Friday, August 20, 2010

US Judge Dismisses Piracy Claims Against Six Somalis

The U.S. government tried to stretch the definition of piracy a bit too far, according to a U.S. District Court Judge in Virginia.  The judge dismissed piracy counts against six Somali men who were arrested in the Gulf of Aden after an attack on the U.S.S. Ashland in April.  The Somali men fired upon the U.S. ship, but never attempted to board the ship.  The Ashland fired back, setting the smaller vessel on fire.  The crew of the Ashland then rescued the Somali men and placed them under arrest.  The judge held that piracy as defined by the law of nations traditionally means robbery at sea.  See U.S. v. Smith, 18 U.S. 153 (1820). Because the Somalis never left their ship and never attempted to steal anything from the Ashland, the judge rejected the government's attempts to charge them with piracy.  The defendants still face several charges under other federal statutes including attack to plunder a vessel, acts of violence against persons on a vessel, and assault with deadly weapons. The case is United States v. Mohamed Ali Said, (U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virgina, Aug. 17, 2010).


August 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Three Grounds of Appeal for the Duch Verdict from the Cambodia Tribunal

Cambodia Tribunal As reported earlier, the Co-Prosecutors for the Extraordinary Courts of the Chambers of Cambodia (ECCC) have filed an appeal of the Trial Chamber's judgment against Kaing Guek Eav (also known as "Duch").  This post sets out the three grounds of appeal in the co-prosecutors' notice of appeal.

The ECCC Trial Chamber issued its judgment on July 26, 2010, sentencing Kaing Guek Eav to 35 years imprisonment, but giving him credit for 11 years already served and a further reduction of five years because he had been illegally held without charges for nine of the 11 years served.  The co-prosecutors now appeal on three grounds.

First, the Co-Prosecutors claim that the Trial Chamber gave insufficient weight to the gravity of the crimes, his role and willing participation in those crimes, and other aggravating circumstances.  The Co-Prosecutors also said that the Trial Chamber gave undue weight to mitigating circumstances.  The Co-Prosecutors also stated that the sentence failed to consider the relevant international sentencing law and that the sentence imposed fell outside the range of sentences available.

Second, the Co-Prosecutors claim that the Trial Chamber erred in not issuing cumulative sentences for the crimes against humanity of enslavement, imprisonment, torture, rape, extermination, and other inhumane acts, and by subsuming those crimes in the crime against humanity of persecution on political grounds.  The Co-Prosecutors also stated that the Trial Chamber erred by characterizing the crime against humanity of rape as torture, and by failing to convict him cumulatively for the distinct crimes against humanity of rape and torture.

Third, the Co-Prosecutors claim that the Trial Chamber erred in using a definition of the crime against humanity of enslavement that required forced labor as an essential element.  They claim that the Trial Court erred in not sentencing Duch for the enslavement of persons who were not subjected to forced labor in the S-21 prison.

Click here to read the notice of appeal.


August 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cambodia Tribunal is Distributing Copies and Summaries of the "Duch" Verdict

Cambodia Tribunal On August 5, 2010 the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) started to produce 5,000 printed copies of the entire Duch verdict and 17,000 copies of the judgment summary in Khmer language. The publications are to be distributed to the public free of charge.

The ECCC Trial Chamber issued its verdict on July 26, 2010. It found that Kaing Guek Eav—also known as “Duch”—was responsible for the torture and murders of more than 12,000 men, women, and children during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. Duch had been the commandant of the S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, from which only a handful of persons survived. The ECCC Trial Chamber found him guilty of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. The Trial Chamber sentenced him to 35 years’ imprisonment but granted him credit for approximately 11 years already spent in custody. It also granted a further reduction of five years because the Cambodian Military Court had held him in detention without trial for nine of the years he had spent in custody.

Mr. REACH Sambath, the Head of the Public Affairs Section of the ECCC, told reporters that the ECCC would be distributing these printed versions of the judgment to 24 provinces/municipalities, 188 districts, 1,621 communes, ministries, institutions, universities, high schools, libraries, NGOs, Civil Parties, and the general public for the purpose of additional studies and better understanding of Case File 001 in which charges have been brought against KAING Guek Eav, alias Duch. 

5,000 copies of the 450-page judgment and 17,000 copies of a 36-page summary version have been printed. This summary judgment was read out by His Excellency NIL Non, the President of the Trial Chamber, on 26 July 2010, subsequent to the 77 days of trial proceedings which were conducted on 30 March through 27 November 2009.

