Thursday, May 24, 2012
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Martin Dempsey made a rare joint appearance yesterday at a hearing before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They urged the U.S. Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
More than 160 nations have ratified UNCLOS, as well as the European Union. Click here for a chronilogical list of ratifications.
Secretary Clinton is reported to have said that opposition to U.S. ratification is "based in ideology and mythology, not in facts, evidence, or the consequences of our continuing failure to accede to the treaty."
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the announcement of the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan to resume talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, next week, under the auspices of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel. “The Secretary-General encourages the parties to reconvene in an atmosphere of goodwill and calls on them to demonstrate the flexibility necessary to reach agreement on outstanding issues in accordance with the guidance and deadlines set by the African Union Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council,’ Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.
South Sudan became independent from Sudan in July last year, six years after the signing of a peace agreement that ended decades of warfare between the north and south. However, the peace between the two countries has been threatened recently by clashes along their common border and outstanding post-independence issues that have yet to be resolved.
Tensions increased in recent weeks after South Sudanese forces moved into the oil-producing region of Heglig in Sudan’s South Kordofan state before eventually departing, and Sudanese forces engaged in the bombardment of South Sudanese territory.
Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said that the Secretary-General reiterated the readiness of the United Nations to assist the parties implement their agreements and support the mechanisms established by them. “He stresses the necessity of commencing the work of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism for peace and security along the border and confirms UNISFA's readiness to immediately support its operations,” the spokesperson added.
The Security Council established the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNIFSA) in June last year following an outbreak of violence after Sudanese troops took control of Abyei – a border area disputed between South Sudan and Sudan – which led to the displacement of tens of thousands of people in the weeks before South Sudan became an independent State. Last week, the Council extended UNIFSA’s mandate for another six months, and demanded that the two countries finalize the establishment of an administration for the area in line with an agreement signed last year. In a unanimously adopted resolution in early May, the 15-member Council determined that the prevailing situation along the border between Sudan and South Sudan constituted “a serious threat to international peace and security.” It called on the two countries to immediately end hostilities and resume negotiations, and voiced its intention to take “appropriate measures” if the parties did not comply.
Earlier this week, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Ali Al-Za’tari, said that only 5,000 people have returned to Abyei while more than 100,000 people remain displaced. He noted that it was “high time” for humanitarian staff to have access to Abyei from Sudan – currently, international humanitarian staff are only able to get to Abyei if they travel via South Sudan.
(UN Press Release)
The Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on international proposals to regulate the Internet. The hearing will be held on Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 10:15 a.m., in Room 2322 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. Hmmm. It seems like they could have held THIS hearing online!
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office
The American Constitution Society prepared a briefing paper last year on the citation of international and foreign law. Although it was written some time ago, it may still be useful to your reasearch and advocacy. Click here to download a copy of the briefing paper.
Hat tip to David Austin at California Western School of Law.
The Government of Bolivia notified the United States that it is terminating its bilateral investment treaty, effective June 10, 2012. The treaty will cease to have effect as of that date, but investments covered at the time of termination will still be covered for another ten years. Click here to read the Federal Register notice. If you teach international law or international trade, you may want to keep a copy of this notice as a class handout for the fall.
The treaty had been signed in Chile in 1998 and entered into force in 2001. The treaty provided for its termination by either party after an initial 10-year period, by giving one year's written notice to the other party. The Federal Register notice advised U.S. investors in Bolivia to factor the termination of the treaty into their business planning.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Mediation is a valuable and effective tool for conflict prevention and the peaceful settlement of disputes, top United Nations officials stressed today, while also highlighting the need to strengthen the world body, which plays a central role in such efforts. “We live in uncertain times. Unprecedented shifts are taking place across the world. As nations are transforming into new democracies, the moment is now for mediation,” the President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, said at the opening of a high-level meeting on the role of Member States in mediation. “Mediation can prevent conflict and stave off bloodshed. Mediation can support peaceful transitions and nurture reconciliation,” he added. “Mediation is inclusive and can help build representative, democratic societies that realise the legitimate aspirations of their peoples.”
The day-long meeting in the General Assembly brings together ministers, eminent mediators and experts to discuss their experiences and how mediation processes can be more effectively conducted and managed.
