Saturday, February 7, 2009

Judge Owada of Japan Elected New President of the International Court of Justice

Icj Judge Hisashi Owada (Japan) was elected President of the International Court of Justice, and Judge Peter Tomka (Slovakia) was elected as Vice-President.  Each of them joined the court in 2003 and each will now serve a term (as President and Vice-President, respectively) for a term of three years. 

Judge Owada follows Judge Rosalyn Higgins, a British jurist who deserves her own personal fan club.  Her leadership of the ICJ during her term as President was extraordinary.

There are 15 Judges on the ICJ (and 14 active cases presently on its docket).  Here’s the latest list, following the elections of five judges last year and the elections this week of the President and Vice President.

  1. President Hisashi Owada (Japan)
  2. Vice-President Peter Tomka (Slovakia)
  3. Judges Shi Jiuyong (China)
  4. Abdul G. Koroma (Sierra Leone)
  5. Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh (Jordan)
  6. Thomas Buergenthal (United States of America)
  7. Bruno Simma (Germany)
  8. Ronny Abraham (France)
  9. Kenneth Keith (New Zealand)
  10. Bernardo Sepúlveda-Amor (Mexico)
  11. Mohammed Bennouna (Morocco)
  12. Leonid Skotnikov (Russian Federation)
  13. Antônio Augusto Cançado Trindade (Brazil)
  14. Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf (Somalia)
  15. Christopher Greenwood (United Kingdom)

(mew)

February 7, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 6, 2009

UNRWA Suspends Relief Operations in Gaza After Hamas Seizes UN Relief Supplies for Second Time in Three Days

We've just received word that the United Nations has suspended relief operations in Gaza after Hamas seized hundreds of tons of food for the second time in three days.  The following press release from the UN provides further details on that and on the situation in Gaza.

(mew)

The main United Nations relief agency responsible for feeding 900,000 Palestinian refugees in Gaza today suspended all imports of desperately needed aid after Hamas confiscated hundreds of tons of food, the second such seizure in three days. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded that Hamas immediately return the food to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which said its suspension would remain in force until such a return and “the Agency is given credible assurances from the Hamas government in Gaza that there will be no repeat of these thefts.”

Mr. Ban also called on Hamas “to refrain from interference with the provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance in Gaza,” where a three-week Israeli offensive, launched with the stated aim of ending Hamas and other rocket attacks against it, killed 1,300 Palestinians, injured more than 5,300, 34 per cent of them children, destroyed or damaged 21,000 homes, and caused widespread damage to infrastructure.  He reiterated Security Council calls for the unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian aid, including food, fuel and medical treatment, throughout Gaza.

The seizures followed repeated UNRWA warnings that not nearly enough food and other vital supplies were getting through because of Israel’s closure of most crossing points into Gaza. Just hours before the latest seizure, UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza John Ging had warned that the Agency would suspend operations if there was a repeat. Although the amount stolen in the first seizure was small, “it’s massive in its significance because they’ve crossed a red line,” Mr. Ging said.

During the night of 5 February 10 truckloads of flour and rice were taken from the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom Crossing into Gaza, UNRWA said in a statement. “They had been imported from Egypt for collection by UNRWA today,” it added. “The food was taken away by trucks contracted by the Ministry of Social Affairs. Two hundred metric tons of rice and 100 metric tons of flour were taken.”  On Tuesday, 3,500 blankets and over 400 food parcels were taken at gunpoint from a distribution store in Beach Camp in Gaza. Hamas said it would give out the aid itself and Mr. Ging yesterday told Hamas to “stop the nonsense that they’ve been coming out with trying to justify what they did and accept that it was an egregious error.”

Mr. Ging has repeatedly called on Israel to throw open the border crossings to full access for relief supplies, including food, medicine, non-food items and essential reconstruction materials.

In a related development, Israel has said that aid from a ship it intercepted off Gaza would be sent in overland while 10 Lebanese citizens on board would be handed back through the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) position at Ras Naqoura.

The Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory (UNSCO) reported today that, because of the difficulties in obtaining food, 88 per cent of Gaza’s 1.4 million inhabitants are now registered to receive food aid from UNRWA and the UN World Food Programme (WFP). 

For its part, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that the Gaza City Wastewater Treatment Plant continues to discharge 60 million litres of raw sewage into the sea every day due to damage sustained during the Israeli offensive, which ended nearly three weeks ago. 

