Monday, May 21, 2012

International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO)

Marking International Day against Homophobia last week, senior United Nations officials drew attention to laws around the world that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and called for equality and the repeal of such laws.  “When I raise these issues, some complain that I’m pushing for ‘new rights’ or ‘special rights’ for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. But there is nothing new or special about the right to life and security of person, the right to freedom from discrimination,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in a statement.  “These and other rights are universal… enshrined in international law but denied to many of our fellow human beings simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” she added.   

Although it is not an officially observed UN day, the International Day against Homophobia (informally known as IDAHO), observed on May 17th, has become an important day for millions of people around the world to pause and remember the victims of homophobic violence and discrimination, and to make the case for genuine equality for LGBT people.  According to the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), close to 80 countries, territories and areas still have laws that criminalize same-sex relations between consenting adults.    

In connection with the Day, a UN spokesperson said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on States to tackle violence against LGBT people, decriminalize consensual same-sex relationships, ban discrimination and educate the public – and he “supports the High Commissioner’s message: ‘We are all human and we all deserve the same rights.’”  The spokesperson said Mr. Ban is distressed by the fact that LGBT people are discriminated against in the job market, in schools, and in healthcare, and are even abused and disowned by their own families.  “He is outraged that they are singled out for physical attack, even murder,” the spokesperson said. “And he has called for a repeal of laws, now on the books in 76 countries, that criminalize loving relationships between people of the same sex.”  

In March, Mr. Ban told the United Nations Human Rights Council that he had not grown up talking about these issues, but had learned to speak up “because lives are at stake.” In 2010, he lauded the “courageous” decision by President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi to pardon a gay couple who had been sentenced to 14 years in prison, and, more recently, he stressed the need to ensure the rights of LGBT people during a visit to Zambia.   

The head of UNAIDS, the lead United Nations agency dealing with the global HIV/AIDS response, said the laws are serious barriers to an effective AIDS response and are driving LGBT  people underground where they cannot access life-saving services.  

“A society’s value should not be based on money or power. It must be measured by the way it values people, regardless of their sexual orientation or social status. A prosperous society is one that ensures inclusiveness and respects all people,” said UNAIDS’ Executive Director, Michel Sidibé. “To our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender friends, UNAIDS stands with you.” 

(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)

May 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Timor-Leste Celebrates the 10th Anniversary of its Independence

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has congratulated the people of Timor-Leste on the 10th anniversary of their country’s restoration of independence, hailing the “impressive advances” over the past decade, and noting that national institutions are now able to safeguard stability and democracy.  “Parliament serves as a dynamic forum for political debate, thanks to the constructive participation of both governing and opposition parties,” said Mr. Ban in a message delivered on his behalf, during independence celebrations in the capital, Dili, yesterday.  “Successive governments have taken concrete steps to improve the daily lives of citizens and lay the groundwork for development. The judiciary has made important gains in upholding the rule of law,” Mr. Ban added.

The independence celebrations coincided with the inauguration of Timor-Leste’s new President, Taur Matan Ruak, who won presidential elections last month. Timor-Leste became a sovereign State on May 20, 2002.

Mr. Ban noted that April’s presidential poll had shown that the national police and the armed forces are increasingly able to perform their respective tasks, and that a country that once was a recipient of peacekeeping assistance is contributing personnel to United Nations efforts to maintain peace and security around the world.  Just last week, 17 Timorese police officers passed a rigorous recruitment process to serve as peacekeepers in UN missions abroad. Currently, there are two Timorese police officers serving in the UN operation in Guinea-Bissau, and over the past 10 years, 12 police officers have served as UN peacekeepers in Kosovo and Guinea-Bissau.  “The people of Timor-Leste should be proud of these many achievements. They have shown unswerving resolve in overcoming great challenges,” the UN chief said. “The nation’s leaders have shown wisdom and responsibility in guiding the country through testing times.”

Mr. Ban voiced his appreciation for the service to the country of outgoing president, José Ramos-Horta, noting that he had guided Timor-Leste through many difficult moments, promoting peace, reconciliation and national unity.  He also noted that while the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) continues to prepare for its anticipated departure at the end of this year, the United Nations will remain steadfast in its support for Timor-Leste for many years to come.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

May 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 18, 2012

We're Four Years Old Today

Our International Law Prof Blog started May 19, 2008.  We appreciate your support, contributions, and feedback.  Thanks everyone!

