October 24, 2009
Happy United Nations Day!
October 23, 2009
Reminder: Tomorrow is United Nations Day!
Saturday, October 24, is United Nations Day. Do your part to share with students, colleagues, and neighbors your thoughts on why we need the United Nations. And if you're in the United States, you might also share the news that the U.S. has finally paid up its dues.
In the photo to the right, I am pictured with a group of law students from Stetson University College of Law and the University of Lucerne (Switzerland) at the U.N. in Geneva.
October 22, 2009
International Law Weekend (ILW) Starts TODAY in New York City
The American Branch of the International Law Association (ABILA), in cooperation with the International Law Students Association (ILSA) and with the support of the American Society of International Law (ASIL) and the American Bar Assocation Section of International Law, starts its annual International Law Weekend today at the New York City Bar Association and Fordham University Law School.
The annual International Law Weekend in New York, bringing together hundreds of practitioners, members of the governmental and non-governmental sectors and students. And yes, I'm going!
The conference will feature numerous panels, distinguished speakers, receptions, and the ABILA's annual meeting.
International Law Weekend 2009 will take place at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (42 West 44th Street) on October 22, 2009 (that's TODAY), and at Fordham University School of Law (140 West 62nd Street) on October 23rd and 24th (that's FRIDAY and SATURDAY).
The Weekend's theme is "Challenges to Transnational Governance." The economic, political, and social changes of the last decade have re-shaped international law and deeply affected its role and practice, along with the identity and attitude of its participants. This year's Weekend will address the challenges posed by these changes with an emphasis on the emergence of the notion of "transnational governance" and the issues related to it, including:
- Re-ordering, organizing, and monitoring: Is this what transnational governance is about?
- Who is in charge of transnational governance?: A discussion of the (sometimes new) role of international organizations, states, NGOs, regions, companies, private individuals, and others.
- Governing what?: The contents and scope of transnational governance
- The impact of transnational governance on international trade, foreign investment, and dispute resolution mechanisms.
- In the new context, what is the role of regulatory international law?
The ILW 2009 co-chairs are Pierre Bodeau-Livinec (of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs), Wil Burns (Editor in Chief of the Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy), and Aníbal M. Sabater (Partner at Fulbright & Jaworski International LLP).
Mark E. Wojcik, Chair, ABILA Committee on the Teaching of International Law
October 21, 2009
NYU to Honor Memory of Thomas Franck on October 28
The New York University School of Law community will celebrate the life and work of Thomas Franck, Murry and Ida Becker Professor of Law Emeritus, at a memorial service on Wednesday, October 28, 2009, at 5:30 p.m., at the NYU Law School.
Tom was a leading figure in the field of international law, a leader in the American Society of International Law, and a beloved member of the Law School faculty for more than forty years. He died in May of this year. Click here to read our post about his passing.
Throughout his life, Tom greatly enriched the field of international law and made a profound impact on many people and numerous institutions. In addition to his teaching, Tom was the director of the Center for International Studies at NYU from 1965 until his retirement in 2002. He acted as legal adviser or counsel to many foreign governments, as an advocate before the International Court of Justice, as a judge ad hoc before that court, and as a member of the Department of State Advisory Committee on International Law. A two-time Guggenheim Fellowship winner, Tom authored more than 30 books and innumerable articles, addresses, legal arguments and judgments. Despite his illness, he continued to work passionately, committed until the very end to advancing the values that animated his life’s work.
Adapted from a message sent by Dean Richard Revesz, Dean and Lawrence King Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law
October 20, 2009
International Olympic Committee
The International Olympic Committee is expected to be granted observer status at the U.N. General Assembly today. Twenty-five nations (including the United States and the United Kingdom) are supporting a draft resolution to give observer status to the IOC, which will allow the IOC to observe UN General Assembly Meetings and to provide information on matters of interest to the International Olympic Committee.
Hat tip to Robbie Artz
October 19, 2009
U.N. Expert Praises Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
A press release received today from the United Nations . . .
The international community showed its support for the world’s nearly 400 million indigenous people by adopting the landmark 2007 declaration outlining their rights, a United Nations independent human rights said today.
The adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People came after more than two decades of debate.
“The adoption of the Declaration signals the strong commitment of the international community to remedy the historical and ongoing denial of the rights of indigenous peoples,” James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedom of indigenous people, told reporters in New York.
The text is based on the principles of equality, self-determination and respect for diversity, which form the “basic tenets of the modern human rights system,” he said.
A non-binding text, the Declaration sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.
The Declaration emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations.
It also prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them, and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development.
In his briefing to the General Assembly today, Mr. Anaya, an unpaid independent expert who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, said that he described the scope of his mandate and the activities he has undertaken since assuming his position last May.
His work, he said, falls within four interrelated areas: promoting good practices; thematic studies; country reports; and responding to cases of alleged gross violations.
