Is Jean Allain a slave to the study of slavery? – book review – The Slavery Conventions: The Travaux Preparatoires of the 1926 League of Nations Convention and the 1956 United Nations Convention (Martinus Nijhoff, 2008)

Posted on May 11, 2009. Filed under: Human Rights | Tags: , , , , , , |

Jean Allain is one of the worlds foremost experts on the international law of slavery. Some would argue, it is his lifes work.

One thing is certain, he is one of the few legal scholars in history who has had the steadfastness to dig into the bowels of various UN libraries worldwide to put together the pieces of the highly elusive slavery conventions puzzle. Anyone that knows anything of this complex area of law knows that the slavery conventions, and what is considered the prevailing overall law on the subject, was not something constructed overnight or even in a year but over many decades, under the trusteeship of both the the UN and seminally, the League of Nations.

Jean Allain - The Slavery Conventions
With his book ‘ The Slavery Conventions’, Jean Allain has donned the cap of a forensic researcher to find us all the relevant working documents and negotiations history on the subject. He has analysed it with his sound scholarly skill and applied it, with a plethora of caselaw and legislative reference, for modern context. This work will inject clarity to the murky and ambiguous interpretation of the incongruous material of the past.
While I do not always agree with Allain’s views on the Middle East conflict, I commend his work highly on this subject and in turn recommend this text as an addition/acquisition to any human rights library or collection of works pertaining to this very important subject. Any human rights enthusiast will appreciate its worth on perusal.

The main Slavery Conventions brought together in this work are:
The 1926 League of Nations Slavery Convention
The 1953 Protocol Amending the Slavery Convention
The 1956 Supplementary Convention

They should be considered in tangent with:
The 2000 Palermo Protocol on the prevention, suppression and punishment of trafficking in persons;
The 2005 Copuncil of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in human beings

The limited print run from last year seems to be in very short supply. You may however secure/backorder your copy here: US, UK/EU and CANADA.

Humorous postscript – this piece by Elisabeth Wynhausen and Natalie O’Brien appeared in the Australian newspaper at the time of the High Court Case of Wei Tang, which incidentally considered the meaning of slavery. Excerpt concerning this book below.

‘A faint but unmistakable air of showmanship pervades the resulting proceedings. The plummy-voiced beetle-browed Mr Solicitor, as Bennett is called, doesn’t just look and sound like a character out of Rumpole, he actually resembles John Mortimer. Now and then an observer new to the High Court may wonder if the judges and these learned friends are playing a game called “Who’s got the best treaty, then?”

While Hayne quotes “the Official Journal of the League of Nations reporting on the 92nd Session of the council of the league for July 1936”, Brett Walker SC, the counsel for HREOC, quotes a book by a certain Monsieur Allain. Holding up the work in question, he says: “I understand I have the only copy in the country.”

The formidable performances almost seem to obscure the facts of the case.’

Michael Simon for the Human Right Book Review

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