Sunday, September 25, 2011
Saturday, September 24, 2011
The Caribbean island State of Antigua and Barbuda today demanded reparations for injustices suffered by African slaves and their descendants, saying at the United Nations that segregation and violence against people of African descent had impaired their capacity for advancement as nations, communities and individuals.
“None should disagree that racism and other legacies of slavery continue to shape the lives of people of African descent – thus reparations must be directed toward repairing the damage inflicted by slavery and racism,” Baldwin Spencer, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, told the General Assembly’s annual general debate in New York.
He stressed that former slave-owning States should begin a reconciliation process by formally apologizing for the crimes committed by those nations or their citizens over the 400 years of the African slave trade.
“And to help counter the lingering damage inflicted on generations of peoples of African descent by generations of slave-trading and colonialism, we call on those very States to back up their apologies with new commitments to the economic development of the nations that have suffered from this human tragedy,” said Mr. Spencer.
He said that planned African Diaspora Summit in South Africa next year will provide a platform for the African diaspora to put in place economic policies that will ensure sustained economic cooperation among public and private stakeholders to promote development, entrepreneurship and business opportunities in diaspora regions.
(UN Press Release)
The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) must have a greater say in the running of global economic affairs, where new arrangements are urgently needed given the continuing financial turmoil around the world, the Prime Minister of Mauritius said today. Navinchandra Ramgoolam told the fourth day of the General Assembly’s annual general debate that the global economy has still not recovered from the 2008 crisis.
Developed countries face budget deficits, unsustainable debts and high rates of unemployment, a number of emerging economies are rising rapidly, while poorer developing countries have suffered the negative impact of financial and economic failures in which it had no part, he said. “As the economic centre of gravity shifts eastwards and creates new opportunities we must ensure that the formidable global challenges do not create economic insecurity for those who feel left behind and lead to other threats to international security. It is imperative that we manage these transformations judiciously and with pragmatism.”
Dr. Ramgoolam said the UN’s universal membership, as well as its legitimacy, made it the most appropriate body for resolving global economic, financial, trade and development issues. “The United Nations played a significant role in the ’70s in shaping the conceptual framework for a new international economic order. The United Nations adopted a number of landmark resolutions which laid the normative foundation for a more equitable economic order. “The United Nations still has a role to play in shaping the world economic order to ensure economic security, in accordance with its mandate under the [UN] Charter.” He called for the world body to undergo reforms in its structures and working methods so that it has a better balance between political and economic issues.
ECOSOC, one of the six principal organs of the UN, is a 54-member body tasked with furthering economic and social cooperation and development, and Dr. Ramgoolam it “must be given the prominence that it was intended to have.” He added that the UN and ECOSOC should also work more closely with regional institutions to pursue economic development.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release) (mew)
The Prime Minister of Swaziland, Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, in his address to the UN General Assembly urged the UN to find a suitable way for Taiwan to participate meaningfully in UN specialised agencies and mechanisms, including the UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). “There is no doubt that the people of Taiwan have a functional need to be included in the UN system, and that their inclusion is in the common interest of the international community as well,” he said.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release) (mew)
Lesotho says that there is no consistency in global conflict resolution, pointing out to the UN General Assembly that the UN Security Council is sometimes quick to authorize military intervention in some disputes while preferring mediation in others -- or sometimes not acting at all. Lesotho said that the international community has sometimes “turned a blind eye, at best, leaving the mantle to some members of the international community to unilaterally threaten the imposition of sanctions,” Lesotho’s Prime Minister, Pakalitha B. Mosisili, told the annual general debate of the General Assembly, whose theme this year is the role of mediation in the settlement of disputes.
Mediation by a group of African eminent persons and the UN produced the desired results and brought Kenya’s post-election conflict to an end in 2008, while facilitation by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) led to the formation of a national unity government in Zimbabwe in 2009, Mr. Mosisili said. African Union’s mediation in Burundi ended over a decade of bloody conflict. And peace brokered through mediation also ended two decades of warfare between northern and southern Sudan and led to the creation of a new State, South Sudan.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release) (mew)
The government of Fiji was overthrown in 2006 by a military coup. Since that time, the country has suffered from lack of basic freedoms and attacks on the judiciary, the country's lawyers, its bar association, and other defenders of human rights.
Here is the UN Press release concerning the remarks of the country's military leader, speaking yesterday to the UN General Assembly.
Fiji is about to enter a formative period that will result in the first ever elections based on common and equal suffrage rather than racial categorization, the country’s Prime Minister has told the United Nations General Assembly’s annual general debate.
