Monday, May 31, 2010
The Central African Republic and Trinidad and Tobago are the latest counties to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which opened for signature in 1996. Click here for a full list of parties to the CTBT.
Indonesia also announced its intention to ratify the treaty. Click here for more information.
C. Peter Erlinder is a law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in Minnesota. Click here to read his law school bio. He is the director of the International Humanitarian Law Institute at William Mitchell. Erlinder is also president of ICTR-ADAD (Association des Avocats de la Defense) and past-president of the National Lawyers Guild in New York City.
According ot a report in today's Chicago Tribune, Professor Erliner travelled to Rwanda on May 23 to help defend opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire against charges of promoting genocidal ideology. Ingabire was arrested earlier this year.
Professor Erlinder was arrested on Friday at his hotel in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Attorneys were allowed to visit him on Saturday but were denied access on Sunday "and told to pay up if they wanted Erlinder to continue to eat in jail."
Professor Erlinder's daughter Sarah told the Chicago Tribune that she thought that his arrest had very little to do with the 1994 genocide in Rwanda but was related with representing an opposition candidate.
Professor Erlinder started working as a defense attorney for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 2003. He also runs the Rwanda Documents Project, which publishes articles that are critical of the government of Presdient Paul Kagame. Click here for an example.
Erlinder was arrested on Friday on charges of denying genocide. The crime carries a possible sentence of 20 years.
Erlinder had warned that he might be targeted by the government of President Paul Kagame.
President Kagame has been lauded abroad for social and economic reforms. The president is running for another seven-year term. The elections will be held on August 9. Some human rights groups are reported to say that Kagame's administration rules with an iron hand and quashes dissent. Click here to read more.
The dean of the William Mitchell College of Law issued the following statement:
Statement from President and Dean Eric S. Janus on Prof. Peter Erlinder’s arrest in Rwanda
On Friday, May 28, we were notified that Professor Peter Erlinder was arrested in Rwanda. At this time, he has not been charged with any crime. Our primary concern is for Prof. Erlinder’s safety and we hope the situation is resolved both fairly and promptly.
William Mitchell is working with the United States Department of State, the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to monitor the situation and provide any assistance possible. In addition, we are in contact with representatives from the offices of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Betty McCollum, and Rep. Keith Ellison to make them aware of the situation and provide information about Prof. Erlinder’s work in Rwanda.
William Mitchell has a 110-year history of legal education that is engaged with the legal profession, and we support and encourage the legal pursuits of our faculty beyond the college. Prof. Erlinder is in Rwanda to represent Victoire Ingabire, an opposition candidate for President of Rwanda who was arrested over accusations of promoting genocide ideology. In traveling to Rwanda, Prof. Erlinder exemplifies the great tradition of lawyers who take on the representation of unpopular clients and causes. That Prof. Erlinder did so at great personal risk demonstrates the strength of his commitment to justice and due process. We support his commitment to justice, the rule of law, and public service, which are the core of the lawyer’s function in society and values Prof. Erlinder works to instill in the students he teaches at William Mitchell.
We look forward to Prof. Erlinder’s return to the college and will continue to monitor his situation and work with the United Nations and the United States government until the issue is resolved.
The International Law Prof Blog is two years old this month. We thank the thousands of visitors from more than 100 countries and territories around the world who are regular readers of our blog. Thank you, everyone.
Mark, Cindy, Cyndee, Laurent, and Michael
Australia has reportedly exhausted all diplomatic efforts with Japan over its whaling program. Radio Australia reports that Australia is expected to file a case against Japan this week in the International Court of Justice.
Radio Australia also reports that New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said that his government share's Australia's concerns over Japanese whaling but that New Zealand would continue diplomatic efforts for the time being rather than joining the case or filing its own case against Japan.
Hat tip to the East-West Center.
Israel attacked a flotilla of six ships that tried to break its blockade of Gaza. The Israelis killed 9 activists on those ships, 8 of them from Turkey. The ships were carrying 700 people and 10,000 tons of supplies, including electric-powered wheelchairs, prefabricated homes, and water purifiers.
The attack has set off a diplomatic storm. Click here for a video report from Reuters.
After the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled plans for a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed his shock at the deadly raid on boats loaded with relief supplies headed for Gaza, calling on Israel to fully explain its actions. According to media reports, early this morning in international waters, Israeli forces raided the six-ship aid convoy, also carrying hundreds of activists, with more than ten people having been killed. “I condemn this violence,” Mr. Ban said from Kampala, Uganda, where he presided over the first review conference of the International Criminal Court. “It is vital that there is a full investigation to determine exactly how this bloodshed took place,” he said. “I believe Israel must urgently provide a full explanation.”
The Security Council is scheduled to meet this afternoon in an emergency session to discuss the incident.
The League of Arab States may also hold an emergency meeting tomorrow. Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa is reported to have said that "Israel's attack indicates that Israel is not ready for peace. Israel attacked the liberty fleet because it feels it is above the law."Egypt summoned the Israeli ambassador. The Israeli Academic Center in Cairo, which aids to build ties in Egypt, has canceled all lectures for the coming week.
The Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri called Israel's attack a "crazy step" that risked inflaming conflict in the region.
Turkey, an Israeli ally in the region, has called off three joint military exercises with Israel. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has cut short an official visit to Latin America. Turkey summoned Israel's ambassador and said it may recall its own ambassador. Israeli nationals have been advised to avoid travel to Turkey and to keep a low profile if they are already in the country. Demonstrators are reportedly assembling in front of the the residence of Israel's ambassador to Turkey.
The United Nations has repeatedly spoken out against the closure of Gaza and raised concern over the insufficient flow of material into the area to meet basic needs and spur reconstruction. Mr. Ban cautioned in a recent meeting that the closure “creates unacceptable suffering, hurts forces of moderation and empowers extremists.”
Also speaking out against today's raid was UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who emphasized that “nothing can justify the appalling outcome of this operation.” She called for a probe into the incident and underscored the need for accountability. “I unequivocally condemn what appears to be disproportionate use of force, resulting in the killing and wounding of so many people attempting to bring much-needed aid to the people of Gaza, who have now been enduring a blockade for more than three years,” Ms. Pillay said. She called on the Israeli Government to heed the “almost unanimous international view that the continued blockade of Gaza is both inhumane and illegal.” The blockade, the High Commissioner pointed out, “lies at the heart of so many of the problems plaguing the Israel-Palestine situation, as does the impression that the Israeli Government treats international law with perpetual disdain.” Without the blockade, she noted, “there would be no need for flotillas like this.”
Richard Falk, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, said that “Israel is guilty of shocking behavior by using deadly weapons against unarmed civilians on ships that were situated in the high seas where freedom of navigation exists, according to the law of the seas.” He echoed the calls by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for an investigation into today's incident, stressing that it is “essential that those Israelis responsible for this lawless and murderous behavior, including political leaders who issued the orders, be held criminally accountable for their wrongful acts.” Mr. Falk characterized the blockade of Gaza as a “massive form of collective punishment” that is tantamount to a crime against humanity. “Unless prompt and decisive action is taken to challenge the Israeli approach to Gaza all of us will be complicit in criminal policies that are challenging the survival of an entire beleaguered community,” he said.
The French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was reported to have said that the violence could not be justified and that he was "profoundly shocked by the tragic consequences of the Israeli military operation against the Peace Flotilla for Gaza."
Israel denies that it has created a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and says that it allows sufficient food and medicine into the territory. Click here for more statements from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The International Visitors Center of Chicago (IVCC) has changed its name to "World Chicago."
The organization began in 1952 as the Hospitality Center of Greater Chicago and for the last 40 years as the International Visitors Center of Chicago. The latest name change is intended to update the organization's image and expand its efforts at citizen diplomacy.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
U.N. Secretary General Welcomes Pardon of Gay Men Sentenced in Malawi, Calls for Malawi to Reform its Outdated Laws
Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, were convicted in Malawi earlier this month of "indecent practices between males" and "unnatural offences." They had been arrested in December, a day after they publicly celebrated their engagement.
A judge in Malawi, Nyakwawa Usiwausiwa, sentenced them to 14 years hard labor in prison, the harshest penalty available under Malawian law.
President Bingu wa Mutarika of Malawi pardoned the men, who were released from prison yesterday. Click here for details. “These boys committed a crime against our culture, against our religion, and against our laws,” President Mutharika is reported to have said. “However, as head of state, I hereby pardon them and therefore order their immediate release without any conditions.”
Steven and Tiwonge had not returned to their home, fearing that they could be attacked. Their case drew a great deal of attention in Malawi, with large crowds attending their trial and taunting the couple. The couple has endured horrible treatment both in prison and during the trial itself, including beatings by police when they were in jail.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon lauded the “courageous” decision of the President and voiced hope that Malawi would update its national laws to reflect international standards and repeal the colonial-era laws against sodomy. In an address to Malawi’s parliament, Mr. Ban said that we cannot “stay quiet when people are denied fundament rights – whatever their race or faith or age or gender or sexual orientation.” He said that it was “unfortunate that laws that criminalize people on the basis of their sexual orientation exist in some countries.” He called for reforms of these laws and expressed confidence that the Malawian Parliament “will take appropriate steps to update laws discriminating based on sexual orientation in line with international standards.”
A UN press release stated that Malawi is one of 37 African countries that continues to have anti-gay laws.
The couple will likely continue to have a difficult time in Malawi and may seek asylum in another country. A gay man who fled to the United Kingdom five years ago speculated that Steven and Tiwonge would not be safe in Malawi.
Friday, May 28, 2010
The students were studying International Organizations. They also visited the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the Museum of the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC).
Thursday, May 27, 2010
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton issued the following message on the occassion of Guyana's independence day.
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I extend my congratulations to the people of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana as they celebrate 44 years as an independent nation. Our countries are united by shared values and our common commitment to promote environmental sustainability that safeguards the health of our people and our planet, economic development that spreads prosperity further and deeper, and democratic governance that respects human rights and the rule of law. Our partnership is based on mutual appreciation and respect, and we look forward to continuing collaboration on the common challenges facing our nations, our hemisphere and the world.
