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.