Saturday, September 17, 2011

Human Rights in North Korea

The Africa, Global Health and Human Rights Subcommittee, House Foreign Affairs Committee, will hold a hearing titled “Human Rights in North Korea: Challenges and Opportunities” on September 20, 2011 at 3 pm, in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington DC.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office

September 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Human Rights in Europe

The John Marshall Law School in Chicago will hold a lunchtime seminar on "Human Rights in Europe" on Tuesday, September 27, 2011.  The featured speaker is Prof. Gianmario Demuro of the University of Cagliari in Italy.  Professor William Mock will be a commentator and Professor Shahram Dana will serve as moderator.  Click here to register


September 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 16, 2011

ICJ Concludes Hearings in Italy v. Germany

The International Court of Justice completed public hearings today of a German complaint against Italy over Italian court awards of damages to victims of Nazi war crimes committed nearly 60 years ago, and said it will soon render its verdict.

Germany said it had already paid reparations under international treaties with Italy and argued that as a sovereign State it has immunity in Italian courts. At the same time it fully acknowledged the untold suffering inflicted on Italians during World War ll.  Germany asked the ICJ to adjudge that Italy “must, by means of its own choosing, take any and all steps to ensure that all the decisions of its courts and other judicial authorities infringing Germany’s sovereign immunity become unenforceable.”

Italy asked the ICJ to adjudge Germany’s claims to be unfounded.

Germany filed the case in December 2008 after a court in Italy ordered Berlin to compensate an Italian civilian sent to a German labour camp in 1944, claiming that the ruling failed to respect the jurisdictional immunity that present-day Germany has a right to under international law.  After that ruling, numerous other proceedings were instituted before Italian courts by others who had suffered injury due to the war, and enforcement measures have already been taken against German assets in Italy, including a “judicial mortgage” on a German-Italian cultural centre, the Villa Vigoni.

In its presentation seeking dismissal of Germany’s claims Italy said it “has no objection to any decision by the court obliging Italy to ensure that the mortgage on Villa Vigoni inscribed at the land registry is cancelled.”  Under various agreements, Germany has paid tens of millions of dollars in reparations for crimes committed during World War II.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release) (mew)

September 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

States Urged to Sign, Ratify, or Accede to Treaties Next Week

Member States were today invited to sign, ratify or accede to various international treaties during this year’s high-level General Assembly session next week, with a special focus on multilateral accords that deal with United Nations priorities, including human rights, disarmament, the prevention of terrorism and the protection of the environment.

The annual treaty event, which was initiated in 2000, is an awareness-raising occasion by the UN Secretary-General, who is the depository of the 550 multilateral treaties that establish the rules of conduct for States. The event is intended promote participation in the treaty framework internationally and nationally.

“As is customary, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited heads of State and government present in New York for the opening of the 66th session [of the General Assembly]  to demonstrate their continuing commitment to the rule of law by undertaking treaty actions with regard to the highlighted treaties or with respect to any of the other 550 for which he is a depository,” said Gabriele Goettsche-Wanli, the head of the Treaty Section of the UN Office of Legal Affairs (OLA), at a news conference at UN Headquarters.

This year’s event will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week and the week that follows at UN Headquarters where heads of States and Government will be gathered for the high-level General Assembly session.

The event is entitled ‘Towards Universal Participation and Implementation’ and highlights some 64 treaties that address the status of refugees and the challenges of forced displacement and statelessness, human rights, disarmament and non-proliferation, the prevention and suppression of acts of terrorism and organized crime, as well as sustainable development and protection of the environment.

Since 2000, the annual treaties event has resulted in 1,591 new treaty actions, according to Ms. Goettsche-Wanli.

Udo Janz, the Director and Special Adviser to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in New York, told reporters that the UN refugee agency is this year encouraging States to sign, ratify or to accede the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

(UN Press Release)

September 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ICTY Convicts Witness for Contempt of Court for Refusing to Answer Questions

The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia today convicted a man of contempt of court charges and sentenced him to two months in jail for refusing to answer questions on two occasions during trials related to Kosovo in 2007.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) heard that the convicted man, Shefqet Kabashi, was supposed to be a witness in the trial and re-trial of former Kosovo prime minister Ramush Haradinaj, who was charged with crimes against humanity for his actions as commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during its conflict with Serb forces in 1998-99.

