Monday, February 28, 2011
The United Nations stands ready to support Egypt’s political transition, the United Nation’s top political official has said, noting the world body understands that the process must be led by Egyptians.
“The UN fully respects and understands that Egypt’s transition must be done by and for Egyptians – this is and must be an Egyptian process,” the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, said at a press conference in Cairo on Monday at the end of a visit to Egypt. “The UN will be ready to support Egypt wherever that is useful and wherever our help is sought.”
(from a UN press release)
US Court Reinstates ATS and TPVA Claims of Columbian Children Whose Labor Organizer Fathers Were Killed by Paramilitary Hit Squads
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently reinstated the claims of the children of three murdered union leaders in Columbia under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) (both found in 28 USC sec. 1350) in the case of Locarno Baloco v. Drummond Co., No. 09-16216. The children are seeking damages for emotional harm, loss of companionship and financial support. The U.S. District Court previously had dismissed the case for lack of standing.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Three United Nations peacekeepers in Côte d'Ivoire were wounded in an ambush in Abobo, a suburb of Abidjan, the country's commercial capital. They were wounded in an ambush by members of the "Young Patriots," the name given to forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, the outgoing president who refuses to recognize that he lost the election last year to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara.
The UN peacekeeping force said the escalation of violence against the peacekeepers and their assets has been fuelled by propaganda, based on untruths against the mission by Mr. Gbagbo's camp. The UN mission in Côte d'Ivoire issued a statement that "under international conventions, any attack against UN peacekeepers constitutes a war crime."
(adapted from a UN Press release)
Saturday, February 26, 2011
The UN Security Council voted unanimously to impose sanctions against the Libyan authorities, slapping the country with an arms embargo and freezing the assets of its leaders. The Security Council also referred the ongoing violent repression of civilian demonstrators to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In its Resolution 1970, the Council obligated all United Nations Member States to "freeze without delay all funds, other financial assets and economic resources which are on their territories, which are owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by the individuals or entities" listed in resolution.
The Council imposed a travel ban on President Muammar Al-Qadhafi and other senior figures in his administration, including some members of his family and other relatives. "All Member States shall immediately take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, from or through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and related material of all types, including weapons and ammunition," according to the arms embargo clause of the resolution.
The Council directed the Libyan authorities to cooperate fully with the ICC in its investigations of the situation in Libya since February 15, 2011, while recognizing that the country is not party to the Rome Statute that created the Court.
In remarks to the Security Council soon after the resolution was adopted, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the move, saying that while the measure cannot, by itself, end the violence and the repression, it is a clear expression of the will of a united community of nations. "The actions taken by the regime in Libya are clear cut violations of all norms governing international behaviour and serious transgressions of international human rights and humanitarian law," said Mr. Ban.
"It is of great importance that the Council in response has reached the consensus and is determined to uphold its responsibilities for the maintenance of international peace and security," he said. "The text sends a strong message that gross violations of basic human rights will not be tolerated, and that those responsible for grave crimes will be held accountable."
(Excerpts from a UN Press Release)
A press release from the United Nations informs us that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has had discussions with King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on international efforts to stop violence in that country. Mr. Ban will travel to Washington on Monday to discuss the situation with United States President Barack Obama.
Friday, February 25, 2011
In the past, countries often went to war to resolve disputes over islands and other territories, particularly when the land in dispute contains resources.
An overlooked accomplishment of the United Nations is that many countries no longer go to war over these traditional disputes but instead use peaceful means of settling disputes through one or more organs of the United Nations.
This week, the UN Secretary General announced that the countries of Equatorial Guinea and Gabon have agreed to submit a longstanding border dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, told the UN Security Council that this agreement between the two countries was "an important demonstration of statesmanship, on both sides.” Mr. Ban had met this week with President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea and President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon.
The dispute between the two countries concerns control of an island with (no suprise) oil resources. The leaders reportedly have agreed to exploit the area jointly until the dispute is resolved by the ICJ.
