Monday, November 30, 2009
Western Hemisphere and Caribbean : Briefing on the Honduran Elections
Mon, 30 Nov 2009 14:14:20 -0600
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: Thanks very much. Yeah, it’s a real pleasure to be here for the first time before you in the position of Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
As you all know, Honduras held an election yesterday. We see this election as a very important step forward for Honduras, and I would like to commend the Honduran people for an election that met international standards of fairness and transparency despite some incidents that were reported here and there. I also want to commend Pepe Lobo for his ample victory in these elections and also for some of the gracious remarks that we heard from some of the other candidates in this electoral process – Santos and Ham and Avila and Martinez.
Having said that, let me stress the most important point, and that is that while the election is a significant step in Honduras’s return to the democratic and constitutional order after the 28 June coup, it’s just that; it’s only a step. It’s – and it’s not the last step. Given the gravity of the coup d’état and the polarization that Honduras has undergone, both before and after the coup d’état, it’s extremely important that Honduran leadership moving forward in the next few months attempt to follow the overall broad frameworks of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord.
And by that, I mean that – what are the additional steps that need to be taken? A government of national unity needs to be formed. The congress has to take a vote on the return of President Zelaya to office. And another element of the San Jose Accords that I think would be very, very important as Honduras moves forward to try to reestablish the democratic and constitutional order is the formation and the structuring of a truth commission, which was also contemplated in the original Tegucigalpa framework and San Jose Accords. And the truth commission would be a body that would look into the incidents and the situation that led to the coup, but at the same time, as the accord says, I think – I was thinking about it in the Spanish version of the accord – it also will provide the elementos, as it says in the accord – the elements to help the Hondurans make the necessary reforms to their constitutional process and to bring about a fuller reconciliation of the Honduran people.
That’s really all I want to say as – for opening remarks. Let me again repeat the construct: We see, again, the elections as a necessary step forward, but not a sufficient one. And why do we see the elections as a necessary step forward? Because the elections provide the Honduran people for a way out. And these elections are not elections that were planned by a de facto government at the last minute in order to whitewash their actions. These elections were elections that began several months ago. In fact, the primaries were held in November of last year in each of the major parties. The vice president, Santos, resigned. He was Zelaya’s vice president. He resigned as vice president to run for office. He competed in primaries in November of last year.
And this has been an ongoing process during this period. And we think it’s very important that this particular electoral process was in place at this particular moment because it provides the Honduran people with a legitimate way out. They’re able to vote for new authorities. But again, it’s not the only thing that the Honduran leadership needs to do. They really need to, in order to be able to restore the democratic and constitutional order, take the additional steps that I’ve outlined.
QUESTION: Yeah, Ana Baron-Clarin, two questions. One is about the government of reconciliation, unida nacional. How do you see it? Do you see it between the new president and Zelaya, or between the – Micheletti? How do you see the evolution of that?
And the second question is on the OAS. As you know, many of the countries are not going to recognize the government. So even if they go through all the steps, what will happen with Honduras and the OAS?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: Yeah. Let me say that the new government will take office on January 27th of next year, and this is why – and this is absolutely critical in this interim period that the Honduran leadership on all sides of the divide, but particularly within the Liberal Party, because what’s sort of ironic about the conflict in Honduras is that this is a conflict very much within the Liberal Party. Santos is from the Liberal Party, Micheletti is from the Liberal Party, and Pepe Lobo is from the Liberal Party. And in some ways, the victory of the National Party of – did I say Lobo was the Liberal Party? No, I meant Zelaya, Zelaya of the Liberal Party. Lobo of the National Party, last time he lost to Zelaya by about 3 percent of the vote. This time, he’s ahead of Santos by about 17 percent of the vote. So we urge that this government of national unity draw from all of the sectors of Honduran leadership.
