Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Hassan Osman Abdi, 29, a journalist and director of the Shabelle Media Network, a private radio and television network, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on Saturday at his home in Mogadishu, Somalia, according to local sources cited by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
“The murder of Hassan Osman Abdi is a severe blow to a country where the media have paid a heavy price for exercising the human right to freedom of expression,” said Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director-General, in a press release. “The death of journalists undermines the right of people to be kept informed. Somalia’s reconciliation and reconstruction will not take place without securing respect for these two rights.” She urged the Somali authorities to take urgent measures to improve the safety of journalists and investigate the murder of Mr. Abdi, who was reportedly shot by five gunmen after arriving home from Radio Shabelle, where he worked on political issues.
Some 21 Somali journalists and other media professionals have been listed on UNESCO’s dedicated web page ‘UNESCO Remembers Assassinated Journalists.’
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
The United Nations Security Council this afternoon began debate on the situation in Syria, where thousands of people have been killed over the past 10 months in a Government crackdown against a popular uprising.
Nabil El Araby, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, briefed the Council on the work of the League’s human rights monitors inside Syria, after which senior representatives of Member States are scheduled to address the 15-member body on the situation in the Middle East country. The UN has repeatedly urged the Syrian leadership to end the violence, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urging President Bashar al-Assad “stop killing his own people” and embark on a path to greater democracy and heed the people’s call for representation and respect of human rights.
During his visit to Jordan today, Mr. Ban stated that “it is more urgent than ever to put an end to this bloodshed and violence, to start a credible political solution that addresses the legitimate aspiration of the Syrian people and to protect their fundamental freedoms.” He voiced his hope that Council will, at today’s meeting, “bear good results, so that they can meet the expectations of the international community.”
A wave of popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, known as the Arab Spring, calling for greater freedoms and reforms has led to the toppling of long-standing regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen since January 2011.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) today accepted the plea agreement filed in the contempt of court trial of Jelena Rašic, who was accused of procuring false statements from witnesses in exchange for money.
Ms. Rašic had pleaded guilty to all five counts of contempt of court at her initial appearance before the ICTY in September 2010. She had been granted provisional release in November, pending the start of trial. The date of the judgement hearing in Ms. Rašic’s case will be confirmed in due course.
Ms. Rašic was the case manager on the defence team of Milan Lukic, a Bosnian Serb who was sentenced by the trial chamber to life imprisonment for crimes committed in the eastern Bosnian town of Višegrad. She pleaded guilty to knowingly and willingly interfering with the Tribunal’s administration of justice by procuring a false witness statement from Zuhdija Tabakovic from Višegrad in exchange for €1,000 in cash. She also pleaded guilty to inciting Mr. Tabakovic to offer bribes and to procure false witness statements from two other individuals. Mr. Tabakovic was convicted of contempt in March 2010 and was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Monday, January 30, 2012
The American Bar Association Section of International Law is sponsoring the second annual "Live from L" - The Office of the Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State on Thursday, February 23rd, 2012 from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM Eastern Time. The topic is "The Arab Spring and International Law."
The program will be webcast with the Office of Legal Adviser from the Jacob Burns Moot Courtroom of the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. Co-sponsors include the American Society of International Law and The George Washington University School of Law.
The program will be moderated by Professor Sean D. Murphy of George Washington University, and speakers will include:
Harold Hongju Koh, Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State
Linda Jacobson, Assistant Legal Adviser for African and Near Eastern Affairs
Emily Kimball, Attorney Adviser, Office of United Nations Affairs
Meg Pickering, Attorney Adviser, Office of Legislation and Foreign Assistance
Margaret Taylor, Attorney Adviser, Office of Economic and Business Affairs
Interested persons may attend the program in person at George Washington University Law School or by webcast or teleconference. For more information, or to register, click here.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
We previously reported that the United States had appealed the WTO Tuna Dispute Panel Report on January 20, 2012. As might be expected, a few days later (on January 25, 2012) Mexico notified the WTO Dispute Settlement Body that it was going to cross-appeal the panel report in DS381, “United States — Measures Concerning the Importation, Marketing And Sale of Tuna And Tuna Products.” Click here for more information about the case.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
At its meeting last week, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) conducted a variety of important business, including the establishment of three new dispute resolution panels as follows:
In DS425, the European Union (EU) requested review of anti-dumping duties imposed by China on EU X-ray scanners.
