Friday, October 28, 2011
A United Nations expert urged Norway today to strongly reject the proposal by one of its parties to repeal key laws and policies designed to protect indigenous groups, saying its approval would represent an “enormous setback for the recognition and protection of human rights in the country.” “Norway could cease to be the world leader it has become in the recognition and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples if the Norwegian national Parliament approves the proposal of one of the largest political parties in the country, the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet),” said Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people James Anaya.
The proposal would take away many of the land ownership, self-determination and protection rights of the Sami people, Norway’s largest indigenous group, which also inhabits parts of Sweden, Finland and Russia. “If approved, the proposal will reverse the many advances Norway has made towards recognizing and securing the rights of the Sami people in accordance to international standards, despite significant challenges,” Mr. Anaya said. “I am further concerned that the ensuing debate on the proposal could perpetuate negative views of the Sami people and encourage discrimination against them.”
The proposal recommends that the Norwegian Parliament denounce the International Labour Organization (ILO) convention on indigenous and tribal peoples which gives indigenous groups the right to choose to integrate or maintain their cultural and political integrity. In addition, it recommends the abolition of the Sami Parliament and the administrative area for the Sami language, as well as asking the national Parliament to repeal the Finnmark Act, which gave the Sami people the right to manage their land without interference.
“I am pleased that the Government of Norway has taken a firm position against the proposal,” Mr. Anaya stressed. “I appeal to the members of the standing committee on local government and public administration, members of the Norwegian national Parliament, and to the Norwegian people as a whole, to likewise strongly reject the proposal of the Progress Party, as well as any future proposals that may undermine the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Sami people in Norway.”
Last year, Mr. Anaya met with Government officials in Norway to discuss key issues affecting Sami people, including their right to land, water and education. In January, Mr. Anaya issued a report on their living situation focusing on their right to self-determination at a national level exercised through Sami parliaments and efforts to revitalize their language and provide Sami children with culturally appropriate education.
(UN Press Release)
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said today his office is in indirect contact with Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, son of the former Libyan leader, on his possible surrender to face charges for crimes against humanity. “Through intermediaries, we have informal contact with Saif,” Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement. “The Office of the Prosecutor has made it clear that if he surrenders to the ICC, he has the right to be heard in court, he is innocent until proven guilty.”
In June the ICC issued arrest warrants for Colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi, his son and the country’s intelligence chief, Abdullah Al Sanousi for their roles in attacks against protesters, hundreds of whom are confirmed to have been killed since opposition forces rose up against the regime as part of a wider pro-democracy movement across North Africa and the Middle East.
Muammar al-Qadhafi was killed last week in his hometown of Sirte during the final days of the eight-month-long conflict. Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said his office is galvanizing efforts to carry out the arrest warrants against the other two men.
He also noted reports that there is a group of mercenaries who are offering to move Mr. al-Islam to an African country not party to the 1998 Rome Statute that established the ICC. His office is exploring the possibility of intercepting any plane within the airspace of a State party to make an arrest, said Mr. Moreno-Ocampo. “This is a legal process and if the judges decide that Saif is innocent, or has served his sentence, he can request the judges to send him to a different country as long as that country accepts him.”
The Prosecutor has stated in the past that while Libya is not a State party to the Rome Statute, it has the primary responsibility to carry out the arrest warrants in compliance with the relevant resolution of the Security Council, which referred the situation in the country to the ICC.
Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) on Sunday declared the full liberation of the country, just days after the death of Mr. Qadhafi. The North African nation now faces a host of challenges, including organizing an electoral process, establishing public security and starting a reconciliation process.
(UN Press Release)
Thursday, October 27, 2011
The U.S. Department of State announced a meeting of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy to discuss what narratives are, how they are shaped, and how they are countered; also, the conference will delve into the impact on narratives of actions and words and the impact of environmental factors. The meeting will be November 29, 2011, 9 am, the RAND Offices, 1176 Main Street, Santa Monica, California. FR66345.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office
Over $1 billion was disbursed today to eight successful claimants by the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC), which settles the damage claims of those who suffered losses because of Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. This latest round of payments – a total of $1,038,375,281 – brings the overall amount of compensation made available to date by the Commission to nearly $34.3 billion for over 100 governments and international organizations for distribution to 1.5 million successful claimants.
Successful claims are paid with funds drawn from the UN Compensation Fund, which is funded by a percentage of the proceeds – set at 5 per cent – generated by the export sales of Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products, according to a news release from the Commission. The Geneva-based UNCC’s Governing Council has identified six categories of claims: four are for individuals’ claims, one for corporations and one for governments and international organizations, which also includes claims for environmental damage.
Established in 1991 as a subsidiary organ of the Security Council, the Commission has received nearly 3 million claims, including from close to 100 governments for themselves, their nationals or their corporations.