Mark, Cindy, Cyndee, Laurant, and Michael 

May 18, 2012 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Inaugural Conference of the Society for Mediterranean Law and Culture

La Conferenza Inaugurale della Società di Diritto e Cultura del Mediterraneo

The Society for Mediterranean Law and Culture will hold an inaugural conference on Thursday, June 21 and Friday, June 22, 2012 at the University of Cagliari Faculty of Law, Sardinia, Italy.  The conference will be co-sponsored by the University of Cagliari Faculty of Law and its sister school, The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

The conference organizers are Professors GianmarioDemuro and Giovanni Coinu of the University of Cagliari Faculty of Law and Professors William B.T. Mock Jr. and Mark E. Wojcik from Cagliari's sister school, The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.   

Other conference committee members include Professor Lauren Fielder of the University of Lucerne Faculty of Law in Switzerland and Professor David Austin of the California Western School of Law in San Diego.

Papers and panels at this conference may be presented in English, Italian, or French (and other languages depending on the needs of the participants and audience).  Contact Professor William Mock at 7mock [at] jmls.edu for more information.

(mew)

 

 

May 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Special Court for Sierra Leone: Sentencing Hearing for Charles Taylor

Convicted former Liberian President Charles Taylor told the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) yesterday that he felt “sadness and deepest sympathy for the atrocities and crimes that were suffered by individuals and families in Sierra Leone.”  But he also denied responsibility and asked the judges to use “reconciliation and healing and not retribution" as their guiding principles in determining his sentence.

Last month, the SCSL handed down a guilty verdict against Mr. Taylor for planning, aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity. He had been on trial on 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including pillage, slavery for forced marriage purposes, collective punishment and the recruitment and use of child soldiers, related to the civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s.

The Court will deliver its sentencing judgement on Wednesday, May 30, 2012.

The SCSL judges ruled in April that Mr. Taylor had participated in planning the rebel attacks on Kono, Makeni and Freetown between December 1998 and February 1999, and that he had instructed the rebels to “make the operation fearful.”  They also convicted him on all counts for aiding and abetting the rebels in the commission of crimes during the war in Sierra Leone by providing arms and ammunition, military personnel, operational support and moral support.

Prosecutor Brenda Hollis told the tribunal that Mr. Taylor was a “willing and enthusiastic participation” in the crimes, and that his “leadership positions and betrayal of positions of trust” were sufficient to justify a long sentence, which would “reflect the essential role that Mr. Taylor played in crimes of such extreme scope and gravity.” She has recommended that Mr. Taylor serves an 80-year term in prison.

The SCSL was set up jointly by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations. It is mandated to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the country since November 30, 1996.

(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)

 

May 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Japanese Judge Resigns from Cambodia Tribunal

Motoo Noguchi from Japan, an international judge of the Supreme Court Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), submitted his resignation to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.  The resignation will take effect on July 15.

Under an agreement signed by the UN and the Cambodian Government, the ECCC was set up as an independent court using a mixture of Cambodian staff and judges and foreign personnel. It is designated to try those deemed most responsible for mass killings and other crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge regime three decades ago.

Mr. Noguchi, who has been serving the ECCC since its inception in 2006, expressed his intention to return to service with the Ministry of Justice of Japan, and addressed the Cambodian people.

“It was my greatest honour and privilege to play a role in the ECCC’s historic endeavours to bring justice to the people of Cambodia,” Mr. Noguchi said. “I trust that they will continue to strive to overcome the tragic past which once put the country in ruins, as was the case with the Japanese people half a century ago.”  

“I hope that the Cambodian people will keep telling their stories beyond generations, enhance dialogue in their society, and reflect these on the education for pupils and students. I wish all the best and prosperity for the country and people of Cambodia,” he added.

In addition to Mr. Noguchi, the ECCC has in recent months witnessed the resignations of the international co-investigating judge, Siegfried Blunk, and the reserve international co-investigating judge, Laurent Kasper-Ansermet.