QUESTION: So does the U.S. then recognize that Lobo is the president-elect of Honduras, then?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: The United States takes note of the election. We see that Lobo was the frontrunner, that he won the election. We commend him for that. He will be the next president of Honduras. But what I want to do is reiterate very sharply for you, and that is that Honduras still, because of the gravity of the military coup that – of the coup d’état that took place, that in fact, a process needs to be put into place to restore Honduras to democratic and constitutional order. And that can only be done through the steps that I’ve already outlined.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Is this truly another problem to complicate a little bit more the situation? Is that – Mr. Zelaya says that he doesn’t want to be back in power, because that means to recognize the recognized election. So you are asking the five point of the agreement, and one of the points is to vote in the congress Zelaya to come back, but he doesn’t want to come back. So first question: How do you deal with that?
And the second one is that it seems to be that United States is a little bit alone in the recognition of the elections, because in (inaudible), most of the countries of the region are saying no to the elections. So two questions.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: Okay, let me take the first one first. I’m aware of the fact – we’re all aware of the fact that President Zelaya made the statement over the weekend, and in fact, I spoke to him last Friday and we had a cordial conversation. It was the first time I’ve spoken to him, so it was a conversation that had perhaps less substance than it would have under normal circumstances.
But I think we’re going to continue to urge President Zelaya also to see whether he can come back to some kind of a process of dialogue with others in Honduras to achieve this government of national unity. But I’m not going to judge what he is going to be doing in that regard, but we’re certainly going to be pressing, hopefully with other countries as well. And I’m confident of that, and this gets to your second point.
There are quite a few other countries that have taken a position that’s, I think, similar to the one that we’ve outlined, and that is that while the election is a necessary step, it is not a sufficient one. And this is for what reason? Because there has to be an end game for Honduras. There has to be an exit. And an election that was a preexisting process, a legitimate expression of the will of the Honduran people, is a perfect step out of this crisis, but not a sufficient step. And the countries that are closest to us on that, for example, are, at this particular point, my understanding is the Central American countries, although we’ve been talking to several others as well.
Let me say that I did speak to President Colom, for example, from Guatemala over the weekend. I also spoke to President Arias over the weekend. We’ve reached out to others. And the Secretary has also made quite a few calls to the region on – not only on the issue of Honduras, but also on some other issues that are of concern to us – on Peru – she reached out to Peru, to Uruguay, to Argentina, to Brazil, to the foreign ministers, and also spoke to President Funes in El Salvador.
I’m aware of the fact that there is – that – you remember the Iberia-American summit is meeting today in Portugal, and these are all the countries of the Spanish-Portuguese part of the Americas, together with Spain and Portugal. Portugal is a host now. And there is concern among these countries about Honduras. The precedent of a military coup is one that cannot stand, and we certainly agree with that. And I want to make that very, very clear. And it’s a coup d’état – let me correct myself on that. It’s a coup d’état. We can get into the etymological things about that or the exegetical discussions about what those mean, but I think they’re concerned about the coup d’état standing as a precedent, as we are. But they’re also – I think we’re going to be looking forward to some kind of an exit strategy, as we are. And the exit strategy goes by this construct of an election as well as the formation of a government of national unity.
And let me reiterate the truth commission that is also, I think, a very important step to be taken.
QUESTION: Hi, congratulations.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: Thanks.
QUESTION: Indira Lakshmanan from Bloomberg News. I wanted to ask: Will the United States recognize the new government if the Honduran congress fails to vote to reinstate Zelaya on December 2nd? Because that’s been a longstanding demand of the U.S. that he should be reinstated. And even if he’s voted to be reinstated and then decides that he doesn't want to be reinstated, then how is the U.S. going to step in or propose to help solve the political crisis?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: I would prefer not to deal with hypotheticals on this. We’re – the election took place yesterday. Mr. Lobo has had a series of meetings. Others have been meeting in Honduras. As I said earlier, the Central American countries are very disposed to engage. This is what we’re working on now, and I don’t want to speculate about what might happen if certain things don’t happen.