In DS426, the EU also requested review of measures applied by Canada in its renewable energy sector called the "feed-in tariff" program.
In DS427, The United States (US) requested review of China’s anti-dumping and countervailing measures on US chicken broiler products.
At its meeting, the WTO DSB also adopted the panel and Appellate Body reports which found that the Philippines’ tax regime on distilled spirits violated WTO rules.
In other business, the DSB chair, Ambassador Elin Østebø Johansen (Norway), informed WTO members that Appellate Body (AB) judge Shotaro Oshima had expressed his intention to resign from his position. Mr Oshima’s resignation will take effect 90 days from the date of his resignation letter such that there would be a vacancy in the AB as of 6 April 2012. Ambassador Johansen said she would submit a proposal at the DSB meeting on 22 February 2012 to launch the selection process for a new AB judge so that the DSB would take a final decision on 24 May 2012.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
The United Nations human rights chief said today she was shocked at reports that 34 people were executed in Iraq in a single day last week and called on the country to institute an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty. “Even if the most scrupulous fair trial standards were observed, this would be a terrifying number of executions to take place in a single day,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stated in a news release. “Given the lack of transparency in court proceedings, major concerns about due process and fairness of trials, and the very wide range of offences for which the death penalty can be imposed in Iraq, it is a truly shocking figure,” she added.
The 34 individuals, including two women, were executed on 19 January following their conviction for various crimes, according to the UN human rights office (OHCHR). The total number of individuals sentenced to death in Iraq since 2004 is believed to stand at more than 1,200. The total number actually executed since then is not known, although at least 63 individuals are thought to have been executed in the past two months alone.
The death penalty can be imposed in Iraq for around 48 crimes, including a number of non-fatal crimes such as – under certain circumstances – damage to public property. “Most disturbingly,” said Ms. Pillay, “we do not have a single report of anyone on death row being pardoned, despite the fact there are well documented cases of confessions being extracted under duress.” She called on the Government to implement an immediate moratorium on the institution of death penalty, noting that around 150 countries have now either abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, or introduced a moratorium. The High Commissioner also urged the Government “to halt all executions and, as a matter of urgency, review the cases of those individuals currently on death row.”
(UN Press Release)
A U.S. Congressional Resolution [H Res 521 (Wilson, D-FL)] has been introduced to express the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States should work with the government of Haiti to address gender-based violence against women and children. The resolution was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Cong. Rec. H114 (Jan. 23, 2012).
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office
Monday, January 23, 2012
The International Criminal Court (ICC) today ruled that four prominent Kenyans, including the deputy prime minister, are to stand trial for crimes against humanity and other offences allegedly committed following general elections in late 2007. The ICC pre-trial chamber confirmed charges against Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance; William Samoei Ruto, former Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology; Francis Kirimi Muthaura, Head of the Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet; and Joshua arap Sang, Head of Operations for KASS FM radio station.
With respect to Mr. Ruto and Mr. Sang, who are charged with crimes against humanity, deportation or forcible transfer and persecution, the pre-trial judges found that “on the basis of the evidence presented, that they are responsible for the charges levied against them,” according to a summary of the pre-trial chamber’s decision. “These crimes resulted in the death of hundreds, and the displacement of thousands of civilians from Turbo town, the greater Eldoret area, Kapsabet town and Nandi Hills. The Chamber also found that these crimes were committed as part of an attack directed against particular groups, namely, Kikuyu, Kamba and Kisii, due to their perceived political affiliation to the Party of National Unity.”