“By contumaciously refusing or failing to answer questions as a witness, Mr. Kabashi deprived the Haradinaj et al. Trial Chamber of evidence relevant for an effective ascertainment of truth in the adjudication of that case,” said Judge Alphons Orie, delivering the ICTY judgement today in The Hague.

The trial chamber found that any of the motives submitted by defence lawyers for Mr. Kabashi over his refusal or failure to answer questions remained vague and could not be considered in determining the appropriate sentence.

The court considered as mitigating factors his family situation and the fact that, according to medical documents, Mr. Kabashi suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder which worsens in a prison environment.

Although the trial chamber considered Mr. Kabashi’s apology and his guilty plea as genuine, the weight of his remorse was reduced by the fact that he had failed to come before the tribunal to face the charges against him for more than four years.

The ICTY acquitted Mr. Haradinaj in 2008 of charges of murder, rape, torture, abduction, cruel treatment, imprisonment and the forced deportation of ethnic Serbian and Kosovar Roma civilians.

But appeals judges partially quashed the acquittal last year, calling for a re-trial because the trial chamber had not done enough to ensure the testimony of Mr. Kabashi and another witness who experienced “serious witness intimidation,” thus depriving the prosecution of vital support for its case. The original trial had heard how many witnesses felt unsafe.

(UN Press Release)

September 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Symposium on Globalization of US Litigation Model

On October 21, 2011, the Brooklyn Law School in New York will host a one-day symposium on the "Globalization of the United States Litigation Model."  This symposium will bring together a dozen scholars to discuss the  U.S. model of litigation and how it has or has not influenced the development of other litigation systems.  Three sessions will focus on procedural issues, securities litigation and enforcement and derivitive litigation.  More informaton and the program may be found here.


September 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Advisory Committee on Private International Law to Discuss Electronic Commerce

The Office of Private International Law of the U.S. Department of State announced a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Private International Law to discuss electronic commerce. The meeting will be held on September 30, 2011 at 10 am at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC.  Get more information about the meeting at FR56865.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office

September 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Friday Fun: The Internet is Made of Cats

In case you were wondering, the internet is made of cats.  Click here for proof.

Hat tip to Leslie Reis


September 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U.S. Human Rights Policy Toward Iran and Syria

The Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee, House Foreign Affairs Committee, will hold a hearing titled “Axis of Abuse: U.S. Human Rights Policy Toward Iran and Syria” on September 21, 2011 at 1 pm in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington DC.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office

September 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

WTO Panel Report on U.S.-Mexico Tuna-Dolphin Dispute

The World Trade Organization issued the report of the panel that had examined Mexico’s complaint regarding “United States — Measures concerning the importation, marketing and sale of tuna and tuna products” (DS381).  Click here for the panel report.  Here's a summary of the key findings:

