Thursday, April 30, 2009
On Wednesday of this week, the Arctic Council postponed consideration of the application of the European Union (EU) for permanent observer status due to a tiff over an EU ban on seal products. Canada advocated for the postponement because it believes hunting seals can be done in a sustainable and humane way and that the ban is unnecessary. Observer status was also denied to China, Italy and South Korea.
The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum created in 1996 to promote cooperation and coordination between the states in the Arctic. It currently has eight member states: Canada, Demark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden. and the United States Six indigenous groups sit as permanent observers.
The next full ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council is not until 2011. However, because of increased interest and activity in the Arctic, the parties have agreed to start meeting at a political level once a year. Therefore, it is not clear when the EU may renew its application.
Separately, the Council agreed to begin negotiations on an international agreement on Arctic searches and rescues, in recognition that increased activity in the area will likely lead to a need for more search and rescue operations. The Council also urged the International Maritime Organization to adopt updated guidelines for ships operating in Arctic waters, and to support the development of binding rules on safety and the environment for the Arctic.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The American Society of International Law (ASIL) has published a short analysis by David Fidler of Indiana University, one of the top international health law professors in the United States. Click here to read what the Adjunct Law Prof Blog has to say about it and click here to read the ASIL Insight with Professor Fidler's analysis and explanation of the World Health Organizations' International Health Regulations.
Hat tip to Mitchell Rubenstein at the Adjunct Law Prof Blog.
Armenia has acceeded to the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) and will become the 73rd State Party to the Convention. (The 72nd State Party, by the way, was Lebanon). The CISG will enter into force for Armenia on January 1, 2010.
The CISG enters into effect for Japan on August 1, 2009.
On the eve of confirmation hearings Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh, the American Society of International Law (ASIL) has made available a report on the role of the U.S. State Department Legal Adviser, the top counsel to the Secretary of State. Although the article was first published in 1991, it summarizes the Legal Adviser’s duties and powers in a way that remains valid and useful today. The document can be accessed at www.asil.org/legaladvisersrole
Hat tip to Sheila Ward at ASIL.
Monday, April 27, 2009
In elections today, Icelanders have elected a majority of deputies to the Icelandic Parliament, or Althingi, who favor an immediate application to join the EU. The center-left Social Democrats and the far Left Green Movement won a clear majority. Ms. Sigurdardottir, Prime Minister of the Social Democratic Party, has stated that she favors beginning the application process within weeks of the election. The Social Democrats believe EU membership will help buffer the Icelandic economy from future economic downturns. The Left Green Party is not convinced, but probably does not have enough power to block the application. Iceland already applies 75% of EU legislation through its membership in the European Economic Area (EEA), so its membership in the EU should not require significant legal changes. The most difficult negotiations are predicted to concern Iceland's fisheries. 2011 is expected to be the earliest possible date of admission.
Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha also announced that his country will officially apply for EU membership tomorrow, Tuesday, April 28. The former Communist state is located in the western Balkans, has a population of approximately 3 million people, and is one of the poorest in Europe. Albania signed a pre-accession deal, the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), with the EU in June 2006. Ratification of its SAA was completed in January 2009, when Greece became the last EU state to approve the document. Organized crime, money laundering, drug trafficking, and corruption continue to be significant problems in Albania and further improvements in those areas will likey need to be made before Albania will be allowed to join the EU. The accession process will likely take several years.
The Journal of Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems (TLCP) at the University of Iowa College of Law is hosting a Symposium in Spring 2010 entitled: “A Critical Juncture: U.S. Standing in the World and Foreign Policy Under the Obama Administration.” TLCP has issued a Call for Papers for the Symposium. Scholars whose articles are accepted will receive stipends to cover their lodging and travel to the University of Iowa College of Law in March of 2010 to present their work, as well as publication in TLCP’s upcoming Volume 19. More information can be found here.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
The World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a ruling on Friday in the ongoing dispute between the U.S. and other countries relating to the United States' practice of "zeroing" when calculating antidumping margins in investigations and reviews. This latest decision relates to the United States' compliance with a 2007 decision of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) in a dispute brought by Japan. In United States-Measures relating to Zeroing and Sunset Reviews, the WTO compliance panel issued a mixed decision under Article 21.5 of the Dispute Settlement Understanding, finding that the United States had complied with the DSB's original decision in certain reviews, but had failed to comply in others, resulting in a finding of continued noncompliance by the U.S. with articles 2.4 and 9.3 of the Antidumping Agreement and article VI:2 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994. The WTO panel recommended that the DSB request that the United States bring itself into compliance once again. More information, including the latest decision on compliance, can be found here.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Judges, lawyers, and judicial officers are being blocked from entering court buildings in Fiji, following the declaration of a state of emergency. Many individuals, including judges, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the head of the Fiji Law Society, have reportedly been placed under house-arrest. Click here to read more.
