The Second University of Michigan Law School Colloquium on Challenges in International Refugee Law

Posted: 18 Oct 2002

See all articles by James C. Hathaway

James C. Hathaway

University of Michigan Law School; Melbourne Law School; University of Amsterdam


A critical limitation on access to refugee status is the need to show that one's fear of being persecuted is "for reasons of" one of the five Convention grounds. The meaning of this causal nexus requirement was the subject of the University of Michigan's Second Colloquium on Challenges in International Refugee Law, convened in April 2001.

The papers in this special collection are the result of an intensive collaboration between leading refugee law scholars from around the world and a team of senior Michigan law students, advised and supported by UNHCR.

In particular, the Colloquium sought to respond to the legally problematic holding of the US Supreme Court in Elias-Zacarias, which suggested the need to show evidence of a particularized intent to harm on the part of the agent of persecution. The group similarly critiqued the holding of the House of Lords in Adan which effectively imposed a sui generis causation requirement for victims of war. Finally, intensive debate on the meaning of causation in the context of refugee law resulted in the elaboration of model standards intended to produce a movement away from the present tendency of courts uncritically to import causation standards from other areas of law into the refugee determination process.

The resultant Michigan Guidelines on Nexus to a Convention Ground are the first standards which seek to define the basis for a principled and consistent international approach to the issue of causation in refugee law.

The symposium papers compiliation consists of the following:

"The Causal Nexus in International Refugee Law" by James C. Hathaway

"The Michigan Guidelines on Nexus to a Convention Ground" by James C. Hathaway et al.

"Repairing the Legacy of INS v. Elias-Zacarias" by Shayna Cook

"Persecution in the Fog of War: The House of Lords' Decision in Adan" by Michael Kagan and William Johnson

"Causation in Context: Interpreting the Nexus Clause in the Refugee Convention" by Michelle Foster

Suggested Citation

Hathaway, James C., The Second University of Michigan Law School Colloquium on Challenges in International Refugee Law. Michigan Journal of International Law, Vol. 23, No. 2. Available at SSRN:

James C. Hathaway (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

Melbourne Law School ( email )

185 Pelham Street
Victoria, 3010

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Amsterdam, 1018 WB

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