Decree-Law No. 6 of February 23, 2020, containing Urgent Measures to Contain and Manage the Epidemiological Emergency Caused by the COVID-19 (Decreto del Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri 8 marzo 2020 Ulteriori Disposizioni Attuative del Decreto-Legge 23 Febbraio 2020, n. 6, recante Misure Urgenti in materia di Contenimento e Gestione dell’Emergenza Epidemiologica da COVID-19).

The Decree enumerates the following urgent measures to contain the contagion in the region of Lombardy and the provinces of Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio nell’Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro and Urbino, Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, Vercelli, Padova, Treviso, and Venezia:

  • Bans the entry or exit of individuals from the designated territories, as well as within such territories, except for proven reasons related to work, health, or necessity (art. 1(1)(a));
  • Recommends that persons with symptoms of respiratory infection or fever higher than 37.5°C remain at home and limit their social contacts to a minimum(art. 1(1)(b));
  • Absolute prohibition on quarantined individuals who have tested positive from moving from their own home or dwelling (art. 1(1)(c));
  • Suspends all sporting events and competitions of every type in public or private places. Sports facilities are usable only with closed doors exclusively for the training sessions of athletes, recognized to be of national interest by the National Italian Olympic Committee (CONI, in Italian) or by the respective federations, with a view to their participation in Olympic Games or other national or international events. The Decree allows sport events and competitions organized by international sports organizations, performed indoors under closed doors, or in the open without the presence of the public. In any case, such organizations must provide for strict medical measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus among athletes, coaches, managers or other stakeholders (art. 1(1)(d));
  • Forbids the use of lifts in ski areas (art. 1(1)(f));
  • Forbids all organized events and activities of any nature in public or private places or in closed places open to the public (art. 1(1)(g));
  • Bans all educational services for infants and for school students of any grade and type, as well as at any type of higher education institutions (art. 1(1)(h));
  • Allows for the opening of places of worship conditioned onthe strict measures aimed at avoiding the gatherings of people, in a manner that a distance of at least one meter is kept between persons. All civil and religious services, including funerary services are suspended (art. 1(1)(i));
  • Closes all museums and cultural institutions (art. 1(1)(l)); and
  • Permits commercial activities on the condition that managers guarantee public access on a contingent basis avoiding the gathering of persons, and enforcing the obligation of any person to keep at least one meter of distance from each other (art. 1(1)(o)).

Additionally, the Decree enumerates measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus throughout the whole national territory that mirror those established for the aforementioned localities, but that also contemplate the following:

  • Suspends all meetings and social events involving health personnel or staff that perform essential public services or of public utility (art. 2(1)(a));
  • Forbids all organized events and activities of any nature in public or private places or in closed places open to the public (art. 2(1)(b));
  • Recommends employers, whenever possible, to grant employees periods of ordinary leave or vacation (art. 2(1)(s)); and
  • Lists measures aimed at avoiding contagion among persons subject to confinement at penitentiary institutions, also recommending the evaluation of implementing the alternative measure of domiciliary arrest (art. 2(1)(u)).

Furthermore, the Decree enacts measures concerning information and prevention for the whole national territory, including the following:

  • Health personnel must abide by the guidelines concerning pandemics established by the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Italian Health Ministry (art. 3(1)(a));
  • Vulnerable persons are to refrain from leaving their dwellings, except in cases of extreme need (art. 3(1)(b));
  • Infected persons must remain in their dwellings and limit social contacts to a minimum (art. 3(1)(d));
  • Information on sanitary preventative measures must be displayed throughout educational, commercial, cultural, sports, and government entities (art. 3(1)(e)-(g)); and
  • Hand disinfectants must be made widely available at public agencies (art. 3(1)(h));
    • Anyone who, within the fourteen days prior to March 8, 2020, has entered into Italy after having stayed in areas identified as of epidemiological risk by the WHO, must communicate such fact to the Department of Prevention of the respective healthcare institution as well as to his own physician (art. 3(1)(m)); and
    • In the case above, health institutions must: (a) contact the infected person over the phone to obtain as much detailed information as possible (art. 3(2)(a)); (b) inform the affected person of the sanitary measures to be adopted (art. 3(2)(b)); (c) determine the quarantine of the infected person and the visit regime by his treating physician (art. 3(2)(c)); and (d) issue of a certificate justifying the patient’s absence from work, for employment and social security purposes (art. 3(2)(d)).

Finally, the Decree lists measures to monitor the evolution of quarantined persons:

  • Local law enforcement authorities are authorized to use the police, firefighters, and the armed forces, if necessary, to secure compliance with the measures contemplated in the Decree (art. 4(1)); and
  • Lack of compliance with the Decree is punished according to article 650 of the Criminal Code (“non-compliance with orders of the authority”)(art. 4(2)).