Meanwhile, only 15 per cent, or some $90 million, of the $613 million UN flash appeal that was recently launched for Gaza has been pledged or contributed so far, OCHA said.

Mr. Ban’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy told UN Radio that children in Gaza told her “horrific stories” of witnessing their family members being killed, while in Ashkelon, in southern Israel, she saw firsthand how children live under fear of missile attacks, which leads to psycho-social issues.  Ms. Coomaraswamy, who has just finished a four-day tour of the conflict region, also met with a youth group in the West Bank, who openly expressed their despair and anger – not only against Israel but against the international community, who they accused of not acting.

For its part, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today voiced deep concern at the recent Israeli-Hamas fighting, noting that it resulted in heavy civilian casualties, including the killing and injuring of a large number of women and children.  “The Committee notes with deep concern that the human rights of women and children in Gaza, in particular to peace and security, free movement, livelihood and health, have been seriously violated during this military engagement,” it said in a statement issued in Geneva.

February 6, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

60 Years of the Council of Europe and 50 Years of the European Court of Human Rights

Founded in 1949, the Council of Europe is an international organization whose core objective is the preservation and promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Its founding Treaty, i.e. the Treaty of London, was originally signed by 10 states: Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The Council now brings together 47 Member States and embraces therefore more countries than the EU (27 Member States so far).

Its major legal contribution to a better world is known as the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which was signed in 1950.  Commonly known as the European Convention on Human Rights, it was the first international legal instrument safeguarding human rights. Since then, more than 200 treaties have been drawn up under the auspices of the Council of Europe.

The Council of Europe should also be praised for setting up effective mechanisms to guarantee compliance with the obligations entered into by the Contracting States. The establishment of the European Court of Human Rights (located in Strasbourg) in 1959 proved particularly important.

To mark the start of the Strasbourg Court’s 50th anniversary year, a special seminar was organized last week. The speech delivered on that occasion by the President of the Court is available here and is worth reading. Non experts are likely to be surprised in particular by the number of judgments the Court has issued since its creation: close to 10,000 judgments on the merits, 9,000 of which have been issued in the last 10 years. The Court has become, in a way, a victim of its own success and the number of cases pending keeps growing (97,000 at the end of 2008).

The speech of H.E. Judge Rosalyn Higgins, the President of the International Court of Justice, is similarly both instructive and stimulating (available here). It focuses on the contemporary legal issues faced by both Courts and suggests that “the best way to avoid fragmentation of international law is for us all to keep ourselves well-informed of each other’s decisions, to have open channels of communication, and to build on the cordial relationships that already exist among the courts in The Hague, Strasbourg, Luxembourg, Arusha and so on.”

For those interested to learn more about the European Convention on Human Rights, see the very good introduction offered by Steven Greer, The European Convention on Human Rights (Cambridge University Press, 2006).

Laurent Pech

February 6, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Translating Your School's Web Pages for Foreign Students

The website for Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego has pages devoted to its LL.M. programs.  Nothing new about that.  But what they do that other schools should pick up on is having some of those pages in languages other than English.  Of course you want LL.M. students whose English is strong enough for your graduate courses, but when marketing these programs it helps a lot to have information available in languages other than English.  Click here to see the page that has links to pdfs that translate the information into French and Chinese

By putting the information only in links to pdfs rather than their own web pages, I think that Thomas Jefferson may be missing out on potential law students who are doing web searches in languages other than English.  Unless the web search engines are also picking up the pdfs, students may not find them as easily.  The law school may decide to change that in the future, or they may decide to keep what they have (which is very good when you consider that most law schools have nothing in other langauges about their LL.M. programs) and perhaps add other languages (such as Spanish, to recruit students from Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries).  LL.M. students from other countries are usually happy to translate such information for you.

While you're at the Thomas Jefferson law school's website, you might also want to check out the photos from the latest discovery at TJSL -- a mamouth tusk!  We were sent to the website to see those photos by the Law Librarian Blog, which had posted about what the school found while building its new downtown campus.

