August 28, 2010
Same-Sex Marriage in Mexico
The Supreme Court of Mexico ruled 9-2 that same-sex marriages performed in Mexico City had to be recognized as marriages by all 31 states of Mexico. The following week, the Mexican Supreme Court also upheld the right of same-sex couples to adopt children.
The ruling in the same-sex marriage case prompted the Archbishop of Guadalajara, Juan Sandoval Iniguez, to allege that the Mayor of Mexico City, Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon, had somehow bribed members of the Mexican Supreme Court to convince them to rule in favor of gay marriage.
The Mayor of Mexico City responded to the Archbishop's allegations by suing him for defamation. The mayor also sued the Archbishop's spokesman, Hugo Valdemar. The suit requires the Archbishop to produce evidence that the Mayor bribed the country's Supreme Court or to admit that the Archbishop lied and to apologize. Upon filing the suit, the mayor was quoted as telling the Archbishop that "You live in a secular state" and that the government "does not serve a particular religious or philosophical doctrine but has been established to serve the public interest."
August 26, 2010
ICJ: Jurisdiction and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters (Belgium v. Switzerland)
The International Court of Justice has extended the time-limits for briefing in the case brought by the Kingdom of Belgium against the Swiss Confederation on "Jurisdiction and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters."
Belgium's memorial is now due by November 23, 2010. Switzerland's reply is due by October 24, 2011. More information about the case can be found on the ICJ's website.
Written memorials are generally confidential until the ICJ makes them accessible to the public, which generally happens at the opening of the oral proceedings. So don't look to find these briefs until 2012!
U.S. State Department Releases Human Rights Report
Earlier this week, the United States submitted to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights a report on the U.S. human rights record. The report is part of the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. The UPR was established by the UN General Assembly in 2006 as a process through which the human rights records of the United Nations’ 192 Member States could be reviewed and assessed. This review is conducted through the UN Human Rights Council and is based upon human rights obligations and commitments expressed in various international instruments, including the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and human rights instruments to which the State is party. Individual countries are scheduled for review every four years. According to the U.S. State Department, this latest review involved "an unprecedented level of consultation and engagement with civil society across the country." The review included input from the White House, the Department of Justice, and at least ten other federal departments and offices.
The United States reports that it does well in the areas of protecting free speech and religion and political participation. With respect to equal protection of the laws, the report admits that while the United States has "made great strides, work remains to meet [its] goal of ensuring equality before the law for all." While cataloguing some of the improvements the United States has made in racial equality, the report also acknowledges that unemployment rates are unacceptably higher for some minority groups, such as African Americans and Native Americans, and that there is an "education gap" between white children and African American and Hispanic children that must be addressed. The report states that more work needs to be done to ensure better access for disabled persons. The report also recognizes continued discrimination against certain minority groups such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons, Muslims, Arab-Americans and South Asian-Americans. The report also discusses work int the area of gender equality and the treatment of immigrants.
With respect to its international commitments, the United States points out that it is the largest donor of development aid. The report further states that the United States believes there are no "law free zones" and that every person is entitled to the protection of the law. United States law prohibits "torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of persons in the custody or control of the U.S. Government, regardless of their nationality or physical location."
The report’s submission is one step in the UPR process. The next step will be a formal presentation by the U.S. government to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in November. The full report is available here.
August 25, 2010
Fighting PiratesIn the past seven months there have been 139 piracy-related incidents off the coast of Somalia. Thirty ships have been hijacked, and 17 ships and 450 seafarers are being held for ransom. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed that more can be done. In a report released last week, Mr. Ban identified seven options for furthering the aim of prosecuting and imprisoning persons responsible for acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea, which has been a growing problem in recent years.
- The first option presented in the report is to enhance ongoing efforts to assist regional States to prosecute and imprison those responsible for acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea.
- The second would involve locating a Somali court, applying Somali law, in a third State in the region.
- The third and fourth options would involve assisting a regional State or States to establish special chambers, embedded in the State’s national court structure, to conduct piracy trials.
- Option five would require active engagement by the States of the region and the African Union to establish a regional tribunal to address the scourge of piracy.
- Option six would be an international tribunal – analogous to existing “hybrid” tribunals – with national participation by a State in the region.
- Option seven would be a full international tribunal, established by the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter.
Mr. Ban emphasized that achieving substantive results in combating piracy – whether through a new or existing judicial mechanism – will require political and financial commitment from Member States.
The Secretary-General announced that he intends to appoint a Special Adviser on Legal Issues Related to Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.
UN Legal Counsel Patricia O’Brien noted a number of challenges associated with achieving and sustaining substantive results in the fight against piracy off the Somali coast. These include the large number of suspects, the fact that any judicial mechanism would be addressing a symptom of the situation in Somalia, not its causes, and the lack of any defined completion date for the mechanism’s work.
(adapted from a UN press release)
Today's Stupid Email Trick: Ban Ki-Moon Just Gave Me $650,500 Cash!
All email users get ridiculous spam messages from time to time. Hopefully our spam filters catch most of those messages. But from time to time, some messages get through. I just received this one . . . and I'm still laughing and the audacity of its author, "Mr.huffman" who sent me this message from email@example.com. Here is his message:
UNITED NATIONS TRUST FUND
England Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Palais des Nations CH-1211 Geneva 10, England.
MALAYSIA CORRESPONDING OFFICE.
Your E-Mail ID have just been awarded, $650,500.00 usd in the
United Nations Trust Funds(UN) cash grant, for claims contact the
Payment Officer : Mr.huffman
Phone Number : :竣綴
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Ban Ki-moon.
