Saturday, August 7, 2010
Effective immediately, the U.S. government is suspending new adoption petitions and related visa issuances for children from Nepal who allegedly were abandoned by their parents. After investigation, the State Department has determined that documents presented to prove the abandonment of children in Nepal are unreliable. According to the State Department's investigation:
"Civil documents, such as the children’s birth certificates often include data that has been changed or fabricated. Investigations of children reported to be found abandoned are routinely hindered by the unavailability of officials named in reports of abandonment. Police and orphanage officials often refuse to cooperate with consular officers’ efforts to confirm information by comparing it with official police and orphanage records. In one case, the birth parents were actively searching for a child who had been matched with an American family for adoption."
The U.S. State Department has therefore concluded that it can no longer reasonably determine whether a child documented as abandoned qualifies as an orphan. Without reliable documentation, the U.S. government cannot process an orphan petition to completion.
The U.S. is not alone in taking this action. It appears that all other countries that had been processing adoption cases from Nepal have stopped accepting new cases due to a lack of confidence that children presented as orphans are actually eligible for intercountry adoption.
The actress and humanitarian activist Mia Farrow is set to give evidence on Monday about blood diamonds that are the current focus of testimony at the ongoing trial of the former Liberian president Charles Taylor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). Judges on that court will hear from Ms. Farrow and agent Carole White following evidence given yesterday by the high-profile British model Naomi Campbell.
Ms. Campbell told the SCSL that she was given a pouch of “very small, dirty-looking stones” by two unidentified men while she was staying at the home of the former South African president Nelson Mandela in 1997.
Mr. Taylor, who is on trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, has long been accused of using blood diamonds to fuel conflict in Sierra Leone while he served as leader of neighbouring Liberia. A blood diamond is a diamond that is mined in a war zone and then sold to finance the activities of an army, insurgency or warlord, and they have been a feature of many African conflicts in the past two decades.
But Mr. Taylor denies the blood diamond allegations and has pleaded not guilty before the SCSL to 11 charges, including pillage, slavery for forced marriage purposes, collective punishment and the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The charges relate to his alleged support for two rebel groups in Sierra Leone – the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council and the Revolutionary United Front.
Ms. Campbell said yesterday that the men did not introduce themselves when they gave her the pouch while she was trying to sleep at the presidential home following a dinner party held by Mr. Mandela. Discussing the matter the next morning at breakfast with Ms. Farrow and Ms. White, Ms. Campbell said she was told the stones were likely to be diamonds and from Mr. Taylor, another guest at the dinner party.
The model said she later gave the stones to a representative of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund because she wanted them to go to charity. She said she was unaware of Mr. Taylor before the dinner party or the term ‘blood diamond.’
The SCSL was set up jointly by the Sierra Leonean Government and the UN in 2002 and is headquartered in Freetown, the capital. It is mandated to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and national law committed on Sierra Leonean territory since the end of November 1996.
(From a UN Press Release)
Friday, August 6, 2010
The International Human Rights Lawyer Award recognized human rights contributions of lawyers around the world. The 2010 award was presented today in San Francisco during the annual meeting of the American Bar Association. It was presented at the Section Council meeting of the ABA Section of International Law.
Penny Wakefield, speaking on behalf of the International Human Rights Law Committee of the ABA Section of International Law, spoke about concern for lawyers and human rights defenders around the world and, in connection with this award, with the People's Republic of China.
Gao Zhisheng was a lawyer working to support the rights of home owners, business owners, and coal workers. He had a difficult childhood and witnessed a great deal of injustice while growing up. When China announced that it would increase the number of lawyers he jumped at the chance to go to school and become a lawyer. He passed the bar exam in 1994 at a time when only 1 in 100 applicants passed the bar. He became a prominent lawyer and in 2001 was named by the Department of Justice as a prominent lawyer. His work started to include defending the rights of home owners, business owners, workers, and eventually even practitioners of Falun Gong. Because of that work, his law license was taken from him in 2005. In 2006, he was charged with subversion and sentenced to house arrest. In 2007, just before the Olympics, he wrote a letter to the US Congress to explain the human rights situation. He was arrested and reportedly tortured for a period of almost 60 days. He told a journalist about that experience and said that the loss of dignity made him feel as if he was nothing but an animal. His family was also arrested and allegedly tortured. His wife and two children were able to escape from China and arrived in the United States last year.
