Friday, September 30, 2011
The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has rejected a request by the leader of the Serb Radical Party to discontinue proceedings against him, finding he had failed to prove that his right to trial within a reasonable period had been violated.
Vojislav Šešelj, who has been in detention since 2003, is on trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, Netherlands, for alleged war crimes committed between 1991 and 1994 against the non-Serb population from large parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Vojvodina in Serbia.
The ICTY trial chamber referred to its earlier decision in 2010, when it argued that according to international and European jurisprudence, “there is no predetermined threshold with regard to the time period beyond which a trial may be considered unfair on account of undue delay.”
It further argued that Mr. Šešelj failed to provide concrete proof of abuse of process, besides the fact that his trial is still ongoing, ruling that comparison of the length of his detention to that of other accused in other national and international jurisdictions is not relevant and noting that some trials have far exceeded the length of his.
Mr. Šešelj, who was born in 1954 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, is being tried on 14 counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war.
(UN Press Release)
A court in Bahrain has upheld sentences imposed on doctors, nurses, two leaders of a teachers’ association, and at least 32 other individuals. The sentences range from three years’ imprisonment to the death penalty, according to Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told a news conference in Geneva. The Court of National Safety, "effectively a military court" in Bahrain, also upheld the sentences of 21 others. “For such harsh sentences to be handed down to civilians in a military court with serious due process irregularities raises severe concerns,” said Mr. Colville. He also called on the government of Bahrain "to ensure that every detained person is charged with a recognizable criminal offence and has enough time to prepare a defence case.”
The New York Times reported that the death penalty had been imposed on a protester accused of killing a police office in March, and that other sentences were imposed on medical workers who had treated protesters who were wounded during the pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain.
The Kingdom of Bahrain has approximately 525,000 citizens. According to the New York Times, 34 people have been killed, more than 14,00 people arrested, and 3,600 fired from their jobs since protests began as part of the Arab Spring. The New York Times also reports that human rights groups said that four people died in custody after torture.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
The US referred charges yesterday against the man accused of masterminding the 2000 bombing the USS Cole in Yemen. It is the first death penalty case to be tried by military commission under President Obama. US military prosecutors charged the accused, Abd al- Rahim al Nashiri, with murder, terrorism and war crimes. The Convening Authority independently reviewed the charges and determined to proceed with the capital charges. Al Nashiri, a Yemeni, was captured in 2002 and was held by the CIA in secret prisons until he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2006. His attorneys have argued that the case against him should be dismissed because he was tortured while in CIA custody. Al Nashiri was one of the detainees who was subjected to water boarded. His case will likely be the first to be tried in the new facility known as Camp Justice at Guantanamo Bay.
The United States Senate approved the United States-Rwanda Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) on September 26 by unanimous consent. The US State Department believes the "treaty demonstrates Rwanda’s commitment to the economic reforms that will help enable sustainable economic development and opportunity.". According to the US State Department, "Since the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has made remarkable progress in implementing economic reforms that have helped rebuild the Rwandan economy and society. Rwanda has opened its economy, improved its business climate, and embraced open trade and investment policies as a means to boost economic development, job creation, and poverty alleviation."
BITs establish rules that protect the rights of investors in the signatory countries and provide market access for private investment in the territory of the treaty partners. The purpose of BITs is also to support market-based policies and best practices that treat investment in an open, transparent, and non-discriminatory way.
The US Administration has announced that it is working on an update of the U.S. “model” or "boilerplate" BIT, which will serve as a framework for future BITs. In the meantime, the State Department and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which co-lead the U.S. BIT program, are continuing technical talks with their current negotiating partners, including China and India.
The United Nations Human Rights Council today called for the lifting of the suspension of Libya’s membership, and welcomed the new Government’s commitment to protect human rights and democracy in the North African nation. Meeting in Geneva, the Council adopted by consensus a resolution recommending to the General Assembly – which suspended Libya from the Council in March over the actions of the regime of then leader Muammar al-Qadhafi towards its population – that it now lift the suspension. This follows the international recognition of the National Transitional Council (NTC) as having assumed authority over Libya, where pro-Qadhafi forces and rebels had engaged in fighting for months after a pro-democracy movement emerged at the start of the year.