Speaking before the Assembly last night, Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama – who took power in the Pacific archipelago after a coup in 2006 – outlined the details of a political road map that is designed to culminate in national elections by September 2014. Between September next year and 2013, Mr. Bainimarama said, a new constitution will be drafted based on principles developed in the People’s Charter for Peace, Change and Progress.
“The road map clearly states that in the process the new Fijian constitution must do away with racial categorization and discrimination, so that for the first time in Fiji’s history, Fijians will go to elections in 2014 on the basis of common and equal suffrage.” He added that electronic registration of voters for those elections will begin in January next year.
The small country has been marked by recurring tensions between ethnic Fijians and other ethnic groups, and related disputes over the allocation of some parliamentary seats on the basis of ethnicity. Mr. Bainimarama said the road map “will undo decades of undemocratic laws and policies inherited from our colonial past and entrenched in past constitutions, which have impeded our nation’s progress. “This is a determined move to create a society based on substantive equality and justice, and respect for the dignity of all Fijians.”
Nepal is committed to the drafting of a new constitution that will consolidate peace and democracy as the country moves away from the “feudalistic and autocratic” monarchy that was abolished in 2008, Prime Minister Bauram Bhattarai told the United Nations General Assembly today. “The constitution will not only guarantee the fundamental democratic norms… It will also ensure that our multi-party democracy is inclusive, participatory and life-changing for all, especially the labouring masses and the marginalized ones.”
Nepal has been plagued by political disputes since the civil war between Government forces and Maoists formally ended in 2007 and the monarchy was abolished. Several deadlines to draft a new constitution have been missed.
Mr. Bhattarai also called for a “new Marshall Plan” – the large-scale aid programme that helped Western Europe recover after the Second World War – to rebuild countries emerging from conflict to ensure sustainable peace and socio-economic development to lift people out of poverty. “The islands of prosperity amidst the sea of poverty are not sustainable. It is morally indefensible,” the Prime Minister said.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release) (mew)
Our colleagues at the Constitutional Law Prof Blog have posted about the jury verdict in Orange County, California. Eleven Muslim students disrupted a speech at the University of California at Irvine by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren in February 2010. The jury found them guilty of disrupting a public meeting and the students were sentenced to probation.
The case may remind some international law professors about the pre-Constitutional case of Respublica v. de Longchamps, 1 U.S. 111 (1784). In that case, the Chevalier de Longchamps was indicted of threatening violence to the consul-general of France to the state of Pennsylvania. He actually made an assault on the consul-general (something none of the Irvine students did) by striking the consul-general's cane. The jury convicted him of assault. The decision by Chief Justice McKean of Pennsylvania in sentencing the Chevalier stated that the crime was:
an infraction of the law of nations. This law, in its full extent, is part of the law of this state, and is to be collected from the practice of different nations, and the authority of writers. The person of a public minister is sacred and inviolable. Whoever offers any violence to him, not only affronts the sovereign he represents, but also hurts the common safety and well-being of nations--he is guilty of a crime against the whole world.
Further, he wrote (in language we really wouldn't see today in a court opinion):
You then have been guilty of an atrocious violation of the law of nations; you have grossly insulted gentlemen, the peculiar objects of this law (gentlemen of amiable characters, and highly esteemed by the government of this state), in a most wanton and unprovoked manner: and it is now the interest as well as the duty of this government, to animadvert upon your conduct with a becoming severity--such a severity as may tend to reform yourself, to deter others from the commission of the like crime, preserve the honor of the state, and maintain peace with our great and good ally [France], and the whole world. . . .
As Mark Weston Janis and John Noyes note in their casebook on International Law (on page 264, 4th edition), the De Longchamps case "provided ammunition for those favoring the creation of a federal judiciary under the U.S. Constitution with jurisdiction to hear cases involving foreign citizens." And as Constitutional scholars will remember, Article III(2) of the U.S. Constitution now provides that the judicial power of the United States shall extend "to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls . . . ."
Friday, September 23, 2011
Lasting peace in the Middle East will only be achieved through direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and not through the imposition of United Nations resolutions, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today. “The truth is that so far the Palestinians have refused to negotiate. The truth is that Israel wants peace with a Palestinian State, but the Palestinians want a State without peace,” Mr. Netanyahu told the General Assembly’s annual general debate.
He called on the Palestinians to accept Israel as a Jewish State, and said the core of the long-running Middle East conflict is not the dispute over Israeli settlements in the West Bank, “but the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish State in any border.”
