Saturday, March 17, 2012
Friday, March 16, 2012
If you're going to be in Washington for the annual meeting of the American Society of International Law, you might also want to stop over to visit the Annual Conference of the College Consortium for International Studies, which is also taking place in Washington D.C. over some of the same days as the ASIL conference. Click here for more information. You can also call them at 202-223-0330.
The American Society of International Law (ASIL) holds its 106th annual meeting at the end of the month. This year the theme is "Confronting Complexity." The conference will be held March 28-31, 2012 in Washington, D.C. Click here for more information (and I'll see you all there!).
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a statement welcoming the prosecution of a retired Brazilian army colonel for disappearances during the country’s military dictatorship as a “first and crucial step” in fighting the impunity that surrounds that period. Prosecutors in Brazil had announced earlier this week that they will charge Sebastião Curió Rodrigues de Moura with aggravated kidnapping in relation to the disappearance of five members of the Araguaia guerrilla movement who were detained in 1974. The charges must still be approved by a judge in Brazil before the case can go to trial.
“This is a long-awaited development towards accountability for the hundreds of people who disappeared during the 21-year dictatorship and who remain unaccounted for,” Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told reporters in Geneva. “We are hopeful that the Brazilian judiciary will uphold the fundamental rights of the victims to truth and justice by allowing this very important criminal prosecution to go forward,” he added.
This is the first time that Brazil is prosecuting human rights violations committed during the military dictatorship period, according to OHCHR. Previous attempts have been blocked by interpretations of the 1979 amnesty law. That law was struck down in 2010 by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which ruled that it is invalid and that criminal investigations and prosecutions must proceed.
Last November High Commissioner Navi Pillay welcomed the creation of a Truth Commission to investigate human rights abuses committed during military rule, calling it “an essential and welcome first step towards healing the country’s wounds and clarifying past wrongs.” She had also encouraged Brazil to take measures to facilitate prosecutions and repeal the amnesty law. “In general, there is a positive trend in the region towards justice for crimes against humanity committed during military regimes,” Mr. Colville noted. Examples include Guatemala, which recently announced it will try a former military ruler and, just this week, sentenced a former special forces soldier to prison for murder and crimes against humanity committed in 1982. Uruguay has also overturned a de facto amnesty law and Argentina has handed down hundreds of rulings to perpetrators of gross human rights violations.
(mew) (Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Thursday, March 15, 2012
The World Trade Organization (WTO) launched a new database this week to increase transparency regarding preferential trade arrangements (PTAs) and regional trade agreements. Article XXIV of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) permits Member States to deviate from the cardinal principle of Most Favored Nation (MFN) through these arrangements if the WTO is notified and if certain requirements are met. Over the years, little has been done to monitor or enforce those requirements. The database is intended to provide more information about these regional or bilateral arrangements and may lead to more discipline in this area. The new PTA database may be found at:
It is searchable by agreement or country and includes the texts of the agreements among other information.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
First Verdict Ever from the International Criminal Court Finds Warlord Guilty of Recruiting Child Soliders
The International Criminal Court (ICC) yesterday found Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo guilty of recruiting child soldiers, in a landmark ruling hailed by United Nations officials as an important step in the fight against impunity. The verdict is the first ever to be issued by the ICC, the first permanent international court set up to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression, since it was set up a decade ago.
The Court’s trial chamber found Mr. Lubanga Dyilo guilty of the war crimes of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 into the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo, and using them to participate actively in hostilities in Ituri in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from September 2002 to August 2003.
“A common plan was agreed by Mr. Lubanga Dyilo and his co-perpetrators to build an army for the purpose of establishing and maintaining political and military control over Ituri. This resulted in boys and girls under the age of 15 being conscripted and enlisted, and used to participate actively in hostilities,” stated a news release issued by the Court.
The verdict was hailed by senior UN officials as a victory for the protection of children in conflict and a major milestone in the fight against impunity.
