October 17, 2009
Ratification of the EU Lisbon Treaty in the Czech Republic: Latest maneuver from President Klaus
Ireland became this week the 26th nation to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, leaving the Czech Republic as the only one of the 27 EU countries that has not yet done.
As mentioned in previous posts, the Czech President, a
notorious anti-EU and erratic politician, has been doing his best to delay
national ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon. His behavior is particularly appalling,
if not illegal, considering that the Treaty has been approved by both chambers
of the Czech Parliament and held compatible with the Czech Constitution by the
Constitutional Court (another ludicrous and late constitutional complaint
arguing that the Treaty creates a European “superstate” should be dealt with by
the Court before the end of this year).
The President’s signature being formally required to complete the Lisbon ratification process in his country, Mr. Klaus recently came up with another procrastination tactic: He demanded an “opt-out” from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. His main (and completely unfounded) fear is that the EU Charter, which will become legally binding once the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, could allow some German citizens to institute restitution claims on property confiscated from them in 1945 directly before the EU Court of Justice.
The main legal problem is that President Klaus wishes to see this “opt-out” enshrined in a new protocol to be annexed to the Lisbon Treaty. This is problematic because protocols, which have the same status as EU treaties, must be subject to national ratifications. Notwithstanding the fact that the Czech President does not even possess the legal power under the Czech Constitution to issue such a demand, other EU leaders have clearly and rightly refused to accommodate a demand of this nature almost two years after the Lisbon Treaty was signed.
Unsurprisingly, it has been today suggested that Mr. Klaus is now open to the idea of securing a “political declaration" instead of an opt-out. EU leaders are likely to give in to this demand. Declarations, which may be used to clarify the interpretation to be given to a treaty provision, do not indeed require national ratification. Regardless of what is going to be negotiated, this latest episode shows that it is more than time to scrap the unanimity rule when it comes to ratifying new EU treaties. As I wrote on many occasions, in a Union of 27 countries, such rule allows any nation (or any eccentric Head of state), for any reason, to hold up all the others on such a crucial issue of the EU institutional reform.
October 15, 2009
International Criminal Court
Luis Moreno Ocampo, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, confirmed that his office is looking into the murders committed in Guinea, where government security forces fired on an opposition rally in Conakry (the capital of Guinea) and killed more than 150 people on September 28, 2009. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, characterized the events of that day as a “blood bath.”
Guinea is a State Party to the Rome Statute which established the International Criminal Court. “As such the ICC has jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide possibly committed in the territory of Guinea or by nationals of Guinea, including killings of civilians and sexual violence,” the Court stated in a press release.
Other situations under preliminary examination by the ICC Prosecutor include:
- Côte d’Ivoire
- Kenya, and
- Palestine. .
Formal investigations are underway in four situations:
- the Central African Republic (CAR);
- the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC);
- Uganda; and
- the Darfur region of Sudan.
A press conference will be held on Friday at the ICC on the confirmation of charges in the case against Bahr Idriss Abu Garda, who voluntarily surrended to the International Criminal Court in May relating to war crimes allegedly committed in Sudan in September 2007 against the African Union Mission in Sudan.
Global Anti-Corruption Symposium at Georgetown
The Georgetown Journal of International Law invites proposals for lectures or paper topics for its annual symposium to be held on March 22, 2010. The topic of the symposium is global anti-corruption efforts. Article or lecture proposals should be submitted by November 1, 2009 to the Georgetown Journal of International Law.
Record Number of People Go Hungry on World Food Day 2009
October 16, 2009 is World Food Day, a day to reflect and act on ways to end hunger. This year, the anniversary is marked with a sad record - for the first time in history, more than 1 billion people, or one-sixth of all humanity, will go hungry. And the UN Food and Agricultural Organization predicts that the number will increase unless governments step up spending on agriculture. In 1980, 17% of aid contributed by donor countries went to agriculture. By 2006, that percentage has falled to 3.8%. There are many reasons suggested for the increase in hunger, from the global financial meltdown, competition for public and private aid funds from other sources, low food prices that discouraged investment in agriculture followed now by rapidly increasing food prices. Unfortunately, the world governments are failing their pledges adopted as part of the UN Millennium Development Goals to cut the number of hungry people in half by 2015. A renewed commitment is desperately needed.
