Friday, June 24, 2011

Kudos to Indiana's Human Rights Program

The United Nations has granted the International Human Rights Program at Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis "Special Consultative Status" at the UN in recognition of the valuable work of the students and faculty on behalf of human rights.  George Edwards, the program's founding director had this to say:

"This is the equivalent of the U.N. telling the [program], 'We have vetted your organization extensively and have determined that you and your members possess special expertise. We trust you and your expertise. . The U.N. is telling us we can freely provide them with research, position papers, reports and briefs in written form. We can also participate by making speeches or interventions on the floor at UN proceedings."

Since its founding in 1997, the program has submitted numerous "shadow reports" to the United Nations, researching and detailing human rights violations in a number of countries. Faculty members and law students have traveled to New York and Geneva to present their findings before U.N. officials.  The new status will give them greater access to the UN.

More information about the program can be found on Indiana's website.


June 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Dozen Nations Sign Treaty on Genetic Resources

Twelve nations and the European Union have added their signatures to a United Nations treaty on the equitable sharing of the planet’s genetic resources in a ceremony at UN Headquarters.

Representatives from Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom and the European Union signed the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing, which calls for “fair and equitable sharing” of the utilization of genetic resources.

The protocol, adopted last year in Nagoya, Japan, will enter into force 90 days after the fiftieth country ratifies it.
The protocol envisages the setting up of an international regime on access and benefit sharing of genetic resources, which will lay down the basic ground rules on how nations cooperate in obtaining genetic resources, according to the administrative offices of the 193-member Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which drafted the protocol.

It outlines how benefits – for example, from when a plant's genetics are turned into a commercial product, such as medicine – will be shared with countries and communities which conserved and managed that resource, in some cases for millennia.

Genetic resources, whether from plant, animal or micro-organisms, are used for various purposes, ranging from basic research to the development of products. Users of genetic resources include research institutes, universities and private companies operating in various sectors such as pharmaceuticals, agriculture, horticulture, cosmetics and biotechnology.

The benefits derived may include the sharing of the results of research and development carried out on genetic resources, the transfer of technologies that make use of those resources, participation in biotechnological research activities, or monetary benefits arising from the commercialization of products based on genetic resources, such as pharmaceuticals, CBD said.

(UN Press Release)

June 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Scholars at Risk Welcomes Release of Chinese Artist and Iranian Scholar

 Scholars at Risk welcomed the release of two public intellectuals: Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who was released from detention on June 22nd; and Iranian scholar Emadeddin Baghi, who was released from Evin Prison in Tehran on June 20th.  
Scholars at Risk is an international network of over 250 universities and colleges in 30 countries dedicated to promoting academic freedom and defending the human rights of scholars worldwide.  Scholars at Risk was among the many human rights groups and academic associations advocating for Ai Weiwei’s and Mr. Baghi’s release.  SAR remains concerned for the many other scholars, artists, writers and intellectuals who reportedly have been detained in China and Iran in recent months and urges appropriate authorities in both countries to encourage an atmosphere conducive to the free and open exchange of information and ideas. 
Ai Weiwei, a prominent artist and intellectual who has publicly called for political reform in China, was detained on April 3, 2011 at the airport in Beijing.  He was held at an undisclosed location where he was permitted only one visit with his wife over the past three months, and he was released on bail on June 22, 2011.
Emadeddin Baghi is a scholar, journalist and recipient of the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.  Mr. Baghi was arrested, without charge, at his home on December 28, 2009 and taken to an undisclosed location where he was denied regular access to family, counsel and medical care.  He was released on bail in June of 2010 and was sentenced soon afterward to six years in prison and a five-year media and politics ban. Mr. Baghi was reimprisoned on December 5, 2010 and was finally released unconditionally on June 20, 2011.
For information on SAR’s advocacy work, please visit:  For more information on Scholars at Risk, please visit:
(SAR Press Release)

June 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Federal Legislation in United States

The following bills relating to international law have been introduced in the U.S. Congress.  The text of the bills can be found in the Congressional Record (CR) citations below.

