May 22, 2010
Venezuela Amends its Foreign Currency Exchange Crimes Law
The Venezuelan National Assembly adopted changes to its Foreign Currency Exchange Crimes Law. Click here to read more.
May 21, 2010
Public Comments Sought on Collecting Biometric Data from Visitors to the United States
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a request for public comment on the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology Biometric Data Collection at the Ports of Entry to the United States.
The program collects and disseminates biometric information from individuals during their entry into the United States. See page 28034 of the Federal Register for more information. Comments are due by June 18, 2010.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office.
May 20, 2010
The Legality of Targeted KillingsThe New York Times reported that there is "unease" in reaction to President Obama's drone attacks and targeted killings. This "unease" strikes many persons as an understated way of describing the reaction. Click here to read one such blog post by Professor Steven Schwinn on the Constitutional Law Prof Blog.
ICTY Appellate Chamber Affirms 12-Year Sentence for Tarculovski
The Appellate Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has upheld the conviction and 12-year jail sentence of Johan Tarculovski, a former police officer of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Mr. Tarculovski was convicted of having ordered, planned and instigated crimes against ethnic Albanians during a police operation in 2001.
Mr. Tarculovski was found guilty two years ago of ordering, planning and instigating the murder of three ethnic Albanian civilians, wanton destruction of 12 houses or other property and cruel treatment of 13 ethnic Albanian civilians. The appeals chamber dismissed all of his seven grounds of appeal, based on both jurisdictional and factual issues.
May 19, 2010
ICTY Appellate Chamber Affirms Sentence for Disclosing Identies of Witnesses
The Appellate Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has upheld last year’s conviction and sentencing of Vojislav Šešelj for revealing the real names, occupations, and places of residence of 11 protected witnesses. He made the revelations in a book that he authored.
Mr. Šešelj is the leader of the Serb Radical Party who is on trial in the Hague for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Her received a 15-month jail sentence last year for disclosing information on the 11 protected witnesses.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Certain Questions concerning Diplomatic Relations (Honduras v. Brazil) Case removed from the Court’s List at the request of HondurasOn October 28, 2009, the Republic of Honduras filed a case in the International Court of Justice against the Federative Republic of Brazil.
Honduras alleged that Brazil has been housing Mr. Zelaya, President of Honduras until his removal by the military in June 2009, in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa since September. Honduras further alleged that Brazil was allowing Zelaya and his followers to use the embassy as a platform to spread political propaganda that threatened the peace in Honduras, at a time when Honduras was preparing for presidential elections. The application also claimed that the Brazilian embassy staff were allowing Mr. Zelaya to use the embassy premises and resources to evade the jurisdiction of the Brazilian authorities. Honduras asked the Court to find that Brazil did not have the right to allow the embassy premises to be used by Honduran citizens for illegal activities in violation of Article 2(7) of the U.N. Charter regarding the principle of nonintervention in the domestic affairs of another State and in violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Honduras reserved the right to ask for provisional measures as well as damages for breach of Brazil's interntional obligations.We did not think much of this legal challenge against Brazil. Brazil, for its part, never even responded.
Apparantly Honduras has now concluded that it would not have won its case against Brazil, or perhaps it simply had no further reason to pursue the litigation.
In a letter received by the International Court of Justice on May 3, 2010, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Honduras informed the Court that the Honduran Government was “not going on with the proceedings” against Brazil and that “in so far as necessary, the Honduran Government accordingly [was] withdraw[ing] this Application from the Registry. After noting that the Brazilian Government had not taken any step in the proceedings in the case, the President of the ICJ he recorded the discontinuance by Honduras and ordered that the case be removed from the Court’s list of cases.
It would make for an interesting study to consider how many of the ICJ's cases were filed during an active conflict or crisis and how the countries involved framed their legal positions at the time.
May 17, 2010
Portugal Recognizes Same-Sex Marriage
Today is the the "International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia." And on this day, the President of Portugal signed legislation legalizing same-sex marriages in that country. Same-sex marriage also is legal in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Mexico City, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.
Hat tip to Rex Wockner
U.S. Supreme Court Bars Life Terms for Youths Who Have Not Killed
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision today that sentences of life without possibility of parole for crimes other than homicide that were committed when the offender was under the age of 18 are unconstitutional.
Graham v. Florida involved an armed burglary conviction in Florida. The majority of the Court ruled that life sentences without the possibility of parole in such cases violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Other countries (such as Mexico, for example) believe that life sentences without the possibility of parole violate human rights norms because they deny any hope of rehabilitation of the detained person.
The majority cited international law sources in support of its decision, but took special efforts to emphasize what has sometimes only been implicit in earlier rulings -- that interpretations of the U.S. Constitution are never compelled by foreign or international law sources. Here is what the Court said (which you can find in the part of the opinion starting on page 29):
There is support for our conclusion in the fact that, in continuing to impose life without parole sentences on juveniles who did not commit homicide, the United States adheres to a sentencing practice rejected the world over. This observation does not control our decision. The judgments of other nations and the international community are not dispositive as to the meaning of the Eighth Amendment [which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment]. But "[t]he climate of international opinion concerning the acceptability of a particular punishment is also 'not irrelevant.'" [Citations omitted]
Today we continue that longstanding practice in noting the global consensus against the sentencing practice in question. A recent study concluded that only 11 nations authorize life without parole for juvenile offenders under any circumstances; and only 2 of them, the United States and Israel, ever impose the punishment in practice. [Citation omitted] . . .