Gao Zhisheng was not present to receive the award -- he is missing. It is not known whether he is in hiding or whether he has disappeared. His teenage daughter accepted the award on his behalf and wrote a short note (which was read in translation) about how happy her father would have been to accept the award and how much she misses him.
ABA Section Chair Glenn Herring told Gao's daughter that he hoped her father would be able to one day hold the award and that he would be reunited with his family. He noted that the ABA Section of International Law had worked on a rule of law letter to urge greater protection for lawyers in China. Gao's daughter received extended applause on behalf of her father.
How sad that a well respected lawyer cannot protect himself from the kinds of abuses inflicted here. Gao was persecuted for defending clients, the essential work of attorneys around the world. The International Human Rights Lawyer Award given today raises awareness of his case and of the plight of international human rights lawyers around the world.
The American Bar Association Section of International Law has just presented the Mayre Rasmusen Award for the Advancement of Women in International Law to Professor Diane Marie Amann of the University of California at Davis. She was recognized for advancing opportunities for women in international law, including creating the Intlawgrrls Blog. Professor Amann is also the immediate past chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on International Law. The award was presented today at the Council Meeting of the ABA Section of International Law.
Here is an update of international law activities from the ABA Governmental Affairs Office
S 3665 (Lugar, R-IN), to promote the strengthening of the private sector in Pakistan; to Foreign Relations. S6519, CR 7/29/10.
S 3666 (Cardin, D-MD), to authorize certain Department of State personnel, who are responsible for examining and processing united states passport applications, to be able to access certain federal, state and other databases, in order to identify the identity of a passport applicant and to reduce the incidence of fraud; to the Judiciary. S6520, CR 7/29/10.
HR 5971 (Payne, D-NJ), to facilitate lasting peace, rule of law, democracy, and economic recovery in Zimbabwe; to Foreign Affairs. H6404, CR 7/29/10.
H Res 1572 (Smith, R-NJ), to condemn and deplore the violence, threats, fines, and harassment faced by the villagers of Con Dau, Da Nang, for seeking to protect their land, the historic cemetery, and other parish properties, and to receive an equitable resolution of their property dispute, and for other purposes; to Foreign Affairs. H6405, CR 7/29/10.
H Res 1588 (Capuano, D-MA), to express the sense of the House of Representatives on the importance of the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to help ensure peace and stability in Sudan during and after mandated referenda; to Foreign Affairs. H6572, CR 7/30/10.
H Res 1596 (Lungren, R-CA), to condemn al Shabaab for its practice of child conscription on the Horn of Africa; to Foreign Affairs. H6572, CR 7/30/10.
H Res 1599 (McCarthy, D-NY), to reaffirm support for Israel as a longtime friend, ally and strategic partner of the United States and Israel’s right to defend itself; to Foreign Affairs. H6572, CR 7/30/10.
H Res 1601 (Pallone, D-NJ), to recognize that the religious freedom and human rights violations of Kashmiri Pandits has been ongoing since 1989; to Foreign Affairs. H6572, CR 7/30/10.
On 8/02/10, the Senate passed S. Res 604, urging the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to immediately and unconditionally release Sarah Shourd, Joshua Fattal, and Shane Bauer on humanitarian grounds.
On 7/29/10 the president continued for one year Executive Order 13441, issued on 8/01/07, which declared a national emergency with respect to the actions of certain persons to undermine the sovereignty of Lebanon on its democratic processes and institutions and certain other persons, pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. FR 45045.
On 7/27/10, the president signed HJ Res 83 (PL 111-210), approving the renewal of import restrictions contained in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003.