Mr. Netanyahu spoke shortly after Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority President, addressed the Assembly and after he handed over an application to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for Palestine to become a UN Member State. Mr. Ban later submitted the application to the Security Council for consideration. Mr. Netanyahu called on Mr. Abbas to “recognize the Jewish State, and make peace with us. In such a genuine peace, Israel is prepared to make painful compromises. We believe that the Palestinians should be neither the citizens of Israel nor its subjects. They should live in a free State of their own. “But they should be ready, like us, for compromise. And we will know that they’re ready for compromise and for peace when they start taking Israel’s security requirements seriously and when they stop denying our historical connection to our ancient homeland.”
He offered to conduct direct negotiations with Mr. Abbas immediately in New York, where the General Assembly’s general debate is being held.
(Excerpts from a UN Press Release)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas today submitted an application for Palestine to become a United Nations Member State. Mr. Abbas handed over an application to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at UN Headquarters in New York this morning. Palestine currently has observer status at the UN.
According to the provisions of the UN Charter, the Secretary-General is tasked with verifying any letter requesting UN membership, after which he sends it to the Security Council and the General Assembly. The application is considered by the Council, which decides whether or not to recommend admission to the 193-member Assembly, which has to adopt a resolution for the admission of any new Member State.
(UN Press Release)
Iraq is striving to build a democratic State anchored in peace and the rule of law, with all communities living in harmony, irrespective of their sectarian, ethnic or factional affiliation, the country’s President, Jalal Talabani, told the General Assembly today.
Stressing that Iraq had succeeded in getting rid of sanctions and restriction imposed as a consequence of the invasion of Kuwait by the Saddam Hussein regime, Mr. Talabani encouraged the international community to seek investment opportunities in the country in the fields of oil, natural gas and infrastructure. “The economic policy of Iraq is based on encouraging investments and providing the appropriate legislative environment to protect investors and their capital,’ said Mr. Talabani.
He said Iraqi security forces had proved that they are capable of providing security and combating terrorism when United States troops withdraw from the country at the end of the year. And noting that Iraq’s foreign policy is based on the principle of good neighbourliness and respect of international obligations, Mr. Talabani urged Turkey and Iran to resort to diplomacy and dialogue to resolve their dispute with their Kurdish communities, and to refrain from bombing Iraqi territories in the Iraqi Kurdistan which he said was causing harm to innocent civilians.
Mr. Talabani said the Middle East should be a region free of weapons of mass destruction and urged Israel to join the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and put its nuclear facilities under the safeguards regime of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Ghana today called for a legally-binding United Nations treaty on arms trade that would help stem the flow of arms to destinations where they could fuel conflict or undermine national and regional peace. “For developing countries such as Ghana, the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons and other conventional weaponry continues to pose a threat our national security and socio-economic and political stability,” said President John Atta Mills in his remarks for the UN General Assembly.
The remaining meetings of the Preparatory Committee for the UN United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) should come up with proposals on the draft treaty that would close loopholes that allowed conventional weapons to flow from legitimate to illicit markets. The preparatory committee was created after the General Assembly in 2006 requested the Secretary-General to establish a group of governmental experts to look into “the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for a comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms.”
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
The Security Council yesterday voiced its determination to enhance the effectiveness of the United Nations in defusing potential and ongoing conflicts, and encouraged the world body to use all the preventive diplomacy tools at its disposal.
During a high-level meeting chaired by President Michel Sleiman of Lebanon, which holds the Council’s presidency for September, the 15-member body also underlined the “overriding political, humanitarian and moral imperatives as well as economic advantages” of preventing the outbreak, escalation or relapse into conflicts.
The UN currently has an array of assets available to it in the area of preventive diplomacy, including the Secretary-General’s good offices, envoys, early warning systems, the Mediation Support Unit of the Department of Political Affairs (DPA), and fact-finding missions.
“The Council encourages the Secretary-General to increasingly and effectively use all the modalities and diplomatic tools at his disposal under the Charter for the purpose of enhancing mediation and its support activities,” it added in a presidential statement.
In his address yesterday to world leaders gathered in New York for the General Assembly’s general debate, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said preventing and mitigating conflicts was one of the five “generational opportunities to shape the world of tomorrow by the decisions we make today.”
In a report on the issue released earlier this month, he cited recent successes in easing mounting tension between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), post-election violence in Kenya, and the transition from military to civilian rule in Guinea.
“The pace, intensity and increasing professionalism of our preventive efforts are beginning to pay off,” he told today’s meeting. “However, we still have a long way to go. Violent conflict continues to wreak a shocking toll on individuals, societies and economies. Every day, we can see the costs of the failure to prevent. Despite recent advances, preventive diplomacy continues to face long odds and numerous challenges,” he noted. “Yet, I firmly believe that better preventive diplomacy is not an option; it is a necessity.”
