Friday, May 4, 2012
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
An independent United Nations expert today urged the Algerian authorities to make the most of the opportunity offered by legislative elections next week, to ensure that the new regulations for civil society organizations, adopted at the end of last year, adequately meet the requirements of international human rights law. “The legislative elections, scheduled on Thursday, 10 May 2012, must address civil society’s legitimate demands and uphold freedom of association,” the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, said in a news release. “While the Arab Spring paved the way for a more inclusive participation of civil society, it is highly regrettable that Algeria has now taken a step backwards in relation to freedom of association by placing more rigorous limits on the scope of associations’ activities or their access to funding,” he added.
Special rapporteurs, or independent experts, are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not United Nations staff, nor are they paid for their work.
Mr. Kiai voiced particular concern about many provisions of Law 12-06 on associations adopted in December 2011, which imposes new controls and restrictions on the establishment of associations and their access to foreign funding. Under the new law, the formation of an association requires prior approval by the authorities, who can now reject a registration application without referring the matter to a judge, as was previously the case.
“This is a significant setback with respect to Law 90-31 (1990) that was once in force,” Mr. Kiai said. “This is all the more alarming given that the law provides that those who act on behalf of an association which has not yet been registered, or has been suspended or dissolved, may face up to six months imprisonment and a heavy fine.” The new law further provides that the object and goals of associations’ activities must not be contrary to ‘national values’ and that any ‘interference in the internal affairs of the country’ will lead to the group’s suspension or dissolution.
Echoing concerns expressed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in late April, Mr. Kiai stressed that “these provisions are particularly vague, and thus subject to abusive interpretations. It is a serious blow to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of association.” The Special Rapporteur drew attention to the restrictions on access to foreign funding. Associations in Algeria will be banned from receiving funds from any diplomatic legations or foreign non-governmental organizations, ‘apart from duly established cooperative relations.’ “It is feared that such provisions may be used to hamper the work of associations, notably those working on human rights issues in Algeria,” Mr. Kiai said. “Access to funding should not be strictly restricted.” The Special Rapporteur urged Algeria’s authorities to fully take on board the concerns raised by non-governmental organizations on this law, and called on the political parties running for the legislative elections to commit to revising the law on associations. He has also requested an official invitation to visit Algeria.
(UN Press Release)
A group of independent United Nations experts today condemned the ongoing arrests and harsh sentencing of human rights defenders in Iran, and urged the Government to ensure they are provided with adequate protection. “The conviction and extremely harsh sentencing of human rights defenders is an indication of mounting repression against the legitimate activities of human rights defenders and represents a serious setback for the protection of human rights in Iran,” said the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed.
Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not United Nations staff, nor are they paid for their work. Along with fellow experts, Mr. Shaheed voiced particular concern about the situation of Nargess Mohammadi, whose state of health is reportedly extremely fragile. Ms. Mohammadi, the former vice-president of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre, founded by Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, was rearrested on 21 April to resume a six-year prison sentence handed down by an Iranian appeal court for ‘assembly and collusion against national security, membership in Defenders of Human Rights Centre, and propaganda against the regime.’
The Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, emphasized that human rights defenders play a fundamental role in ensuring a democratic society which respects human rights. “They must be allowed to carry out their work without facing intimidation, harassment, arrest, and prosecution,” she said.
The experts also highlighted the plight of other human rights defenders arrested or convicted for carrying out their legitimate work, such as Abdolfattah Soltani and Nasrin Sotoudeh, two lawyers who have represented many high-profile political and human rights activists. Mr. Soltani was arrested in September 2011 on charges of collusion, propaganda against the system and acquisition of property through illegitimate means. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison and a 20-year ban on practicing law. Ms. Sotoudeh was arrested in September 2010 and sentenced by an Iranian appeal court to six years’ imprisonment along with a ten-year ban on practising law.
“The Government has an obligation to ensure that lawyers can perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference and that they do not suffer prosecution for any action taken while carrying out their duties,” said the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul. The experts called for the immediate release of the human rights defenders concerned, along with all those people who have been arrested and detained for peacefully promoting human rights observance in the country.
(UN Press Release)
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Burundi is making progress in improving it human rights record, but impunity remains a challenge, a senior United Nations official said, stressing that the envisaged establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission will be a real test of country’s commitment to upholding human rights.
