Tuesday, November 30, 2010
The Africa and Global Health Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives will hold a hearing titled “ Zimbabwe: From Crisis to Renewal” on December 2, 2010, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office
The European Commission (EC) announced today that it is initiating an investigation into the search engine company, Google, regarding allegations that Google abused its dominant position in online searches in violation of European competition (antitrust) laws. Smaller web businesses in France, Germany and the United Kingdom have complained that Google downgraded their websites in search results to weaken competitor advertising. Google controls 80% of the online search market in Europe (as compared to 66% in the United States), according to a research firm, comScore. The EC has notified its U.S. counterpart with respect to antitrust matters, the U.S. Justice Department (US DOJ), of the investigation. The US DOJ also has been examining Google for possible antitrust violations, but has not initiated any formal proceedings as yet. The opening of the EC investigation allows the EC to gather information from companies that do business with Google as well as its competitors to better assess whether any violations have taken place.
The International Court of Justice has issued its decision in the case of Ahmadou Sadio Diallo (Republic of Guinea v. Democratic Republic of the Congo). The Court found that in carrying out the arrest, detention and expulsion of Mr. Diallo in 1995-1996, the DRC violated his fundamental rights, but that it did not violate his direct rights as “associé” in the companies Africom-Zaire and Africontainers-Zaire. Click here to read a seven-page press release from the ICJ with more details about the case and the decision.
Monday, November 29, 2010
The Foreign Relations Committee of the U.S. Senate will hold a hearing titled “ Latin America in 2010: Opportunities, Challenges and the Future of U.S. Policy in the Hemisphere.” The hearing will be on December 1, 2010 at 2:30 pm, 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington DC.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office
The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Implementing Tougher Sanctions on Iran: A Progress Report” on December 1, 2010, at 9:30 am, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office
The World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body (AB) issued its ruling today in Australia - Measures Affecting Importation of Apples from New Zealand (DS367) in which it upheld most of the panel's findings that Australia had violated its obligations under the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement. More specifically, the WTO AB found that Australia's measures regarding fire blight and pests violated 5.1 and 5.2, but not 5.6, of the SPS Agreement. The Appellate Body recommends that the WTO Dispute Settlement Body request that Australia brings its measures into conformity with its obligations under the SPS Agreement. More information and a copy of the decision may be found here.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Do you need to find a reliable law firm in another country? There are several guides (and of course the internet), but your best choice might be the new edition of the Guide to Foreign Law Firms, just published by the American Bar Association Section of International Law.
The Guide lists those foreign law firms that are most likely to be used or considered by leading practitioners when foreign law issues arise. It is based on the personal experiences of the authors, who are both partners in prominent international law firms and are both former Chairs of the ABA's Section of International Law. It is also based upon recommendations of other attorneys who have had direct experience in working with firms in specific countries. In short, this is a book you will want to have -- and have handy -- when you need to find a reliable law firm in another country.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Fiji's Military Regime Extends "Emergency" Regulations Again to Prevent Public Meetings and Publications
The military regime in Fiji has again extended Public Emergency Regulations that prevent meetings of organizations such as the Fiji Law Society. The emergency regulations have been in place now for 19 months. They restrict various forms of public assembly and what information can be published or broadcast in the media, including blogs.
Persons detained and questioned under the Emergency Regulations include former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry. He and five other men were charged with "unlawful assembly" and kept in custody for more than three days after allegedly meeting with sugar farmers in Rakiraki in Ra Province.
Fiji's interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, seized power in 2006 in Fiji's fourth military coup.
Hat tip to the East-West Center and Radio New Zealand.
Professor Julian Lonbay (University of Birmingham Law School) has authored a new piece called Assessing the European Market for Legal Services: Development in the Free Movement of Lawyers in the European Union. It will be published in an upcoming issue of the Fordham International Law Journal, but you can download the article now (for free) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
The Article focuses on recent developments in European multi-jurisdictional practice rights that have major implications for the control of entry to the legal professions and some of the related deontological rules that govern access to professional legal life across the EU and the EEA. Additionally, it looks at their impact on rules regulating the competence of lawyers and admission to the legal professions, primarily in Europe, but with some reference to the position in the United States as well.