  • S 1245 (Blunt, R-MO), to provide for the establishment of the Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia; to Foreign Relations. CR 6/22/11, S4023.
  • S 1259 (Durbin, D-IL), to amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 to prohibit the provision of peacekeeping operations assistance to governments of countries that recruit and use child soldiers; to Foreign Relations. CR 6/22/11, S4024.
  • HR 2271 (Royce, R-CA), to prohibit the awarding of contracts by the federal government to Chinese entities until the People’s Republic of China signs the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement; to Oversight and Government Reform. CR 6/22/11, H4455.
  • HR 2278 (Rooney, R-FL), to limit the use of funds appropriated to the Department of Defense for United States Armed Forces in support of North Atlantic Treaty Organization Operation Unified Protector with respect to Libya, unless otherwise specifically authorized by law; to Armed Services. CR 6/22/11, H4456.
  • HR 2283 (Gohmert, R-TX), to restrict funds for operations in Libya, and for other purposes; to Foreign Affairs. CR 6/22/11, H4456.
  • HJ Res 68 (Hastings, R-FL), to authorize the limited use of the United States Armed Forces in support of the NATO mission in Libya; to Foreign Affairs. CR 6/22/11, H4457.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office

June 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ICC Prosecutor wants to investigate election crimes from Côte d’Ivoire (a country that is not a party to the Rome Statute)

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has requested authorization to open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Côte d’Ivoire following the presidential run-off held last November.   At least 3,000 persons were killed, 72 persons disappeared and 520 persons were subject to arbitrary arrest and detentions in Côte d’Ivoire during the post-election violence, according to the sources quoted by the Prosecution in its application.   There are also over 100 reported cases of rape, while the number of unreported incidents is believed to be considerably higher, a news release issued by the Court stated.  

The violence erupted when former president Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after he lost the United Nations-certified election to Alassane Ouattara, who was eventually sworn in after Mr. Gbagbo surrendered in April. 

If the judges grant the Prosecutor’s request, it will be the first time the ICC opens a case in a State that is not party to the Rome Statute, which set up the Court.  

Côte d’Ivoire has, however, accepted the jurisdiction of the Court, and Mr. Ouattara sent a letter urging the Prosecution to open the investigation. He is also working closely with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to make sure that crimes committed in the West African nation do not go unpunished. 

All ICC investigations so far related to crimes committed on the territory of States parties to the Rome Statute, or were carried out following a referral from the Security Council. 

If authorized, Côte d’Ivoire will be the seventh investigation in Africa for the ICC, in addition to the Central African Republic (CAR), Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Uganda, Kenya and Libya.  

Regarding Libya, the ICC announced today that it is scheduled to render its decision on 27 June in relation to the Prosecution’s application for the issuance of three arrest warrants for Colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi, one of his sons, Saif al-Qadhafi, and the head of the country’s intelligence forces, Abdullah al-Senussi, for alleged crimes against humanity committed during the ongoing conflict in the North African nation.  

(UN Press Release) (mew)

June 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

World Justice Project Releases Second Annual Rule of Law Index

Last week, the World Justice Project released its second annual Rule of Law Index.  According to the WJP's website, the Index is a "quantitative assessment tool designed . . . to offer a detailed and comprehensive picture of the extent to which countries adhere to the rule of law in practice." This year's Index includes 66 countries.  It "consists of 9 factors and 52 sub-factors, organized under the following set of four principles, or bands, which constitute the WJP definition of the rule of law:

  1. The government and its officials and agents are accountable under the law;
  2. The laws are clear, publicized, stable and fair, and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property;
  3. The process by which the laws are enacted, administered and enforced is accessible, fair and efficient;
  4. Access to justice is provided by competent, independent, and ethical adjudicators, attorneys or representatives, and judicial officers who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve."

Not surprisingly, countries in North American and Western Europe tend to rank high in the Index as countries that do a pretty good job of adhering to the rule of law.  However, the report chastises four countries: Austria, Canada, Norway and the United States for not doing enough to provide access to legal counsel.  The Index also states that police discrimination against ethnic minorities and foreigners remains a problem in many North American and Western European countries.

