June 12, 2010
More Lies from the Fiji Military Government
Commodore Frank Bainimarama claims that the people are "happy" with the regime’s focus on infrastructure development, agriculture, tourism, health, and education.
The Commodore says instead of condemning him, foreign leaders and former Fiji residents who oppose his government should talk with the people on the ground. He told Auckland-based Radio Tarana that he doesn’t understand why Pacific Islands Forum ministers say things are getting worse in Fiji.
Commodore, perhaps it is because those ministers respect the rule of law?
Law School Deans Call for Rwanda to Release Prof. Peter Erlinder
Law school deans across the United States have called on Rwanda to release Professor Peter Erlinder, who was arrested there for defending an opposition presidential candidate. Click here to read more.
June 11, 2010
And Now Iceland Also Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage
And following our news on same-sex marriage in Portugal, we can also report that Iceland's parliament, the Alþingi (Althingi), has just legalized same-sex marriage by a vote of 49-0. The Prime Minister of Iceland, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, is openly lesbian.
Hat tip to Rex Wockner
Same-Sex Marriage in Portugal
Portugal became the latest country to allow same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples began marrying there this past Monday. Same-sex marriage is now legal in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Mexico City (Federal District).
In the United States, same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.
Many other jurisdictions have lesser forms of protection for same-sex partners.
Former Swiss Leader Elected as Next President of UN General Assembly
Joseph Deiss, a former President of Switzerland, was elected as the next president of the U.N. General Assembly. He will succeed Ali Treki in mid-September, when the General Assembly’s 65th session begins.
Switzerland did not become a member of the United Nations until 2002. The country previously thought that membership might compromise its long-standing neutrality. While serving as Swiss foreign minister between 1999 and 2002, Mr. Deiss worked to allay those concerns as he pushed for Switzerland to joing the United Nations. Mr. Deiss served as President of Switzerland in 2004.
Colombian Court Sentences Army Officer to 30 Years
The United Nations human rights chief welcomed a Colombian court’s decision to sentence a senior army officer to 30 years in prison for his role in the aftermath of the notorious mass hostage-taking at the country’s Supreme Court complex in 1985. Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, described this week’s court ruling as historic and “an important step in the fight against impunity,” and she urged the Government to support the decision and to protect the judge who made it from potential reprisals.
Colonel Luis Alfonso Plazas Vega now faces 30 years’ jail for his role in the disappearance of 11 people after Colombian military forces stormed the Supreme Court building in the capital, Bogotá, on 6 November 1985. Most of the 11 people who disappeared were cafeteria workers. The military raid occurred hours after the M-19 guerrilla group had seized the Palace of Justice building and taken several hundred people – including more than 40 judges – hostage. At least 100 people, including more than 60 civilians, died during the military intervention.
The High Commissioner stressed that international human rights law makes clear that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever – including a state of war, or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency – may be invoked as justification for enforced disappearances.” While any State has the right to use force to guarantee security and maintain public order, it “should observe certain limits aimed at respecting fundamental rights of individuals and the rule of law, even when responding to unjustified attacks by illegal armed groups.”
(from a UN Press Release)
IGLHRC Denied Consultative Status at United Nations
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) was denied consultative status for the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) by vote of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations. The application was supported by the United States and the United Kingdom but opposed by Egypt, Sudan, and Qatar. Click here to read more.
Hat tip to Rex Wockner
International Organizations Immunities Act
President Obama signed H.R. 5139 (PL 111-177), a bill that extends the International Organizations Immunities Act to the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the International Civilian Office in Kosovo.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office
June 10, 2010
Friday Fun: World Cup Trivia Question
World Cup action starts today with a match in Johanesburg between South Africa (the host country) and Mexico. This is the first time that the World Cup has been hosted in Africa. I am in Mexico at the moment (teaching at the Facultad Libre de Derecho de Monterrey), so I'll be wearing green and cheering for Mexico.
So here is a WORLD CUP TRIVIA QUESTION
Of the 32 nations competing this month in the World Cup in South Africa, which one has the smallest popluation? It's Slovenia, the nation that gained its independence in 1991 from Yugoslavia and has a population of just over two million people.
UN to fill ICJ vacancy on September 9
Last month, we reported on the early retirement of ICJ Judge Thomas Buergenthal, set to take effect on September 6.