(mew)

February 6, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

International Conference on the Prevention of Torture and Other Ill-Treatment

On February 23, 2009, the American University Washington College of Law (WCL) and the Association for the Prevention of Torture are co-sponsoring an all-day conference on the Prevention of Torture and Other Ill-Treatment.  The program begins at 8:30 am at WCL in St. Louis, MO and concludes at 4:45 pm that day.  There will be three panels on the following topics: (1) Are Adequate Legal Frameworks in Place at the Domestic Level?; (2) How are Laws Applied and Detention Practices Reformed?; and (3) Transparency and the Access of Independent Experts to All Places of Detention.  To register, go to www.wcl.american.edu/secle/registration.

(cgb)

February 5, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ICJ Schedules Oral Arguments in Navigational Rights Dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua

Costa_ricaNicaragua  In September 2005, Costa Rica filed an application instituting proceedings with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Nicaragua. Costa Rica alleges that Nicaragua has acted to prevent the free and full exercise of Costa Rica's navigational rights with respect to the San Juan River.  Briefing has been completed and that Court has scheduled public hearings to be held beginning Monday, March 2, 2009.  The public hearings will be held in the Great Hall of Justice of the Icj Peace Palace in The Hague, the Netherlands.  More information on the case can be found by clicking here.

(cgb)

February 5, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Trade Policy and the Global Food Crisis

A program on Trade Policy and the Global Food Crisis will be held on Thursday, February 5, 2009 from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. at Brooklyn Law School in New York.  The event is co-sponsored by the Brooklyn Law School’s International Law Society, the Dennis J Block Center for the Study of International Business Law, and the Customs and International Trade Bar Association (CITBA).  Policy experts will address some of the causes of the crisis and what can be done to provide billions of people with the food they need. The panel is moderated by Terence P. Stewart, managing partner of Stewart and Stewart, a Washington, DC-based international trade law firm.  I've known Terence for many years and he always does a great job at these sorts of things.  Click here for more information.

(mew)

February 4, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

2008 Audit of EU Human Rights Protections by Human Rights Watch

In its 2008 “country summary” of the EU, published in January 2009, Human Rights Watch (HRW) notes that the EU and its Member States “continue to pursue counterterrorism measures that violate human rights.” The report, in particular, refers to a proposal for a Council Framework Decision amending Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA on combating terrorism, which became “law” last November (the full text is available here).

The main objective is to harmonize national criminal provisions by defining three new categories of criminal offence at EU level: public provocation to commit a terrorist offence, recruitment for terrorism and training for terrorism. The Member States have until December 2010 to take the necessary measures to comply with this Framework Decision.

In agreement with HRW, I think this new legislation gives rise to legitimate concern about an eventual criminalization of speech with little connection to terrorism. In particular, the broad character of the concept of provocation to commit a terrorist offence is worrying. Indeed, it does not appear to require a direct encouragement to commit terrorist acts. Instead, the new EU legislation would seem to authorize prosecution of any statement which creates a “danger” of such acts being committed. I’m currently assessing the implications of this proposed new EU legislation on the right to free speech. I will keep the readers informed when my paper is published.

LP

February 4, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

New Developments in ATS Suit against Pfizer

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently reinstated a lawsuit brought by Nigerian families against the U.S. phramaceutical company, Pfizer, under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 U.S.C. sec. 1350.  In Rabi Abdullahi v. Pfizer, Nigerian parents and guardians allege that during a 1996 outbreak of bacterial meningitis in Nigeria, Pfizer tested an unapproved and experimental antibiotic called Trovan on Nigerian children without their knowledge or consent. The families further allege that several children died and many more suffered serious side effects as a result of exposure to Trovan.  They assert that Pfizer's conduct constituted a tort in violation of the law of nations under the ATS.  The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York had dismissed the lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction under ATS and forum non conveniens.  The Court of Appeals reversed the lower court's decision and remanded the case back to the District Court because it found that the lower court had incorrectly determined that the prohibition in customary international law against nonconsenual human medical experimentation cannot be enforced under the ATS.  The Court of Appeals reviewed the state of conventional and customary international law regarding medical experimentation and found that there exists a sufficiently specific, universal and obligatory international law norm prohibiting such conduct.  The Appellate Court also held that changed circumstances in Nigeria required a reexamination of the forum non conveniens issue.  The decision of U.S. Court of Appeals can be found by clicking here.