Summary of key findings

  • This dispute concerns the following measures: (i) the United States Code, Title 16, Section 1385 (“Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act”), (ii) the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 50, Section 216.91 (“Dolphin‑safe labeling standards”) and Section 216.92 (“Dolphin‑safe requirements for tuna harvested in the ETP [Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean] by large purse seine vessels”) and (iii) the ruling in Earth Island Institute v. Hogarth, 494 F.3d 757 (9th Cir. 2007). These measures establish the conditions for use of a “dolphin‑safe” label on tuna products. The measures condition the access to the US Department of Commerce official dolphin-safe label upon bringing certain documentary evidence that varies depending on the area where tuna contained in the tuna product is harvested and the fishing method by which it is harvested.
  • Mexico's main claims were that the measures were discriminatory, and that they were also unnecessary.
  • The Panel first determined whether the US dolphin-safe labelling provisions constitute a technical regulation under the TBT Agreement.  The Panel found that they do, and in particular that the measures are mandatory within the meaning of Annex 1.1 of the TBT Agreement.  One of the members of the Panel expressed a dissenting opinion on this particular issue but sided with the majority for the rest of the report. The Panel then examined Mexico's claims under Articles 2.1, 2.2, and 2.4 of the TBT Agreement.
  • The Panel rejected Mexico's first claim by finding that the US dolphin-safe labelling provisions do not discriminate against Mexican tuna products and are therefore not inconsistent with Article 2.1 of the TBT Agreement. Despite finding that Mexican tuna products are like tuna products originating in the United States or any other country within the meaning of Article 2.1 of the TBT Agreement, the Panel concluded that Mexican tuna products are not afforded less favourable treatment than tuna products of US and other origins in respect of the US dolphin safe labelling provisions on the basis of their origin.
  • With respect to Mexico's claim under Article 2.2 of the TBT Agreement, the Panel found that Mexico had demonstrated that the US dolphin-safe labelling provisions are more trade-restrictive than necessary to fulfil the legitimate objectives of (i) ensuring that consumers are not misled or deceived about whether tuna products contain tuna that was caught in a manner that adversely affects dolphins  and (ii) contributing to the protection of dolphins, by ensuring that the US market is not used to encourage fishing fleets to catch tuna in a manner that adversely affects dolphins, taking account of the risks non-fulfilment would create. The Panel's conclusion was based on the following two findings: (i) the findings that the US dolphin-safe labelling provisions only partly address the legitimate objectives pursued by the United States and (ii) the finding that Mexico had provided the panel with a less trade restrictive alternative capable of achieving the same level of protection of the objective pursued by the US dolphin-safe labelling provisions.
  • As regards Mexico's claim under Article 2.4 of the TBT Agreement, the Panel found that the US dolphin-safe labelling provisions are not in violation of such provision, which requires technical regulations to be based on relevant international standards where possible. Despite finding that the standard referred to by Mexico is a relevant international standard for the purposes of the US dolphin-safe provisions and that the United States has not used it as basis for its measures, the Panel concluded that this standard would not be appropriate or effective to achieve the US objectives.
  • The Panel declined to rule in addition on Mexico's non-discrimination claims under the GATT 1994 and therefore exercised judicial economy with respect to Mexico's claims under Articles I:1 and III:4 of the GATT.


September 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

EU Finalizes Accession Agreement with Croatia

Croatia_flag[1] After eight years of negotiations, member states of the European Union agreed this week on the final text of the EU accession treaty with Croatia.  Croatia is set to become the bloc's 28th member on July 1, 2013.

For more information, click here.


September 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

UN Security Council Renews Appointments of ITCY and ICTR Prosecutors

The United Nations Security Council acted yesterday to reappoint the prosecutors working at the UN international criminal tribunals tasked with bringing to justice the perpetrators of the worst crimes committed during the Balkans conflicts of the 1990s and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Acting on two separate resolutions, the Council reappointed prosecutors Serge Brammertz of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Hassan Bubacar Jallow of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for new terms, with effect from September 14 and running until 31 December 2014.

The new terms are subject to an earlier termination by the Council “upon the completion of the work” of the tribunals, according to the texts, both of which were adopted unanimously.  The Council has called on both tribunals to take all possible measures to expeditiously complete all their remaining work no later than 31 December 2014.

Since its establishment, the ICTY has indicted 161 persons for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2001. Proceedings have been concluded against 126 accused and are currently ongoing for 35 others at the tribunal, which is based in The Hague.

As of 30 June, the ICTR, which is based in the Tanzanian city of Arusha, delivered six trial judgements, while six other trial judgements involving 10 accused remain to be delivered.

(cgb) (Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ITLOS Hears its First Maritime Boundary Case (Bangladesh v. Myanmar)

ITLOS Courtroom The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea is hearing its first-ever maritime delimitation case, the Dispute Concerning Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of BengalClick here for more information about the case.  The President of the Tribunal is Judge Jesus, and hearings are being broadcast live on the Tribunal's website.  They are also archived in case you miss one.

Hat tip to Barbara Kwiatkoska.


September 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

US State Department Releases Annual Report on International Religious Freedom

Each year, the U.S. State Department is required by law to report on religious freedom around the world.  The 2011 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom covers the legal status of religious freedom in more than 190 countries and territories. The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 also mandates the designation of Countries of Particular Concern. Countries of Particular Concern are governments that have engaged in, or tolerated, systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.  In 2011, the U.S. government has designated eight states as Countries of Particular Concern. They are: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. The report documents the violations that have prompted these designations and may be found here.