In Eastern and Central Europe, Estonia, Poland and the Czech Republic scored the highest marks, while significant concerns are expressed regarding Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

In Latin America, Chile leads the region with Brazil in second place.  El Salvadore and Guatamala have much more mixed records.

Also not surprisingly, in East Asia and the Pacific, wealthier nations such as New Zealand, Australia and Japan receive relatively high marks, while Malaysia and Vietnam present a more mixed picture.  Cambodia scores lowest in the region.

On average, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia rank lowest by region in terms of adherence to the rule of law.  The Index only covers three countries in South Asia, however: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, all of whom face challenges in this area to varying degrees.  With respect to sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa performed best, followed by Ghana.  Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda are singled out as areas of significant concern.

More information and the 2011 WJP Index may be found here.


June 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Public Diplomacy

The U.S. Department of State announced a meeting on July 12, 2011 of the U.S. Advisory Committee on Public Diplomacy, in Washington, D.C., to discuss funding public diplomacy.  The meeting will be part of its mandate to appraise U.S. Government activities intended to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics. FR36612.

Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office


June 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Books We Like: Essays in Honor of Judge Bruno Simma

I remember standing on a street corner in The Hague, waiting for a tram.  I happened to look over at another man who was also waiting for a tram . . . it happened to be Judge Bruno Simma of the International Court of Justice.  You just never know who you're going to run into on a tram line in the Netherlands.

But now I have just received an extraordinary book honoring that same man on his 70th birthday.  Published by the good people of Oxford University Press, this magnificent tribute to Judge Simma is more than 1300 pages long.  Its contibutors include international law professors, judges, and practitioners.  It has a useful index, something often omitted in works like this.  It is carefully edited and beautifully presented.  And it has an unfortunate title:  "From Bilaterialism to Community Interest."  OK, we know that all titles can't be perfect (and this one isn't), but that unfortunate title is saved by the line underneath it:  "Essays in Honour of Judge Bruno Simma."  The cover is an attractive painting by Monet -- a sailboat upon still waters.  It is perhaps a metaphor for the extraordinary career of Judge Simma, whose decisions and leadership on the court are so appreciated.

It will take us some time to get through this entire volume, but it is indeed a gem and a fitting tribute to an extraordinary man.  Click here for more information about the book (and how to order it for your library).

Mark E. Wojcik (mew)

June 22, 2011 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dispute Settlement

The General Assembly today exhorted Member States to strictly adhere to their obligations under the United Nations Charter to seek peaceful settlement of disputes to prevent outright conflict, stressing the role of mediation when disagreements arise. In a resolution on strengthening mediation as a tool for dispute and conflict settlement, the Assembly welcomed contributions of Member States to mediation efforts and encouraged them to develop national mediation capacities. It called upon them to promote equal, full and effective participation of women in all forums and at all levels of the peaceful settlement of disputes and conflict prevention and resolution, particularly at the decision-making level. All Member States should also consider providing timely and adequate resources for mediation, in to assure its success, as well as for mediation capacity-building activities of the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations to ensure sustainability and predictability of such efforts.

The Assembly stressed the importance of well-trained, impartial, experienced and geographically diverse mediation processes, and encouraged the appointment of women as lead mediators in UN-sponsored peace processes, to ensure adequate gender expertise for all UN processes. The UN body also recommended that the Secretary-General, in accordance with mandates agreed on by Member States, continues to strengthen the mediation capacities of the UN, particularly the Mediation Support Unit of the UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA). It requested that Secretary-General, in consultation with Member States and other relevant actors, to develop guidance for more effective mediation, taking into account lessons learned from past and ongoing mediation processes.