Mr. Al-Nasser noted that in recent years, more and more Member States have become actively engaged in mediation efforts and are using mediation as a tool to build bridges, settle disputes and resolve conflicts. Outlining what he believed are essential elements for successful mediation endeavours, the President stressed the need for strong leadership and coordinated action. In particular, he said that for the sake of coordination and efficiency, there should be one lead mediator or one lead mediation team for each specific case. This lead should be supported by others, where necessary.
The second essential element for a successful mediation process is a fine balance between principles and vision. “Among other key elements, a mediator should, of course, be impartial and neutral,” he stated. “This does not mean, however, that he or she should not have a vision for a possible compromise or resolution of the dispute, based on consultations with, and the expectations of, the parties involved.”
The Assembly President also highlighted the need for a mediator to have “deep knowledge and a sound understanding” of the parties, the situation, the history of the conflict, as well as the relevant cultural and other values. Also vital is sustainability and inclusiveness, he said, adding that the sustainability of a peace agreement depends largely on whether or not it is inclusive. In this respect, female leaders and women’s organizations play a vital role in garnering the support of their communities for peace processes, said Mr. Al-Nasser. To ensure greater inclusiveness, traditional or indigenous mediation mechanisms should be incorporated and combined with official mediation efforts, he added.
The United Nations, he noted, has a central role to play in mediation. “The UN provides legitimacy and expertise to mediation processes. Given the recent, increasing demand for UN participation in mediation efforts, the UN’s capability should be further strengthened,” Mr. Al-Nasser said.
In his remarks to the meeting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon outlined what he believed are the “key fundamentals” for every mediation effort, including consent, impartiality, preparedness and inclusivity, adding that all mediation efforts must respect international laws and norms. “We have come a long way in recognizing the value of mediation,” stated the Secretary-General. “The UN’s mediation capacity is stronger than ever. We are boosting our partnerships with other major actors and strengthening our ability to respond to emerging needs. I encourage Member States to make greater use of these newly enhanced services.”
Mediators must help ensure that perpetrators of serious international crimes are not granted amnesties in peace agreements, and should forge peace agreements that lay the foundation for reconciliation, he said. It is also important to include more women in peace processes. The UN chief told the meeting that progress has been made in the development of <i>Guidance for Effective Mediation</i> as called for by a General Assembly resolution from 2010.
“We are preparing this guidance in consultation with all partners, drawing o the experience of regional organizations, non-governmental organizations and civil society, including women’s groups.” Mr. Ban said. “In addition, we have consulted the Peacebuilding Commission, the World Bank and other UN entities at Headquarters and in the field.”
Noting that the UN’s mediation efforts cannot rely solely on voluntary contributions, he also stressed the need for predictable funding. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of remedy,” he stated. “Mediation saves lives and resources. It is a wise investment that deserves secure funding.”
(UN Press Release)
The United States has still not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Perhaps there is some movement toward ratification? The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing titled “The Law of the Sea Convention: The U.S. National Security and Strategic Imperatives for Ratification.” The hearing is May 23, 2012, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 419 of the Dirksen Building in Washington D.C. If you attend the meeting, please send us a report that we can share here on the International Law Prof Blog.
On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that Member States to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) should have the right to decide whether prisoners who have committed serious crimes such as rape or murder can vote. The ECtHR stated, however, that prisoners who have committed only minor offenses should be allowed to vote. The case is Scoppola v. Italy.
The case involved an Italian man who is serving a 30-year sentence for killing his wife. Under the Italian criminal code, a person who is sentenced to more than three years is not permitted to run for office or take part in elections. However, after serving three years and demonstrating good behavior, the right to vote may be re-earned. The ECtHR found this law to be consistent with the right to vote in Article 3 to Protocol No. 1 of the ECHR.
The case has implications for the United Kingdom which bars voting by prisoners. The ECtHR has ruled that the UK law violates the ECHR because it is too broad and indiscrimate. It has given the UK six months to bring its law into compliance with the ECHR.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned today an attack against Mali’s interim President Dioncounda Traoré, which left reportedly the leader with head injuries. “The Secretary-General urges the Malian military and security institutions to fulfil their primary function of protecting the State and its legitimate interim authorities, and underscores the need for those responsible for the attack to be held accountable,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.
According to media reports, President Traoré was beaten up yesterday by protesters who occupied the presidential palace for several hours during a street demonstration in the capital, Bamako. The protest was reportedly called by local politicians who wanted a return to power of the leaders of a military coup in March.
On 22 March, elements of the Malian armed forces announced the dissolution of the Government led by President Amadou Toumani Toure – a move which led to condemnation from the Secretary-General and the Security Council, amongst others. Mr. Ban’s spokesperson noted that the attack followed intense mediation efforts by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) aimed at restoring constitutional order in Mali. “The Secretary-General urges all actors in Mali to refrain from any actions that may undermine the transitional process and further endanger peace and stability in the country,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson added.
The ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council met in Côte d’Ivoire, on 19 May, to consider the issue of Mali. According to media reports, the ministers attending the meeting and the coup leaders agreed on measures to address the West African country’s current political developments and help bring about a return to constitutional rule there – the measures included that Mr. Traoré would be in power, as interim President, for 12 months.
Apart from Mali’s political situation, the country has also experienced renewed fighting in northern Mali, between Government forces and Tuareg rebels, has uprooted more than 200,000 people since January, with the majority seeking safety in neighbouring countries and some 93,000 believed to be internally displaced.
(UN Press Release)
The BNA WTO Reporter tells us that the Russian Parliament will ratify the WTO Accession Agreement in two to three months, according to Russia's WTO Negotiator Maxim Medvedkov. Under the WTO Rules, Russia has 220 days to ratify the WTO Accession Agreement after it is invited to do so (which it was, on December 16, 2011). If it does ratify that accession agreement, Russia would become a full WTO member 30 days after ratification. Get more information from the 5/22/2012 Issue of the WTO Reporter (published by Bloomberg BNA).
The United Nations Security Council has imposed a travel ban against five military officers who seized power from the civilian government in Guinea-Bissau last month, and urged Member States to ensure that the sanctioned individuals do not enter or transit through their territories. In the same resolution adopted in Friday, the Council demanded that the Guinea-Bissau military leadership take immediate steps to restore and respect constitutional order, including holding democratic elections, ensuring that all soldiers return to barracks, and requiring that members of the “military command” relinquish their positions of authority.
Soldiers in Guinea-Bissau – a West African country with a history of coups, misrule and political instability since it gained independence from Portugal in 1974 – seized power on April 12, 2012. Calls by the international community for the return to civilian rule and the restoration of constitutional order have so far gone unheeded.
The travel ban affects the following coup leaders:
- General Antonio Injai
- Major-General Mamadu Ture
- General Estevao Na Mena
- Brigadier-General Ibraima Camara, and
- Lieutenant-Colonel Daba Naualna.
Members of the UN Security Council indicated that they may review the measures contained in the resolution, including strengthening it through additional measures, such as an embargo on arms and financial measures. They also stressed the need for all national stakeholders and Guinea-Bissau’s international and bilateral partners to remain committed to the restoration of constitutional order, and encouraged the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to continue its mediation efforts, in coordination with the United Nations, the African Union and the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (known by the Portuguese acronym CPLP).
The Council also expressed concern over reports of looting, including of State assets, human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions, ill treatment of detainees, repression of peaceful demonstrations and restrictions on the freedom of movement, stressing that those responsible for such abuses must be held accountable. In addition, the Council requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to remain actively engaged in the mediation process, and to harmonize the respective positions of international bilateral and multilateral partners.
Last Thursday, Mr. Ban’s spokesperson announced that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, would participate in the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council on Mali and Guinea-Bissau – taking place in this week in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire – as part of the United Nations’ ongoing efforts to ensure the full restoration of constitutional rule in the two countries.
(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)
The International Human Rights Section of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) has issued a call for papers for its January 2013 Annual Meeting. The topic is International Human Rights in Times of Conflict and the call is specifically for New Voices in Human Rights. The deadline to submit a paper is September 4, 2012 and papers should be sent to Professor William Dunlap at Quinnipiac University. The Annual Meeting will be held January 4-7, 2013 in New Orleans, LA and the section program will be held on Sunday, January 6 from 8:30 to 10:15 am.
Monday, May 21, 2012
The head of UN peacekeeping, Hervé Ladsous, today met with Syrian government and opposition group representative in the city of Homs, during a visit to assess progress made on the ground by UN military observers. “During the meeting, both sides expressed their commitment to the Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan and noted the diminishing of violence in the city since the arrival of the military observers,” a spokesperson for the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) said.