United Nations Secretary General.
August 24, 2010
Reminder: AALS Poster Deadline is September 3The 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 23, 2010
Singapore Ratifies UN Convention on Electronic Communications in International Contracts
Last month Singapore became the second state party to the United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts (the Electronic Communications Convention). The Convention will enter into effect when the next country ratifies it. Honduras was the first country to ratify the Convention. Click here to see the list of other countries that have signed but not yet ratified the convention, including some major players like the People's Republic of China, South Korea, Saudia Arabia, and the Russian Federation.
Here is an excerpt from an UNCITRAL Press Release issued after Singapore's ratification:
The Convention aims to enhance legal certainty and commercial predictability where electronic communications are used in relation to international contracts. It addresses, among other things, the determination of a party's location in an electronic environment; the time and place of dispatch and receipt of electronic communications; the use of automated message systems for contract formation; and the criteria to be used for establishing functional equivalence between electronic communications and paper documents - including "original" paper documents - as well as between electronic authentication methods and hand-written signatures.
The goals of the Electronic Communications Convention include: removing legal obstacles to the use of electronic communications that may arise from the terms of international agreements concluded before the widespread use of electronic media; fostering the modernization and harmonization of existing e-commerce legislation; and providing jurisdictions that have not yet adopted laws on electronic transactions with a modern set of rules for both domestic and international application.
At the ceremony that took place during the Commission session in New York on 7 July, the Permanent Representative of Singapore to the United Nations, Vanu Gopala Menon said that Singapore recognized the importance of electronic commerce and the use of electronic communications in the development of world trade and that as such, it has been among those states which have been at the forefront of implementing laws relating to electronic commerce and ICT. Mr. Menon said: "I am pleased that Singapore is now among the first in the world to ratify the Convention. The Convention sets a new global standard for national electronic commerce legislation and will remove barriers to cross-border electronic commerce arising from disharmony in national electronic commerce legislation. We hope to see a wide adoption of the Convention so as to achieve harmonisation of electronic commerce legislation amongst countries."
The Convention is open indefinitely for ratification and accession. It will enter into force on the first day of the month following the expiration of six months after the date of deposit of the third instrument of ratification or accession. Further information on the Convention is available on the UNCITRAL website.
Upon depositing its instrument of ratification, Singapore also made the following declaration. It seems a quite sensible one to me at first glance and I would not be surprised to see other countries later making the same or similar declarations upon ratification.
Upon ratification, Singapore declared: The Convention shall not apply to electronic communications relating to any contract for the sale or other disposition of immovable property, or any interest in such property. The Convention shall also not apply in respect of (i) the creation or execution of a will; or (ii) the creation, performance or enforcement of an indenture, declaration of trust or power of attorney, that may be contracted for in any contract governed by the Convention.
International Indigenous Law Conference Scheduled for October 8 at Tulsa
The University of Tulsa (Oklahoma) College of Law will be hosting a one-day conference on "International Law: Future Impacts on the Tribal-Federal Relationship" on Friday, October 8, 2010. The conference is free and open to the public, but registration is requested. The program is co-sponsored by the Native American Law Center. Speakers include Chief J. Wilton Littlechild, the first Treaty Indian to be elected to the Canadian Parliament and a two-term member of the United Nations (UN) Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Julian Burger, former Coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples and Minorities Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Robert T. "Tim" Coulter, Founder and Executive Director of the Indian Law Resource Center. For more information, please contact Lesley Scruggs at 918-631-3416.
August 22, 2010
Blackwater to Pay $42 Million for Export Violations
According to a New York Times report, the controversial private security firm formerly known as Blackwater (now Xe), has reached a settlement with the U.S. State Department pursuant to which the firm has agreed to pay $42 million in fines for violations of U.S. export control regulations. The fines relate to charges that the firm engaged in illegal exports of weapons and other military equipment to Afghanistan and Iraq, unauthorized sniper training of Taiwanese police, and unauthorized proposals to train troops in Sudan. Blackwater was charged with 288 violations of the U.S. export control laws between 2003 and 2009. These laws are primarily designed to regulate the export of sensitive technology that may have military applications. As a result of the settlement, the firm will not face criminal sanctions for these actions and will be allowed to participate in government contracts.
Dominican Republic Becomes 21st Party to UNCITRAL Convention on the Limitation Period in the International Sale of GoodsThe Dominican Republic has deposited its instrument of accession to the Convention on the Limitation Period in the International Sale of Goods, as amended by the Protocol of 11 April 1980. The Convention, as amended, will enter into force for the Dominican Republic on 1 February 2011.
Adopted by a diplomatic conference on 12 June 1974, the Convention establishes uniform rules governing the period of time within which legal proceedings arising from an international sales contract must be commenced. The Convention was amended by a Protocol adopted in 1980 to harmonize it with the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG).
The Dominican Republic becomes the 21st State party to the Convention, as amended.
The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) is the core legal body of the United Nations system in the field of international trade law. Its mandate is to remove legal obstacles to international trade by progressively modernizing and harmonizing trade law. It prepares legal texts in a number of key areas such as international commercial dispute settlement, electronic commerce, insolvency, international payments, sale of goods, transport law, procurement and infrastructure development. UNCITRAL also provides technical assistance to law reform activities, including assisting Member States to review and assess their law reform needs and to draft the legislation required to implement UNCITRAL texts. The UNCITRAL Secretariat is located in Vienna. Click here to visit its website.