April 18, 2009
The Situation in Fiji
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.
Nearly 4,000 People Will Attend the Durban Review Conference in Geneva
The Durban Review Conference will open in Geneva on April 20 (for five days) to access progress on the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) agreed on in 2001 at the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance. Nearly 4,000 people have registered to participate in the Durban Review Conference, including more than 100 heads of delegation from Member States. There are 2,500 representatives from non-governmental organizations. Click here for more information.
Understanding OFAC (the Office of Foreign Assets Control)
Here's an item of interest to those of you who teach international business transanctions and international trade law.
April 29, 2009: Trade Sanctions: What Every Exporter Should Know - Webinar
This webinar introduces U.S. exporters to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the agency of the U.S. Department of Treasury which administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions. Learn about current sanctions programs, including a detailed explanation of the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (the SDN List). Find out how to comply with OFAC requirements, the key components of an effective OFAC compliance program, and how to address enforcement issues. Fee: $40. Learn more/register by clicking here.
April 17, 2009
Timor-Leste is Demonstrating a Commitment to Justice, Rule of Law, and Democracy
The top United Nations envoy to Timor-Leste, Atul Khare, who heads the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), has given a quite positive view of the situation there as it has developed over the past seven years. He told a Timorese Ministry of Justice Workshop this week that in its seven years of independence, Timor-Leste has demonstrated its commitment to justice, rule of law, and democracy. He noted that when he first arrived in 2002, judicial institutions were dysfunctional due to a lack of trained judges, prosecutors, and public defenders. But he said that Timorese justice personnel are increasingly taking on functions as they receive training and that access to justice has been improved with districts courts functioning outside Dili, the capital. He also said that the prison service has improved and the country has also ratified all major international human rights instruments. Timor-Leste also recently adopted important legislation, such as the criminal code, which is broadly in line with international standards, he said.
He noted that the UN family in Timor-Leste has been continuously supporting the authorities in their efforts by providing technical advice and mentoring with the strong support of bilateral partners. Challenges include the completion of investigations of crimes against humanity and other serious crimes committed during the violence before independence and in 2006, he said.
He also said that pending key legislation, such as the Civil Code, the law on Domestic Violence and a Juvenile Justice Law must be adopted swiftly and implemented efficiently. There is also a need for additional human rights education and raising legal awareness, with particular emphasis on women’s rights and gender based violence, he maintained.
U.N. Nuclear Inspectors Leave North Korea
U.N. nuclear inspectors left the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) yesterday after being ordered out of the country earlier this week, following the U.N. Security Council's condmenation of North Korea's rocket launch on April 5, Here is an excerpt from a U.N. press release issued today.
On Tuesday, the DPRK informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it was no longer cooperating with the agency, on the heels of the Security Council’s condemnation of its recent rocket launch. The country also requested the IAEA to remove all of its containment and surveillance equipment, ordering the UN inspectors to leave immediately. Yesterday, inspectors at the Yongbyon nuclear facilities removed all IAEA seals and switched off its surveillance cameras.
In 2007, the IAEA verified that the DPRK had closed the Yongbyon reactor, and since then, its inspectors had continued to monitor and verify the shutdown status. In a presidential statement issued on Monday, the Security Council said it deems the DPRK’s 5 April launch to be in contravention of resolution 1718, which demanded that the country “not conduct any further nuclear test or launch of a ballistic missile,” following its claims to have conducted a nuclear test in October 2006. “The Security Council demands that the DPRK not conduct any further launch,” according to the statement, which expressed the body's desire for a “peaceful and diplomatic solution to the situation” and welcomed Member States' efforts to reach a “comprehensive solution through dialogue.” It also said that it will adjust sanctions, imposed by the 2006 resolution, by the end of this month.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the adoption of the Council statement, “which sends a unified message of the international community” on the DPRK’s launch. Mr. Ban voiced hope in a separate statement that the Council’s actions will “pave the way for renewed efforts towards the peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues in the region, including through the early resumption” of inter-Korean dialogue and of the Six-Party Talks, which involve China, DPRK, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States.
Special Tribunal for Lebanon
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is investigating the bomb blast that killed the country’s former Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri, and 22 others in February 2005. This week, the Pre-Trial Judge for the Special Tribunal, Daniel Fransen, ordered the prosecutor to file reasons to continue holding persons of interest in that investigation. The prosecutor must file those reasons by April 27, 2009. The judge stated that any individuals arrested or detained have the right to be brought promptly before a judge to rule on their detention status. A U.N. press release says also that the judge also noted that the Hariri case raised difficult issues of terrorism, and that the judicial record relating to it was particularly complex and voluminous.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is a located in The Hague. It took over from the Beirut-based International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) in the beginning of March 2009. The investigation of the murders continues under the guidance of Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare, who also headed the probe while the case rested with the IIIC. A trial will take place when he has sufficient evidence.
