Monday, May 30, 2011
A chamber of seven judges of the European Court of Human Rights issued a decision last week in R.R. v. Poland, finding that a pregnant mother's rights under articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated when she was denied timely access to genetic tests during her pregnancy. Ultrasound tests done in the early stages of the pregnancy showed that the baby might be deformed. The mother requested amniocentesis to determine the extent of the problem, but the doctors denied her access to genetic testing because they were afraid she would terminate the pregnancy if she knew the extent of the deformity. The woman ultimately gave birth to a girl with Turner's syndrome. The Court held that she had suffered humilitating treatment in violation of Article 3 of the Convention, as well as suffering a violatio of her right to respect for privacy and family life under Article 8.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
The American Society of International Law published a new insight on attempts by state legislatures to prohibit the use of foreign and international law. Here's an excerpt:
In February 2010, a Republican Iowa State Representative introduced a bill to prohibit state judges from using “judicial precedent, case law, penumbras, or international law as a basis for rulings.” The same month, a Utah Republican state representative introduced House Bill 296, prohibiting enforcement of any foreign law, or any decision rendered by a foreign legal or governmental authority, if it would violate a person’s state or federal constitutional rights. Similarly, the bill would nullify or rewrite private contracts with a choice of foreign law clause, the enforcement of which would violate a constitutional right.
Hat tip to Ron Bettauer.
Ratko Mladic, the war-time leader of the Bosnian Serb forces, was arrested this week in Serbia after evading capture for almost 16 years. He is awaiting transfer to The Hague, where he will stand trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). He faces numerous charges, including genocide, extermination, murder and inflicting terror on civilians, particularly in connection with the massacre of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the supposedly “safe haven” of Srebrenica in July 1995 in one of the most notorious events of the Balkan wars.
Also this week, Bernard Munyagishari, who is wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, was arrested on 25 May in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
(Adapted from a UN Press Release) (mew)
With different groups holding steadfast to their respective positions regarding reform of the Security Council, the President of the General Assembly today called for a “compromise” on the issue, at least a temporary one.
“Probably it is not possible actually to find a solution where one of these different groups will get the total of their aspirations,” Joseph Deiss told a news conference at UN Headquarters.
“We should try to make some reform that could not be final, that means that (it) should be reviewed at some time, but that could bring something which improves the situation in a way that every country can say our own possibility to be a member sometime in the Security Council is improved,” said Mr. Deiss, who heads the 192-member Assembly.
Security Council reform has been under discussion for over 17 years, with the key issues being the category of membership, the question of veto, regional representation, the size of an enlarged Council, and the Council’s working methods and its relationship with the General Assembly.
The 15-member Council comprises five permanent members with veto power – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States – and 10 non-permanent members with no veto, who are elected for two-year terms.
Mr. Deiss repeated his concerns that unless the Council is reformed to reflect modern political reality, the entire UN could lose credibility and be marginalized with important issues being discussed in other forums.
In response to a question on the possibility that the Assembly would vote to admit an independent Palestinian state, Mr. Deiss said that the Security Council must recommend new members, without a veto from any permanent member.
“So the General Assembly cannot take the initiative but we are ready to do our work as soon as a recommendation of the Security Council would be addressed,” he said.
“It must be recalled that General Assembly resolution 181 of 1947 already provides for the creation of two states, one Arab, one Jewish, at the end of the British Mandate in Palestine,” he added.
(UN Press Release)
Friday, May 27, 2011
The U.S. government announced this week that it is adding a number of entities to two of its sanctions programs. The following information is taken from a U.S. State Department Press Release:
On May 23, 2011, the United States imposed sanctions on the following entities:
- Belarusian entities – Belarusian Optical Mechanical Association and BelTechExport;
- Chinese entities and individuals – Mr. Karl Lee, Dalian Sunny Industries, Dalian Zhongbang Chemical Industries Company, and Xian Junyun Electronic
- Iranian entities and individuals – Milad Jafari, Defense Industries Organization, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force, SAD Import-Export Company, and Shahid Bakeri Industries Group (SBIG)
- North Korean entity – Tangun Trading
- Syrian entities – Industrial Establishment of Defense and Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC)
- Venezuelan entity – Venezuela Military Industries Company (CAVIM)
According to the U.S. government: "Sanctions were imposed on these entities as provided in the INKSNA because there was credible information indicating that they had transferred to or acquired from Iran, North Korea, or Syria equipment and technology listed on multilateral export control lists (Australia Group, Chemical Weapons Convention, Missile Technology Control Regime, Nuclear Suppliers Group, Wassenaar Arrangement) or otherwise having the potential to make a material contribution to WMD or cruise or ballistic missile systems."