QUESTION: Forget speculation then.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: Yeah.
QUESTION: Just is the U.S. setting as a condition that the congress should vote on December 2nd to reinstate Zelaya?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: We are urging for the congress to vote. That was part of the accord. We support the accord. We would like to see the congress vote for his --
QUESTION: And if they don’t?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: We would urge the congress to take that step.
QUESTION: Thank you. Sonia Schott. The OAS will have a meeting next week. What to expect from this extraordinary meeting, considering that the U.S. is also a member of the OAS? And the second one, what are the lessons to be learned regarding Honduras for the region?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: Well, I think, again, it’s extremely important for the region – and the United States shares this – that a coup d'etat – this will be the first coup d'etat that took place since December 1991 when President Aristide was taken out at gunpoint from Haiti. And it’s – we – the history of coup d'etats in Latin America is a very long one. And in fact, Latin American politics was often described as Praetorian politics, where coup d'etats were the norm rather than in some ways the exception. And in fact, from 1930 till 1980, almost 40 percent of all changes of government in Latin America were through coup d'etats.
Now, that ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall and with this new wave of democratization in Latin America, which was a very significant achievement for the countries in Latin America. The decade of 1980s, the number of coup d'etats that led to changes of government went down from about 40 percent, which was the pattern that I said earlier, to about 20 percent. And since – since the 19 – the late 1980s – in fact, since Pinochet finally was voted in an election in Chile out of office when he lost the plebiscite of 1988, there’s really only been one situation where – before where a head of state has been taken out of gunpoint into exile in another country, and that was in Haiti in 1991. So this pattern cannot be repeated again. And the countries of the hemisphere are united on this principle. And this is why the gravity of the Honduran situation is uppermost.
So where do – where are we going with this? I think that for Honduras to, in fact, be restored to the Organization of America States – in other words, to be voted back in, because it was suspended – it’s going to have to show that (a) that the situation was grave and (2) that it’s taken steps to restore the constitutional and democratic order. And those are some of the things that I’ve outlined. The most important thing of all is create some kind of a government of national unity and to work to try to build a spirit of reconciliation in the country.
And we’re sort of, I guess, confident that there – we see some steps in that direction right now.
QUESTION: Is there any chance that the U.S. will not recognize the results of this election? Because you didn’t say that the U.S. will recognize --
MR. VALENZUELA: I don’t want to get into hypotheticals. What’s – what is clear is that the Honduran people did vote yesterday, and they voted by an ample margin for a gentleman by the name of Pepe Lobo. I – he will be the next president of Honduras. For the countries of the hemisphere and for the United States to work towards the restoration of Honduras to the Organization of American States later on, Honduras must do more than just simply this election. It must follow a process of national reconciliation through a government of national unity. And that’s what we’re urging the Honduran leadership to engage in. The people of Honduras want nothing less. I think that the fact that the turnout in Honduras met the same range of the elections in Honduras that have happened in the past, the fact that so many people voted for an opposition candidate is an expression of their wish to be able to move forward as well.
But I’m not going to get into hypotheticals about what might happen with this. We’re urging for a government of national unity to be constituted in order to be able to bring Honduras back into the Organization of American States.
QUESTION: But as of now, the U.S. is not recognizing the results officially?
MR. VALENZUELA: Could I --
QUESTION: I’d like to hear it. Are you recognizing the results?
MR. VALENZUELA: We take note of the results, yes. We recognize that there are results in Honduras for this election. That’s quite clear. We recognize those results, and we commend Mr. Lobo for having won these elections. And as I say, this is an important step to restore the democratic and constitutional order in Honduras.
QUESTION: Do you see --
QUESTION: So is it not a legitimate concern that by recognizing the election, you could be encouraging further coups?