The March decision by the Assembly marked the first time that a member was suspended from the Human Rights Council. Today’s resolution noted the new commitments by Libya to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and to cooperate with all UN human rights organizations and mechanisms.
The Council also congratulated Libya for its willingness to cooperate with the international commission of inquiry investigating human rights abuses in the country committed since the beginning of the popular uprising.
Today the Council also adopted a range of resolutions on various human rights issues, including a mandate for the creation of a special rapporteur or expert on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence of gross violations of human rights or international law.
(UN Press Release)
Although online registration for the Dublin Fall Meeting has closed, you can still register and attend the fabulous fall meeting of the American Bar Association Section of International Law. To register, please visit the registration area starting October 11th at 1PM at The Convention Centre Dublin, Spencer Dock, Dublin 1, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Registration hours will open on Tuesday, October 11th from 1:00 PM – 8:00 PM and will then be open Wednesday, October 12th – Friday, October 14th from 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Registration questions can be directed to Jessica Smith, Meeting Planner, ABA Section of International Law at Jessica.Smith [at] AmericanBar.org. See you in Ireland!
The United Nations marked World Maritime Day today with a warning of the high costs that piracy is imposing on the shipping industry, and a call for collective action from UN agencies, governments and military forces to combat the problem.
“During 2010 alone, 4,185 seafarers were attacked by pirates using firearms – even rocket propelled grenades, 1,090 were taken hostage, and 516 were used as human shields. No fewer than 488 were reported suffering significant psychological or physical abuse,” said International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos. In his message to mark the Day, Mr. Mitropoulos noted that over the years, piracy has taken a high toll in the shipping industry, particularly in the Indian Ocean. “While innocent seafarers bear the brunt of [pirates’] crimes, the world economy suffers too – an annual cost that is now estimated to be between $7 billion and $12 billion,” he said. Mr. Mitropoulos said that piracy has become an entrenched problem that cannot be solved by one entity alone.
“While IMO has positioned itself in the epicentre of the concerted efforts being made, it cannot alone supply an instant solution to the issue,” he said. He stressed that the participation of governments, shipping companies, ship operators and crews, military forces, and UN agencies would all need to act in an orchestral manner if they are to combat piracy successfully. “Shipping companies must ensure that their ships rigorously apply the IMO guidance and industry-developed best management practices in their entirety, so that, when venturing into the western Indian Ocean region, they comply with all the recommended measures: no ship is invulnerable, in particular those with relatively low freeboards and slow steaming speeds.
“Governments need to back up their oft-stated concern over the situation by deploying military and other resources commensurate, in numbers and technology, with the scale of the problem and with a realistic chance of dealing with it effectively,” he said. He remarked that the magnitude of the threat and the urgency for a strategic response prompted this year’s theme for the World Maritime Day: ‘Piracy: orchestrating the response.’ “More needs to be done, including the capture, prosecution and punishment of all those involved in piracy; the tracing of ransom money; and the confiscation of proceeds of crime derived from hijacked ships, if the ultimate goal of consigning piracy to the realms of history is to be achieved,” he said. Rome will be the host this year of the World Maritime Day celebrations on 13–14 October. As part of the event, a series of seminars will take place to discuss anti-piracy measures and international cooperation against piracy.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
The Appeals Chamber for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has upheld 25-year jail terms imposed on a former top military officer and a landowner for genocide in the massacres that killed some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus during a 100-day period in 1994. The Appellate Chamber dismissed the appeal by Lieutenant Colonel Ephrem Setako (who was also head of the defense ministry’s division of legal affairs) upholding his conviction for genocide for ordering the killings at Mukamira military camp in 1994. The Chamber also confirmed his convictions for extermination as a crime against humanity and for violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons as a serious violation of the Geneva Conventions that govern the treatment of prisoners of war.
The Chamber also upheld the 25-year jail term imposed on Yussuf Munyakazi, a former farmer and landowner, for genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity based on his role in the killings of Tutsi at Shangi and Mibilizi parishes on 29 and 30 April 1994, respectively.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release) (mew)
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia granted women the right to vote (starting in 2015), but a court in Saudi Arabia reminded us this week that the situation for women in that country remains tragic. A woman, Shaimaa Ghassaneya, was found guilty of driving and was sentenced this week to ten lashes. The New York Times reports that according to human rights activists she would appeal the sentence. It also reported that more women (at least before this sentence) have been encouraged to violated the ban on driving.
