Sunday, April 26, 2015

Earthquake in Nepal

The death toll from the earthquake on Saturday in Nepal reached 1,910 people.  There were also deaths reported in India and Bhutan. More than 5,000 people injured.  A new aftershock measuring 6.7 magnitude struck 65 kilometers east of Kathmandu at 1:09pm local time Sunday.

Facebook has a rather amazing function that allows people to check themselves in as safe (or allows others to check them in as safe).  You can see which of your friends is in the area and whether they have checked themselves in as safe.

Google has a Nepal Earthquake Person Finder where you can look for a person or report information about a person.  Click here to see it.

USAID is deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to the region and is providing an initial $1 million in emergency assistance as we assess humanitarian needs in cooperation with the Government of Nepal. USAID is also activating an Urban Search and Rescue Team to accompany disaster experts.  Many other national governments are also organizing emergency relief efforts.

The U.S. Embassy in Nepal also advises that if you concerned about a U.S. citizen in Nepal, your can call the U.S. State Department at +1 888-407-4747 or +1-202-501-4444 (overseas). You can follow @USEmbassyNepal, @theOFDA, and @StateDept on Twitter and 'like' the U.S. Embassy in Nepal on Facebook for updates.  Click here for the website for the U.S. Embassy in Nepal.

Make donations to reputable organizations. There are immediate needs and also longer-term needs to overcome this disastor. Here is a link to the list of organizations identified by the New York Times.

Here are some of the organizations working in Nepal.  You can find many others.  Please help if you can.

(mew)

April 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Private International Law Prize 2015

The Private International Law Interest Group (PILIG) of the American Society of International Law invites submissions for this year’s ASIL Private International Law prize. The prize is given for the best text on private international law written by a young scholar. Essays, articles, and books are welcome, and can address any topic of private international law, can be of any length, and may be published or unpublished, but not published prior to 2014. Submitted essays should be in the English language.  Competitors may be citizens of any nation but must be 35 years old or younger on December 31, 2014. They need not be members of ASIL.

This year, the prize will consist of a $400 stipend to participate in the 2015 or 2016 ASIL Annual Conference, and one year’s membership to ASIL. The prize will be awarded by the Private International Law Interest Group based upon the recommendation of a Prize Committee. Decisions of the Prize Committee on the winning essay and on any conditions relating to this prize are final.

Submissions to the Prize Committee must be received by June 1st 2015.

Entries should be submitted by email in Word or pdf format. They should contain two different documents: a) the essay itself, without any identifying information other than the title; and b) a second document containing the title of the entry and the author’s name, affiliation, and contact details.

Submissions and any queries should be addressed by email to Private International Law Interest Group Co-Chairs Prof. S.I. Strong (strongsi@missouri.edu) and Cristian Gimenez Corte (cristiangimenezcorte@gmail.com). All submissions will be acknowledged by e-mail.

Hat tip to Prof. S.I. Strong

(mew)

April 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 24, 2015

International Law Updates from Washington, D.C.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on U.S. Security Policy in Europe. on April 28, 2015 at 9:30 a.m., G-50 Dirksen.

The Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, House Foreign Affairs Committee, will hold a hearing on the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act on April 28, 2015 at 2 pm, 2255 Rayburn.

The Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa, House Foreign Affairs Committee, will hold a hearing on U.S. policy in Iraq and Syria on April 30, 2015 at 2 pm, 2200 Rayburn.

On April 23, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee approved an original bill to extend the African Growth and Opportunity Act, the Generalized System of Preferences, and the preferential duty treatment program for Haiti. And the House Ways and Means Committee approved HR 1891, to extend the African Growth and Opportunity Act, the Generalized System of Preferences, and the preferential duty treatment program for Haiti.

Also on that day, the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved HR 907, the United States-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act of 2015.

Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office

(mew)

April 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Central African Republic To Establish Special Tribunal for War Crimes

The National Transitional Council of the Central African Republic (CAR) voted this week to establish a Special Criminal Court within its criminal justice system to try persons accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity since 2003.  It will be a hybrid or mixed tribunal, meaning that it will be staffed with a majority of judges from the CAR, with the remainder of judges coming from other countries.  It will also have an international prosecutor.  The Special Criminal Tribunal will operate in cooperation with the International Criminal Court, which is also investigating certain persons and activities in the CAR.  For more information, visit Human Rights Watch

(cgb)

April 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

EC's Response to the Migrant Crisis in the Mediterranean Is Lacking

As reported by many news organizations, there is a migrant crisis in the Mediterranean Sea. According to the latest figures, 1754 persons have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe since the beginning of the year, including 800 on April 19 alone, when a boat from Libya sank on its way to Italy.  The International Organization for Migration has said that these figures represent many times the number of deaths experienced during the same period last year (96 deaths in the first four months of 2014 as compared to over 1500 deaths so far in 2015).  Most of the migrants are fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

Yesterday, the European Commission (EC) offered a 10-point plan in response to the migrant crisis, including more resources for Frontex, the border agency in charge of the EU's Mediterranean rescue service, Triton. Certainly, more resources are needed to rescue those at sea. However, the 10-point plan is disappointing in that it is largely focused on responses to the crisis that do not address its underlying causes or offer long-term solutions.  Only three of the ideas suggested deal with the possible resettlement of persons in safe countries.  And of those ideas, two seem to be temporary and voluntary emergency-type programs ("emergency relocation mechanism" and "voluntary pilot project on resettlement"), not long-term, sustainable solutions. Three of the ten ideas focus solely on information-gathering - both about the smugglers and their operations, as well as about the victims.  Only one point mentions "engagement" with countries in Africa and none suggest helping to resolve the conflict in Libya, where many of these vessels originate.

In addition, some of these responses raise difficult legal issues, such as the suggestion to capture and destroy vessels used by human smugglers. When and how such an operation would be carried out is not clear. Would the EU forces only destroy a vessel after capturing it and discovering evidence of criminal activity, like human smuggling, being carried on aboard the vessel? Or would they attack a vessel on suspicion of criminal activity (perhaps leading to mistakes and more loss of life)? Will they enter the sovereign territory of other nations to capture and destroy the vessels, possibly provoking additional conflict? In its 10-point plan, the EC pointed to successes by the Atlanta Operation with respect to Somali pirates, but safely capturing vessels overloaded with hundreds of migrants is likely quite different than capturing vessels with pirates aboard. 

Wealthier countries in the EU and around the world must step up and create better long-term solutions to the refugee crises in the Mediterranean and elsewhere.  They must provide more assistance to countries that are experiencing poverty, conflict, and natural disasters. Without addressing the underlying factors that create migrant crises, these migrant flows will not cease. The international community should consider broadening the definition of who qualifies as a refugee and increase the numbers of refugees and other displaced persons they are willing to resettle within their borders.

(cgb)  

April 22, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

2015 ILA-ASIL Asia-Pacific Research Forum (Taipei, Taiwan)

The Chinese (Taiwan) Society of International Law, in partnership with the American Society of International Law's Interest Group on the Pacific Rim Region, will hold the ILA-ASIL Asia-Pacific Research Forum on May 25-26, 2015 in Taipei, Taiwan, ROC.

The theme of the Research Forum is: “Integrating the Asia-Pacific: Why International Law Matters.” Confirmed speakers include Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, ASIL President Lori Damrosch, Chief Justice of India H L Dattu, and Judge Helmut Tuerk of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

Click here to see the tentative program and registration information. The registration deadline is May 1, 2015.

(mew)

April 18, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Nominations for GLS Awards

The Global Legal Skills Conference being held in Chicago May 20-22, 2015 includes a Consular Reception and GLS Awards Presentation at the Union League Club of Chicago on Thursday evening, May 21.  Nominations are still open for GLS Awards, which can be given in a number of categories:

  1. Innovative Programs (for example, programs that focus on teaching global legal skills; teaching Legal English or Legal Spanish to non-native speakers; and other innovative programs);
  2. Scholarship (articles and books that advance the teaching of global legal skills, including new casebooks and texts for lawyers and law students);
  3. Educational Leadership (schools that recognize the importance of providing services to international students); and
  4. Support (for companies, law firms, and law schools that give special support for global legal skills).

Nominees need not be present (but it's always nicer if they are).  Nominees and winners in past years have come from around the world (United States, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Russia for example). 

More information about the GLS conference is available at http://glsc.jmls.edu/2015/.  

There is no particular nomination form. To submit a nominee, contact Professor Mark E. Wojcik at The John Marshall Law School [mwojcik at jmls.edu] by May 8, 2015.

