Saturday, December 3, 2011

December 4 is the Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday urged leaders to respond to people’s calls for the right to build a better future for themselves, stressing that women and youth, in particular, must be helped to enjoy lives of dignity, equality and opportunity.  “Today we are at a decisive moment in history,” said the Secretary-General in a statement to mark the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development. “As calls for change echo across the world, we cannot take refuge in silence.”

The UN Declaration on the Right to Development unequivocally establishes development as a right and seeks to put people at the centre of the development process.  The landmark document, adopted by the General Assembly on 4 December 1986, first proclaimed the inalienable right, declaring that everyone is “entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized.”  Mr. Ban said the anniversary is “an occasion to celebrate its visionary promise of people-centred development and to recommit to making this a reality.”

Global challenges and crises are interconnected, he said, noting that economic, social and environmental concerns are inseparable, while human rights are integral to them all.  “That is why we are placing sustainable development at the top of the international agenda. Next year’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development [Rio+20] will offer a critical opportunity to chart a course to the future we want,” the Secretary-General added.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

December 3, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 2, 2011

ICC Prosecutor Seeks Arrest Warrant Against Sudan's Defense Minister

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) today requested an arrest warrant against Sudanese Defense Minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur.  According to a news release issued by the court, the evidence led the prosecutor to conclude that Mr. Hussein is one of those who bears the greatest criminal responsibility for the same crimes and incidents presented in previous warrants of arrest for government minister Ahmed Harun and Janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb, both of whom have been indicted by the court.   The alleged crimes that Mr. Hussein is allegedly responsible for were perpetrated during attacks on the towns and villages of Kodoom, Bindisi, Mukjar and Arawala in the Wadi Salih and Mukjar localities of West Darfur from August 2003 to March 2004.

The attacks followed a common pattern: Sudanese Government forces surrounded the villages, the Air Force dropped bombs indiscriminately and foot soldiers, including militia or Janjaweed, killed, raped and looted the entire village, forcing the displacement of four million inhabitants. Currently, 2.5 million people remain internally displaced.

At that time Mr. Hussein was the Sudanese Minister for the Interior as well as Special Representative of the President in Darfur, with all of the powers and responsibilities of the President. He delegated some of his responsibilities to Mr. Harun, the Minister of State for the Interior, whom he appointed to head the “Darfur Security Desk.”

In the case against Mr. Harun and Mr. Kushayb, the pre-trial chamber ruled that local security committees coordinated these attacks. They were supervised by state security committees, which reported to Mr. Harun, who in turn, according to the evidence, reported to Mr. Hussein.

“The evidence shows that this was a State policy supervised by Mr. Hussein to ensure the coordination of attacks against civilians,” said Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.  “Moreover, the evidence shows that directly and through Mr. Harun, Mr. Hussein played a central role in coordinating the crimes, including in recruiting, mobilizing, funding, arming, training and the deployment of the militia/Janjaweed as part of the Government of the Sudan forces, with the knowledge that these forces would commit the crimes,” he stated.

The Prosecutor believes that Mr. Hussein should be arrested to prevent him from continuing to commit crimes within the jurisdiction of the court.  This is the ICC’s fourth case in Darfur, which the Security Council referred to it in 2005 after a UN inquiry found serious violations of international human rights law. In addition to Mr. Harun and Mr. Kushayb, ICC judges have issued arrest warrants against Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and summonses to appear for rebel leaders Abdallah Banda, Saleh Jerbo and Abu Garda for war crimes.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

December 2, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Call for Nations to Protect People of Syria

The United Nations human rights chief today urged immediate action by the international community to protect the people of Syria from the Government’s ongoing “ruthless” repression, which has claimed more than 4,000 lives since March, including over 300 children.  Ms. Pillay issued the call as the UN Human Rights Council began a special session in Geneva to discuss this week’s release of an independent international commission of inquiry into the Government’s crackdown on protesters.

“The Syrian authorities’ continual ruthless repression, if not stopped now, can drive the country into a full-fledged civil war,” the High Commissioner told the meeting.  “In light of the manifest failure of the Syrian authorities to protect their citizens, the international community needs to take urgent and effective measures to protect the Syrian people.”

