December 18, 2010
Trade Adjustment Assistance
This week the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 6517, the Omnibus Trade Act of 2010. The Act extends trade adjustment assistance and certain trade preference programs.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office.
International Migrants Day 2010
December 18 is International Migrants Day, as declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 2000. On this day, UN Member States and all persons are encouraged to recognize the contributions of migrants and educate the public about the human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants. More information about International Migrants Day may be found here.
December 17, 2010
The Election in Côte d’Ivoire
The United Nations ramped up its efforts to resolve the violent post-electoral crisis in Côte d’Ivoire today, demanding that outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo step down in the face of opposition leader Alassane Ouattara’s clear victory and intensifying its contacts with African leaders. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that the situation had taken “a dangerous turn” with at least a dozen people killed in the divided West African country, where the UN has fielded a 9,000-strong peacekeeping mission since 2003 in efforts to help reunification.
“The results of the election are known,” he said of the polls, which were meant to be a culminating step in reuniting the country that was split by civil war in 2002 into a Government-controlled south and a rebel-held north. “There was a clear winner. There is no other option. The efforts of Laurent Gbagbo and his supporters to retain power and flout the public will cannot be allowed to stand. “I call on him to step down and allow his elected successor to assume office without further hindrance. The international community must send this message loud and clear. Any other outcome would make a mockery of democracy and the rule of law.”
Mr. Ban warned against any moves against the Golf hotel in Abidjan, the commercial capital of the world’s largest cocoa producer, where Mr. Ouattara has taken up residence in the face of Mr. Gbagbo’s refusal to leave the presidential palace and UN peacekeepers are stationed. “Let me say clearly and directly: any attempt to obstruct UN operations or blockade the Golf Hotel is totally unacceptable,” he said. “Any attack on UN forces will be an attack on the international community. I emphasize: those responsible for the loss of civilian lives will be held accountable. In these circumstances, it is crucial for both parties to avoid provocations or a further escalation of violence.”
On the ground in Abidjan, Mr. Ban’s Special Representative Y.J. Choi conferred with African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping on ways to resolve the crisis. It was the latest in a series of regional and transcontinental meetings he has held to ensure that “the will of the Ivorian people as expressed on 28 November” is respected, the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) said in a news release. The African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union, and many individual countries, have all recognized Mr. Ouattara as the rightful victor of the run-off election.
The U.N. Security Council yesterday condemned “in the strongest terms” the post-electoral violence, including reported gunfire near the Golf Hotel and warned all sides that they will be held accountable and brought to justice for attacks against civilians. In a press statement the 15-member body welcomed AU and ECOWAS efforts and those of the countries in the region to assist in preserving peace and stability in Côte d’Ivoire.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
U.S. Now Supports the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
President Barack Obama announced that the United States supports the Declaration on the RIghts of Indigenous Peoples. When the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Declaration in September 2007, the United States was only one of four countries (along with Canada, Australia and New Zealand) that voted against it.
With the announcement this week, the United States has now joined the other three countries in endorsing the non-binding text that sets out the individual and collective rights of an estimated 370 million indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, issued a statement saying he is “elated” at the US announcement, calling it a “groundbreaking development” for Native Americans and all those who seek greater protection for human rights across the globe. “With its endorsement of the Declaration, the United States strengthens it stated commitment to improve the conditions of Native Americans and to address broken promises. Indigenous peoples can now look to the Declaration as a means of holding the United States to that commitment,” said Mr. Anaya, who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity.
The Declaration emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations. It also prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them, and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
ECtHR Rules that Ireland's Abortion Restrictions Violate Human Rights Convention
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled yesterday in the Case of AB & C v. Ireland that Ireland is violating the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) by forcing women to go abroad to obtain abortions when there is a risk to their life. Irish law prohibits abortions under all circumstances, despite the fact that the Irish Supreme Court ruled in the X Case in 1992 that an abortion may be obtained if the mother's life is in danger.
The successful applicant in the instant case is a Lithuanian woman residing in Ireland. She had been receiving chemotherapy treatments for three years for cancer when she learned she was pregnant. Concerned about her own health and life and that of the fetus, she ultimately decided to obtain an abortion. She traveled to England to do so and suffered complications upon her return to Ireland.
