May 23, 2009
European Commission Cancels Fiji's Sugar Allocation
Radio New Zealand International reported that the European Commission has cancelled Fiji’s 2009 sugar allocation, which will cost Fiji more than 32 million US dollars. The European Commission said it decided to cancel the allocation because there was no indication that a legitimate government would be in place in Fiji in 2009.
The European Commission said it would have made 32 million dollars worth of sugar reform accompanying measure available, subject to a legitimate government being in place in accordance with EU Council decision of October 2007. The European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, urged the Government of Fiji to fulfil its commitments to the EU so that sugar reform payments could be reinstated in the future. Because of a news blackout in Fiji, news of the European Commission's action does not appear to be widely known in Fiji.
Fiji’s military leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, had promised to hold elections by March of 2009 but he now says elections won’t be held before 2014.
Hat tip to Radio New Zealand International and the East-West Center
Fiji President Issues Decree that the Human Rights Commission Cannot Investigate Any Abrogation of the Fiji Constitution
Fiji’s President Ratu Josefa Iloilo promulgated Human Rights Commission Decree 2009 on May 20, 2009. Under the new decree, the Human Rights Commission cannot investigate any complaints relating to the April 10 revocation of 1997 Constitution, nor investigate any decision by a court of law.
Section 27(2) states that the Human Rights Commission "shall not receive, nor shall it investigate on its own motion, any complaints questioning or challenging the legality or validity of the Fiji Constitution Amendment Act 1997 Revocation Decree 2009, or such other Decrees made or as may by made by the President
“Any proceedings of any form whatsoever, as well as any application of any form whatsoever in a proceeding, seeking to challenge the validity or legality of the Fiji Constitution Amendment Act 1997 Revocation Decree 2009 (Decree No.1) or any other Decrees made by the President from 10 April 2009 or as may be made by the President, shall wholly terminate immediately upon the commencement of this
Decree, and a Certificate to that effect shall be issued by the Chief Registrar to all parties to the proceeding.”
Hat tip to Fijilive and the East-West Center
Fiji Detains Lawyers and Seizes Their Computers
Radio New Zealand International reported that Dorsami Naidu, the President of the Fiji Law Society, said last week that three lawyers and their computers had been taken in to a police station in Suva, the capital. Naidu said that the search warrants that the police used to seize the computers of lawyers Jon Apted, Richard Naidu and Tevita Fa (a lawyer for the ousted Prime Minister of Fiji, Laisenia Qarase).
Mr. Naidu says he is concerned about the police having to confidential information about the lawyers’ clients. He also said that there was no guarantee that the police will not abuse their search powers. The lawyers were taken in under the emergency regulations. The police in Fiji did not confirm to Radio New Zealand that the lawyers and their computers had been taken into custody.
Hat tip to the East-West Center
U.N. Security Council Expresses Concern Over Aung San Suu Kyi
The United Nations Security Council has expressed its concern over the political impact in Myanmar of the detention of opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. In a press statement, the 15-member body reiterated “the importance of the release of all political prisoners,” repeating the need for Myanmar’s Government to “create the necessary conditions for a genuine dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all concerned parties and ethnic groups in order to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation with the support of the United Nations.”
Security forces arrested Aung San Suu Kyi, who leads the National League for Democracy (NLD), and two aides on 14 May and took them to Insein Prison, where they were charged by a special court. They are said to have been charged with violating the terms of her house arrest, after an uninvited United States citizen gained access to their home, and her trial is currently under way.
Last week, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that “her continued detention, and now this latest trial, breach international standards of due process and fair trial.”
It had been hoped that she would be released when her current detention order, which has already continued for one year longer than the maximum of five years permitted under Myanmar’s laws, expires at the end of this month.
“The Myanmar authorities might claim Aung San Suu Kyi has breached the conditions of her detention, but they have broken both their own laws and their international human rights obligations,” Ms. Pillay said. “She should not be detained in the first place.”
She has spent over 12 years under house arrest. On 30 May 2003, she was re-arrested under a law which states that a person “suspected of having committed or believed to be about to commit, any act which endangers the sovereignty and security of the state” can be detained.
In May 2007, the Government extended her arrest for another year, bringing her detention to the five-year limit, and her detention was prolonged for sixth year last May.
ABA Annual Meeting In Chicago
Early bird registration is available until May 29, 2009 for the American Bar Association's Annual Meeting in Chicago. The ABA Annual Meeting will be July 30 to August 4, 2009. CLE programs will include a Panel on the Future of the International Court of Justice.
The ABA Section of International Law is also holding a leadership retreat (for current leaders and those who would like to have a leadership position in the ABA Section of International Law). That International Leadership Retreat will be held July 28-30, 2009 at the Abbey Resort at Lake Geneva Wisconsin.
Click here to visit the Home Page for the ABA Section of International Law (which has further links to the Section Leadership Retreat and other international law resources).