In addition to the number of those killed, tens of thousands have been arrested since March, when a public uprising began across Syria, in line with similar movements across North Africa and the Middle East.  More than 14,000 are reported to be in detention as a result of the crackdown, at least 12,400 have sought refuge in neighbouring countries and tens of thousands have been internally displaced, said Ms. Pillay. Reports of increased armed attacks by the opposition forces, including the so-called Free Syrian Army, against the Syrian military and security apparatus are also of concern, she added.

The report by the three-member commission of inquiry concluded that Syrian security and military forces have committed crimes against humanity against civilians, including acts of killings, torture, rape and imprisonment.  The report – based on interviews with more than 200 victims and witnesses of human rights violations – documents widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Aside from its findings, the commission called on the Syrian Government to immediately end the ongoing rights violations, to initiate investigations of these incidents and to bring the perpetrators to justice.  “All acts of murder, torture and other forms of violence must be stopped immediately,” said Ms. Pillay. “All prisoners of conscience and those arbitrarily detained must be released and acts of reprisal against human rights defenders must end.”  She added that international and independent monitoring bodies, including her office (OHCHR) and the League of Arab States, must be allowed into the country, particularly to all places of detention, and all humanitarian workers must be guaranteed immediate and unhindered access to the country.

In August the High Commissioner had encouraged the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC). “The commission’s report reinforces that the need for international accountability has even greater urgency today,” she stated.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

December 2, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cross-Border Cyber Drill

Mass web destruction, spam and malware infection were among the scenarios involved during the first cross-border cyber drill organized by the United Nations and an international partnership against online threats in South-east Asia that aims to build cooperation and improve response measures to cyber attacks.  The drill, launched by the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threats (IMPACT), was a coordinated exercise to assess the security and emergency readiness of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam, also known as the CLMV countries.

Each country had a team participating in three simulated cyber security emergency incidents. Teams were required to identify the origin of the attacks, identify possible solutions and mitigation steps, and rectify the damage.   The one-day exercise then simulated a cyber attack response linking the response systems of the fours countries known as Computer Emergency Response Team/Computer Incident Response Teams (CERT/CIRT), as well as experts from ITU and IMPACT.

“Cyber attacks are borderless, so it is vital for every CERT/CIRT to share information and experience on cross-border incident handling, in order to refine and test points of contact and procedures, to enhance the effectiveness of their response to active cyber threats,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré.

According to a news release issued by ITU, the exercise was intended to help build greater cooperation and improve communication among the countries, and it took into account real-life constraints such as the disparity in the countries’ capabilities and developments.

The drill, which was held yesterday, did not aim to criticize capabilities or a particular network, system or infrastructure, but instead sought to emphasize the need for continuous communication channels between neighbouring countries, as well as enhance each country’s incident response capabilities.  “The ITU-IMPACT ALERT (Applied Learning for Emergency Response Team) achieved several positive outcomes, including identification of readiness of each country’s CERTs/CIRTs team, establishing the need for proper contingency plans, improving the familiarity with tools and other related software and communicating the importance of maintaining logs and having adequately trained personnel in place to handle cyber threats,” said Datuk Mohd Noor Amin, Chairman of IMPACT.  “This was a great opportunity for countries to put their contingency strategies to the test. This cyber drill serves as the prototype for upcoming larger global exercises being designed for 2012.”

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

December 2, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ICTY Reduces Charges in Mladic Trial in Order to Speed it Up

ICTYThe International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) today reduced the indictment against former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic, who faces genocide charges, to ensure a fair and expeditious trial. The ICTY trial chamberadopted the prosecution’s proposal to limit its presentation of evidence to a selection of 106 crimes, instead of 196 initially scheduled crimes in Mr. Mladic’s indictment.  It also adopted the prosecution proposal to limit the number of municipalities covered by the indictment to 15 instead of 23, according to a news release issued by the tribunal, which is based in The Hague in the Netherlands.

“In the interests of a fair and expeditious trial, the chamber fixes the number of crime sites or incidents of the charges in respect of which evidence may be presented by the prosecution in accordance with the prosecution submission,” ruled the trial chamber.  The prosecution is to file an amended indictment and amended lists of victims within two weeks.

Mr. Mladic, the war-time leader of the Bosnian Serb forces, was arrested in Serbia on 26 May, after evading capture for 16 years. He faces numerous charges, including genocide, extermination, murder and inflicting terror on civilians, particularly in connection with the massacre of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the supposed “safe haven” of Srebrenica in July 1995.

(Adapted UN Press Release)

December 2, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day

December 1st marks "World AIDS Day."  The disease first appeared 30 years ago.  Today 34 million people are living with the disease. 

Click here for the 2011 World AIDS Day Report from UNAIDS.


December 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Best Books on Human Rights

If you are looking for some reading suggestions for the holidays (or are just looking for an excuse not to grade those exams), you might want to check out this compilation entitled the "40 Best Books about Human Rights." It certainly includes many favorites of this author. To see the list, click here.


December 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

What's Hot and What's Not

The Robert Denny law firm recently issued its 23rd annual report on trends in the legal profession, "What's Hot and What's Not in the Legal Profession."  Red hot practice areas include banking, health care, intellectual property and energy. Of interest to international lawyers is the fact that at least four of the top five British firms are opening offices in Washington, DC as part of a broader effort to establish a strong presence in the US market and the fact that the top international markets continue to be the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China).


December 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Professor Jon Van Dyke Has Died

Van DykeJon Van Dyke, a constitutional and international law scholar from the University of Hawai'i School of Law, has died unexpectedly in Australia.  He was expected to deliver the keynote address at a conference in Melbourne.  Professor Van Dyke was an expert on the law of the sea and on islands.  He was also a strong advocate for the natives of Hawai'i.

His publications included a casebook on "International Law and Litigation in the United States."  One of the co-editors of that book was Professor Jordan Paust, who wrote that Jon "stood tall for human dignity."

Click here for a newspaper story from Honolulu.

Click here for his bio on the University of Hawai'i page and a link to a tribute page.

We extend our deep sympathy to his family and friends, to the faculty and students of the University of Hawai'i School of Law, and to the many colleagues who knew what a wonderful man he was. 

We thank his former student, Professor Kim Chanbonpin, for passing along the news to us.

Ruth Wedgwood, President of the American Branch of the International Law Association (ABILA), sent out this message about Professor Van Dyke:

Jon van Dyke, who died on November 29, was a unique figure in our common profession -- known as a pioneer in defending and explaining the rights and claims of native Hawai'ians under international and American law.

Jon was the ABILA's representative to the London ILA Committee on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He joined the faculty of the University of Hawai'i in 1976, teaching constitutional law, international law, international oceans law, and international human rights. He was a law clerk for the celebrated Chief Justice Roger Traynor of the California Supreme Court and a visiting fellow at the Center for Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, California. He served as the Hawai'i law school's associate dean, directed the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace, and was a fellow at the East-West Center.

His books include Sharing the Resources of the South China Sea, Who Owns the Crown Lands of Hawai`i?, International Law and Litigation in the U.S. - Consensus and Confrontation, The United States and the Law of the Sea Convention, International Navigation: Rocks and Shoals Ahead? , Freedom for the Seas in the 21st Century, Updating International Nuclear Law, Maritime Boundary Disputes, Settlement Processes, and The Law of the Sea.  Jon was a Visiting Professor at the University of California at Berkeley in Spring 2011.

Alongside his scholarship, the tributes to Jon note his larger-than-life role as a voice for native Hawai'ians, and as a champion for human rights and the preservation of the oceans.  He was a towering figure within the islands and beyond.



November 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Britain Closes Its Embassy in Tehran and Orders Iran to Close Its Embassy in London

The United Kingdom announced today that it had closed its embassy in Tehran and withdrawn all of its diplomats.  It also ordered Iran to close its embassy in London within 48 hours.  The closing of the British embassy and the order to close Iran's embassy follow an invasion of the British Embassy and a diplomatic residence in Tehran.  Click here for more information from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Although Iran appears to have expressed its regret over the incident, the attacks on the embassy and diplomatic residence were alleged to be a goverment-supported protest against economic sanctions imposed by Britain against Iran.  The attack immediately brought back memories of the 1979 crisis in which U.S. diplomatic personnel were held hostage at the start of the revolution that overthrew the former Shah of Iran.


November 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)