Judge Blunk cited attempted interference by Government officials in the court’s proceedings, while Judge Kasper-Ansermet stated that he was being prevented from properly and freely carrying out his duties at the tribunal. In March, Mr. Ban stressed that the Government must provide full cooperation so that they could carry out their duties.

(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)

May 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mladic Trial Opens in the Hague

The trial of Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military chief, opened yesterday in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).  Mladic is charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, and violations of laws and customs of war. The alleged crimes were committed across Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995.

Prosecutors may call more than 400 witnesses and present nearly 28,000 exhibits during the trial.  They told the court that they anticipate needing about 200 hours of tribunal time to present their case.

The indictment against Mr. Mladic alleges that the 68-year-old led forces that conducted the notorious massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys in the supposed safe haven of Srebrenica in July 1995. The former army chief also faces charges for the shelling of and sniping in the city of Sarajevo during the protracted wartime siege of the city.  The indictment also lists more than 70 incidents of murder in 20 municipalities across Bosnia and Herzegovina, and accuses forces under Mr. Mladic’s supervision of torturing, mistreating and physically, psychologically and sexually abusing civilians confined to detention centers.

(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)

May 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Journalist and Gay Rights Activist Killed in Honduras

Erick Martínez Ávila, a Honduran journalist and gay rights activist, has been murdered. 

The Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, condemned the murder in a news release. “I am deeply concerned about this second journalist killed in Honduras in a month and call on the authorities to bring to justice the perpetrators of this crime against the basic human right of freedom of expression.”

 Mr. Martínez Ávila, 32, was a spokesman for Kukulcán, an organization that defends lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. According to Reporters Without Borders, his body was found on 7 May, two days after he had been reported missing. He is said to have been strangled.  

“Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of democracy and rule of law and it is essential that journalists be allowed to contribute freely to political and social debate,” Ms. Bokova added.
According to UNESCO, 19 journalists and media workers, including Mr. Martínez Ávila, have been killed in Honduras since 2009. In 2010, UNESCO supported training workshops in legal aspects of freedom of expression, access to information and election reporting for 140 journalists and media officers in the Honduras.

(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)

May 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ICC Prosecutor Seeks New Charges and an Arrest Warrant

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), wants to seek new charges against Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda, one of the top commanders in the militia led by Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanda Dyilo (who was convicted in March by the ICC).  

The Prosecutor also wants an arrest warrant for the head of a Rwandan rebel group, both of whom are allegedly responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). 
 
In 2006, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Ntaganda, who is currently a general in the DRC’s national army, for crimes committed against civilians in the Ituri region of DRC from 2002 to 2003.
Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said that evidence collected during the Lubanga trial has led the Office of the Prosecutor to request an expansion of the arrest warrant against Mr. Ntaganda for murder, persecution based on ethnic grounds, rape, sexual slavery, attacking civilians, and pillaging.

The second arrest warrant request is against Sylvestre Mudacumura, the supreme commander of the Rwandan rebel group known as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or by its French acronym FDLR.

The most recent incarnation of Rwandan rebel groups established by Rwandan Hutus responsible for the 1994 genocide of Tutsis and Hutu moderates in Rwanda, the FDLR has been involved in crimes in eastern DRC for some time.

“The followers of Ntaganda and Mudacumura have to understand that it is time for them to demobilize and stop their crimes, even help in arresting the leaders,” said the ICC Prosecutor, whose term of office comes to an end next month.  He added that it is important that any new plan to attack these groups take into consideration the fact that past military operations against them have produced civilian casualties. 

The ICC, which is based in The Hague, is the first permanent international court set up to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.  It can try cases involving individuals charged with war crimes committed since July 2002. The Security Council, the ICC Prosecutor or a State Party to the court can initiate any proceedings, and the ICC only acts when countries themselves are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute. In addition to the situation in DRC, the Court has ongoing investigations in the Central African Republic, the Darfur region of western Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Libya and Côte d’Ivoire.

(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)

May 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Moldova Urged to Adopt Anti-Discrimination Legislation

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today called on the Moldovan Government to follow up on its commitment to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law.  “We urge the Government of Moldova to act on its commitment to adopt this long-overdue legislation in conformity with obligations under international human rights law,” an OHCHR spokesperson, Ravina Shamdasani, said in a news release.

