Saturday, October 8, 2011
The New York Times has published an article that describes in some detail the legal justifications for the extra-judicial killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric in Yemen. Al-Awlaki is accused of taking part in the hostilities between the United States and Al Qaeda and is thought to be a significant threat to Americans. The memo is said to conclude that Al-Awlaki's killing without a trial would only be legal if it were not feasible to capture him alive. The legal memorandum itself is still not publicly available but a summary of the arguments may be found at the New York Times homepage at http://www.nytimes.com/.
Friday, October 7, 2011
Paula Ettlelbrick was the third Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. Under her leadership, the organization assumed great depth and influence in the protection of human rights. We have just heard a report that Paula has left this life, a victim of cancer. Paula was a brilliant and passionate advocate for human rights. A message from Cary Alan Johnson, the current Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, praised her strategic thinking and foresight.
Paula, we will miss you.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 is to be divided in three equal parts between Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman. The women are being recognized "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” Here is the statement from the Norwegian Nobel Committee:
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 is to be divided in three equal parts between Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work. We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.
In October 2000, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325. The resolution for the first time made violence against women in armed conflict an international security issue. It underlined the need for women to become participants on an equal footing with men in peace processes and in peace work in general.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is Africa’s first democratically elected female president. Since her inauguration in 2006, she has contributed to securing peace in Liberia, to promoting economic and social development, and to strengthening the position of women. Leymah Gbowee mobilized and organized women across ethnic and religious dividing lines to bring an end to the long war in Liberia, and to ensure women’s participation in elections. She has since worked to enhance the influence of women in West Africa during and after war. In the most trying circumstances, both before and during the “Arab spring”, Tawakkul Karman has played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen.
It is the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s hope that the prize to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman will help to bring an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries, and to realise the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
HR 3078, the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act;
HR 3079, the United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act; and
HR 3080, the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Palau's Ratification Brings Treaty into Force -- International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel
A United Nations-backed treaty that seeks to slash the 24,000 lives estimated to be lost each year during fishing operations around the world will come into force next September, over 17 years after it was adopted by the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO). The treaty received its 15th ratification, by the Republic of Palau, on 29 September, setting in motion the 12-month clock for its entry into force, with a regulatory framework for the training and certification of crews employed on board seagoing fishing vessels of 24 metres in length and above.
“Unfortunately the fishing sector is still experiencing a large number of fatalities every year,” IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos said of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel, 1995 (STCW-F 1995). “The safety of fishermen and fishing vessels forms an integral part of the organization’s mandate,” he added, noting that a variety of technical and legal obstacles had prevented the STCW-F Convention from coming into force until now.
IMO called the annual estimated death toll of more than 24,000 fishermen “a most deplorable record indeed,” and recognised the need for a response to the safety crisis.
The convention is expected to bring considerable benefits and advantages to the fishing industry, improving the quality of education and training provided to personnel employed in fishing vessels, and enhancing the standard of training and safety in the fishing industry and fishing vessel fleets, it said. “The STCW-F Convention will contribute to the reduction of casualties, and will go a long way to improve the present poor safety record of the global fishing industry,” it added.
The convention has now been ratified by Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Kiribati, Latvia, Mauritania, Morocco, Namibia, Norway, Palau, Russia, Sierra Leone, Spain, Syria and Ukraine.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release) (mew)
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon tonight articulated his vision for a world where accountability, the rule of law and conflict prevention mechanisms are entrenched for sustainable peace, and urged students to consider joining some of the United Nations peace missions in emerging democracies to help build accountable justice systems. “At times of great flux and transformation such as those we are living through today, opportunities to make a difference are especially compelling,” Mr. Ban said, giving the Otto L. Walter annual lecture at the New York Law School. “I will look to all of you, faculty and students alike, to stand up for the principles that animate this school – justice, equality and the certainty of law.”
He said the UN stood with those seeking to build societies where nobody is above the law, and where laws are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and are consistent with human rights. Mr. Ban gave the example of Côte d’Ivoire, where the incumbent president refused to stand down after losing elections late last year and unleashed violence against his own people. “The United Nations stood up for the will of the people – and for the ‘responsibility to protect.’ That new doctrine aims to ensure that people facing mass atrocity crimes are not alone when their own country cannot or will not protect them.” The rightful winner of the elections, Alassane Ouattara, was eventually sworn-in as President earlier this year after months of conflict.
