Friday, December 18, 2009
On December 4, 2000, the UN General Assembly declared December 18 to be International Migrants Day to draw attention to the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the large and increasing number of migrant workers around the world. On that day in 1990, the UN General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (resolution 45/158). We are fast approaching the 20th anniversary of that Convention. According to the United Nations, there are over 200 million migrants living and working in other countries around the world today.
Here in the United States, there are more than 42 million migrants. Many immigration advocacy groups are marking the day by calling on the U.S. government to reform the immigration laws in a manner that recognizes and respects the human rights and dignity of persons regardless of their status. Immigrant community groups around the country are marking the day with press releases, candlelight vigils, movie screenings and other activities designed to educate the public about the rights of immigrants and migrant workers in particular.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
From a press release just issued by the United Nations . . . .
A United Nations human rights expert voiced concern today over the decision of a court to order Liberia to pay debts of about $20 million to two so-called “vulture funds” – private investment firms that buy the debts of struggling countries or companies at below face value and then aggressively pursue repayment of the entire sum.
Cephas Lumina, the UN Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States, said in a statement issued in Geneva that asking Liberia to pay back the debts – which date to 1978 – was “a morally unacceptable trade-off.”
London’s High Court ruled late last month that Liberia must pay the $20 million owed to Hannah Investments and Wall Capital Limited.
Dr. Lumina said the amount sought was equivalent to a “significant portion” of the West African country’s annual budget for health and education.
“Payment of this debt by Liberia would have a direct negative effect on its Government’s ability to fulfil its human rights obligations, resulting in further impoverishment and privation of basic human rights, especially economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to water and sanitation, health, housing and education,” he said. “In return, two private speculative investors will unfairly increase their profit margins.”
Liberia is currently undergoing the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) process, an internationally agreed measure for debt relief that is designed to free up funds so that poor countries can invest in health, education and poverty reduction.
This follows its emergence from a protracted and brutal civil war in the 1990s and early this decade that devastated the country’s infrastructure and economy.
Dr. Lumina noted that Liberia was one of several HIPC countries that had been targeted by vulture funds for the repayment of debts owed.
“I strongly urge the international community, the Paris Club and, in particular, the United Kingdom, the United States and France – which are preferred jurisdictions for many vulture funds – to urgently consider enacting legislation to prevent vulture fund activity within their jurisdictions as a clear indication of their commitment to find a durable solution to the debt problem.
“It is illogical to cancel poor country debt and at the same time allow unconscionable vulture fund claims.”
Dr. Lumina added that poor countries should for their part “ensure transparency, participation and accountability in the negotiation, contraction, restructuring and settlement of public loans, including through legislation providing for oversight by parliaments and civic organizations. It is time to move beyond the rhetoric to more robust action outlawing this retrogressive practice.”
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
We have just received the following statement from the U.S. State Department concerning a case under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.
STATEMENT BY SECRETARY CLINTON
I was pleased to hear that the Appellate Court in Rio de Janeiro has upheld the lower court’s decision that Sean Goldman, a young American boy wrongfully retained in Brazil for more than five years, should be reunited with his father David in New Jersey. We appreciate the assistance and cooperation of the Government of Brazil in upholding its obligations under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. And it is my hope that this long legal process is now complete and that the Goldman family will be reunited quickly. They will be in my thoughts and prayers today and throughout this holiday season.
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) has posted several internship opportunities to its website. Click here to learn more. The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) is non-partisan public policy and grant making institution dedicated to promoting greater cooperation between the United States and Europe.
The U.S. State Department has announced the creation of a new website to faciliate its participation in the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (HRC) Universal Periodic Review process. Through this process, the HRC reviews the human rights records of each of the 192 UN Member States once every four years to monitor compliance with international human rights laws. The United States' human rights record will be reviewed in December 2010 based on a report that the U.S. government will submit as well as input from civil society organizations. According to the State Department:
This website will facilitate communication between civil society and the United States government before, during, and after the preparation of the U.S. report to the UN Human Rights Council. An important feature of the website will be an inbox, through which the Department of State will invite ideas, comments and analysis from civil society on issues relating to human rights in the United States.
To view the new State Department website and submit comments, click here.
In more European legal news, the European Commission (EC) has decided to drop a case alleging that the software giant, Microsoft, harms competition by bundling Internet Explorer with its Windows software. The EC's decision came as a result of a settlement between the European regulatory authorities and Microsoft pursuant to which Microsoft agreed to offer its customers a choice of rival web browsers, including Mozilla, Apple and Google. Microsoft will install a pop up screen offering the choice both in new computers and for existing customers. Microsoft must report to the EC every six months on the implementation of the agreement for the next 5 years to avoid fines.
This settlement appears to reflect a change in legal strategy for Microsoft. In a previous legal dispute with European competition authorities that lasted almost a decade, Microsoft was charged with abusing a dominant market position by tying Windows to its media player and server businesses. The EC fined Microsoft $2.44 billion dollars and forced Microsoft to change its business practices in order to continue its sales in Europe. Now, Microsoft appears more willing to compromise rather than face costly litigation and fines.
The settlement only covers Windows users in Europe and reports indicate that Microsoft has no plans to extend the terms to other markets, despite the fact that 90% of computers in the world run on the Windows operating system.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy today applauded the successful efforts of Latin American banana producing nations, the United States and the European Union to end their long running dispute over trade in bananas.
The banana issue is one of the longest running disputes in the post-WWII multilateral trading system. It has generated considerable debate and litigation among the widest range of the entire WTO membership. And it has resulted in multiple legal rulings by dispute panels, the Appellate Body, and special arbitrators. All this attention has focussed on the treatment the EC gives to the import of bananas from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries in preference to bananas from Latin America. Today, the EC announced the final, comprehensive agreement to settle this dispute.
Click here to read more. That link contains a timeline of significant events in this dispute, which started back in the early 1990's.
A blog hosted by Doug Ireland is reporting the murder this week of Walter Trochez, a 25-year-old activist in Honduras who was an active member of the National Resistance Front against the military coup. The blog reports that Mr. Trochez was assassinated on the evening of December 13. He had previously been arrested and beaten for his sexual orientation after participating in a march against the coup. He had documenting and publicizing homophobic killings and crimes committed by the military forces behind the coup, which reprotedly has killed at least 10 LGBT persons since the coup. Click here to read more.
Monday, December 14, 2009
The New York Times has just reported that the Obama administration is expected to announce on Tuesday that it has selected a prison in northwestern Illinois to house terrorism suspects now being held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Moving the prisoners would be a major step toward shutting down the military detention facility. The New York Times reports that an administration official said President Obama had directed the federal government to proceed with acquiring the Thomson Correctional Center, a maximum-security prison about 150 miles west of Chicago.