In its meeting yesterday, the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) took several actions of note.
First, in the latest step in an ongoing dispute over the use by the United States of the zeroing technique in anti-dumping investigations, the DSB adopted a panel report finding once again that the United State's use of zeroing is inconsistent with its WTO obligations. This most recent case is DS402: U.S.—Use of Zeroing in Anti-Dumping Measures Involving Products from Korea. The United States reported that it is in the process of recalculating a number of dumping margins to bring itself into compliance.
Second, the WTO DSB deferred the establishment of panels with respect to two complaints by Canada to review bans by Belgium and the Netherlands on Canadian seal products. The cases are DS369 and DS400: European Communities — Certain measures prohibiting the importation and marketing of seal products.
Third, the DSB also deferred the establishment of two panels requested by the United States in disputes with China - one relating to Chinese measures restricting market access to American suppliers of electronic payment services (DS413/2) and one relating to countervailing and anti-dumping duties on grain oriented flat-rolled electrical steel from the United States (DS414/2).
A member state has one opportunity to object to the establishment of such panels. Assuming no settlement of the matter, the complainant has a right to the establishment of the panels thereafter.
Finally, a new DSB chair has been appointed: Mrs. Elin Johansen of Norway.
The United Nations Human Rights Council today strongly condemned the recent violence in Libya and ordered an international inquiry into alleged abuses. In a resolution adopted unanimously at the end of a special session held in Geneva, the 47-member Council also called on the Libyan Government to meet its responsibility to protect its population, immediately end all human rights violations, stop any attacks against civilians, and respect the popular will, aspirations and demands of its people.
(Excerpt from a UN Press Release)
The United Nations human rights chief today urged action to help end the violence in Libya and to hold perpetrators of atrocities accountable, saying that the crackdown on protesters is escalating. “More needs to be done. I encourage all international actors to take necessary measures to stop the bloodshed,” Navi Pillay told a special session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“Although reports are still patchy and hard to verify, one thing is painfully clear: in brazen and continuing breach of international law, the crackdown in Libya of peaceful demonstrations is escalating alarmingly with reported mass killings, arbitrary arrests, detention and torture of protestors,” she stated. The High Commissioner for Human Rights said that tanks, helicopters and military aircraft have reportedly been used indiscriminately to attack the protestors, and that, according to some sources, thousands may have been killed or injured. “The Libyan leader must stop the violence now,” Ms. Pillay stressed, pointing out that Libya is a member of the Human Rights Council and pledged to respect human rights, and is also a State party to various international human rights treaties.
She also recalled that under international law, “any official, at any level, ordering or carrying out atrocities and attacks can be held criminally accountable and that widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity.”
A statement delivered on behalf of all of the Council’s independent human rights experts endorsed the High Commissioner’s call for an international inquiry into the violence, stressing that the international community should “act without delay” to protect civilians from serious human rights violations.
Witnesses in and out of Libya consistently describe horrifying scenes, Ms. Pillay told delegates. Libyan forces are firing at protestors and bystanders, sealing off neighbourhoods and shooting from rooftops. They also block ambulances so that the injured and dead are left on the streets. Reports from hospitals indicate that most of the victims have been shot in the head, chest or neck, suggesting arbitrary and summary executions, she said. Doctors relate that they are struggling to cope and are running out of blood supplies and medicines to treat the wounded. “Images of unverifiable origin appear to portray the digging of mass graves in Tripoli,” she added.
According to several accounts, killings have also been carried out by foreign fighters who were and reportedly continue to be brought into the country and equipped with small arms and light weapons by the Government to suppress the protests. In this connection, the High Commissioner’s Office has received reports that some Libyans are turning on refugees and migrants from other African countries, suspecting them of being mercenaries fighting for the Libyan Government. Ms. Pillay stressed that the safety of all foreign nationals be ensured and that the freedom of movement of those wishing to leave the country be fully respected and protected.