(cgb)

February 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ABA Midyear Meeting in Boston

Aba The ABA will hold its midyear meeting February 11-17, 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts.  In addition to  more than 900 ABA events, the ABA House of Delegates will consider policies affecting the legal rights of military personnel, immigrants and the elderly; the criminal justice system treatment of juvenile sex offenders; habeas corpus petitions of detainees at Guantanamo; and measures to reduce harm and litigation after catastrophes.  The ABA House of Delegates meets Feb. 16 at 8 a.m. at the Hynes Convention Center, ballroom, level 3.  (It's open to the public).  The ABA Section of International Law is also sponsoring some programs and holding a section council meeting (which is also open to interested observers).  Check the ABA program book for locations and times -- registration at the ABA Midyear Meeting is free.

(mew)

February 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ICJ Rules in Ukraine v. Romania

Here is a press release just received from the United Nations.  The ICJ's decision will be available shortly on the ICJ website.

The International Court of Justice has ruled that Ukrainian ownership of Serpent Island – a rocky outcrop in the Black Sea – does not entitle the country to exclusive rights to an undersea area, thought to be rich in hydrocarbons, it had disputed for decades with Romania.

The ruling by the International Court of Justice marked the sea border halfway between the territorial waters of the two countries, handing Romania some 80 per cent of the disputed area in a unanimous verdict to which both parties appear to agree, a UN spokesperson said today.

The continental shelf of that area is believed to contain considerable deposits of gas and crude oil, the spokesperson added.

The case concerning Maritime Delimitation in the Black Sea was opened in 2004 when Romania filed a complaint against Ukraine after half a dozen rounds of bilateral efforts failed to set the limits of the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

February 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 2, 2009

U.S. Signs 2005 Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreement

The United States signed the 2005 Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements on January 19, 2009.  (Barack Obama was sworn in as the new president of the United States the following day, on January 20, 2009.)  Hopefully the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements will be a treaty that the United States ratifies.  Click here to read more about that convention on the website for the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

Hat tip to Houston Putnam Lowry

(mew)   

February 2, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ICTR Appellate Chamber Affirms Life Sentence for Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity

From the United Nations, an update from the Appellate Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).  Like the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the ICTR was established as a peace-keeping measure under Article VII of the U.N. Charter.  I share with my students my great pleasure at the idea that courts can used to bring peace.

(mew)

The Appeals Chamber of the United Nations tribunal dealing with the 1994 Rwandan genocide today confirmed the life sentence imposed on a former provincial leader convicted for his role in the killings.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, based in Arusha in neighbouring Tanzania, convicted François Karera in December 2007 after finding him guilty of three counts of genocide and crimes against humanity.  The Tribunal had found that Mr. Karera, who served as the prefect, or chief administrator, of Kigali-Rural Prefecture between April and July 1994, ordered, instigated and encouraged attacks by Hutu militiamen and soldiers against Tutsis in his prefecture.  Mr. Karera will remain in the UN Detention Facility in Arusha until he is transferred to the country in which he will serve his sentence.

More than 800,000 people were massacred, mostly by machete, for being ethnic Tutsis or Hutu moderates during a period of less than 100 days starting in April 1994 in the small African nation.

February 2, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL): Prosecution Presents its 91st and Final Witness Against Charles Taylor

Here's an update from the United Nations on the Charles Taylor trial, with a summary of the charges against him and a brief mention of the history of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which sits in the Hague (in the same building as the International Criminal Court).  The Special Court is the first international criminal tribunal to be funded entirely from voluntary contributions from governments. Forty nations, including Canada, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the United States have provided cash or in-kind contributions to the court.

(mew)

The prosecution has presented its 91st and final witness in the United Nations-backed trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor on charges of war crimes committed in the civil war in Sierra Leone, completing a graphic litany of alleged atrocities ranging from thousands of murders to mutilation, rape and sexual slavery.

The Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Stephen Rapp, who built his case with 31 insider witnesses testifying to Mr. Taylor’s links to the crimes, and more than 50 others, including amputees, rape victims and former child soldiers, cited the harrowing case of witness 91 – a father who had his hands chopped off to save his four-year-old son.

“I am in awe of their courage and grateful for their willingness to travel thousands of miles to bear witness,” he told a news conference in New York. “The contrast between these victims and the accused could not be more stark and this was brought home in particular by the last witness, a man whose left hand was amputated by the rebels who are alleged to have been controlled or aided by Taylor.