“A credible and independent [Truth and Reconciliation] Commission that meets international standards and ensures broad participation and ownership by all segments of the society, with commissioners selected in an open and transparent manner, will help to build people’s trust in mechanisms of transitional justice,” the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonovic, said in a press release issued at the end of his 30 April-2 May visit to the African country.
Mr. Šimonovic noted that the establishment of a commission to hear cases of past abuses is a vital step for reconciliation and to strengthen the rule of law in the country. “The UN looks forward to analysing the revised draft law on the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” he added.
The human rights official encouraged the Government of Burundi to implement the recommendations made by various UN human rights mechanisms, and also underlined the importance of establishing a Special Tribunal and adopting a victim-centred approach, with particular attention to the needs of women, children and other vulnerable groups.
During his visit, Mr. Šimonovic met with First Vice President Thérence Sinunguruza, as well as ministers and officials in charge of justice, foreign affairs, human rights, public security and the Interior. He also met with the chair of the Independent National Human Rights Commission, members of the diplomatic community and representatives of civil society.
There has been a decline in the number of extra-judicial killings in Burundi so far this year, Mr. Šimonovic noted, calling for greater efforts to guarantee the right to life for all and the bringing to justice perpetrators of such killings, as well as those who commit torture, arbitrary arrests and unlawful detentions. He pointed put that the UN Office in Burundi (BNUB) last year documented 61 cases of extra-judicial killings, but only eight perpetrators been tried and convicted.
(UN Press Release)
The American Bar Association (ABA) Section on International Law is seeking articles for two upcoming editions of the International Law News.
The first is the fall issue, which carries the theme: Information Privacy and Security (including Wiki law). Deadlines for article subsmission for this issue is June 27, 2012.
The second is the winter issue. It's theme is International Anti-Bribery Compliance and Investigation. The deadline to submit articles for the winter issue is October 22, 2012.
Submissions must follow the “ILN Author Guidelines” to be considered. The guidelines and other related information may be found here. Ideas for future themes and articles are also welcome.
Monday, April 30, 2012
The Burton Awards recognize outstanding achievement in legal writing and its teaching. The next Burton Awards will be given out on June 11, 2012 in Washington, D.C. at the Library of Congress. The event will include a performance by Bernadette Peters and an award presentaiton to U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, who will receive a Book of the Year Award.
Among the other winners to be recognized for Legal Achievement in Writing are two practitioners in international arbitration. Claudia Salomon and J.P. Duffy are partners in the International Arbitration practice at DLA Piper. They are being recognized for their article “Enforcement Begins When the Arbitration Clause is Drafted,” which was published in volume 22 of the American Review of International Arbitration.
Claudia Salomon is a leading practitioner in significant investor treaty arbitration and international commercial arbitration cases. Global Arbitration Review named her among the world’s top 30 women in international arbitration and among its “45 under 45” in international arbitration. She was also recognized by Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business and by Best Lawyers in America for commercial international arbitration. And in the competitive field of Burton Awards, she's a two-fer. In 2005, she won a Burton Award for Legal Writing Excellence for an article that analyzed the major international arbitration rules.
J.P. Duffy has extensive experience formulating global dispute resolution strategies for clients facing multi-jurisdictional international disputes. He has represented clients across a range of industries in international arbitrations in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, as well as before the US state and federal courts.
Congratulations to Claudia Solomon and J.P. Duffy on their awards. To see the full list of award recipients (or at least those of the names released so far), click here.
Hat tips to Rhonda Walker and Karin Mika.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) welcomed its newest member today when Montenegro became the 154th member of the WTO. The WTO will welcome another new member on May 10 when Samoa joins the organization. The accession process took several years in both cases. Samoa applied in 1998; Montenegro in 2004. More information, incuding the accession packages, may be found on the WTO website.
Michael Burke, Chair of the American Bar Association Section of International Law, was a speaker during an afternoon meeting of the American Society of International Law's International Legal Research Interest Group. The event was held during the 2012 ASIL Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
The American Bar Association Section of International Law puts out some high-quality books of great interest to both practitioners and professors. The latest contribution is a new Legal Guide to Doing Business in South America.
This new book discusses the legal environment of 10 major countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Each chapter was written by experts who have first-hand experience advising foreign companies that do business in South America. Chapters focus on national laws and regulations that affect companies aiming to establish or expand operations in these countries, as well as practical considerations that these companies will face in the various jurisdictions covered. Click here to see the Table of Contents.