(UN Press Release)
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Judge Hisashi Owada, President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), gave his annual report on the activities of the Court to the UN General Assembly today. He stated that it is vital that international law underpin developments on the global stage, especially in an ever increasingly globalized and interconnected world.
“It is no exaggeration to say that all regions of the world have become closely intertwined. . . In this 21st century, international politics are undeniably interconnected; a truly global economy has emerged; and our natural environment and global climate change have created new challenges. In these times of unprecedented interconnection between States and peoples, it is my sincere belief that a firm reliance on international law must underpin any and all future developments on the global stage.”
Judge Owada noted the trust that the international community continues to place in the Court to handle a wide variety of legal disputes: “States from all corners of world, faithful to their attachment to international law, continue to have recourse to the Court in order to find a judicial settlement to their disputes."
Since last October, the Court has rendered four judgments and three orders on cases involving countries from various regions of the world and raising a broad range of legal questions, from border and maritime disputes to compensation for injury and racial discrimination.
Given a “remarkable” increase in the number of cases on the docket, the President said the Court is now opining on more than a few cases on a parallel basis, thus making its best endeavours to eliminate a backlog on judicial work.
“It is my hope that Member States will continue to rely on the International Court of Justice to assist them in the pacific settlement of their disputes and that more States will accept the Court’s jurisdiction.”
The Court’s current docket stands at 15 cases, most of which are still at the stage of being in the hands of the parties who are presenting their written proceedings in advance of the oral hearings.
The two most recent cases that have been filed concern a border dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua as well as the row between Cambodia and Thailand over the Preah Vihear temple.
(cgb) (from a UN press release)
The World Trade Organization (WTO) has approved Vanuatu's accession package, clearing the way for Vanuatu to become the 154th member of the WTO. Vanuatu must complete the ratification process by April 2012 and its membership will become effective 30 days later. For more information, visit the WTO website.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
Royal Dutch Shell is facing legal action once again for its international activities. The company is accused of contaminating well water in Nigeria with benzene at levels that are 900 times greater than recommended by the World Health Organization. The UN Environment Program issued a report in August implicating Royal Dutch Shell and the state-owned Nigerian oil company in the contamination, which allegedly resulted from a failure to take adequate measures to prevent oil spills and to adequately clean them up. Several tribal leaders in the Delta region of Nigeria brought the lawsuit in US District Court in Michigan under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) which permits suits by aliens for torts in violation of international law. News reports indicate that Royal Dutch Shell is accused of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, willful negligence and violations of various treaty obligations. The lawsuit seeks $1 billion in damages as well as clean-up of the contamination. Royal Dutch Shell is also a defendant in another ATS lawsuit before the US Supreme Court (Kiobel) and settled another lawsuit arising from its operations in the Nigerian Delta region for $15 million in 2009.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute to Judge Antonio Cassese, a renowned legal expert who died on Saturday, calling him "a giant of international law" and a loyal friend to the United Nations.
Judge Cassese, who also taught international law to generations of students around the world, passed away at his home in the Italian city of Florence at the age of 74. He had a long and distinguished career, during which he assisted the United Nations in a number of capacities. He was the first President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the first President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. He stepped down from the latter post recently due to illness. He also reviewed the judicial efficiency of the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), and led the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur.
"In these and many other functions Antonio Cassese shaped the development of international criminal justice and made a major contribution to fighting impunity and bringing about an age of accountability," Mr. Ban said in a statement issued by his spokesperson. "The United Nations will fondly remember Antonio Cassese as a giant of international law, as a loyal friend who was always there when the Organization needed his wise counsel and dedicated services, and mostly as an exceptionally charming and warm human being who courageously stood up for justice, for human rights and for humanity," the statement added.
(UN Press Release)
The Board of the International Law Students Association (ILSA), which was meeting on Saturday when news of Professor Cassese's death was announced, adopted a special resolution remembering his life and his many contributions to the field of international law and international criminal law in particular.
MORE TRIBUTES FOR JUDGE CASSESE
Tributes continued to flow in on Monday for Judge Antonio Cassese, first president of both the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the Balkan wars of the 1990s and the UN-backed special court created to try the suspects in the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
Judge Cassese, who died on Friday, “has always been at the forefront of international criminal justice,” International Criminal Court (ICC) President Sang-Hyun Song said in a statement. “All of us who work in the field of international criminal law shall remain greatly indebted to him.”
The president of UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), Jon M. Kamanda, recalled Judge Cassese’s work as an independent expert looking at the challenges faced by that court, including the need to prepare a completion strategy. “Other tribunals will also build on Judge Cassese’s legacy as they too complete their work,” he said.
(UN Press Release)