MR. VALENZUELA: No, because I think that we have to make absolutely clear that any country that encourages a military coup, or if a military coup takes place, they run the risk of actually being suspended from the Organization of American States, of not being recognized by the Organization of American States. That’s something that cannot happen in the future. And I would very much hope that the leadership in Honduras would be able to bring together this kind of government of national unity and take the steps that are necessary, including the vote in congress, for the restoration of President Zelaya.
I want to make that absolutely clear. We’re not walking away from that at all, that construct. The congress is supposed to vote on October – on December 2nd, and we urge the congress to move swiftly to vote on the matter of President Zelaya’s restitution.
MR. KELLY: We have time for one more question. Jill.
QUESTION: But if – why have congress vote if you already know who is going to be president? Why have that congressional vote?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: The issue is not who is going to be the next president. The Honduran people decided that. The issue is whether the legitimate president of Honduras, who was overthrown in a coup d’état, will be returned to office by the congress on December 2nd, as per the San Jose-Tegucigalpa Accord. That was the accord that both sides signed at that time. They say that this was the construct in order to be able to restore constitutional authority and a democratic process in Honduras.
And we are urging the formation of a government of national unity, that the congress vote on the restoration of Zelaya, and three, that a truth commission be structured in order to be able to move forward. That’s our position. Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Who do you expect on the truth commission? What --
MR. KELLY: Okay. Thanks a lot.
The full text of the Lisbon Treaty is available here.
It may be worth noting in passing that the ancient and venerable Treaty establishing the European Community is renamed the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
the key changes of the Treaty are:
§ The abolition of the current distinction between the European Community and the European Union and the establishment of the EU as a single legal entity;
§ The appointment of a full-time President of the European Council and a High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy;
§ The enhanced role for national parliaments (e.g. national parliaments get the right to raise objections against draft EU legislation where national or local action would allegedly be more effective);
§ The enhanced role for the European Parliament through increasing the areas in which it will share the task of law-making with the Council of Ministers;
§ The double majority voting system in the Council of Ministers (55 per cent of Member States representing 65 per cent of the EU’s population), whose scope of application is also extended to new areas;
§ The Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is given legally binding status;
§ The citizens’ initiative, whereby at least one million citizens from a number of Member States can invite the Commission to submit a legislative proposal;
§ The “exit clause,” which provides procedures for Member States wishing to leave the EU.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Mr. Justice de Montigny of the Canadian Federal Court has allowed an application for judicial review of the claim filed by B.L.S., a 21-year-old U.S. citizen who claimed protection in Canada under sections 96 and 97(1) of the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act ("IRPA"). She is a lesbian serving in the U.S. Army and alleged a fear a persecution from her colleagues and superiors because of her sexual orientation. She also alleged that she would face risk to her life or cruel and unusual treatment or punishment if she were returned to the United States.
The Refugee Protection Division of the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board denied her application, but the Canadian Federal Court reversed that decision and said that judicial review ought to be allowed. Click here to read the full decision.
The woman's full name appears in the decision. This blog follows the policy of never publishing the full names o anyone seeking political asylum, even though that information may be made available elsewhere.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
The Chicago Religious Leadership Network has just sent us the following announcement concerning an event in Chicago to protest tomorrow's elections in Honduras. Additional demonstrations will be held in Washington DC and most likely in other cities as well.
Chicago VIGIL - 3pm to 5pm Sunday, November 29th
In front of the Honduran Consulate, 4439 West Fullerton, Chicago, Illinois
Tomorrow, Sunday, the illegal coup government in Honduras with carry out elections which will not be recognized as legitimate by the United Nations (UN), the Organization of American States (OAS), or any country in the hemisphere except the United States, Panama, and now since Friday Costa Rica. The U.S. State Department appears to have made a quid-pro-quo deal with right wing Republican Senator Jim DeMint, to recognize the Honduras election in return for DeMint lifting his “hold” on the nomination of Obama’s pick for Ast. Secy of State for Latin America, Arturo Valenzuela. There has been U.S. collusion with the coup plotters and it regime by former U.S. State Department officials, Cuban-Americans, public relations executives who are close political allies with Hillary Clinton (now Secy of State), and possibly the U.S. Ambassador Llorens in Honduras. President Obama, who immediately spoke out forcefully against the coup has demurred ever since, failing to provide leadership for a new direction in U.S. policy as he promised at the Summit of the Americas. So please, come on Sunday. And make the brief phone calls to the White House and Congress. For the latest news from multiple sources, click here.