The sanctions prohibit U.S. government agencies from entering into any contracts with these entities or providing any assistance to them. In addition, all export licenses are suspended.
In addition, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has announced the imposition of sanctions on seven companies under the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) of 1996, as amended by the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA) of 2010, for their activities in support of Iran's energy sector. These are the first sanctions imposed by the United States for refined-petroleum related activities under ISA since it was amended by CISADA. The sanctioned entities are:
"Petrochemical Commercial Company International aka PCCI (Jersey); Royal Oyster Group (UAE); and Speedy Ship aka Sepahan Oil Company or SPD (UAE/Iran): These firms are among the largest current suppliers of refined petroleum products to Iran and all three regularly engaged in deceptive practices in order to ship these products to Iran and evade U.S. sanctions. The sanctions we have imposed on these firms will prohibit them from U.S. foreign exchange transactions, U.S. banking transactions, and all U.S. property transactions.
Tanker Pacific (Singapore), Ofer Brothers Group (Israel), and Associated Shipbroking (Monaco): These companies are being sanctioned for their respective roles in a September 2010 transaction that provided a tanker valued at $8.65 million to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), an entity that has been designated by the United States, and the European Union for its role in supporting Iran's proliferation activities.
Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA): PDVSA, the state-owned oil company of Venezuela, has delivered at least two cargoes of reformate to Iran between December 2010 and March 2011, worth approximately $50 million. Reformate is a blending component that improves the quality of gasoline. The sanctions we have imposed on PDVSA prohibit the company from competing for U.S. government procurement contracts, from securing financing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and from obtaining U.S. export licenses. These sanctions do not apply to PDVSA subsidiaries and do not prohibit the export of crude oil to the United States."
The U.S. State Department's Press Release contains the following statement: "The United States is aggressively working with international partners to maintain pressure on the Government of Iran to comply with its international nuclear obligations. The sanctions announced today are an important step toward that goal, as they target Iran's ability to acquire and utilize resources in support of its illicit nuclear activities."
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
The Law and Development Institute (LDI) has put out a call for paper proposals for its 2011 annual conference, entitled, "Law and Development at the Microlevel: From Microtrade to Current Issues in Law and Development". The conference will be co-hosted with and held at the Seattle University School of Law in Washington on December 10, 2011. The LDI calls for papers on any aspect of microtrade, which is a new system of international trade designed to alleviate populations of least-developed countries of extreme poverty (for a concept paper, click here) as well as for papers on other law and development issues that can be considered broadly at the "micro level", including but not limited to: microfinance, microinsurance, green growth and development, etc.
Paper proposals should be limited to a 500 word abstract, which must be received by June 30 at the latest. Accepted conference papers should be completed by November 15 for circulation among the participants in advance of the conference. All proposals must be sent by email to the Law and Development Institute. The paper proposals will be peer-reviewed by members of the editorial board of the Law and Development Review. It is anticipated that paper selection will be completed by July 31, 2011. The selected authors will be invited to present their papers at the Conference. The invited speakers are expected to cover their own expenses to attend the conference. For more information, including contact emails, click here.
Monday, May 23, 2011
A meeting of the U.S. State Department's Advisory Committee on International Law will take place on Monday, June 6, 2011, from 9:30 a.m. to approximately 5:30 p.m., at the George Washington University Law School, 2000 H St. NW, Washington, D.C. The meeting will be chaired by the Legal Adviser of the Department of State, Harold Hongju Koh, and will be open to the public up to the capacity of the meeting room.
The meeting agenda covers a range of current international legal topics, including legal responses to recent developments in the Middle East, international accountability mechanisms, the Arctic region and the Law of the Sea Convention and national security in the digital age.
Members of the public who wish to attend the session should, by Friday, May 27, 2011, notify the Office of the Legal Adviser (telephone: 202-776-8323) of their name, professional affiliation, address, and telephone number. A valid photo ID is required for admittance.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
The United Nations human rights chief urged governments to do more to eliminate discrimination and prejudice based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In a video message marking the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said homophobia and transphobia are no different to sexism, misogyny, racism or xenophobia. "But whereas these last forms of prejudice are universally condemned by governments, homophobia and transphobia are too often overlooked," she said. "History shows us the terrible human price of discrimination and prejudice. No one is entitled to treat a group of people as less valuable, less deserving or less worthy of respect. Each and every one of us is entitled to the same rights, to the same respect and ethical treatment, regardless of our sexual orientation or gender identity."
