October 10, 2009
International Law at the Central States Legal Writing Conference
Ann Sinsheimer and Teresa Brostoff (University of Pittsburgh School of Law) presented at the Central Region Legal Writing Conference at Marquette Univesity Law School on their international teaching experiences, including experiences in Bahrain, Ethiopia, Iceland, Oman, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates.
October 9, 2009
Congrats to President Obama on the Nobel Peace Prize
Only nine months into his first year of office, U.S. President Barack Obama has been selected as the 2009 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Here is a statement from the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee, which noted his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy" and that "[m]ultilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play." Here is the statement from the Nobel Prize Committee:
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.
Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.
Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.
For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama's appeal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges."
Oslo, October 9, 2009
President Obama is the third sitting U.S. President to win this award -- the other two were Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. The award has also been given to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Critics of the award today say that Obama has not yet achieved anything, but they are wrong. The prize was given to him for bringing diplomacy and the work of international institutions back into the center stage.
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October 8, 2009
Interpretation of Act of State Doctrine
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently issued a decision clarifying the application of the act of state doctrine in U.S. courts. The underlying case is Provincial Government of Marinduque v. Placer Dome Inc., no. 07-16306 (9th Cir. 2009). Marinduque is an island province in the Republic of the Philippines. It sued Pacer Dome in state court in Nevada alleging that Placer Dome caused serious damage to human health and the environment through the company's mining operations on the island. The complaint alleges that Placer Dome severely polluted the lands and water of the island for 30 years and left the island without cleaning up the mess, in violation of Philippine law. The complaint also alleges that Placer Dome was able to get away with this behavior because it gave former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos a personal stake in the mining operations in exchange for the easing of environmental protections. Placer Dome sought to remove the lawsuit to federal court, claiming that the complaint presented questions of international law and foreign relations, including implication of the act of state doctrine, which gave the federal court jurisdiction over the suit. The act of state doctrine precludes courts from passing on the validity of acts of a foreign government in its own territory.
The Ninth Circuit rejected Placer Dome's assertion of federal court jurisdiction, stating that "Act of state issues only arise when a court must decide - that is, when the outcome of the case turns upon - the effect of official action by a foreign sovereign. When that question is not in the case, neither is the act of state doctrine." Here, the court said, the act of state doctrine is not an essential element of Marinduque's claim because Marinduque need not prove the validity or invalidity of an act of state. Whether or not former President Marcos acted corruptly, Marinduque may still be successful if it proves that Placer Dome violated Philippine mining, fishing, water or pollution laws, or that it breached its contract with the Province. Thus, nothing in the complaint requires a court to pass on the validity of an act of a foreign government and the act of state doctrine is not implicated. As a result, the Ninth Circuit remanded the case to Nevada state court. The full text of the opinion may be found here.
US/China Legal Exchange in Chicago
On Wednesday, October 14, Cameron Kelly, General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Commerce, is hosting Vice Minister Zhang Qiong from China’s State Council Legislative Affairs Office and other Chinese Government officials in Chicago for the 2009 U.S./China Legal Exchange. The Legal Exchange presents a valuable opportunity for business people, lawyers, law professors, and law students, to interact directly with these high-level officials on two dynamic areas of China’s evolving commercial law regime: China’s patent and telecommunications regimes. This year’s program is particularly timely, as China is in the process of developing new laws and rules for these regimes as it looks to enhance its domestic market.
The program provides a valuable opportunity to support the broad interest of the U.S. and Chinese Governments to enhance government transparency and promote stronger bilateral dialogue to the benefit both countries. Mr. Kelly will be joined by U.S. experts in the form of government and non-government speakers, including Chicago’s own Sharon Barner, the recently appointed Deputy Director of the Patent and Trademark Office, and the Associate Administrator for Policy Analysis and Development for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Danny Weitzner.
To register, click here.
If this was not a real story, it would be a great joke -- The Government of the Maldives Will Meet . . . Underwater (Wearing Scuba Gear)
The New York Times reports today that Government Mininsters in the Maldives (the lowest-lying nation on earth) will hold a cabinet meeting underwater--wearing scuba gear--to highlight the dangers of global warming and rising sea levels. The meeting will take place on October 17, 2009.
Berlusconi Has a Bad Day
The Constitutional Court of Italy held (in a ruling of only six lines) that the immunity law that President Silvio Berlusconi pushed through the Italian Congress in April 2008 violates a clause in the Italian Constitution that grants citizens equality under the law. The immunity law (known also as the "Alfano Law") had sought to shield Berlusconi and three other officeholders from prosecution while they are in office. The ruling from the Constitutional Court reopens now three trials concerning his real estate holdings, and media empire.
