Tuesday, September 28, 2010
I have the honor of being a faculty member not only at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, but also at the University of Lucerne Faculty of Law in Switzerland. They are celebrating today their 10th anniversary. If you are in Switzerland, a public program marking the event is being held in the Union Building. I am here teaching two courses: (1) International Litigation and (2) Health and Human Rights. I am happy to be here on this special anniversary and congratulate all of my colleagues here in Switzerland.
The United Nations envoy for Somalia called on international partners to help advance peace, stability and national reconciliation in the Horn of Africa nation, noting that it will take a level of support not unlike that given to other nations that were suffering from tremendous strife. “We have all seen how the international community has rallied behind the Governments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Somalia is no exception; it requires similar massive interventions,” said Augustine Mahiga, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia.
Addressing a meeting in Madrid of the International Contact Group for Somalia, Mr. Mahiga stressed that the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the international community must work closely together if Somalia is to emerge from the present crisis. The country – which has not had a functioning central government since 1991 and has been torn apart by decades of conflict and factional strife, more recently with al-Shabaab Islamic militants – is also facing a dire humanitarian crisis in which 3.2 million people, more than 40 per cent of the population, is in need of aid.
Mr. Mahiga noted that this week's meeting comes at a crucial time, with less than a year left before the end of the transitional period that ends next August. Several tasks remain to be completed such as continuing initiatives on reconciliation, building civilian and security institutions and the completion of the constitution-making process. The two pressing and interlinked challenges facing the TFG right now, he said, are political and security.
“Tasks leading to the completion of the transitional period can only be achieved if a secure and stable environment is established. Likewise, we will not achieve minimum stability in the country unless we make substantive progress on the political front.” The envoy said he looked forward to a speedy appointment of a new prime minister, following the resignation last week of Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke, as well as to a more united and cohesive TFG.
A mini-summit on Somalia held at UN Headquarters last week also called on the TFG to end its differences and deliver basic services. In addition, it urged the international community to do much more to support efforts to bring peace to the faction-torn country, including by providing increased financial support for the African Union Mission in Somalia and the development of the Somali security forces. The International Contact Group for Somalia brings together more than 35 nations and organizations to consider concrete measures to support the struggling nation.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Monday, September 27, 2010
A United Nations monitoring committee is concerned that Israel may not have investigated all allegations of serious humanitarian violations during its deadly conflict in Gaza 21 months ago and said there is no indication that Hamas seriously investigated alleged abuses on its part.
But the committee – appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to assess domestic, legal or other proceedings by Israel and the Palestinians over allegations raised in the report of the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission into the Gaza conflict, known as the Goldstone Report – noted that the Palestinian Authority, in control of the occupied West Bank, was prepared from the very start to cooperate with it.
The Goldstone report stated that both Israeli forces and Palestinian militants were guilty of serious human rights violations and breaches of humanitarian law during Operation Cast Lead, which Israel said it launched to counter missile attacks from Gaza. More than 1,400 Gazans were killed and 5,000 others injured, while homes, schools, hospitals and marketplaces were reduced to rubble.
“The committee views its report as a call to both sides to strictly abide by the rule of law,” Chairman Christian Tomuschat said today in presenting its findings to the Council. “The committee hopes and trusts that both sides will heed the findings of the report of the committee in their pending and forthcoming dealings with the offences that were committed during the Gaza conflict.”
The committee noted that Israel had “indeed taken steps to address some of the many complaints made,” he added, regretting its refusal to admit committee members to speak with its own investigators, but citing such positive measures as new procedures for the protection of civilians in urban warfare and the establishment of a doctrine on munitions containing white phosphorous which can gravely burn people.
“However, the committee remains concerned that not all allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law have been investigated.”
Mr. Tomuschat noted lack of information substantiating whether the probe complied with international standards, “a fundamental lack of transparency,” and the issue of impartiality where the military advocate-general is both an adviser to the Government involved in planning the Gaza operations and responsible for referring cases for criminal investigation.
“It also appears that Israel has refrained from conducting a general review of the military doctrine regarding legitimate military targets as opposed to civilian targets,” he said. “The [Goldstone] Fact-Finding Mission rejected the Israeli viewpoint that the entire governmental infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, including the Legislative Council building, was a legitimate target.”