4. Decree-Law No. 6 of February 23, 2020

Decree-Law No. 6 of February 23, 2020, containing Urgent Measures to Contain and manage the Epidemiological Emergency Caused by COVID-19 (Decreto-legge 23 febbraio 2020, n. 6 Misure Urgenti in materia di Contenimento e Gestione dell’Emergenza Epidemiologica da COVID-19) listed measures that were aimed at tackling the, by that date, nascent spread of COVID-19, including:

  • A provision requiring that, in areas where at least one person has tested positive for the virus and the source of transmission is not known, or where a case is not attributable to a person from an area already affected, the relevant authorities must take adequate and proportionate containment measures to manage the evolution of the situation (art. 1(1));
  • Prohibition of removal from the affected area of all persons resident in the area (art. 1(2)(a));
  • Prohibition of entry into the affected area (art. 1(2)(b));
  • Suspension of all public events of any type, in either public or private places, even if performed in closed places that are open to the public (art. 1(2)(c));
  • Application of quarantine measures over all infected individuals that have had close contact with patients who have tested positive (art. 1(2)(h));
  • Closing of all commercial activities, with the exception of those necessary for the acquisition of merchandise of first necessity (art. 1(2)(j));
  • Suspension of work activities, except those that provide essential services and public utilities and those that may be performed from home (art. 1(2)(n));
  • Other measures not contemplated in Decree-Law No. 6 that the authority considers necessary to contain the dissemination of the COVID-19 epidemics (art. 2(1)); and
  • Decree-Law No. 6 appropriates 20 million Euros to finance the contemplated measures (art. 4(1)).
Categories: Research & Litigation

MERCOSUR: Global Legal Collections Highlights

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 03/12/2020 - 9:31am

The following is a guest post by Graciela Rodriguez-Ferrand, a foreign law specialist who covers Spain, Argentina, and other countries in South America.

As a foreign law specialist for the Law Library of Congress covering most of South America, I thought a blog post on legal resources concerning the Mercado Común del Sur (MERCOSUR) (Southern Common Market) might be helpful.

Montevideo: Sede del MERCOSUR [Photo by Flickr user Christian Ostrosky. Feb. 7, 2009. Used under Creative Commons license.]

The Mercado Común del Sur (MERCOSUR) (Southern Common Market) is a regional integration process created by a treaty signed in 1991 in Asunción, Paraguay, by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, and later joined by Venezuela, whose membership is currently suspended for violation of the democratic commitment under the 1998 Ushuaia Protocol. Bolivia is still in the process of accession.  In addition to state parties, MERCOSUR has associated states, which have signed trade agreements with MERCOSUR, such as Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Suriname. Associate status allows participation in meetings of the bloc and trade preferences with MERCOSUR member countries.

MERCOSUR aims to promote a common market to generate business and investment through the integration of member countries’ economies. The integration process has resulted in a number of bilateral and multilateral agreements with other countries and organizations.

The main objectives of MERCOSUR are:

  • Free circulation of goods and services among member states through the elimination of customs tariffs and non-tariff restrictions;
  • Establishment of a common external tariff and the adoption of a common trade policy with respect to non-party states or blocs of states as well as the coordination of a common position in international and regional economic and trade forums;
  • Coordination of macroeconomic and sectoral policies by party states, such as agriculture, industrial, tax, monetary, foreign exchange, and capital markets, services, customs, transportation and communication, among others, in order to achieve a fair competition level among the member states;
  • Commitment by state parties to the harmonization of national legislation in the trade related areas in order to strengthen the integration process.

MERCOSUR official languages are Spanish, Guaraní and Portuguese.

MERCOSUR has its headquarters in Asunción, Paraguay.

MERCOSUR has its own emblem and flag.

In addition to the Asunción Treaty creating the MERCOSUR, the following instruments have been adopted, completing the foundational framework of MERCOSUR:

  • Protocolo de Ouro Preto, Dec. 17, 1994 (Adicional al Tratado de Asunción sobre la Estructura Institucional del MERCOSUR) providing for the institutional organization of MERCOSUR;


  • Protocolo de Ushuaia sobre Compromiso Democrático en el MERCOSUR, la República de Bolivia y la República de Chile, Jul. 24, 1998;


  • Protocolo de Olivos para la Solución de Controversias en el MERCOSUR, Feb. 18, 2002;


  • Protocolo de Asunción sobre Compromiso con la Promoción y Protección de los Derechos Humanos en el MERCOSUR, Jun. 20, 2005;


  • Protocolo Constitutivo del Parlamento del MERCOSUR, Dec. 9, 2005;


Some of the additional regulatory instruments include:

  • Protocolo de Cooperación y Asistencia Jurisdiccional en Materia Civil, Comercial, Laboral y Administrativa, Jun. 27, 1992;


  • Protocolo Relativo al Código Aduanero del Mercosur, Dec. 16, 1994;


  • Protocolo de Armonización de Normas sobre Propiedad. Intelectual en Materia de Marcas, Indicaciones de Procedencia y Denominaciones de Origen, Aug. 5, 1995;


  • Acuerdo de Arbitraje Comercial Internacional del MERCOSUR, Jul. 23, 1998;


  • Acuerdo para la Creación de un Área de Libre Comercio entre MERCOSUR y Sudáfrica, Dec. 15, 2000;


  • Acuerdo contra el Tráfico Ilicito de Migrantes entre los Estados Partes del MERCOSUR, la República de Bolivia y la República de Chile, Dec. 16, 2004;

Democracy and economic development are the pillars on which MERCOSUR is founded. In pursuit of these principles, MERCOSUR engages in programs that address a number of issues affecting the population of its member countries, such as human rights, health care, agriculture, gender, culture, education, and social matters.