The law has been under preparation since 2008 and is currently being debated in the country, pending consultations with the Government – one of the most contentious provisions of the law is that it will outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The law was one of the key elements raised by the High Commissioner, Navi Pillay, in her discussions with the Moldovan Government during her November 2011 visit to the country and featured strongly in the report of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Moldova, adopted in March this year. Under the auspices of the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, the UPR process involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States once every four years. 

“Given the hostility facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in Moldova, including hate speech by politicians and public officials, it is imperative that this provision remain in the law,” Ms. Shamdasani said. “As the High Commissioner has repeatedly stressed, acts of discrimination and violence against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people are violations of international human rights law and must be outlawed.”

The spokesperson said OHCHR welcomes the active role of civil society in debating and promoting the draft law, which will also provide much-needed protection for groups such as the Roma community, religious minorities and individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

(UN Press Release)

May 11, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

ICJ Begins Deliberations in Territorial and Maritime Dispute Between Nicaragua and Colombia

The International Court of Justice has concluded its public hearings in the "Territorial and Maritime Dispute" between Nicaragua and Colombia. Nicaragua is seeking a declaration that it has sovereignty over all of the maritime features off her Caribbean coast that are not proven to be part of the San Andres Achipelago, and that it would also have sovereignty over any features on the bank of the Quitasueno that qualify as islands under international law.  It also argued that the appropriate delimitation of the coasts of Nicaragua and Colombia is a continental shelf boundary established by dividing by equal parts, as well as other claims.  Click here to read more about its claims, and those of Colombia.

(mew)

May 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

ICTR Appeals Chamber Reduces Life Sentence for Rwandan Army Major Found Guilty of Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity, and Violations of the Geneva Convention

The appeals chamber of the United Nations tribunal trying key suspects implicated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda today commuted a convict’s life sentence to 35 years in prison after reversing convictions on some counts in his indictment, and upheld the prison terms of two other men.

Appeal judges in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) reduced the life term imposed on Aloys Ntabakuze, a former Rwandan army major, after he was found guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity, and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions.  While affirming some of the Trial Chamber’s original findings, the court reversed Mr. Ntabakuze’s convictions for murder as a crime against humanity and set aside the finding of the trial chamber that he was responsible for crimes by committed by militiamen. He was also cleared of the charge of preventing a group of people who were later killed from fleeing.

In the case of Ildephonse Hategekimana, a former lieutenant in the Rwanda military, the court dismissed his appeal and confirmed the sentence of life imprisonment based on his convictions for genocide and murder and rape as crimes against humanity.

Also dismissed was the appeal launched by Gaspard Kanyarukiga, a former businessman, who was convicted in 2010 of genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity for his participation in the planning of the destruction of a church in Rwanda’s Kibuye prefecture – an action that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 2,000 Tutsi civilians. The appeals chamber upheld Mr. Kanyarukiga’s sentence of 30 years in prison.

Based in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha, the ICTR was set up after the Rwandan genocide, when at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed during three months of bloodletting that followed the deaths of then Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira when their plane was brought down over the capital, Kigali on 6 April 1994.

(UN Press Release)

May 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Program to learn more about new US Model Bilateral Investment Treaty

On Thursday, May 31, the District of Columbia (DC) Bar International Dispute Resolution Committee and the Dispute Resolution Interest Group of the American Society of International Law are co-sponsoring a lunchtime program from 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm at which Jonathan (Josh) Kallmer, Deputy Assistant US Trade Representative for Investment, and Michael Tracton, Senior Negotiator for Investment Treaties, US State Department, will explain and discuss the newly revised US Model Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT).  Jean Kalicki, a partner at Arnold & Porter LLP and co-chair of the DC Bar International Dispute Resolution Committee, will moderate this event.  The program will be held at the offices of Arnold & Porter, 555, 12th St. NW, Washington, DC.  The Model BIT is the US Government template for investment treaty negotiations, including with possible treaty partners such as China, India and others.  To learn more or to register for the program, click here.