May 21, 2009
United Nations Struggling with Sexual Harrassment Claims
According to a troubling report in the Wall Street Journal today, the United Nations (UN) is struggling to figure out how to better deal with sexual harrassment claims filed by employees against other employees. UN workers have complained that the current process for investigating and resolving such cases is arbitrary, unfair, and mired in bureaucracy, which means cases can take years to be adjudicated. Complicating matters is the fact that many UN managers have diplomatic immunity and cannot be held liable for their actions in court. Thus, UN workers may only seek help through the internal UN processes. And when the accused resign before those processes can be completed, no action can be taken against them even if violations are found. Equality Now, a women's rights group, has complained to Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General, about the problem. Partly as a result, the UN intends to change the way it handles all employees' complaints as of July 1. The new system will replace the current administrative panels and rulings by the UN Secretary General with a new UN Dispute Tribunal and UN Appeals Tribunal, which will be staffed with professional judges. Unfortunately, this new report will add fuel to the fire of those who believe the UN is ineffective and corrupt. The UN must demonstrate that it can change its ways and become more effective if it is to lead, especially in the area of international human rights.
May 20, 2009
Calls Increase for Independent War Crimes Investigation in Sri Lanka
On Monday, the President of Sri Lanka officially declared victory in the country's 26-year civil war upon the death of the leader of the Tamil Tigers liberation movement. Sri Lanka may have experienced an historic end to active fighting in its long and boody civil war this week which has claimed an estimated 70,000 lives, but the fallout from those hostilities will continue to be felt for decades to come. Both Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights have accused the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger liberation movement of violating international humanitarian law during the conflict. Earlier this week, the Council for the European Union joined in the call for an independent investigation into the possible commission of war crimes by both sides to the conflict. A summary of the Council's May 18 report and recommendations can be found here. It is certainly hoped that the Sri Lankan government will take all necessary and appropriate steps to bring an end to the loss of life, to ensure respect for human rights, and to bring those to justice who may have committed violations of law. However, the Sri Lankan government's response thus far has been to deny all allegations and to resist international pressure.
Global Legal Skills Conference IV
The Fourth Global Legal Skills Conference will be held at Georgetown University Law Center from June 4-6, 2009. Click here for the program and information on registration.
Toward Better Implementation of U.S. International Obligations
The Connecticut Journal of International Law has published an article by my co-editor, Professor Cindy Buys, on improving how the United States implements its international obligations. Here's the description from SSRN (from which you can also download the entire article for free):
The United States is a party to hundreds of treaties that create a vast array of international obligations for the country. Many of these treaty obligations require some action by the government to become effective in the U.S. legal system. Domestic implementation of these international obligations has created structural tensions, both between the branches of the federal government and between the states and the federal government. This article uses President Bush's efforts to implement the recent judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Case Concerning Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Avena) to illustrate some of the problems presented by this issue.
In Avena, the ICJ found that that the United States had breached its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations to inform certain Mexican nationals who had been arrested in the United States of their consular notification rights. The ICJ further found that the appropriate reparation would consist of providing, by means of the United States' own choosing, review and reconsideration of the convictions and sentences of the Mexican nationals that were the subject of the case. In the domestic implementation stage of that decision, President Bush asserted the power to order state courts to provide review and reconsideration of the Mexican nationals' judgments in state criminal proceedings. The President's claim to such authority is troubling because it appears to violate structural principles of separation of powers and federalism.
The article begins by providing some background regarding the Avena judgment and post-Avena litigation, with a particular focus on Medellin v. Texas. Medellin was one of the Mexican nationals involved in Avena and his case was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in March 2008. The article analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of arguments that have been made in that case regarding the proper method of implementation of the ICJ judgment by the United States. The article then places that litigation in the larger context of the debate regarding the proper role of each branch of the federal government with respect to the implementation of the United States' international obligations more generally. The article also examines the issue from a federalism perspective and the interplay between the state and federal governments with respect to implementation of the United States' international obligations. Finally, the article provides some suggestions as to how the United States can better handle implementation of these obligations in the future.
May 18, 2009
Irish may be ready to approve EU Constitution
A recent poll indicates that a slight majority of the Irish population (52%) now support the Constitution for the European Union (EU). Ireland is a rarity among EU member states in requiring that a popular referendum be held before the treaty may be ratified. The Irish rejected the treaty last June by a vote of 53% opposed to 49% in favor. Irish ratification is dependent on certain legal guarantees from the EU regarding taxation, defense, and abortion. Assuming those guarantees are approved by the EU at its summit in June, it is anticipated that a referendum will be held in Ireland in October. All the other 26 member states of the EU have completed parliamentary ratification of the treaty, although the Polish and Czech Presidents have not signed pending Ireland's ratification. Thus, a favorable referendum in Ireland in October will allow the EU Constitution to enter into force.