As regards Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Muthaura, the court found that the prosecution had established substantial grounds to believe that the crimes of murder, deportation or forcible transfer, rape, other inhumane acts and persecution were committed in an attack on the civilian residents of Nakuru and Naivasha towns between 24 and 28 January 2008. “With respect to the criminal responsibility of Mr. Muthaura and Mr. Kenyatta, the chamber was satisfied that the evidence also established substantial grounds to believe that they are criminally responsible for the alleged crimes, as indirect co-perpetrators.”
“As a result of the decisions issued today, Mr. Ruto, Mr. Sang, Mr. Muthaura and Mr. Kenyatta are committed to trial. They will be tried before a different chamber for the charges confirmed. To this end, one or more trial chambers will be established by the Presidency of the ICC,” the pre-trial chamber stated in its ruling.
The pre-trial chamber declined to confirm charges against two other suspects – Henry Kiprono Kosgey, former Minister of Industrialization, and Mohamed Hussein Ali, the Police Commissioner at the time of the violence, saying that the prosecution had not produced sufficient evidence to link them to the charges against them.
“It is our utmost desire that the decisions issued by this chamber today bring peace to the people of the Republic of Kenya and prevent any sort of hostility,” pre-trial judges Ekaterina Trendafilova, the presiding judge, and her colleagues, Hans-Peter Kaul and Cuno Tarfusser, said in their decisions. “The decisions are the result of intensive and committed judicial work of the chamber, conducted impartially, independently and conscientiously in the interests and in the service of justice,” they added.
More than 1,100 people were killed, 3,500 injured and up to 600,000 forcibly displaced in the violence that followed the December 2007 elections. There were also hundreds of rapes, possibly more, and at least 100,000 properties were destroyed, according to ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.
(UN Press Release)
On Friday, January 20, the United States notified the WTO Dispute Settlement Body of its decision to appeal the panel report in case DS381, “United States — Measures Concerning the Importation, Marketing and Sale of Tuna and Tuna Products” - a case that involves the intersection of trade law and environmental issues.
Mexico initiated the proceeding against the US in 2008, alleging that the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act and implementing regulations, which set forth conditions for the use of a "dolphin-safe" label on tuna products, were not consistent with Articles I and III of GATT or with Article 2 of the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement under the WTO. The WTO Panel rejected Mexico's claim that the US laws discriminate against Mexican tuna products. However, the panel agreed with Mexico that the US requirements are more trade restrictive than necessary to fulfill legitimate objectives of consumer and dolphin protection. Therefore, the panel found the US to have violated Article 2 of the TBT.
No schedule has been announced as yet for the WTO Appellate Body proceedings. More information may be found on the WTO website here.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Mali has become the first African country to conclude an agreement to enforce sentences of imprisonment handed down by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The agreement was signed by Fatoumata Dembele Diarra, the First Vice-President of the ICC, and Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, Mali’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in the West African country’s capital, Bamako, last week. (Click here to see a photo.)
“The enforcement of sentences is a crucial element of a well-functioning justice system, and the ICC is grateful to every State party that expresses its willingness to accept persons convicted by the Court,” said Ms. Diarra. “This agreement with Mali – the first to be signed by an African State – is particularly significant considering the principle enshrined in the Statute and Rules of the ICC that States parties should share the responsibility for enforcing sentences of imprisonment, in accordance with principles of equitable geographical distribution.”
The Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the ICC, provides that sentences handed down by judges “shall be served in a State designated by the Court from a list of States which have indicated to the Court their willingness to accept sentenced persons.” In addition to the agreement with Mali, the ICC has signed agreements on the enforcement of sentences with the Governments of Austria, United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Serbia, and Colombia.
The ICC currently has seven situations under investigation, all of them in Africa: Central African Republic (CAR), Côte d’Ivoire, the Darfur region of western Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Libya, and Uganda.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned today the ambush by an unidentified group on a United Nations-African Union patrol in Sudan's Darfur region that led to the death of a Nigerian peacekeeper and the wounding of three others. The attack on the joint UN-AU peacekeeping force (UNAMID) took place near Saleah, Eastern State of Darfur.
In a message issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban urged the Government of Sudan to carry out a speedy investigation and to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice. The Secretary-General also expressed his condolences to the Government of Nigeria and to the family of the fallen peacekeeper.