Mr. REACH Sambath stated, “We do this to answer to the emergent needs of the students and civil servants who have called the court and requested that the documents be printed out for public use and for the interests of their future educational research references.”

“We wish to make sure that they clearly understand the genuine importance of Duch’s trials and that they should not get carried away because of their thinking too much to merely the number of years Duch shall be imprisoned,” continued Mr. Sambath, “instead, they should envisage the long-term benefit of this judgment.”   He noted that a number of countries including the United States of America, Japan, France, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the European Community had expressed their support for the Duch verdict.  “This support is actually of vital importance due to the fact that now Cambodia is in the process of a speedy integration into the international community,” added Mr. Sambath.

These publications will become the historic documents of great value for lawyers, law students and professors to further their appreciation of the judicial proceedings, of this court in particular. Mr. REACH Sambath also pointed out that these books are the proof of the ECCC’s first Cambodia and the world historic achievement. It is an historic judgment for the younger generation to study the history of Cambodia. Above all else, the printed copies of the judgment will be of great interests to a wide range of young readers who are born after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime. Among other existing reference documents, these documents can be referred to as additionally important resources with regard to the history of the Khmer Rouge.

Mr. ING Vanthorn, the Director of the Areyathor Printing House, who was very busy with the work of producing the printed copies of Duch’s verdict so that they would be done in a timely fashion, said that he was pleased to be offered the task of producing the printed copies of Duch’s judgment. “As a victim of the Khmer Rouge regime, I feel happy to be part of this process,” said Mr. Vanthorn, “my Printing House offers a lower price for producing these printed copies for I am convinced that the distribution of these documents to Cambodians is of vital importance.”

The  ECCC is distributing these copies to targeted areas all across Cambodia. Members of the public can get a printed copy of the judgment they can contact the ECCC’s Public Affairs Section officers: Mr. DIM Sovannarom  or Mr. CHIN Hem Vicheth, or by sending an email to pas [at]  The verdict can also be downloaded from the ECCC website under “Court Documents”.   You can also click here to download a copy of the verdict.

The Co-Prosecutors have filed an appeal of the judgment.  Click here to read more about the grounds of that appeal.

(Adapted from ECCC Press Releases)


August 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

St. Lucia Ratifies Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court

Fresh on the heals of a ratification by the island nation of Seychelles, the Caribbean island nation ofSt. Lucia Saint Lucia has become the 113th nation to ratify the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court. 

The Court welcomed Saint Lucia’s decision, calling it “a new sign of the international community’s commitment to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes that deeply shock the conscience of humanity.”  The Statute will enter into force on 1 November for Saint Lucia, whose move comes just over a week after Seychelles ratified the pact.  

Click here for more information on St. Lucia.


August 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Job Openings in Thailand

Country Director – Asylum Access Thailand

Asylum Access, a US-based international refugee rights organization, is seeking a dynamic leader to serve as Country Director of Asylum Access-Thailand, operated by Asylum Access in collaboration with the Human Rights Development Foundation (HRDF).

Asylum Access-Thailand uses legal aid and policy advocacy to promote refugee rights in Thailand in accordance with international law. The Country Director will be the lead representative of Asylum Access in Thailand, and will be responsible for managing programs and operations, setting overall strategic direction in accordance with Asylum Access’s global policies, and developing new initiatives to promote refugee rights. In carrying out these leadership functions, the Country Director will work in conjunction with a leadership team of program managers, and will report to Asylum Access headquarters.

The ideal applicant will be an experienced human rights professional with strong professional and political connections in Thailand, fluent in both Thai and English and able to represent the organization’s work in both Thai and international contexts. The applicant should have experience managing projects and staff, and should be able to work in a diverse and cross-cultural organization. While experience with refugee issues is desirable, a strong applicant may have other types of experience in the human rights field and should be a fast learner, interested and committed to leading a refugee rights program.

Interested applicants can view the full job description and application instructions at


Legal Services Manager  – Asylum Access Thailand

Asylum Access, a US-based international refugee rights organization, is seeking an experienced legal advocate to serve as Legal Services Manager of Asylum Access-Thailand, operated by Asylum Access in collaboration with the Human Rights Development Foundation (HRDF).

Asylum Access-Thailand (AAT) uses legal aid and policy advocacy to promote refugee rights in Thailand in accordance with international law. The Legal Services Manager (LSM) will be responsible for developing, organizing and supervising the provision of legal information, advice and representation to refugees and asylum seekers in cases adjudicated by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Thailand, especially in the field of refugee status determination.