MERCOSUR has a deliberative body, called Parlasur (Parliament of the MERCOSUR), a Tribunal Permanente de Revisión (Tribunal for the Settlement of Disputes) and its own financing fund, the Fondo para la Convergencia Estructural del MERCOSUR (Fund for the Structural Convergence) (FOCEM).

MERCOSUR covers a territory of almost 5.8 million square miles and a population of over 295 million people.

Bibliographic Resources

Library of Congress legal resources on MERCOSUR are available in the following languages:




Non-legal bibliographical resources on the MERCOSUR in the Library of Congress collection include:



Internet Resources

Categories: Research & Litigation

Wales Legislates to Prohibit the Use of All Corporal Punishment of Children

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 03/11/2020 - 9:00am

The following is a guest post by Clare Feikert-Ahalt, a senior foreign law specialist at the Law Library of Congress covering the United Kingdom and several other jurisdictions. Clare has written a number of posts for In Custodia Legis, including Welsh Legal History; FALQs: Brexit Referendum; and The UK’s Legal Response to the London Bombings of 7/7.

Oliver plucks up a spirit “Twist:. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

In March 2019, the Welsh government introduced the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill. It created the bill after considering that

Research suggests physical punishment is no more effective than nonphysical approaches to discipline. There is no compelling evidence against the proposal to remove the defence of reasonable punishment. The majority of researchers in the field make the judgement that all physical punishment under all conditions is potentially harmful to children.

The bill does not create a new offense, but instead abolishes the common law defense of “reasonable punishment.” This defense currently applies only to parents and individuals acting in loco parentis who use corporal punishment against their children. Corporal punishment is defined as “any battery carried out as a punishment” against children in Wales. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has issued guidance that states battery “is committed by the intentional or reckless application of unlawful force to another person.”

Section 1 of the bill specifically provides that “corporal punishment of a child taking place in Wales cannot be justified in any civil or criminal proceedings on the ground that it constituted reasonable punishment.” The bill also removes the grounds of acceptable conduct in civil and criminal proceedings for justifying corporal punishment of a child. The government has stated:

The Bill is intended to support children’s rights by prohibiting the use of physical punishment, through removal of this defence. The intended effect of the Bill, together with an awareness-raising campaign and support for parents, is to bring about a further reduction in the use and tolerance of the physical punishment of children in Wales.

It will apply to all individuals in Wales, including visitors.

The law places a duty on Welsh government ministers to take steps to promote public awareness of the changes in the law for two years before the provision removing the defense enters into force. Section 3 requires ministers to prepare two reports detailing the effects of the changes to the law. One of these reports must be prepared and published three years after section 1 of the bill enters into force and the second report must be prepared and published five years after section 1 enters into force.

While the bill itself is relatively short, spanning only six sections over two pages, the accompanying explanatory memorandum is over 97 pages long and notes:

Removing the defence will not interfere with the principles of the common law, which acknowledge that a parent can intervene physically, for example, to keep a child safe from harm, or help with activities such as tooth brushing.

If the law becomes operational, when the police receive reports or complaints that an adult has used physical punishment towards a child, they must investigate and decide whether to refer the case to the CPS. The CPS will then decide whether to prosecute using a number of factors, including if there is enough evidence, whether it is in the public interest, and best interests of the child to do so.

On January 28, 2020, the Welsh government agreed to the final text of the bill.  The bill is now in the” stage four post process period,” which lasts four weeks, during which time the Counsel General or Attorney General can refer any questions to the Supreme Court regarding whether any provision of the bill, or the bill in its entirety, is within the area of legislative competence of the Welsh Assembly. The Secretary of State for Wales could also make an order that would prohibit the bill from being submitted for Royal Assent. If the bill passes through this stage, a two year education campaign will start on the day it receives Royal Assent, and then section 1 of the bill, which removes the defenses in cases of corporal punishment of a child, will enter into force.

And auntie raises Ned (1907). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

Wales is not the first country to act to prohibit the use of corporal punishment on children. The first country in the world to introduce a complete ban prohibiting the use of corporal punishment was Sweden in 1979. In the UK, Wales follows Scotland, which enacted a similar ban in 2019. Wales will become the 61st jurisdiction worldwide to prohibit the use of corporal punishment on children in all settings.

