May 15, 2010
Baltasar Garzon Suspended
Judge Baltasar Garzon, Spain's most famous human rights judge, was suspended this week by a judicial oversight board after the judge lost an appeal seeking to dismiss a case brought against him for allegedly abusing his authority when he was investigating human rights abuses committed during the Spanish Civil War and Franco era. The judge had been investigating the execution or disappearance of more than 100,000 people by supporters of Franco. N.Y. Times, May 15, 2010, at A6.
The suspension was not unexpected -- any judge who is charged with a violation of authority and who is awaiting trial would most likely be suspended pending the outcome of that trial. But the injustice here is that the judge had been charged at all. Read our earlier posts by clicking here and here.
UN Committee Against Torture
The United Nations Committee Against Torture called upon Syria, Yemen, and Jordan to investigate "numerous and credible allegations" of torture by police and prison authorities in those countries. The Committee also voiced concern at the failure to punish so-called "honor killings" by family members in Jordan and Syria. N.Y. Times, May 15, 2010, at A6.
May 14, 2010
Injunction of Secrecy Lifted on U.S.-Russian Treaty on Strategic Offensive Arms
The ABA Governmental Affairs Office has informed us that the "injunction of secrecy" was removed yesterday from the Treaty between the United States and Russia on Measures for Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms.
The treaty was transmitted to the Senate for its advice and consent, which must be given by a vote of two-thirds of the senators present.
The U.N. General Assembly today held a day-long informal meeting on piracy, with Assembly President Ali Treki calling for broader international efforts and resources to combat the ever-expanding scourge, particularly off the coast of war-torn Somalia.
“The international community must step forward to help Somalia,” he said, stressing the need for “a truly holistic approach” covering political, security, governance and humanitarian needs in the Horn of Africa country, which has had no functioning central government and has been torn apart by factional fighting for nearly two decades.
Last month the Security Council put forward the possibility of establishing international tribunals to try pirates, with members calling for tougher legislation to prosecute and jail suspects caught off Somalia. But today Dr. Treki called for greater heft from the 15-member body, whose decisions are legally binding while those of the 192-member Assembly are not.
“I call on the Security Council, in particular, to shoulder its responsibility with regard to Somalia by undertaking strong and resolute measures in support of a wider political, peacekeeping and peace-building strategy in Somalia, to bring peace to the country and to ensure its sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity,” he said.
With dozens of ships, from massive oil tankers to chartered supply ships carrying UN food aid for Somalia’s hungry masses, being hijacked and tens of millions of dollars paid in ransom each year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted the magnitude of the problem.
Despite international naval patrols, “the attacks continue, indeed, they are increasing,” he told the Assembly, citing UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) global figures of 406 in 2009, an increase of 100 over 2008, with by far the largest concentration off the coast of East Africa, where reported incidents increased seven-fold over the four-year period to 2009.
He stressed that piracy cannot be solved at sea alone but requires action on land to re-establish security and stability. “There is simply too much water to patrol, and an almost endless supply of pirates,” he said.
“There is no doubt that a change in strategy is needed,” he added, noting that a major international conference on Somalia in Istanbul next week aims to launch a new push for solutions to the security and stability crisis there. “Stability on land would, undoubtedly, improve the situation at sea.”
International cooperation is essential, a legal system should be established to bring piracy suspects to justice, not to simply let them go, and piracy must be considered in the wider context of security at sea, he said. “There are many issues involved, including container security, human trafficking, smuggling, organized crime, and money laundering. Piracy can not be addressed without taking on these other crimes,” he declared.
East African officials attending the debate included Somali Deputy Prime Minister Abdurahman A. Ibrahim, and Kenyan Trade Minister Amos Kimunya.
(From a UN Press Release)
May 13, 2010
Why GTMO Military Commissions Are Not a Lawful Option
Professor Jordan J. Paust of the University of Houston Law Center has shared with us his views on why the GTMO military commissions are not a lawful option. Professor Paust says that the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay are not “regularly constituted” or “previously established in accordance with pre-existing laws” and are therefore without jurisdiction under international law. He also says that they are also not constituted within a theater of war or war-related occupied territory and are therefore without lawful jurisdiction. Additionally, he says that they violate several multilateral and bilateral treaties (also important for U.S. nationals abroad) that require equal protection of the law and equality of treatment more generally and are, therefore, without lawful power or authority under supreme laws of the United States.