The principle of responsibility to protect was again applied in Libya where the international community came together to protect that country’s people from a massacre by its own Government, the Secretary-General said. “Two weeks ago, the flag of a new Libya was raised at the United Nations. Where once the idea was widely debated but not put into practice, we can now say that the responsibility to protect has arrived,” said Mr. Ban. “But let us remember; the concept is too often misunderstood as a licence for intervention. Yet human protection begins with prevention. We far prefer early engagement to late intervention. We prefer helping States succeed to responding when they fail.”
He said the international community’s challenge now is to help the emerging democracies successfully manage their transitions, build the foundation they need to ensure that the gains they have achieved are irreversible, and ensure that the peace they have found is sustainable. That foundation, he said, is the rule of law. “Where the rule of law is weak, impunity prevails and the risk of a society lapsing into violent conflict is strong.”
He cited Somalia, where maritime pirates would not threaten international shipping lanes were it not for the country’s deep poverty, political instability and lack of legitimate justice and security institutions.
“Conversely, were it not for the substantial efforts of the United Nations to help build justice and security in post-conflict Liberia, thousands of demobilized combatants might now be agitating for another civil war. “This is why the United Nations and its regional and civil society partners seek to strengthen the rule of law at the national and international levels.”
He said newly constituted governments are looking for a range of assistance to new drafting constitutions and rebuild or establish institutions trained in human rights and due process.
(UN Press Release)
The UN Security Council considered a resolution today that strongly condemned the Syrian Government's violent response to pro-democracy protesters in that country. Nine of the fifteen UNSC members voted in favor of the resolution - a sufficient majority for it to pass. However, China and Russia both exercised their veto power to halt adoption of the resolution.
According to a UN Press Release:
"Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said his country did not support the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but the draft resolution would not promote a peaceful resolution of the crisis. He said the issue was not a question of wording, but “a conflict of political approaches” on how to end the crisis."
Mr. Churkin further asserted that "the majority of Syrians wanted gradual political change, rather than quick regime change, and the text also did not adequately take into account the behaviour of extremist groups in opposition to Syrian authorities."
The UN Press release also describes China's position as follows: "China’s Ambassador Li Baodong said that while his country was highly concerned about the violence in Syria, the text as it stood would only complicate existing tensions. He said the draft was overly focused on exerting pressure on Syria, and included the threat of sanctions, which would not resolve the situation."
Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari of Syria took the position that the draft resolution "reflected the biased attempts of some Western countries to undermine his country’s authorities. He said the legitimate needs and aspirations of the Syrian people had been misused by some domestic groups, with the support of foreign elements, to provoke external intervention."
UN sources estimate that 2,700 people have been killed in Syria since mid-March when the protest movement began. Senior UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have repeatedly voiced concern about the situation.
The Chronicle of Higher Education (October 7, 2011) has a front page story about Professor Andre Geim of the University of Manchester, England. After he won the Nobel Prize in Physics last year, the university asked him what would entice him to stay. His only request was a parking space near his building. He got it.
The United States has negotiated free trade agreements (FTAs) with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. Because of political differences, the agreeemnts have been on hold . . . until yesterday. Here are the House and Senate Resolutions for implementing legislation on the agreements:
Monday, October 3, 2011
A veteran Japanese jurist and diplomat has been elected President of the United Nations-backed International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), which adjudicates issues ranging from the uses of ocean resources and continental shelves to protection of the marine environment. Judge Shunji Yanai, who has been a member of the Hamburg-based tribunal since 2005, was elected on Saturday to serve a three-year term, succeeding José Luis Jesus from Cape Verde. He remains eligible to be re-elected subsequently for another term. Judge Yanai, 74, entered the Japanese foreign ministry in 1961 and served in various offices and embassies. He served as vice-minister for foreign affairs from 1997 to 1999 when he became ambassador to the United States, a post he held until 2001.
