September 15, 2010
CIT Judicial Conference
The 16th Judicial Conference of the U.S. Court of International Trade will be held on Thursday, November 18, 2010 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Trump Soho, located at 248 Spring Street in New York City.
Happy "International Day of Democracy"
Today is the "International Day of Democracy." This year’s Day falls just days before the start of the three-day summit at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, where world leaders will measure progress toward the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals. The MDG's (as they are sometimes called) are eight targets against poverty, hunger, disease and other social and economic ills.
If the International Day of Democracy is not on your calendar, don't worry too much. It's a relatively new day, and this is only the third time that it is being celebrated. In case you are wondering about the history of this day, the U.N. General Assembly declared the Day to commemorate the 1997 adoption by the Inter-Parliamentary Union of the Universal Declaration on Democracy.
It is being celebrated in some countries around the world. A UN press release tells us that the day was marked in the fledgling nation of Timor-Leste with a speech contest for high school students. More than 145 students competed in the competition, which asked them to answer this question: “As a citizen of Timor-Leste, what does democracy mean to you?”
Come to think of it, that's a question we would all benefit from answering.
September 14, 2010
Freedom of the Press will be a New Category in the Annual Reports of Human Rights Practices
We should have posted this news earlier. Back on May 17, 2010, President Obama signed signed H.R. 3714 (which is now Public Law 111-166). The law requires that information about freedom of the press be included in the annual country reports of human rights practices. And for all of you legal trivia buffs, the new law was an amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.
Possible Changes to German Income Tax Law for Same-Sex Couples
Germany's justice minister reportedly told the Merkur newspaper in Munich that she is considering changes to Germany's income tax law. The minister said she believed that same-sex partners should have income tax breaks similar to those enjoyed by heterosexually-married couples.
In a related development, the German Bundesgerichtshof recently ruled that same-sex partners should have the same inheritance tax privileges as heterosexual spouses.
September 13, 2010
New UN Anti-Crime Chief Pledges to Emphasize Health and Human Rights
The new United Nations anti-crime chief vowed today to help improve the lives of people worldwide by championing public health, human rights and justice in the fight against drugs and corruption.
Yury Fedotov took up his post as the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), voicing hope that the organization will push efforts to promote economic and social progress forward. “Illicit drugs, crime and corruption cut lives short and retard prosperity, whereas justice and health spur development,” the official stressed in Vienna, where the agency is based. “We can play our party in the global fight against poverty and to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals [MDGs],” he added, referring to the eight internationally-agreed anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline.
It is the poorest and most vulnerable who suffer the most, Mr. Fedotov underlined. “Whether we talk of the victims of human trafficking, communities oppressed by corrupt leaders, unfair criminal justice systems or drug users marginalized by society, we are committed to making a positive difference.” He also called today for “human and effective treatment” – not punishment – for drug users, calling drug dependence a health disorder.
Mr. Fedotov, who also took over as the new Director-General of the UN Office at Vienna (UNOV) today, most recently served as Russia’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom. He has also held the position of deputy foreign minister. He succeeds Antonio Maria Costa of Italy, who served as UNODC head and UNOV Director-General since 2002.
(UN Press Release)
WTO Public Forum
What is needed to make trade contribute to the Millennium Development Goals? How can women reshape the global economy? These are just two of the 43 topics to be discussed by some 200 panellists and over 1,500 participants in this year’s annual WTO Public Forum, 15-17 September 2010. Click here to read more.
Video of the New American Judge on the International Court of Justice
The American Society of International Law held a reception to honor the then U.S.-nominee for election to the International Court of Justice, Ms. Joan E. Donoghue. Here's a video (34 minutes) of that event.
Judge Donoghue will be sworn in at the ICJ today.
Hat tip to the American Society of International Law (and congratulations to Joan Donoghue!)
Early Bird Deadline for ABA Section of International Law Fall Meeting in Paris
Section meetings provide a great opportunity for law professors and lawyers interested in the most cutting-edge issues of international law. The official brochure for the 2010 Fall Meeting can be found by clicking here. For additional information, please go to the conference website by clicking here.
September 20, 2010: Early Bird Registration Deadline
October 15, 2010: Pre-Registration Final Deadline
October 18, 2010: Westin Paris hotel room block Deadline
Supreme Court of Costa Rica Voids Referendum Against Same-Sex Marriage
The court ruled that the issue of marriage rights for same-sex couples was not a proper issue for an election, and that the rights of minorities should never be subjected to a referendum process where they
might be subjected to the wishes of a majority. Click here for more information about the ruling (in Spanish) Comments posted to that article note that this an important human rights victory for Costa Rica, particularly in recognizing the human rights (such as the right to marry and have a family) should not be put up for a majority vote.
