December 10, 2010
Human Rights Day 2010
Friday, December 10 is Human Rights Day 2010 in honor of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year's theme is "human rights defenders who act to end discrimination." Here is a statement from the United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights:
"Human rights defenders acting against discrimination, often at great personal risk to both themselves and their families, are being recognized and acclaimed on this day. Human rights defenders speak out against abuse and violations including discrimination, exclusion, oppression and violence. They advocate justice and seek to protect the victims of human rights violations. They demand accountability for perpetrators and transparency in government action. In so doing, they are often putting at risk their own safety, and that of their families. Some human rights defenders are famous, but most are not. They are active in every part of the world, working alone and in groups, in local communities, in national politics and internationally."
The purpose of Human Rights Day 2010 is to highlight and promote the achievements of human rights defenders and emphasize the primary responsibility of governments to enable and protect their role. It is also hoped that the Day will inspire a new generation of defenders to speak up and take action to end discrimination in all of its forms. I suspect there are several readers of this blog who are human rights defenders. Kudos to all of you and keep up the good work!
December 8, 2010
Save the Date: ABA Section of International Law Spring Meeting in Washington DC
The American Bar Association Section of International Law will hold its Spring Meeting in Washington D.C. from April 5-9, 2011. This is always a great event for practicing lawyers, law professors, government workers, corporate counsel, and law students. There will be early bird registration available until the end of February. Click here for more information.
Here's also a tip -- make your hotel reservations early, especially if you want to take advantage of the really great rate that the ABA has negotiated with the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill.
See you in D.C.!
ISBA Assembly to Vote on Support for CEDAW
The Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) is the largest voluntary bar association in the United States. It holds its midyear meeting this week in Chicago. On Saturday, the 201-member ISBA Assembly will be asked to support U.S. ratification of the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Responsibility in Multinational Military Operations
The University of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam Center for International Law (ACIL) will hold an experts' seminar on December 16, 2010 on the topic of "Responsibility in Multinational Military Operations: A Review of Recent Practice." They hope to map relevant practices in the framework of four international organizations (the UN, the NATO, the European Union, and the African Union) and to review those practices from the perspective of the law of international responsibility. The seminar is part of the ACIL research project 'Shared Responsibility in International Law' (SHARES).
The bad news is that the event is already filled and the proceedings will operate under the Chatham House Rule. But still, it's good to know that the event is happening. If you would like to see the program, you can click here to visit their website.
Hat tip to Isabelle Swerissen of the University of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam Center for International Law
December 7, 2010
US District Court Rules Targeted Killings Are Unreviewable Political Questions
According to the New York Times, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued an opinion today In the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, a dual U.S. and Yemeni citizen accused of being a terrorist, which holds that executive branch's decision to subject a U.S. citizen to "targeted" or extrajudicial killing abroad is a judicially unreviewable decision under the political question doctrine. The Court also dismissed the suit on the grounds that Mr. al-Awlaki's father did not have standing to sue on his behalf. The so-called political question doctrine permits judges to avoid deciding cases when the issue is textually committed to another branch of government or there is a lack of judiciallly manageable standards to decide the case. See Baker v. Carr. Other factors the court may take into account include whether an adverse decision will potentially embarass other branches of the federal government and show a lack of respect for those other branches. Cases involving national security, military matters, and foreign relations issues are often determined to be nonjusticiable political questions. The ACLU, who filed the case on behalf of Mr. al-Awlaki's father, has denounced the decision because it leaves too much discretion to the executive branch to potentially violate the rights of U.S. citizens.
ICC Prosecutor Opens Preliminary Examination of North Korea's Actions
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), announced Monday that he is opening a preliminary examination to determine whether North Korea committed war crimes by its November 23 shelling of South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island or its alleged sinking of the South Korean warship, the Cheonan, on March 26. Four persons were killed as a result of the shelling and 46 lost their lives as a result of the sinking of the Cheonan.