September 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

UN Panel Calls for Greater Regulation of Private Security Contractors

Earlier today, the United Nations "Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination" issued three country reports calling for greater regulation of mercenaries and private military and security companies by both host and contributor countries to ensure respect for human rights and accountability for any abuses committed.
The Working Group was formed to examine the situation in three specific countries, Iraq, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea, each of which presents a different aspect of the problem.  Iraq has been a major theatre of operations by private military and security companies; South Africa is a major source of people with extensive military skills and experience unwilling or unable to find jobs since the end of apartheid in 1994; and Equatorial Guinea was the scene of a 2004 coup attempt involving mercenaries. Issues of immunity, lack of accountability and links between mercenaries and private military and security companies are key concerns.
The Working Group was established in 2005 and reports to the Human Rights Council.  More information and the reports may be found here.

September 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jessup Moot Court Problem Released

The International Law Students Association (ILSA) has released the 2012 problem for the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition.  This year the problem is the Case Concerning the Mai-Tocao Temple.  Click here to download the compromis.


September 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Development Banks and America's National Security

The International Monetary Policy and Trade Panel of the Financial Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives will hold a hearing on the impact that multi-lateral development banks have on America’s national security.  The hearing is September 15, 2011, at 2:00 p.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington D.C. 

Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office


September 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ban Ki-Moon Answers Questions from Facebook, LiveStream, and Twitter

Ban Ki-Moon Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took the United Nations pulpit live to cyberspace for the first time today, answering questions submitted through Facebook, LiveStream, Twitter and other social media networks on issues ranging from UN reform and the Middle East conflict to poverty and food security.

The ‘global conversation,’ lasting just over half an hour and moderated by Juju Chang of the United States ABC television network, saw Mr. Ban sitting in a studio at UN Headquarters in New York as he fielded questions from countries as far apart as China and Canada, and South Africa and the Philippines.

More than 5,500 questions were sent in over recent weeks in the six official UN languages – Arabic, Chinese English, French, Russian and Spanish – as well as in Portuguese and Swahili, while others came in live during the event, which was simultaneously translated into Chinese through the Weibo social media network.

The first question, in Spanish on Twitter, asked when the UN would be reformed to match today’s needs, and Mr. Ban stressed the complexity of making decisions in an organization numbering 193 members.

“To make this Organization more effective and efficient is our great challenge and great target,” he said. “We’ve been trying to make this Organization much more mobile, and efficient, and accountable and transparent.”

A question from China, where more than half of the questions from the public were submitted, asked why so many people in Africa die of hunger when the world produces enough to feed all.

“It is true that we have at least a billion people who are starving from abject poverty,” Mr. Ban replied. “They go to bed hungry every night. That’s very sad. But ironically we have enough food all around the world.

“The question and problem is that they do not distribute it fairly, that’s a social injustice, and that we have to address and stop,” he added, also noting the effects of climate change and flooding, and citing the mitigating efforts the UN was making such as providing fertilizers and weather-resistant seeds.

Some questions dealt with more general issues such as peacekeeping and corruption (“it is the cancer of our society, it must stop,” Mr. Ban said), while others targeted specific topics such as the Palestinian issue (“I’m a strong supporter of this two-state vision” – Palestine and Israel), and war-torn and famine-stricken Somalia (“I sincerely hope the international community will provide the generous humanitarian assistance”).

One question from China asked Mr. Ban about his early life and career, and he recalled how he was brought up poor in a country devastated by the Korean war, was given the opportunity as a high school student to travel round the United States where he met then president John F. Kennedy, and decided on a life of public service.

Most questions were from people generally unknown to the public at large, but one came in live from British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who asked how the world can reduce the number of 35 million people who die every year from non-communicable diseases. These include cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes.

“This is a totally unacceptable situation,” Mr. Ban said, stressing that the UN is convening its first ever high-level meeting on the issue at next week’s General Assembly opening session.

“This can be cured by medical support. This can also be prevented by simply changing your lifestyle like your behaviour. This obesity or this diabetes and all these, you can change your lifestyle, and alcohol or smoking. By stopping this you can save your life.”

Ms. Chang said that the blogosphere had been very active during the event and thousands of people had been listening in and contributing to the conversation.

(UN Press Release)

September 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Tenth Anniversary of the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001

On this the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, our thoughts are with all those who have lost their lives or loved ones to terrorism, not just in New York or Washington, DC, but all around the world.  May we continually work to find ways to increase understanding and peaceful methods to resolve disputes.


September 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)