December 26, 2009
Nauru Recognizes Breakaway Republic of Abhkazia
The tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru became the fourth nation to establish diplomatic relations with Abkhazia.
Nauru is an eight-mile-square piece of land in the South Pacific, with 11,000 inhabitants. According to a report in the New York Times, Nauru reportedly requested $50 million for "urgent social and economic projects" in exchange for the diplomatic recognition.
December 24, 2009
NORAD Tracks Santa
We wish happy holidays to all of our readers around the world. For those of you interested in tracking Santa tonight, NORAD has him on radar. Click here for a quick look.
December 23, 2009
U.N. Security Council Resolution Imposes Arms and Travel Sanctions on EritreaThe U.N Security Council imposed an arms and travel sanctions on Eritrea for supporting insurgents trying to topple the nascent government in nearby Somalia. The resolution, supported by 13 of the 15 members of the Council, places an arms embargo on Eritrea, imposes travel bans on the Horn of Africa nation’s top political and military officials, and freezes the country’s assets. China, one of the five permanent members of the Council, abstained from voting for the resolution, while Libya voted against it.
In the resolution, the Council expressed concern over Eritrea’s rejection of the United Nations-facilitated Djibouti Agreement, a 2008 peace accord between Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS). Despite that pact, fighting and humanitarian suffering continue to engulf Somalia, which has been without a central authority for nearly two decades. Eritrea and Djibouti are also engaged in a border dispute. The resolution “demands that all Member States, in particular Eritrea, cease arming, training, and equipping armed groups and their members including al-Shabaab, that aim to destabilize the region or incite violence and civil strife in Djibouti. It also calls on all nations to support the Djibouti peace process and support the TFG’s reconciliation efforts in Somalia. It also demands that Eritrea acknowledge its dispute with Djibouti and actively take part in talks to defuse tensions.
The Security Council also reiterated its “serious concern at the refusal of Eritrea so far to engage in dialogue with Djibouti, or to accept bilateral contacts, mediation or facilitation efforts by the sub-regional or regional organizations or to respond positively to the efforts of the Secretary-General.”
Bosnian Constitution found to violate the European Convention on Human RightsThe European Court of Human Rights, in a judgment issued yesterday in the case of Sejdic and Finci v. Bosnia, ruled that the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, by prohibiting a Rom and a Jew from standing for election to the higher house of the Parliament and for the State Presidency, violates the provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights on discrimination and the right to free elections.
This is a particularly significant judgment as it radically undermines the legitimacy of a rather complex constitutional framework that was devised and imposed by members of the “Contact Group” (i.e. the US, UK, France, Germany and Russia) as part of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement. The Constitution of Bosnia itself constitutes Annex 4 of the Dayton Agreement and as noted by the Court, “constitutes the unique case of a constitution which was never officially published in the official languages of the country concerned but was agreed and published in a foreign language, English.” The discriminatory, not mentioning unwise and unworkable, nature of several of its provisions have long been known and criticized.
In this case, the Court examined the Bosnian Constitution’s distinction between two categories of citizens: those belonging to the so-called “constituent peoples” (Bosniacs, Croats and Serbs) and the “others” (Jews, Roma and other national minorities together with those who do not declare affiliation with any ethnic group). The House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly (the second chamber) and the Presidency are composed only of persons belonging to the three constituent peoples. In light of such manifestly discriminatory arrangements, the Court’s ruling is not exactly surprising. It is never acceptable to prohibit individuals from running for high political office solely on the ground of their ethnic origins. While the Court easily acknowledges that this power-sharing constitutional arrangement was put in place at a time when a fragile ceasefire had been reluctantly accepted by all the parties to a nasty inter-ethnic conflict and is further convinced that it pursued the legitimate aim of restoring peace, the Court also reasonably concludes that full compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights means that Bosnian authorities must at the very least devise new power-sharing mechanisms that do not automatically lead to the total exclusion of representatives of communities or persons which do not belong or do not wish to belong to the “constituent peoples.”