The article concludes that the issues confronting the European legal professions and legal service providers indicate that change is on the way and must be handled with care. More work is necessary to define the core elements and legal skills and knowledge that are necessary for successful practice of law; the development of more understanding of how to successfully assess the preparedness for legal practice of candidates; the probable acceptance of an increasingly specialized legal services work force; and related sets of specialist titles that themselves may permit limited specialist practice rights across borders. The evolving European legal market will itself need servicing, and the development of effective modes of continuing professional training, easily achieved and recognized across borders, should help in enabling cross-border practice and delivery of legal services.
The United Kingdom has donated more than $300,000 to the International Criminal Court for a fund to help relocate witnesses who may be at risk in Kenya, where the Court’s prosecutor is investigating the 2007-2008 post-election violence.
Welcoming the £200,000 ($311,945) donation, ICC Registrar Silvana Arbia said it constituted an important gesture towards the victims and witnesses of post-election violence in Kenya, and towards international justice and the common fight against impunity.
“The UK supports the Court’s work, with the Kenyan Government, to promote justice for the many victims of the post-election violence,” said Paul Arkwright, the UK ambassador to the Netherlands, as he handed the donation to Ms. Arbia at The Hague, where the ICC is based. “We welcome the Kenyan Government’s cooperation with the Court on this case. The UK agrees with the ICC Chief Prosecutor that Kenya, with the Court’s assistance, has an opportunity to restore its image and lead the way globally on approaches to the restoration of justice and challenging impunity,” Mr. Arkwright said.
The ICC Special Fund is intended to assist States parties that are willing to host witnesses at risk, but lack the capacity to finance such support. It is aimed at fostering regional solutions for the relocation of witnesses at risk, thereby reducing the impact of relocations on their lives.
The ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, is investigating the violence that erupted in Kenya in the wake of general elections in December 2007. An estimated 1,300 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in the weeks after the results of the elections were disputed, sparking intra-communal unrest. The post-election violence in Kenya is one of five situations – along with Central African Republic (CAR), Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda – currently under investigation by the Prosecutor.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
The United Nations Security Council this week renewed for another 12 months the authorizations granted to States and regional organizations cooperating with Somalia’s transitional government to fight piracy off the country’s coast. The resolution authorizes States and regional organizations to enter Somalia’s territorial waters and use “all necessary means” –- such as deploying naval vessels and military aircraft, as well as seizing and disposing of boats, vessels, arms and related equipment used for piracy. In the resolution adopted this week, the 15-member Security Council reiterated its condemnation of all acts of piracy and armed robbery against vessels in the waters off the Somali coast.
According to figures by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), over 438 seafarers and passengers and 20 ships are held by pirates as of 4 November – an increase of almost 100 kidnapped victims in less than a month.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Although Thanksgiving is an American holiday, it is always good to reflect on the things in our lives for which we are thankful. So I encourage all our readers to share in this holiday and take a moment to reflect on the people and other things in your lives for which you are grateful. Best wishes for a very happy Thanksgiving!
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
The federal district court in Oklahoma has extended until November 29, 2010 its order blocking an amendment to the Oklahoma State Constitution that would prohibit state court judges from considering international or Islamic law when deciding cases. The amendment contravenes the provisions of article VI of the U.S. Constitution, which makes treaties the supreme law of the land. The provisions on Islamic law were apparently included merely as an election year gimmick -- there had been not even a single reported case of any Oklahoma court considering any application of Islamic law.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
Costa Rica has filed a new action against the Republic of Nicaragua in the International Court of Justice. The complaint alleges an "incursion into, occupation of and use by Nicaragua's Army of Costa Rican territory" and breaches of Nicaragua's treaty obligations toward Costa Rica. Click here for all the details. Costa Rica also filed a request for provisional measures.
The new security procedures from the Department of Homeland Security are highly controversial and being met with a great deal of objections from U.S. fliers. Now they're also being met with some humor. Here's a video explaining the new procedures from a Canadian point of view. Enjoy!
Hat tip to Rex Wockner
The United States signed the CEDAW Convetion 30 years ago. Today, it is the only country that has signed the treaty but not yet ratified it. The Obama Administration has put the CEDAW treaty on the State Department's Treaty Priority List. A subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings yesterday on the treaty -- the first hearings on CEDAW since 2002.
The Assembly of the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) will be voting next month on whether the state bar association should support U.S. ratification of CEDAW.