The committee was also unable to visit the Gaza Strip, where Hamas seized power from the Palestinian Authority in 2007. “Unfortunately, the two reports the committee has received from the de facto authorities in Gaza did not indicate that a serious investigation into the violations alleged in the report of the fact-finding mission took place,” Mr. Tomuschat said, noting that they focus primarily on allegations aimed at Israel.
Because of Israel’s refusal the committee was also unable to visit the West Bank, but he welcomed the way the Palestinians had investigated the allegations through an independent commission.
“However, actual steps would have to be undertaken with a view to implementing the results of the investigation, in particular by commencing criminal prosecution against the alleged perpetrators where appropriate,” he said.
(UN Press Release)
Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that five properties located in the District of Columbia may not be used to satisfy a judgment against Iran for its support of the terrorist organization, Hamas. Plaintiffs in the suit are Michael and Linda Bennett, whose daughter, Marla Ann, was killed by a Hamas bombing while she was studying in Jerusalem. The Bennetts sued Iran in U.S. court under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and California law, alleging that Iran provided support for Hamas and was therefore partially responsible for their daughters' death. In 2007, the Bennetts won a default judgment against Iran in excess of $12 million. Bennett v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 507 F.Supp.2d 117 (D.D.C. 2007).
To satisfy the judgment, the Bennetts obtained writs of attachment against Iran's former diplomatic properties in D.C., which have been in the custody of the United States government since 1980, which the U.S. broke off diplomatic ties with Iran over the seizing of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The Court of Appeals ruled that because these properties were used for diplomatic purposes, the United States has a continuing duty under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to preserve and protect the property of a foreign mission that has ceased conducting diplomatic activities in the United States. Thus, the properties are immune from attachment under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which generally allows the attachment of blocked properties to satisfy terrorism-related judgments, but which contains an exception for any diplomatic property protected by the Vienna Convention.
Underscoring the centrality of the United Nations in promoting peace and prosperity, Japan’s leader stressed last week that the Security Council must be reformed to reflect the international community’s current realities. “Ensuring a functional UN that is capable of effectively addressing diverse global issues is of the utmost importance,” Prime Minister Naoto Kan told the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate, which entered its second day today. Member States, he said, must take proactive steps to promote the world body’s reform, while the UN, for its part, must ensure its own transparency and accountability.
Mr. Kan pointed to the creation of UN Women – or the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women – as a “test case for the promotion of effective and efficient activities” of the world body. Created by the Assembly on 2 July, UN Women, headed by former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, will oversee all of the world body’s programmes aimed at promoting women’s rights and their full participation in global affairs. UN Women is the merger of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW).
The Japanese Prime Minister underscored the key role played by the Security Council in helping the UN resolve global challenges, calling its reform “indispensable.” His country, he said, as the only country that has ever been devastated by atomic bombings and does not possess nuclear weapons, is “well-suited to play a role in the Security Council in the 21st century.”
Mr. Kan underscored “Japan’s determined aspiration to take on further responsibilities for international peace and security as a permanent member” of the Council. In his address, he also urged stepped-up will and action in the arena of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, pointing to recent strides, including Ban Ki-moon’s visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony, making him the first Secretary-General to take part in the event. “Japan bears a responsibility to all humankind to hand down to future generations an awareness of the catastrophic nature of nuclear weapons,” the Prime Minister said, adding that the country will coordinate with other countries to promote education on disarmament and non-proliferation.
On the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), he said that the country’s nuclear and missile development programmes are a threat to the entire world, calling on it to take measures in line with relevant Council resolutions and the Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, involving China, DPRK, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States. Under that September 2005 agreement, referring to the September 2005 agreement in which the DPRK committed itself to abandon nuclear weapons and rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Japan continues to endeavour to normalize relations with the DPRK, and towards that end, “it is absolutely indispensable to resolve the abduction issue,” Mr. Kan stressed, referring to the abduction of Japanese citizens in the late 1970s and early 1980s. “If the DPRK takes constructive and sincere steps such as implementing its agreement with Japan, Japan is ready to respond in kind,” he said.
(From a UN Press Release)
The United Kingdom called for a radical overhaul of the United Nations including enlarging the Security Council to make up for the failure to fully face new challenges posed by a global map that has radically changed since the world body was founded 65 years ago.