The Georgetown Center for Transnational Business and the Law will hold a symposium on the 2010 UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts. The session will be on Friday, October 28, 2011, starting at 9:00 a.m. Click here for more information. Download UNIDROIT Symposium
Hat tip to David P. Stewart
As the annual debate of world leaders came to a close yestersday, the President of the General Assembly said it is time to focus on tackling the range of issues raised over the past week, from climate change and sustainable development to United Nations reform and the application for Palestinian statehood. “Coming together is only the start; working together will get us to the end,” Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser told the 193-member body at the closing of the general debate.
The debate drew the participation of 111 heads of State and government, as well as a host of vice-presidents, ministers, senior government officials and one crown prince. A total of 191 Member States – including the UN’s newest member, South Sudan – and three observers took part, with only Saudi Arabia and Seychelles sitting it out this year. “Without question, it has been an historic and unforgettable debate,” Mr. Al-Nasser stated, touching on several of the highlights of the week-long debate that began last Wednesday.
Many Member States, he noted, paid tribute to the hope awakened by the shifts taking place around the world, and praised the courage of those who fought for freedom, dignity and democracy, and made it clear that governments cannot suppress their people without accountability. The Assembly also witnessed the renewed hope and determination of the Palestinian people, Mr. Al-Nasser said, adding that it was indeed “an historic moment” when President Mahmoud Abbas announced that he had submitted an application to the Secretary-General for the admission of Palestine as a UN Member State.
“As we come together to consider these timely and complex issues, the role of mediation is clearly more relevant than ever before,” said the President, who has identified four key areas to help frame the work of the 66th session. These areas are:
- the peaceful settlement of disputes;
- UN reform and revitalization;
- improving disaster prevention and response; and
- sustainable development and global prosperity.
There were also calls during the debate for continuing reform of the UN, including broad agreement on the urgent need to make the Security Council more representative, inclusive, democratic and transparent.
Member States also emphasized the importance of international cooperation in disaster prevention and recovery, and acknowledged the need to “act cooperatively and think creatively” regarding sustainable development and global prosperity as the world’s population reaches the 7-billion mark next month. In addition, there were calls for redoubling efforts to achieve progress in attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the targets to slash hunger, poverty, disease and lack of access to education by 2015 – as well as tackling climate change and advancing efforts on nuclear disarmament.
“We now turn our attention to the crucial next step,” said the President, stressing the need to translate words into deeds. He added that in fulfilling their responsibilities, Member States must build consensus and sustainable solutions to global challenges.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
From climate change and sustainable development to the importance of multilateralism and the need for an end to impunity for war crimes and human rights, officials from United Nations Member States around the world have taken to the podium during the General Assembly’s annual general debate to voice their views about issues both global and national.
Ambassador Lucy Mungoma of Zambia told the debate that the recent political upheavals across North Africa and the Middle East have underscored the value of mediation as a way to try to resolve conflicts. Welcoming Libyans’ ousting of the regime of Muammar al-Qadhafi earlier this year, Ms. Mungoma said she was nevertheless concerned about “new atrocities being committed against black people in that country – both the citizens and migrants from other African countries. “We call on this august body to send a strong message that not only will it pursue perpetrators of these atrocities as vigorously as it did Qadhafi, but it undertakes to investigate all allegations thoroughly. It would be tragic if, in the euphoria of celebrating the ousting of Qadhafi, the UN turns a blind eye to atrocities still being committed.”
Angola’s External Relations Minister Georges Rebelo Chikoti stressed the value of multilateralism as a method to resolve not just conflicts but all major challenges confronting humanity. “Angola advocates a shared commitment to find solutions at all levels for the problems we face,” he said. “My country gives priority to political and diplomatic coordination and to the strengthening of institutional relations with the organizations of the United Nations system, as well as regional and sub-regional organizations.”