(mew)

April 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

US President Obama to Remove Cuba as State Sponsor of Terrorism

News reports indicate that U.S. President Barack Obama sent a message to the U.S. Congress yesterday that he intends to remove Cuba from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism. Once that happens, the U.S. and Cuba will be able to resume normal diplomatic relations, although it will not be an end to the economic sanctions the U.S. maintains against Cuba.  Thus, the main result of the move will be to allow the re-opening of the U.S. and Cuban embassies.  States that are designated as sponsors of terrorism are also barred from trade with the U.S. in arms and other militarily sensitive technology as well as receipt of certain financial aid from the U.S., but those activities may still be prohibited for Cuba under separate legislation.

Congress will have 45 days to consider the President's action before it takes effect. If Congress wishes to block the President, it must pass separate legislation to do, something that the White House predicts to be unlikely.

The U.S. first designated Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1982 when it was actively sponsoring Marxist revolutionaries in Latin America.  President Obama's action follows a review by the U.S. State Department, which confirmed that Cuba has satisfied the criteria for removal from the terrorist list.  President Obama emphasized that the U.S. still has disagreements with Cuban policy, but that those disagreements do not relate to the terrorism designation.  

Josefina Vidal, Director of U.S. relations at Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Relations, welcomed Cuba's removal from the list and affirmed that Cuba rejects and condemns all acts of terrorism.

There are only three other countries that remain on the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list - Iran, North Korea and Syria.  For more information about the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list, see the U.S. State Dept. website.

(cgb)

April 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 13, 2015

2015 IALS Annual Meeting to be held in Spain

IALSThe International Association of Law Schools (IALS) has announced that it will hold its Ninth Annual Meeting in beautiful Segovia, Spain from 27-29 October 2015.  The theme of this year's Annual Meeting is "Developing Standards for Global Legal Education."  The Instituto Empresa University, Law School in Segovia, Spain will host the meeting, which is open to all law faculty of IALS member law schools as well as non-member law schools.

The conference offers three awards - one for students and two for faculty - related to its theme. Winners of the awards receive funding to attend the conference.  Some funds are also available for persons from developing countries who cannot afford to attend on their own.  In addition, persons who participate in the study groups are eligible for discounted rates.  

To see the full agenda and for more information, visit the IALS website.

(cgb)

April 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 10, 2015

International Law and Social Media

The American Society of International Law is holding a panel now on International Law and Social Media. How has socal media changed the development and enforcement of International Law? When should Ambassadors tweet?. #ASILAM15

(mew)

April 10, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

International Law Association will Meet in South Africa in August 2016

The 77th Biennial Conference of the International Law Association will take place from August 7- 11, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The conference theme will be 'International Law and State Practice: Is there a North/South Divide?' The official conference website address is www.ila2016.com.

Hat tip to the South African Branch of the International Law Association (SABILA)

(mew)

April 7, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thailand Urged to End Criminalization of Dissenting Voices

A United Nations human rights expert has urged the Government of Thailand to immediately and unequivocally distance itself from the “intimidating” statements made by its leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, in which he threatened the freedom and lives of the country’s journalists.

The expert says that according to reports, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the leader of the military coup that deposed Thailand’s elected Government in 2014 and, currently, the country’s Prime Minister, recently declared that journalists who criticize him or “cause divisions” could be subjected to execution and that he enjoys “the power to close down the media, arrest people, order for people to be shot.”

“After a year of killings and terrible violence against journalists worldwide, such statements are simply outrageous,” the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, exclaimed in a news release issued last week.

“Journalists of all kinds perform one of the most fundamental tasks in a democratic society, throwing light on whether and how Governments behave in accordance with the rule of law or engage in corruption and human rights abuses,” he added. “Intimidation of journalists is by definition an attack on the public’s right to know.”

The UN expert called on the Thai Government to take immediate steps to lift the nationwide imposition of martial law and declared that freedom of expression and independent journalism were “essential” for building inclusive societies and democracies.

“Not only Governments and public officials should exhibit respect for the role of journalists, but actually should publicly condemn all forms of threats and attacks against journalists at the highest political level and ensure no one is subject to intimidations,” Mr. Kaye continued.

“There is no sense that General Prayuth spoke in jest. But even if he did, the idea that the killing of journalists – let alone the shutting down of media in light of criticism – can be a laughing matter is reprehensible.”

The Special Rapporteur – who is, by UN statute, an independent and unremunerated expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council – also expressed concern with the increasing arrests and detentions under Thailand’s lese majesté law and Computer Crime Act and called for an end to the criminalization of dissenting opinions.

“This is particularly crucial now at the moment of drafting the new Constitution,” he concluded, “which will shape the future of the country.”