One of the witnesses at yesterday's Senate hearings on CEDAW ratification was Ambassador Melanne Verveer, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Woman's Issues. In her statement below, she explains why it is important for the United States to ratify CEDAW. Have a look particularly at the country examples in her statement.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues
Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Coburn, and Members of the Subcommittee: thank you for this opportunity to discuss with you the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, commonly known as CEDAW, or the Women’s Treaty. I appreciate not only the attention you are bringing to this particular issue today, but also your ongoing support for women’s rights around the world. I am pleased to be here with my colleague, Sam Bagenstos, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Department of Justice. I want to recognize the heroic work of Wazhma Frogh, a recipient of the State Department’s International Women of Courage Award, to improve the lives of women and girls who suffered greatly under the Taliban regime and who still are too often treated like second-class citizens in their own country. And I applaud Geena Davis for her efforts to shine a light on this critical issue.
Today, I would like to talk about what the Women’s Treaty represents and why U.S. ratification is critical to our efforts to promote and defend the rights of women across the globe.
This hearing could not come at a more critical time for the world’s women. Gender inequality and oppression of women is rampant across the globe. The scale and savagery of human rights violations committed against women and girls is nothing short of a humanitarian tragedy. Today, violence against women is a global pandemic. In some parts of the world, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma, and Sudan, women are attacked as part of a deliberate and coordinated strategy of armed conflict where rape is used as a tool of war. In others, like Afghanistan, girls are attacked with acid and disfigured simply because they dare attend school. Girl infanticide and neglect has contributed to the absence from school of an estimated 100 million girls worldwide. In places where girls are not as valued and there is a strong preference for sons, practices ranging from female genital mutilation, to child marriage, to so-called "honor killings," to the trafficking of women and girls into modern-day slavery highlight the low status of females around the globe.
In far too many places, women’s participation in parliaments, village councils and peace negotiations is circumscribed or prevented altogether. Policies instructing that "women need not apply" continue to limit employment opportunities and pay. The majority of the world’s illiterate are women and, according to the World Bank, girls constitute 55 percent of all out-of-school children. This has devastating consequences on the health and well-being of families and communities. And today, the HIV-AIDS pandemic has a woman’s face, with the number of infections rising at alarming rates among adolescent girls in many places who face the threat of violence, including sexual violence, in their lives.
Women’s equality has rightly been called the moral imperative of the 21st century. Where women cannot participate fully and equally in their societies, democracy is a contradiction in terms, economic prosperity is hampered, and stability is at risk. Standing up against the appalling violations of women’s human rights around the globe, and standing with the women of the world, is what ratifying the Women’s Treaty is about.
Why the United States Should Ratify the Women’s Treaty
In my time at the State Department, I have visited scores of countries and met with women from all walks of life, from human rights activists in Russia, to microcredit recipients and small-business entrepreneurs in rural South Asia, to survivors of rape and conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In my travels, the number-one question I am asked time and time again is, "Why hasn’t the United States ratified CEDAW?"
It is understandable that I continue to receive this question everywhere I go. The United States has long stood for the principles of equal justice, the rule of law, respect for women, and the defense of human dignity. We know that women around the world look to the United States as a moral leader on human rights. And yet when it comes to the Women’s Treaty, which reflects the fundamental principle that women’s rights are human rights, we stand with only a handful of countries that have not ratified, including Somalia, Iran, and Sudan—countries with some of the worst human rights records in the world. We stand alone as the only industrialized democracy in the world that has not ratified the Women’s Treaty. And we stand on the sidelines, unable to use the Women’s Treaty to join with champions of human rights who seek to use it as a means to protect and defend women’s basic human rights.
U.S. ratification of the Women’s Treaty matters because the moral leadership of our country on human rights matters. Some governments use the fact that the U.S. has not ratified the treaty as a pretext for not living up to their own obligations under it. Our failure to ratify also deprives us of a powerful tool to combat discrimination against women around the world, because as a non-party, it makes it more difficult for us to press other parties to live up to their commitments under the treaty.
The United States is firmly committed to the principles of women's equality as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Our ratification will send a powerful and unequivocal message about our commitment to equality for women across the globe. It will lend much needed validation and support to advocates fighting the brutal oppression of women and girls everywhere, who seek to replicate in their own countries the strong protections against discrimination that we have in the United States. And it will signal that the United States stands with the women of the world.
