July 16, 2010
Supporting the Professional Freedom of Lawyers and Human Rights Defenders in Nepal
The United Nations human rights representative in Nepal today underscored the importance of respecting the professional freedoms of lawyers and human rights defenders in a meeting with Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as Prachanda.
Richard Bennett, who heads the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal), expressed his concern to the chair of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) over reports that some lawyers and rights defenders have been castigated by Maoists, both directly and indirectly, for their work.
He also repeated his Office’s strong message that the Maoists must honour their commitments under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which was signed in 2006 and ended a decade-long civil war that claimed some 13,000 lives in the South Asian nation.
In particular, Mr. Bennett called on the Maoists to fully cooperate with Nepal’s justice system and not to protect its members as it has done in the case of the killing of Ram Hari Shrestha, a local businessman murdered by members of the Maoist army earlier this year.
Other instances include the bombing of a bus in Madi, in the Chitwan district, which killed nearly 40 people and for which the UCPN-M claimed responsibility. To date, none of the five cadres identified as being behind the incident have been detained or investigated.
“The UCPN-M must demonstrate, in a practical sense, that it respects the rule of law and keeps its commitments to put an end to impunity, bringing those responsible for abuses to justice,” Mr. Bennett said after his meeting with the party’s leader.
“While any individual or party is entitled to voice their disagreement, this should not be expressed in a way that is perceived as threatening against individuals who work to provide a remedy and justice to the victims of human rights or international humanitarian law violations in Nepal,” according to a press release issued by OHCHR-Nepal.
The Office also underscored the importance of being able to carry out its work without fear of hindrance and with confidence that the rule of law will be respected.
(from a UN Press Release)
More Friday Fun: How to Open a Bottle of Wine With a Shoe
OK, so say you have a corked bottle of wine but no corkscrew. What can you do? This video (sent to me by my mother!) shows you how you can use your shoe to open that bottle. Well, your shoe and a wall. Thanks, mom!
So here's a link to that video in French, but if you don't speak French you can just watch it without understanding the commentary. Click here to watch.
Here's a different video (in English). The guy in this video has to hit the bottle a lot more than in the French video, but that is probably just related to having more experience in France with this kind of thing. Enjoy!
Hat tip to . . . my mother!
July 15, 2010
ICC Orders Release of Congolese Warlord (in Five Days, so Prosecutors Can Appeal)
After suspending the case against a Congolese warlord on trial for allegedly enlisting child soldiers, the International Criminal Court (ICC) today ordered his release.
Last week, the ICC’s trial chamber suspended proceedings against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, founder and leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots in the Ituri region of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), saying that prosecutors have refused orders to disclose information to his defence.
Mr. Lubanga faces two counts of war crimes: conscripting and enlisting child soldiers into the military wing of his group and then using them to participate in hostilities between September 2002 and August 2003. His trial began at The Hague-based ICC last January. The trial chamber ordered to stay the proceedings last week, “considering that the fair trial of the accused is no longer possible due to non-implementation of the Chamber’s orders by the Prosecution.”
The ICC judges said today that defendants cannot be held in preventative custody on a speculative basis, namely that the proceedings may resume at some point in the future. But the order will not be implemented for five days, giving the prosecution time to appeal.
The ICC is a permanent court and tries people accused of the most serious international offences, such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Other than the DRC, the ICC currently has investigations open in four situations: the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur, northern Uganda, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Kenya.
(from a UN Press Release)
Argentine Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage; President Will Sign the Legislation
Early this morning the Argentine Senate voted to approve legislation to allow same-sex marriage in Argentina. The vote in the Senate at 4:05 a.m. today was 33-27 with 3 abstentions. The President had pushed strongly for the bill and is eager to sign it. Click here to see the President's comments on the legislation (video in Spanish with English subtitles).
The national debate in Argentina was vigorous. Click here to see two television ads produced in support of the legislation for a taste of that debate. And even here on this blog, commentators on our posts argued that Argentina did not have to approve the legislation because of a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that held that there was no fundamental right of same-sex partners to marry.