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

April 7, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 6, 2015

U.N. Security Council Authorizes Drawdown of Peacekeeping Mission in Liberia

UN Security CouncilThe United Nations Security Council has adopted a resolution authorizing the third phase of a drawdown of the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia to 3,590 military personnel and 1,515 police personnel, and deciding that the Mission’s mandate would no longer include electoral support.

The text adopted last week reaffirms the Council’s expectation that the Government of Liberia will assume fully its complete security responsibilities from the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) no later than 30 June 2016 and also reaffirms its intention to consider the continued and future reconfiguration of UNMIL accordingly.

Council members requested that the Secretary-General streamline the civilian element of UNMIL’s activities to fully reflect the downsizing of the police and military components and the narrowing of the mandate decided in resolution 2190 (2014), and to consolidate the three elements of the Mission in line with the security transition.

Calling on the Governments of Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire to continue reinforcing their cooperation, particularly with respect to the border area, the resolution calls upon all UN entities in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia, including the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and UNMIL, to support the Ivoirian and Liberian authorities in doing so.

It also reaffirms the importance of inter-mission cooperation arrangements as downsizing of UNOCI and UNMIL proceeds.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

April 6, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Eviction of Widows Highlights Need to Abolish Discriminatory Inheritance Laws in Tanzania

Tanzania should take steps to revise or repeal laws, customs, and practices that discriminate against women, a United Nations Committee said last week after considering the case of two widows who were prevented from inheriting their late husbands’ property and were left homeless.

The Geneva-based Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) issued its call after considering a complaint by the women, who under local customary laws could not inherit upon their respective husband’s death and were subsequently evicted from their homes by their in-laws.

In 2005, the women, referred to as E.S and S.C, began legal proceedings, arguing that inheritance provisions be struck down because they contravened Tanzania’s Constitution and the country’s international obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which it ratified in 1985.

In 2006, the High Court agreed that the provisions were discriminatory but said it would not overturn them as doing so would “be opening a Pandora’s box, with all the seemingly discriminative customs from our 120 tribes plus following the same path.”

Regarding widows, customary law – which is in force in 30 districts – states that they have “no share of the inheritance if the deceased left relatives of his clan; her share is to be cared for by her children, just as she cared for them.”

In its findings, the 23-member Committee said that Tanzania should grant the two women adequate reparation and compensation, noting that they had been left “economically vulnerable, with no property, no home to live in with their children and no form of financial support.” It also called on Tanzania to ensure that rights guaranteed under the Convention have precedence over discriminatory provisions.

States parties have an obligation to adopt measures to amend or abolish “not only existing laws and regulations, but also customs and practices that constitute discrimination against women.” This includes countries such as Tanzania that have “multiple legal systems in which different personal status laws apply to individuals on the basis of identity factors such as ethnicity and religion.”

Further, courts should also refrain from resorting to unreasonable and undue delays, CEDAW said, noting that shortcomings in the Tanzanian judiciary had denied the women justice, with their appeal pending before the Court of Appeal for more than six years.

Among several other recommendations, CEDAW called on Tanzania to encourage dialogue on the removal of discriminatory law provisions and provide mandatory training for judicial personnel on the Convention and the Committee’s jurisprudence. CEDAW said Tanzania should submit a written response within six months, any action taken in light of its recommendations.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

April 6, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Private International Law Prize 2015

The Private International Law Interest Group (PILIG) of the American Society of International Law invites submissions for this year’s ASIL Private International Law prize. The prize is given for the best text on private international law written by a young scholar. Essays, articles, and books are welcome, and can address any topic of private international law, can be of any length, and may be published or unpublished, but not published prior to 2014. Submitted essays should be in the English language.  Competitors may be citizens of any nation but must be 35 years old or younger on December 31, 2014. They need not be members of ASIL.

This year, the prize will consist of a $400 stipend to participate in the 2015 or 2016 ASIL Annual Conference, and one year’s membership to ASIL. The prize will be awarded by the Private International Law Interest Group based upon the recommendation of a Prize Committee. Decisions of the Prize Committee on the winning essay and on any conditions relating to this prize are final.

Submissions to the Prize Committee must be received by June 1st 2015.

Entries should be submitted by email in Word or pdf format. They should contain two different documents: a) the essay itself, without any identifying information other than the title; and b) a second document containing the title of the entry and the author’s name, affiliation, and contact details.