“When his four-year-old son protested the injury to his Pappa, and the rebels then threatened the boy with amputation, the witness then offered his own right hand to save his son, which the rebels then proceeded to chop off. Here we saw a man who sacrificed his own hands for the future of his son bearing witness against a man alleged to have sacrificed the lives, the hands and the futures of thousands of human beings in pursuit of his own wealth and power.”

Mr. Taylor has pleaded not guilty to the 11 counts of counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other violations of international humanitarian law, which also include pillage, slavery for forced marriage purposes, collective punishment and recruitment and use of children under the age of 15 in active hostilities. He is expected to testify in his own defence, according to his lawyers.

None of the charges relate to atrocities Mr. Taylor is alleged to have committed in Liberia, but to his aid to two Sierra Leonean rebel groups, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) during the civil war from 1996 to 2002.

Mr. Rapp said he expected the defence to start after Easter in April, after possible procedural defence motions to dismiss the case, and to last four to six months, with all evidence and arguments concluding this year. If Mr. Taylor is convicted, sentencing should follow three to four weeks after that. An appeal could then take up to six months and the whole process should be concluded by the end of 2010.

The SCSL, established in January 2002 by an agreement between Sierra Leone’s Government and the UN, cannot impose a life sentence, but it has already sentenced two defendants in another case to 50 years in jail. Britain has said it would be willing to imprison Mr. Taylor if he is found guilty. In 2006, the UN Security Council authorized Mr. Taylor’s trial to be held in The Hague, Netherlands, instead of its usual venue in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, citing security reasons.

Of the 91 prosecution witnesses, only four testified entirely in closed session, though some were protected by partial face or voice distortion.

“It’s been demonstrated that it’s possible to prosecute a former chief of State in a trial that is fair and efficient even when the indictment covers wide-ranging crimes,” Mr. Rapp said. “We’ve seen international justice operating in accordance with the highest standards.”

February 2, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

EU Early Membership for Iceland?

Iceland, the almost bankrupt Artic State, may soon apply to join the EU:

“The EU prefers two countries joining at the same time rather than individually. If Iceland applies shortly and the negotiations are rapid, Croatia and Iceland could join the EU in parallel. … It is one of the oldest democracies in the world and its strategic and economic positions would be an asset to the EU,” Olli Rehn, the European commissioner in charge of enlargement, told The Guardian on the 30th of January.

As a current non-EU member of the European Economic Area, along with Norway and Liechtenstein, Iceland has incorporated EU legislation dealing with “internal market” issues, a big bunch of the entire body of the acquis communautaire, that is, EC/EU legislation that candidate countries must adopt before they can join the EU. In other words, supporters of Iceland’s membership bid argue that the country’s ability to meet the legal conditions of EU membership will not require long negotiations.

Iceland’s miniscule size is also presented as an advantage in the sense that the EU’s constitutional architecture can easily absorb it. This is true although one may note, for instance, that the current rule of one Commissioner per Member State is set to continue for the near future following Irish insistence after their lost referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon in June 2008. Iceland, with a population of 304,000, will therefore be entitled to its Commissioner.The EU Law Blog has more on this question here

Regardless of Iceland’s impact (or lack thereof) on EU decision-making processes, should EU citizens welcome Iceland as a matter of principle?

A positive answer seems obvious. This is not to say, however, that more caution is not needed. EU Institutions and Member States should make clear that that EU membership is a reward hard to obtain and that EU enlargement is not governed by double standards, i.e. Iceland should not be allowed to precede Croatia for example. Icelanders, for their part, should be ready to make sacrifices (e.g. compliance with EU fisheries policies – themselves in dire need of reforms – should not be an option, etc.). As for the treaty ratification aspects of Croatia’s EU membership bid (and potentially Iceland’s), they will be dealt with in a future post.

Laurent Pech

February 2, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

UCLA Conference on LGBT Law Around the World (with a Special Focus on Latin America)

The Global Arc of Justice Conference will be a four-day international conference focused on advances in LGBT rights around the globe. Convened by the Williams Institute, a research center on sexual orientation and gender identity law and policy at UCLA Law; the International Lesbian and Gay Law Association (ILGLaw); and the City of West Hollywood; the conference will be held from March 11-14, 2009 on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles and in West Hollywood, California.  The conference will offer simultaneous translation in English and Spanish. Topics to be covered include:

  • international efforts to advance legal recognition for same sex couples;
  • the repeal of sodomy laws in former British Colonies;
  • efforts by national governments to end homophobia and advance LGBT equality;
  • implementation of the Yogyakarta Principles in litigation strategies and legal scholarship; and
  • advancement of the rights of transgender people. 