In the past year, the expert has wrapped up reports on Brazil and Nepal after visiting the countries, as well as a follow-up trip to Chile. He has also conducted missions to assess indigenous persons’ conditions in Australia, Botswana, Russia and Colombia.
Election Fraud in Afghanistan
Here is a press release received today from the United Nations . . .
The United Nations-backed panel probing allegations of irregularities in the recent Afghan elections today submitted its findings to the national electoral body, which will now determine whether or not President Hamid Karzai received more than 50 per cent of the votes in order to avoid a run-off.
The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) was tasked with auditing suspicious ballot boxes and other complaints related to the 20 August presidential elections.
Following its investigations, it ordered the Independent Election Commission (IEC) – which organized the polls – to invalidate 210 polling stations around the country where the ECC found clear and convincing evidence of fraud.
“Now that the ECC has published its orders we expect the IEC to implement them without haste and move swiftly to announce either a final certified result or the requirement for a second round as required by Afghanistan’s electoral law,” said Aleem Siddique, spokesperson for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
Last month, the ECC decided to take a closer look at roughly 10 per cent sample of the 3,377 fraud-prone ballot boxes from the presidential elections.
During the process, 343 suspicious ballot boxes were randomly picked from across the country and flown into the capital, Kabul, where they were examined by a team of officials from the IEC, ECC, and the UN Development Programme’s election project, known as UNDP/ELECT.
The ECC also gave a decision on the 646 polling stations that the IEC had quarantined after the election, because they contained more than 1,000 votes, or were cast in a polling station that was closed, or stations where the number of votes recorded in polling centre overall were greater than the number ballots issued by the IEC.
The Commission removed 628 stations from the final tally.
The ECC’s order has now gone to the IEC, which will make the necessary calculations by discarding the ballots declared as fraudulent from the preliminary results.
The IEC is expected to announce the final certified results within the next few days.
Public Hearings at ICJ on Kosovo's Declaration of Independence
In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to render an advisory opinion regarding whether Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia is in accordance with international law. The ICJ has announced that it will hold public hearings on the question from December 1-11, 2009. Thirty States have announced their intention to participate in the hearings. At least three European Union (EU) States, Spain, Romania and Cyprus, have announced their intention to oppose independence for Kosovo. Other EU States, including Germany, France, the United Kingdom, as well as the United States, are scheduled to testify in favor of independence for Kosovo. While the ICJ's opinion will only be advisory and will not decide any contentious cases, it will certainly provide ammunition to parties in other matters relating to statehood and independence.
October 18, 2009
Torture, national security and the rule of law: On a welcome ruling of the UK High Court
On too many occasions since 9/11 have
national governments relied on “national security” grounds to hide illegal
actions, prevent political embarrassment, or more prosaically, to secure
domestic political gains. Politicians should therefore not be surprised that
judges are now more willing to double-guess them when they argue, for instance,
that some allegedly sensitive material cannot be made public.
In a ruling issued on 16 October, the High Court in London, for the first time, refused to accept the British Foreign Secretary’s argument that the public release of litigious material, sought by the lawyers of a former Guantanamo detainee, would threaten national security (judgment available here). At issue was a previously censored 7-paragraph summary of the Guantanamo detainee’s “treatment” by US authorities made by the CIA and sent to the British Security Services. Reversing their prior holdings, Lord Justice John Thomas and Justice David Lloyd Jones convincingly and reasonably held that the public interest in making the paragraphs public is not only overwhelming but that the risk to national security alleged by the British government is not a serious one:
“We consider that, viewed objectively, a decision by a court in the United Kingdom to put the redacted paragraphs into the public domain in the circumstances of this case would not infringe the principle of control over intelligence. The principle admits an exception in the case of court ordered disclosure, which is plainly applicable in the present case for the following reasons:
i) It is necessary and justifiable:
a) It was BM’s case that the United Kingdom Government had facilitated or become mixed up in wrongdoing of the United States, alleged to amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or torture.
e) … the suppression of reports of wrongdoing by officials in circumstances which cannot affect in any way national security is inimical to the rule of law. Championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, is the cornerstone of democracy.
ii) It is exceptional. …
iii) As between the United States and the United Kingdom, it is accepted that the court of each State can order there be put into the public domain information otherwise subject to the principle of control. …
… In our view, as a court in the United Kingdom, a vital public interest requires, for reasons of democratic accountability and the rule of law in the United Kingdom, that a summary of the most important evidence relating to the involvement of the British security services in wrongdoing be placed in the public domain in the United Kingdom.
We have therefore conclude that, as the public interest in making the paragraphs public is overwhelming, and as the risk to national security judged objectively on the evidence is not a serious one, we should restore the redacted paragraphs to our first judgment by addition these to paragraphs 87 and 88 respectively. We shall therefore re-issue our first judgment with the paragraphs restored.”
Unsurprisingly, the British government agreed yesterday to appeal this ruling.