“We are not doing anything like as well as we must,” Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told the General Assembly on the second day of its annual session, citing the three “three profound challenges” of a redrawn map of power, the globalization of problems like terrorism and climate change and the rapid circulation and potency of new ideas. Click here to read his statement.
Reform is essential, he said, “and a good place to start is right here – the United Nations. The UN Security Council must be reformed to reflect the new geography of power. The UK is clear and unambiguous in our support for permanent seats for Brazil, India, Germany and Japan, and for African representation. Put simply, the UN cannot speak for the many if it only hears the voices of the few…
“Let us be frank. Without a radical overhaul, the UN will not provide the leadership the world seeks from it, and needs from it.”
(from a UN Press Release)
The United Nations will become “a hollow shell” with nations choosing to go around it to deal with the most pressing global issues unless its institutions are reformed to meet today’s challenges, according to a statement by Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd made before the U.N. General Assembly. Click here to read a copy of his remarks.
Mr. Rudd told the Assembly’s annual high-level debate that on several key international issues the UN had shown recently that it was unable to meet public expectations. The Australian official warned that “if we fail to make the UN work, to make its institutions relevant to the great challenges we all now face, the uncomfortable fact is that the UN will become a hollow shell. Nation States may retain the form of the UN, but increasingly seek to go around the UN and deploy other mechanisms, to achieve real results.”
(from a UN Press Release)
Top officials from three African nations have called for the continent to have a permanent representative on the Security Council, saying it was a travesty that the region that comprises so much of the body’s work does not have a permanent place. South Africa’s Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told the General Assembly’s annual general debate that a transformation of the United Nations will not be complete until there is a “fundamental reform” of the Council, which currently has 15 members.
Swaziland’s King Mswati III told the General Assembly that his nation backs the so-called Ezulwini Consensus regarding reform of the Security Council. This consensus, developed in the Swazi town of Ezulwini in 2005, states that Africa should be given two permanent seats and five non-permanent seats on an expanded Council. The King said he was hopeful that negotiations, which have lasted for nearly two decades, could be wrapped up in the next year.
Basile Ikouebe, the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Congo, said in his remarks that both the composition and the working methods of the Council should be reformed to ensure it is more responsive and effective. Mr. Ikouebe also called for the General Assembly to be strengthened to make it more efficient.
Click on the names above to see fuller versions of the statements.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release).
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Rwandan President Paul Kagame met on the sidelines of the General Assembly''s high-level debate, during which they discussed a range of issues, including maternal and child health. The Secretary-General thanked Mr. Kagame for promoting progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Mr. Ban said he was very satisfied to learn that Rwanda would continue its important role in UN peacekeeping operations, and particularly in the strife-torn western Sudanese region of Darfur. The Secretary-General and Mr. Kagame also discussed the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Mapping Report, which will be released on 1 October. Prepared by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the report will describe more than 600 incidents of serious human rights violations in the DRC during the period between 1993 and 2003, in which tens of thousands of people were killed. Covering not only the war-torn east but the entire territory of the DRC, it has the overarching objective of helping the Congolese Government to establish transitional judicial systems and fight against impunity.
(from a UN Press Release)
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Over the weekend, the Obama Administration filed a brief in a lawsuit brought by civil liberties groups on behalf of the father of U.S.-born al-Aulaqi, arguing that the state secrets doctrine prevents U.S. courts from reviewing the administration's decision to engage in a targeted killing of Aulaqi. Aulaqi is a cleric believed to be in Yemen where he is allegedly in charge of a branch of al-Qaeda. Earlier this year, the U.S. government placed Aulaqi on its capture or kill list of suspected terrorists. Plaintiffs argue that it is illegal extrajudicial execution for the government to engage in targeted killing of an American citizen outside a warzone and absent an immiment threat. The government argues that if Aulaqi wants to access the U.S. legal system, he is free to submit to U.S. authorities and return to the United States for trial.
Earlier this month, the Obama Administration received a favorable ruling in another case in which it had invoked the states secrets doctrine to prevent judicial review of allegations regarding a Boeing subsidiary's participation in the CIA's extraordinary rendition program and alleged torture of prisoners. According to The Washington Post, this is the fourth time the Obama Administration has invoked the states secrets doctrine.