Saturday, April 10, 2010

President of Poland Dies in Plane Crash

Poland President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria are among those killed this morning in a plane crash in western Russia.

Another victim is Anna Walentynowicz.  She was fired in August 1980 from the Lenin Shipyards in Gdansk.  That event sparked a workers' strike that spurred the eventual creation of the Solidarity freedom movement.

Also among the dead is Ryszard Kaczorowski, the President-in Exile during the communist era.

President Kaczynski was traveling to Russia to commemorate the anniversary of the murder of thousands of Polish officers at the start of World War II.

To read more, click here or here


April 10, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

U.S. Authorizes Targeted Killing of U.S. Citizen

According to a report in the New York Times yesterday, the Obama Administration has taken the unusual step of authorizing the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, a Muslim cleric who is believed to be connected to al Qaeda.  In other words, the U.S. government has determined to execute one of its own citizens without trial and all the procedural protections that come with it. The U.S. government believes that Mr. Awlaki is hiding in Yemen and has moved from encouraging attacks on the U.S. to actively participating in them.  The government is reported to have information linking Mr. Awlaki to Nidal Malik Hasin, the psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who attempted to blow up a plane in December by way of bomb taped to his underwear.  As a result, the U.S. believes Mr. Awlaki presents an imminent threat to the United States making his targeted killing justified.

While killing combatants on the battlefield has always been considered lawful killing under the international laws of war, the U.S. government's increasing use of "targeted killing" of persons away from the traditional battlefield raises a number of concerns, including the certainty of U.S. intelligence and any geographic, temporal or other limits on the policy.  Last year, the U.S. government authorized the targeted killing of Afghan drug lords with links to the Taliban insurgency, another example of extrajudicial executions away from the traditional battlefield. 

If the targets are not lawful combatants engaged in international armed conflict, the traditional laws of war may not apply.  What law does apply is unclear.  And even if international humanitarian law does apply, it may be complemented by international human rights law according to many international tribunals, including the International Court of Justice and the Inter-American Court of Human RIghts. Under international human rights law, an accused is entitled to a fair and public hearing by an indepedent and impartial tribunal in the determination of the accused's rights and any criminal charges.  See Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) at art. 10.  The UDHR also would require that a person be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law at a public trial in which the person is afforded all the guarantees necessary for his defense.  See UDHR at art. 11.  These rights are confirmed and elaborated upon in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the U.S. is a party.

In addition, with respect to a U.S. citizen in particular, this continued expansion of the targeted killing policy raises serious questions about the application of the U.S. Constitution abroad, which would normally provide a criminal defendant with a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, a right to present mitigating evidence and to test the evidence against him, among other rights, before being sentenced.  Furthermore, in Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1 (1957), the U.S.Supreme Court held that U.S. citizens do not lose their constitutional rights when the U.S. government takes action against them abroad.  Thus, the legal basis for this decision to target a U.S. citizen is open to question. 


April 8, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

English, Russian versions of US-RF START Treaty Leaked

The U.S. Department of State and the [] of the Russian Federation have released the text of the START Treaty signed by Presidents Obama and Medvedev in Prague today.  The treaty, formally titled the "Treaty Between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms," aims to reduce

The English language version is available from the State Department's website at

The Russian language version is available from the Kremlin's website at

Hat tip to!


April 8, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Opposition Leaders Seize Power in Kyrgyzstan

KYRKyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev fled the nation's capital, Bishkek, on Wednesday, following street demonstrations that escalated into a full-scale revolt.

Opposition forces coalesced around former foreign minister and former Washington ambassador Roza Otunbayeva, forming an interim government on Thursday afternoon.

According to the New York Times, scheduled talks in Washington between U.S diplomats and senior Kyrgyz officials (including Bakiyev's son, Maksim) would continue as planned this afternoon, notwithstanding the state of play on the ground in Bishkek.

According to U.S. and Russian officials accompanying Presidents Obama and Medvedev in Prague, the Russian Federation and the United States have agreed in principle to cooperate in preserving the Manas airbase outside of Bishkek.  Manas, presently used as a NATO staging area, has been a source of conflict between Russia and the U.S., as Kyrgyzstan had previously decided to turn the airbase over to the Russian Federation.


April 8, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nancy Paterson

Nancy Paterson, a prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, died this week at her home in Bethesda, Maryland. 

She had been a prosecutor at the ICTY from 1994 to 2001, leading a team of more than 50 lawyers and investigators who gathered evidence for the Slobodan Milosevic case.  She co-wrote the indictment against Milosevic, which marked the first time that a sitting head of state had been indicted by an international criminal tribunal.

The cause of death was reported in the New York Times as ovarian cancer.  She is survived by her mother and sister.  We extend our condolences to her family, friends, and former co-workers in the Hague.


April 8, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Spanish Judge Indicted

The Spanish judge who gained international recognition for pursuing cases against dictators such as General Augusto Pinochet of Chile was indicted yesterday in Spain on charges of abusing his powers.  He had been investigating the disappearances and deaths of thousands of people during Spanish Civil War and the subsequnet Franco regime.  The indictiment reportedly alleges that Judge Garzon overstepped his authority in October 2008 while he was investigating those crimes.


April 8, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

UN Internal Appeals Tribunal (UNAT) Concludes 33 Cases in First Session

United Nations Flag The new United Nations internal appeals tribunal created to adjudicate on disputes between staff and management has completed its first session during which it concluded 33 cases.

Judgements of the cases heard by the United Nations Appeals Tribunal (UNAT) will be posted on the website of the Office of the Administration of Justice when translation is completed this month.

“One goal of the new system is timely justice, so we want cases to move as fast as is reasonable,” said Inés Weinberg de Roca, UNAT’s President, in a statement.  

Cases concluded in the session that ended on April 1, 2010 included disputes over staff promotions, pensions, sexual harassment and contract matters, among others issues.

The tribunal was instituted in 2009 to provide access to independent and professional courts for UN staff and management. The judges were elected by the General Assembly.

(from a UN press release)

April 7, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

U.S. District Court Dismisses 105 Habeas Petitions of Former Gitmo Prisoners

Last Thursday, Judge Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the habeas petitions of 105 non-U.S. citizens who had been detained at Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo), but who have since been transferred to other countries or released.  Although the petitioners no longer sought release from U.S. custody, many of them sought other relief, such as U.S. assistance in release from a foreign sovereign or a reversal of a finding that the petitioner is an enemy combatant.  In his opinion dismissing the petitions, Judge Hogan stated that he was resolving one of the questions left open by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2008 decision in Boumediene v. Bush - while Gitmo detainees have a right to file petitions for habeas corpus, what happens to those petitions once the detainees have been transferred to a foreign country or released?  Judge Hogan determined that in such cases, the U.S. District Court does not have jurisdiction to grant relief because the petitioners are no longer in U.S. custody.  Accordingly, he dismissed all 105 habeas petitions as moot.


April 4, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)