Thursday, September 30, 2010
On October 21-23, 2010, the American Branch of the International Law Association and theInternational Law Students Association will present the annual International Law Weekend (“ILW”) in New York, in conjunction with the 89th annual meeting of the American Branch.
ILW 2010 brings together hundreds of practitioners, professors, members of the governmental and non-governmental sectors and students. It will feature numerous panels, distinguished speakers, receptions, and the Branch’s annual meeting. ILW 2010 will take place at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York on October 21, 2010, and at Fordham University School of Law on October 22 and 23. The overall theme of ILW 2010 is “International Law and Institutions: Advancing Justice, Security and Prosperity.”
Earlier this month, one of our blog entries discussed the fact that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had dismissed a case against a Boeing subsidary that alleged participation in the U.S. government's program of extraordinary rendition and torture of terrorist suspects. The Boeing companies and the government argued that fact-finding in the case would reveal state secrets relating to the government's war on terrorism. Now the state secrets doctrine is working against Boeing. The U.S. government has invoked the doctrine as a defense to a breach of contract claim asserted by Boeing relating to the production of stealth aircraft. The U.S. Supreme Court announced yesterday that it has accepted certiorari in Boeing Co. v. United States, No. 09-1302. The issue to be decided is whether the Due Process Clause contained in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows the U.S. government to maintain its contract claim against a party when it invokes the state secrets privilege to completely deny that party a defense to the claim?
In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member body recalled its readiness to terminate the measures “once the control of the Government of Sierra Leone has been fully re-established over all its territory, and when all non-governmental forces have been disarmed and demobilized.” In a separate decision, the Council extended the mandate of the Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) for another year, until 15 September 2011. Established in 2008 to continue UN efforts to boost peace in the West African nation, the Office is tasked with providing political advice, as well as monitoring and promoting human rights, and helping to train national police and security forces and strengthen democratic institutions.
(Excerpted from a UN Press Release)
(From a UN Press Release)
Libya has proposed strengthening the General Assembly to function as the world’s premier legislative body, enacting binding resolutions that would be implemented by the a widened Security Council. “The United Nations is at a crossroads; and it should be reformed to become equally united form all States,” said Musa Kousa, the head of the Libyan delegation, in his statement to the Assembly’s high-level debate this week. Click here for a copy of that statement. “The reform, which we are calling for and aiming to achieve, is to make the General Assembly the real legislator,” he added.
To address the current situation where some States have permanent membership of the Security Council while others do not, Mr Kousa suggested granting permanent membership to regional organizations instead of individual countries. “Thus, we will ensure the representation of all people on earth, and the anti-democratic and frustrating veto [power] shall not be the exclusive privilege of the few,” Mr. Kousa said. He called for the investigation into the invasion of Iraq, which he said resulted in “mass killings, and the execution of prisoners of war, including the head of State.”
Mr. Kousa also urged a review of the international convention prohibiting the production, use and stockpiling of anti-personnel mines, saying it failed to take into account the interests of small States, the victims of the weapons. “The legislators of this convention should have made the States concerned [countries that produce and use them] committed to compensate those affected by mines planted in their lands and provide legal and political assurances for the protection of small States due to the lack of possession of neither defensive nor offensive weapons,” Mr. Kousa said. He announced that Libya will early next month host an African-Arab summit in a bid to enhance cooperation. Another summit bringing together African States and those belonging to the European Union will follow in November.
(From a UN Press Release)
Malta is the latest country to ratify the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. The treaty is one of two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It extends the obligations of States parties to guarantee the protection of children from sale, pornography and prostitution, through explicit prohibition of these acts in their laws. Malta's ratification brings the number of state parties to 141.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Participants at a United Nations-backed conference in Moscow today adopted an action plan to expand and improve comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the world’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged children. In their concluding document, participants specifically asked the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to reinforce efforts to promote and develop early childhood care and education. They also called on countries to work with UNESCO to mobilize international donors to increase financial support for these purposes. Their “Moscow Framework of Action” also outlines a number of challenges that must be tackled to achieve early childhood care and education goals. These include a lack of political commitment, inadequate public funding, low external support, and the need for effective delivery of services. It also calls attention to the challenges posed by poverty and cultural barriers in many parts of the world – including in occupied territories and in conflict- and disaster-affected areas – which deny millions of children access to early childhood care and education.