Last week, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1926 (2010), setting September 9 as the date on which the Security Council and the General Assembly will elect a judge to fill the vacancy. Between now and then, State Department legal adviser Harold Koh will chair a national group (traditionally consisting of a bipartisan group of former State Department legal advisers and at least one academic) to nominate a successor to Buergenthal.
This marks only the second time in 30 years (and the first time since Buergenthal himself was nominated) that a new judge of US nationality will be proposed for a seat at the ICJ. For a good description of the national group's inner workings (from someone who was there), see Prof. Lori Fisler Damrosch's piece, "The Election of Thomas Buergenthal to the International Court of Justice 94 Am. J. Int'l. L. 579 (2000).
For Readers in the United States: Call Congress
The Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) is asking our readers in the United States to contact their representatives in Congress to sign onto the House Resolution urging the Rwandan government to release Peter Erlinder. When you call, be sure to say H. Res. 1426 to distinguish it from HR 1426. Click here for more information.
Hat tip to Hazel Weiser, SALT Executive Director
Taiwan President Says Its Pacific Allies Can Also Develop Unofficial Relations with the Mainland
Radio New Zealand reports that the President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou, says that Taiwan's diplomatic allies are free to develop informal relations with the People's Republic of China. President Ma reportedly made the comment during a visit to Taiwan by the President of Kiribati, Anote Tong. Kiribati is one of six Pacific nations that recognises Taiwan.
Radio New Zealand said that President Ma’s statement confirmed his policies of viable diplomacy and diplomatic truce with China, meaning that the two countries should not try to take away each other’s allies. It is an interesting strategy, and one that the mainland might not accept. President Ma says Taiwan will strengthen its relations with Kiribati, but won’t oppose Kiribati developing unofficial relations with China.
Hat tip to the East-West Center
Calls for a Tribunal for Kenya
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, urged the Kenyan Government to reconsider setting up a special tribunal to pursue accountability for the crimes committed during the violence that followed the disputed December 2007 elections. Ms. Pillay arrived in Kenya following a visit to Uganda, where she participated in the Review Conference of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
While she welcomed the ICC’s involvement in the investigations into the post-election violence in Kenya, she warned that its role is limited. “The involvement of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a major development in the fight against the current almost total lack of accountability for the terrible events that took place in the wake of the elections,” Ms. Pillay said. However, “the ICC will, for practical reasons and as a matter of policy, only be able to address a small number of high-profile cases of people suspected of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide,” she added.
An estimated 1,300 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in the violence, which also included widespread rape, arson, robbery and other crimes.
Last month ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo conducted a five-day trip to Kenya to start investigations into the violence, and to meet with some of those directly affected by the unrest.
Ms. Pillay also voiced concerns about Kenya’s newly established Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, which she said has so far been a “disappointment to many.” In addition, she highlighted issues of witness protection, the forthcoming referendum on the proposed new constitution, and the shortcomings of the Kenyan police.
(from a UN Press Release)
ICTY Hands Down Convictions in PopovicTrial Chamber II of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has handed down its verdicts in the Popovic case, one of the largest and most involved cases in the ICTY’s history. The seven defendants, each high-ranking police and military officers, were convicted on a range of offenses related to their conduct surrounding the atrocities committed in Srebrenica and Zepa in 1995. The defendants were convicted of offenses ranging from genocide to extermination and persecution (qua crimes against humanity) to murder in violation of the laws or customs of war. The official press release is available at http://www.icty.org/sid/10415, and the official summary of judgment is available at http://www.icty.org/x/cases/popovic/tjug/en/100610summary.pdf. A rundown of the sentences is as follows:
- Vujadin Popovic and Ljubisa Beara were each convicted of genocide, extermination, murder and persecution, and sentenced to life imprisonment
- Drago Nikolic was sentenced to 35 years for aiding and abetting the principals.
- Ljubomir Borovcanin was sentenced to 17 years was convicted of aiding and abetting the principals and also, as a superior, of murder as a crime against humanity and of murder as a violation of the laws and customs of war;
- Radivoje Miletic was sentenced to 19 years for murder, persecution, and forcible transfer;
- Milan Gvero was sentenced to five years for persecution and inhuman acts; and
- Vinko Pandurevic was sentenced to 13 years for abetting murder, persecution, and inhumane acts.
