December 6, 2008
Teaching Tips When Speaking About International Criminal Tribunals
The international criminal tribunals established by the UN Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter have an advantage over the International Criminal Court in that the composition of the courts can be changed much more easily. UN tribunals can be changed by a resolution of the UN Security Council. For example, UN Security Council Resolution 1837 adopted in September 2008 amended article 12 of the Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. It is much more difficult to amend the statute of the International Criminal Court. The ICC is an independent treaty body, and changes must be made by the assembly of state parties rather than a simple UN Security Council Resolution.
Resolution 1837 also extends the terms of trial court and appellate judges for ICTY, which is scheduled to wind up its work. An advantage that the permanent ICC has over the temporary UN tribunals is that the ICC will always be able to prosecute individuals who might evade capture during the time when the tribunals are in operation. (Although we have to also concede that the tribunals have been in operation for a relatively long time now.)
We welcome comments on additional teaching tips when speaking about international criminal tribunals.
December 5, 2008
Should the United States Ratify CEDAW?
There is a long line of treaties awaiting U.S. ratification. One of them is the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Click here to read a commentary piece by Professor Marjorie Cohn, President of the National Lawyers Guild and a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. She argues that the time has come for the U.S. to ratify CEDAW.
Does the Targeted Killing of Terrorists Violate International Law?
The Israel Supreme Court issued a ruling on these questions in Public Committee Against Torture v. State of Israel, a case decided in December 2006. An introductory note to that case was published in the International Legal Materials, a great publication from the American Society of International Law. (If you don't know the I.L.M., check with your law library.)
Click here to read more. After clicking on the link, click on "download" to read the introductory note.
December 4, 2008
Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Says UN Security Council Must Be Prepared to Enforce an Arrest Warrant for the President of Sudan
If the judges of the International Criminal Court issue an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, the President of Sudan, would the U.N. Security Council enforce it? The prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, requested the arrest warrant in July. He said in a briefing this week that the U.N. Security Council must be prepared to act if the judges decide to issue an arrest warrant. The ICC has already issued arrest warrants for Ahmad Muhammad Harun (former Minister of State for the Interior and currently Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs), and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb. Mr. Moreno-Ocampo has also requested arrest warrants for three rebel commanders for their role in attacks against peacekeepers in Darfur.
New UN Treaty on Cluster Munitions Signed in Norway
Representatives of around 100 countries gathered in Oslo, Norway, to sign a United Nations-sponsored treaty that renounces the use of cluster bombs, a weapon that frequently kills children and other innocent civilians and can destroy communities for years after fighting has stopped. These terrible weapons were first used in World War II. They are bombs that contain a number of smaller bombs that will spread out over the size of several football fields. They often failed to detonate upon impact, and thus created huge de facto minefields that posed a continuing danger for many years. Some of the smaller bombs were painted in bright colors, making them attractive to children. Cluster bombs have claimed over 10,000 civilian lives, 40 per cent of which are children.
December 3, 2008
New Voices in International Human Rights
When I was chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on International Human Rights Law, our section hosted a program called "New Voices in Human Rights" to highlight the work of new scholars and others who had not previously had an opportunity to speak at an AALS Annual Meeting. The program was a great success and was very well attended. I am tremendously pleased that the section is continuing this program at the upcoming AALS meeting in San Diego. This is an important opportunity to encourage and promote new scholars and their work. I hope that the program is continued in future years.
The International Human Rights Law Section received a number of submissions for presentation. I have just received the list of the twelve individuals who will present their work at the AALS Annual Meeting. The program will be on Wednesday, January 7, 2009, from 2:00 to 5:15 p.m.
Here is a list of the presenters, their institutional affiliations, and their paper topics:
- Angela Banks (William & Mary School of Law) Rights without Remedies: Protecting Substantive Rights in Deportation Proceedings
- Sarah Paoletti (University of Pennsylvania Law School) International Human Rights and Law and Organizing: A New Social Justice Movement for Migrant Workers
- Johanna Bond (Washington and Lee) Gender, Agency, and Voice: The Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa
- Maureen T. Duffy (Doctoral Candidate, Faculty of Law, McGill University) Childhood Lost: Building a Better Future for Captured Child Combatants
- Maria Grahn-Farley (Albany Law School) A Post-Colonial Analysis of the U.N. Convention On the Rights of the Child
- Jarrod Wong (University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law) Misconstruing the Responsibility to Protect in the Wake of Cyclones and Separatism
- Brian Ray (Cleveland-Marshall College of Law) Extending the Shadow of the Law: Using Hybrid Mechanisms to Develop Constitutional Meaning in Socioeconomic Rights Cases
- Brian Knox (University of Idaho College of Law) The Right to Eat and the Duty to Feed: A Customary Quagmire
- Shahram Dana (The John Marshall Law School-Chicago) The Perverse Effects of Reconciliation Ideology on International Justice
- Peter Jan Honigsberg (University of San Francisco) Establishing a Truth Commission for Guantanamo
- Yvonne McDermott (Irish Center for Human Rights, National University of Ireland) The Judicial Development of Human Rights Law as a Loophole to the State-Centricity of International Law
- Chimène Keitner (UC Hastings College of Law) Rights Beyond Borders
Congratulations to all of those whose papers were selected for presentation.