In a separate resolution on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the General Assembly encouraged African countries to accelerate progress towards attaining food security. It welcomed the commitment made by African leaders to raise the share of agriculture and rural development in their budget expenditures, and reaffirmed its support for the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme. The Assembly also encouraged African countries to strengthen and expand local and transit infrastructure and to continue sharing best practices to strengthen regional integration. It noted with appreciation the work of the High-level Subcommittee of the African Union on the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative, which seeks to further strengthen the development of infrastructure on the continent in collaboration with development partners.

UN Member States reiterated the need for all countries and relevant multilateral institutions to continue efforts to enhance coherence in their trade policies towards the continent, and acknowledged the importance of efforts to fully integrate African countries into the international trading system and to build their capacity to compete through such initiatives as aid for trade.

(UN Press Release)

June 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Papers on International Criminal Law Topics

Charles C. Jalloh, an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, informs us that he has posted two papers on SSRN.  One paper is on the work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (from the Michigan Journal of International Law).  The second piece is co-authored and concerns the controversial Article 16 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (in the African Journal of Legal Studies).

June 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ban Ki Moon reappointed as UN Secretary General

The United Nations General Assembly appointed Ban Ki-moon to a second term as the Secretary-General of the United Nations.  Mr. Ban’s second term will run from January 1, 2012 to  December 31, 2016.


June 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Qatari Diplomat Chosen as President of UN General Assembly

An experienced Qatari diplomat who has served as his country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations for more than a decade was today chosen by the world body’s 192 Member States to be the next President of the General Assembly.  Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, 57, who was elected this afternoon by acclamation, will succeed Joseph Deiss of Switzerland when he takes over the presidency in mid-September as the 66th session of the General Assembly begins.

Accepting the post with “great honour,” Mr. Al-Nasser said he was becoming President at a time when the world is facing “enormous political, social, economic and environmental challenges.  “Not a month goes by that we do not hear about a natural or a man-made disaster and the subsequent food, security, health and education crises that follow inevitably. At the same time, there are still people who are living under occupation and oppression, who are yearning for freedom and dignity,” he added.

The President-elect has proposed that “the role of mediation in the settlement of disputes by peaceful means” serve as the theme for the high-level debate slated to be held at the opening of the Assembly’s next session.  He pledged also to try to work as a bridge between countries rich and poor to help build consensus on key issues such as hunger, poverty, terrorism and climate change.

A Qatari diplomat since November 1972, Mr. Al-Nasser has served in postings for his Government in Beirut, Islamabad and Dubai among others. His longest posting has been in New York.  He has been Qatar’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York since September 1998 and during that period he has served as Chairman of the so-called Group of 77 and China at the UN, as well as a stint in 2002-03 as Vice-President of the General Assembly and a separate stint as President of the Security Council in December 2006.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

June 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Save the Date: International Law Weekend

On October 20-22, 2011, the American Branch of the International Law Association and the International Law Students Association will present the annual International Law Weekend (“ILW”) in New York City.

ILW 2011 will bring together hundreds of practitioners, professors, representatives of government and NGO organizations, and law students.  It is a gem of a conference that you don't want to miss if you live near New York (and many people fly in from across the United States and Canada to attend it as well). The ABILA Committee on Teaching International Law (which I chair) will present a program on "Libel Tourism."  Click here for more information about the International Law Weekend in New York City.

The ILW is one week after the Fall Meeting of the American Bar Association Section of International Law meeting in Dublin.

Mark E. Wojcik


June 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Liechtenstein Approves Same-Sex Partnership Law

Voters in the tiny principality of Liechtenstein have approved a law this past weekend to allow same-sex couples to register their partnerships.  Same-sex couples will have equal rights for inheritance, social security, immigration, and taxation. They will still be barred from adopting children or having access to reproductive medical services however.  Click here for more information.  The law takes effect on September 1st.  It passed with 68.8% in favor of the law.

And for our German readers:

In Liechtenstein können sich gleichgeschlechtliche Paare ab dem 1. September registrieren lassen. Das Volk hat sich mit einem deutlichen Jastimmen-Anteil von 68,8 Prozent für das Partnerschaftsgesetz ausgesprochen.  Click here for more information (in German)

Hat tip to Rex Wockner.


June 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)