(cgb)

May 7, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Haiti's Parliament Confirms Prime Minister Designate

The Haitian Parliament approved the appointment of Laurent Lamothe as Prime Minister.  Mr. Lamothe’s predecessor, Garry Conille, resigned in February -- just four months after his appointment.

(mew) (Adapted from a UN Press Release)

May 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Somalia

The United Nations and its partners in Somalia have warned individual groups against jeopardizing a roadmap for ending the transition in the east African country, adding that sanctions and restrictions could be imposed on those who seek to obstruct the peace process. 

“We have now entered a critical juncture of the transitional period of the peace process in Somalia,” the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), the African Union peacekeeping mission in the country, known by the acronym AMISOM, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) said in joint statement. “We have come too far and too much is at stake for us to allow the process to backslide at the exact moment Somalia has its best opportunity for peace in decades.”   

“To this end, the United Nations, the African Union and IGAD are jointly issuing this unambiguous warning to all potential spoilers,” it added, noting that any groups which do not comply or actively obstruct the roadmap will be referred to the IGAD Council of Ministers, with recommendations from the three entities to impose restrictions and sanctions on them.    

Somalia’s Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) are in the process of implementing a roadmap – known as the Roadmap for Ending the Transition in Somalia – devised in September last year, that spells out priority measures to be carried out before the current transitional governing arrangements end in just a few months, on 20 August.  “As we move closer to key benchmarks, such as the convening of the constituent assembly, adoption of a new federal provisional constitution, selection of a new parliament, we remain greatly concerned that the roadmap continues to be jeopardized by the actions of individuals and groups in and out of Somalia working to undermine the fragile progress we have collectively made in recent months,” the statement said.    

Since 2007, AMISOM has been trying to bring peace to the country, which has had no functioning central government for the past 20 years, and which has been torn apart by factional fighting and has faced a series of humanitarian crises.  UNPOS, AMISOM, and IGAD emphasized that their statement was “both a warning and a final opportunity for those that stand against peace and progress in Somalia to cease immediately and desist any and all actions against the roadmap process.”    

The statement was signed by the Special Representative of AMISOM, Boubacar G. Diarra, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, Augustine P. Mahiga, and IGAD’s facilitator for Somalia Peace and National Reconciliation, Kipruto arap Kirwa.    

Until last year, most of Mogadishu was, for several years, riven by a fluid frontline dividing the two sides – fighters belonging to the Al Shabaab movement and troops belonging to the Transitional Federal Government, with the latter supported by the peacekeeping forces AMISOM. Since the Al Shabaab withdrawal from the capital’s central parts in August, the frontlines were pushed back to the city’s outskirts. However, the use of roadside bombs, grenades and suicide bombers is still a regular occurrence, and outbreaks of fighting still take place.     

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

May 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

UN Secretary-General Expresses Profound Hope and Expectation for Myanmar (Burma)

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday hailed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as a symbol of hope for human rights worldwide as he met the Nobel laureate and pro-democracy leader for the first time at her home in Yangon, Myanmar.  “She is really a strong and dedicated leader of this country for democracy and development and human rights for all,” Mr. Ban said in a joint press encounter with Ms. Suu Kyi, who was released from nearly two decades of house arrest in November 2010. “I, like everybody in the world, fully admire her leadership and commitment, during the last two or three decades for peace and development and human rights for this country, for this region, and for the world. She has been a symbol of our hope for human rights for all, all around the world,” he added.

Mr. Ban invited Ms. Suu Kyi to visit the United Nations during their meeting, which capped off a three-day visit to Myanmar by the Secretary-General – his third since assuming his post.

Earlier this month, Myanmar citizens headed to the polls to vote for representatives of 48 parliamentary seats, with Ms. Suu Kyi winning a position in the lower house of parliament. The by-elections were part of a series of democratic reforms led by President Thein Sein, which began last year.

The UN chief congratulated Ms. Suu Kyi on her recent election, and commended her decision yesterday to take the oath and become a parliamentarian. “I am sure that she will play a very constructive and active role as a parliamentarian for the betterment and well-being of this great country,” he said.  During his visit, Mr. Ban also met with a number of senior government officials, including President Sein, who last year began a series of democratic reforms in the South-east Asian nation.