“Libyan authorities must allow the safe passage of humanitarian and medical supplies and humanitarian workers into the country. They must also ensure that the legitimate demands of the protestors are addressed and the fundamental human rights of the population are fully respected and promoted,” she said. Ms. Pillay also voiced her concern for the safety and well-being of refugees crossing into neighbouring countries, particularly Tunisia, Egypt, Italy and Malta, and urged Libya’s neighbours to open their borders and ensure that refugees fleeing the violence are welcomed and treated humanely.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today commended the “humanitarian spirit” shown by the Tunisian and Egyptian Governments in welcoming and caring for people fleeing Libya.
“We call upon the international community to provide substantial humanitarian support for these two countries,” Melissa Fleming, UNHCR’s spokesperson in Geneva, told reporters. She added that the agency is concerned that Libyans farther away from the border areas and in the capital, Tripoli, are being prevented from fleeing.
The Tunisian Government has declared that its borders are open for all nationalities attempting to flee the ongoing violence in Libya, and reported that some 22,000 people have fled the violence in Libya and crossed over into Tunisia.
The Egyptian Government has told UNHCR that Libyans are welcome and that it is ready to care for all injured and sick people who need to cross the border. A UNHCR team is starting work at the Egyptian border today.
(From a UN Press Release)
Thursday, February 24, 2011
A new United Nations report highlights an ongoing pattern of human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, abductions and excessive use of force, in Côte d’Ivoire since the November election and warns that the situation is only getting worse.
“With the political stalemate now going into the third month, the human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire is becoming more precarious,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, states in her report on the human rights situation in the West African nation.
The report, which was commissioned by the Human Rights Council and covers events up to 31 January 2011, documents a trend in rights violations, with almost 300 people killed, most as a result of extra-judicial killings committed by elements of the security forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo.
The outgoing president refuses to leave office despite opposition leader Allasane Ouattara’s UN-certified victory in the 28 November presidential run-off. The election was meant to be the culminating point in reunifying the country, which was split by civil war in 2002 into a Government-controlled south and a rebel-held north.
The rights violations cited in the report include extrajudicial killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, excessive use of force by security forces and destruction of property committed by the security forces and individuals, and incitement to violence by state television.
It shows that most of the serious violations are perpetrated in the areas under the control of Mr. Gbagbo and his supporters, mainly in the southern and western regions and in the commercial capital of Abidjan. It also notes that some incidents are committed in the areas controlled by the rebel Forces Nouvelles.
In addition to the deterioration of the human rights situation, Ms. Pillay also voices her concern about the obstructions to the movement and operation of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and its Human Rights Division, and attacks on UN staff.
She calls on all parties, particularly Mr. Gbagbo and his supporters, to cease infringements of human rights, to allow the independent investigation of violations and to cooperate with the UN for the protection of civilians.
An independent United Nations expert voiced his concern yesterday about the use of the crime of incitement against human rights defenders in Cambodia, while stressing the need to ensure that people can express their views peacefully and without fear. “Criticism is not a crime but an exercise of freedom of conscience, an act of intelligence,” Surya Subedi, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, said at the end of his fourth fact-finding mission to the country.
“There is a narrowing of space for people to express their views peacefully and without fear, including those belonging to different political parties,” he warned. “The peaceful expression of opinion should not be dealt with under the Penal Code as is currently the case with crimes such as defamation and falsification of information.”
The 15 to 24 February visit focused on the capacity of parliament to uphold the rights of the people and democratic norms.
“Democracy is not only about holding periodic elections, but developing a culture of debate, pluralism and participation. A properly functioning democracy requires an effective opposition,” said the expert, who reports in an independent and unpaid capacity to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.
Mr. Subedi welcomed efforts taken by the Government to improve the situation of human rights, including those related to the judiciary, land rights and housing issues, preventing torture, and peaceful demonstrations.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
The clear separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches in Tunisia after the ouster of its long-time ruler is vital for the North African country’s future, with human rights and dignity at its core, a United Nations mission reported yesterday.