“Today, impunity ends for Thomas Lubanga and those who recruit and use children in armed conflict,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy. “In this age of global media, today’s verdict will reach warlords and commanders across the world and serve as a strong deterrent,” she added.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) applauded the decision, which makes Mr. Lubanga Dyilo the first warlord to face international justice for using children as weapons of war. “This is a pivotal victory for the protection of children in conflict,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, adding that the conviction of Mr. Lubanga Dyilo “sends a clear message to all armed groups that enslave and brutalize children: impunity will not be tolerated.” Noting that tens of thousands of children are still victims of these grave violations in at least 15 armed conflicts around the world, the agency said it will continue efforts to rescue these children and rehabilitate them.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the decision is “a great step forward” for international justice. “For many years, and on a daily basis, we have been documenting gross violations of human rights of the sort perpetrated by Lubanga against the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” she said. “The Lubanga verdict sends a strong signal against impunity for such grave breaches of international law that will reverberate well beyond the DRC.”
Also welcoming the decision was the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUSCO), who stressed that sends “a powerful message to the individuals responsible for grave human rights violations that they will be held accountable for their actions.” Roger Meece, who is also the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in DRC, strongly urged national authorities to pursue actively investigations and hold to account all who have committed human rights violations.
A separate sentencing hearing for Mr. Lubanga Dyilo will be held at a date to be announced.
The ICC can try cases involving individuals charged with war crimes committed since July 2002. The DRC is one of seven situations under investigation by the Court, along with Central African Republic (CAR), Côte d’Ivoire, the Darfur region of western Sudan, Libya, Uganda and Kenya.
(mew) (adapted from a UN press release)
Today is the last day of the Global Legal Skills Conference in San Jose, Costa Rica. Our plenary session was held last night at the University of Costa Rica Faculty of Law. Our speakers included a Justice from the Costa Rica Supreme Court, the President of the Colegio de Abogados y Abogadas, and professors from Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Russia, Singapore, and Switzerland. Together with the law students, we had more than 100 participants from around the world.
We're making plans to return next year for another conference in Costa Rica (around this same time of year). We're also hoping to hold a GLS conference in Europe in late May or Early June.
Monday, March 12, 2012
The Appellate Body (AB) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a 500+ page decision today in the long-running dispute between the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) over subsidies allegedly provided by the US to aircraft manufacturer, Boeing. The AB disagreed with the panel's reasoning in a number of areas. However, the AB ultimately concluded that the US did, in fact, provide subsidies with the meaning of the Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM) Agreement and those subsidies had adverse effects. Accordingly, it recommended that the US take measures remove the adverse effects or withdraw the subsidies.
The details of the decision in United States - Measures Affecting Trade in Large Civil Aircraft (DS353), may be found here.
The Sudanese People’s Liberation Army of South Sudan (SPLA) today signed an agreement with the United Nations renewing its commitment to release all children within its ranks. It had previously agreed orally to release the child soldiers in 2009, but is now putting its commitment in writing. The agreement also requires that all militias that are being incorporated into the SPLA are child-free. It creates a transparent system for disciplinary action against those in command who recruit children within the SPLA and creates improved communication among commanders to make sure that the practice of child recruitment is halted and responsibility for child protection is understood on all levels.
At the signing ceremony in Juba, South Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, commented:
“This is an important day for South Sudan – the world’s newest country. Not only does this action plan ensure the Government’s commitment that the SPLA will have no children within its ranks, but all armed groups who have accepted amnesty with the Government must also release their children." However, "For this agreement to make a real difference for children, implementation is a must.”
The agreement was also signed by the Ministry of Defense, the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), UNICEF and Ms. Coomaraswamy.
(cgb) (Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Five new judges of the International Criminal Court were sworn in following their election last December at the last session of the assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute.
Judges Howard Morrison of United Kingdom, Anthony T. Carmona of Trinidad and Tobago, Olga Herrera Carbuccia of Dominican Republic, Robert Fremr of Czech Republic and Chile Eboe-Osuji of Nigeria will serve nine-year terms in the International Criminal Court. Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago of the Philippines, who was also elected in December, was not available to take the oath of office this week and will be sworn in at a later date.
(mew) (Adapted from a UN Press Release)