(from a UN Press Release)
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced hope that China and Japan can amicably resolve their current differences, in light of the recent tensions that arose between the East Asian neighbours over a boat collision near disputed territory.
Relations between China and Japan have been strained for over three weeks after Japan’s detention of a Chinese fishing boat captain whose trawler collided with two Japanese Coast Guard vessels near islands in the East China Sea that both sides claim. According to media reports, the trawler captain was released on Saturday, but Beijing wants compensation and an apology, a demand Tokyo has rejected.
(From a UN Press Release)
Ethiopia today accused Eritrea of continuing to undermine efforts to restore peace and stability in Somalia by arming insurgents battling the transitional Government in Mogadishu and urged the Security Council to strictly enforce existing sanctions against Eritrea. “Despite the sanctions, Eritrea is still the principal architect of the complicated situation in Somalia by training, arming and nurturing the extremist elements such as Al Shabaab and Hisbul Islam who are causing havoc in the country today,” Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin said in his statement to the General Assembly’s high-level debate. Click here for a copy of the statement.
In a resolution in January last year, the Council imposed an arms embargo on Eritrea and a travel ban and an assets freeze on Eritrean political and military leaders who violated the embargo or provided support to armed opposition groups destabilizing Somalia. The resolution followed a request by the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union (AU) for the Council to take such action.
Yesterday, Eritrea’s Foreign Minister Osman Saleh told the General Assembly that the UN “continues to ignore” Ethiopia’s failure to comply with the ruling of an international commission that delineated the border between the two countries after their 1998-2000 war. “While the United Nations grapples with Sudan and Somalia, it continues to ignore grave consequences of Ethiopia’s continued occupation of sovereign Eritrean territory, eight years after the ruling of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC), and three years after the Commission ended its work by depositing in the United Nations the demarcated boundary between the two countries,” said Mr. Saleh.
To end the border war, both parties agreed to abide by the ruling of the border commission, which was reached in April 2002. However, Ethiopia's rejection of the decision stalled the physical demarcation of the border in 2003.
(Excerpts from a UN Press Release)
Defamation laws are being used disproportionately in Cambodia against journalists, activists and politicians, an independent United Nations human rights expert said today, warning against a narrowing of the political space in the South-East Asian country. Surya P. Subedi, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, also voiced concern about issues related to land and housing rights and the narrowing of political space for members of the opposition.
“There has been a disproportionate use of the law regarding defamation and disinformation against journalists, human rights activists and political leaders,” said Surya P. Subedi, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia. Presenting his report to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, Mr. Subedi acknowledged that Cambodia has made important advances in recent years in strengthening human rights, including the enactment of major new laws. At the same time, he noted that “Cambodia remains a complex country in terms of the protection and promotion of human rights, as democratization has not yet fully taken root.”
The major areas of concern are those relating to access to land and housing rights, freedom of expression, and the challenges faced by the judiciary, he said, adding that they continue to dominate the legal and political landscape in Cambodia. The expert recommended a series of measures to strengthen the independence and capacity of the judiciary and the overall human rights situation.
Mr. Subedi also voiced his concern about the narrowing of political space in Cambodia for those belonging to the opposition parties and other political activists, noting the conviction of the leader of the opposition, Sam Rainsy, since the submission of his report to the Council. He hoped that the conviction will be subject to appeal and urged that this be conducted with the utmost attention to due process and principles of fair trial.
(From a UN Press Release)
In July 2010, the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), ALIAR, and other Argentinean civil society organizations prepared a shadow report before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) in response to the sixth periodic report submitted by the Argentinean government. The report, “Challenges in the Prevention and Reduction of Women’s Tobacco Use in Argentina,” outlined recommendations on how Argentina can improve its tobacco control policies. Click here for the report.
After its official review, the CEDAW Committee released its concluding observations, which included the shadow report’s recommendations on public smoking bans and restrictions on tobacco advertising. This recommendation by the CEDAW Committee highlights the negative health impacts of tobacco use in women and links tobacco control, gender, and human rights. This is a meaningful step forward in Argentina’s tobacco control movement, and overall in connecting tobacco control with human rights. The CEDAW Committee notes:
39. The Committee is concerned about the widespread use of tobacco among women in Argentina and the serious health impact of tobacco on women. The Committee is particularly concerned that women are often targets in tobacco advertising campaigns, which encourage and increase the usage of tobacco among women, resulting in tobacco related diseases and deaths.
