Saturday, April 21, 2012
Raising the possibility of targeted sanctions, the United Nations Security Council today demanded the immediate restoration of constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau, as well as the reinstatement of the West African country's legitimate government. "The Security Council further demands the immediate and unconditional release of the interim President Raimundo Pereira, Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior and all officials currently detained in order to enable the completion of the presidential and legislative elections," the 15-member said in a presidential statement, following a meeting.
Soldiers in Guinea-Bissau -- a country with a history of coups, misrule and political instability since it gained independence from Portugal in 1974 -- seized power earlier this month. The putsch came ahead of the presidential run-off election that was slated for 22 April between Mr. Gomes Júnior and a former president, Kumba Yala. In its statement, the Council said it was prepared to consider possible further measures, including targeted sanctions against the perpetrators and supporters of the military coup, should the situation remain unresolved. It also reiterated its strong condemnation of the coup, and expressed deep concern over reports of violent repression of peaceful demonstrations, looting, restriction of freedom of movement, the arbitrary detention of civilians and demands their release.
The statement welcomed and supported the engagement of the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States and the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, and encouraged closer coordination of their efforts to restore constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today informed the leaders of Cyprus' Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, Demetris Christofias and Derviþ Eroðlu, that there was not enough progress on key aspects of reunification talks to warrant holding an international conference on the divided Mediterranean island nation.
"He informed the two leaders that he met the previous day with his Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer," according to information provided by Mr. Ban's spokesperson. "On the basis of this discussion, the Secretary-General shared his assessment that there is not the sufficient progress on core issues that would provide a basis for calling an international conference at this time." The spokesperson added that, in his calls to the two leaders, Mr. Ban urged the two sides to take bold and decisive action in order to move the process forward; and, that he his conclusions would be discussed with them in more detail by Mr. Downer, who will travel to Cyprus next week for this purpose.
(UN Press Release)
The Security Council today authorized the establishment of a United Nations observer mission to Syria, for an initial period 90 days, to monitor the cessation of violence there, as well as monitor and support the full implementation of a peace plan. In a unanimous decision, Council members passed a resolution calling for the formation of the "United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), comprising an initial deployment of up to 300 unarmed military observers as well as an appropriate civilian component." The resolution also called for UNSMIS to be "deployed expeditiously subject to assessment by the Secretary-General of relevant developments on the ground, including the consolidation of the cessation of violence."
The violence in Syria, which began in March last year as a protest movement similar to those witnessed across the Middle East and North Africa, has clai
med over 9,000 lives, mostly civilians, and displaced tens of thousands of people. Earlier this week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had provided the Council with his assessment of the latest developments in the Middle Eastern country, in which he recommended the establishment of a UN supervision mission. In addition to calling on all parties, including the opposition, to immediately cease all armed violence for full access of humanitarian workers to those in need, the Council's resolution also called for the "urgent, comprehensive and immediate implementation" of all elements of the six-point peace plan, which had been put forward in March by the Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the League of Arab States for Syria, Kofi Annan. Mr. Annan's six-point proposal calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, and the start of inclusive political dialogue that takes into account the aspirations of the Syrian people.
In a statement issued after the Council's decision today, the Secretary-General's spokesperson said Mr. Ban strongly welcomed the Council's decision, and that the deployment of UNSMIS will proceed expeditiously, in line with the Council's resolution. "The Secretary-General calls upon the Government of Syria and other parties swiftly to create the conditions necessary for the deployment of the mission," the spokesperson added. "He stresses the need for the Government of Syria to end all violence and human rights violations, and in particular to stop the use of heavy weapons and to withdraw such weapons and armed units from population centres." The statement noted that the UN chief expects the Government of Syria to ensure the effective operation of UNSMIS, including "full, unimpeded, and immediate" freedom of movement and access, and unobstructed communications, as well as its safety. "The Secretary-General hopes that the establishment of UNSMIS, with the united and determined support of the Security Council, will help stop the killing and suffering in Syria, and contribute to move the country towards pluralism and democracy," Mr. Ban's spokesperson said.
In relation to UNSMIS's freedom of movement, the Council resolution underlined the need for the Syrian Government and the United Nations to agree rapidly on appropriate air assets for the observers, to which the spokesperson said the Secretary-General looks forward to an expeditious agreement on the issue.
(UN Press Release)
For the first time since 2011, two detainees have been released from detention at Guantanamo Bay. The pair, Abdul Razak and Ahmed Mohamed, are Uighurs from China and they have accepted an offer of resettlement from the El Salvadorian government. The two men were captured near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in 2001 and have been held without charge for a decade. The U.S. government refused China's demand for their return fearing that they would face persecution.