Submissions and any queries should be addressed by email to Private International Law Interest Group Co-Chairs Prof. S.I. Strong (strongsi@missouri.edu) and Cristian Gimenez Corte (cristiangimenezcorte@gmail.com). All submissions will be acknowledged by e-mail.

Hat tip to Prof. S.I. Strong

(mew)

April 6, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

United Nations Condems Al Shabaab Attack on Garissa University in Kenya

The United Nations has condemned the terrorist attack carried out by Al Shabaab in Garissa, Kenya, in the strongest terms, with the Security Council members stressing their “outrage” at what the President of the General Assembly called a “heinous” attack.

The Secretary-General, who had previously condemned the attack in a statement released on Wednesday, sent a personal letter yesterday to the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, to once again expressed his sincere condolences following the “horrendous” attack.  “There is little more appalling than targeting young people for murder and mayhem.” Mr. Ban wrote in the letter. “Those responsible for this heinous attack must be brought to justice.” He also reiterated the solidarity of the United Nations with the people and Government of Kenya in preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism.

Those sentiments were echoed by the members of the Security Council, who issued a statement paying tribute to Kenya's role in the fight against terrorism, in particular the role played by the country in the fight against Al Shabaab as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

Reaffirming that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable regardless of their motivation, wherever and whenever and by whomsoever committed, Council members reiterated their determination to combat all forms of terrorism, in accordance with their responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations.

They underlined the need to bring the perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice and urged all States, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with the Kenyan authorities in this regard.

The members of the Security Council reminded States that they must ensure that measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law, international humanitarian law and refugee law.

The President of the General Assembly, Sam Kutesa (Uganda), also reiterated that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations is criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of its motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever commits it, and he joined the Secretary-General and the Security Council in extending condolences to the families of the victims and the people and government of the Republic of Kenya, while wishing a speedy recovery to those injured.

The heinous attack left dozens dead, scores injured and many held hostage and others unaccounted for, the vast majority of whom were students, the statement said, adding a call on the international community to redouble its efforts to combat the scourge of terrorism.

(UN Press Release)

April 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Iran Nuclear Accord Reached With China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has congratulated the team of international negotiators and Iran on achieving a political framework that paves the way for an historic comprehensive joint plan of action on Iran’s nuclear programme to be achieved by 30 June.

“That comprehensive agreement will provide for substantial limits on Iran’s nuclear programme and for the removal of all sanctions,” said Mr. Ban in a statement released by his spokesperson, following the announcement that Iran and the Foreign Ministers of the so-called ‘E3+3’ (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States), had reached a deal.

“It will respect Iran’s needs and rights while providing assurances to the international community that its nuclear activities will remain exclusively peaceful,” Mr. Ban’s statement continued.

The statement added that the Secretary-General is convinced that a comprehensive, negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue will contribute to peace and stability in the region and enable all countries to cooperate urgently to deal with the many serious security challenges they face.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

April 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

UN Human Rights Office Welcomes Condemnation of Attacks on People with Albinism

The United Nations Human Rights office has welcomed Malawi President Peter Mutharika's strong statement condemning the recent spate of attacks on people with albinism in his country and urged that the measures he outlined to arrest those responsible for such attacks and better protect albinos be launched “without delay.”

“We hope that this series of measures will result in a significant improvement in the security and well-being of people with albinism in Malawi,” the southern African country where at least six incidents have been reported this year, said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Mr. Colville welcomed President Mutharika’s statement in which he called on security agencies in Malawi to be placed on high alert, to arrest people responsible for such attacks and provide maximum protection to people with albinism.

Malawi’s Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Patricia Kaliati, has unveiled a five-point plan of action, which included the development of an education and awareness programme, strengthening of community policing structure, research to understand the root causes of the problem and what is done with the body parts of people with albinism.

Noting the Minister’s reference to the Government considering appealing against some lenient sentences, the spokesperson said: “We would welcome this as well, and note that earlier this week a man received a sentence of just two years after being convicted of attempting to kidnap his 11-year-old niece Mina Jeffrey.” Her uncle later reportedly said he had been promised $6,500 for her body.

Attacks against albinism had traditionally been recorded in Tanzania, Burundi and Malawi, Mr. Colville said, noting that it was a recent phenomenon in Malawi, while attacks have recently been reported in Mozambique.

The UN has expressed revulsion at a recent spike in gruesome attacks against people with albinism in several African countries where in the past six months, at least 15 albinos were abducted, wounded, or killed, including three such incidents last week.