Current Law on the Use of Corporal Punishment on Children

The use of corporal punishment has been progressively limited across the countries of the UK. Its use in public schools was prohibited by the Education Act (No. 2) Act 1986 and its use in private schools across the UK was prohibited by section 548 of the Education Act 1996, as amended by the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. Section 58 of the Children Act 2004 repealed section 1(7) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, and served to prohibit the use of physical punishment in children’s homes. The Children Act 2004 also limited the use of the defense of “reasonable punishment” in cases of wounding and causing grievous bodily harm; assault occasioning actual bodily harm; or cruelty to a child. The Children Act 2004 thus served to limit the defense of reasonable punishment to the offenses of common assault or battery, or in civil cases to the tort of trespass against a child. The CPS issued guidance that

clarified that an offence of assault or battery against a child can only be considered to be common assault where the injury is transient and trifling and amounts to no more than a temporary reddening of the skin – a more serious injury would indicate an offence of at least actual bodily harm for which the defence is not available.

The explanatory memorandum to the Welsh bill has noted that the CPS typically does not prosecute cases if they believe the defense will be successful, which resulted in cases where the defense is relied upon being fairly rare.

Legislative Competence

Until recently, Wales did not have the legislative competence to act in this area. The Wales Act 2017 amended part 4 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 and provided the National Assembly for Wales with the legislative competence to act in the area of disciplining of children. As part of the national strategy for Wales, Prosperity for All, the Welsh government pledged to introduce legislation to prohibit the physical punishment of children to protect children’s rights and provide consistency with the obligations contained in the, now thirty-year old, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Categories: Research & Litigation

From the Serial Set: “Peculiarities” of Life in D.C. (1880)

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 03/10/2020 - 11:00am

The following is a guest post by Bailey DeSimone, a library technician (metadata) in the Digital Resources Division of the Law Library of Congress.

Washington, D.C. became the capital of the United States of America in 1790. On February 27, 1801, the District of Columbia Organic Act established the city as an unincorporated territory. Throughout the 219 years since, D.C.’s history has been chronicled from many different perspectives. In 1880, a census report submitted to Congress provided one such narrative.

Map and statistics of the District of Columbia. H. Misc. Doc. no. 42 pt. 19 at 27 (1880), reprinted in Serial Set Vol. No. 2149. Photo by Geraldine Dávila González.

In 1880, the Census Office (today known as the Census Bureau) published “A Report on the Social Statistics of Cities.” In addition to detailing the “[p]opulation by sex, nativity, and race,” the report includes information related to the District’s budget and finances, giving a statistical profile of the city.

These census reports also include unique historical sketches. While what was known of the region’s history prior to the arrival of Captain John Smith and other English colonists was “extremely meager” at the time, the report states that the area was inhabited by “a large aboriginal population, the seat of whose council-fire was…at the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.” (H. Misc. Doc. no. 42 pt. 19 at 27 (1880), reprinted in Serial Set Vol. No. 2149). Today, we recognize this population as belonging to the Nacotchtank village, and that confluence being Fort Lesley J. McNair.

A more detailed look at the civil infrastructure includes accounts of parks, streets and railroads, markets, and schools – as well as the natural landscape and physical geography. Daily commuters may recognize many of these names:

Partial list of D.C. public parks. H. Misc. Doc. no. 42 pt. 19 at 40 (1880), reprinted in Serial Set Vol. No. 2149. Photo by Geraldine Dávila González.

From this account, we can observe similarities and differences between 1880s D.C., and the city as experienced by residents today.

For example, “[t]he Eastern market, situated at the corner of Seventh and C streets southeast, is a one-story brick structure…[i]t contains 85 stalls…the average monthly rental per stall being $3 75 [sic].” (H. Misc. Doc. no. 42 pt. 19 at 47 (1880), reprinted in Serial Set Vol. No. 2149).

Additionally, the report details the “peculiarities” of daily life in the District:

“Early in the present century Washington had little else than a temporary population, brought together by the needs of the government administration, and changing more or less with each Presidential term,” the report notes, observing the connection between population and political careers, still relevant today. “At the present time there are not less than 15,000 persons busy or resident in Washington connected in one way or another with the government, together with the representatives of foreign nations”  – a probable explanation for including a “foreign” statistic in the overall population count of the District.

“Peculiarities of Life in Washington”. H. Misc. Doc. no. 42 pt. 19 at 52 (1880), reprinted in Serial Set Vol. No. 2149. Photo by Geraldine Dávila González.

Finally, the report assures readers that “[o]ne may live wholesomely at a small cost” in the District of Columbia, with “French coffee, with cream, rolls, and butter” costing 10 cents. (H. Misc. Doc. no. 42 pt. 19 at 52 (1880), reprinted in Serial Set Vol. No. 2149).

The two-volume 1880 Social Statistics on Cities report on behalf of the United States Census Office is compiled of profiles of cities across the country, including Atlanta, Richmond, Brooklyn, Chicago, Boston, and Newark. The Digital Resources team is looking forward to digitizing these maps, statistics, and sketches as a means of preserving these moments in time.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Mary Church Terrell, Suffragist and Civil Rights Activist

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 03/09/2020 - 2:09pm

Mary Eliza Church Terrell (1863-1954) worked for women’s suffrage and civil rights for African Americans throughout her career, achieving some of her biggest victories at the very end of her long life.