“We witnessed the beginning of a remarkable new era in Tunisia,” four top experts from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in a report on their week-long mission that ended earlier this month. “There are clear indications of a willingness to put in place the necessary mechanisms to ensure a clear break with past injustices and to elaborate a vision for the new Tunisia.
“Moves in this direction need to be reinforced and enshrined in law to ensure they become a permanent feature of Tunisian society,” they added, stressing the need for a fully participatory political system, freedom of speech, an end to impunity for abuses, and a bridging of the gulf between rich and poor, including in jobs, health care and education, for which technical, political and financial support from the international community is needed.
The experts, who were dispatched by High Commissioner Navi Pillay after president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country amid mass protests over rising prices of essential commodities, lack of jobs, corruption and curbs on fundamental rights, highlighted “the denial of dignity” as the key phrase that they heard throughout their visit as the underlying cause of the uprising.
“At the core of restoring that dignity will be redefining the relationship between the state and its people,” they said. “The relationship must now be built on the rule of law and respect for human rights and it must place the state at the service of all its people. The quest for dignity, the attainment of human rights, and the pursuit of justice are all interlinked.”
The Tunisian authorities have asked OHCHR to set up an office in the country to support the transformation, and an advance team will soon be on the ground to ensure that human rights remain at the core of the transitional phase.
In their recommendations, the experts highlighted 10 areas that “require the attention of national and international actors,” including the establishment of governing structures and decision-making processes that are fully representative of the whole political spectrum and all segments of society, including youth and women. Other fields include ensuring that all institutions are in line with international human rights standards; guaranteeing freedom of expression and association; accountability for all human rights violations with immediate judicial investigations into all credible allegations; and immediate steps to redress disparities in living standards and access to quality health care, education, jobs and social support for women, children, youth and marginalized communities.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations mission in Timor-Leste for another year so that it can continue to assist the fledgling nation consolidate peace, democracy and the rule of law, as well as support the preparations for the parliamentary and presidential elections planned for 2012.
Through a unanimously adopted resolution, the Council decided that the mission, known as UNMIT, will continue its work until February 26, 2012 at current authorized levels. There are presently nearly 1,520 uniformed personnel on the ground, including some 1,480 police, as well as over 1,200 civilian staff and volunteers.
(Excerpt from a UN Press Release)
The United Nations labor chief today added his voice to the chorus condemning Libya’s leaders for the deadly violence against mass protests, stressing that the North African country is a further example of the risks to those who fail to heed widespread unemployment and poverty. “Libyan leaders must put an immediate stop to the massive killings, large-scale violence and generalized repression unleashed against peaceful demonstrations of people exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression and assembly,” UN International Labour Organization (ILO) Director-General Juan Somavia said in a statement.
“Of grave concern to the ILO is the plight of domestic and migrant workers and their families caught in the midst of this deepening humanitarian, social and political crisis. Their rights, voices and dignity must be respected. This includes respect for the basic right to freedom of association of employers and of workers.”
Mr. Somavia fully associated himself with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who yesterday condemned Libyan President Muammar Al-Qadhafi’s actions against protestors as possible crimes against humanity, and called for the punishment of those who “brutally shed” the blood of innocents. He noted that ILO’s standards supervisory bodies have repeatedly requested Libya to let workers set up and join organizations of their own choosing and voiced strong concern that people trying to exercise this right have been subject to repressive measures, including forced labour.
The situation in Libya illustrates that unattended widespread unemployment, poverty and lack of freedoms are a major impediment to development and eventually lead to grave national and international security risks, ILO noted. Mr. Somavia stressed that the Libyan people deserve to benefit from a sustained effort for development with social justice which gives all women and men, and particularly youth, their rightful share in the fruits of progress and respects dignity and basic rights through decent work.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Time is running out for "early-bird" registration for the American Bar Association Section of International Law's Spring meeting in Washington, D.C., which will be held from April 5-9, 2011. The early bird registration deadline is February 28.