Their release leaves 169 detainees still at Guantanamo Bay, including the remaining 3 of the original 22 Uighurs. The other Uighurs were released to Albania, Bermuda, Palau and Switzerland. These last three Uighurs have also been cleared for release, but have not yet agreed to offers of resettlement.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
The United Nations envoy for Guinea-Bissau today urged the international community to ensure that any solution for the current political crisis in the West African country is based on a process that reflects the will of the people and a commitment to the restoration of constitutional order. “I believe that the parliamentary parties should be closely involved in any solution based on commitment to the restoration of constitutional order and addressing the question of inclusion,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Guinea-Bissau, Joseph Mutaboba, in a briefing to the Security Council.
Soldiers in Guinea-Bissau – a country with a history of coups, misrule and political instability since it gained independence from Portugal in 1974 – seized power a week ago and detained interim President, Raimundo Pereira, and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior. The putsch came ahead of the presidential run-off election that was slated for 22 April between Mr. Gomes Júnior and former president Kumba Yala.
Mr. Mutaboba, who is also the head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), which was set up in 2009 to promote stability in the country, told the Council that negotiations on a power deal between the junta and the some other elements have excluded the parliamentary majority party, the Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde (PAIGC). “I call attention to the fact that any solution that excludes the PAIGC and other parliamentary parties is a recipe for a future crisis and would be a negation of the will of the people through elections in 2008,” said Mr. Mutaboba.
In her remarks to Thursday’s Council meeting, the Chair of the Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil, said the Council and the international community as a whole must act with resolve to assist Guinea-Bissau in breaking away, once and for all, from the cycle of violence, coup d’états, impunity and instability that has plagued the country for so long. “The solution to the current crisis requires the immediate release of all the authorities presently detained by the coup perpetrators, the return of the Armed Forces to the barracks and the resumption of the electoral process,” said Ambassador. Ribeiro Viotti.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday voiced grave concern over the fact that, despite calls by the international community for the immediate restoration of constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau, the coup leaders have continued to deepen the political crisis through their declared plans to establish a transitional government. Mr. Ban and the Security Council have strongly condemned the military coup and demanded the immediate restoration of constitutional order.
(UN Press Release)
Greece Joins the Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children
Greece deposited its instrument of ratification of the Hague Convention of 19 October 1996 on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children, becoming the 34th Contracting State. The instrument of ratification was accompanied by a declaration and the designation of a Central Authority for Greece. The 1996 Child Protection Convention will enter into force for Greece on June 1, 2012.
The 1996 Child Protection Convention goes beyond what the 1980 Child Abduction Convention could do. The 1996 Child Protection Convention: (1) establishes mandatory standards of jurisdiction, recognition, and enforcement; (2) requires enforcement of access orders and provides a mechanism to exchange information and evidence on access; (3) denies jurisdiction in the event of a wrongful removal; and (4) provides constructive alternatives to non-return and to the largely futile or destructive imposition of conditions for return of a child. See Folger DeHart, The Relationship Between the 1980 Child Abduction Convention and the 1996 Child Protection Convention, 33 N.Y.U. J. Int'l L. & Pol. 83, 90 (2000); Russell J. Weintraub, International Litigation and Arbitration 581 (6th ed. 2011).
The 1996 Convention applies to children from the moment of their birth until they reach the age of 18 years.
Rwanda has deposited its instrument of accession to the Hague Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. Rwanda will become the 87th Contracting State to this Convention when it enters into force for Rwanda on July 1, 2012. The 86th Contracting State is Montenegro, and the convention will enter in effect for that country on the same date.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) signed an agreement this week to increase coordination of efforts to reduce human trafficking and migrant smuggling and to improve border management. The two agencies already work together in parts of Africa and Columbia. Pursuant to this new agreement, the two agencies will engage in information sharing and joint activities.
According to the UN Press Release, human trafficking generates $32 billion annually. The Executive Director of the UNODC, Yury Fedotov, called it a threat of “extraordinary proportions” which will take significant efforts at every level of government to combat successfully.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the only individuals who can be sued under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) are "natural persons." The Supreme Court, in a decision by Justice Sotomayor, dismissed a claim against the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization that had been brought by the family of Azzam Rahim, a naturalized American citizen who was arrested by Palestinian authorities in 1995 during a visit to the West Bank. He was taken to a prison in Jericho, where the lawsuit claimed that he had been tortured and killed.
The Supreme Court ruled that under the TVPA, the term "individual" encompasses only natural persons. It affirmed the lower courts' dismissal of the case against the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Click here to read the decision in Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority. The decision was unanimous, except that Justice Scalia refused to join part III-B of the opinion. Justice Breyer filed a concurring opinion in which he said that looking only at the word "individual" was not enough in this case because it might include corporations and other entities. But he found here that the legislative history of the TVPA revealed that the statute was intended to apply only to natural persons and not to corporations other organizations.