African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights Issues First Decision
Last week, the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights issued its first ever ruling in the Matter of Michelot Yogogombaye vs. The Republic of Senegal. Yogogombaye petitioned the Court to intervene in a legal matter against former Chadian president, Habre, now pending in Senegal, where Habre is under house arrest pending trial for his alleged participation in war crimes and crimes against humanity in Chad. Yogogambaye argued that the case against Habre should be dimissed on the basis of the principle of non-retroactivity and abuse of the principle of universal jurisdiction. Yogogambaye is generally considered a supporter of Habre and argued that any citizen of Chad should have standing to bring this matter before the African Court. The Court dismissed the petition because Chad has not entered a declaration accepting the Court's jurisdiction to hear individual petitions as required by the 1998 Protocol establishing the Court. The Court's decision has been criticized, not so much for the result, but for the length of time (12 months) it took to render a fairly short decision (12 pages) with respect to a jurisdictional issue that appears relatively straightfoward.
December 22, 2009
WTO DSB Establishes Panel to Examine China's Export Restrictions
In more WTO news, the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) established a panel today to examine complaints by the United States, the European Union (EU) and Mexico regarding China's export restrictions on raw materials. It is alleged that the measures violate articles VIII, X, and XI of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994, as well as China's WTO Accession Protocol. Under WTO rules, there will be a 45-day period in which the panel will be set up and panelists chosen. The panel has six months in which to hear the parties' arguments and issue its decision.
Two new requests for panels were made to the WTO today - one by China to examine U.S. rules on passenger vehicle and light truck tires and one by the EU to examine Philippine taxes on distilled spirits. Both requests will be introduced a second time before a panel can be established.
The WTO also received several reports on efforts to comply with WTO DSB decisions, including an update on U.S. efforts to amend its intellectual property laws to conform to its WTO obligations. Among other measures, the U.S. reported on efforts to amend section 211 of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 1998 prohibiting registration or renewal of trademarks abandoned by owners because of confiscation of property under Cuban law, and section 110(5) of the US Copyright Act, which permits the playing of certain music in public places without payment of royalties. More WTO news can be found here.
WTO Rejects Appeal by China In Intellectual Property Dispute with US
Yesterday, the World Trade Organization Appellate Body (AB) rejected China's appeal of a WTO panel decision in favor of the United States finding that China had violated its WTO commitments by imposing certain restrictions on print and audiovisual materials. The Report of the Appellate Body in China - Measures Affecting Trading Rights and Distribution Services for Certain Publications and Audiovisual Entertainment Products upheld the panel's findings that China violated its Protocol of Accession to the WTO by its rules on film regulation and film enterprise, as well as its rules on audiovisual products regulaton and importation. The AB disagreed with the panel on one point - it held that the panel erred in finding that China's publication regulation is likely to protect "public morals" in China within the meaning of Article XX(a) of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), but upheld the panel's ultimate conclusion that the relevant regulations did not meet all the criteria of the Article XX exception. The AB also upheld the panel's findings that China's rules regarding distribution of sound recordings violated Article XVII of the General Agreement on Services (GATS). In conclusion, the AB made its usual recommendation that the WTO Dispute Settlement Body request that China bring its measures into conformity with its WTO obligations. China now has a reasonable time to decide how to comply before any enforcement measures may be taken.
December 20, 2009
U.N. Inquiry Commission Report on Murders and Rapes in Guinea Last September
An International Commission of Inquiry has written a report on the deadly crackdown on demonstrators in Guinea on September 28, 2009. At least 150 civilians were killed and many others raped by members of Guinea's armed forces. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said he transmitted the Commission's report to the U.N. Security Council, the African Union (AU), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The commission visited Conakry between November 15 and December 4 and sent its report to Mr. Ban earlier this week. Its members are Mohamed Bedjaoui, Francoise Ngendahayo Kayiramirwa and Pramila Patten.