June 11, 2011
Colombia Enacts New Law on Rights of Victims of Human Rights Violations
Colombia has enacted a law to compensate victims of human rights violations. The Victims' Rights and Land Restitution Law focuses on the rights of victims, rather than on how to deal with those who committed crimes, who may still be unknown.
The law reinforces the right to remedy for lands seized illegally and recognizes the different needs of different victims, especially women, children and displaced people. It lays the foundation for justice for some 3.5 million displaced people and estimated 500,000 victims of human rights abuse.
(mew) (Adapted from a UN Press release)
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post stated that the number of displaced people was 35 million. That number was in error, as we learned from the Colombian Embassy in the United Kingdom. It should have been 3.5 million. We regret the error and remind all of our readers to please contact us if you see something that needs to be fixed or explained further.
Constitutional Reforms in Mexico Incorporate International Human Rights Norms
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has praised constitutional reforms in Mexico because they promote the protection of human rights.
The changes to the Mexican charter, which give constitutional status to all human rights that are guaranteed in international treaties to which Mexico is party, are aimed at guaranteeing individuals the most favourable interpretation of human rights law, including internationally recognized human rights, in all settings, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Eleven articles of the constitution have been amended.
“This is a milestone that is the result of years of hard work and discussion by stakeholders from many different sectors of society: members of the Mexican Congress, Senate, academics and civil society,” Ms. Pillay said.
The OHCHR office in Mexico has been working closely with various parties on the reform through the years and commends its passage, she said. “It should reinforce the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights and it should help the country address some of the important human rights challenges it is currently facing.”
Ms. Pillay cited as important the restrictions that the reform places on the declaration of a state of emergency and the protection of human rights in such circumstances, OHCHR said. She also welcomed the strengthened role of the human rights ombudsman and the provisions on rights protection in educational settings and detention centres.
(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)
EC Gives Approval for Croatian Accession
In an update on European integration, the European Commission gave its approval yesterday for Croatia to become the 28th member of the European Union. Assuming all else goes as planned, Croatia should accede to the union on July 1, 2013. It is expected that Croatia will sign an accession treaty this fall and will then put the issue to a referendum vote of its citizens. Following that, all the other 27 EU Member States must also give their approval before accession takes effect.
June 9, 2011
European Integration Continuing?
Yesterday, the European Parliament voted in favor of allowing Bulgaria and Romania to join the border-free Schengen zone that faciliates the free movement of people beween countries in Europe. However, the EP vote is non-binding and therefore is largely symbolic. The vote was intended to give impetus to a stalled process prior to a meeting of EU Ministers today at which the ministers are expected to vote to postpone a decision on joinder until September due to continuing concerns over corruption and organized crime.
Meanwhile, the EU Presidency has said that accession talks with Croatia may be completed within the next two weeks in time for a June 21 meeting between the current President and Croatian officials. There are four categories of issues or chapters remaining to be discussed: budget, competition, judiciary and "any othe issues." The strength of the Croatian judicial system is particularly of concern due to issues of corruption. The European Commission has set the target date for Croatia's admission as mid-2013. However, the text of the accession treaty must be finalized and all the existing Member States must agree to Croatia's acceptance before it will take effect.
Evidence Growing that Libyan Forces Using Rape as Tool of War and Repression
According to Louis Moreno-Ocampo, the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), a team of "[i]nvestigators with the [ICC] are gathering evidence that the Libyan leadership is using rape as a tool of war and repression and had even acquired large quantities of drugs for its soldiers in an apparent bid to make them more likely to commit sexual assault. . . We have information to confirm that it was a policy in Libya to rape those who were against the Government,” Louis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters at United Nations Headquarters. “Rape is a new aspect of the repression,” he said, adding: “We are finding some elements confirming this issue of acquisition of Viagra-type of medicaments to show a policy. They were buying containers with products to enhance the possibility to rape, and we are getting the information in detail confirming the policy. We are trying to see who was involved.”