Catholic Argentina thus becomes the first nation in Latin America to allow same-sex marriage. (Mexico has allowed same-sex marriage but only in some states and in Mexico City, not the entire country.) Click here for a post on Rex Wockner's Blog further analyzing the legislation.
When the President of Argentina signs the bill, same-sex marriage will be legal in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Mexico City, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C. Same-sex marriages are also recognized during the short period when they were lawful in California.
U.S. Hearings on a New Financial Package for the Republic of Palau
The United States House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environmentwill conduct their first hearing on July 29 on the proposed financial package for the Republic of Palau in the next 15 years under the Compact of Free Association.
The Republic of Palau became an independent country on October 1, 1994, in free association with the United States. When Palau became an independent country, it was the last remaining trust territory administered by the United Nations.
Palauan President Johnson Toribiong reportedly said that American Samoa Congressman Eni F.H. Faleomavaega has informed the Palau government of the first scheduled budget hearing on July 29, 2010. Congressman Faleomavaega is the Chair of that subcommittee. To see a full list of subcommittee members, click here.
President Toribiong said that the Palaun government would send representatives to attend the hearing. Attending the hearing from the Palau team would be Haruo Wilter, Polycarp Basilius, George Ngiraklsong, and consultants Jeffrey Farrow and Kevin O’ Keefe. Although those representatives would not be scheduled to testify at the hearing, the Palau Horizon Newspaper says that their attendance is seen as an opportunity to lobby for support to the proposed Compact aid.
Frankie Reed, Deputy Assistant of the U.S. Secretary of State, will be scheduled to testify during the first hearing.
The Republic of Palau has reportedly accepted a US$250 million financial package in January for the next 15 years, but a formal signing of the agreement is still pending due to "minor kinks that need to be ironed out between the two parties," according to the Palau Horizon Newspaper.
Hat tip to the East-West Center
UN Report on HIV/AIDS
A new United Nations report says that a radically simplified approach to ensuring access to HIV treatment for everyone who needs it could prevent 10 million deaths by 2025 and 1 million new infections annually. The so-called Treatment 2.0, says the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), could lower the cost of treatment, simplify treatment regimens, ease the burden on health systems, and improve the quality of life for people living with HIV and their families.
“We can bring down costs so investments can reach more people,” Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, said at the report’s launch in Geneva today. “This means doing things better – knowing what to do, channelling resources in the right direction and not wasting them, bringing down prices and containing costs. We must do more with less.” The agency estimates that there were 33.4 million people living with HIV worldwide at the end of 2008, as well as nearly 2.7 million new infections and 2 million AIDS-related deaths. It adds that only one third of the world’s 15 million people in need of HIV treatment are accessing life-saving medicines.
For the new plan to succeed, the agency’s Outlook report calls for action to be taken across five key areas. First, it calls for the creation of a better pill that is less toxic and for a simple diagnostic tool to monitor treatment. Second, evidence suggests that people living with HIV who have reduced the level of virus in their bodies, through antiretroviral therapy, are less likely to transmit it. As a result, UNAIDS says that if everyone in need has access to treatment, this could reduce the number of new HIV infections by one third annually. Third, the report also urges slashing the cost of antiretroviral treatment, especially for hospitalization and monitoring treatment, which can cost twice as much as drugs. Fourth, UNAIDS stresses the need to improve voluntary HIV testing and counselling, since starting treatment at the right time, optimally when their CD4 count – a measure of immune system strength – is around 350, boosts the efficacy of treatment and increases life expectancy. And finally, Treatment 2.0 will be fully successful if communities are mobilized and involved in managing treatment programmes and access.
The report also shows that young people are leading the prevention revolution, with 15 of the most severely affected countries reporting a 25 per cent drop in HIV prevalence among this key population.
In eight countries – Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe – significant HIV prevalence declines have been accompanied by positive changes in sexual behaviour among young people.