Importantly, ratification will also advance U.S. foreign policy and national security interests. As the Obama Administration has made clear, women’s equality is critical to our national security. President Obama’s National Security Strategy recognizes that "countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunity. When those rights and opportunities are denied, countries lag behind." And as Secretary Clinton has stated, "the subjugation of women is a threat to the national security of the United States. It is also a threat to the common security of our world, because the suffering and denial of the rights of women and the instability of nations go hand in hand." Ratification of this treaty, which enshrines the rights of women in international law, is not only in the interest of oppressed women around the world – it is in our interest as well.
In fact, my office has been working closely with the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy at the Department of Defense to highlight issues related to women, peace and security. We as a U.S. government recognize the interconnection of women’s progress and the advancement of U.S. objectives across the world. And Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently stated, "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wisely summed it up last week when she said, ‘If we want to make progress towards settling the world’s most intractable conflicts, let’s enlist women.’ I couldn’t agree more – and I would only add: The time to act is now so we don’t have to ask, yet again, why did this take so long? But as we think about how far we’ve come, we must also consider how far we have still to go."
How the Women’s Treaty Helps Eliminate Discrimination Against Women
I would like to briefly describe what the Women’s Treaty is, the principles it enshrines, and how it can be used to challenge discrimination against women around the world. The Women’s Treaty was adopted by the United Nations nearly 31 years ago and is the first treaty to comprehensively address women’s rights and fundamental freedoms. The treaty builds on several previous international human rights instruments, including the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). It obliges parties to end discrimination against women and addresses areas that are crucial to women’s equality, from citizenship rights and political participation to inheritance and property rights to freedom from domestic violence and sex trafficking. It is consistent with the approach that we have already taken on these issues domestically. To date, 186 out of 192 UN member states are party to the treaty.
Around the world, women are using the Women’s Treaty as an instrument for progress and empowerment. There are countless stories of women who have used their countries’ commitments to the treaty to bring constitutions, laws, and policies in line with the principle of nondiscrimination against women. Over the course of my travels, I have seen firsthand its incredible influence in helping women change their societies. Today, I would like to highlight just a few examples that illuminate the treaty’s ability to help women push for equal treatment in their communities.
The Women’s Treaty has been used to fight discrimination against women in family law. For example, in Morocco, for nearly a century, family law was largely determined by differing interpretations of Islamic law, which resulted in oppression and unequal treatment for wives. Brides were not asked to give their consent to marriage during the wedding ceremony. Polygamy was widespread, and husbands had the power to "repudiate" a marriage without court proceedings or their wives’ consent. Women in Moroccan civil society worked tirelessly and even faced imprisonment in their effort to end discrimination against women in family law, but they did not back down. In 1993, Morocco ratified the Women’s Treaty with a set of reservations, and in 2004, a new Morocco Family Code was enacted that protected women’s rights in matters of marriage and family relations. Today, women no longer need a matrimonial guardian to determine whom they will marry. In addition, a woman can now initiate divorce proceedings, which are now determined in a court of law, and there are a series of restrictions in place making polygamy far more difficult to practice.
The Women’s Treaty has also been used to combat discrimination against women even in countries that fall far short of their commitment to women’s equality under the treaty, such as Afganistan. As we know, under the brutal Taliban regime, Afghan women and girls suffered untold deprivations of their basic human rights, including the right to attend school, thereby penalizing an entire generation. The fact that Afghanistan is party to agreements like the ICCPR and the Women’s Treaty has helped to provide legitimacy for women’s rights advocates seeking to improve conditions for women and girls. Indeed, Afghan activists recently pushed for a new law to eliminate violence against women. And several Afghan women’s organizations have banded together to release their own "shadow report" detailing the government’s actions to prevent and respond to violence against women. Thanks to the efforts of women’s advocates, the Afghan government — for the first time since ratifying the Women’s Treaty — is working to prepare a public report on its implementation of the treaty.
The Women’s Treaty has also been used to combat violence against women and sexual assault. In Mexico, for example, the treaty was deployed as a tool against violence in some of the country’s most dangerous areas. An estimated 450 girls and women have been killed in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua City since 1993. According to Mexican authorities, most of these women were sexually assaulted before their murders. Local human rights groups report that few cases have been investigated and in even fewer have perpetrators been brought to justice. But in 2007, human rights groups won a major victory with the enactment of a national law inspired, in large part, by the Women’s Treaty. The new Mexican law requires federal, state and local authorities to coordinate activities to prevent and respond to violence against women, and authorizes the Interior Minister to declare a state of alert if he or she determines there is an outbreak of widespread gender-based violence.