Ms. Pillay said statistics indicated that homophobic-based hate crimes were on the rise in many parts of the world, from New York to Brazil and Honduras to South Africa. Homosexuality also remains a criminal offence in more than 70 countries. Yet the High Commissioner said homosexuality and transgenderism have been present in all societies throughout human history.
She added that international human rights standards have already incorporated the principle that no one should experience discrimination on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity. "Seventeen years ago the UN Human Rights Committee, whose job it is to remind States of such things, confirmed that, under international law, States have an obligation to decriminalize homosexuality and to protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation. Other UN treaty bodies have said the same thing."
In a separate message, the Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said that the stigma and discrimination faced by many lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people was hampering an effective response to the disease. "The AIDS response has shown that when people are stigmatized because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, they are less likely to access the HIV services they need," said Michel Sidibé. "This leads to new HIV infections and AIDS deaths." Mr. Sidibé urged governments to create social and legal environments that ensure respect for human rights and universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and support.
(UN Press Release)
May 22 is the International Day for Biological Diversity. UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon is using the day to highlight concerns about deforestation and is urging the 193 States Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to implement the Nagoya Protocol to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization. This Protocol, adopted last October, links conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity with development. Thus far, 30 states have ratified the Protocol, but 50 are needed before it will take effect. This year's Biological Diversity Day coincides with celebration of the International Year of the Forest, so it is particulary appropriate to focus on value and need for presevation of forests worldwide.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a lower court judgment against Syria in the amount of US$413 million on Friday. Syria is accused of providing material support to al Qaeda, which claimed responsiblity for the murders of two American military contractors in Iraq. The estates of the two victims brought suit against Syria under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. FSIA provides immunity for foreign states subject to a number of exceptions. In this case, plaintiffs relied on exceptions found in 28 U.S.C. 1605 and 1607, because Syria provided material support to terrorists and because Syria has been designated as a state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. government. Syria did not participate in the original district court proceedings and the court entered a default judgment. Much of the appeal focused on Syria's claim that it had not properly been served with notice of the lawsuit. The appellate court considered Syria's argument, ultimately finding that service was properly made in accordance with FSIA. Accordingly, the appellate court upheld the award. The case is Gates v. Syrian Arab Republic, No. 08-7118 (May 20, 2011).
Friday, May 20, 2011
Six countries that have never previously served on the United Nations Human Rights Council are among 15 new members of the Geneva-based body after a round of balloting among UN Member States this morning.
Austria, Benin, Botswana, the Republic of Congo, Costa Rica and Kuwait will make their debut on the Council next month, starting three-year terms on the 47-member panel that allots seats according to a formula based on world regions.
The other newly elected members – although they have previously completed stints since the Council was created in 2006 – are Burkina Faso, Chile, Czech Republic, India, Indonesia, Italy, Peru, Philippines and Romania.
General Assembly President Joseph Deiss announced the results of the voting, which was conducted by secret ballot among Member States at UN Headquarters in New York.
Four countries were elected in the African category, four in the Asian States grouping and three from Latin America and the Caribbean, while two countries were chosen from Eastern Europe and two from the Western European and other States grouping.
In the Eastern European category, Georgia was unsuccessful, while in Latin America and the Caribbean, Nicaragua missed out on a seat.
(UN Press Release)
Thursday, May 19, 2011
The U.S. announced yesterday that it is imposing sanctions on the personal finances of Syrian President Bashar al Assad for the first time. The new sanctions also include restrictions on six more of Bashir al Assad's aides. The increased sanctions are in response to the Syrian government's harsh response to anti-government demonstrators. More information can be found in this Washington Post news report.
Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) may be joining in the action. It also announced yesterday that it is considering new sanctions on Bashar al Assad and nine other members of his regime, including visa restrictions and a freeze on personal assets. More details regarding the proposed EU sanctions can be found in this EU Observer report.
Yesterday, the Appellate Body (AB) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) upheld a WTO panel decision finding that the European Union (EU) and some of its member states violated Article 5 of the Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM) Agreement by providing certain subsidies to Airbus that caused serious prejudice to the United States or more specifically, to the U.S. company, Boeing. The subsidies at issue included equity infusions and favorable land lease deals by the French, U.K., German and Spanish governments. The AB disagreed with certain other findings of the panel, including its determinations regarding export subsidies. A summary of the key findings of the AB may be found here. A separate dispute brought by the EU against the U.S. alleging the improper provision of subsidies to Boeing is pending.
