Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The U.N. General Assembly today condemned this weekend’s coup d’état in Honduras, calling for the restoration of the democratically-elected President and constitutional Government. President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales was ousted by the military on Sunday, hours before a referendum was slated to be held on changing the Honduran constitution.
The General Assembly resolution was adopted today acclamation. It deplored the coup, which it stated has “interrupted the democratic and constitutional order and the legitimate exercise of power in Honduras.” The resolution – sponsored by Bolivia, Venezuela, Mexico and the United States, among dozens of Member States – also stressed that it will not recognize any Government other than that of Mr. Zelaya’s.
The case that most directly involves international law is Abbott v. Abbott, Docket No. 08-645. This case is a family law matter from Texas involving an interpretation of the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The issue is whether a "no exeat" order entered by a Chilean court that prohibits one parent from removing the couple's minor child from Chile without the other parent's consent confers "rights of custody" on either parent within the meaning of the Hague Convention. The issue is important because under the Hague Convention, the remedy of the child's return to Chile is only available if there is a violation of custody rights. A noncustodial parent has only a right of access, but not a right to have the child returned to a particular country. In the Abbott case, the U.S. District Court refused to order the return of the child to Chile after the custodial parent (the mother) had removed the child to the United States, despite the fact that the removal from Chile frustrated the noncustodial father's visitation rights and was contrary to the no exeat order of the Chilean court.
A second case that has the potential to raise international law issues is Graham v. Florida, Docket No. 08-7412. The issue in that case is whether the imposition of a life sentence without the possiblity of parole on a juvenile is a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. In past Eighth Amendment cases involving the death penalty, such as Atkins and Roper, the U.S. Supreme Court has looked to foreign and international law to inform its understanding of what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment within the meaning of the Eighth Amendment as part of its determination of "evolving standards of decency." In Graham, the petitioner argued that his life sentence violates international human rights norms, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Specifically, Graham argued that only 14 nations officially allow juveniles to be sentenced for life and only 3 nations do so in practice. The Florida State Court agreed that international opinion frowns on the imposition of life sentences on juveniles, but ultimately upheld the sentence out of deference to the Florida legislature.
Program in Los Angeles to Mark the 11th Anniversary of the Rome Treaty of the International Criminal Court
Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles will hold a program on Friday, July 17, 2009, from 4:00 to 7:30 p.m. to mark the eleventh anniversary of the Rome Treaty of the International Criminal Court, which was signed on July 17, 1998. The ICC is the world's first permanent international criminal tribunal. Click here for information about speakers and how to let them know that you plan to attend.
The program is being presented in cooperation with a number of entities, including the American Bar Association Section of International Law, the American Branch of the International Law Association, and the International Criminal Court Alliance.
Hat tips to Yee Wah Chin and T Sean Butler
Click here to see some photos from the Presidential Palace in Honduras on the day following the military coup there. The link is to the slide show on the New York Times webpage. Click here for our earlier post about the coup.
According to a statement released by the United Nations, he plans to highlight key issues such as the need to release all political prisoners, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The statement also said that the Secretary General believes that the issues of political prisoners, the resumption of dialogue between the Government and opposition to achieve national reconciliation, and setting the stage for credible elections “cannot be left unaddressed at this juncture of the country’s political process.”
Mr. Ban last visited Myanmar last May after the devastating Cyclone Nargis last May. That cyclone killed nearly 150,000 people.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Iran has arrested at least eight members of the British embassy staff in Iran, accusing them of stoking the recent protests against the Iranian elections. (Some news reports put the number arrested at nine.) Specifically, the Iranian Intelligence Minister claims to have video showing that the embassy staffers mingled with the protesters to encourage them. The British government has strongly denied the allegations and demanded their immediate release. Five persons have since been released; the rest are still being interrogated. The European Union has joined with Britian in denouncing Iran's actions. Because the staffers were local hires, they do not enjoy full diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The staffers specific titles and positions have not been released. As a result, it is unclear what protection they may be entitled to under international laws of diplomacy. Britian and Iran had already expelled diplomats in tit-for-tat moves last week.
The democratically-elected President of Honduras, Jose Manuel Zelaya, was ousted from the Presidential palace yesterday in a military coup orchestrated by Honduran General Romeo Vasquez. (General Vasquez is a graduate of the infamous "School of the Americas.") The military stormed the Presidential Palace Sunday morning at 5 a.m. The military forced President Zelaya onto a plane that flew to Costa Rica, where he is now. Later on Sunday, the right-wing Honduran Congress voted the head of Congress, Roberto Michelleti, as the new President.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon issued a statement about the coup. Here is an excerpt from the U.N. press release:
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed his deep concern over the reported coup in Honduras, voicing his strong support for the nation’s democratic institutions and speaking out against the arrest of its constitutional President.
According to media reports, President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales was overthrown yesterday, when a referendum was slated to be held on changing the Honduran constitution.
Mr. Ban “urges the reinstatement of the democratically elected representatives of the country and full respect for human rights, including safeguards for the security of President Zelaya, members of his family and his government,” according to a statement issued yesterday by his spokesperson. He also urged all Hondurans to resolve their difference peacefully and “in the spirit of reconciliation.”
The statement noted that the Secretary-General welcomes the prompt diplomatic efforts undertaken by the Organization of American States (OAS), whose Permanent Council has held a special meeting on the matter.
We also have for you this link to the U.S. State Department Background Briefing on the situation in Honduras. That link gives some insight into negotiations now taking place for an OAS resolution.
