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Each edition compiles excerpts from documents such as treaties, diplomatic notes and correspondence, legal opinion letters, judicial decisions, Senate committee reports and press releases. Each document is selected by members of the Legal Adviser's Office of the U.S. Department of State, based on their judgments about the significance of the issues, their potential relevance to future situations, and their likely interest to scholars and practitioners. In almost every case, the commentary to each excerpt is accompanied by a citation to the full text.
The 2011 edition covers various developments that occurred during the course of the year, including the State Department's activities in response to the "Arab Awakening" in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and elsewhere. Other topics covered include the State Department's efforts to pursue compliance with international law in the domestic law context, such as in promotion of domestic legislation that would comply with the decision of the International Court of Justice in Avena, and in the filing of amicus briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court, e.g., in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum.