December 10, 2011
ICTY Convicts Former Bosnian Security Officer for Contempt of Court
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has sentenced Dragomir Pecanac, a former security and intelligence officer in the Bosnian Serb armed forces, to three months in prison for refusing to testify in the genocide trial of his commander. He was convicted of contempt of court for his refusal to comply with a subpoena ordering him to appear as a witness in the case of Zdravko Tolimir.
Describing contempt of the ICTY as a serious offence, the judges said Mr. Pecanac’s “failure to testify has deprived the chamber of relevant evidence.” The judges noted that the tribunal is dependent on witness testimony and the “deprivation of such relevant evidence… endangers the fulfilment of the tribunal’s functions and mandate.” Mr. Pecanac, who pleaded not guilty to the contempt charges, will receive credit for the 74 days that he has already spent in detention.
The trial of Mr. Tolimir – who is charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, extermination, murder, persecutions, forcible transfers and deportations – continues. The charges relate to a series of events during the Balkan wars, including the notorious massacre of thousands of Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995.
(mew) (Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Thai Law on Insulting Royals Has Chilling Effect on Free Speech
The United Nations human rights office today called on Thai authorities to reform laws that jail people convicted of insulting senior members of the country’s royal family, saying they were having a chilling effect on freedom of expression. A spokesperson for Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told journalists in Geneva that the UN human rights office (OHCHR) was concerned about Thailand’s laws of lèse majesté – where anyone deemed to have defamed, insulted or threatened the King and several other senior royals can be jailed for up to 15 years.
“Such harsh criminal sanctions are neither necessary nor proportionate and violate the country’s international human rights obligations,” said Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson. She said that in the meantime, Thai authorities should issue guidelines to police and prosecutors to stop arresting and charging people “under these vaguely worded laws. In addition to the disproportionate prison sentences being handed down by the courts, we are also concerned about the extended periods that accused persons are being held in pre-trial detention.”
In October, Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, also spoke out over the lèse majesté laws, saying their vagueness breached international treaties. Earlier this month, according to media reports, a man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sending four text messages to a government aide that were deemed to be insulting to the Thai queen.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
UN Human Rights Office is Sending a Delegation to Bahrain
The United Nations human rights office announced that it is dispatching a delegation to Bahrain, where serious rights violations are alleged to have occurred earlier this year, to discuss how to build a more open and democratic society in the Middle East country.
A four-member team will head to Bahrain next week at the request of the Bahraini Government, according to Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). “The delegation looks forward to engaging with the Government, civil society, members of the political opposition and victims of human rights violations in the country,” Ms. Shamdasani said. The team – which will be headed by Bacre Ndiaye, the Director of the Human Rights Council and Special Procedures Division at OHCHR, and Frej Fenniche, the chief of the office’s Middle East and North Africa section – will then submit recommendations to High Commissioner Navi Pillay on the way forward for Bahrain.
The small island country was beset by violent clashes between security forces and protesters earlier this year, part of the Arab Spring uprising that has engulfed much of the region and led to the toppling of long-term regimes in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen. Last month an independent inquiry into the alleged rights violations during the clashes found, according to media reports, that Government forces had used excessive force during the crackdown in February and March and had tortured some detainees.
Subsequently Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement through his spokesperson in which he welcomed the report’s release and said he would study it closely, along with Ms. Pillay and other senior UN officials. “The Secretary-General calls on the Government to ensure the implementation of its recommendations as a meaningful step in addressing serious allegations of human rights violations,” the statement said.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
UN Secretary General Speaks Out Against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Homophobic bullying of young people constitutes a “grave violation of human rights,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this week, urging States to take the necessary measures to protect their citizens from violence and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. “Bullying of this kind is not restricted to a few countries but goes on in schools and local communities in all parts of the world,” Mr. Ban said in a message delivered by Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonovic to a panel discussion on ending violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation at UN Headquarters in New York. “It affects young people all the way through to adulthood, causing enormous and unnecessary suffering. Bullied children may become depressed and drop out of school. Some are even driven to suicide.”
Mr. Ban stressed the need to change harmful attitudes in society that encourage discriminatory laws and practices by State authorities. “Tackling this problem is a shared challenge. We all have a role, whether as parents, family members, teachers, neighbours, community leaders, journalists, religious figures or public officials,” he said, adding that States are legally obliged to protect their citizens from this type of violence.
There are currently 76 countries where individuals face criminal sanctions for engaging in private in consensual sexual relations with another adult of the same sex, Mr. Šimonovic told the panel, adding that the UN has been working to establish dialogue with these States to advance the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons and that while several countries have made remarkable progress, there is still much to be done. “Gradually, States are coming to see that the commitments to eliminate discrimination enshrined in the Universal Declaration [of Human Rights] and in our core United Nations human rights treaties apply to everyone, not just heterosexuals but gays and lesbians and bisexual, transgender and intersex people too.”
The panel discussion included the participation of: Philippe Kridelka, Director of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch; Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard, a gay United States man who was tortured and killed; and Doi Nakpor, Nadine Moawad and Kelly Orazulike, human rights defenders in Thailand, Lebanon and Nigeria, respectively.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
December 9, 2011
WTO Appellate Body Welcomes Two New Members
The World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body welcomed two new members at a swearing-in ceremony yesterday. The new members are Mr. Ujal Singh Bhatia from India and Mr. Thomas R. Graham from the United States. They replace retiring members Ms. Lilia Bautista and Ms. Jennifer Hillman, who completed their four-year terms. The WTO Appellate Body now has just one female member, Ms. Yuejiao Zhang from China.
Human Rights Day
Saturday December 10 is Human Rights Day. The day commemorates the adoption of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Although adopted as a UN General Assembly Resolution and not a binding treaty, the Declaration has become part of customary international law. It is often referred to as being part of the International Bill of Rights along with the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. These Covenants flesh out the rights identified in the Declaration and make them binding on states through treaty law. This year's theme for Human Rights Day is Celebrate Human Rights.
Also on December 10 the international community celebrates the International Day for Migrant Workers.
December 8, 2011
Does Your Law School Require (or Offer) International Law to First Year Students?
We received an interesting question as to which law schools in the United States require an international or comparative law in the first year or offer such a course as an elective to first year law students. If you know of such a school, please send us a message or use the comment function to share with other readers. We'll publish the list as we receive your input. Thanks. We're also interested in knowing when law schools in other countries start teaching their students about international law. Here's some of the answers we've received so far . . .
IN THE UNITED STATES
- Jennifer Gundlach tells us that the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University requires first-year students to take a two-credit course entitled Transnational Law.
- Colleen Medill tells us that the University of Nebraska at Lincoln has just reformed its first-year curriculum to include a two-credit mandatory International Legal Perspectives course. You can read more about it by clicking here for a post from Professor Matt Schaefer.
IN OTHER COUNTRIES
- ISRAEL. We heard from two of our readers that the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzalia, Israel has a mandatory first year course in public international law and a mandatory second year course in private international law. Advanced international law courses are also available as electives.
- ITALY. Dr. Gianluca Gentili, Comparative Public Law, University of Siena, commented that law school in Italy takes five years to complete (the "Laurea Magistrale"), wich is an undergraduate degree (students start attending Law School when they are 19). As part of those five years, stduetns must take Comparative Law and EU Law as mandatory second-year courses, while International Law is a mandatory third-year course. After the second year, students can choose to take elective courses in Private Comparative law, Comparative Administrative Law, Comparative Constitutional Law, Comparative Labor Law, Anglo-American Law, International Tax Law, Comparative Systems of Judicial Review, even if these are formally defined as fifth year courses. He also noted that even first-year courses dealing with typical "domestic" subjects (e.g. Constitutional Law, Private Law) always include comparative references. Here's a link to the curriculum for the University of Florence, Italy
See the "Comments" to this post for additional entries, and please add your own contributions to this list.
December 7, 2011
Professor David Bederman of Emory Law School has Died
He had taught at Emory Law School for two decades, including courses and seminars on international law, torts, admiralty, international institutions, law of international common spaces, legal methods, legislation and regulation, customary law, international environmental law, and foreign relations power. He was an advisor to the Emory International Law Review and was director of international legal studies. He held degrees from Paideia, Princeton University, the University of London, the University of Virginia School of Law, and The Hague Academy of International Law. He also held a score of distinguished appointments to boards of journals, NGOs, a publicly traded corporation and various governmental committees.
We extend our sympathy to his family, friends, colleagues, and students. A memorial service for Professor Bederman is scheduled in Cannon Chapel of Emory University on Tuesday, December 13, 2011, at 12:30 p.m.
Thanks to Jordan Paust for alerting us to this news.
Ruth Wedgwood, President of the American Branch of the International Law Association (ABILA), shared this message about Professor Bederman:
David Bederman was a member of the ABILA Executive Committee, and a truly brilliant mind. He was the complete international lawyer -- teaching public international law, legislation and regulation, admiralty, international institutions, law of international common spaces, Roman law, international environmental law and foreign relations power. He had an intellectual command of the legal history of international law that few could match. And of course, he had a boy's love of the sea and its wrecks, litigating cases on finds on the seabed floor, and serving as chairman of the board of directors of Odyssey Marine Exploration. Not least, David was a wonderful human being -- lively, gracious, and unduly modest about the Renaissance range of his accomplishments. It is hard to think of anyone who has matched his Olympiad as a lawyer, able to command the courtroom and the classroom with insight and humor, graced by a humane sense of people and their quixities. His books included Custom as a Source of Law (2010), Globalization and International Law (2008); The Classical Foundations of the American Constitution (2008); The Spirit of International Law (2002); International Law in Antiquity (2001); and International Law Frameworks (2001).
We send our true condolences to his wife Lorre and his daughter Annilese, and our memory of an admirable man who combined the best of mind and heart.
Indonesia Has Ratified the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed yesterday’s ratification by Indonesia of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and encouraged all States that have not yet done so to sign and ratify this instrument to advance its entry into force. Indonesia is one of the so-called Annex 2 States, whose ratification is required for the treaty to enter into force. The States in that group that have yet to ratify are China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States.
Mr. Ban is the depositary of the treaty, which bans all nuclear explosions. As of today, 182 States have signed the CTBT. Once Indonesia deposits its instrument of ratification, the total number of ratifying States will stand at 156, including 36 Annex 2 States.
(Adapted from UN Press Release)
The Death of Human Rights Defender Sonia Pierre
The U.S. State Department has just released the following statement regarding news of the death of Sonia Pierre:
December 6, 2011
CFP: Public International Law and Foreign Affairs Conference in Omaha, Nebraska
Creighton University School of Law in Omaha, Nebraska, invites submissions for the inaugural Public International Law and Foreign Affairs Conference, which will be held March 30-31, 2012.
The conference will be hosted by the School of Law and in partnership with the Creighton International and Comparative Law Journal, the International Law Society, and the Graduate Program in International Relations. The conference hopes to provide opportunities for practitioners, scholars, and students to present research in international law and foreign affairs. Submissions are due by January 15, 2012. Guidelines are available by clicking here.
Hat tip to Kelly Lynn Anders
December 5, 2011
Khmer Rouge Defendant Denies Charges
Viet Nam, not the Khmer Rouge, is responsible for the genocide that led to the deaths of as many as two million Cambodians during the late 1970s, the former second-in-command of the notorious regime told a United Nations-backed war crimes tribunal today.
Nuon Chea, 85, the former deputy secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea and “Brother Number Two,” told the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Penh that Viet Nam “controlled everything” during the period that led to the rule of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. “These war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide were not committed by the Cambodian people,” he said on the opening day of testimony in his trial. “It was the Vietnamese who killed Cambodians. The charges against me are not right.” Mr. Nuon and two other former senior Khmer Rouge figures, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan, are facing trial at the ECCC on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Convention.
Prosecutors have alleged that Mr. Nuon, Mr. Ieng and Mr. Khieu carried out a series of crimes, including killings, enslavement, the use of violence to “smash” enemies, forced marriage, religious persecution and the forced movements of people from urban to rural areas.
Today Mr. Nuon said he joined the local leftist resistance movement during the French colonial era with the hope of building an independent nation based on social justice. He said neighbouring Viet Nam had dominated the Communist movement throughout the region, sponsored a resistance movement within Cambodia and installed a client regime in 1979 after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. “I don’t want the next generation to misunderstand history. I don’t want them to believe the Khmer Rouge are bad people, are criminal. Nothing is true about that.”
The ECCC is a mixed court set up under a 2003 agreement between the UN and the Cambodian Government with the aim of trying those accused of the worst crimes during the genocide.
(UN Press Release)
UN Security Council Places More Sanctions on Eritrea
The United Nations Security Council today placed additional sanctions on Eritrea for continuing to provide support to armed groups seeking to destabilize Somalia and other parts of the Horn of Africa, building on the arms and travel embargoes it imposed exactly two years ago. The new measures are contained in a resolution which received the support of 13 of the Council’s 15 members. China and Russia abstained. It follows an earlier meeting today at which the Council heard a briefing from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
The Council expressed its grave concern in the text that “Eritrea has continued to provide political, financial, training and logistical support to armed opposition groups, including Al-Shabaab, engaged in undermining peace, security and stability in Somalia and the region.” It also condemned the planned terrorist attack of January 2011 to disrupt the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, as expressed by the findings of the Somalia/Eritrea Monitoring Group in July.
The group found that the Eritrean Government “conceived, planned, organized and directed a failed plot” to disrupt the summit by bombing a series of civilian and governmental targets.
In December 2009, the Council adopted a resolution which imposed sanctions on Eritrea for supporting insurgents trying to topple the government in nearby Somalia. The measures included an arms embargo on Eritrea, travel bans on the country’s top political and military officials, and the freezing of assets of some of its senior political and military officials. By today’s text, which was sponsored by Gabon and Nigeria, the Council condemned Eritrea’s violations of earlier resolutions. It demanded that it “cease all direct or indirect efforts to destabilize States,” including through financial, military, intelligence and non-military assistance, such as the provision of training centres and camps for armed groups, passports, living expenses, or travel facilitation.
The Council also voiced concern at the potential use of the Eritrean mining sector as a source of finance to destabilize the Horn of Africa. It decided that States should take measures to ensure that their companies involved in mining in Eritrea exercise “due diligence” so that funds derived from the sector are not used to destabilize the region. In addition, the Council called on Eritrea to engage constructively with Djibouti to resolve their border dispute.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Vanuatu Joins International Criminal Court
Vanuatu has become the latest State to accede to the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC), bringing to 120 the number of countries that are parties to the statute. Vanuatu deposited to the United Nations its instrument of accession to the Rome Statute on Friday. The treaty will enter into force in the South Pacific island nation on 1 February next year.
The ICC can try cases involving individuals charged with war crimes committed after July 2002. The Security Council, the ICC prosecutor, or a State party to the court can initiate any proceedings. The ICC only acts when countries themselves are "unwilling" or "unable" to investigate or prosecute.
(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)
ICJ Rules that Greece Breached Obligation by Opposing NATO Membership for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
The International Court of Justice has ruled today that Greece breached a United Nations-facilitated accord with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia when it blocked its neighbor’s attempt to become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
In a 15-to-one decision, the ICJ ruled that Greece breached its obligations under Article 11 of the so-called Interim Accord of 13 September 1995 when it objected to the NATO candidacy of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at a summit in Bucharest in 2008.
The Interim Accord was reached as part of UN-led international efforts to resolve the ongoing dispute between the two countries over the appropriate name for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The agreement details the differences between the countries on the name issue and obliges them to continue negotiations under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General to try to reach a settlement.
In its decision the ICJ noted that Article 11 states that Greece agrees to not object to any applications to join international organizations or institutions by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, unless the country uses a different name.
The ICJ judges dismissed Greece’s claim that it was justified to block the candidacy because the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had already breached the Interim Accord. The ICJ noted that only one breach had been established – the use of a prohibited symbol in 2004 – and that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had discontinued using the symbol that year. The court also stated that Greece had failed to establish that it had objected to the NATO candidacy in response to that specific breach.
In a statement issued after the decision, Matthew Nimetz, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the talks between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said the ruling deserved careful study by the governments of the two countries. “I have been in communication with both governments in recent days and have urged them to view this event as an opportunity to think constructively about their mutual relationship and to consider a renewed initiative to reach a definitive solution to the ‘name’ issue,” he said. “At this juncture, a forward-looking attitude that emphasizes solutions rather than differences would help make a lasting solution possible. I have informed the parties that I stand ready to work with them at the earliest opportunity and recommend intensifying the efforts to find a permanent solution.”
(mew) (Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Former President of Côte d’Ivoire Before International Criminal Court
A pre-trial chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has set June 18, 2012 as the starting date on a hearing to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to confirm charges against Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of Côte d’Ivoire, who stands accused of crimes against humanity. The charges against Mr. Gbagbo are connected to the bloody election-related violence that erupted in Côte d’Ivoire last year. He was surrendered to the ICC last week by Ivorian authorities.
At today’s hearing, in the presence of representatives from both the prosecution and the defence, the court verified the identity of Mr. Gbagbo and ensured that he was clearly informed of the charges brought against him and of his rights under the treaty that established the ICC. A confirmation of charges hearing is held to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that the accused committed each of the crimes charged. If the charges are confirmed, the pre-trial chamber commits the case for trial before a trial chamber.
Mr. Gbagbo allegedly bears individual criminal responsibility, as indirect co-perpetrator, for four counts of crimes against humanity, namely murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and other inhuman acts, committed in Côte d’Ivoire between 16 December 2010 and 12 April this year. In early October, the ICC authorized prosecutors to probe alleged abuses committed during the bloody unrest in Côte d’Ivoire, which erupted when Mr. 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 sources quoted by the prosecution in its application, at least 3,000 people were killed, 72 disappeared and 520 others were subject to arbitrary arrest and detentions during the post-election violence.
The pre-trial chamber has found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that in the aftermath of the presidential elections, pro-Gbagbo forces attacked civilians in the commercial capital, Abidjan, and in the country’s west, targeting people they believed were supporters of the rival presidential candidate. The attacks were allegedly committed pursuant to an organizational policy and were also widespread and systematic as they were carried out over an extended period, in large geographic areas, and following a similar general pattern. The raids were allegedly often directed at specific ethnic or religious communities.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
December 4, 2011
Iraq: Did the War Do Any Good?
As the United States draws down its troops in Iraq, it is a good time to reflect on the consequences of the war since 2003. According to news reports today, approximately 110,000 persons have lost
their lives in Iraq during the last 8 years. Of those lives lost,Iraqi civilians have lost far more than any other group. According to the Associated Press, almost 104,000 Iraqis have been killed in war-related violence. In addition, 4,485 US servicemen and women have been killed and another 70,000 wounded. the death toll also Includes approximately 2000 civilian employees of the US government as well as 175 journalists. Words cannot express the sorrow that accompanies such loss.
While no means a substitute for the loss of life, there are some bright spots as Iraq moves forward. Approximately twice as many homes have electricity and water as compared to the pre-war period. In addition, three times as many Iraqis have access to sewer services and cellular telephone services.
In some areas there have been few changes. The number of refugees has increased slightly while oil production has decreased slightly as compared to the pre-war period.
One can only hope that the future will be brighter but what happens next in Iraq will ultimately be up to the Iraqis.
Private Sector Urged to Take Greater Role in Combatting Slavery
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday urged the private sector to play a more active role in combating modern forms of slavery, saying that humanity still lives in a world blighted by serfdom and other practices despite efforts by governments and civil society to end the scourge. “To eradicate contemporary forms of slavery, we need new strategies and measures that can unite all actors,” said Mr. Ban in his message to mark the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. “While governments bear the primary responsibility, the private sector has an integral role to play.”
He recalled that the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) earlier this year endorsed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, outlining how States and businesses should implement the UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework. “The corporate responsibility to respect includes ensuring that their activities do not cause or contribute to contemporary forms of slavery in the workplace, and taking steps to stop it from happening in supply chains and elsewhere,” said Mr. Ban. He pointed out that the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.Gift), which includes the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the UN Global Compact corporate sustainability initiative, has been active in encouraging the private sector to contribute to raising awareness on modern slavery and taking concrete steps to eliminate it.
This year also marks the 20th anniversary of efforts by the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery to help victims of slavery regain their independence, lives and dignity. The Fund has supported projects that provide vocational training, education, legal advice, medical and psychological assistance. It has also targeted the social factors that can foster slavery. It needs a minimum of $1.5 million to fulfil its mandate, but less than a third of the required funding has been secured to date.
Contemporary forms of slavery include debt bondage, serfdom and forced labour; trafficking of persons and trafficking for the purpose of organ removal; sexual exploitation, the worst forms of child labour, forced marriage, the sale of wives, widow inheritance, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict, the Secretary-General added.
The UN independent expert on contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinian, in her message for the Day noted that “slavery is not history” and persists in spite of the significant progress in the fight against it. “However, victims of slavery are not alone,” Ms. Shahinian stressed, pointing out the UN Trust Fund has been bridging the gaps not addressed by other donors and has been able to provide concrete assistance to victims.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)