July 18, 2009
Chinese Taipei becomes a party to the WTO Procurement Agreement
On July 15, the customs territory of Taipei, Phengu, Kinmen and Matsu (collectively known as "Chinese Taipei") joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) Procurement Agreement. Chinese Taipei has been a member of the WTO since January 1, 2002. There are currently 41 members of the WTO Procurement Agreement and nine more States are negotiating membership. The purpose of the Agreement is to open up government procurement to international competition by eliminating discrimination in government procurement against products, services, or providers from other WTO Member States and by increasing transparency in government procurement.
Iceland Will Apply to Join the EU
The Icelandic Parliament voted on Thursday to apply for membership in the European Union. The vote was 33 to 28 to start membership talks with the EU, with two abstentions. A report in the New York Times states that Iceland strongly cherishes its independence but that it would also like some greater economic stability during times of global economic downturn. The prime minister of Iceland, Johanna Sigurdardottir, reportedly wants to submit a membership application to the EU by the end of July.
July 17, 2009
Delhi High Court Decision Applies Throughout India
We reported on July 2, 2009 that the Delhi High Court, in a landmark decision, ruledthat the sodomy law (Section 377 of the Indian PenalCode) was unconstitutionall under Indian law. It is a beautiful decision (particularly the last parts) and well worth reading. We posted a link to it previously in this post. Click here to read that earlier post, which includes excerpts from the decision and a link to the full court opinion. In its landmark decision, the Delhi High Court ruled that India's sodomy law could no longer be enforced between consenting adults of the same sex.
Newspapers in the United States and other countries reported about the Indian sodomy law decision, but most of those reports wrongly suggested that the decision was limited only to Delhi. William Kelley has shared with us a link to a newspaper in India that supports the view that the decision does indeed apply to all of India. This means that the decision decriminalized same-sex relationships for roughly 17 percent of world's population. Click here to read more. Reports that the decision is limited only to Delhi simply "got it wrong." The decision applies throughout India, and rightfully so (as you can see by reading the 105-page decision!).
Hat tips to Rex Wockner and William Kelley.
Law Library of Congress Has Three Job Openings
The Law Library of Congress in Washington DC has three new job openings at the Directorate of Legal Research. The Directorate, currently with over 20 Foreign Law Specialists, is an academy of legal research on foreign, comparative, and international law. It primarily serves the U.S. Congress, but researchers from around the world have benefited as well from the work of these experts and access to the foreign and international collections at the Library of Congress.
The thee new positions, Foreign Law Specialists, cover (1) Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Common Law; (2) Turkey and Turkish-speaking countries; and (3) Scandinavian countries. All three positions start at the U.S. GS-11 level with the promotional track to GS-15. Click here for more information.
Hat tip to Hongxia Liu
Happy Birthday, ICC!
Hat tip to the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA)
July 16, 2009
Update on the Special Court for Sierra Leone
We just received the following press release from the United Nations.
Top officials from the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone today appealed to States for the necessary resources to conclude its work, including the war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, and deliver justice to thousands of victims.
Briefing the Security Council, Prosecutor Stephen Rapp recalled that the commission of serious crimes against the civilian population of Sierra Leone motivated the creation of the Court, which is based in Freetown.
“We ask for the cooperation and support necessary to complete its mandate, so that justice can be achieved for the victims of those crimes,” he said, noting this will send a “powerful message” that the international community strongly supports institutions established to hold to account those responsible for such atrocities, and by doing so, deter their perpetration.
“For the victims – the thousands who had been mutilated, the tens of thousands who had been murdered, the hundreds of thousands who had been subjected to sexual violence – the Special Court offers justice by holding to account those alleged to bear the greatest responsibility for these crimes,” stated Mr. Rapp.
He told the 15-member body that the Court’s immediate financial situation may be fairly characterized as “an impending crisis.
“Even if all pledged donations from donors for this year come in early, our funds will run dry before next year’s round of donations, and the Special Court will not have the resources necessary to complete its work.”
Set up jointly by the Government of Sierra Leone and the UN in 2002, the Court is mandated to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and national law committed in Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996.
Mr. Rapp noted that the Court has been ground-breaking in several respects, including the first-ever convictions on the charge of sexual slavery, both as a war crime and crime against humanity, as well as convictions on the use of child soldiers.
The Court has completed three multiple-accused trials. In addition, a fourth trial – that of Mr. Taylor, who faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity – is currently under way at The Hague.
It is expected that Mr. Taylor’s trial, which this week saw the former leader take the stand in his own defence, will be conducted to allow for a judgment by mid-2010, and for finalization on appeal by early 2011.