The appeals chamber of the United Nations tribunal trying key suspects implicated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda today dismissed a motion filed by an indicted suspect in which he requested a stay of his transfer to the Rwandan judicial system for trial. The suspect, Jean Uwinkindi, had requested the appeals chamber of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to stay an earlier ruling that he be transferred to Rwanda.
In that decision of 5 April, the President of the ICTR, Vagn Joensen, requested that the ICTR registrar ensure that the transfer of Mr. Uwinkindi takes place within 14 days. The judge also directed the registrar to assign two legal officers from the ICTR registry or chambers as interim monitors of Mr. Uwinkindi’s trial in Rwanda. Mr. Uwinkindi was a former Pentecostal pastor in the Kigali Rural prefecture. He is accused of being responsible for attacks against Tutsis in various locations. He was arrested in Uganda in June 2010, and has been held in the ICTR detention facility in the Tanzanian town of Arusha, where the ICTR is based.
Mr. Uwinkindi’s defence had cited an unrelated case before the Rwandan High Court and argued that there was “compelling evidence” that the national prosecuting authority “has acted in a manner inconsistent with any respect for the defendant’s right to a fair trial,” and that “the High Court has permitted serious violations of the defendant’s fair trial rights to go unchecked.”
In its ruling, the ICTR appeals chamber stated that it considered that it had already concluded that the referral chamber acted within its discretion in distinguishing Mr. Uwinkindi’s case from other cases in Rwanda. It also considered that, unlike other trials in Rwanda, Mr. Uwinkindi’s trial is subject to monitoring under the authority of the ICTR and to additional protections and guarantees under Rwandan laws applicable to cases transferred from the tribunal. Mr. Uwinkindi’s indictment includes counts of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and extermination as a crime against humanity.
(UN Press Release)
The International Law Section of the American Bar Association is holding its Spring Meeting this week in New York. Another fantastic event, very well attended, and lots of great information being shared. The section's fall meeting will be in Miami Beach from October 16-20, 2012 (save the dates!).
Friday, April 13, 2012
A.W. Heringa and B. Akkermans are the editors of a new book on "Educating European Lawyers." I've only seen the flier for it and not the book itself, but it seems to be of interest to some readers of our blog. It sells for 54 Euros, 51 GB Pounds, or $76 US Dollars, and it's a paperback of approximately 263 pages. The flier promoting the book says that it considers developments in European legal education. It's published by Intersentia. The ISBN Number is 978-1-78068-018-7. If you want to send us a review of the book, we can post it here for our blog readers.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, today said she was “disturbed” by the recent decision by Suriname to pass an amendment to an existing law that grants immunity for human rights violation committed during the 12-year period in which the country was, for the most part, under military rule. “The High Commissioner believes this amendment to the law will deny most families of victims their rights to justice, truth and reparation,” said Ms. Pillay’s spokesperson, Rupert Colville, at a press conference in Geneva. The new law extends the brief period covered by an earlier amnesty law to include any offences that took place between 1 April 1980 and 19 August 1992 “in the context of the defense of the State,” preventing any future investigations on gross human rights violations committed between those dates.
According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), one case which involves the former and current President Desi Bouterse may be affected, and could potentially be halted altogether. Mr. Bouterse, along with 24 other people, is accused of taking part in the arrest of 15 prominent opposition leaders, including journalists, lawyers, and a trade union leader, in December 1982, and their subsequent summary execution.
“The High Commissioner sincerely hopes that steps are taken to reverse this legislation as soon as possible, since it clearly conflicts with Suriname’s international obligations and very much runs against the positive trend in many other Latin American countries of prosecuting and, in many cases convicting, individuals responsible for serious crimes that took place during military dictatorships,” Mr. Colville said. According to international law, amnesties are not permissible if they prevent the prosecution of individuals who may be criminally responsible for international crimes, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and gross violations of human rights.
(UN Press Release)
Judge Fred Harhoff and Guenael Mettraux are the speakers at the fifth lecture in a series in honor of Judge Antonio Cassese. The lecture will be held on Tuesday, April 17, 2012, at 7:00 p.m. at the Hague Institute for Global Justice, Sophialaan 10, in The Netherlands. Registration for the event is not necessary, but arrive early as seats will be assigned on a first come, first served basis.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Yesterday, two United Nations Special Rapporteurs, Gabriela Knaul and Christof Heyns, called on the Government of Honduras to adopt concrete measures to stop the killing of lawyers in the country, stressing that lawyers should be able to carry out their functions without risking their lives.
According to the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), 74 lawyers have been killed in Honduras in the past three years without the Honduran Government responding adequately to the crimes. Nine lawyers have been assassinated just in the last few months alone.