A reader named Warren sent us this helpful information for readers interested in the law of Timor-Leste.
For readers of this blog who would like to know more about the law in East Timor, East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin promotes global online awareness of rule of law issues in the East Timor legal system. ETLJB publishes legal information and news from East Timor daily sourced from national and international media, law and justice civil society groups, the government, parliament, court reports and the united nations mission (UNMIT). It includes a free email subscription service to the East Timor Legal News feed. A related site, the East Timor Law Journal publishes articles and analyses of law and policy issues in East Timor written by both East Timorese and international jurists. Readers are encouraged to submit articles to ETLJ for publication.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Ministry of Defense and Support for the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran v. Elahi, No. 07-615, involving a 2000 lawsuit by Dariusch Elahi against Iran seeking compensation for the murder of Elahi's brother by Iranian agents. Elahi obtained a default judgment from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2000 in the amount of $312 million and sought to collect some of that amount by attaching an earlier judgment against a California company, Cubic, which owed $2.8 million to Iran. Iran opposed the lien on the Cubic judgment, arguing that it was immune from attachment pursuant to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Cubic judgment was not immune from attachment because one of the exceptions to sovereign immunity set forth in FSIA was applicable. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with the Ninth Circuit. The Supreme Court held that Elahi had waived his right to attach the Cubic judgment because he had previously accepted $2.3 million from the U.S. government as partial compensation for his claim against Iran. Elahi had received that amount as an individual holding a terrorism-related judgment against Iran under the Victims of Terrorism and Violence Protection Act of 2000. When accepting that money, Elahi had signed a waiver of his right to attach property that is at issue in claims against the U.S. before an internaitonal tribunal. The Cubic dispute is the subject of a case between the U.S. and Iran before the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal and thus is covered by Elahi's waiver.
Monday, April 20, 2009
In another interesting case involving state incursions into the arena of foreign affairs, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida struck down as unconstitutional a Florida law that required travel companies offering lawful travel services to Cuba to post higher bonds and pay additional fees as compared to travel companies that do not offer services to Cuba. The law at issue is the 2008 Florida Sellers of Travel Act. Echoing arguments from the Crosby case involving Massachusetts' attempt to impose sanctions on Burma, the District Court for the Southern District of Florida held that the law was preempted by the federal economic sanctions program with respect to Cuba because the Florida law interferes with the United States' ability to speak with one voice in its relations with Cuba. Specifically, the Florida law interferes with and imposes sanctions upon travel to Cuba that is permitted under federal law as part of the United States' goal of bringing about a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba. The case is ABC Charters v. Bronson, No. 08-21865.
Turkish Cypriot nationalists won a parliamentary victory on Sunday that could set back efforts to reunite Cyprus and further hinder the integration of the entire island nation into the European Union. The winning party is officially known as the National Unity Party or UBP. It has traditionally advocated separate sovereignty for the northern and southern halves of Cyprus, which has been divided since Turkey invaded in 1974. Greek Cypriots traditionally reject separate sovereignty and wish to see the island nation reunited. Talat, the current leader of the ruling Turkish Party, had begun reunification talks last September. The election exposes divisions among Turkish Cypriots over reunification. This latest election will likely limit Talat's ability to negotiate a settlement, which must be approved by a referendum. Talat has suggested that the vote reflects the disappointment of Turkish Cypriots with the EU and the international community for failure to bring an end to the economic isolation of the northern part of the island. The EU had promised to end that economic isolation after Turkish Cypriots backed a 2004 UN plan to reunify Cyprus; but those efforts stalled when the UN plan was rejected by Greek Cyrpriots in the south.
The Security Council and two human rights experts today joined Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other United Nations figures in voicing deep concern over the abrogation of Fiji’s constitution, the sacking of its judiciary and the imposition of press restrictions.
The South Pacific archipelago’s unelected executive fired the judges, set a longer time frame for parliamentary election and declared a public emergency on 10 April, following a court ruling that declared the interim leadership unconstitutional.
“It is a step backwards and needs restoration of the democracy process that Fiji has been undertaking, in cooperation with regional and international partners as well as the United Nations,” Ambassador Claude Heller of Mexico, which holds the April presidency of the Security Council, told the press this afternoon.
Supporting Mr. Ban’s approach to the matter, members of the Council expressed hope that Fiji will resume “steadfast” progress towards democracy and that fair elections will be held at the soonest possible time.
The island chain has suffered prolonged internal tensions between its indigenous Fijian and Indo-Fijian communities, and had four coups since 1987. Commodore Josaia V. Bainimarama, who serves as Prime Minister, came to power in a coup in December 2006, sparking criticism from the UN at the time.
Also today, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Leandro Despouy, and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, strongly condemned the suspension of rights in Fiji.