The European Humanities University was located in Minsk, Belarus, until the Belorussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko shut it down -- or tried to -- in July 2004. I remember reading about the protest organized by students who simply sat down in front of the building and spent the day reading their books (if they had done more than that they all risked arrest). Lukashenko also threw out all foreign NGOs who were previously working in Belarus, including for example the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (then called the Central and Eastern European Law Initiative).
Instead of closing its doors, the European Humanities University left Belarus and moved to neighboring Lithuania, where they are educating students to lead Belarus afterLukashenko is removed from office(he is sometimes described now as the last dictator in Europe).
A short article (and a short video) talk more about the current situation at the European Humanities University. Click here to read more.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Professor Elizabeth Burleson of the University of South Dakota has just put up on SSRN her new article that synthesizes the current state of international law on climate change. Click here to read the abstract and download the article. The article is forthcoming in the William and Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review.
This New York Times article is one you might want to use in an international law class or seminar. It would be a good springboard for class discussions on what international law can accomplish, differences between conventional and customary international law, and different national philosophies about international law instruments and the enforcement of international law norms.
President Obama will visit Russia next week, and one of the subjects expected to be discussed there (and again at the U.N. General Assembly in November) is whether there should be a treaty to counter cyberwar attacks that wreak havoc on computers and the Internet.
Russia wants a treaty. The United States thinks a treaty is unnecessary. Click here to read more.
The East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, offers a wide variety of short-term and long-term programs for students, researchers, educators, policy makers, journalists, and professionals. A complete list of programs can be found by clicking here.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
The application deadline for the 2010-11 traditional Fulbright Scholar Program will close on August 1, 2009. Please remind interested faculty members at your school to submit their applications by then. Click here for more details about the Fulbright program and application. Or click here for a list of staff if want to speak with the program staff for a specific country or world region.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
The World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) appointed two new members to its Appellate Body this week: Mr Ricardo Ramírez Hernández of Mexico was appointed to a four-year term commencing on 1 July 2009 and Mr Peter Van den Bossche of the European Communities also was appointed to a four-year term commencing on 12 December 2009. These two gentlemen will replace Mr Luiz Olavo Baptista of the Philippines, who resigned last February for health reasons, and Mr Giorgio Sacerdoti of Italy, whose second and final term expires on 11 December 2009. The DSB also agreed to reappoint Mr David Unterhalter of South Africa, the current Chair of the Appellate Body, for a second four-year term starting on 12 December 2009. The WTO Appellate Body is a standing body that hears appeals from WTO dispute resolution panels. It has seven members who must be “persons of recognized authority, with demonstrated expertise in law, international trade and the subject matter of the WTO agreements generally.” The WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding also requires that the Appellate Body membership be broadly representative of the WTO membership.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone announced that lawyers for the former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, will begin their defense against charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity on July 13, 2009. Mr. Taylor’s lawyers will make their opening arguments on that day in The Hague, where the Court is based. In 2006, the U.N. Security Council authorized the trial to be held in the Netherlands, instead of its usual venue in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, citing security reasons. The Prosecution rested its case against Mr. Taylor in February after presenting 91 witnesses to provide testimony.
The former President has pleaded not guilty to the 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which include pillage, slavery for forced marriage purposes, collective punishment, and the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The charges relate to his alleged support for two rebel groups in neighbouring Sierra Leone, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council and the Revolutionary United Front, during that country’s civil war from 1996 to 2002.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone was established in January 2002 through an agreement between Sierra Leone’s Government and the United Nations. It cannot impose a life sentence, but it has already sentenced two defendants in another case to 50 years in jail. The United Kingdom has said it would be willing to imprison Mr. Taylor if he is found guilty.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was established to deal with the mass killings in Rwanda in 1994, when more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutu moderates died during a period of less than 100 days. The ICTR yesterday found a former Government minister guilty of genocide and sentenced him to 30 years in prison for his role in those killings.
On 23 April 1994, Callixte Kalimanzira, former Chef de Cabinet of Minister of the Interior, lured thousands of Tutsi refugees to Kabuye hill in Butare prefecture, where they were attacked and killed. The ICTR Trial Chamber found that Mr. Kalimanzira substantially contributed to the attack, finding him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt that he aided and abetted genocide at Kabuye hill. It also found him guilty of direct and public incitement to commit genocide on several occasions, including at the Nyabisagara football field, in April 1994.
The former ministersurrendered voluntarily to ICTR in November 2005. His trial began last May.
The Washington College of Law at American University has prepared summaries of ICTR judgments. Click here for more information.
According to various news reports, Russia apparently provided the World Trade Organization (WTO) last week with unofficial, verbal notification that it plans to suspend its accession negotiations with the WTO in favor of forming a regional customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan by January 2010. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had suggested that this move was coming in comments made earlier this month. He stated that the WTO will receive offical documents shortly. He also stated that Russia may be interested in negotiating accession to the WTO as part of the customs union, rather than as an independent state. Russia had been negotiating accession to the WTO for the past 16 years. It is not clear what caused this change of policy. Some commentators have suggested that Russia is frustrated by the slow pace of accession negotiations and wants the WTO to realize the importance of having Russia as a member. Other commentators have suggested the change in policy reflects internal divisions within Russia's government. Whatever the reason, it will almost certainly further delay accession as all the commitments negotiated between Russia and the various members of the WTO will have to be scrapped and negotiations will have to begin again with the customs union, if and when it is formed.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
We're can say definitively that we've now had visitors to our blog from at least 100 countries. We previously posted a list of 98 countries from which we have had visitors. Ethiopia was our 99th country and Saudi Arabia is now our 100th country to be added to that list.