Joseph WeilerIt was an event that set off alarm bells around the world about academic freedom and the freedom of expression.

During the week of January 17, Joseph Weiler, University Professor and the Joseph Straus Professor of Law, stood trial in France for criminal libel because, as editor-in-chief of the European Journal of International Law (EJIL), he refused to remove a book review from an EJIL-affiliated website that the book’s author claimed is defamatory. Weiler, commissioned and published the review, but did not write it. In a blog post on the EJIL website titled “In the Dock, in Paris,” Weiler recounts the circumstances of the case and the trial.

The case has prompted expressions of concern and support from academics around the world, including his colleagues on the NYU Law faculty. On the EJIL website, Audrey Guinchard, a French-trained jurist who teaches at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom wrote, “Bravo to you for standing firm. You have the thanks of many scholars.” Bonnie and Richard Reiss Professor of Constitutional Law Samuel Issacharoff called the trial “an assault upon the very nature of academic inquiry” and  “a threat to us all.”

A verdict in the case is expected on March 3.

Posted February 1, 2011