On this occasion, I want to reaffirm the enduring friendship of the United States and offer our warmest wishes for the year ahead.
The Chicago Tribune reports today that the law firm of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal will merge with London-based Denton Wilde Sapte, a British firm. The new entity, to be called SNR Denton, will create a global firm with more than 1,300 lawyers. The merger must be approved by partners at both firms in a vote scheduled for June 9.
The United States has signed but not yet ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Last year, the U.S. State Department included CEDAW as the only human rights treaty on its Treaty Priority List.
The Illinois State Bar Association (a voluntary association of lawyers and law students in Illinois) will consider two questions this year:
1. Should the ISBA take a position on CEDAW?
2. If yes, what should that position be?
A draft resolution and report is about to be circulated to ISBA Section Councils and Committees for their comments. We welcome your comments on it as well (contact information is contained in the document. There may very well be a 1.5 version of the document before the ISBA Assembly votes on this issue in December 2010. Comments on the draft resolution are requested by October 1, 2010.
Mark E. Wojcik and Cindy Buys
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Manfred Novak visited police stations and prisons across PNG. He told Radio Australia that evidence of police brutality amounting to torture was not hard to find. "We found abundant evidence of beatings with fanbelts, with gun butts, with bamboo and wooden sticks, etc.," Mr Novak said.
Mr. Novak said police watch-houses and prisons were overcrowded, filthy, and lacked ventilation. There was no access to food or water.
Mr. Novak said that inmates who escape are often tortured on recapture. In the most severe cases, he said, they have tendons in their legs cut to disable them.
Mr Novak called on the PNG Government to ratify the Convention Against Torture.
Assassinations, abductions, and threat continues to grow under the successor to the coup government in Honduras. Human rights activists are calling for more attention to be paid to the ongoing human rights abuses in Honduras. Click here to read about the assassinations of Adalberto Figueroa, Gilberto Alexander Núñez Ochoa, Jose Andres Oviedo, Olayo Hernandez Sorto, and the death threats against Carlos H. Reyes.
Hat tips to Jim Vondracek and the Chicago Religious Leadership Network.
Lori Berenson, a 40-year-old New Yorker who has spent the past 15 years in a Peruvian prison, was released yesterday by Judge Jessica Leon in Peru. She had been accused of collaborating with a Marxist rebel group in a foiled attempt to overthrow the Peruvian Congress. Click here for more information and background about the case. She must remain in Peru while on parole.
The New York Times reports today that the South African Justice Ministry has set up 56 special courts to handle offenses associated with the World Cup. The courts open for business on Friday and will have 93 interpreters to translate court proceedings.
The International Law Students Assocation (ILSA) will hold an international conference in Istanbul, Turkey on July 7-10. The conference is organized by the ILSA Chapter at Bahcesehir University and is titled “Discussing Global Issues within the Framework of the United Nations.” Registration for the conference is now open.
The conference, like the Jessup, is expected to be an enthusiastic academic and cultural exchange fuelled by participation from students from around the world. Conference events will include:
- Lectures by leading academics and practitioners from the international legal field;
- Panel discussions among students and academics about the UN Security Council and its role in the 21st century, the proliferation of courts within the UN system, and the involvement of the UN in non-international armed conflicts, among other topics;
- The opportunity for students to participate in Model UN negotiations; and
- Social and networking events including cocktail parties and tours of Istanbul.
Hat tip to the ILSA Executive Office.
The Netherlands District Court of Rotterdam began Europe's first trial of Somali pirates this week. The five pirates are charged with "sea robbery" for hijacking a cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden last year. The ship is registered in the Netherlands Antilles. A Danish Navy frigate sunk the pirates' boat. The trial is scheduled to last 5 days and, if convicted, the pirates could face up to 12 years in prison.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
The George Washington (GW) University Law School announced today that Thomas Buergenthal, a judge on the International Court of Justice (ICJ), will retire in September 2010 and re-join the GW faculty. Judge Buergenthal joined the ICJ in 2000 and thus has served on the court for a decade. A prolific scholar, Judge Buergenthal is particularly well known for his writings on international human rights.
As for his replacement, while there is technically no U.S. seat on the Court, each of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council traditionally has been able to nominate a judge to the court. Accordingly, it is very likely that another U.S. person will be nomiated to replace Judge Buergenthal.
What are the actual effects of a free trade agreement?
The United States International Trade Commission is looking into that question. It announced the institution of an investigation entitled the “Actual Effects of the Free Trade Agreements with Chile, Australia, and Singapore.” The investigation and proceeding report will examine the effects of the phasing-out of tariffs, anomalies in U.S. export levels (and the possible causes for these anomalies), and related matters.
Written submissions are due by July 15, 2010. The Intenational Trade Commission Report will be transmitted on December 13, 2010. Get more information at volume 75, page 28059 of the Federal Register.
Hat to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office.