A Murder in Burundi
An independent United Nations human rights expert voiced outrage over the killing of an anti-corruption campaigner in Burundi and called for an immediate investigation into the murder. Here is an excerpt from a U.N. press release issued yesterday:
Ernest Manirumva, the vice-president of an anti-corruption organization, was found stabbed to death in his home last week after being abducted from his office by unidentified men looking for documents, according to media reports. “His death is yet another proof that the right to freedom of expression is under attack in Burundi and that those who choose to exercise it freely are in danger,” warned Akich Okola, the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Burundi. Urging authorities to launch an inquiry into the 8 April murder of the leader of the Observatory for the Struggle against Corruption and Economic Embezzlement (OLUCOME), Mr. Okola underscored the need “to bring [the] perpetrators to justice.” He also expressed deep concern over reports that other OLUCOME staff members are regularly subjected to intimidation and threats. “This situation is simply unacceptable,” he said, calling on Burundian authorities “to take appropriate measures to ensure the protection of OLUCOME staff as well as other members of civil society and human rights defenders in particular.” Mr. Okola, who has served as Independent Expert since 2004, warned that “increasing trends to restrict freedom of expression and freedom of association threaten consolidation of peace in Burundi.” He also reminded the Government of a number of recommendations – concerning guarantees to freedoms of association, expression, opinion and peaceful assembly –he made to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in a recent review of the human rights situation in the African Great Lakes country.
April 16, 2009
Obama Declares Support for Inter-American Convention on Firearms
During a visit to Mexico today, President Obama and President Calderon pledged to work together to bring gun-related violence under control. As part of that effort, the Obama Administration announced support for the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and other Related Materials (aka CIFTA). CIFTA was concluded under the auspices of the Organization of American States in 1997 and entered into force in 1998. There are currenty 29 States party to the CIFTA. President Clinton signed the CIFTA on behalf of the United States and sent it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but is has languished there since. President Obama is expected to push the Senate to give its advice and consent to the treaty. CIFTA requires States to take a number of steps to reduce the illegal manufacture and trade in guns, ammunition and explosives. U.S. gun rights groups participated as observers during the treaty negotiations to ensure that it did not infringe on rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
April 15, 2009
Teaching International Students
The Association of American Law Schools Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research and the AALS Section on Teaching Methods have announced that their 2010 Program in New Orleans will be on "Teaching Foreign Students." You can read more about the program in the Section Newsletter for the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research, which has just been posted on the AALS Website. Cflick on Services (and then Sections) and you'll see a list of some past newlspetts. You can also click here to Download the AALS Legal Writing Newsletter Spring 2009.
Immigration Court Practice Manual Updates
Here's something for those of you who teach immigration law or who have students who take pro bono cases as part of an immigration law clinic. The immigration court practice manual has been amended with regards to page numbering and criminal conviction charts. The amendments are on the website for the U.S. Department of Justice's Executive Office for Immigration Review. Go to the EOIR website and then go the practice manual page.
Hat tip to Caridad Pastor
ABA Section of International Law Holds Its Spring Meeting This Week in Washington DC
The international law event of the season has arrived for practitioners of international law (and professors who teach international law too, of course). The ABA Section of International Law meets this week in Washington DC, from now until Saturday. Click here for an earlier post on this blog that has links with the agenda and information on how to attend. If you are attending the meeting, please stop by the publication sessions on Friday to say hello.
April 13, 2009
Justice Ginsberg Defends Supreme Court's Use of Foreign Law
At a symposium to honor U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg last Friday at the Moritz College of Law in Columbus, Ohio, Justice Ginsberg once again defended the Court's use of foreign law. She suggested that the controversy with respect to this issue is a passing phase and may reflect a misunderstanding that the Court is using foreign law as precedent rather than simply using it for its persuasive authority. She further suggested that the Court's reluctance to engage with foreign judical colleagues is dimishing the influence of the court internationally.
At the recent annual meeting of the American Society of Law in Washington, D.C., a panel of supreme court justices appeared to largely agree with Justice Ginsberg. One of the members of the panel was John Hedigan, from the High Court of Ireland (and former judge on the European Court of Human Rights), who put it quite well, stating: "The idea that you would not search out wisdom wherever you can find it is quite extraordinary."
Further Easing of US Sanctions on Cuba
As expected, the Obama Administration announced today that it is further easing trade and travel restrictions on Cuba by lifting restrictions on the amount of money that can be sent to Cuba by Cuban Americans with family in Cuba (barring senior Cuban government and Communist party officials) and allowing Cuban Americans to make unlimited trips to Cuba to visit family there. Other changes in the regulations will allow more gifts to be sent to Cuba, such as clothing, personal hygiene items, seeds, and fishing gear. The Obama Administration has also proposed changing the rules governing telecommunications to allow U.S. companies to provide cell phone, television and radio service in Cuba, but any such changes will require the approval and cooperation of the Cuban government. Click here for the Presidential Memo.
ICJ Concludes Oral Arguments in Belgium v. Senegal
The International Court of Justice has concluded the oral proceedings in Case 2009/16 on Questions Relating to the Obligation to Prosecute or Extradite. The court has started its deliberations in the case. The Kingdom of Belgium instituted the case against the Republic of Senegal on February 19, claiming that Senegal had an obligation to prosecute or extradite Hissene Habre, the former President of Chad. Click here to read more about the case in an earlier post on our blog. Click here to see the ICJ Press Release about the conclusion of the hearings. The verbatim records of the hearings held from April 6-8, 2009 are available on the ICJ website.