Hat tip to Gary L. Cozette, Program Director, Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)
Friday, November 27, 2009
An independent United Nations human rights expert condemned the series of stonings that have been taking place in Somalia. He called for an urgent end to such "cruel, inhuman and degrading" practices.
Shamsul Bari said the public stonings, floggings, and summary executions carried out by Islamist armed groups in central and southern Somalia highlight the "deteriorating" human rights situation in the strife-torn nation, where Government forces have been battling Al Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam opposition groups for many months.
Mr. Bari, the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia, noted that under Al Shabaab's interpretation of Sharia law, anyone who has ever been married – even a divorcee – and has an affair is liable to be found guilty of adultery and punished by stoning.
According to reports from a village near the town of Wajid, 400 kilometres north-west of the capital, Mogadishu, a 20-year-old divorcee accused of committing adultery was stoned to death by Islamists in front of a crowd of 200 people on 18 November.
Earlier this month, a man was stoned to death for rape in the port town of Merka, south of Mogadishu, and in October two men are reported to have been executed after being accused of spying. Similar executions took place earlier in the year.
"I strongly condemn these recent executions by stoning in Al Shabaab-controlled areas of Somalia," Mr. Bari stated in a news release.
He called on all parties to immediately end such cruel, inhuman and degrading practices, including stoning, amputations, floggings, and other unlawful acts of torture and murder.
In addition, he urged all Islamist groups, including Al Shabaab and other armed groups, and religious leaders to abide by their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian laws.
He also urged the international community to engage with Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to identify priorities in terms of security, humanitarian and human rights, and to strengthen the Government's capacity to investigate rights abuses and hold the perpetrators accountable.
Mr. Bari reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity.
The U.S. State Department announced earlier this week that the United States will send observers to the Second Review Conference on the Convention on the Prohibition on the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Landmines and on Their Destruction, but will not join the treaty. The purpose of the Convention is "to put an end to the suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel (AP) mines." Although human rights activists are disappointed the United States will not join the AP Mine Ban Convention, they can take some comfort that the United States is at least willing to participate by way of an observer mission for the first time. The Second Review Conference, also known as the "Cartagena Summit for a Mine-Free World" will be held in Cartagena, Columbia next week on the tenth anniversary of the Convention's entry into force. 156 States are parties to the Convention; including every country in the Americas except the United States and Cuba. China, India and Russia also are not parties.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Today, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving, a traditional holiday where family and friends gather to celebrate and give thanks. (Some people also say the holiday is made to watch football on television, drink beer, eat just a little bit too much, and fall asleep on the couch). Others remember how the tradition first started, when the English pilgrims thanked the Native Americans for helping them survive in the new land. The holiday today is recognized as a time when everyone should pause, remember the good things we have in life, remember the love of family and friends, and do something to help others in need, wherever they may be.
Readers of this blog come from more than 100 countries around the world. On many days, most of our readers are outside the United States. We wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving.
Mark (in California today), Cindy (in Illinois), Cyndee (in Canada), Laurent (in Ireland), and Michael (in Missouri)
Honoring India with the first State Dinner should be seen as a very important gesture toward strengthening relations between the United States and India. Washington observers speculate that India's cooperation may be needed as part of the solution President Obama hopes to craft for eventually extracting the United States from the war in Afghanistan.
The first White House State Dinner was hosted in 1874 by President Ulysses S. Grant in honor of King David Kalakawa of the Hawaiian Islands (then known as the Sandwich Islands).