Although North Korea is not a party to the ICC statute, South Korea is. The ICC's Statute gives it jurisdiction over war crimes committed on the territory of a State Party, such as South Korea. (Ships flying the flag of a State are normally considered part of that State's territory.) If the prosecutor decides that he has sufficient evidence to open a formal investigation, he must present that preliminary evidence to and receive the approval of a trial chamber of judges before proceeding with a formal investigation.
December 6, 2010
Supporting the Work of International Criminal Tribunals
The cooperation of States is vital in bringing to justice those responsible for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and in facilitating the successful completion of the United Nations tribunals mandated with this task, the Security Council was told yesterday.
Serge Brammertz, Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), said that Serbia’s failure to capture the two remaining fugitives, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadžic, is a major concern. “Serbia must bridge the gap between its stated commitment to the arrests and the effectiveness of its operations on the ground,” he told the Council, as it met to consider the work of the ICTY and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). “Time is passing and we are not seeing results,” he stated. “Serbia needs to adopt a more pro-active approach to arresting fugitives.”
Since its inception 17 years ago, the ICTY has indicted 161 persons for war crimes committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. The proceedings against 125 individuals have been completed. Only two indictees remain at large – Mladic and Hadžic.
The failure to arrest Mladic and Hadžic would leave the victims without redress, as well as impede reconciliation in the region and damage the credibility of the international legal system as a whole, said Mr. Brammertz. He also cited the request made to Croatia for important military documents, as well as the need for Bosnia and Herzegovina to redouble its efforts against fugitive networks.
In terms of expediting trials and completing its work, the President of the ICTY, Judge Patrick Robinson, highlighted the pressures placed on staff and resources at the Tribunal and called for action to reduce staff attrition. He explained that the Tribunal “continues to take all measures possible to expedite its trials, without sacrificing due process.” However, he noted that the “judges have reported feeling extreme pressure to expedite the work of the Tribunal” and that “judges are entitled to work in an environment free from all external pressures, so that their independence is not compromised, or appear to be compromised.”
Judge Dennis Byron, President of the ICTR, also stressed the importance of State cooperation, noting that ten fugitives wanted by the Tribunal, which was created in 1994 in the wake of the Rwandan genocide, still remain at large. “The Tribunal depends on the cooperation of Member States for the tracking, arrest and transfer of fugitives,” he stressed.
The Tribunal’s Prosecutor, Hassan Jallow, pointed out that the majority of the fugitives wanted by the ICTR have been located within the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Despite his contacts with high-level officials, re-sent indictments and arrest warrants, and promises of support and cooperation from the DRC, there has been “little progress” on the matter. “It is necessary that the Governments of the DRC, Kenya, Zimbabwe and neighbouring States intensify cooperation and search for the ten fugitives, all of whom, according to our sources, are within east, central and southern Africa,” he stated. Mr. Jallow added that referrals of some key cases to national jurisdictions could possibly see the end of trials at the Tribunal, which is based in Arusha, Tanzania, by the end of 2011.
(From a UN Press Release)
More on the Rapa Nui Protests (Easter Island)
This is an update of a development we reported on yesterday. Radio New Zealand International reports that the Chilean provincial official responsible for Rapa Nui (Easter Island) wants all protestors evicted from disputed properties by the end of the year. This news follows the latest clash over ancestral lands between indigenous islanders and police reinforcements sent from Chile. Chile’s La Tercera newspaper reports Valparaiso Mayor Raul Celis wants a peaceful retreat from all the properties occupied in the on going dispute. But Rapa Nui activist Santi Hitorangi says about one hundred people are still occupying six properties in the Chilean territory and he says they’re preparing for the worst. He says his legs are riddled with wounds from Friday’s clash when authorities fired rubber bullets and native Rapa Nui threw rocks in response.
The East-West Center in Honolulu notes that Rapa Nui was annexed by Chile in 1888 and that the indigenous population comprises approximately half of the 5,000 inhabitants on the island.