Five Countries Will Be Elected Today for Non-Permanent Seats on the U.N. Security Council
The General Assembly is expected to elect Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Gabon, Lebanon and Nigeria as non-permanent members of the Security Council for two-year terms starting on 1 January next year.
The five countries are set to run unopposed in their respective regions when voting takes place today at United Nations Headquarters in New York. This would mark the first time since 2004 that there has been a Security Council election with no contested seats.
Gabon and Nigeria have been endorsed as candidates by the African group and, if chosen, would succeed Burkina Faso and Libya. Brazil is set to replace Costa Rica in the Latin American and Caribbean category.
In Eastern Europe, Bosnia and Herzegovina is the only declared candidate for the seat currently held by Croatia, while Lebanon won regional endorsement from the Asian group to succeed Viet Nam.
Council elections are conducted by secret ballot in the General Assembly, and winning candidates requires a two-thirds majority of ballots of members present and voting. Formal balloting takes place even when there is only one declared candidate per available seat.
The five countries chosen today will join Austria, Japan, Mexico, Turkey and Uganda, whose terms on the 15-member body end on 31 December 2010. The five permanent members are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
October 14, 2009
ICTY Rejects Karadzic's Claim of Immunity
The Appellate Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has rejected the immunity claim of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. He faces 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including two counts of genocide. Karadzic argued that Richard Holbrooke (who was a U.S. mediator at the time) had offered him immunity if he left public life; Holbrooke denies ever making such an offer. Karadzic's trial should start later this month.
A spokesperson for the court said today that there were many errors in the press reports about the Appellate Chamber's decision yesterday. Click here to see his comments.
UN Opens Human Rights Office in Brussels
This just in from the United Nations . . .
The first United Nations human rights office in the European Union opened today in Brussels, marking what the world body’s top rights official hopes will be a new era of cooperation with countries in the region.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is headquartered in Geneva but has never before opened a national or regional office in Western Europe.
“We already have 10 other regional offices in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia, and we are now present in 55 countries around the world in all. Europe was in many ways the missing piece in the puzzle,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said as she opened the new office at the EU’s headquarters in Brussels.
The main aim of the new Regional Office, she said, will be to strengthen engagement with European countries in the implementation of international human rights standards as well as to forge stronger partnerships with regional organizations such as the EU and its relevant institutions. The office would also work with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
October 12, 2009
Turkey and Armenia Sign Historic Accord
Over the weekend, foreign ministers for Turkey and Armenia signed protocols to reestablish diplomatic ties and reopen the border between their countries after decades of hostility. Tensions between the two countries certainly remain and even threatened to dispupt the signing ceremony. Armenia wants Turkey to recognize what Armenia considers to be genocide committed against its people by Turkey during World War I. For its part, Turkey is unhappy about Armenia's occupation of part of neighbouring Azerbaijan in the early 1990s. The protocols must still be ratified by each country's parliament. Improvement in relations between the two countries may also have a positive impact on Turkey's accession application to the European Union.
October 11, 2009
Poland Ratifies Lisbon Treaty
Ireland's "yes" vote last week on the Lisbon Treaty, also known as the European Constitution, paved the way for the remaining European Union (EU) Member States to finalize their support for the treaty. Polish President Lech Kaczynski signed the Lisbon Treaty at a ceremony in Warsaw yesterday. The Polish parliament had approved the treaty over a year ago, but Poland was waiting to see whether Ireland joined before finalizing its ratification.
The Czech Republic still has to finalize its ratification. Czech President Vaclav Klaus stated on Friday that he plans to push for last-minute changes to the Lisbon Treaty at the upcoming 29 October summit. He wants Prague to get an exemption from the Charter of Fundamental Rights on the model of Polish and British opt-outs, which were added to the Lisbon Treaty in 2007 in a special protocol. The opt-out is needed, he added, in order to make sure that German families expelled from the Czech Republic 65 years ago cannot bypass Czech courts and go directly to EU courts to claim their back property. It is unclear if all the other EU Member States would have to agree to any such changes at this point.