The Women’s Treaty has provided activists around the world with a useful framework for women’s human rights that has advanced and improved laws prohibiting discrimination against women. For instance, in the Philippines, the treaty was heavily relied upon as a blueprint for framing the first Magna Carta of Women, a comprehensive equal-rights statute that provides political, civil, and economic rights for all Filipino women, with special protections for those who are members of marginalized groups. Women’s groups, working in coordination with international organizations, used the Women’s Treaty to help develop a definition of gender discrimination and outline the responsibilities of the government to protect its citizens. This historic and far-reaching law was signed into law by President Gloria Arroyo in 2009. Among its several provisions, the Magna Carta affirms Filipino women’s rights to education, political participation and representation, and equal treatment before the law.
The Women’s Treaty has also been used to achieve equal treatment for women in the critical area of land rights. In some parts of the world, women produce 70 percent of the food and yet earn only 10 percent of the income and own only 1 percent of the land—a situation that is not only unfair, but also relegates women to lives of poverty. In Uganda, a robust women’s movement has made efforts to tackle this problem by relying on both the Women’s Treaty and national legislation to pursue land ownership rights and challenge customary land tenure practices. Empowered by the Women’s Treaty and the enactment of the country’s Land Act in 1998, women’s groups and activists began a tireless campaign to ensure that women were protected in the tenure, ownership and administration of land. In their fight for equal treatment, these activists continue to rely on the Women’s Treaty.
Fifteen years ago, as First Lady of the United States, Hillary Clinton addressed the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and proclaimed that women’s rights are human rights. Today, the litany of abuses against women that she described in her address — from violence against women to trafficking to female genital mutilation to girl infanticide — persist. We cannot stand by while girls and women continue to be fed less, fed last, overworked, underpaid, subjected to violence both in and out of their homes — in short, while discrimination against women and girls remains commonplace around the globe. For as long as the oppression of women continues, the peaceful, prosperous world we all seek will not be realized.
It has been over 30 years since the Women’s Treaty was first adopted by the United Nations. Since that time, as I have described, the treaty has been used to advocate for and realize equal treatment for women and girls around the world. But much work remains to be done. And it is long overdue for the United States to stand with the women of the world in their effort to obtain the basic rights that women in this country enjoy.
As Secretary Clinton has said, "the United States must remain an unambiguous and unequivocal voice in support of women’s rights in every country, every region, on every continent." By ratifying the Women’s Treaty, we will speak with this clarity of voice and purpose. We will strengthen the efforts of those who toil for women’s rights, for equal treatment, and for human dignity. And we will make clear our belief that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Australian comedians Hamish and Andy had a sit-down interview with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Click here to watch . . . and laugh! Hillary has a delightful sense of humor throughout the interview. It demonstrates that diplomatic skills can come in handy in many different settings.
Hat tip to Rex Wockner
ICJ Will Deliver Judgment on Nov. 30 in Ahmadou Sadio Diallo (Republic of Guinea v. Democratic Republic of the Congo)
The International Court of Justice will deliver its judgment in the case of Ahmadou Sadio Diallo (Republic of Guinea v. Democratic Republic of the Congo) on November 30, 2010. Click here for details about the case and how to attend the public sitting when the court delivers the judgment.
The United States Department of State has released its annual report for 2010 on International Religious Freedom. The full report can be found here. The report is issued each year pursuant to the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act. The Act created a government commission, the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom, to monitor reglious freedom worldwide and make recommendations to expose, counter and correct abuses of religious freedom.
The 2010 Report covers the period April 2009 to March 2010. Each year, the Commission designates certain countries as "Countries of Particular Concern" or CPCs for severe violations of religious freedom. The Commission also places a second group of countries on a Watch List for violations of religious freedom that require further monitoring, as well as a third group that also deserves further attention.
In 2010, the Commission recommends that the following 13 countries be designated as CPC: Burma, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the People's Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. Five of these countries - Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam - are new additions to the list.
Watch List countries are Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Venezuela.
Designating countries as CPC provides the U.S. Secretary of State with a range of policy options that may be pursued to address issues of religious freedom. The Watch List is intended to provide warning of negative trends and encourage preemptive discussions and actions before the situation becomes more serious.