40. The Committee urges the State party to ratify and implement the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and put in place legislation aimed at banning smoking in public spaces and restricting tobacco advertising.
This marks one of the first times the CEDAW Committee has made a specific recommendation on implementing concrete tobacco control measures. Additionally, the CEDAW Committee’s recommendation that Argentina ratify and implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is also relevant in the efforts to connect tobacco control with human rights. For more information, the full CEDAW Committee report can be found by clicking here.
Hat tip to the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University.
Spain ratified the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. The protocol will enter into effect when 10 states ratify it. Spain is the third country to ratify it. The number of signatories increased to 35 this week with the signatures of Kazakhstan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The protocol allows the Committee overseeing the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to receive complaints from individuals or groups within a State Party concerning alleged violations of the rights defined by the covenant. They include the rights to work, to social security, to education and to adequate standard of living, among other entitlements.
The DRC also signed the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea, and acceded to three other treaties – the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism; and the UN Convention against Corruption.
Zambia signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, whie the Central African Republic (CAR) signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
The CAR also signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
Greece, for its part, signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and Zambia and Indonesia appended their signatures on the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Chile’s Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno ratified the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear, which entered in to force in July 2007, on behalf of his country.
Fiji acceded to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
(UN Press Release)
Eleven more countries have pledged to halt child recruitment, support the release of children from armed groups, and help reintegrate them into civilian life. Cape Verde, Gabon, Georgia, Iceland, Latvia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Togo and Uruguay endorsed the Paris Commitments on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups, raising the number of supporting countries from 84 to 95.
Thousands of children continue to be recruited by both government forces and armed rebel groups in situations of armed conflict and insecurity, despite global efforts to combat the scourge. The Paris Commitments, a voluntary initiative adopted in 2007, are accompanied by the Paris Principles – operational guidelines designed to help children successfully reintegrate into their communities.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
A new United Nations report shows significant progress in improving access to HIV/AIDS services in 37 developing countries. The new report, "Towards Universal Access," was produced by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
The report assesses progress in 144 low- and middle-income countries. It found that 15 countries were able to provide more than 80 per cent of HIV-positive pregnant women with the services and medicines needed to prevent mother-to-child transmission, while 14 countries provided HIV treatment to more than 80 per cent of their HIV-positive children. An additional eight countries have achieved universal access to antiretroviral treatment for adults.
“Countries in all parts of the world are demonstrating that universal access is achievable,” said Hiroki Nakatani, Assistant Director-General for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases of WHO. “But globally, it remains an unfulfilled commitment, and we must join forces to make it a worldwide reality in the coming years,”
“We’re on the right track,” said Paul De Lay, Deputy Executive Director with UNAIDS. “We’ve shown what works and now we need to do more of it. But we’re $10 billion short. At the Global Fund replenishment conference in New York next week, countries have a chance to put this right – to make a smart investment and secure the future of the AIDS response.”
“Every day, more than 1,000 infants acquire HIV during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding,” said Jimmy Kolker, UNICEF’s Chief of HIV and AIDS. “While many countries are now showing significant progress, intensified efforts are urgently needed to reach all mothers and children with the most effective treatment” to prevent mother-to-child transmission – “for their own health, and for the sake of their communities,” he said.
The report’s findings include: 5.25 million people had access to HIV treatment in low- and middle-income countries last year, accounting for 36 per cent of those in need – an increase of more than 1.2 million people over 2008. There was remarkable progress in Eastern and Southern Africa – the region most severely affected by HIV – where treatment coverage increased from 32 per cent to 41 per cent in one year, and half of all pregnant women were able to access HIV testing and counselling.
In sub-Saharan Africa, close to one million more people began antiretroviral treatment, resulting in 37 per cent coverage of those in need. The rate in other regions included: Latin America and the Caribbean – 50 per cent; East, South and South-East Asia – 31 per cent; Europe and Central Asia – 19 per cent; and North Africa and the Middle East – 11 per cent.
Globally, a record 53 per cent of pregnant women needing services to prevent mother-to-child transmission received them. Global treatment coverage for HIV-positive children was 28 per cent – a significant increase, though still lower than the rate of antiretroviral coverage for adults (36 per cent). Unfortunately, many pregnant women and their infants still lacked access to these timely interventions, and only 15 per cent of children born to HIV-positive mothers were receiving appropriate diagnostics.