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The President of the American Bar Association, Carolyn Lamm, has written to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to express the ABA's support for the decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue federal court prosecutions of the five Guantanamo detainees accused of conspiring to commit the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. She wrote that "[t]he transfer of these high-profile cases to federal court affirms this nation's adherence to due process and to the rule of law, and clearly establishes that these men are being tried as criminals, not as soldiers in armed conflict." She also wrote that U.S. federal courts, "respected around the world, are well-equipped to handle trials of this magnitude. They will provide a fair and impartial forum for bringing these accused criminals to justice and will assure transparency and accountability to victims and the international community."
The U.S. State Department's Advisory Committee on International Law will hold an open meeting on Friday, December 11, 2009 from 9:15 am to 5:30 pm at George Washington University Law School. The meeting will be chaired by the former Dean of Yale Law School and international law scholar, Harold Koh, who is now Legal Advisor to the Department of State. The State Department anticipates that the agenda of the meeting will cover a range of current international legal topics, including treaty scope and enforcement issues, the relationship between human rights treaties and humanitarian law; issues relating to the International Criminal Court; options for compliance with the International Court of Justice’s decision in the Case concerning Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. United States of America); and the law of non-international armed conflict. Members of the public will have an opportunity to participate in the discussion, space and time permitting. Members of the public who wish to attend the session should notify the Office of the Legal Adviser by Monday, December 7, 2009 by calling 202-776-8323 and providing their name, professional affiliation, address, and telephone number. A valid photo ID is required for admittance.
The Editorial Committee of the Japanese Yearbook of International Law (JYIL) invites submission of articles, notes, and book reviews for possible publication. Here's the details:
JYIL welcomes the submission of articles and notes (within 5000 to 15000 words, not including footnotes) that address public and private international law, comparative law, or Japanese domestic law having international implications. Book Reviews should be around 750 to 1500 words on works on public or private international law, comparative law, or Japanese domestic law. All articles, notes and book reviews are peer-reviewed by experts in the field.
The Japanese Yearbook of International Law is a renewed academic journal (Vol. 51, 2008) in continuity with Japanese Annual of International law (JAIL) first published in 1958. While maintaining the 50 year tradition of JAIL, JYIL will consist of the following sections: articles and notes on both general and Japan-related issues, digests pertaining to current Japanese practices in international law, digests relating to major judicial decisions by Japanese courts in the fields of international law, and book reviews, as well as related documents including recent treaties and legislations.
Although submissions are accepted on an occasional basis, the deadline of submissions for the current year issue will be the end of January, and submissions received after that date will be considered as submissions for subsequent issues. JYIL is to be published in February.
For further information, please click here to visit the homepage of the Japanese Yearbook of International Law.
Hat tip to Koji Nishimoto, Supervising Associate Editor of Japanese Yearbook of International Law and Associate Professor of Public International Law in the Department of Law at Senshu University, Japan.
The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization approved a new treaty that would shut down ports to illegal fishing vessels. When it enters into effect, it will be the first treaty to commit governments to prevent and eliminate "illegal, unreported and unregulated" ("IUU") fishing by closing ports to ships engaged in illegal fishing practices. This will preventing their catch from entering international markets and hopefully end illegal fishing practices.
The treaty was signed by 11 members of the Food and Agricultural Organization: Angola, Brazil, Chile, the European Commission, Indonesia, Iceland, Norway, Samoa, Sierra Leone, the United States, and Uruguay. The formal name of the treaty is the “Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing” will enter into force after 25 countries have ratified it. The most common illegal fishing activities are operating without proper authorization, catching protected species, using outlawed types of gear, and disregarding catch quotas.
The treaty includes special rules on the obligation to share information, duties of flag states, and exceptions to allow help for ships in distress.