"ICC prosecutors last month requested the court’s judges to issue arrest warrants for Mr. Qadhafi, one of his sons and the head of the country’s intelligence forces, accusing them of committing crimes against humanity during the ongoing conflict in Libya. Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said at the time that his office had gathered direct evidence detailing the orders issued by Mr. Qadhafi, the role of Saif Al Islam Qadhafi in recruiting mercenaries, and the participation of intelligence chief Abdullah Al Sanousi in attacks against demonstrators." Mr. Moreno-Ocampo has now said "a rape charge is likely be added to the previous ones, once the investigations are completed and after the judges have made a ruling on the first set of charges."
Adapted from a UN Press Release (cgb)
June 7, 2011
Special Court for Sierra Leone Charges Five Perons with Contempt of Court
The United Nations-backed court set up to try suspects indicted for war crimes in Sierra Leone today charged five people with contempt of court for allegedly interfering with prosecution witnesses who testified in two separate trials. Two convicted former leaders of the group known as the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council that was active in Sierra Leone in the 1990s – Ibrahim Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu (aka Five-Five) – were served with their indictments in Rwanda’s Mpanga Prison, where they are serving lengthy sentences for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sierra Leone. Also facing charges are Hassan Papa Bangura (aka Bomblast) and Samuel Kargbo (aka Sammy Ragga), who live in Sierra Leone. The four are charged with two counts of attempting to bribe a witness to recant his testimony.
Mr. Kamara faces an additional count of disclosing the name of a protected witness, “in knowing violation of an order of a Chamber,” according to a news release issued by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). The court was set up in 2002 to try those most responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law in the civil wars that plagued the country, starting in 1996.
In a separate order, the Trial Chamber charged Eric Senessie on nine counts of attempting to induce prosecution witnesses in the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor to recant the testimony they gave before the Court. No arrest warrants have been issued and all the accused have sought guidance from the court’s defence office on obtaining counsel.
The charges followed separate independent investigations ordered in March by the Trial Chamber to determine whether allegations raised by the prosecution provided sufficient grounds to initiate contempt proceedings. If convicted, the accused could serve up to seven years in jail, fines of up to two million leones (approximately $500), or both.
(from a UN Press Release)
June 5, 2011
Honduras Readmitted to OAS
The Organization of American States (OAS) voted last Wednesday, June 1, to readmit Honduras to its organization two years after Honduras' membership was suspended due to a coup which led to the ouster of President Zelaya. President Zelaya was accused of trying to extend his term beyond lawful limits through a popular referendum. Many countries initially condemned the coup, but have since established relations with the new Honduran government. Zelaya was finally allowed to return to the country last Saturday as one of the conditions of Honduras' readmission to the OAS.
The OAS vote was 32-1 with Ecaudor the only country opposing the action. Ecuador expressed concern about the lack of investigation and punishment of human rights abuses committed during and after the coup. While other States agreed more needs to be done to improve Honduras' human rights record, they also expressed the belief that they could more effectively assert pressure Honduras and hold it accountable if Honduras were readmitted to the international community.
Qatar Accused of Violating Intenational Law of Nonrefoulement
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has accused Qatar of violating international law by returning a female refugee from Libya to her home country after she complained about gang rapes by Libyan government troops in Tripoli.
UNHCR had determined that Ms. Al Obeidi qualified as a refugee. Adrian Edwards, a spokesperson for UNHCR stated that: “UNHCR was present at the hotel where Ms. Al Obeidi was staying in Qatar, ready to accompany her to the airport to travel to an emergency transit centre in Romania . . . She was prevented from leaving for this flight in the early hours of Thursday morning. Ms. Al Obeidi was transported against her will to Benghazi on a flight by Qatar early Thursday,” he added.
Qatar is not a member of the 1951 Refugee Convention, but it may be argued that the duty of nonrefoulement exists under customary international law. The principle of nonrefoulement prohibits a state from returning a refugee against his or her will to a country where he or she fears threats to life or freedom.