[Mary Church Terrell, three-quarter length portrait, seated, facing front. Taken between 1880 and 1900, printed later] [photo by Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division;]

Mary Eliza Church was born to well-off parents in Memphis. Her father was supposedly the first African-American millionaire and her mother had a successful beauty parlor for black women (Terrell, xix). Her parents were determined to give her a good education (Terrell, xx). At age six, they sent her to Ohio, where she boarded with a family and studied in private schools; she studied at Oberlin College, graduating from there in 1884. Against the advice of friends, who thought too much education would be poor preparation for marriage, she took the more rigorous classics course. She passed, managing to impress a visiting Matthew Arnold with her Greek (Terrell, 41). After graduation, she came to Washington, D.C. for a job, teaching Latin in D.C.’s Preparatory High School. Her future husband, Robert H. Terrell, was a teacher there, and they married in 1891.

Through their married life, Robert constantly worked to find positions that would utilize his talent and make a good living to support the family. Mary pursued activist work; she was one of the founders and the first president of the National Association of Colored Women. She gave speeches on the Chautauqua circuit and was known as “the female Booker T. Washington,” making money to increase the family income (Quigley, 43). Terrell had long aspired to a career and had given up an offer of a job at Oberlin to marry Robert. They had one child, Phyllis, in 1898, and Mary Terrell continued to lecture while her mother cared for Phyllis. In 1906, the Brownsville Affair took place; the race riot in Texas was the start of Terrell’s path as a civil rights activist. Mary lobbied William Howard Taft, then War Department Secretary, to have the soldiers’ discharges stalled so an investigation could start. Terrell’s bid for justice was unsuccessful, but after that incident, she continued to pursue equality for African Americans. She wrote at that time that she had lived in D.C. for fifteen years and the city “made conditions ‘intolerable’ for blacks” (Quigley, 58).

She was indefatigable in her turns on the lecture circuit and in her article writing. She spoke on lynching, government relations to race, the convict lease system, women’s suffrage, education for African Americans and women, and what she and her contemporaries referred to as “the race problem.” She spoke at the International Congress of Women in Berlin in 1904 (the only American to give her address in German). She joined the NAACP shortly at its founding; participated in the Amenia Conference; and worked for the U.S. government in the War Camp Community Service. She and her husband grew more active after WWI, when it became clear that African American soldiers who fought for their country would not be allowed equality postwar. After Robert died of a stroke in 1925, she busied herself writing her memoir.

After she published her memoir in the early 1940s, she returned to activism. Washington after WWII was becoming even more segregated than earlier in the century; multiple instances of persons of color being refused restaurant service, entrance to museums, jobs, home purchases and etc. were protested and reported in the papers (Quigley, 136-138). Working with pro bono lawyers, Mary Terrell filed a complaint in D.C. Municipal Court, stating that Thompson’s Restaurant refused to serve her because of her race, in violation of 1872 and 1873 ordinances banning discrimination in restaurants in D.C. The laws were dropped in the 1901 Code, but had not been repealed. The case was taken to the Supreme Court, and in 1953, the Court agreed in District of Columbia v. John R. Thompson Co., Inc. that the earlier laws were still valid, and legal grounds for discrimination ended. Terrell was 89. In 1954, just two months before she died, the Court made the landmark decision of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483.


Library of Congress Digital Collections. Mary Church Terrell Papers. Accessed 4 March 2020.

Oberlin College Archives. Administrative/Biographical History, Mary Church Terrell. Accessed 4 March 2020.

Howard University Staff, MSRC, “TERRELL, Mary Church” (2015).Manuscript Division. Paper 191. Accessed 4 March 2020.

E185.97.T47 Q54 2016 Quigley, Joan.  Just Another Southern Town: Mary Church Terrell and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Nation’s Capital.

E 185.97.T47 A3 1996 Terrell, Mary Church, 1863-1954.  A Colored Woman in a White World.

E185.86.G38 2000  Gatewood, Willard B. Aristocrats of Color : the Black Elite, 1880-1920.

KF299.A35 S65 1993 Smith, J. Clay. Emancipation : the Making of the Black Lawyer, 1844-1944.

Categories: Research & Litigation

FALQs: Pandemic Management Strategies and Powers in New Zealand

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 03/09/2020 - 10:00am

Recently, Laney wrote about the laws associated with some of the measures China is taking to contain the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which causes the disease COVID-19, as well as about police reprimand powers for spreading rumors about the virus. Graciela has written about the laws on quarantine and isolation in Spain. Others at the Law Library have published Global Legal Monitor articles related to the actions taken in other countries. In this post, I look at some of the strategies, laws, and powers available in New Zealand with respect to attempting to keep the virus out of the country and containing its spread among the community. One case of the virus in the country was confirmed in late February, a second case was confirmed on March 4, a third on March 5, and a fourth on March 6. (New Zealand time).