October 6, 2009
Killer of Rwandan Queen Arrested in Uganda and Transferred to ICTR
One of the most wanted suspects in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide has been arrested in Uganda. Idelphonse Nizeyimana, former second in command for intelligence and military operations at an officers’ school, was arrested in Kampala, Uganda, yesterday by the National Central Bureau of Interpol in collaboration with the tracking team of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). He was transferred to the court’s detention facility in Arusha, Tanzania. He faces five counts of genocide or complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity, including ordering the execution of former Rwandan Queen Rosalie Gicanda, a symbolic figure for all Tutsis.
Canada and US Still Negotiating Over Buy American Provision
On Sunday, Canada agreed to postpone implementation of a June resolution that would have prohibited Canadian cities from doing business with U.S. companies because of the controversial "Buy American" provisions in the recent stimulus package. Those provisions create preferences for the purchase of U.S. iron, steel, and other manufactured products by state and muncipal governments using U.S. taxpayor stimulus money. Canada has complained that the "Buy American" provisions violate international trade rules, including the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA. The U.S. maintains that the "Buy American" provisions conform with all international trade rules because the provisions apply to sub-national governments, i.e., states and municipalities, which are not covered by trade treaties. Settlement talks are underway between the U.S. and Canada and postponement of the Canadian resolution will allow those talks to continue. News reports suggest that the U.S. is considering exempting Canada from the "Buy American" provisions which will allow the pruchase of Canadian goods on an equal footing with U.S. goods. Some American businesses support the exemption because they obtain many of their supplies from Canadian companies. Jayson Myers, chief executive of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, predicted that an agreement would be reached within two weeks.
October 5, 2009
Is the Italian Head of State Immune?
Italy's Constitutional Court begins deliberations today on the constitutionality of an immunity law that protects Italy's premier, president, and two parliamentary speakers from prosecution while in office. The law was pushed through the legislature in 2008 by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi when he was being prosecuted on charges of corruption.
Does Russia Still Have the Appetite to Join the WTO?
An article last week in the New York Times suggests that Russia's appetite for joining the World Trade Organization has evaporated. Russia is the most economically important country still outside the WTO, and it has been pursuing membership now for 16 years. In 2004, it entered into a trade agreement with the European Union that was to have helped pave the way for Russia to be admitted to membership. But the New York Times story reports that Pascal Lamy, head of the WTO, said that Russia seems less interested today in joining the WTO. Lamy pointed to a possible application by Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan as a customs union -- something for which there is no precedent in the WTO. Membership in WTO would help Russia diversify its economy away from oil exports.
UN World Food Programme Offices Attacked in Pakistan -- Five Staffers Reported Killed by Bomb
We join the strong global condemnation of today’s suicide attack against the office of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Islamabad, Pakistan in which reports are now that five staff members were killed. We also extend our condolences to the families and co-workers of those who were killed today.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon stated: “This is a heinous crime committed against those who have been working tirelessly to assist the poor and the vulnerable on the frontlines of hunger and other human suffering in Pakistan.”
WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran expressed her deepest condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of the staff members who were killed or injured in the attack. The victims have been identified as Botan Ahmed Ali Al-Hayawi of Iraq, and Mohammed Wahab, Abid Rehman, Gulrukh Tahir, and Farzana Barkat, all of whom are Pakistani nationals. Director Sheeran said: “All of the victims were humanitarian heroes working on the frontlines of hunger in a country where WFP food assistance is providing a lifeline to millions. This is a tragedy – not just for WFP – but for the whole humanitarian community and for the hungry.”
The UN World Food Programme provides vital food assistance to as many as 10 million people across Pakistan, including emergency relief to as many as 2 million Pakistani civilians who were displaced by conflict in the Swat Valley region earlier this year. The agency also supports school meal programmes and targets food assistance at vulnerable groups of people across the country.
According to a news report on the BBC, the suicide bomber may have been associated with the Taliban in Pakistan. The bomber had dressed up as a security guard and approached other security guards, asking to use the bathroom. That is how he gained access to the buidling with his package of explosives, which apparently exploded in the lobby of the building.
This is a shameful act that harms those most vulnerable in Pakistan.
First Monday in October
Happy First Monday in October, the traditional start of the new term for the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Sonia Sotomayor has joined the bench, replacing Justice Souter who served on the Court for 19 years. Other blogs (but not us) are speculating that this "First Monday" may be Justice Stevens' last.
ICJ Concludes Public Hearings in Argentina v. Uruguay Case
The International Court of Justice finished the public hearings last week in the case concerning Pulp Mills on the River Uruguay (Argentina v. Uruguay). The ICJ has begun its deliberations on the case. Click here to read more. We'll have more to say about the case when the ICJ issues its decision.