The report also calls attention to significant challenges in delivering universal access in most countries, such as funding shortages, limited human resources, and weak procurement and supply management systems for HIV drugs and diagnostics, as well as other health systems bottlenecks.
Prevention efforts to reach most-at-risk populations – such as sex workers, drug users, and men who have sex with men – are limited. For example, only about one third of injecting drug users were reached with HIV prevention programmes in 2009.
Availability and safety of blood and blood products continue to be a concern, especially in low-income countries. Quality assured screening of blood covered only 48 per cent of donations in low-income countries, compared with 99 per cent in high-income and 85 per cent in middle-income countries.
And in 10 countries, more than 60 per cent of HIV-positive people did not know their HIV status. As a result, many began treatments too late. Nearly one in five who initiated treatments did not show up for follow-up care – many having died as a result of getting a late start.
“The report findings indicate challenges, but also clear opportunities for optimizing investments and increasing efficiency,” said Gottfried Hirnschall, WHO's Director for HIV/AIDS. “By starting treatment earlier and improving adherence within the first year, we can save many more lives.”
“We also need to not only further increase access to key HIV/AIDS interventions, but also to pay attention to ensure higher quality of these life-saving services,” he added.
The report is the fourth in an annual series tracking progress made in achieving the 2010 target of providing universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care. The report also calls for a set of actions to be taken by the international community, consistent with the key strategies proposed in the new Global Health Sector Strategy for HIV/AIDS, 2011-2015. WHO is developing the strategy – which is intended to guide the next phase of the health sector response to HIV/AIDS once it is discussed and ratified by WHO’s World Health Assembly next year.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Click here for more information about the report and to download a copy of it. Links are also available there for reports from earlier years.
With terrorism continuing to pose a serious threat to global peace and security, the Security Council stressed the need to enhance collective efforts to defeat a scourge that is not unique to any one country or region. In a presidential statement adopted this week, the 15-member Security Council urged all Member States and the UN system to address gaps in the global fight against terrorism, and stressed that counter-terrorism remains a priority on the international agenda.
“The Security Council recognizes that terrorism will not be defeated by military force, law enforcement measures, and intelligence operations alone,” it stated, underlining the need to “address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism.” The statement also underscored that effective counter-terrorism measures and respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law are complementary and mutually reinforcing, and are an essential part of a successful counter-terrorism effort.
(Adapted froma UN Press Release)
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Israel demonstrated “totally unnecessary violence” during its interception of the Gaza-bound flotilla on 31 May, the head of the fact-finding mission appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council said today.
Nine civilians lost their lives and several more were seriously injured in the incident against the flotilla of aid ships that departed from Turkey and were trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, which has been the subject of an Israeli blockade since 2007.
The mission – which is distinct from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s four-member panel of inquiry into the same incident – found that the conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the passengers on the flotilla was “disproportionate and excessive,” its chairperson, Justice Karl Hudson-Phillips, told the Geneva-based Council.
“They demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary violence,” he added, as he presented the findings contained in the mission’s 56-page report, which also found that serious violations of both humanitarian and human rights law occurred during and after the incident.
The report, which was made public last week, presents a factual description of the events leading up to the interception of each of the six ships in the flotilla as well as a seventh ship intercepted on 6 June, the deaths of nine passengers and wounding of many others, and the detention of passengers in Israel and their deportation.
It states that no arms or weapons of an offensive nature were taken on board any of the vessels of the flotilla except for a few catapults, according to Justice Hudson-Phillips. When it appeared that Israeli forces intended to board one of the ships, the Mavi Marmara, a very small group of the passengers armed themselves with pieces of wood and iron cut from the ship’s railings.
There was no evidence that any gunfire was directed from the Mavi Marmara towards the boats bearing Israeli soldiers, he added. However, both live ammunition and non-lethal fire were used from helicopters while the soldiers were descending to the ship’s deck.
“The Israeli soldiers used live ammunition on the passengers of the Mavi Marmara, killing nine and injuring over 50 with live bullets; six of the deceased were the victims of summary executions, two of whom were shot after they were severely injured and could not defend themselves,” said the chair.
The mission, which interviewed more than 100 witnesses in Geneva, London, Istanbul and Amman during the course of its work, also found that once the Israeli forces took complete control of the Mavi Marmara, passengers with few exceptions were kept handcuffed and kneeling for hours.