The head of UNAMID, Ibrahim Gambari, also condemned the attack and stressed that it constitutes a war crime. Mr. Gambari, in a message issued by his spokesperson, committed the Mission to work closely with Sudanese authorities in order to apprehend the perpetrators as fast as possible.
Since the initial deployment of UNAMID on 31 December 2007, 35 peacekeepers have been killed as a result of hostile action.
(UN Press Release)
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned today the multiple attacks across the northern Nigerian city of Kano, which resulted in large-scale casualties and massive destruction to property. According to media reports, an estimated 150 people were killed on Friday during a series of explosions targeting police buildings and immigration centres around the city.
In a message issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said he was "appalled at the frequency and intensity of recent attacks in Nigeria, which demonstrate a wanton and unacceptable disregard for human life." Mr. Ban voiced his solidarity with the Government and people of Nigeria, and expressed his hope for swift and transparent investigations into the attacks to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice. Mr. Ban also extended his sincere condolences to the people of Nigeria and to the bereaved families.
(UN Press Release)
Friday, January 20, 2012
The United Nations today voiced concern at Cambodia’s decision not to appoint the current reserve judge as the new international co-investigating judge at the tribunal set up to try former Khmer Rouge leaders, saying it breaches the agreement that set up the court. Yesterday the Government of Cambodia formally notified Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the decision not to appoint the current reserve international co-investigating judge, Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet, to the position of international co-investigating judge of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). “This is a matter of serious concern,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement, stating that the decision is a breach of the 2003 agreement between the UN and the Government that set up the court, which states that the person appointed to fill this particular vacancy must be the reserve international co-investigating judge.
The vacancy on the ECCC resulted from the resignation in October of Judge Siegfried Blunk, the international co-investigating judge, who cited attempted interference by Government officials in the court’s proceedings. The Government had raised ethical concerns in relation to Judge Kasper-Ansermet in November, according to the statement issued today. The UN thoroughly reviewed the concerns, determined that they were unfounded, and requested that the country’s Supreme Council of the Magistracy proceed with his appointment.
“The United Nations continues to support Judge Kasper-Ansermet and Cambodia should take immediate steps to appoint him as international co-investigating judge,” said the statement. It added that the newly designated Special Expert to advise on the UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT), David Scheffer, is travelling to the capital, Phnom Penh, today for discussions with the Government and senior ECCC officials.
The ECCC is an independent court that uses a mixture of Cambodian staff and judges and foreign personnel. It is tasked with trying those deemed most responsible for crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979 during which as many as two million people are thought to have died.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
At the annual meeting the Association of American Law Schools in Washington, DC earlier this month, the International Law Section Council elected its new officers and executive board for 2012. The new officers are:
Chair: Christiana Ochoa of Indiana University - Bloomington, Maurer School of Law
Chair-Elect: Stephanie Farrior of Vermont Law School
Secretary: Cindy Buys of Southern Illinois University School of Law
Treasurer: Matthew Charity of Western New England Law School
The Executive Committee Members include: Dan Derby of Touro Law School (Outgoing Chair), Hari Osofsky of the University of Minnesota Law School, Anastasia Telesetsky of the University of Idaho College of Law, and David Gartner of Arizona State University, Sandra Day O'Conner College of Law.
Congratulations to all of them and many thanks to Professor Dan Derby for his leadership this past year and a very interesting program at AALS on North American Legal Developments.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Last week, Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, announced that he intends to hold a referendum in 2014 on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom. Such a split would pose many complicated questions regarding Scotland's membership in the European Union as well as other international treaties and organizations. If Scotland is considered a wholly new state, it may have to apply for membership. Alternatively, the other member states of the EU could treat Scotland as an automatic member since it already belonged as part of the UK. The EU treaties don't clearly address these questions and there is no precedent. If Scotland did split off, it would significantly affect the financial benefits and burdens of EU membership for both Scotland and the UK. However, the likelihood of that happening does not appear to be great. News reports indicate that the majority of the Scottish population is not in favor of independence.
