The Canary that Forgot to Sing

The canary that forgot to sing

Recently, I wrote a paper on the “Forms of Final Products of the International Law Commission (ILC) and Their Legal Significance” (Kokusaiho Gaiko Zassi, The Journal of International Law and Diplomacy, Vol. 118, No. 2, 2019, in Japanese). The ILC is supposed to elaborate “draft articles” (Article 20 of the ILC Statute) for future binding conventions rather than “draft principles”, “draft guidelines” and “draft conclusions”.

I criticized this tendency by saying that, the ILC, having forgotten that the ILC is supposed to be an organ to produce “draft articles”, the Commission now looks like “a canary that forgot to sing,” as described in a popular children’s song in Japan. Though this song has been sung for more than a century by Japanese school children, its content is quite cruel.

    “A canary that forgot to sing,
    Should we throw him away at the back hill?
    No, no, that’s so poor of him.

    A canary that forgot to sing,
    Should we bury him in the backyard bush?
    No, no, that’s so cruel to him.

    A canary that forgot to sing,
    Should we beat him up with a willow whip?
    No, no, that’s so poor of him.

    A canary that forgot to sing,
    Should we put him on an ivory rowboat with a silver oar
    floating on a moonlight sea?
    He may then remember the song he forgot.”

Thus, the canary that forgot to sing faces severe punishments, and, in the end, he is put in a rowboat alone floating on the moonlight sea, (like those poor Somali pirates captured by the Russian navy and put in a rubber boat without navigation equipment! See, e.g., Pirates Were Let Go to Their Vessel from Released Tanker – Ivanov. ITAR-TASS World Sev.,May 18, 2010. (quoting Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov: “They (pirates) were freed, but without weapons and navigation equipment that were preliminarily confiscated”).

I only hope that the ILC will not face such a punishment for having forgotten the song that we should be singing.

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