The U.S. State Department released its country reports on terrorism for 2009 yesterday. Not surprisingly, much of the focus was on al-Qa'ida. The U.S. intelligence community assessed that al-Qa’ida and its affiliates, particularly al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), continue to be actively engaged in operational plotting against the United States. Al-Qa’ida in Pakistan remain the biggest terrorist security threat to the U.S. homeland.
The U.S. government also determined that al-Qa’ida suffered several significant setbacks in 2009 due to Pakistani military operations aimed at eliminating militant strongholds, leadership losses, and increased difficulty in raising money, training recruits, and planning attacks outside of the region. In addition, more imams, clerics, and former militants are speaking out against al-Qa’ida.
The report also concludes that "Iran continued its financial, material, and logistical support for Hizballah, HAMAS, and other terrorist and militant groups throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. Syria also continued to provide safe-haven as well as political and other support to HAMAS, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, and a number of other designated Palestinian terrorist groups."
The United States is working to combat terrorism by promoting effective civilian law enforcement, good governance, and the rule of law in states where terrorists operate. According to the State Department, "A major focus of this work involves effectively building capacity and making counterterrorism training for police, prosecutors, border officials, and members of the judiciary more systematic, more innovative, and far reaching. Dozens of countries have passed counterterrorism legislation or strengthened existing laws that provide their law enforcement and judicial authorities with tools to bring terrorists to justice."
Overall, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) estimates that there were 11,000 terrorist attacks in 83 countries in 2009, resulting in more than 15,700 deaths, which represents a 6% decrease in attacks and a 5% decrease in deaths from the previous year.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
The economic empowerment of the world’s poorest people will not happen unless their human rights are also considered, a senior United Nations official said today, urging governments around the world not to separate development and basic rights when devising policy.
Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned that “the interrelation between freedom from want and freedom from fear” must be central to the discussions of world leaders on how to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by their target date of 2015.
In an op-ed column that was published in Nepal’s Republica and other newspapers, Ms. Pillay noted that poverty remains stubbornly high in too many regions of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia. “We cannot afford to keep disappointing the hopes of those who live at the margins of their own societies – let alone the global community,” she wrote. “Their disenfranchisement may carry a higher cost than investing resources and political will in their empowerment.” For too long, Ms. Pillay said, economic development and human rights have been considered by governments as separate issues to be tackled separately, with development treated as the overriding concern. A human rights approach to development is essential, the High Commissioner emphasized, as “it puts people in control of their own lives.”
(from a UN Press Release)
The United Nations is urging Iraq’s political leaders to work together to form a new government, which is still pending five months after parliamentary elections were held, warning that further delays could impact negatively on the country’s stability, democratic transition and development.
“I am concerned that continued delays in the government formation process are contributing to a growing sense of uncertainty in the country,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in his latest report to the Security Council.
“Not only does this risk undermining confidence in the political process, but elements opposed to Iraq’s democratic transition may try to exploit the situation,” he adds.
In early June Iraq’s highest court certified the results of the parliamentary elections held in March, in which the party headed by Iyad Allawi, a former prime minister, received more votes than the coalition led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in the 325-member Council of Representatives.
At least 12 million people cast their votes in the March polls, in which more than 6,000 candidates took part.
Mr. Ban urges all political bloc leaders to work together through an inclusive and broadly participatory process to end the present impasse. “I firmly believe that this will contribute to the country’s stability and the prospects for national reconciliation.”
Echoing the Secretary-General’s comments, his Special Representative for Iraq, Ad Melkert, said today that the process of forming a new government represents “a real test” for the country’s transition to democracy and the commitment of Iraqi leaders to adhere to the constitution.
He told a meeting of the 15-member Security Council that while continuing disagreement over who has the right to form the next government and the appointment to key posts persists, there have been some encouraging signs, such as the agreement by the main political blocs on the need for a ‘partnership government’ and the discussion of possible power-sharing arrangements.
“I believe that at this stage, government formation could benefit from the adherence to a specific timeframe as well as a collective process through which a resolution could be reached.”