For his part, Basile Ikouebe, the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Congo, used his address to call for a successful conclusion of international negotiations on a climate change agreement beyond the life of the Kyoto Protocol. He said the global conference on the issue that will take place in Durban, South Africa, in December must lead to an international instrument that is open for countries to sign by the start of Rio+20, the sustainable development conference scheduled for Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. Mr. Ikouebe singled out sustainable forestry management as being particularly important, noting that many poor or developing countries often lacked the necessary human, material or financial resources to adequately protect their forests stocks.
Manuel Salvador dos Ramos, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Communities of São Tomé and Principe, highlighted the Assembly debate’s theme this year – the role of mediation as a means of settling disputes. He noted that “the widespread use of international mediation as a technique of resolving crises as a fundamental feature of peaceful conflict resolution has not always matched our expectations and produced the expected results.” The minister said it was important for international mediators such as the UN to evolve from a peacekeeping role to one of peacebuilding. “The definition of the legal status of the mediator, the methodology of mediation and a better involvement of diplomats and experts with experience in international law appear to us as a necessary and important step that the United Nations should take in the future,” he added.
Tajikistan’s Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi voiced serious concern about the ongoing impact of climate change, especially in his own region of Central Asia. “In Tajikistan, where about 60 per cent of all water resources of the entire Central Asia originate, in the last 30 years more than 35 per cent of glaciers disappeared,” he said. “Accelerated melting of glaciers creates additional risks for sustainable development and regional water, energy and food security.” Mr. Zarifi called on fellow Member States to back a Tajik initiative from 2009 to establish an international fund aimed at saving glaciers.
Jigmi Y. Thinley, Prime Minister of Bhutan, said his country’s efforts to promote sustainable social and economic development were bearing fruit, with expanding forest cover in its territory and a rich biodiversity. Ahead of Rio+20 next year, he emphasized that countries should adopt an approach that aims towards happiness or well-being – as measured against “a well-developed set of indices.” – and not just a narrow material sense of improvement. The pursuit of happiness or well-being is “a universal value that binds the rich and the poor, the developed and the developing, and articulates the ultimate purpose of life. It is about making true societal progress in ways that are meaningful, joyful and lasting,” he said. A failure to do so, or a continuation of the current global path, “comes at the cost of our physical, psychological and spiritual well-being. It is destroying our natural life support systems and threatening our long-term survival.”
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
The President of the Security Council today referred Palestine’s application to become a United Nations Member State to the committee that deals with the admission of new members.
The Council’s decision to refer the application comes almost a week after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas submitted the application to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who then forwarded it to the 15-member body.
The Council’s Committee on the Admission of New Members is slated to consider the application on Friday.
Any application for UN membership is considered by the Council, which decides whether or not to recommend admission to the 193-member General Assembly, which then has to adopt a resolution for the admission of a Member State.
Palestine, which currently has observer status at the UN, submitted the application for full membership “based on the Palestinian people’s natural, legal and historic rights” and based on resolution 181 adopted by the General Assembly in November 1947, Mr. Abbas wrote in his submission to the Secretary-General.
In resolution 181, the Assembly decided on the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab States.
Mr. Abbas added that the submission comes “after decades of displacement, dispossession and the foreign military occupation of my people” and with the successful culmination of the Palestinian State-building programme.
(UN Press Release)
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
West African countries today called for enlarging the 15-member Security Council to give their continent its due representation on the United Nations body whose decisions are legally binding, as opposed to the recommendations issued by the 193-member General Assembly. They also voiced full support for mediation as a means of pre-empting crises, the theme of this year’s Assembly annual general debate.
“Negotiations for Security Council reform must be intensified with the adoption of a precise timetable for their conclusion,” Foreign Minister Nassirou Bako-Arifari of Benin told the Assembly, proposing 2015 as the target date for giving Africa permanent representation on an enlarged body. “It is time to put an end to this intolerable injustice which excludes a whole continent Africa, the only one, from the supreme decision-making body on international security.”
He also called for reinforcing the operational capacities of the UN and regional organizations to face the world’s multiple crises. “At the global level we believe in the virtues of multilateralism; that’s why we have even more need for a UN which must be entrusted with a more decisive role in world governance, a UN which will be the spearhead for actions that will promote, within a framework of inclusion, lasting global solutions to all types of crises,” he said. Mr. Bako-Arifari also appealed for international help to fight piracy that has recently intensified off Benin’s coast in the Gulf of Guinea.