“Passengers were assaulted by being kicked and gun-butted. Passengers on three of the other vessels were also subjected to unnecessary violence by Israeli forces as they took control,” stated the chair.
Justice Hudson-Phillips said that when they finally disembarked at the port of Ashdod, attempts were made to get them to sign confessions that they had entered Israel illegally – some of those who refused to sign or give their fingerprints were further beaten.
“The treatment on shore was a continuation of the treatment onboard ship after the military had taken control,” he reported, adding that, at the end of the ordeal, passengers had to endure further violence including beatings prior to deportation at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv.
In addition to Justice Hudson-Phillips, former judge of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the mission comprised Sir Desmond de Silva, Queen’s Counsel, who was chief prosecutor of the Sierra Leone War Crimes Tribunal, and Shanthi Dairiam, human rights expert of Malaysia and former member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
(UN Press Release)
The U.S. Department of State Advisory Committee on Private International Law announced it will hold its annual meeting on 10/28/10 and 10/29/10 in Washington, D.C., to discuss developments in a number of international law related areas. More information at Fed. Reg. 58465.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office
France today called for a “stronger, more representative and more efficient” United Nations to promote quicker economic development, fight climate change more effectively, garner the needed resources to do so, and reform the Security Council and Human Rights Council.
“France’s ambition is to be a major player in building a more just and social world governance in greater solidarity, a world order organized and regulated around the a stronger, more representative and more efficient UN, a UN capable of resolving the great challenges of our century,” Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told the General Assembly’s main annual session in a wide-ranging address that touched on all major issues before the world body.
“To fail to act today is to resign ourselves to disorder, injustice and chaos,” he said, citing earlier examples when the Assembly took decisive action, such as its resolutions 20 years ago guaranteeing access for relief teams to enter zones afflicted by natural catastrophes and emergencies, and the 1991 Security Council resolution authorizing a military operation in Iraqi Kurdistan to protect civilians against an oppressive State.
“Those were two historic moments which laid the first markers of the right to intervene that has become the responsibility to protect, adopted by this Assembly by consensus in 2005.”
The first global responsibility is that of development and fighting climate change, “where we must go faster and further,” he declared, calling for new measures to finance the extra billions of dollars need by adopting an international tax on financial transactions of the minimal amount of 0.005 per cent, the equivalent of 1 cent for every 1,000 euros, which would raise between €30 billion to €40 billion a year, a quarter of official development aid.
“So why not take this decision in principle right away during this Assembly session?” Mr. Kouchner asked. “A declaration in favour of a levy on financial transactions which we have proposed with Japan and Belgium has received the support of Brazil, Norway and Spain and had been adopted by acclamation by the pilot group of 60 countries that we brought together. It is open for you.”
Turning to international crises, he deplored Israel’s refusal to prolong its settlement moratorium, stressing that the settlements are not only illegal but contradicts Israel’s security interests in its conflict with the Palestinians. “Palestine, this new UN member that many of us are praying for, will be the best guarantee of security for Israel,” he said, calling on the European Union and the Arab states to support current peace talks launched by United States President Barack Obama.
The Arab States have a decisive role to play by reiterating their readiness to normalize relations with Israel, he added, stressing: “If negotiations resume, it will be a question of translating these words into action.”
In other comments he said the global nuclear non-proliferation system was “gravely threatened” by Iran’s attitude and insufficient progress had been made in collectively enforcing universal human rights. “We can no longer content ourselves with counting the victims when massive crimes are committed,” he declared. “Our courage must not be less than that of those who die because we fail to take the risks (needed to protect them).”
Turning to UN bodies, he called for enacting Security Council reform by increasing the number of permanent and non-permanent members. “It is unacceptable that Africa does not have a single permanent representative,” he said. “Nor is it acceptable that powers such as Japan, Germany, India and Brazil do not have permanent seats.”
As for the Human Rights Council, he called for a lucid accounting of its actions, “which are not satisfactory,” and for ensuring the exemplary conduct of its members.
(UN Press Release)
I have the honor of being a faculty member not only at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, but also at the University of Lucerne Faculty of Law in Switzerland. They are celebrating today their 10th anniversary. If you are in Switzerland, a public program marking the event is being held in the Union Building. I am here teaching two courses: (1) International Litigation and (2) Health and Human Rights. I am happy to be here on this special anniversary and congratulate all of my colleagues here in Switzerland.