The FAO is located in Rome. Click here for more information about the FAO.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
There is an interesting new book on the market by NYU Press called "The Guantanamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison Outside the Law." The book contains the stories of the Guantanamo detainees as told by their lawyers. It is edited by Mark P. Denbeaux and Jonathan Hafetz, who represented Guantanamo detainees themselves, and who collected stories covering virtually every facet of life at Guantanamo and the litigation it spawned. From the publisher:
Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the United States imprisoned more than seven hundred and fifty men at its naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. These men, ranging from teenage boys to men in their eighties from over forty different countries, were detained for years without charges, trial, and a fair hearing. Without any legal status or protection, they were truly outside the law: imprisoned in secret, denied communication with their families, and subjected to extreme isolation, physical and mental abuse, and, in some instances, torture.
These are the detainees’ stories, told by their lawyers because the prisoners themselves were silenced. It took habeas counsel more than two years—and a ruling from the United States Supreme Court—to finally gain the right to visit and talk to their clients at Guantánamo. Even then, lawyers were forced to operate under severe restrictions designed to inhibit communication and envelop the prison in secrecy. In time, however, lawyers were able to meet with their clients and bring the truth about Guantánamo to the world.
The Guantánamo Lawyers contains over one hundred personal narratives from attorneys who have represented detainees held at “GTMO” as well as at other overseas prisons, from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to secret CIA jails or “black sites.”
Of note to researchers, excerpts from the narratives are available here and an online archive, hosted by New York University Libraries, will be available at the time of publication and will contain the complete texts as well as other accounts contributed by Guantánamo lawyers. The documents will be freely available on the Internet for research, teaching, and non-commercial uses, and will be preserved indefinitely as a historical collection.
Monday, November 23, 2009
The Financial Times reports today (Nov. 23, 2009) on page 1 that the Investor Protetcion Act ("IPA"), a new federal statute making its way through the U.S. Congress, will make it "easier for investors to sue foreign companies in US courts," even if those companies are not based in the United States and listed only on overseas exchanges. The IPA will require only that "significant steps" toward the alleged fraud have been taken in the United States.
Not surprisingly, EU officials and others have expressed concern over the potential reach of the new legislation. But as the Financial Times says: "Litigation is part of America's DNA."
Currently, the United States and Somalia are the only members of the United Nations (UN) that have not ratifed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Last Friday, the Somali government announced its intention to proceed with ratification, which potentially leaves the United States as the last holdout. The number of states party to the CRC is already 193, making it the most widely subscribed human rights treaty. President Clinton signed the CRC on behalf of the United States in 1995, but no U.S. president has submitted the treaty to the U.S. Senate for its advice and consent.
Opponents of the treaty argue that joining the treaty will undermine U.S. sovereignty and parental rights. Analyses by human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch suggest that U.S. law is largely in compliance with the treaty and should not present a bar to joining. The CRC emphasizes the importance of family in several articles and instructs governments to respect the rights, duties and responsiblities of parents in raising their children (see, e.g., article 5). The CRC recognizes that children have rights too and is based on four core principles: non-discrimination; best interests of the child; the right to life and development, and respect for the views of the child.
President Obama promised a review of the treaty and the U.S. State Department formed an interagency group to begin that work earlier this year. However, chances for ratification in the near future are likely low even if President Obama decides to submit to the Senate given that the Senate already has a backlog of other treaties to consider that are on the Obama Administration's treaty priority list.
Friday, November 20, 2009
The American Society of International Law publishes a series of short articles to explain current issues in international law. The latest is "Germany Sues Italy at the International Court of Justice on Foreign Sovereign Immunity – Legal Underpinnings and Implications for U.S. Law." Click here to read it.
Hat tip to Sheila Ward.
Baroness Catherine Ashton of the United Kingdom was elected as the first EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
OK, we don't make these things up. The UN has designated World Toilet Day. The underlying idea is sound (about providing proper sanitation for prisoners and others) but gosh, I think they need a new name for this day. Then again, it would make for an interesting line of greeting cards. Here's the press release from the UN.