Mr. Sidibé cautioned that flatlining or reductions in investments in HIV will only hurt the AIDS response, with nearly $27 billion required this year to meet country-set targets for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
Also included in the report released today are the results of a public opinion poll that shows that nearly three decades into the epidemic, countries continue to rank AIDS high on the list of the most important challenges the world faces. Overall in the survey, AIDS is perceived to be the top healthcare issue in the world, followed by safe drinking water.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
July 14, 2010
ICJ to Issue Advisory Opinion on Kosovo Next Week
The International Court of Justice announced that on Thursday, July 22, 2010, it will deliver its Advisory Opinion on the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo. A public sitting will be held at 3:00 p.m. at the Peace Palace in The Hague, during which the President of the ICJ,Judge Hisashi Owada, will read out the Advisory Opinion.
H Res 1510 was introduced by Representative Gohmert of Texas (R-TX) to consider prohibit U.S. assistance to foreign countries that oppose the position of the United States in the United Nations. This appears to be a misguided and ill-informed resolution for an election year. The resolution was referred to the Rules Committee (where it will hopefully die). Cong. Rec. H5546 (July 13, 2010).
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office.
House Resolution Introduced to Commend Google for Free Speech Advocacy
H Res 1512 was introduced by Representative McCarthy (D-NY) To commend Google Inc. and other companies for advocating for an uncensored Internet, adhering to free speech principles, and keeping the Internet open for users worldwide. The resolution was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Cong. Rec. H5546 (July 13, 2010).
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office (and to Google!)
Argentina Debates Same-Sex Marriage Today
As you know from other posts on this blog today and yesterday, the same-sex marriage debate is in full swing in Argentina. A bill to allow same-sex marriaige already has passed the lower house, and the President of Argentina supports it and would sign it into law. Argentina would become the first Latin
American nation with same-sex marriage nationwide. Same-sex couples can marry in parts of Mexico (Mexico City) but not throughout the entire country.
The president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, spoke eloquently in favor of the proposed legislation. Her comments here are subtitled in English.
Hat tip to Rex Wockner
RIGHT NOW -- LIVE! Historic Debate in Argentine Congress on Same-Sex Marriage Bill
Hat tip to Rex Wockner
UN Human Rights Chief Expresses Concern Over Defamation Proceedings Against Opposition Candidate in Cambodia
United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay has voiced serious concern about the defamation proceedings against an opposition politician in Cambodia, saying they highlight an “alarming” erosion of fundamental freedoms in the South-East Asian nation.
Mu Sochua – who is a serving member of the Cambodian Parliament, a former women’s affairs minister and a prominent women’s rights defender – was convicted last August for defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen when she announced in April that she would sue him for derogatory comments he made about her. The Prime Minister’s comments included a reference to the unbuttoning of Mu Sochua’s blouse and another reference of a sexual nature that led her to bring a defamation case against him.
Her case against the Prime Minister was dismissed, her parliamentary immunity lifted and she was then found guilty of defamation. Her conviction was upheld by the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court, despite the fact that no evidence proving either damage to reputation or malicious intent was presented during the case. The court imposed a fine on Mu Sochua and awarded damages to the Prime Minister. She has until 16 July to pay the fine, which she has refused to do.
“We believe this highly politicized case appears to show an alarming erosion of both freedom of expression and the independence of the judiciary in Cambodia,” Rupert Colville of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) told reporters in Geneva. “Mu Sochua now stood on the verge of imprisonment for merely exercising her legal right to express her view that she was defamed and her intention to seek a legal remedy,” he noted. “The criminal justice system was the bedrock of human rights protection. However, in this case it had become a blunt instrument to silence freedom of expression.”
OHCHR believes the use of offensive language towards women in the Prime Minister’s statement deserved a response from the courts, Mr. Colville added.
(From a UN Press Release)
Temporary Protected Status Extended for Haitians in U.S.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced the extension of the temporary protected status (TPS) designated to Haiti by the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security back in January.
TPS has been extended for 180 days, with a new filing deadline of January 18, 2011.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office.