1.  What is the legal and policy framework for responding to the coronavirus outbreak?

New Zealand Human Rights Commission, @NZHumanRights, Mar. 2, 2020. Used with permission.

The New Zealand government has activated the New Zealand Influenza Pandemic Plan: A Framework for Action (NZIPAP) in response to the novel coronavirus. This document, which was updated in 2017, sets out the stages, actions, roles, and legislative powers involved in responding to an influenza pandemic. Although it focuses on pandemic influenza, the plan notes that “the approach in the plan could reasonably apply to other respiratory-type pandemics.” In addition, individual government agencies “have their own response plans, manuals, handbooks and standard operating procedures based on the NZIPAP, each of which provides information in addition to that contained in the NZIPAP.” Furthermore, the NZIPAP is

one part of the wider New Zealand emergency management framework, which is governed by several Acts and regulations. The relationship between health emergency planning and planning in the wider emergency management sector is detailed in the National Health Emergency Plan, which provides overarching direction to the health and disability sector and all of government.

Pandemic planning in New Zealand, according to the NZIPAP, is based around three overarching goals related to protecting New Zealand’s people, society, and economy during and after a pandemic, and involves a six-phase strategy:

  1. Plan For It (planning and preparedness)
  2. Keep It Out (border management)
  3. Stamp It Out (cluster control)
  4. Manage It (pandemic management)
  5. Manage It: Post-Peak
  6. Recover From It (recovery).

The NZIPAP provides details on the triggers, objectives, and actions related to each phase. It also provides details about the relevant laws, and the specific roles and powers assigned to various agencies under those laws, which apply under different “work streams” (e.g., health, education, law and order, welfare, border, etc.). In addition, it outlines the Public Information Management Strategy that “allows the Ministry of Health to explain what it is doing and to advise the public as the pandemic progresses.”

The various legislative powers are discussed in detail in part C of the NZIPAP. The compulsory measures available include the following:

  • requirements for people to be tested and screened
  • quarantining or isolating people (that is, removing symptomatic or non-symptomatic people to a quarantine or treatment facility or prohibiting them from leaving a particular facility)
  • restricting the movement of people into or out of an area
  • restricting travel of people (within or out of New Zealand)
  • imposing a duty to supply information (eg, future travel plans or past travel history)
  • requirements on people to undergo preventive treatment
  • requirements on people not to go to work or other public places or to do so only under certain conditions
  • commandeering of resources (eg, land, buildings or vehicles).

A number of infectious disease management powers are provided in part 3A of the Health Act 1956, which was added by the Health (Protection) Amendment Act 2016. Part 3 (infectious and notifiable diseases) and part 4 (quarantine) of the Health Act are also relevant. Additional powers are “available under the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006 to facilitate the management of serious epidemics of specified diseases.” There are also powers under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 that apply in a state of emergency declared under that Act.

The “routine” and “special” powers in the Health Act can be exercised with respect to the diseases listed in schedule 1 of that Act. Other health legislation relevant to managing a pandemic includes

2.  What actions has the government taken to date?

On January 30, 2020, the government published the Infectious and Notifiable Diseases Order 2020, which “amends the Health Act 1956 by adding the novel coronavirus to the list of infectious diseases notifiable to a medical officer of health in Section B of Part 1 of Schedule 1 of that Act.”

The government has set up a dedicated phone number for coronavirus advice as part of the existing Healthline service, and the Ministry of Health is providing health advice, news updates, and other information on its website. This includes fact sheets and guidance for health professionals, advice for travelers, and information for other groups and gatherings.

A few days prior to the addition of the coronavirus to schedule 1, public health staff began meeting flights from China “to actively look for signs of the novel coronavirus and provide advice, information and reassurance to passengers.” The Interagency Pandemic Group had also previously convened, the Ministry of Health had an Incident Control Team in place, and the government stated it was “sharing information and working closely with international partners.” In early February, the government chartered a flight to evacuate New Zealanders, Australians, and Pacific Islanders from Wuhan, China. The measures applied in that context included “pre-flight checks, in-flight safety measures and isolating passengers for 14 days upon arrival in New Zealand.” The passengers from New Zealand and the Pacific, totaling 157 people, were put in isolation at the Whangaparoa Reception Centre, north of Auckland. New Zealanders who had been on the Diamond Princess cruise ship were also later housed at the facility.

As part of the “Keep it Out” phase under the NZIPAP, the government has taken a range of border measures, including issuing revised travel advisories and putting in place travel restrictions. On February 2, the government announced that it was “placing temporary entry restrictions into New Zealand on all foreign nationals travelling from, or transiting through mainland China.” New Zealand citizens and residents who traveled from China after February 2 were asked to register with the Healthline service and to self-isolate for 14 days. The same travel restrictions and self-isolation requirements were put in place with respect to Iran on February 28, and the registration and self-isolation requirements were applied from March 2 to people entering the country form South Korea and northern Italy. The travel restrictions are regularly reviewed.

The government has announced initiatives to assist businesses impacted by the coronavirus and has agreed to remove the income support stand-down period for those who lose their jobs as a result of the virus. A welfare support fact sheet, covering all government assistance available to people affected, was published in February.