June 9, 2010
Another View on Military Commissions
Some weeks ago we posted about Professor Jordan Paust's article on military commissions, in which he said that military commissions at Guantanamo Bay are unlawful because they are neither “regularly constituted” nor “previously established in accordance with pre-existing laws.” He also said that they are also not constituted within a theater of war or war-related occupied territory and are therefore without lawful jurisdiction and that they violate several treaties. Click here to read that earlier post.
In response to that post, we received a note from Keith A. Petty, Command Legal Adviser, U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps, letting us know that he had written a new article that discusses the military commissions in terms of compliance theory. The article is forthcoming in the Georgetown Journal of International Law, but you can click here to read it now. Here's the abstract:
The decision to prosecute the suspected co-conspirators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in either a federal courtroom or by military tribunal has reached a critical juncture. Central to this debate is whether the military commissions are consistent with domestic and international standards of justice. Utilizing the analytical framework of compliance theory, which seeks to answer why States comply with the rule of law, this article discusses the U.S. reputation for compliance in the context of the revised military commissions.
A common element to several competing theories in the compliance debate is reputation. States are pulled toward compliance with accepted legal standards in part out of concern for reputation among transnational actors. These include governments, multi-national institutions, non-governmental organizations, and legal commentators. I argue that a decidedly negative reputation of the military commissions contributed to recent policies to amend the tribunal process, culminating in the Military Commissions Act of 2009.
A critical analysis of the substantive and procedural aspects of the military commissions reveals that, in spite of a reputation for non-compliance, the process is consistent with applicable legal standards. Nonetheless, as witnessed in this debate, opting out of the transnational and domestic discourse results in diminished interpretive influence when future efforts are made to shape a reputation for compliance.
Captain Petty previously served as a war crimes prosecutor in the Office of Military
Commissions, responsible for prosecuting terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Prior to his military service, Captain Petty was an adjunct assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, where he taught the War Crimes Prosecution Lab with Professor Michael P. Scharf.
Congressional Resolution Introduced for Release of Prof. Peter Erlinder
Professor Erlinder had worked as a defense attorney in cases before the ICTR. Click here for a report on one such case.
Today Representatives Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison introduced H Res 1426 urging the government of the Republic of Rwanda and Rwandan President Paul Kagame to immediately release Professor Erlinder and allow him to return to the United States. The resolution was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Here is a press release about the legislation introduced today;
Washington, DC - On Tuesday, June 8, 2010, Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-04) and Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-05) introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.Res.1426, requesting that the Rwandan government release Peter Erlinder from prison so he may immediately return to the United States. Congresswoman McCollum believes his release is important to ongoing positive U.S.-Rwandan relations.
The legislation has been referred to the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
"This legislation is meant to send a signal to the Rwandan government that the immediate release of Professor Erlinder can prevent this unfortunate incident from escalating into an impasse in relations between our two countries," said Congresswoman McCollum. "My staff and I have made multiple attempts to reach the Rwandan Ambassador with no response yet. Now I will be reaching out to my Congressional colleagues to urge them to send a signal to Rwanda to immediately release Professor Erlinder."
"Professor Erlinder is being held without access to his family and I have serious concerns regarding his basic rights as an American citizen held in Rwanda," said Congressman Ellison. "This resolution calls for Professor Erlinder to be released immediately on humanitarian grounds."
A resident of St. Paul, Minnesota, Professor Erlinder is a human rights attorney and instructor at the William Mitchell College of Law. Last month, he was arrested in Rwanda on charges of denying the 1994 genocide. Initially, he traveled to the country to defend presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire, who was also arrested on suspicion of genocide denial. Professor Erlinder pleaded not guilty, but the court denied him bail.
Since Professor Erlinder's arrest, Congresswoman McCollum and her staff have been working with the State Department, the Rwandan Embassy in Washington, DC, and the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda to ensure Professor Erlinder's safety and eventual release.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office.
Our best wishes to Peter, his family, and colleagues.
Eritrea and Djibouti Agree to Negotiate Border Dispute
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the agreement signed by Eritrea and Djibouti to resolve their two-year border dispute through a negotiated settlement. Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh signed the agreement on Sunday in a deal reached under the auspices of Qatar and its Emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani.