July 13, 2010
Steven C. Krane
With great sadness and regret, the American Bar Association Section of International Law announced the death of Steven C. Krane, 53, of New York. He was a partner at Proskauer Rose LLP, concentrating his practice in representing lawyers and law firms in legal ethics and professional liability matters. He co-chaired the firm's Law Firm Practice Group and served as general counsel for the 700-lawyer firm. He previously served as a law clerk to Hon. Judith S. Kaye, retired Chief Judge of the State of New York, from 1984 to 1985. Within the ABA Section of International Law, Steven served as Co-Chair of the Section's Task Force on Outsourcing. He was also the youngest person to be elected as president of the New York State Bar Association.
We extend our condolences to his family, friends, and co-workers.
The European Volcanic Ash Crisis: Between International and European Lawarticles by legal experts on timely issues dealing with international law. You can find past Insights on a variety of topics by clicking here.
The latest contribution to the series is on The European Volcanic Ash Crisis: Between International and European Law. Click here to read it.
Hat tip to Sheila Ward, Director of Communications and Member Relations at the American Society of International Law
International Health Law
The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University Law Center invites you to follow them on Facebook and Twitter. The O’Neill Institute regularly publishes engaging scholarship and holds interesting events related to current issues in national and global health law and policy.
You can also visit the Institute's website by clicking here.
Draft Italian Law on Surveillance Can Threaten Journalists and the Freedom of Expression
An Italian draft law on surveillance and eavesdropping for criminal investigations could jeopardize the work of journalists and threaten their freedom of expression, a United Nations independent human rights expert said today, calling for the abolition or revision of the bill. According to the current draft, anyone not accredited as a professional journalist can be imprisoned for up to four years for recording any communication or conversation without the consent of the person involved and for publicizing that information.
“Such a severe penalty will seriously undermine all individuals’ right to seek and impart information in contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR] to which Italy is a party,” said Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression. He also voiced concern over a new penalty for journalists and publishers who publicize the contents of leaked wiretapped materials before the start of a trial, an offense that can result in up to 30 days in jail, as well as a fine of up to €10,000 for journalists and €450,000 for publishers. “Such punishment,” the expert said, “is disproportionate to the offence.”
He cautioned that “these provisions may hamper the work of journalists to undertake investigative journalism on matters of public interest, such as corruption, given the excessive length of judicial proceedings in Italy, as highlighted repeatedly by the Council of Europe.”
On 9 July, journalists and ordinary citizens carried out protests against the draft law across Italy, and Mr. La Rue recommended that the Government “refrain” from adopting it in its current form and to “engage in meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders, in particular journalists and media organizations, to ensure that their concerns are taken into account.”
The expert, who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council and serves in an unpaid and independent capacity, said he looks forward to discussing a possible fact-finding mission to Italy next year with the country’s authorities.
(From a UN Press Release)
Same-Sex Marriage in Argentina
The global debate on same-sex marriage continues. Here we share with you two recent advertisements from Argentina. Both advertisements are quite well done and have stimulated a great deal of commentary and discussion.
These ads are in support of Argentina's marriage equality bill, which will be debated on the floor of the Senate tomorrow, July 14, 2010. (Both ads are in Spanish but have subtitles in English.)
The first ad gives an historical overview of family law in Argentina and relates that history to the current debate on same-sex marriage. It provides interesting insights as well as to the relationships between, society, the courts, and the legislature in Argentina.
The second ad aims directly for your heart:
Hat tip to Rex Wockner
University of Cincinnati School of Law
The University of Cincinnati College of Law invites applications from entry-level and lateral candidates for as many as two tenure-track or tenured faculty positions in a broad number of areas, including agency/partnership/unincorporated business associations, civil procedure, commercial law, corporations, criminal law, criminal procedure, employment and labor law, evidence, immigration, international law, property, torts, and wills and trusts. They also seek applications for visiting faculty positions in those areas. Applicants should have a distinguished academic background and either great promise or a record of excellence in both scholarship and teaching. The
Holocaust Museum Website
The website for the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. has a new introduction to the crime of genocide. Click here to see the new page. The website has many links with additional resources for scholars and other researchers. Click here to see the International Law Page on Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity.
Hat tips to Laura Alami and the Holocaust Museum for providing these resources.