The top United Nations envoy in South Sudan today urged an immediate end to the cycle of ethnic violence in the newly independent nation, and called on the Government to hold the perpetrators to account and to deploy more forces to key areas to avert further bloodshed. “The ongoing security crisis in Jonglei state is a test for all of us,” Hilde Johnson, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), told a press conference in the capital, Juba. “All concerned should redouble their efforts to put an immediate end to the cycle of violence, which is putting thousands of lives at risk and threatening the stability of the whole area,” she added.
Deadly clashes between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities in recent weeks have displaced tens of thousands of civilians and led to UN agencies launching a major humanitarian operation to assist those in need. Ms. Johnson noted that UNMISS has in recent months consistently deployed its limited resources to reinforce efforts to prevent and mitigate conflict in Jonglei state, including to the Lou Nuer, Dinka and Murle communities. “However, more Government forces are urgently needed in key locations, as well as to patrol in the buffer zones between the communities to de-escalate tensions between the communities and avert further violence,” she stated. “I urge the Government to deploy additional forces and further strengthen its forces in the key areas to stop further violence.”
She voiced deep concern about hate messages delivered by some individuals and groups, which she said could incite systematic ethnic violence. “Any statements that could incite ethnically based violence are totally unacceptable. I urge the leaders of all communities at all levels in Jonglei state, and nationally, to call for a halt to any such rhetoric. I also call on the Government to bring the full force of the law to bear against those responsible for inciting violence,” Ms. Johnson stated. “UNMISS strongly condemns the use of violence by communities and urges their political, traditional and youth leaders to do their utmost to end killings and confrontations in an area that has suffered far too many casualties,” she added.
UN peacekeepers have been deployed to the area in recent weeks to support the efforts of Government forces to restore peace and security, and daily air and land patrols have been stepped up to deter further attacks. However, the Mission has a shortfall of operational helicopters, seriously affecting its ability to carry out its mandate. Ms. Johnson pointed out that the Mission took “decisive” measures, including committing around half of its combat-ready personnel to the heavily-populated areas of Pibor and Likuongole. “We moved our forces to where civilians were under greatest threat. These actions combined with the presence of Government troops helped save many lives,” she said.
The Mission’s preliminary findings have confirmed evidence of a number of civilians killed and injured, however, the findings so far do not provide the basis for the scale of casualties claimed by some media, Ms. Johnson stated. “We urge leaders and the public to avoid jumping to conclusions based on unverified human rights violations,” she said, adding that UNMISS commended the Government’s decision to conduct an investigation into the events and the numbers and who may have been responsible.
Retaliatory violence has continued, with a number of attacks in the past few days on Lou Nuer and Dinka communities, she reported. “The cycle of violence in Jonglei has caused huge suffering to all the people in the area. It has to end,” stated Ms. Johnson. UNMISS remained very concerned about the deterioration of the humanitarian situation and reiterated its call on the international community to respond generously and rapidly to humanitarian needs.
The UN humanitarian community has launched one of the most complex and expensive emergency operations in South Sudan, aimed at assisting 60,000 people in the affected area. UNMISS will continue to assist in delivering vital supplies, particularly in remote areas where some of the most vulnerable people are located.
The Special Representative also noted that South Sudan is moving with determination towards consolidating its independence on the national and international scenes. At the national level, political reforms and security are among the major challenges that the new State is facing. “However, the Government’s introduction of political and security reforms show strong commitment to establishing a stable and democratic state worthy of the people of South Sudan,” she stated.
(UN Press Release)
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has designated David J. Scheffer of the United States as the Special Expert to advise on the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT), it was announced today. “Mr. Scheffer is very well qualified to provide expert advice on UNAKRT during this critical phase for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts Cambodia (ECCC),” stated the announcement.
The ECCC, set up under an agreement signed in 2003 by the UN and the Government, is tasked with trying those deemed most responsible for crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979 during which as many as two million people are thought to have died.