The Secretary-General stressed that a critical factor is political will. “If the parties do not want peace, or are unwilling to compromise, it is extraordinarily difficult to persuade or impose it from the outside.” Mr. Ban’s report was dedicated to the memory of former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, who died in a plane crash 50 years ago while trying to bring peace to the nascent but conflict-torn DRC. It outlines several areas of focus, beginning with the need to prioritize early action, as well as continuing to invest in and better equip the women and men who lead UN preventive diplomacy efforts on the ground.
He also cites the need for adequate investment to deliver results, noting that prevention is “infinitely cheaper than cure – and is one of the smartest, most cost-effective investments we can make.”
It is also necessary to further strengthen the world body’s strategic partnerships with regional and sub-regional organizations, and to continue to support national institutions and mechanisms for mediation and dialogue, he added. Including civil society organizations in preventive efforts is critical, especially women and youth who can lead the charge for peaceful change.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Thursday, September 22, 2011
I had a rare opportunity today to spend the day at Guantanamo Bay observing US Government operations there. There are currently 171 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, four of whom have been convicted. The rest await trial by military commission. At its height, the facility had as many as 670 detainees there at one time. No new detainees have been brought to Guantanamo Bay since 2008.
Long gone is the infamous Camp X-Ray, which was only used during the first three months detainees were brought to the US Naval Base beginning in 2002. Now most of the detainees are housed in Camp V where they have access to TV, books, classes and many other amenities. The base has a cultural advisor who helps to ensure religious beliefs are respected such as prayer times and appropriate
diets. Detainees who are disciplinary problems or higher risk are housed in other camps with higher security. Some of the detainees are engaged in periodic or prolonged hunger strikes. Others throw "cocktails" of bodily fluids at the guards. The US military personnel at the base clearly have a difficult job trying to maintain order and discipline while treating the detainees as humanely as possible under the circumstances
We also toured Camp Justice which was built in 2008 to conduct trials by military commissions. It is a state of the art courtroom equipped with impressive technology, space for media and for the families of both the defendants and the victims. The legal staff at Guantanamo Bay anticipates charges being filed soon against one of the alleged bombers of the USS Cole and the five detainees believed to be responsible for the attacks of 9/11. Once charges are preferred, the official trials will begin.
Much legal uncertainty remains. Moving forward with military commission trials will certainly be a step in the right direction for detainees who have been held for years without formal charges. However, the possibility of indefinite detention lingers. The Obama Administration is in the process of creating review boards to periodically review individual cases to determine whether continued detention is necessary. But it remains unclear whether all detainees will be released even after serving any sentences if security concerns remain.
The leaders of Kuwait and Bahrain today at the General Assembly called for an end to Israeli occupation of Arab territories and the creation of a Palestinian State, a move they said would resolve conflict in the Middle East.
“Six decades have passed, and the United Nations still stands incapable of finding a solution to the Palestinian Question and putting an end to the Israeli occupation of Arab territories,” said Sheikh Nasser Al Mohammad Al Ahmad Al Sabah, the Prime Minister of Kuwait, in his speech to the Assembly’s general debate in New York.
“What really evokes concern is that the international community stands as a spectator of all those Israeli practices and policies, without opposing or deterring them, despite their clear contravention and violation of the most simple rules of international law and the resolution of international legitimacy,” he said.
The Kuwaiti leader urged the international community to put pressure on Israel to withdrawal from Palestinian and other Arab territories so that Palestinians can achieve their right to self-determination and establish a State with Jerusalem as its capital.
“We wish to renew our full commitment and support to the bid of the Palestinian Authority and its endeavours to obtain membership of the United Nations as an independent and full Member State.”
The King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa, for his part told the Assembly that the creation of a Palestinian State would “end an era of bitter Arab-Israeli conflict, subject to Israeli withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories.”
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, in his address to the general debate yesterday, hailed calls for political reform in the Middle East and North Africa, saying the regions “abounded in great expectations.”
He said that Qatar has always had a clear policy on the rules governing Arab, regional and international relations, which he said was based on reconciliation and harmony among peoples and nations.
“On the other hand, we, as well as others, have been unable to turn a deaf ear or blind eye to the calls of the wounded seeking help from near and far, against an entrenched oppression,” he said.
The Sheikh also had a tête-à-tête with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, during which they exchanged views on a number of regional issues, including Libya, Iraq, the Middle East and Darfur peace processes.