Mr. Melkert, who is head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, added that a common understanding seems to have evolved last week among all political blocs over whether indeed the stage of a ‘caretaker’ government has been reached.
“While this is an issue for Iraqis to decide upon themselves, the concern is that a prolonged delay can impact on the day-to-day business of government and could affect all walks of Iraqi life,” he stated, reiterating the Secretary-General’s call for Iraqi leaders to show “a higher sense of urgency” and work together to forge an agreement through an inclusive process.
Mr. Ban noted in his report that once the government formation process has been completed, it is imperative that the new government, together with the Council of Representatives and other stakeholders, make national reconciliation a priority and begin to address the many outstanding political and constitutional challenges facing the country.
These include Arab-Kurdish relations as they relate to disputed areas, revenue-sharing, the constitutional review process, and the strengthening of institutions of governance and the rule of law.
He also voiced concern about the number of recent security incidents throughout Iraq, mainly in the north of the country and in the capital, Baghdad, including attacks against newly elected members of parliament and religious pilgrims.
(From a UN Press Release)
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has scheduled public hearings regarding the Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Georgia v. Russian Federation) for Monday Sept. 13 to Friday Sept. 17, 2010. This case was filed by Georgia in 2008 in the wake of violent conflict with Russia that August. Georgia alleged that Russia had engaged in widespread and systematic discrimination against ethnic Georgians both before and during the conflict in violation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), to which both States belong. The September 2010 hearing will concern only Russia's preliminary objections to jurisdiction. Russia claims that the matter does not involve racial discrimination, but instead the case is about the use of force, humanitarian law and territorial integrity. Thus, according to Russia, jurisdiction is not properly founded on the CERD and there is no other basis upon which the ICJ may rest jurisdiction.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the peaceful staging of a referendum in Zanzibar, saying it will help with long-term reconciliation efforts in the semi-autonomous Tanzanian islands. Two thirds of voters in Zanzibar cast their ballots over the weekend in favour of a unity government, according to media reports.
(from a UN Press Release)
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Are you going to San Francisco for the annual meeting of the American Bar Association? Click here for the International Law Section's calendar of events.
Hat tip to Jonathan Meyer.
The United Nations mission in Nepal today expressed deep concern at reports that both the national army and the Maoist army plan to begin recruiting new people, which would constitute a violation of the 2006 peace pact that ended the country’s decade-long civil war. Fresh recruitment by either party would also violate the arms agreement signed by the two parties, said the mission, known as UNMIN, which was set up to support Nepal’s peace process and whose tasks include monitoring the management of arms and armed personnel of both the Maoists and the Nepal Army, as well as in assisting in monitoring ceasefire arrangements. “UNMIN’s position remains that any recruitment by either the Nepal Army or the Maoist army constitutes a breach of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Agreement on the Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies (AMMAA),” according to a mission press statement.
(adapted from a UN Press Release)
Reversing position, Israel announced yesterday that it will cooperate with a United Nations panel appointed to investigate the May 2010 raid by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on a group of ships carrying humanitarian aid that attempted to run the sea blockade of Gaza. That raid turned deadly when the IDF encountered resistance by some of the activists aboard the ships. Binyamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, is quoted in the Washington Post today as saying: "Israel has nothing to hide. The opposite is true. It is in the national interest of the state of Israel to ensure that the factual truth of the overall flotilla events comes to light throughout the world." Israel is reportedly hoping that its cooperation will repair its relations with Turkey, an important ally in the Middle East.
In related news, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon also announced on Monday the members of the investigative panel. The panel will include former New Zealand premier Geoffrey Palmer and outgoing Columbian President Alvaro Uribe, in addition to two other members, one to be appointed by Israel and one to be appointed by Turkey.