“We project that in February 2011, upon delivery of the appeals judgment in the Taylor case, we will have completed all of the Special Court’s judicial activities,” the Court’s President, Justice Renate Winter, told the Council.
The Court will, however, still be bound by a number of legal obligations – known as “residual issues” – that will not terminate once the trials and appeals are completed, she noted.
A small successor body will likely need to be established to manage and perform residual functions, including the enforcement of sentences, maintenance of the Court’s archives, witness protection and assistance, and the possible trial or transfer of the case of the one indictee-at-large, former Sierra Leonean military leader Johnny Paul Koroma.
Justice Winter stated that assistance to the Court will continue to be as important in the future as it has been in the past.
“To successfully complete its mandate in the coming months, the Special Court continues to rely on the indispensable support of the Security Council and all Member States. Today, more than ever before, this request is urgent.”
July 15, 2009
ICTR Finds Tharcisse Renzaho Guilty of Genocide and Sentences Him to Life in Prison
The ICTR found that Mr. Renzaho ordered the establishment of roadblocks and then supported the killings of Tutsis at those roadblocks. He also supervised a selection process at a refugee site where about 40 Tutsis were abducted and killed.
Mr. Renzaho – who also served as a colonel in the Rwandan military at the time – participated in a particularly notorious attack at the Sainte Famille church in central Kigali, where more than 100 Tutsis were slaughtered and numerous women were raped. He made remarks encouraging the sexual abuse and was found to be criminally liable for the rape that followed.
International Criminal Court: Prosecution Wraps Up Its Case Against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo
The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) wrapped up its presentation of evidence against a Congolese warlord accused of recruiting child soldiers, the first suspect taken into custody by the International Criminal Court. The case marks the first time in the history of international law to see the active participation of victims in the proceedings, including child combatants.
He faces two counts of war crimes: conscripting and enlisting child soldiers into the military wing of his group and then using them to participate in hostilities between September 2002 and August 2003. Over the course of 22 weeks, 28 witnesses – including three experts – testified, all of whom were cross-examined by the defence. Nearly all of the prosecution’s witnesses were granted protective measures, including voice and facial distortion and the use of pseudonyms. A psychologist sat in during the proceedings to support and monitor witnesses.
Mr. Lubanga, who surrendered to the ICC in March 2006, and his defense team were able to see all of the witnesses as they gave their testimony, but some required further special measures to avoid direct eye contact with the accused.
Established by the Rome Statute of 1998, the ICC can try cases involving individuals charged with war crimes committed after July 2002. The UN Security Council, the ICC Prosecutor, or a State Party to the Court can initiate any proceedings. The ICC will act only when countries themselves are "unwilling or unable" to investigate or prosecute.
July 14, 2009
Joyeux jour de la Bastille!
We were celebrating too much to get this posted yesterday!
Special Court for Sierra Leone: Charles Taylor Takes the Stand
The former president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, took the stand today in his own defense during his trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). Mr. Taylor has already pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which include pillage, slavery for forced marriage purposes, collective punishment, and the recruitment of child soldiers. The charges relate to his alleged support for two rebel groups in neighboring Sierra Leone during that country’s civil war from 1996 to 2002.
Mr. Taylor’s defense is expected to last several weeks, and a verdict is not expected until next year.
The SCSL was set up jointly by the Government of Sierra Leone and the UN in 2002. It is mandated to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and national law committed in Sierra Leone since November 30, 1996. The SCSL sits in the Hague (sharing the building that houses the International Criminal Court).
Is Ban Ki-Moon the "Invisible Man" of the United Nations?
Today's Wall Street Journal has a page 1 story on the Secretary General of the United Nations and his efforts to fight his low-profile image as the "invisible man" of the United Nations. The article discusses, for example, whether his recent trip to Myanmar (Burma) helped or hurt him, given that he was denied a chance to meet with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Mr. Ban is halfway through his five-year term as Secretary General.
July 13, 2009
ICJ Decision in Costa Rica v. Nicaragua
The International Court of Justice issued a decision today in the dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua regarding navigational and related rights. The court ruled (inter alia) that Costa Rican tourist and commercial boats have the right to travel along the river that defines part of its border with Nicaragua, but that Nicaragua has the right to regulate the river traffic. Click here to read a summary of specific findings in an ICJ press release.
July 12, 2009
Update on African Cooperation with the International Criminal Court
Last week, the members of the African Union (AU) agreed not cooperate with an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Now, the African Union High Level Panel on Dafur, led by South African President, Thabo Mbeki, has come to the opposite conclusion, recommending that the AU cooperate with the ICC. Although some African leaders have argued that the ICC investigation of Bashir will hinder the peace process, the panel urges the AU to cooperate with international courts and allow Bashir to face the charges against him.