Mr. Ban paid tribute to the role played by Qatar in supporting the UN’s work, stressing the country’s role in the Darfur peace process and its efforts to settle other regional issues.
(UN Press Release)
Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete today urged the international community to boost support for East African countries to combat maritime piracy, telling the General Assembly that the problem, which has been centred in Somalia, has extended further south in the Indian Ocean.
Mr. Kikwete told the Assembly’s annual general debate that 13 ships had been attacked by pirates – including five that were hijacked – in Tanzania’s territorial waters since last year.
“If we don’t succeed in stopping these attacks they may disrupt shipping services and impact negatively our economy,” he said.
“We need the support of the international community to help build capacity to fight piracy,” the Tanzanian leader added. He welcomed the readiness by some States to strengthen the capacity of courts and prisons in the region to deal with captured pirates.
In his address Mr. Kikwete noted that democracy was taking root in Africa and that peace now prevailed in almost the entire continent, except in Somalia, which continues to need the support of the United Nations and the African Union to restore peace and stability.
“All that Africa needs most is continued support to build the institutions of democracy and governance as well as in building economies and overcoming some serious challenges,” he said.
Mr. Kikwete also drew the Assembly’s attention to the ongoing food crisis in the Horn of Africa and famine in Somalia, saying the problem had not abated.
The Tanzanian leader exhorted developed countries to raise their overseas development assistance (ODA) to 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP), stressing that if all aid donors were to make that commitment to poorer States, developing countries would achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 deadline.
(UN Press Release)
A group of independent United Nations human rights experts has condemned the execution of a teenager carried out yesterday by Iranian authorities, and called once again for an immediate halt to the country’s use of the death penalty.
Alireza Molla Soltani, 17, was publicly executed by hanging on Wednesday. He was reportedly sentenced to death last month for stabbing a popular athlete to death in mid-July, which he said was done in self-defence.
“We are outraged at the execution practice in Iran despite the international community’s and our repeated calls for a moratorium,” the experts – on human rights in Iran, on summary executions, on the independence of the judiciary, and on torture – said in a news release. “Any judgment imposing the death penalty upon juveniles below the age of 18, and their execution, are incompatible with Iran’s international obligations,” they stressed.
This year alone, more than 200 people have been executed in Iran, the majority of whom were charged with drug-related offences, the news release noted. A man convicted of drug trafficking was also hanged in Iran on Wednesday, according to media reports. The experts said that it is widely accepted that the death penalty is an extreme punishment, and that it may only be imposed for the most serious crimes. “We, however, regret that execution is common practice for people charged with drug-related offences, which do not amount to the most serious crimes.”
The experts – Christof Heyns, Ahmed Shaheed, Gabriela Knaul and Juan Méndez – called on the Iranian Government to immediately implement a moratorium on the death penalty, particularly in drug-related and juvenile cases. UN human rights experts work in an independent and unpaid capacity, and report to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.
(UN Press Release)
Conflict mediation efforts will be far more successful if they are home-grown and harness the capacities of young people and regional groups or institutions, Rwandan President Paul Kagame told the opening of the General Assembly’s annual general debate yesterday. He warned that traditional methods of diplomacy can frequently take a toll on the people they are supposed to help. “Too often, while resolutions are being debated and refined, people are dying,” he said. “And sometimes when those resolutions are eventually adopted, enforcement is slow, or they only halt the conflict for a short time but with no sustainable solutions.”
The theme of this year’s general debate is the role of mediation in resolving conflicts and the Rwandan leader stressed in his remarks that national ownership of the process remains vital. “Mediation efforts must be based on an over-riding desire to bring conflicting parties to resolve their differences. But this should not be confused with supporting one side in the conflict, or imposing a solution in the interests of the mediators.”
He said the most effective way to prevent conflict from even arising was to empower citizens, particularly young people, so that they feel they have an important stake in the management and stability of their community or country. “This generation carries less historical and political baggage, and is more inclined to getting the most out of this global village we all find ourselves sharing. With social and communication tools, they are key innovators and thought leaders not only of tomorrow but right now. We have an important responsibility to empower them.”
Mr. Kagame said mediation processes must be based on “specific cultural and political contexts. In Rwanda, for instance, we have seen this produce long-lasting solutions and tangible results on the ground because they are home-grown. “It is also important to involve regional and sub-regional players, who have ample knowledge of the often complex regional dynamics of the conflicts in the mediation efforts. These organizations should be supported expeditiously, before disputes escalate into intractable conflicts.”
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Job Creation Made Easy: the Colombia, Panama and South Korea Free Trade Agreements.” The hearing is Friday, September 231, 2011, at 9:30 am in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building