We invite readers from Costa Rica to provide us with additional information about the case (and a link to the ruling, if possible).
Hat tip to Rex Wockner
The Grand Duchy of LuxembourgFurther to our international family law update on same-sex marriage around the world, legislation to allow same-sex marriage has been introduced in the Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies. The proposed legislation would also allow some (but not all) adoption rights by same-sex couples. And it would also raise the marriage age for women from 16 to 18 to have equality between the sexes.
If the legislation passes, then the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg would become the eleventh nation to enact same-sex marriage. Click here for our earlier post listing jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is now legal.
(Hat tips to Rex Wockner and Jutta Zalud)
Same-Sex Marriage and Same-Sex Adoption Around the World
We have some figures (courtesy of Rex Wockner) on the number of same-sex couples who have married in Mexico since March 11, 2010, when a groundbreaking law in Mexico City took effect. As of September 6, 2010, there were 398 same-sex marriages in Mexico City. Fifty-three percent of the marriages were between men. Forty-one foreigners have married a Mexican citizen of the same sex.
Although the marriages are performed in Mexico City, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that those marriages had to be recognized in each of the 31 states of Mexico.
So here is an update on the current global picture for same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage is legal in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden. Same-sex marriages are legal in Mexico City and by Supreme Court decision must be recognized throughout Mexico. In the United States, the states of Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. recognize same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriages from California are also recognized if they were performed before the November 2008 passage of Proposition 8. That law (Proposition 8) was recently ruled unconstitutional by a federal district court in California, and that ruling is on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In a strange twist, however, neither the governor nor the attorney general of California are parties to the appeal, which is being made by the private proponents of Proposition 8. Because the state officials do not have to defend the constitutionality of a law they believe is unconstitutional, they do not have to appeal the case. There is widespread speculation that the Ninth Circuit will dismiss the appeal brought by the private proponents, finding that they simply do not have standing to bring the case.
Three other U.S. states recognize, as full marriages, same-sex marriages that were entered into elsewhere: California (if the marriage took place before the November 2008 passage of Proposition 8), Maryland and New York.
Many other jurisdictions have civil unions, domestic partnerships, and other ways of recognizing same-sex relationships. In the European Union, for example, 14 of the 27 EU member states offer some form of civil partnerships (and five of the 27 member states allow same-sex marriage).
And what's the status of the right to adopt by same-sex couples? Rex Wockner provided us with that list too. Same-sex couples can adopt in Belgium, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, Mexico City, sixteen U.S. states and Washington, D.C. A gay or lesbian partner can adopt his or her partner's child in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway and 25 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. In the United States the number of jurisdictions where same-sex couples adopt may be higher because adoptions tend to be low-key.
September 12, 2010
Last Call! AALS Section on International Human Rights Law
The Association of American Law Schools' Section on International Human Rights invites abstracts and paper proposals from “new voices” among faculty whose research focuses on international human rights law and practice to be presented at its “New Voices in Human Rights” program during the 2011 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California.Eligibility:
Faculty members of AALS members and fee-paid law schools are eligible to submit papers. Non-U.S., visiting and adjunct faculty members, graduate students, and fellows are not eligible to submit. To be a “New Voice,” you do not necessarily need to be new to academia or new to human rights, but you do need to be submitting a paper in area of international human rights law and practice for the first time at an AALS conference.
Please email submissions, in Word or PDF format, to Sarah Paoletti at paoletti [at] law.upenn.edu. Submissions at various stages of completion will be considered. The selection process has become increasingly competitive over the year, with the number of submissions exceeding what can be accommodated during the program.
NEW Deadline date for submission:
September 16, 2010.
Saudi Diplomat Seeks Political Asylum in United States Based on Sexual Orientation
A high-ranking diplomat in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Los Angeles told NBC News that he had requested political asylum in the United States.
The man's name was reported by the NBC news organization. As a practice, however, this blog will not publish the names of persons who are seeking political asylum because there is always a risk of either (1) the person not receiving political asylum, in which case publishing his or her name may lead to later problems or (2) if political asylum is granted, publishing the name may lead to later acts of retaliation against the person or family members. So, as a practice, we will not publish those names even though the name may be already published elsewhere..
In this case, the diplomat told NBC news that (1) he was gay and (2) was close friends with a Jewish woman.
If the man is returned to Saudi Arabia, he said he feared political persecution and even death. He applied for political asylum based on membership in a particular "social group" (here, being gay). The United States and other nations (such as Canada and the United Kingdom, for example) already recognize sexual orientation asthe basis for political asylum if it there is a well-founded fear of persecution.
On the topic of asylum based on sexual orienation, click here for a recent case development from the United Kingdom Supreme Court, That case concerns gay men from Iran and Cameroon. It includes a great number of case citations on the issue, including cases decided by courts in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and South Africa.