The ABA Spring Meeting is a "must attend" event for international lawyers (and law students interested in international law). Registrations include access to over 70 CLE programs, twice daily networking breaks, special events such as the Breakfast at the Bar Series, Section Afternoon on the Hill and International Practice Boot Camp, the Tuesday evening Opening Reception at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, and the Chair’s Closing Reception on Friday Evening at Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.
The meeting will also feature daily luncheons with distinguished speakers such as U.S. Copyright Office General Counsel, David S. Carson, and former Judge of the International Court of Justice, Thomas Buergenthal, a Day on the Hill to visit with members of Congress as well as exceptional receptions at the Canadian Embassy, the Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the U.S. Department of State.
On Tuesday of this week, 1plusV, a company that develops search engines in French, filed a complaint against the U.S.-based Internet search company Google with the European Commission alleging that Google is abusing its dominant market position in violation of European competition (antitrust) law by favoring its own websites over those of competitors. This is the second complaint filed against Google by a company affiliated with 1plusV in the past year. Google has over 80% of the European search market and, therefore, occupies a dominant market position. Under EU competition law, Google must not abuse its market position by treating competitors unfairly. If Google is found to have violated EU competition law, it may face multimillion dollar fines.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
The United Nations Human Rights Council will hold a special session on Friday to discuss the situation in Libya, as calls continue to mount for an end to the use of force against protesters and a peaceful resolution of the crisis in the North African nation. Friday’s meeting comes at the request of nearly 50 States, both members and non-members of the Geneva-based body. It will be the first time that a member of the Council is the subject of a special session. The last special session held by the 47-member Council was in December 2010, when it discussed the human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire amid the post-election crisis.
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Francis Deng, and the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Edward Luck, have added their voices to the chorus of UN officials speaking out against the violence in Libya. They expressed their alarm at the reports of mass violence coming from Libya, which include the reported use of military planes to attack protesters, the alleged involvement of foreign mercenaries in killing the protesters, and the arbitrary arrests of individuals including lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists. At least 300 people have reportedly been killed so far. “Widespread and systematic attacks against civilian populations by military forces, mercenaries, and aircraft are egregious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” they said in a joint statement issued late Tuesday. “If the reported nature and scale of such attacks are confirmed, they may well constitute crimes against humanity, for which national authorities should be held accountable.”
Earlier this week, the UN Security Council yesterday called for an immediate end to the violence in Libya and for steps to address the legitimate demands of the population, including through national dialogue. It also called on the Libyan Government to meet its responsibility to protect its population, act with restraint, respect human rights and international humanitarian law, and allow immediate access for human rights monitors and humanitarian agencies.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has convicted Vlastimir Dordevic, a former senior Serbian police official, for crimes against humanity and for war crimes carried out in Kosovo. He was sentenced him to 27 years imprisonment after being found guilty of participating in a “joint criminal exercise in 1999, whose aim was to change the ethnic balance of Kosovo to ensure Serbian dominance in the territory.”
Mr. Ðordevic was found to be responsible for the murder of “not less than 724 Kosovo Albanians” who were murdered by Serbian forces, in most cases police, in several municipalities. “In the large majority of cases the victims, including many women and children, were civilians, who were unarmed and not in any way participating in any form of armed conflict,” the court found.
Among the incidents of murder for which Mr. Ðordevic bears responsibility, according to the Tribunal, was the shooting and subsequent torching of 114 men and boys from a village near Orahovac/Rahovec who were killed by the police on 26 March 1999. He was also found responsible for the deportation of at least 200,000 of the estimated 800,000 Kosovo Albanians that left Kosovo between 24 March and 20 June 1999.
Mr. Ðordevic is the eighth former senior Serbian official to be tried by the ICTY and the sixth to be convicted. Since its establishment, the Tribunal has indicted 161 persons for serious violations of humanitarian law committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2001. Proceedings against 125 have been concluded, while proceedings are currently ongoing for 34 accused.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)