“The Myanmar people and Government have embarked on a path of reform, democratization, and fuller participatory democracy,” said Mr. Ban. “They deserve our support. They deserve the support of the whole international community. The United Nations will continue to stand by the people in every step and in any way we can. This is my pledge.”

While in Yangon today, the Secretary-General also launched the UN Global Compact’s Myanmar network. Set up in 2000, the initiative has some 7,000 companies in 140 countries, which have pledged to align their business practices to ten universally accepted principles concerning human rights, labour, environmental sustainability and the fight against corruption.  “I hope that Myanmar’s local business entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to fully utilize and interact with international business leaders to widen and deepen their business opportunities for direct foreign investment, as well as job creation,” Mr. Ban said.  “Through this interaction, they can strengthen their capacity in terms of good business management and accountability and transparency and even human rights,” he added. “I hope that this will be a good opportunity for them to mutually benefit for economic development.”

Speaking at the launch, which brought together a number of domestic and international companies in Myanmar, the Secretary-General noted that it was a “remarkable” time for the country.  “We are here at a time of transition – a time that is ripe with potential and expectation for business and investment. Atop the list of priorities are jobs and income opportunities, especially for the many young people whose talents and creativity are waiting to be tapped,” he said.  “Equally paramount is development that is widespread and sustainable,” he stated, adding that, to deliver prosperity and opportunity widely, Myanmar needs strong and inclusive markets. “Business has to be the backbone of growth. However, investment and business activity must be sustainable and responsible – upholding the highest standard of business ethics.”

At a press conference before departing Myanmar, the Secretary-General said he was leaving with “profound hope and expectation” in the future of the country.  “From every front – at every level, I heard a genuine commitment for democracy, political reform and reconciliation,” he said. “The leaders of this country have a shared determination to write a new chapter for Myanmar. The international community has a shared responsibility to help Myanmar and her people.”  At the same time, the UN chief added that process of opening up is still “uncertain and fragile,” and will contain obstacles and bumps along the road. “We need to remain clear-sighted – and do all we can to keep up the momentum for lasting change,” he said.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

May 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Regina Martinez, Journalist, Murdered in Mexico

The United Nations human rights office voiced alarm over the killing of a journalist in Mexico over the weekend, and condemned what it said is a “disturbing trend” of media professional being murdered in the country, where more than 70 have been killed over the past 12 years.  “We strongly condemn the murder of Regina Martinez, and are concerned that this disturbing trend of murdering media workers . . . undermines the exercise of freedom of expression in the country,” said a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Rupert Colville, at a press conference in Geneva.  “We call for a thorough independent investigation into this and other similar cases, and urge the Government to immediately implement protection measures for journalists,” he said.

Mr. Colville also welcomed yesterday’s passing, by the Mexican Congress, of two new laws designed to protect journalists and human rights defenders. The new laws are known as the General Victims Act and the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists.

During a visit to Mexico last year, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, emphasized the importance of passing that legislation after meeting with victims and relatives of murdered human rights activists and journalists.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

May 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Chut Wutty, Environmental Activist, Murdered in Cambodia

The United Nations human rights office has voiced concern over last week’s murder of an outspoken Cambodian environmental activist and human rights defender, whom it said had worked fearlessly to expose illegal logging and corruption in the country.  Chut Wutty was shot and killed last Thursday in south-western Cambodia, according to Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). A member of the Cambodian gendarmerie was also killed in the incident.  “Despite the current lack of clarity about what exactly happened, we are very concerned that the killing of Mr. Wutty marks the latest and most lethal in a series of gun attacks on human rights defenders in Cambodia,” Mr. Colville told reporters in Geneva.

The OHCHR office in Cambodia has since the beginning of this year investigated four other cases involving the use of live ammunition against communities and human rights defenders, which resulted in a number of injuries, he added.

Mr. Wutty’s killing occurred in a forest in Koh Kong Province where, accompanied by journalists, he was gathering evidence on illegal logging. The OHCHR office in the capital, Phnom Penh, dispatched a team to the province two hours after the shooting to investigate the incident. It visited the site of the shooting, interviewed residents and monitored the post-mortem examination of the bodies.