They urged Fiji’s authorities to restore the rule of law by immediately reinstating the judiciary and ending the restrictions placed on the rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
“The respect of the independence of the judiciary and freedom of expression are fundamental pillars of the rule of law and democracy,” said the joint statement of the two experts, who report to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity.
“Judges play a fundamental role in protecting human rights during states of emergency. It is crucial that the judiciary is immediately re-established,” said Mr. Despouy, maintaining that such states of emergency must be strictly limited.
He added that there have been deportations of foreign journalists and arbitrary arrests of others, with yet others summoned by the Ministry of information and warned to restrict the content of their reporting. “Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council as well as other neutral international observers should be allowed to visit the country in order to ensure the respect of the human rights of the population.”
He has requested on several occasions that the Interim Government of Fiji allow him to undertake an official visit to the country, with no response as yet.
Permanent Court of Arbitration Starts Deliberations to Mediate Demarcation of a Town Between Northern and Southern Sudan
A United Nations-supported international court in The Hague has begun hearings to mediate a settlement over a disputed town straddling northern and southern Sudan. A U.N. press release informs us that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has started deliberations over the demarcation of Abyei. Resolution of the boundary is central to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the long-running north-south civil war in Sudan. Boundary markings in the area of Abyei, which lies in an oil-rich area, are contested by the Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. The hearing will be conducted under the Court’s optional rules for “Arbitrating Disputes between Two Parties of Which Only One is a State.”
U.S. Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments Today on FSIA, Sovereign Immunity, State Sponsors of Terrorism, and the Political Question Doctrine
The U.S. Supreme Court hears oral argument today in Iraq v. Beaty (07-1090) and Iraq v. Simon (08-539), The cases are appeals from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the federal appellate court that probably hears the bulk of FSIA cases in the United States. Click here to read about the facts of the case and the legal issues before the Supreme Court today.
The International Association of Law Libraries (IALL) will hold its 28th annual course on international law librarianship will in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 11-15, 2009. Click here for more information in a post on the Law Librarian Blog.
Hat tip to Roy L. Sturgeon (The Foreign and International Law Librarian at Touro)
Sunday, April 19, 2009
As reported in earlier posts, the U.N. Human Rights Council created a Special Tribunal in January to investigate possible war crimes during the fighting in the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009. Justice Richard Goldstone agreed to lead the investigation after its mandate was expanded to include an investigation into the compliance of both Israel and Hamas with international humanitarian law. Hamas has agreed to cooperate with the investigation. However, recent news reports indicate that Israel is very unlikely to cooperate with the Special Tribunal because it doubts the objectivity of the investigation. Apparently, Israel believes the investigation will not focus sufficiently on Hamas actions that led to the fighting in the Gaza Strip. It is unclear whether the Tribunal will be able to effectively carry out its work without Israel's cooperation.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
On April 9, 2009, the Court of Appeals in Fiji ruled that the appointment of an Interim Government after the 2006 military coup was illegal.
On April 10, 2009, the President of Fiji declared a state of emergency. This action suspended the Constitution of Fiji and removed from office all judges and magistrates who had been appointed under the Constitution.
Since then there has been a press crackdown. Journalists have been expelled from the country and local reporters not allowed to report on anything that might put the military in a bad light. Here is a press release from the United Nations about the press restrictions:
FIJI: UNESCO CHIEF VOICES CONCERN OVER RESTRICTIONS ON PRESS FREEDOM
The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending press freedom today voiced grave concern over the crackdown on the media in Fiji after the country’s leadership scrapped its Constitution and declared a state of emergency last week.
According to new regulations in the South Pacific archipelago nation, editors are not allowed to publish or broadcast any material that shows the military in an unfavourable light, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said in a press release.
UNESCO said that sensitive stories must also be approved by Government officials, and publication and media organizations ignoring these directives may be shut down.
“I am gravely concerned about press freedom in Fiji,” said UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, echoing earlier remarks made by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
Urging the authorities to allow open debate to find lasting solutions to the country’s difficulties, Mr. Matsuura stressed that the basic right to “freedom of expression, which underpins press freedom, is essential for democracy, good governance and rule of law.”
He warned that “depriving people of news and information about events that affect them only breeds fear and suspicions. Such measures will not promote a solution to the nation’s social and political problems.”
A state of emergency was issued by President Ratu Josefa Iloilovatu Uluivuda on 10 April. As a result, all judges and magistrates were removed, along with others who had been appointed under the Constitution.
The move came on the heels of the 9 April Court of Appeals ruling that the appointment of the Interim Government by the President following the 2006 coup was illegal. In its decision, the Court also advised Mr. Iloilovatu Uluivuda to appoint a neutral caretaker as Prime Minister to aid in holding parliamentary elections
Click here to read more about the situation in Fiji.
In October 2008, we reported on the lower court decision which found that the appointment of a military government was valid. Click here to see that post.