The LSM will also be a part of the general leadership team of AAT, under the overall leadership of the Country Director, and should contribute to the development of new legal aid initiatives for refugees in Thailand. Under the leadership of the Country Director or Headquarters, the LSM may assist in fundraising efforts for AA and in developing new institutional relationships or networks to benefit AA programs.

The ideal applicant will be a lawyer with substantive knowledge of international human rights and refugee law, including client counseling and advocacy, who is able to build relationships and adapt legal strategies to fit new and/or challenging circumstances. The ideal applicant will have experience training and managing staff and volunteers and managing client services, and will be able to work in a diverse and cross-cultural organization. Experience providing legal aid in the context of UNHCR RSD is especially desirable. Fluent professional English is essential.

Interested applicants can view the full job description and application instructions at

August 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kenyan Diplomat Appointed Head of UN Office to the African Union

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed an experienced Kenyan diplomat as the first Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union (AU), established earlier this year to strengthen links between the two organizations.

Zachary Muburi-Muita, who has served as Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York since 2006, has worked in diplomatic, political, civil-military and managerial roles for his country since 1982.

He is tasked with building stronger UN ties with the AU and sub-regional organizations as well, according to information released by the UN spokesperson.

Mr. Muburi-Muita’s diplomatic resume includes involvement in various initiatives related to the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD)..

In January he was also elected President of the UN High-Level Committee on South-South Cooperation, which is charged with helping to boost economic development among the world’s poorest nations.

The new UN Office to the AU, set up by the General Assembly on 1 July, will be based in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, where the AU has its headquarters.

(from a UN Press Release)

August 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ECCC Prosecutor Appeals Sentence in Duch Verdict

Duch on Trial Cambodia Tribunal Prosecutors at the Extraordinary Chambers for the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) have appealed against the 35-year jail term handed out to Kaing Guek Eav ("Duch"), who was found guilty last month of war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced by judges in the ECCC trial chamber.

In a statement issued after they filed the appeal, the prosecutors said the sentence “gives insufficient weight to the gravity of Duch’s crimes and his role and his willing participation in those crimes.”  The prosecutors also said that the judges placed “undue weight” to mitigating circumstances when they determined the length of the prison sentence.

The first person to stand trial before the court, Mr. Kaing headed the S-21 camp, also known as Tuol Sleng, where numerous Cambodians were unlawfully detained, subjected to inhumane conditions and forced labour, tortured and executed in the late 1970s.  The trial chamber found that Mr. Kaing not only implemented, but also actively contributed to the development of the policies of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) at S-21.

In deciding on a sentence, the ECCC said that it took note of several factors, including the gravity of the offences. Although prisoner lists from S-21 show that at least 12,272 people were detained and executed, the trial chamber believes the number of victims is considerably larger. The chamber also decided on a finite sentence instead of life imprisonment due to the defendant’s cooperation with the ECCC, his admission of responsibility and the potential for rehabilitation, among other factors.

Mr. Kaing’s sentence was reduced by five years due to his illegal detention by the Cambodian Military Court between 1999 and 2007, and he is already entitled to credit for time already served. This means he may serve only 19 more years. The prosecutors said that Mr. Kaing should be separately convicted of the crimes against humanity of enslavement, imprisonment, torture, rape, extermination and other inhumane acts. 

In a separate development, the prosecutors today formally requested that the ECCC’s investigating judgement that four people – Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Thirith – are indicted and sent for trial for the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and violations of the 1956 Cambodian penal code. All four were senior figures under the Khmer Rouge.  The prosecutors said “the evidence collected in the investigation demonstrates that the charged persons committed these crimes through a joint criminal enterprise, the purpose of which was to enforce a political revolution in Cambodia and systematically destroy any opposition to the CPK’s rule.”

Estimates vary but as many as 2 million people are thought to have died during the rule of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979, which was then followed by a protracted period of civil war in the impoverished South-East Asian country.

(from a UN Press Release)

August 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Posters for the AALS Annual Meeting in San Francisco

Aalslogo The Association of American Law Schools Section on International Law is sponsoring posters this year to be displayed at the AALS annual conference in San Francisco this coming January.  Posters provide a great opportunity for authors to present their research or innovative teaching ideas in an informal manner.