Estonia to Join Eurozone
Yesterday, the European Commission approved the application of Estonia to join the eurozone, finding that Estonia's economy had met all the accession criteria. Assuming the heads of the European Union governments and the finance ministers also approve (which is expected), Estonia will become the 17th country to use the euro. Its accesson to the euro area is scheduled to become effective January 1, 2011. Eight other countries have applied for admission to the euro club, but have not yet been accepted.
Thai General is Shot in Head While Giving an Interview to the International Herald Tribune
The New York Times has just reported that a general allied with the "red shirt" antigovernment protesters in Thailand was shot in the head while he was giving an interview with the International Herald Tribune. Explosions and gunfire were heard in Bangkok as the Thai army moved to encircle the barricaded encampment of the demonstrators. Click here to read more from the New York Times.
Human Rights Experts Express Concerns Over Arizona's New Law
A group of independent United Nations experts has expressed serious concern over a new immigration law enacted in the state of Arizona, questioning whether the legislation is compatible with international human rights treaties which the United States has signed on to.
“A disturbing pattern of legislative activity hostile to ethnic minorities and immigrants has been established with the adoption of an immigration law that may allow for police action targeting individuals on the basis of their perceived ethnic origin,” the experts warned.
The new law requires that state law enforcement officers determine the immigration status of people based solely on a “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the US illegally, and arrest people without a warrant if officers have “probable cause” to believe they are illegal aliens.
“The law may lead to detaining and subjecting to interrogation persons primarily on the basis of their perceived ethnic characteristics,” the UN experts stressed, with those who appear to be of Mexican, Latin American or indigenous origin at heightened risk of being targeted.
In a press release issued in Geneva, the experts called into question the “vague standards and sweeping language” of the Arizona legislation, “which raise doubts about the law’s compatibility with relevant international human rights treaties to which the United States is a party.”
The law specifically targets day labourers, criminalizing both undocumented migrants’ efforts to solicit work and people’s attempts to hire them.
Under the law, being in the country illegally is punishable by up to six months in jail.
The UN experts today pointed out that countries must respect and ensure the human rights of all people under their jurisdiction without discrimination.
“Additionally,” they emphasized, “relevant international standards require that detention be used only as an exceptional measure, justified, narrowly tailored and proportional in each individual case, and that it be subject to judicial review.”
Around the same time the law was adopted, legislation was passed prohibiting Arizona school programmes “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” or that “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”
The state’s school superintendent, who promoted this legislation, has repeatedly said that the law is targeted at cutting out current ethnic studies programmes featuring the history, social dynamics and cultural patterns of Mexican-Americans.
“Such law and attitude are at odds with the State’s responsibility to respect the right of everyone to have access to his or her own cultural and linguistic heritage and to participate in cultural life,” the UN experts underlined. “Everyone has the right to seek and develop cultural knowledge and to know and understand his or her own culture and that of others through education and information.”
While recognizing that States have the prerogative to control immigration and take steps to protect their borders, “these actions must be taken in accordance with fundamental principles of non-discrimination and human treatment,” they said.
Further, the experts emphasized, “States are obligated to not only eradicate racial discrimination, but also to promote a social and political environment conducive to respect for ethnic and cultural diversity.”
The experts signing onto the press release are:
- Jorge Bustamante, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants;
- Githu Muigai, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance;
- James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people;
- Farida Shaheed, Independent Expert in the field of cultural rights;
- Vernor Muñoz, Special Rapporteur on the right to education; and
- Gay McDougall, Independent Expert on minority issues.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
May 12, 2010
Baltasar Garzon Gets a Job Offer in The Netherlands
Baltasar Garzon, the most famous judge in Spain, is being prosecuted for going after human rights abusers during the Spanish Civil War and the Franco era. His prosecution is political, motivated by those who would otherwise benefit from an amnesty law passed to protect them from the consequences of their crimes against humanity. Click here for one of our earlier posts about that case.
The New York Times reports today that Judge Garzon has been offered a temporary post as an external advisor to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. The NYT said that Garzon is anxious to accept the temporary position but that he will need permission from Spain's judicial oversight board in order to do so.
Ambassador Hans Corell on Responsibility in International Criminal Justice
Ambassador Hans Corell of Sweden, the former Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and Legal Council of the United Nations, delivered the Dean Fred F. Herzog Memorial Lecture at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.