A protest movement – similar to those across the Middle East and North Africa – has claimed over 9,000 lives in Syria, mostly civilians, and displaced tens of thousands since it began in March 2011.
Mr. Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, arrived in Syria late last week for a four-day visit to meet with UNSMIS observers and assess developments. In Damascus, the peacekeeping chief met with both government and opposition groups to enhance facilitation and cooperation for the second phase of the observer Mission; the safety and security of the observers was also discussed. While on the ground, Mr. Ladsous noted the record time in which the UNSMIS observers deployed, and emphasized that the end of the violence will only happen if Syrians and all parties, internal and external, choose the path of dialogue.
The violence in the Middle Eastern country led to the Security Council authorizing the establishment of UNSMIS, with up to 300 unarmed military observers, for an initial period of 90 days. Spread out in various locations, the observers are tasked with monitoring the cessation of violence and supporting the full implementation of the six-point plan put forward by the Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan.
Mr. Annan’s six-point plan calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue that takes into account the aspirations of the Syrian people, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.
Meanwhile, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, today voiced concern over recent violent incidents which have led to loss of life in Lebanon. “It is important that there be no further repetition of such violence and that the incidents that have occurred be fully and thoroughly investigated,” Mr. Plumbly said in a statement, in which he also expressed his condolences to the families of those killed. According to media reports, violence in Lebanon has been related to developments in Syria, with clashes between sympathizers and opponents of the different sides there.
(adapted from a UN Press Release)
Patricia O'Brien, the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and U.N. Legal Counsel, was the graduation speaker for the LL.M. graduates at New York University School of Law. In her remarks, she urged the graduates to help usher in a new era of accountability across the world and never to allow cynicism to erode their commitment to the cause of justice. “I hope that, as lawyers, you will recognize that your contributions to the legal field may not yield immediate results, but that does not make your day-to-day efforts any less important,” she said.
Ms. O’Brien pointed out that in the decades following the Nuremberg Tribunals in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust, international criminal justice seemed unattainable, amid the divisiveness of the Cold War. In recent years, however, many of those most responsible for atrocities and war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Cambodia have been brought to justice. “We have changed the global landscape by chasing criminals and putting them on trial where they meet the hands of justice and the eyes of their victims,” Ms. O’Brien told the graduates.
She urged them to emulate some distinguished members of the NYU alumni, including Carol Bellamy from the class of 1968, who went on to serve as Executive Direct of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for 10 years after exemplary public service in New York State and New York City politics. “From the class of 1974, Mohammed ElBaradei became the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),” Ms. O’Brien said. “For his efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes, he too won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.” The NYU law school also produced countless members of the United States Congress, including Elihu Root from the class of 1867, who served as a US Senator and a Secretary of State. Mr. Root was a pioneer in international arbitration, an architect of the Permanent Court of International Justice, and a Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Ms. O’Brien pointed out.
“I would urge you to make your choices with a keen awareness of the incredibly privileged position that you are in. By virtue of holding a degree from this esteemed law school, by being part of this legacy, you will have doors open to you that are not open to others,” she said. “You will have access to people and opportunities that others could never imagine to have for themselves – with the privileges of access and opportunity, comes the responsibility to speak out.”
(mew, who has an LL.M. from NYU) (adapted from a UN Press Release)
A workshop was held last week to consider long-standing border controversy between Guyana and Venezuela. The workshop was organized with support from the UN Department of Political Affairs. It focused on multi-dimensional approaches and best practices in the resolution of controversies, based on examples from around the world. Among the participants were Hari Narayen Ramkarran for Guyana and Ambassador Roy Chaderton Matos for Venezuela. Also participating were both countries' Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in New York.
Participation in such a workshop shows the commitment of both countries to peaceful resolution of their border dispute. I count it as an unsung example of success for the United Nations system and international law. When countries negotiate (instead of going to war, for example), we all win.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia suspended the trial of Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military leader. After opening statements from the prosecution, it was learned that the prosecution had not shared all of the disclosure material with Mladic's defense lawyers. The mistake was attributed to clerical error. The court suspended the trial to remedy the omission and to give time to the defense attorneys. The prosecutors had acknowledged the failure and did not object.
The mistake is a setback for the prosecution, but it shows that the court is treating seriously its obligation to provide a fair trial.
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)
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)