Hat tips to Radio New Zealand International and the East-West Center.
ICTR: Life in Prison for Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has convicted Ildephonse Hategekimana, a former Rwandan army officer, of genocide and crimes against humanity. The court sentenced him to life in prison. Charges against him included rape and murder of ethnic Tutsis, committed in the Ngoma region during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Click here for further details about the judgment and sentence.
Anti-Dumping Actions Down Despite Weak Economy
In a weak economy, countries are often tempted to adopt measures designed to protect their own domestic industries at the expense of international trade. However, the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced today that new anti-dumping investigations were actually 29% lower during the first six months of 2010 as compared to the same time period in 2009. In addition, new anti-dumping measures, i.e., tariffs imposed on goods sold at less than fair value, were down 5% during the same time period. India led the pack in terms of the number of new investigations initiated (17), with China being the country most often subject to investigations (23). India also adopted the most new anti-dumping measures (17). The products most affected were base metals, followed by chemicals. More details can be found here on the WTO website.
Guinea to Form New Truth & Reconciliation Commission
The new president-elect of Guinea, Alpha Conde, announced in a televised address on Saturday that he intends to create a truth and reconcilation commission to hear claims regarding ethnic and political violence in the West African country over the past several decades. Conde was quoted as saying that the truth and reconcilation commission would be created "so those who have made mistakes can ask forgiveness and that victims can accept this forgiveness . . .I know that forgiveness does not replace the dead or the arms that were chopped off, but it's an important step." The commission will be modeled on the South African Truth and Reconcilation Commission created by Nelson Mandela to help South Africa deal with its history of apartheid.
No Confidence Vote Ousts Prime Minister of Vanuatu
Radio Australia has reported news from the nation of Vanuatu, where Prime Minister Edward Natapei was ousted in a vote of no confidence while he was out of the country to attend the environmental summit in Mexico.
Radio Australia reports that the new prime minister, Sato Kilman, said that the sudden change in leadership will not destabilize Vanuatu.
The Pacific Island Reports from the East-West Center in Honolulu noted that the parliamentary vote of no confidence was the seventh "no confidence" vote that he has faced in the past two years. This vote, however, was reportedly done while excluding news reporters and the general public from the parliamentary chambers during the vote. This is reportedly the first time that Vanuatuans have been denied access to the meeting of elected officials.
Mr Natapei has reportedly been in conflict with several MPs after refusing to hand over the leadership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group to Fiji's interim Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama. Mr. Bainimarama, for his part, reportedly welcomed the ouster of his foe.
The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) is an intergovernmental organization founded in 1983. It consists of four Melanesian countries, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Kanaks of New Caledonia. Its headquarters are located in in Port Vila, Vanuatu.
In an additional development reported by Radio New Zealand International, members of the newly-created opposition reportedly plan to file a motion of no confidence against the new Prime Minister, calling him a coward for engineering the the ouster of Prime Minister Edward Natapei during his absence from the country to attend the environmental summit.
Hat tips to the East-West Center, Radio Australia, and Radio New Zealand International
Trouble on Easter Island (Rapa Nui)
Radio New Zealand International reports that the Chilean government has sent police reinforcements from the mainland to Easter Island following clashes over land disputes with indigenous Rapa Nui.
Dozens of people, including policemen, have reportedly been injured. According to the Radio New Zealand report, special police faced resistance when they started removing Rapa Nui groups from buildings (including a hotel) that they have been occupying for months. The Rapa Nui laid claimed the buildings as ancestral land.
The government of Chile believes that the seizures are illegal. Chile's Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter has reportedly flown to Easter Island to oversee further evictions of Rapa Nui. He reportedly told the Chilean newspaper, La Tercera, that there is a limit to these things and it was reached when illegal takeovers caused damage to the island.
Hat tip to the East-West Center and Radio New Zealand International.