Huge hat tips to Robert C. Blitt of the University of Tennessee College of Law (who will also serve as moderator of the panel) and Christine Ochoa of Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington (who will serve as a commentator for the panel). For information on the AALS and the AALS Annual Meeting, click here. For more information on the AALS Section on International Human Rights (including links to past issues of the section newsletter), click here.
The Next Attorney General of the United States
Under President Bush and former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the U.S. Department of Justice was used to "defend the indefensible, like indefinite detention and torture of prisoners." What questions should be asked in a confirmation hearing of the next U.S. Attorney General, who will face the difficult challenge of restoring trust and confidence in the U.S. Department of Justice? Click here to read more.
December 2, 2008
Rwandan Singer Convicted and Sentenced for Inciting Genocide Through His Songs
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has sentenced Simon Bikindi, a famous Rwandan singer and composer, to 15 years in prison for inciting the murder of Tutsis through his songs and speeches during the 1994 mass killings in Rwanda. He was convicted of direct and public incitement to commit genocide. Here's some more information from a UN press release:
Prosecutors said that through his songs and speeches, the singer incited hatred and violence against Tutsi and that he was also responsible for specific attacks and killings in Gisenyi prefecture carried out by the Hutu-dominated rebel group known as the Interahamwe, who included some members of Mr. Bikindi’s Irindiro ballet troupe.
The [ICTR] found that three of his songs – Twasezereye, Nanga Abahutu and Bene Sebahinzi – manipulated Rwanda’s history to exalt Hutus, with the latter two having been composed specifically to promote pro-Hutu and anti-Tutsi sentiment.
It noted that the three songs were used as part of a 1994 propaganda campaign to incite people to attack and kill Tutsi, but said that it had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he had taken part in the broadcast or dissemination of these songs.
Mr. Bikindi, also an official in his country’s Ministry of Youth and Sports, was acquitted on charges of conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, complicity in genocide, and murder and persecution as crimes against humanity.
More than 800,000 people were massacred, mostly by machete, for being ethnic Tutsis or Hutu moderates during a period of less than 100 days starting in April 1994.
U.N. Security Council Resolution Invokes Chapter VII and Urges Nations to Deploy Ships and Aircraft to Combat Somali Pirates
The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a new resolution [Resolution 1846 (2008)] that calls on all countries and regional organizations that can do so to deploy naval ships and military aircraft off the Somali coast to fight rampant piracy that is impeding UN efforts to feed millions of hungry civilians in Somalia. Invoking Chapter VII of the UN Charter (which authorizes the use of force), the Security Council called for the “seizure and disposition of boats, vessels, arms and other related equipment” used or suspected of being used for piracy, which has recently reached a peak off the coast of Somalia with the hijacking of a Ukrainian arms ship and a Saudi oil tanker. The Council said it continued “to be gravely concerned by the threat that piracy and armed robbery at sea against vessels pose to the prompt, safe and effective delivery of humanitarian aid to Somalia, to international navigation and the safety of commercial maritime routes, and to other vulnerable ships, including fishing activities in conformity with international law.”
The new resolution is available by clicking here. You can also click here to see an earlier Security Council Resolution 1844 (2008) on the situation in Somalia. Resolution 1844, which also invoked Chapter VII of the UN Charter, imposed travel restrictions and authorized the freezing of certain financial assets and other resources controlled directly or indirectly by persons and entities designated as threatening the peace and stability of Somalia, violating the arms embargo (which is reaffirmed in the resolution), or obstructing the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Somalia.
Freedom of Expression Endangered in Burundi; UN Expert Warns it Will Imperil the Rule of Law
Akich Okola, the U.N.’s Expert on human rights in Burundi, has voiced deep concern over the diminishing freedom of expression and association in Burundi. In recent weeks, several journalists, political opponents, and representatives of civil society have been intimidated and harassed while exercising their rights of expression and association. Among those recently arrested or detained are the editor of Net Press, the vice president of the staff union for non-judicial staff in the judiciary, and the head of the Movement for Solidarity and Democracy. Okola warned that violations of these freedoms of expression and association will imperil the rule of law in the African Great Lakes country. Okala stated also that Burundi, as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and other international human rights treaties, must guarantee the freedom of expression and association.
Thai Constitutional Court Dissolves Ruling Party and Bans Prime Minister From Politics for Five Years
The Constitutional Court of Thailand issued a unanimous ruling today that banned Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat from politics for five years. The Constitutional Court's ruling also dissolved the ruling People Power Party (PPP) and two other coalition parties (Chart Thai and Matchimathipataya) over charges of voting fraud. The presiding judge read the order live on Thai television.