Conference activities will include strategy working groups, paper presentations, plenary sessions, and various networking opportunities and celebrations.

The conference will cover developments in LGBT rights from all parts of the world, but will have a special focus on Latin America.  Of the over 90 paper and presentation proposals received so far, over 40% have been submitted by presenters from Latin America and over 50% are from the Global South.  Presentations will include developments and challenges in countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, and Nicaragua.

Click here for more information about the conference.  Early registration dates have just been extended to February 15, 2009.

Hat to to Brad Sears

(mew)

February 2, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

WTO and Labor Standards

Patrick S. O'Donnell, an Adjunct Instructor in the Department of Philosophy at Santa Barbara City College in Santa Barabar, California, has shared with us a link to his recent posting on the WTO, Core ILO Labor Standards, and Human Rights.  It's an interesting post (with some interesting comments following it as well).  He tells us the post was inspired by a posting by Professor Roger Alford on Opinio Juris.

(mew)

February 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Libel Tourism

Under English law, a plaintiff suing for defamation need prove only that the material is defamatory -- the burden of proof then shifts to the defendant, who must justify the publication (usually on grounds of truth or fairness).  This different burden of proof from defamation law in the United States and the ability to win large default judgments in the United Kingdom has led some to claim we're now seeing "libel tourism."  Read more about it in an article from the Economist Magazine.

Hat tip to Nickolay Ouzonov, one of our U.S. lawyer blog readers in Bulgaria.

(mew)

February 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

First Trial at International Criminal Court

Legal history was made in the Netherlands when the International Criminal Court put on trial its first suspect, Thomas Lubango Dyilo, a Congolese warlord accused of recruiting child soldiers.  The Lubango case represents the first proceedings of the International Criminal Court as well as the first trial in international law where victims have a right to participate in the proceedings. 

Mr. Lubanga, the founder and leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots in the Ituri region of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), entered a plea of not guilty.  He is accused of war crimes, including conscripting and enlisting child soldiers and then using them in hostilities between September 2002 and August 2003.  The International Criminal Court imposed a stay of proceedings in June 2008 because the prosecution failed to disclose certain documents that had been obtained the documents under conditions of confidentiality.  But in November 2008 the ICC reversed that decision because the reasons for the stay had “fallen away.”

As this trial moves forward attention must turn to encouraging additional countries to become parties to the ICC.  The United States signed the treaty establishing the court but "unsigned" the treaty and has not become a party (because of unsupported fears that U.S. soldiers would be brought before the International Criminal Court).  Hopefully the start of this trial will provide some momentum toward U.S. ratification of the treaty.  Click here for more information about the International Criminal Court.

(mew)

February 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U.N. General Assembly Statement on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Sixty-six nations at the UN General Assembly supported a groundbreaking statement in December confirming that international human rights protections include sexual orientation and gender identity.  It was the first time a statement condemning rights abuses against GLBT people was presented in the U.N. General Assembly.  The 66 countries affirmed "the principle of non-discrimination, which requires that human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity," and denounced "violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization and prejudice . . . because of sexual orientation or gender identity."  The statement also called for the decriminalization of gay sex, which is banned in at least 77 nations and punishable by death in at least seven of them -- Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

The signatories overcame strong opposition from governments that routinely try to block UN attention to sexual orientation and gender identity. Fifty-seven nations signed an alternative statement, promoted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, that affirmed the "principles of non-discrimination and equality," but said universal human rights do not include "the attempt to focus on the rights of certain persons" because "the notion of orientation spans a wide range of personal choices that expand way beyond the individual's sexual interest in copulatory behavior with normal consenting adult human beings, thereby ushering in the social normalization, and possibly legitimization of many deplorable acts."

Countries that signed the pro-gay statement are Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, São Tomé and Príncipe, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The United States (then represented by the Bush adminstration) refused to sign the statement, saying its broad language could reach into areas that fall outside of federal jurisdiction, such as the right of each U.S. state to define marriage.  It is unknown whether the Obama administration would now support the resolution if it were to be presented anew.

(mew)

February 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)