In Tanzania, in early March, President Jakaya Kikwete promised to put an end to the current wave of killings in that country, saying he will not allow them to escalate as they have done in previous years.

“We have been informed that the Tanzanian authorities, in particular the Attorney General’s Chambers, have started to develop a plan of action to raise public awareness and fight against impunity,” according to spokesman Colville. “However it appears that most of the witchdoctors/arrested over the past few weeks have now been released.”

“We once again call upon the Tanzanian authorities to take prompt and firm action to ensure accountability for the crimes committed against people with albinism and to take effective measures to protect this particularly vulnerable group,” he said.

Mr. Colville also welcomed the establishment of the post by the UN Human Rights Council of an Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights of persons with albinism.

“This important new mandate will help give a voice to people with albinism and contribute to their protection, through a dialogue with concerned States, enhanced awareness raising and reporting, and the provision of advisory services and technical assistance,” according to the human rights spokesman.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

April 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

United Nations Budget Committee Rejects Proposal to Change How U.N. Categorizes Employment Benefits for Same-Sex Couples

The United Nations budget committee on March 24, 2015 rejected a draft decision that would have had Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon withdraw a bulletin, issued last year, which established rules for the personal status of staff members in determining their benefits and entitlements.

Eighty delegations voted against the draft decision, which revolved around such principles as the Secretary-General’s prerogatives in organizational matters, equality of UN employees, national sovereignty, and transparency. The text received 43 votes in favour, while 37 delegations abstained.

In 2014 the UN changed how it categorizes staff members’ personal status, allowing more same-sex couples access to the same benefits enjoyed by their heterosexual counterparts.

In a major policy change that took effect in June, the UN decided to honour the marriage of any same-sex couple wed in a country where same-sex marriages are legal. Previously, a staff member’s personal status was determined by the laws of the country whose passport he or she carried.

Mr. Ban did not consult UN Member States about the policy change.

Following today’s vote, UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters that the Secretary-General appreciated the support of those who recognized his authority as Chief Administrative Officer as per the UN Charter.

“I’d like to repeat in issuing his bulletin last year, the Secretary-General was acting under that authority in managing UN staff members,” said Mr. Haq.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

April 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

World Tuberculosis Day

With some 37 million lives saved between 2000 and 2013 through the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis, it is possible to end the epidemic by 2035, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on World Tuberculosis Day, urging leaders to recommit to ending one of humanity's top killers.

“Victory is not guaranteed,” Mr. Ban said in his message for the Day, observed each year on 24 March.

“I urge Governments, communities affected by tuberculosis and health workers around the world to intensify their efforts in line with the ambitious strategy established by the World Health Assembly in 2014 to end the global epidemic within two decades,” he stated.

Tuberculosis, or TB, is one of the world's top infectious killers. Approximately 9 million people fell ill from it in 2013, and 1.5 million died. TB's impact is felt acutely by the most vulnerable populations, including those struggling with poverty and poor health systems. For women aged 15 to 44, tuberculosis is one of the top five killers. For children, prisoners, migrants and those living with HIV, TB remains the most common form of illness and the leading cause of death.

Last May, governments agreed on a new 20-year (2016-2035) strategy to end the global tuberculosis epidemic. To that end, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for new action in the global fight against the scourge. Its 'End TB' strategy outlines clear actions and targets that provide a pathway to a world free of tuberculosis deaths and suffering. The plan also links to the wider poverty eradication, social protection and universal health coverage agenda.

“While achievement by 2015 of one of the key health-focused Millennium Development Goals, namely the reversal of the spread of tuberculosis, is significant, World Tuberculosis Day reminds governments and communities that this is no time for complacency. Efforts must begin now to ensure the effective global roll-out of the 'End TB' strategy and to stimulate the research that will underpin its success,” Mr. Ban said.

'End TB' sets targets and outlines actions for governments and partners to provide patient-centred care, pursue policies and systems that enable prevention and care, and drive research and innovations needed to end the epidemic and eliminate tuberculosis.

WHO is also calling on governments, affected communities, civil society organizations and health-care providers to join the drive to roll out this strategy and to reach, treat and cure all those who are ill today.

“With patient-centred care at the heart, this dynamic action plan will drive forward the critical advances in research and innovation that are needed to combat tuberculosis, including the worrying surge in its multi-drug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant forms,” Mr. Ban emphasized.

(UN Press Release)

April 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)