"The Secretary-General is encouraged by this positive development, which he believes will contribute to long-term peace and stability in the Horn of Africa region," he said in a statement issued by his spokesperson in which he also voiced deep appreciation for the Qatari Emir's mediation efforts. "The agreement entrusts Qatar with establishing a mechanism for the resolution of the border dispute and the normalization of relations between the two countries."
The deal ends the dispute that erupted in early 2008 when, following weeks of tensions and military build-up, the two countries' armed forces clashed over an un-demarcated area in the Red Sea known as Doumeira, killing 35 people and leaving dozens of others wounded. In January 2009 the Security Council adopted a resolution demanding that Eritrea pull its forces from the disputed area and cooperate with diplomatic initiatives, and welcoming Djibouti's withdrawal of its forces to its positions before the dispute. A United Nations fact-finding mission sent to the region after the dispute flared was welcomed by Djibouti but blocked by Eritrea, which refused to meet with it or with any envoy of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who had offered to use his good offices to help resolve the issue.
(UN Press Release)
UN Human Rights Expert Thwarted by Cuba
The United Nations independent expert on torture said today he was deeply disappointed that he will not be able to visit Cuba to carry out a fact-finding mission this year because the country’s authorities declined to consent to any of the dates he had proposed for the mission.
“I regret that in spite of its clear invitation, the Government of Cuba has not allowed me to objectively assess the situation of torture and ill-treatment in the country by collecting first-hand evidence from all available sources,” said Manfred Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, whose mandate expires on 30 October.
The Cuban Government issued an invitation to the Special Rapporteur in February 2009 to conduct a fact-finding mission to the country before the end of this year. However, despite several attempts by Mr. Nowak to propose mutually acceptable dates, no agreement was reached with the Government.
His visit would have been the first mission to Cuba by an independent expert mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to specifically monitor torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Mr. Nowak serves in that role in an unpaid capacity.
(UN Press Release)
Police Chief Suspended After Murder of Human Rights Defender in Democratic Republic of Congo
A group of United Nations experts today welcomed the suspension of the chief of the national police of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the arrest of several officers in the investigation into last week’s murder of a prominent human rights defender.
They joined Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other senior UN officials in calling for a prompt and rigorous probe into the killing of Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, whose body was found on the outskirts of the capital, Kinshasa, last Thursday, one day after he was summoned to a police station.
In a statement issued last week, Mr. Ban noted that the Congolese interior ministry has ordered the State security service to investigate the death of Mr. Chebeya, stressing that the probe must be “thorough, transparent and independent, with full respect for due process and rule of law.”
In his role as president of the non-governmental organization (NGO) known as Voix des Sans Voix (Voice of the Voiceless), Mr. Chebeya focused on human rights abuses in the DRC, including corruption in the military and the links between militias and foreign political forces.
He was also the Executive Secretary of the Réseau National des ONG des Droits de l’homme de la République démocratique du Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo National Network of Human Rights NGOs –RENADHOC).
“This killing not only deprives the DRC of one of its most vocal and effective human rights defenders, but also sends a message of intimidation and brutality to the entire DRC human rights community,” the UN experts said in a news release.
They said that any failure to identify and bring the perpetrators to justice “would constitute a huge step backwards.”
The group – comprising Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders – also called for urgent efforts to locate Mr. Chebeya’s driver, Fidèle Bazana, who is still missing.
They called on the DRC to invite independent forensic experts to take part in the investigation, stressing that this would “show clearly and unmistakably the Government’s commitment to solving this terrible crime.”
The three experts also underlined that democracy cannot exist without human rights defenders, including journalists.
“The Government of the DRC has the prime responsibility under international human rights law to ensure the protection of human rights defenders against any violence, threats, retaliation, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a result of their human rights work,” they emphasized.
(UN Press Release)
William Schabas blogs the ICC Review Conference
Along with many of our readers, Professor William Schabas (NUI-Galway) is attending the Review Conference of the International Criminal Court in Kampala, Uganda. He is posting his observations from the Conference, along with great "slice of life" details of the day-in, day-out activities of the attendees.
The Review Conference began on May 31 and will continue to June 11.
You can read Prof. Schabas's blog at http://iccreviewconference.blogspot.com/.
Hat tip to Michael Scharf.