The most recent murder occurred in January, when Ricardo Rosales, a lawyer in the city of La Ceiba, was killed after denouncing human rights violations in a local newspaper.
“Governments have the obligation of guaranteeing that attorneys can carry out all their professional duties without intimidation and without risking their safety and that of their relatives,” said Ms. Knaul. “They should guarantee adequate protection to lawyers when their safety is threatened because of their job.”
(cgb) (adapted from a UN Press Release)
The Chief Judge presiding over the military commission tribunals at Guantanamo Bay has assigned to himself the case of the five men alleged to be responsible for the attacks of Sept.11, 2001. The accused include the alleged mastermind, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, as well as Walid Mohammad, Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshidh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi. The US government preferred charges against the men last week. Army Col. James Pohl is scheduled to begin the arraignment on May 5. Pohl is the same judge presiding over the trial of Rashim al Nashiri who is accused of the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.
An independent United Nations counter-terrorism expert today expressed profound regret at a decision by a United States court to refuse freedom of information requests by a British organization on extraordinary renditions.
At a public hearing of the European Parliament concerning the involvement of European Union States in secret detention and rendition, Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson said the decision by the US District Court of Columbia “flies in the face of the principles of best practice for the oversight of intelligence services.”
On 2 April, the US court refused freedom of information requests made by the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition.
“The All-Party Group has rightly been pressing for independent oversight of intelligence services, pressing for real answers from the US Department of Defence, the CIA and other US Government agencies on this important issue,” Mr. Emmerson said.
In 2008, the Group made 43 separate requests under the US Freedom of Information Act concerning UK involvement in the US extraordinary renditions programme. The US Government refused the requests on the grounds of a statutory exception which allows US intelligence agencies to refuse requests from ‘foreign government entities,’ the UN human rights office said in a news release.
Mr. Emmerson stressed the decision is “surprising because it seems to be based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the constitution of the United Kingdom and of the universal separation of powers doctrine. “The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition is an institution of Parliament not the Government. It is wholly independent of Government and is a model of democratic oversight,” he said.
In addition, Mr. Emmerson emphasized the need for transparency and accountability, underlining that “refusing to disclose key information about alleged participation of UK officials in extraordinary rendition runs the risk of promoting impunity for state officials of the UK who may have been party to grave human rights violations.” he said. “The unjustified maintenance of secrecy, on dubious legal grounds, only delays efforts at establishing the truth,” Mr. Emmerson said.
(UN Press Release)
India has requested consultations with the United States under the World Trade Organization dispute settlement system concerning the countervailing duties (CVDs) imposed by the United States on its imports of certain steel products from India. Click here to read more.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Lesbian and gay activists in St. Petersburg face repression from new anti-gay legislation passed to outlaw any "propoganda" promoting equal rights. The notorious "propaganda" law passed in March 2012 would silence any reading, writing, speech or debate on anything "gay." Here is a 90-second video from those activists, seeking your help and support as they plan demonstrations and court challenges to the new law.
Hat tip to Rex Wockner
The Venice Academy of Human Rights is a center for human rights education, research and debate. It forms part of the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation (EIUC). The Academy offers interdisciplinary thematic programmes open to academics, practitioners and doctoral students with an advanced knowledge of human rights. This year, the Venice Academy of Human Rights will take place from July 9-18, 2012 in Venice, Italy. The theme of this year’s Academy is "The Limits of Human Rights." Online registration is open until May 1, 2012.
Faculty of the Venice Academy 2012 will be
* Professor Philip Alston, NYU
* Professor Seyla Benhabib, Yale
* Professor Martti Koskenniemi, Helsinki
* Professor Friedrich Kratochwil, CEU/EUI
* Professor Bruno Simma, Ann Arbor/Munich (former ICJ Judge)
* Professor Henry Steiner, Harvard
* Erika Feller, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection
The Academy is intended (appropriately so) for academics, as well as practitioners and PhD/JSD students. The program will include lectures, seminars, and optional workshops. There will be 21 hours of compulsory courses (plenum) and 16 hours of elective and optional courses (smaller groups).
The program will be held in the Monastery of San Nicolò, Venice - Lido, Italy
Fees: 500 €
A maximum of 55 participants is selected each year.
Participants attend morning lectures, afternoon seminars and workshops and can exchange views, ideas and arguments with leading international scholars and other experts. This includes the opportunity to present and discuss their own "work in progress" such as drafts of articles, chapters of doctoral theses, books and other projects. At the end of the program, participants receive a Certificate of Attendance issued by the Venice Academy of Human Rights. Click here for more information.
Hat tip to Knut Traisbach, European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation (EIUC)