Foreign Minister Djibrill Yipènè Bassolé of Burkina Faso said his country had been engaged for more than a decade in efforts to reform the UN “to allow it to conform with the exigencies of a world that is in full transformation. “For Burkina Faso, reform must take into account the interests of all Member States and increase the effectiveness of our Organization in handling peace and security, stability and development in all parts of the world,” he said. With regard to mediation he cited the role of Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaoré in helping to resolve crises in Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire and Togo.
Mauritania’s Foreign Minister Hamady Ould Hamady called for Security Council reform that would include permanent representation for Africa and the Arab Group. “The Security Council must fairly reflect the will of the entire international community,” he said. He also noted that organized crime, such as kidnapping, terrorism, and drug, weapon and human trafficking, had been expanding for many years in the Sahara region, posing a threat to peace and stability. In cooperation with neighbouring countries, Mauritania had put a stop to the activities of those terrorist groups and made it impossible for them to move freely, he added.
(UN Press Release)
Myanmar told the United Nations today that it has launched a series of political, economic and social reforms aimed at improving the welfare of its people, but voiced regret that the Government’s efforts are being hampered by international economic sanctions. Wunna Maung Lwin, the country’s Foreign Minister, told the General Assembly’s annual general debate that States that imposed unilateral sanctions against Myanmar should lift them now that it has “emerged as a new democratic nation in accordance with the constitution approved by the overwhelming majority of the people.”
He stated that Myanmar attached great importance to the promotion and protection of human rights, and that fundamental rights are guaranteed by the “relevant provisions of the constitution.” As a gesture of “national reconsolidation,” the Government had last month offered an olive branch to all “national race armed groups” Mr. Lwin said, adding that some of the groups had accepted the reconciliation offer.
He also highlighted what he said was the granting of an amnesty to 20,000 prisoners by President Thein Sein in May and that all of them had been released by the end of July. “The President in exercising the mandate vested upon him by the constitution will further grant an amnesty at an appropriate time in the near future.”
The Government is also reaching out to the international community, Mr. Lwin said, pointing out that Myanmar had received visits by heads of State and high-level delegations from regional and international organisations over the past five months. The President also made official visits to Indonesia and China.
Meanwhile, later today Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will participate in a high-level meeting of the Group of Friends on Myanmar, at UN Headquarters in New York.
(UN Press Release)
Monday, September 26, 2011
Only the United Nations is capable of responding to the world’s major challenges and countries should work together through the Organization to seek effective solutions to crises and problems, Ireland’s Foreign Minister said today.
Eamon Gilmore told the General Assembly’s annual general debate that the UN has been a “constant anchor” as the world deals with challenges ranging from violent conflict and human rights abuses and extreme poverty and environmental degradation. “No other organization is as well equipped to develop common answers to the big questions of our time,” he said. “No other organization has the same global impact and legitimacy.
“With an increasing need for global solutions, the United Nations, which represents almost all the countries on Earth, has the political, moral and legal authority to act. While there may be no easy answers to the questions being posed, our best chance of finding effective responses lies in the collective deliberation and action provided for by this Organization.” Mr. Gilmore added that the UN is also the embodiment of freedom and equality, values outlined in the UN Charter and “a bulwark… in a changing and uncertain world.” He stressed that freedom and equality must underpin the global response to many challenges, such as resolving conflicts, ending human rights abuses and eradicating hunger.
(UN Press Release)
Over the years I've written a number of articles on career advice for law students who are interested in having a career in international law. Here are links to some of those articles. To download the articles you have to register your email address with SSRN, but that only takes a minute. Here's the list of articles:
- Practical Career Advice for Young International Lawyers: How to Build a Killer Resume, Network Effectively, Create Your Own Opportunities, and Live Happily Ever After - http://ssrn.com/abstract=1146483
- Working Internationally - http://ssrn.com/abstract=1197682
- Should You Be a Faculty Research Assistant? - http://ssrn.com/abstract=1265844
- Get Published - http://ssrn.com/abstract=1318388
- Should You Join a Bar Association? - http://ssrn.com/abstract=1197582
- The Right Writing Sample - http://ssrn.com/abstract=1681467