In terms of the current cases of the coronavirus confirmed in the country, the first involved a person who arrived from Iran on February 26. The individual was placed in isolation in Auckland Hospital for treatment. Contact tracing was commenced and close contacts were put in isolation and tested for the virus. The second case involved a person who returned to Auckland from northern Italy. The person and her family members were isolated at home and authorities started to trace other contacts. The third case involved a person with close family members who had recently returned from Iran. He and his family members were also self-isolated at home. The Ministry of Health stated that “[t]wo schools have also been notified about the positive test as there is a family member at each of those schools” and “[t]he students who attend these schools are now at home in isolation.” The fourth case involved the partner of the second case.

3.  What quarantine and isolation powers apply to notifiable infectious diseases such as the novel coronavirus?

The NZIPAP states that

[c]ompulsory or voluntary isolation of cases and quarantine of contacts are important measures to prevent or slow the spread of a pandemic virus at all phases of a pandemic response, particularly in the context of border and cluster control. Compulsory isolation and quarantine may be considered for cluster control for the first New Zealand suspected or diagnosed cases, but in practice, this is probably no more effective than voluntary quarantine.

The Health Act 1956 includes a provision on voluntary compliance as part of the overarching principles that apply to the management of infectious diseases:

92D Voluntary compliance

(1) If an individual poses a public health risk, and that risk can be prevented or minimised by the individual’s voluntary compliance with certain measures, the individual must be given the opportunity to voluntarily comply with those measures before measures under this Part are applied to the individual.

(2) A person or court exercising or performing any functions, duties, or powers under this Part must take into account whether the individual has had an opportunity to minimise the risk of transmitting the infectious disease, and whether he or she has done so, or the extent to which he or she has done so, particularly in response to—

(a) any directions given to the individual:

(b) any request or instruction from a medical practitioner, medical officer of health, or health protection officer.

(3) Individuals and communities should be encouraged to take responsibility for their own health and, to that end, to participate in decisions about how to protect and promote their own health and the health of their communities.

The power of a medical officer of health to detain a person for isolation purposes is a “routine power” under part 3A of the Health Act. Such powers do not normally need approval or authorization for use. According to the NZIPAP, this power

allows a medical officer of health to issue a written direction to a person or contact whom the officer believes on reasonable grounds poses a public health risk arising from an infectious disease (section 92I to section 92L). Section 92I outlines a variety of conditions the officer may specify in the direction, including to stay at all or specified times at a specified place of residence, subject to specified conditions. The direction must specify its duration. Directions cannot be used to compel the person to seek treatment under Part 3A. For that to happen, the officer must apply for and be granted a treatment order under that Part. However, a medical officer of health may issue a directions to a person undergo a medical examination, although several preconditions must first be met (eg, person has not complied with a previous request to seek examination; section 92K).

Other powers related to isolation, quarantine, examination, and treatment are “special powers” under the Act that require prior authorization (e.g., from the Minister of Health) before they can be used.

Categories: Research & Litigation

FALQs: The Evolution of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 03/06/2020 - 9:30am

The following is a guest post by Zeynep Timocin Cantekin, a foreign law intern working with Foreign Law Specialist Jenny Gesley at the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress.

The Council of the European Union stated that the increasing number of terrorist attacks since 2004 and the 2015 European migration crisis have exposed the vulnerabilities of the existing border management framework of the European Union (EU). Since 2004, the European Commission (Commission) has adopted measures to simultaneously increase security at the EU’s external borders for the Schengen Area and to safeguard the principle of free movement of persons. The latest measure is a new regulation broadening the mandate of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Agency), which entered into force on December 4, 2019. The Regulation is part of the 2015 European Agenda on Migration, which aims to strengthen the external borders of the EU.

This blog post will provide a brief background regarding the evolution of the Agency. Although the Agency is still commonly referred to as “Frontex” (the name of its predecessor), for the purposes of this post, I will use Frontex only to refer to the institution established in 2005 and abolished in 2016.

  1. What is the Schengen Area? (1985-present)

The Schengen Area was created in the 1985 Schengen Agreement adopted by five of the ten member states of the then European Economic Community. The Schengen Area was established to create a single common border by gradually abolishing all internal border controls, to create one single visa policy, and to harmonize rules for illegal migration and police cooperation in criminal matters. The Schengen Agreement was integrated into the EU legal framework in the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam. With this, the Schengen Agreement became a core and binding part of EU law, and all future member states of the EU became obligated to join the Schengen Area. Today, 26 European countries participate in the Schengen Area. (22 of the 27 EU member states and the four European Free Trade Area (EFTA) member states, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein, which are non-EU).