The tribunal is an independent judicial body established by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to adjudicate disputes arising out of the interpretation and application of the treaty, which establishes a comprehensive legal framework to regulate all ocean space, its uses and resources. One of the most important parts of the Convention concerns the exploration for and exploitation of the resources of the seabed and ocean floor and subsoil beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, the so-called Area, declaring it and its resources to be “the common heritage of mankind.” The International Seabed Authority, established by the Convention, administers the resources of the Area.
The treaty also contains provisions relating to the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the continental shelf, the exclusive economic zone and the high seas and provides for the protection and preservation of the marine environment, for marine scientific research and for the development and transfer of marine technology.
The tribunal, composed of 21 independent members, elected Judge Albert J. Hoffmann of South Africa, also a member since 2005, as Vice-President. He has previously served in the South African foreign ministry and as legal adviser to his country’s UN mission. Three new judges were also elected to nine-year terms on the tribunal. They are David Joseph Attard from Malta, Elsa Kelly from Argentina and Markiyan Z. Kulyk from Ukraine.
(UN Press Release)
On Friday, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) convicted two former government ministers in Rwanda and sentenced each to 30 years in prison for their roles in the genocide that engulfed the small African nation in 1994.
The ICTR found Justin Mugenzi, who served as commerce minister, and Prosper Mugiraneza, a former minister of civil service, guilty of conspiracy to commit genocide and direct and public incitement to commit genocide.
The ICTR, acquitted two other former government ministers – Casimir Bizimungu and Jérôme-Clément Bicamumpaka – of similar charges and ordered their immediate release from jail.
The four ministers were part of an interim government that ran Rwanda in the wake of the death of then president Juvenal Habyarimana on 6 April 1994, an event which led to the start of the genocide.
During the trial, the ministers were accused of making incendiary speeches calling for the killing of Tutsis and participated in key government decisions involving the genocide.
It's been a while since I've seen a good war movie. But very little about war can be said to be "good." Here's a new movie -- being released this week in New York City -- about the impact of war on a soldier and his familly. The film won two awards at the Sundance Film Festival 2011. It opens in New York on October 5 and in Los Angeles on October 14. It will appear in other cities later through November and December. Here's the description of the movie, and the trailer:
From his embed with US Marines Echo Company in Afghanistan, photojournalist and filmmaker Danfung Dennis reveals the devastating impact a Taliban machine-gun bullet has on the life of 25-year-old Sergeant Nathan Harris. The film seamlessly transitions from stunning war reportage to an intimate, visceral portrait of one man's personal struggle at home in North Carolina, where Harris confronts the physical and emotional difficulties of re-adjusting to civilian life with the love and support of his wife, Ashley. An unprecedented exploration of the moving image and a film of uncommon intimacy, HELL AND BACK AGAIN comes full circle as it lays bare the true cost of war.
Hat tip to Zak Nichols NEW VIDEO
The International Criminal Court authorized its prosecutor to probe alleged abuses committed during the recent post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire – the seventh investigation in Africa and the first in a State that is not party to the treaty that set up the Court. The pre-trial chamber granted the prosecutor’s request to open an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed following the November 2010 presidential run-off elections, “as well as with regard to crimes that may be committed in the future in the context of this situation,” stated a news release from the court. It also requested the prosecutor to provide, within one month, any additional information on “potentially relevant crimes” committed in the West African nation between 2002 and 2010.
In June, prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo requested authorization from the Court to open an investigation after a preliminary examination led him to conclude that there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction were committed in the country since 28 November 2010. 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.
According to the sources quoted by the prosecution in its application, at least 3,000 persons were killed, 72 persons disappeared and 520 persons were subject to arbitrary arrest and detentions during the post-election violence. There are also over 100 reported cases of rape, while the number of unreported incidents is believed to be considerably higher.
This will be the first time the ICC, which is based in The Hague, 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 – a decision taken in April 2003 and reconfirmed by the presidency as recently as May this year.
Côte d’Ivoire is now the seventh investigation in Africa for the ICC, in addition to the Central African Republic (CAR), the Darfur region of western Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Uganda, Kenya and Libya.