It was an important speech in which Ambassador Corell called upon nations to assume a greater responsibility in international criminal justice.
Here are some excerpts from his talk:
"If the officials who bear the greatest responsibility for international crimes committed in a particular situation are not brought to justice, this constitutes a clear risk not only for a continuation of the conflict at hand but also for breeding new conflicts in the future. There is also a growing realization that if officials at the highest level in a State are suspected of international crimes, these persons soon become a burden to their own country."
Click here for a full copy of his remarks, which should soon be published in The John Marshall Law Review.
ICJ Justice to Resign
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has announced that Mr. Shi Jiuyong, former President and former Vice President of the ICJ, will resign as a Member of the Court effective May 28, 2010. Mr. Jiuyong's term was scheduled to exprire in February 2012. The United Nations Security Council and General Assembly will hold a special election in June to elect a person to complete his term. No reason for his early departure has been given.
Judge Shi Jiuyong is originally from China and has been a member of the Court since 1994. Among his many impressive accomplishments include his work as a former Legal Advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the People's Republic of China, his membership on the United Nations' International Law Commission, and his presidency of the Chinese Society of International Law. He also has experience as a professor of international law and an arbitrator of international disputes. He serves on many prestigous boards and is the author of several articles on international law subjects. His full biography may be found on the ICJ website.
May 11, 2010
ICJ Receives a New Request for an Advisory Opinion
The International Court of Justice has jurisdiction over contentious cases (one country against another). The ICJ also has advisory jurisdiction that allows the court to answer questions posed to it by organs of the United Nations (such as the General Assembly) and specialized agencies that are specifically authorized by the U.N. General Assembly to seek advisory opinions. One of the agencies so authorized is the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
IFAD has filed a new request for an advisory opinion, based on a judgment rendered by the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organization.
The request for an advisory opinion received in the Registry of the ICJ falls within the framework of a rarely used procedure, that of the review of judgments of administrative tribunals, which has given rise to the delivery of only four advisory opinions since 1946.
- In 1955, the Executive Board of UNESCO, acting within the framework of Article XII of the Statute of the Administrative Tribunal of the ILO, decided to challenge two decisions rendered by the Tribunal and to refer the question of their validity to the Court for an advisory opinion.
- In 1972, 1981 and 1984, the Committee on Applications for Review of United Nations Administrative Tribunal Judgments, acting within the framework of Article 11 of the Statute of that Tribunal, decided that there was a substantial basis within the meaning of that Article for the applications for review of Judgments Nos. 158, 273 and 333. It therefore requested the Court to give an advisory opinion on the matter in respect of each of those applications.
Professor Mark Wojcik re-elected to ISBA Board of Governors
The ISBA is a voluntary state bar association with more than 30,000 members. The board of governors is a 25-member body that oversees the operation of the ISBA and implements its policies. Terms on the board of governors last for three years.
Professor Wojcik is the only full-time law professor serving on the board of governors. He has been a strong supporter of human rights and immigrants in Illinois, and has provided invaluable assistance and advice on international law issues that impact the state. Keep up the good work, Mark!
May 10, 2010
US Supreme Court to Decide Tort Immunity Exception Under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act
Is the sexual abuse of a minor a tortious act under the tort exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act? In Holy See v. John Doe, No. 09-1, the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether the Vatican has imunity from damage lawsuits in the United States for the sexual abuse of minors by priests. The case is an appeal from a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Click here for the U.S. Supreme Court docket information about the case.
The Supreme Court denied certiorari in an earlier case from the Sixth Circuit that also sought to sue the Holy See.
What Liability for Fake Passports?
A senior Hamas figure, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, was killed in Dubai earlier this year. His alleged assassins are 11 persons who traveled to Dubai using the following passports:
- United Kingdom (6 passport holders)
- Ireland (3)
- Germany (1)
- France (1)
The British and Irish governments said that the passports appeared to be fake. See, e.g., Andrew England, Passports Faked in Hamas Killing, Financial Times, Feb. 17, 2010, at 2. What should be the liability of one country to another when its agents use false passports? It sounds to me like the issue might be something to include in a moot court problem.
May 9, 2010
International Criminal Court on YouTube
The International Criminal Court has created a series of videos that explain the court and its proceedings. Videos will be available in French and English. Here's a sample:
Hat tip to Intlawgrrls