The verdict said the People Power Party had to be disbanded because PPP executives had been convicted of vote fraud after elections in December 2007. The court ruled that although some party officials had no knowledge of the election fraud, the party had to scrutinize its leaders and could not deny responsibility for the electoral fraud. Click here to read more from the Bangkok Post. And click here for a further analysis of the situation from the New York Times.
The court's decision came as anti-government protesters occupied Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports. More than 350,000 travelers were reportedly stranded.
December 1, 2008
Obama Names Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has named Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State. Senator Clinton was his opponent in the presidential primaries. Reactions I have seen are quite postitive, such as this editorial from the New York Times. One lawyer in the United Kingdom wrote to me that the nomination meant that the United States will again have a credible foreign policy.
U.S. State Department Statement on Elections in Honduras
The U.S. State Department has extended the congratulations of the United States to the people of Honduras for their successful primary elections held on November 30, 2008. The State Department spokesman said: "The candidates waged spirited campaigns, and the responsible Honduran government agencies conducted these successful elections in a clean and transparent manner. We particularly note the work done by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and the Honduran military, which was responsible for protecting and delivering electoral materials."
Reactions to Rice Nomination
Reactions to the nomination of Susan Rice as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations have so far been quite favorable. Here's a press release from UNA-USA.
UNA-USA STRONGLY SUPPORTS NOMINATION OF SUSAN E. RICE AS US-UN AMBASSADOR; SHE EXEMPLIFIES QUALITIES NEEDED TO WORK EFFECTIVELY WITH UN SECRETARIAT AND MEMBER STATES
December 1, 2008. Ambassador William H. Luers, president of the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA), issued the following statement today concerning President-elect Barack Obama’s nomination of Susan E. Rice to become United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
UNA-USA strongly supports the nomination of Susan E. Rice to become United States permanent representative to the United Nations. In selecting Dr. Rice for this key foreign-policy position, President-elect Barack Obama is appointing one of his closest advisers to one of the world’s most important and demanding diplomatic posts. The president-elect’s decision to include the incoming ambassador in his cabinet is also important, signaling the key role that the United Nations will play in the incoming administration’s foreign policy.
Susan Rice exemplifies many of the qualities that UNA-USA believes are critical to achieving successful outcomes in the UN post. She has strong diplomatic experience, a demonstrated willingness to listen to others and an abiding interest in and concern for developments in Africa, where some of the most important UN responsibilities rest. At the same time, Dr. Rice has developed a keen knowledge and understanding of the UN’s operational capabilities during the years that she worked both in and out of government.
The Rice nomination adds further to the anticipation at the United Nations that the incoming Obama administration, including Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton, will be cooperating closely with UN member states to manage and resolve many issues that the United States cannot address on its own. Virtually every major foreign-policy issue facing the United States must be dealt with under the umbrella of the UN — climate change, nuclear non-proliferation, global pandemics, achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, the prevention of genocide, as well as regional challenges, particularly in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa.
As the new US Permanent Representative to the UN, Susan Rice will be looked to for cooperation and leadership in strengthening the United Nations. The UN is poised to undertake an energetic renewal effort, including a broader UN Security Council more representative of today’s global distribution of power. A sympathetic US role can help move this core shift in how the UN addresses global security issues. A positive and yet not commanding US role in renewing the United Nations in many aspects is greatly needed to help the UN become far more effective in dealing with its ever-growing responsibilities. We look toward a new era of American cooperation at the United Nations to address the global issues that threaten the future of our planet.
The leadership and members of UNA-USA throughout the United States look forward to working closely with the incoming administration and its team to support a robust and effective US presence at the United Nations.
Obama Names Susan Rice as the Next U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
President-elect Barack Obama announced that his choice for the next U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations will be his foreign policy advisor, Susan E Rice. The New York Times also reports that Obama plans to restore the position of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to a cabinet level position, as it was under President Clinton. Ms Rice, age 44, would be the second youngest ambassador to the United Nations if she is confirmed. She has been a strong critic of inaction on Darfur. Click here to read more.
November 30, 2008
World AIDS Day
Events to mark 20th World AIDS Day are being held all over the world. Here in Vicenza, Italy I attended a dance performance and culutral program to benefit Hospicio San Jose, an NGO in Guatemala that is providing care for 64 children and 270 adults living with AIDS. There is also an art exhibit in a church here in Vicenza featuring works by Rosalba Pedrina, a critically acclaimed artist living and working in Vicenza. She created a stations of the cross for people living with AIDS and HIV. It was originally created to be displayed at an international conference and is being shown again here for the first time in many years.
The AIDS pandemic is one that many international law professors should discuss when teaching about international human rights law or international health law. Some schools (such as the University of Lucerne Faculty of Law in Switzerland) offer courses in health and human rights.