Professor Scheffer, whose designation is for an initial period of six months, replaces Clint Williamson, whose term of office expired on 30 September 2011. He was involved in the establishment of the ECCC, the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the International Criminal Court (ICC), and the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). He served as the US Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues from 1997 to 2001. He is presently the Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law and Director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University School of Law.
It was also announced today that Mr. Ban has appointed John Hocking of Australia as the Registrar of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. Mr. Hocking has been serving as the Registrar of the ICTY, which is based in The Hague, since May 2009. He will continue in that position while working as the Registrar of the Residual Mechanism, which was established by Security Council to carry out a number of essential functions of the ICTY and the ICTR after the closure of the Tribunals. The Residual Mechanism will have two branches, in Arusha – where the ICTR is based – and in The Hague, which will commence functioning on 1 July 2012 and 1 July 2013, respectively.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Louise Doswald-Beck, Professor of International Law at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Switzerland, has published a new book on Human Rights in Times of Conflict and Terrorism (Oxford University Press 2011).
The book is a guide to international human rights and humanitarian law as applied to situations of armed conflict, counter-terrorism measures, and other violent situations that endanger fundamental human rights (such as as the right to life, prohibitions on torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, and other fundamental rights). Professor Doswald-Beck was previously a legal adviser at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and became Head of the Legal Division in 1998. She brings her knowledge and experience from her work at ICRC in a highly practical text on a difficult legal and political issue.
The book begins by reviewing the "Overarching Elements" such as the application of human rights law during both peace and armed conflict, the international law instruments that create obligations to ensure and implement human rights, the right to a remedy for violations of rights, and the regime of limitations and derogations. Her treatment of the subject is scholarly, thorough, and impressive. It focuses deeply on the substantive law and assumes a basic understanding of the procedures of human rights bodies. There are extensive citations to decisions of human rights tribunals and to primary source documents.
The second part of her book deals with "Absolute Prohibitions" including: the prohibition of the arbitrary deprivation of life; the prohibition on the use of torture, inhuman, or degrading treatment; and the prohibition of enforced disappearances. That is followed by parts on "Fundamental Requirements of Due Process," "Limitations to Freedoms," and "Protection of Vulnerable and Disadvantaged Populations."
This book (at 550 pages) would be a useful reference work for any human rights collection. It would be a good practitioner guide and would also be an excellent textbook for a graduate course in international human rights law. And although this book focuses on the application of human rights law in times of violence, it also shows how human rights are to be protected at all times. This book is a direct response to the damage done to human rights and international law over the last decade in the name of combatting terrorism and protecting national security.
Mark E. Wojcik
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
The United Nations human rights chief last week welcomed the lifting of a state of emergency in Fiji, more than two years after it was imposed, calling it a “step in the right direction” for the Pacific island nation. “The emergency law has seriously restricted the right to public assembly and freedom of expression, and given the authorities broad powers of arrest and detention,” said Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a statement. “I welcome the cancellation of the emergency law and encourage the Government to build on this positive momentum with concrete steps to ensure full respect for the rule of law and human rights.”
Fiji had committed to lifting the emergency regulations before the UN Human Rights Council during its Universal Periodic Review in 2009, a pledge the South Pacific island nation has now fulfilled, Ms. Pillay noted. She also took note of Prime Minister Josaia V. Bainimarama’s announcement that amendments have been made to the Public Order Act, voicing hope that those amendments would be in line with international human rights norms and would not in any way replicate the restrictions in the public emergency regulations.
Ms. Pillay, however, expressed concern over recent developments in which critics of the Government have faced criminal charges, arbitrary detention and other forms of intimidation. “Silencing criticism with such heavy-handed measures is in breach of international human rights standards. I urge the Government to ensure that the rule of law is fully respected and that there is space for civil society to operate without fear,” she said.
“As Fiji begins its constitution-making process and prepares for elections to be held in 2014, I look forward to seeing an environment in which ordinary people and civil society organizations can participate fully.” She said the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) regional bureau for the Pacific remains ready to support national efforts to further the promotion and protection of human rights in Fiji.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)