The ECtHR found that Ireland's abortion restrictions are legitimate laws aimed at the protection of morals within the meaning of ECHR Article 8(2). However, the Court ruled that when there is a risk to a woman's life, Ireland's abortion ban violates a woman's right to be free from unjustified governmental interference with her right to privacy under Article 8 of the Convention, which is defined broadly to include personal autonomy and development, and more specifically, decisions regarding pregnancy. See Pretty v. UK; Vo v. France.
December 16, 2010
Tom McDonnell on the Struggle Against Terrorism
Here's a reminder about Thomas Michael McDonnell, a professor at Pace Law School, who published a book called The United States, International Law, and the Struggle Against Terrorism. The publisher is Routledge.
The book discusses whether U.S. responses to terrorism comply with international law. It also provides some guidance to other nations that are fighting terrorism. Click here for more information about the book.
UN Security Council Votes to Lift Key Sanctions on Iraq
The United Nations Security Council voted on Wednesday to lift certain sanctions on Iraq that were intended to prevent Iraq from developing nuclear weapons. The lifting of sanctions will allow Iraq to develop nuclear power plants for civilian use. The UNSC also voted to restore control to Iraq over how it chooses to spend revenues derived from its oil sales, after several years of international control. Iraqis celebrated the restoration of their sovereignty and independence.
US Senate Begins Debate on New START Treaty
Yesterday, the U.S. Senate began debate on the U.S.-Russia "New START" treaty, which would reduce the nuclear arsenals of those two States. More specifically, it would limit the U.S. and Russia to deploying no more than 1,550 strategic warheads and 700 launchers and would require the resumption of mutual on-site inspections (which lapsed last year). 66 Senators voted in favor of opening the debate on the floor of the Senate; one more will be needed to secure the necessary two-thirds consent of the Senate for ratification.
December 15, 2010
New Humanity Blog
The University of Pennsylvania has announced that it is launching a new blog called Humanity, for its international journal of human rights, humanitarianism and development. The blog will feature postings by its editorial board along with journal contributors and invited guests, who will debate issues relating to human rights, humanitarianism and development. The editors hope the site will feature a lively and relevant comments section as well. The first couple of entries involve issues of global health. To view the blog, click here.
December 14, 2010
Security Council Extends Terms of ICTY and ICTR
The Security Council today extended the terms of several judges serving on the United Nations tribunals working to bring to justice the perpetrators of the worst crimes committed during the Balkans conflict of the 1990s and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda so that they can complete the cases on which they are working.
The Council took that action in two separate resolutions, one on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the other on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), both of which were adopted unanimously.
In doing so, the 15-member body took note of the assessments by both courts that they will not be able to complete all their work in 2010, as had been expected under their respective Completion Strategies.
It urged both tribunals to “take all possible measures” to complete their work expeditiously.
Since its inception 17 years ago, the ICTY, which is based in The Hague, 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 – Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadžic.
Meanwhile, ten fugitives wanted by the ICTR, which is based in the Tanzanian town of Arusha, still remain at large. The Tribunal was created in November 1994 prosecute people responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Rwanda that year. Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered, mostly by machete, in just 100 days.
(UN Press Release)
UN Experts Express Concerns for Human Rights Defenders
Three independent United Nations experts this week voiced concern over the crackdown on human rights defenders during the two months since jailed activist Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The experts stated that since 8 October they have received reports of over 20 arrests or detentions of human rights defenders, and over 120 other cases of house arrests, including Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, travel restrictions, forced relocations, acts of intimidation, and blocking of means of communication, including removal of content on the Internet regarding the Nobel Peace Prize.
“This recent and alarming trend to increasingly restrict the space to exercise the right to freedom of expression and the ability of Chinese human rights defenders to carry out their peaceful and legitimate activities calls into question China’s commitments to promote and protect universal human rights,” they stated in a news release.
Their comments echo those made last week by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay ahead of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on 10 December, which is also observed annually as Human Rights Day.
Mr. Liu was convicted in December 2009 and sentenced to 11 years for “inciting subversion of state power” for his role in the drafting of the “Charter 08” petition, which called for political reforms in China.
The experts, who report to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity, also voiced regret that Mr. Liu could not attend the ceremony in person as he remains in detention.