The deadline for poster proposals for the 2011 AALS Annual Meeting in San Francisco is September 3, 2010. By this date you must submit a short description of the poster and an actual copy of the proposed poster. The submission guidelines are available on the AALS website by clicking here.  


August 18, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

US State Dept. Releases Fifth Annual Water for the Poor Report

The U.S. Department of State recently released the fifth annual Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor 2010 Report describing U.S. efforts to expand access to safe drinking water and sanitation, improve water resources management and increase water productivity in developing countries.  The following is taken from a U.S. State Department Press Release:

"The Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 requires the Secretary of State, in consultation with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator, to submit an annual report to Congress outlining the U.S. Government’s strategy and progress in achieving the objectives of the Act.  "Key Results: In FY 2009, the United States (primarily through USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation) invested about $774 million for all water sector and sanitation-related activities in 62 developing countries. Of that amount, USAID invested more than $481 million in drinking water and sanitation-related activities. As a result of USAID investments, some 5.7 million people received improved access to safe drinking water and 1.3 million received improved access to sanitation during FY 2009. Other U.S. Government agencies made unique contributions to water and sanitation that greatly magnify our overall effectiveness. In many cases these agencies made both programmatic and non-financial contributions. From 2005 to 2009, the United States invested more than $3.4 billion for all water sector and sanitation related activities."

The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 2.6 billion people lack an adequate latrine and approximately 1.1 billion people have no access to any type of improved source for drinking water. According to WHO, the direct consequences of this lack of access include:

  • 1.6 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases (including cholera) attributable to lack of access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation and 90% of these are children under 5, mostly in developing countries;
  • 160 million people are infected with schistosomiasis causing tens of thousands of deaths yearly; 500 million people are at risk of trachoma from which 146 million are threatened by blindness and 6 million are visually impaired;
  • intestinal helminths (ascariasis, trichuriasis and hookworm infection) are plaguing the developing world due to inadequate drinking water, sanitation and hygiene with 133 million suffering from high intensity intestinal helminths infections; there are around 1.5 million cases of clinical hepatitis A every year.

United Nations Millennium Development Goal 7 aims at halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.  Between 1990 when the Millennium Development Goals were adopted and 2002, the number of persons who have access to safe drinking water has increased from 77% of the world's population to 83%.  But to meet Millennium Development Goal 7, the number must be increased by another 5% to 88.5%.  The U.S. efforts outlined in the Report above are certainly to be lauded, but much more remains to be done.  For more information, visit the WHO website.


August 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 16, 2010

OP To Treaty on Protection of UN Staff To Take Effect August 19

Un_symbol_sm[1] The new Optional Protocol (OP) to the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel is scheduled to become legally effective on Thursday of this week, August 19, 2010.  The OP will take effect after achieving 22 ratifications, with the United Kingdom being the most recent country to ratify the OP last month.  As its name suggests, the Convention is designed to provide protection to UN staff who are carrying out their work worldwide.  The new OP expands the protection of the 1994 Convention to cover a wider range of employees who have been the subject of attacks, namely those delivering humanitarian assistance and those providing political and development assistance in peacebuilding situations. The 1994 Convention originally only applied to personnel engaged in peacekeeping operations. According to a UN Press Release, the OP is necessary because: "Last year alone, 28 civilian UN staff members were killed, according to the UN Staff Union, and at least 97 aid workers were killed, while 60 others were wounded and 92 more were abducted."


August 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

UN Group Calls for End to Discrimination Against Persons Affected By Leprosy

The United Nations Human Rights Council Advisory Committee issued a press release on Friday calling for an end to laws that discriminate against persons affected by leprosy.  The HRC Advisory Committee has also issued a draft set of principles and guidelines which recommend that States enact legislation to ensure people affected by leprosy and their family members do not suffer discrimination in employment, education, health, marriage, religion, use of public utilities and public places.  This draft will be submitted to the HRC at its next meeting in September.

Leprosy is a disease that affects the nerves, nose and upper respiratory tract.  It is best known by its unsightly skin lesions.  It is estimated that between 2 to 3 million persons worldwide have been permanently disfigured because of the disease.  Today, It is curable and, as a result of better treatment, the number of new cases has declined dramatically in the last decade.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO) , most new cases are found in Angola, Brazil, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal and United Republic of Tanzania.  Despite recent progress in reducing the number of new cases, there is still discrimination against persons with leprosy based on outdated beliefs regarding how the disease is spread.  Accordingly, the UN HRC Advisory Committee hopes to bring attention to the issue to end to such discrimination.


August 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)