“We welcome the fact that the authorities have commenced investigations into Thursday’s shooting, including a military investigation,” said Mr. Colville, noting that OHCHR has urged the Cambodian Government to ensure that a full civilian judicial investigation proceeds quickly and with utmost probity and independence.  “We also urge the Government to take concrete and immediate measures to ensure the safety of all witnesses and investigators as well the families of the deceased men,” he added.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

May 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Syria

The head of United Nations peacekeeping operations yesterday called on all parties in Syria to ensure the cessation of violence is observed, stressing that recent reports from observers on the ground show that much more needs to be done to maintain a ceasefire in the country.  “It is clearly for the parties to demonstrate the desire to cease all forms of armed violence,” said Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous at a press briefing in New York. “More bombs, more weapons, more violence could only increase the tension and add to an already very considerable toll of human lives.”

A truce was agreed on 12 April between the Syrian Government and opposition parties. A week later, the Security Council authorized the establishment of UNSMIS, an observer mission made up of up to 300 unarmed military observers and deployed for an initial period of 90 days, to monitor the cessation of violence in Syria.

UNSMIS has two mandated tasks: to monitor the cessation of armed of armed violence in all its forms and to monitor and support the implementation of the six-point proposal of the Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan.

Mr. Ladsous told reporters that Major-General Robert Mood, who was appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week to head UNSMIS, had arrived in Damascus on Sunday and expressed his aim of reaching out to Syrians and to ensure that all forms of violence stop immediately.  “The mission is still in its early days and we are making every effort to get the observers on the ground and operational as quickly as possible,” Mr. Ladsous said, adding that even though the number of observers is small at the moment, they are already having a visible impact on the five locations they are staying in: Damascus, Homs, Hama, Dara’a and Idlib.  “Their presence has the potential to change the political dynamic,” he added. “They help build calm, and calm helps the political process that Mr. Annan is leading and that process in turn, we hope, will bring lasting peace to a democratic Syria.”

The peacekeeping chief also said he expected the number of UNSMIS observers to increase rapidly over the next few weeks so that the mission can build up to full operational strength by the end of May.

The violence in Syria, which began in March 2011 as a protest movement similar to those across the Middle East and North Africa, has claimed over 9,000 lives, mostly civilians, and displaced tens of thousands.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

May 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Deaths by Torture in Post-Revolution Libya

The United Nations mission for Libya expressed its concern to the country’s authorities over the recent deaths of three people in a detention centre in the north-western city of Misrata, saying it believes that the deaths were the result of torture.  The detainees died on 13 April in the Zaroug detention centre, which is controlled by a committee under the supervision of the Ministry of Interior, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said in a statement, in which it added that it had raised the concerns at the highest levels of the North African country’s authorities.

UNSMIL said it has also taken note of the cases of at least seven other people who were tortured in the same detention facility. There have also been allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees held by armed brigades in other detention centres, particularly in the capital, Tripoli, and in the towns of Zawiya, Zintan and Misrata.  The mission also voiced concern over the reported existence of some secret detention facilities run by the “brigades” and where detainees are at risk of torture.

It urged the Libyan Government to take immediate and concrete measures to address the situation, including conducting thorough investigations and bringing those responsible to justice. An effective internal inspection mechanism covering all places where people are deprived of their liberty should be established, the mission added.

UNSMIL welcomed a statement by the Supreme Security Committee of Misrata condemning the abuses and voicing support for investigations that will be followed by appropriate legal action, and it recognized the difficulties the Libyan Government faces in transferring responsibility for detainees to the proper State authorities.  “UNSMIL acknowledges that progress, albeit slow, has been made in this regard,” it said in the statement. “Nevertheless, with a view to the absolute prohibition of torture under international law, UNSMIL calls upon the Government to make addressing these allegations and practices a top priority in pursuit of a new culture of respect for human rights and the rule of law in post-revolution Libya.”

Briefing the Security Council in January, the head of UNSMIL, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Ian Martin, said security remains a major concern in Libya. Clashes in different parts of the country highlighted the risks associated with the abundance of weapons and the diverse armed “brigades” operating with unclear lines of command and control.

(UN Press Release)

May 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)