In September 2008, New York University law professor Joseph Weiler was summoned to appear before a French Examining Judge in connection with a complaint of alleged criminal libel made by Dr. Karin Calvo-Goller, a senior lecturer at the Academic Centre of Law and Business in Israel. Professor Weiler will appear for trial before the Paris Criminal Tribunal in June 2010.
Professor Weiler is the editor in chief of the European Journal of International Law and the affiliated book review sites, Global Law Books and European Law Books . In 2007, Global Law Books published a book review written by Professor Thomas Weigend, Director of the Cologne Institute of Foreign and International Criminal Law and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Cologne. Professor Weigend reviewed Dr.
Calvo-Goller's book, The Trial Proceedings of the International Criminal Court. ICTY and ICTR Precedents, and criticized it as an "exercise in rehashing the existing legal set-up" and "unproductive," among other things.
In June 2007, Dr. Calvo-Goller wrote to Professor Weiler in his capacity as editor of Global Law Books , requesting that he remove Professor Weigend's review from the site. Her letter detailed several perceived factual inaccuracies in the review, claiming that it went "beyond the expression of an opinion, fair comment and criticism" and contained "false factual statements which the author of the review, a professor of criminal law, could not reasonably believe to be true." It also claimed that "[t]he review is an indirect insult to former ICTY and actual ICC
officials, defense counsel of the ICTY and ICTR, who took the time to
read and comment on previous drafts of the book."
In a response to Dr. Calvo-Goller, Professor Weiler declined to remove the review, expressing his sympathy for Dr. Calvo-Goller's hurt feelings, but also pointing out the unorthodox character of the request:
I have seen all manner of reviews and from time to time received letters from unhappy authors. In these long years of experience I have never received a letter such as yours both in content and tone. It departs from what in my view are considered common conventions of academic discourse and academic publication.
. . .
It is a very extreme request to ask for a critical review to be removed. I could imagine acceding to such a request only in most egregious circumstances of, say, bad faith, conflict of interest etc. In reviewing a complaint such as yours the task of the editor is not to engage in a de novo review, but to assess whether the review falls into one of those extreme categories of egregious unreasonableness.
After noting Professor Weigend's distinguished professional credentials and addressing each specific factual/substantive contention in turn, Professor Weiler concluded that removing the review was not justified:
My conclusion from this preliminary enquiry is that the heavy burden needed in my eyes to suppress a book review has not been met. In fact not even a prima facie case has been made. I found nothing to impugn the integrity or professionalism of the reviewer and, independently of whether or not I share his opinions or conclusions on your book, I must decline your request to suppress the book review by removing it from the site.
Professor Weiler also explained that he would forward Dr.
Calvo-Goller's comments to Professor Weigend and would consider a
request by Professor Weigend, if any, to change the review.
Professor Weiler also pointed out the comment feature on the website
and suggested that it would be "perfectly in order for you to write a
comment which, after editorial approval, could be posted on the website
and seen by anyone who reads the review."
Professor Weigend declined to make any changes, Dr. Calvo-Goller posted no comment, and Professor Weiler stood by Professor Weigend's decision.