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)
The Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan, today received a letter from the Syrian Government informing him of its decision “to cease all military fighting throughout Syrian territory as of 6:00 a.m. (Damascus time) tomorrow, Thursday, 12 April 2012,” Mr. Annan’s spokesperson said today. The letter, from Syria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, added that the Syrian Government reserved “the right to respond proportionately to any attacks carried out by armed terrorist groups against civilians, Government forces or public and private property,” the spokesperson, Ahmad Fawzi, said in a statement issued in Geneva.
Last week, the Syrian Government told Mr. Annan that it would complete the withdrawal of troops by 10 April. The Envoy had previously stated that, once that happens, all parties should move immediately to cease all forms of violence, so that a complete cessation is in place by Thursday, 12 April. The UN estimates that more than 8,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed, and tens of thousands have been displaced since protests in Syria – part of the broader Arab Spring movement across North Africa and the Middle East – began in March last year.
In his statement, Mr. Fawzi added that the Joint Special Envoy will continue to work with the Syrian Government and the opposition to ensure the comprehensive implementation of his six-point plan to end the violence. “The Joint Special Envoy looks forward to the continued support of relevant countries in this regard.” Mr. Fawzi said.
Mr. Annan's proposal, which was submitted during his visit to Damascus last month, seeks to stop the violence and the killing, give access to humanitarian agencies, release detainees, and kick-start an inclusive political dialogue. A UN team visited the country in recent days to start technical preparations for the potential deployment of observers to monitor a cessation of armed violence and the full implementation of Mr. Annan’s plan. The Joint Special Envoy is expected to update the Security Council on Thursday.
(UN Press Release)
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
The United Nations Security Council today urged the military rebels who seized control of the government in Mali to immediately implement the agreement signed last week with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which provides a series of steps to restore constitutional order in the country.
Last month, rebel Malian soldiers took control of the country and announced the dissolution of the Government led by President Amadou Toumani Toure. The country is also dealing with renewed fighting in the north between Government forces and Tuareg rebels, which has uprooted more than 200,000 people since January.
In a statement to the press, the members of the Council reaffirmed the need “to uphold and respect the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Mali and reject categorically any declarations to the contrary,” and demanded “an immediate cessation of hostilities in the north of Mali by rebel groups.” The Council also condemned all violence against humanitarian workers after it was reported that seven Algerian diplomats were abducted in the town of Gao in northern Mali last week. The Council called for the immediate release of all abductees and renewed its call to all parties in Mali to seek a peaceful solution through appropriate political dialogue.
In addition, the Council reaffirmed its support to the efforts made by ECOWAS and its mediator, the President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré, as well as by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, Said Djinnit, and by the African Union, to initiate concrete steps to restore peace and security and protect the sovereignty of Mali.
The members of the Council reiterated their serious concern over the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country, and expressed deep concern at the increased terrorist threat in the north due to the presence among the rebels of members of the terrorist group Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and extremist elements.
(UN Press Release)
Monday, April 9, 2012
The American Branch of the International Law Association (ABILA) and the International Law Students Association (ILSA) have issued a call for proposals to be presented at the 2012 International Law Weekend, which will be October 25-27, 2012. Proposals are due by Friday, April 13, 2012. Click here for more information.