The United Nations today marked World Toilet Day, stressing access to proper sanitation as a human right due to all, with a particular focus on “forgotten” prisoners and detainees in state institutions.
“With 2.5 billion people worldwide without access to proper sanitation, which leads to 1.8 million deaths a year, access to sanitation itself is clearly a human rights issue,” three UN human rights experts – on water and sanitation, health, and torture – said in a joint statement.
“States must ensure that everyone, including people in detention, have access to safe sanitation. Without it, detention conditions are inhumane, and contrary to the basic human dignity which underpins all human rights,” they added.
The Special Rapporteur on torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, Manfred Nowak, noted that in too many places detainees in prisons, migrant detention centers, juvenile institutions, psychiatric hospitals and other State-run institutions, are forgotten. “The conditions of detention in these places are frequently dismal, including a complete lack of access to sanitation,” he said.
Independent Expert on human rights related to safe drinking water and sanitation Catarina de Albuquerque called access to sanitation fundamental for a life in dignity to which all people are entitled. “The State has a particular obligation to ensure fulfillment of this right for all those held in detention, whether legitimate or not. Even those convicted of heinous crimes must enjoy such basic rights,” she said.
Anand Grover, the Special Rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of health, stressed that unsanitary conditions, especially human contact with fecal matter, directly cause many diseases rife in places of detention. “This denial of the right to health is as unacceptable as other forms of cruel and inhuman treatment,” he said.
Mr. Nowak noted that in his country visits he has found that detainees are forced to defecate into plastic bags due to lack of functioning toilets or latrines. In other cases, prisoners use buckets, which they must ‘slop out’ themselves every morning, with no opportunity to protect hygiene and cleanliness.
“In situations of overcrowding, which is all too often the case, people must defecate in front of other prisoners,” he said. “It is impossible for detainees to maintain their dignity in such demeaning circumstances.”
Although people think detainees are either criminals or political prisoners, most are ordinary people from the poorest, most disadvantaged sectors of society, including children deprived of a family environment, persons with disabilities, drug users, foreigners and members of ethnic and religious minorities or indigenous communities, the experts stressed.
“International human rights law demands that all persons deprived of their liberty be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person,” they said, noting that “sanitation itself is increasingly recognized as a human right, which should be enjoyed without discrimination, in all settings, including detention.”
The creation of the posts of President of the European Council and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is one of the 2007 Lisbon Treaty’s main institutional innovations. Yet a quick look at the Treaty makes one wonder if journalists have not given too much importance to the EU “top jobs” race.
the powers and responsibilities of these two new figures are rather limited.
And according to Article 18 of the EU Treaty, again as amended by the Lisbon Treaty, the High Representative is (a) to conduct the EU’s foreign and security policy and the EU’s defence policy, as mandated by the Council (i.e. the Member States), (b) to represent the Union in political dialogue with third countries and (c) to express the Union’s position in international organizations.
History will tell whether
those now arguing that “the
EU will soon have a president and a foreign minister, comparable in
world affairs with the president and the secretary of state in the
USA,” were prescient or guilty of wishful thinking.
Mr. Peter Van den Bossche (European Communities) was sworn in as the newest member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body today. He takes the place of Mr. Sacerdoti who is stepping down after eight years of service to the WTO. Mr. Van den Bossche is a Professor of International Trade at the University of Maastricht, Amsterdam. From 1997 to 2001, he was Counsellor to the Appellate Body of the WTO and in 2001, he served as Acting Director of the Appellate Body Secretariat.
The WTO Appellate Body is responsible for hearing appeals from WTO dispute settlement panels. The Appellate Body has seven members who are appointed by the WTO Dispute Settlement Body for four-year terms. The members must be persons of recognized authority with demonstrated expertise in law and international trade. They also must not be affiliated with any government and must broadly represent the membership of the WTO.