Monday, August 2, 2010
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced on Friday that the United States intends to initiate dispute settlement proceedings against Guatemala under the Dominican Republic-Central American-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). This will be the first labor case the United States has ever filed under a free trade agreement. USTR Kirk stated in a press release:
"We want to see the Government of Guatemala take specific and effective action – including, if appropriate, legislative reforms – to improve the systemic failures in enforcement of Guatemalan labor law . . . In addition, the issue of labor-related violence is a matter of serious concern to the United States. Our request for consultations also expresses our grave concerns about this problem and indicates that we intend to take this issue up with the Government of Guatemala in the near future."
Under Article 16.2 of CAFTA-DR, each party promises to effectively enforce its labor laws. The United States alleges that Guatemala has violated Article 16.2.1(a) by failing to effectively enforce Guatemalan labor laws relating to the right of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, and acceptable conditions of work. The United States government also has expressed concerns about the response of the Government of Guatemala to the use and threats of violence against persons and organizations who attempt to exercise their labor rights. The United States claims that the failure to enforce labor laws in Guatemala creates an unfair playing field that harms U.S. workers.
The parties will now enter a 60-day consultation period. If they are unable to resolve the matter during that time, the United States, as the complaining Party, may request a meeting of the Agreement’s Free Trade Commission, the ministerial level body that supervises the implementation of the Agreement. If the Parties do not resolve the matter through ministerial consultations within 30 days, the United States may request the establishment of a Chapter 20 dispute settlement panel to consider the matter.
The Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS) is holding its annual conference this year in Palm Beach, Florida. I am happy to see so much internaitonal content this year. Professors have come here from Canada, Germany, and Ireland for example. There are fantastic roundtable discussions to compare U.S. and Canadian law as well. I enjoyed those discussions and hope that the program format is continued in coming years.
A panel held yesterday on “International Business Law Regulatory Structures” considered U.S. compliance with foreign governing bodies in the context of international business transactions and litigation. Professor Juliet Moringiello (Widener University School of Law) moderated the panel.
Professor William B.T. Mock, Jr. (The John Marshall Law School) described some important recent international developments in the financial markets, including the creation of the East African Community, the regional intergovernmental organization of the Republics of Kenya, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Republic of Rwanda, and Republic of Burundi. The organization has its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania and came into being on July 1, 2010. He noted a trend in creating other new financial markets and in the mergers of larger markets. He noted potential conflicts and confusion from having different government entities supervise these markets and suggested to the professors in the audience that there was a need for further scholarship to discuss conflicts and ethical issues arising over the past decade.
Professor Lawton Posey Cummings (The George Washington University Law School) spoke on recent developments in anti-money laundering regulation, including concerns over the financing of terrorism. She noted that the United States has encouraged other countries to expand statutes and enforcement efforts against money laundering. She described increased need for lawyers to understand financial record-keeping responsibilities, to report suspicious activity to appropriate authorities, and to understand how foreign laws might affect law firms with offices in different countries. She described her ongoing empirical research on money laundering cases in the Second and Eleventh Circuits.
Professor Lydie Nadia Cabrera Pierre-Louis (Florida International University College of Law) described recent developments in the World Trade Organization (WTO), the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), and the Dispute Settlement Mechanism within the WTO. She believed that further study of these developments could provide new mechanisms to regulate international financial and investment markets.
Professor William H. Henning (University of Alabama School of Law) spoke on the subject of his forthcoming article, The Uniform Law Commission and Cooperative Federalism: Implementing Private International Law Conventions through Uniform State Laws. He suggested that we have entered a new era in terms of our global relations and that there is a need to strike a new balance between international conventions and state law. He described specific examples in the private international law field such as the Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance. The United States was the first country to sign that convention after the Hague Conference on Private International Law adopted it on November 23, 2007. He noted that this federal treaty would be entirely implemented by states through the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (“UIFSA”). He also discussed the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements, a treaty adopted in 2005 and signed by the United States on January 19, 2009. He described federal ratification of the treaty and a strategy to implement its provisions in the states. The convention applies to international business-to-business transactions in which the parties make an exclusive choice of court (or the courts of a particular country) to resolve their disputes.
That's your SEALS update for today!