  1. Who coordinates the management of the external borders of the Schengen Area?

    FRONTEX. Photo by Flickr user Rock Cohen. Nov. 8, 2010. Used under Creative Commons license,

Frontex, the Agency’s predecessor, was established on November 25, 2004, to oversee the external border controls of the Schengen Area. The primary objective of Frontex was to coordinate the border management of the member states. The adoption of the Frontex Regulation was “a development under the Schengen Agreement.” (Frontex Regulation, recitals 23-26.) Therefore, participation in Frontex operations was obligatory for states participating in the Schengen Area. (Frontex Regulation, art. 21 para. 3; art. 29 para. 1.) In 2016, the Commission abolished the Frontex Regulation and transformed Frontex into the Agency so it would be able to deal more effectively with challenges to border security. Since 2016, the Agency coordinates the management of the external border of the Schengen Area, working closely with national authorities.

  1. What was the European migration crisis of 2015?

The European migration crisis began in 2015 and was characterized by an unprecedented increase in the number of people irregularly arriving in Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea or via an overland route through southeast Europe. Because Greece and Italy were the first points of entry for a great number of people, they faced extraordinary pressures trying to manage and secure their borders. The EU Dublin Regulation requires the sending of irregular migrants to their first point of entry for the initiation of any return operation or asylum application, which increased the burden on these countries. In part, the rise in the number of migrants was due to the increasing number of Syrian refugees and the spillover from the migration crisis in Turkey. Since 2015, the Commission has proposed a series of initiatives to (re)strengthen the management and protection of the external borders and to restore the normal functioning of the Schengen Area.

  1. What was the role of Frontex during the migration crisis?

During the crisis, Frontex was active in the coordination of operations (rescue, return, etc.), but it had a limited mandate. For example, per article 9 of the Frontex Regulation, Frontex could only coordinate return operations but could not initiate them. In 2015, the then Commission President Juncker stated that the Commission was committed to learn from the weaknesses of the border management system that became evident during the migration crisis. The Commission considered the Frontex-coordinated joint-operations Triton (in Italy) and Poseidon (in Greece) as examples of the capabilities of Frontex, and “as models for future action,” which led to the transformation of Frontex into the Agency in 2016.

Coast Guard. Photo by Flickr user maso notarianni. Oct. 6, 2014. Used under Creative Commons license,

  1. What is the European Agenda on Migration?

Migration was added to the list of shared competences between the EU and its member states in the Treaty of Lisbon. (Consolidated Version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), art. 4, para. 2(j); art. 67, para. 2.) In May 2015, the Commission responded to the crisis with its European Agenda on Migration (Agenda). In the Agenda, the Commission had two main objectives: (1) to address immediate challenges with regards to irregular migration, borders, asylum, and legal migration, and (2) to better equip the EU with more efficient tools to respond and manage these challenges. The Agenda then identified four areas to improve on to better manage migration:

(1) fight against irregular migration (which includes EU’s cooperation in global issues to fight the root causes of irregular migration);

(2) securing the EU’s external borders;

(3) a common asylum policy; and

(4) a new European policy on legal migration.

The Agenda also notes that having EU rules on tackling identified problems would not be enough as long as a lack of operational cooperation between member states remains. To this end “strengthening the Frontex’s role and capacity” is identified as one of the solutions. In September 2015, President Juncker called for Frontex to be developed into “a fully operational European border and coast guard system.” A report prepared for the Commission concluded that such a system would be feasible.

  1. What is the current mandate of the Agency? (2016-present)

As part of the measures strengthening the EU’s external borders, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency was launched in October 2016 at the Bulgarian border with Turkey. Frontex’s existing operations continued, but the new Agency was granted an extended mandate which included: (1) a continuous reserve pool of 1,500 people and equipment (rapid reaction pool) in anticipation of any future crisis; (2) a monitoring and supervisory role by conducting “mandatory vulnerability assessments” to assess and identify any risks at the borders; (3) the right to intervene if national action is not enough or imminent; (4) the ability to launch joint surveillance operations with coast guards; (5) the ability to work in third countries; (6) the ability to initiate its own return operations; and (7) the ability to cooperate with other EU agencies on issues related to cross-border crime and terrorism.

In September 2018, the Commission proposed an updated mandate for the Agency in order to improve its control of the EU’s external borders. On December 4, 2019, the Regulation amending the mandate of the Agency entered into force. The broader mandate adds or extends the following powers of the Agency:

(1) the ability to establish “a standing corps” of 10,000 operational staff;

(2) the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR), which provides the infrastructure to obtain border-related data, is brought under the authority of the Agency;

(3) the operational capability at all stages of return operations is increased;

(4) the ability to set up “antenna offices” in the host member states and host third countries; and

(5) the ability to cooperate with all third countries instead of just the neighboring third countries.

In order to realize this, the budget granted to the Agency in 2020 has been increased by 34.6% from 312 million Euros (about US$346 million) in 2019 to 420 million Euros (about US$466 million).

According to a 2019 Commission report evaluating the progress made since the 2015 Agenda, the Commission states that there has been “a significant increase in the operational support provided by the Agency in return operations” since 2016. The Commission also adds that the extended mandate of 2019 “will take the Agency to a new operational stage,” especially with the establishment of a standing corps of 10,000 operational staff.

Categories: Research & Litigation


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