On Monday, May 30 and Tuesday, May 31, 2011, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will hold public hearings in the Request for interpretation of the Judgment of 15 June 1962 in the Case concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear (Cambodia v. Thailand) (Cambodia v. Thailand) - Request for the indication of provisional measures.
The Kingdom of Cambodia filed the Application requesting interpretation of the 1962 Judgment by the ICJ in the case concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear on April 28 of this year. Cambodia asserts that the 1962 Judgment recognizes Cambodia's territorial sovereignty over the disputed region, including over the Temple itself, and obligates Thailand to withdraw any military or other personnel from the vicinity of the Temple on Cambodian territory. More information and the press release may be found here.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Our blog is three years old today. We thank you for your support over the past three years, and we hope that you keep visiting us regularly. Please also continue to send us news of your events, publications, conferences, and accomplishments.
Mark, Cindy, Cyndee, Laurent, and Michael
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
According to the UN Interdependent, Syria has given up its bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). Syria had been running unopposed. This action follows the HRC's April 29 censure of Syria for its violent crackdown on protestors. The Asian Group has agreed to endorse Kuwait as its candidate instead. The vote for the new members of the HRC will be held on Friday of this week (May 20).
Yesterday, the United Nations convened its annual forum aimed at advancing the rights of the estimated 370 million indigenous persons around the world with a call to turn those rights into a practical reality. The following is from a UN Press Release:
"More than 1,300 delegates are expected to participate in the two-week Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which is being held at UN Headquarters in New York and is marking its tenth anniversary. This year the forum will focus on reviewing progress made on issues ranging from economic and social development to the environment and whether indigenous peoples have given free, prior and informed consent to decisions affecting their communities.
Opening the forum, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – adopted by the General Assembly in September 2007 – finally had the consensus support that it deserved. “Now we need to make the declaration’s principles a reality,” he said, stressing that protecting and promoting the rights of indigenous peoples benefited everyone, and not only those groups. Mr. Ban urged participants to “raise your voices” during the forum so that the world can hear about the threats and risks that indigenous communities face, as well as the unique expertise that they can bring to issues such as climate change. “This forum can play a dynamic role in… helping indigenous peoples around the world achieve the self-determination they deserve. Your success can build momentum toward the World Conference in Indigenous Peoples planned for 2014. You can identify ways to bring to life the principles enshrined in the declaration.”"
Monday, May 16, 2011
The editors of the Irish Yearbook of International Law invite submissions on any area of public or private international law for publication as an article in the Yearbook. An annual, peer reviewed publication, the Irish Yearbook of International Law is committed to the publication of articles of general interest in international law as well as articles that have a particular connection to, or relevance for, Ireland.
Submissions are normally 10,000 to 12,000 words in length, although longer pieces will be considered. Submissions should be sent to the Editors by 15 August 2011, whose contact information may be found here. Initial inquiries may be made to the Editors as well.
Friday, May 13, 2011
On Wednesday of this week, the Council of Europe (COE) opened for signature the first comprehensive international convention that is focused specifically on combatting violence against women. The new treaty is called "The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence." Thirteen of the COE's forty-seven members signed the Convention at a ceremony in Istanbul on Wednesday, including: Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Turkey.
While recognizing that many other international agreements such as the Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, address the subject generally, this new treaty also recognizes that violence against women is still too prevalent in society. The Convention is intended to strengthen pan-European efforts to combat this phenomenon.
Article 5 of the Convention sets forth some of the main State obligations:
"1 Parties shall refrain from engaging in any act of violence against women and ensure that State authorities, officials, agents, institutions and other actors acting on behalf of the State act in conformity with this obligation.
2 Parties shall take the necessary legislative and other measures to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, punish and provide reparation for acts of violence covered by the scope of this Convention that are perpetrated by non-State actors."
Subsequent articles spell out these obligations in more detail, including provisions on education, training, prevention, support for victims, stalking, telephone helplines, shelters, nonrefoulement, and much more.
Article 6 deals requires gender-sensitive policies: "Parties shall undertake to include a gender perspective in the implementation and evaluation of the impact of the provisions of this Convention and to promote and effectively implement policies of equality between women and men and the empowerment of women."
States also commit to provide adequate resources to fund these measures.