“We call upon the Government of the People’s Republic of China to take all the necessary steps to put an end to these restrictions and reiterate our appeal to release all persons detained for peacefully exercising their fundamental rights, including Liu Xiaobo,” they stated, while also urging China to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The experts voicing their concern today are the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya; the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue; and the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, El Hadji Malick Sow.
(from a UN Press Release)
Sexual Orientation and the World Cup
The World Cup was awarded to Qatar in 2022. The President of FIFA expressed his view that gay and lesbian visitors to Qatar will not experience any problems if they go to watch the matches. Click here to see his comments.
Hat tip to Rex Wockner
Summary and Arbitrary Executions Based on Sexual Orientation
Nan Hunter at the Hunter of Justice Blog shares a report from Reuters that the United States will seek to have "sexual orientation" restored as a specific category in a U.N. General Assembly Resolution opposing summary and arbitrary executions. The General Assembly passed a resolution on the issue in 2008 and at that time it included an explicit reference to killings based on a victim's sexual orientation. But the 2010 resolution removed the category of "sexual orientation" by a committee vote of 79-70 (with a number of other countries abstaining). Morocco and Mali had introduced an amendment on behalf of African and Islamic nations that replaced the words "sexual orientation" with "discriminatory reasons on any basis." Reuters reports that U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice will seek to have sexual orientation put back in the resolution when it goes before the full General Assembly. That vote is expected on December 20, 2010.
Click here to read more
Hat tip to Nan Hunter
House Judiciary Committee Investigates WikiLeaks
The Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives will hold a hearing titled “The Espionage Act and the Legal and Constitutional Issues Raised by WikiLeaks.” The hearing will be on December 16, 2010, at 9:30 am, 2141 Rayburn Building, Washington DC.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office
December 13, 2010
Books We Like: A New Edition of the China Law Deskbook
One of the best and most authoritative guides to law and legal developments is The China Law Deskbook, published by the American Bar Association Section of International Law. The book has now been published in a third edition. As with the earlier editions, the book has earned its name as a deskbook -- it is an essential reference guide that you will want to keep near you if you do any work with the People's Republic of China. The author is James Zimmerman, a China law expert.
The book covers significant legal developments adopted by the Chinese government in a number of areas including the new Chinese tort law, property rights law, anti-monopoly law, labor contract law, enterprise income tax law, enterprise bankruptcy law, and other laws that impact foreign investment and trade with China.
The book has grown in size and this third edition is now in two volumes. The set is organized by broad topic categories, including:
- Corporate organizational structure
- Industry-specific regulatory matters
- Tax issues
- Labor and employment
- Financial regulation
- Liquidation and bankruptcy
- Customs and the importation process
- Intellectual property protection
- Land use
- Protection of the environment and natural resources
- Mediation and arbitration
- Special rules for zones and administrative regions
Click here for information on how to order a copy for you or your law library from the American Bar Association.
December 12, 2010
Illinois State Bar Association Votes to Support U.S. Ratification of CEDAW
The Assembly of the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) voted on Saturday to support U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), with appropriate reservations, understandings, and declarations.
The floor debate was a spirited one with almost all of the delegates who addressed the assembly speaking in favor of ratification. Those opposed to the bar association taking a position believed that the issue was not an appropriate one for a state bar association to address or believed that the poor treatment of women in some countries that had ratified the treaty showed that it was not worth ratifying.
Supporters noted that support for U.S. ratification of CEDAW had been considered not only by the American Bar Association but also the Connecticut Bar Association and the Civil Rights Section of the Oregon Bar Association.
The Illinois State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the United States. The 201-member ISBA Assembly is the policy-making body of the association, akin to the House of Delegates for the American Bar Association.
I serve as Secretary of the Illinois State Bar Association and I had the honor of presenting the CEDAW resolution to the ISBA Assembly. My co-blogger, Professor Cindy Buys of Southern Illinois University School of Law, joined me at the front of the ISBA Assembly to assist in the presentation. A great many members of the state bar association had lobbied the Assembly, where the debate considered pros and cons of U.S. ratification.
Congratulations to the ISBA and thanks to everyone who helped make yesterday's vote a positive one.
Click here to download a copy of the resolution and report. Download CEDAW Resolution (Version 1.7a)