June 9, 2012
UN General Assembly Elects New President
Yesterday,the United Nations General Assembly elected Serbia’s Foreign Minister, Vuk Jeremic, as the President of the upcoming 67th session of the Assembly. The President-elect proposed that the theme of the high-level debate at the start of the 67th session of the General Assembly, in mid-September, be about the “adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations by peaceful means” - a theme that will appeal to the hearts and minds of international lawyers and law professors!
World Oceans Day
June 8 is World Oceans Day. This year, World Oceans Day corresponds to the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In honor of the day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged countries to boost their efforts to protect the world’s oceans, which are threatened by overfishing, toxic waste, and climate change.
He also urged States to ratify UNCLOS, which governs issues such as delimitation of maritime boundaries, environmental regulations, scientific research, commerce and the settlement of international disputes involving marine issues. The Convention was first opened for signature in 1982 and entered into force in 1994; it has so far been ratified by 60 States. The United States has not yet joined the Convention despite bipartisan support by current and past administrations.
ASIL Annual Meeting
The American Society of International Law has posted its call for proposals for the 2013 Annual Meeting. The theme is International Law in a Multipolar World. Read more here about the call for proposals and submit proposals here. The deadline for proposal submissions to the ASIL Program Committee is Friday, June 22, 2012.
The ASIL Annual Meeting will be April 3-6, 2013.
U.S.–Mexico High Level Consultative Commission on Telecommunications
Senior officials of the United States–Mexico High Level Consultative Commission on Telecommunications (HLCC) on June 8, 2012, signed major amendments to two existing bilateral agreements between the United States and Mexico. The new agreements hope to reduce or eliminate interference to the communications of first responders and to enable compatible operations for Sprint’s deployment of high-speed wireless broadband service in the U.S.-Mexico common border area.
More information regarding the HLCC and the texts of the amendments can be found here. For further information, contact Hal Grigsby at the U.S. State Department at 202-647-2723.
(mew) (adated from a U.S. State Department Press Release)
June 7, 2012
Syria Blocks U.N. Observers
United Nations observers in Syria have been obstructed in their attempts to reach the village of Mazraat al-Qubeir today, to verify reports of large-scale killings there. "Their mission is being obstructed by three factors: First, they are being stopped at Syrian Army checkpoints and in some cases turned back; second, some of our patrols are being stopped by civilians in the area; thirdly, we are receiving information from residents of the area that the safety of our observers is at risk if we enter the village," the head of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), Major-General Robert Mood, said in a statement. "Despite these challenges, the observers are still working to get into the village to try to establish the facts on the ground," he added.
According to media reports, Syrian activists claim that Government troops and militiamen massacred at least 78 villagers in Mazraat al-Qubeir, located near the city of Hama. UNSMIS dispatched observers to the site early Thursday. The UN estimates that some 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 15 months ago.
The United Nations Security Council established UNSMIS in April to monitor the cessation of violence in Syria, as well as monitor and support the full implementation of a peace plan put forward by the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League for the Syrian Crisis, Kofi Annan. The 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.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Construction of New Settlements Violates International Law
A top United Nations envoy today reiterated that all settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territory represents a breach of international law, after the Israeli Government announced it will build 300 new units in the Beit El settlement. “All settlement construction – whether on private Palestinian land or elsewhere in occupied Palestinian territory – is contrary to international law,” said a statement issued by the office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry.
According to media reports, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the construction of the new units hours after the parliament rejected a bill to legalize settlement outposts.
Mr. Serry said the announcement is “deeply troubling” and reiterated his recent warning to the Security Council that “if the parties do not grasp the current opportunity, they should realize the implication is not merely slowing progress toward a two-State solution. Instead, we could be moving down the path toward a one-State reality, which would also move us further away from regional peace in the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative.”
Meanwhile, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) released a study in conjunction with the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ), describing the detrimental impact of the West Bank Barrier on the environment and Palestinian refugees. The study targeted over 170 communities that have been directly affected as well as farmers owning land behind the Barrier. Land degradation, severe flooding and destruction of water sources are cited among the most devastating consequences of the Barrier, along with reductions in livestock due to limited grazing space, which significantly affect people’s livelihoods. “The research presented today demonstrates once more that the Barrier not only has a devastating impact on Palestine refugees’ livelihoods, but also on the surrounding environment,” said the West Bank director of UNRWA operations, Felipe Sanchez.
The Israelis and the Palestinians have yet to resume direct negotiations since talks stalled in September 2010 after Israel refused to extend its freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory. Negotiators from both sides began preparatory talks at the start of January in Amman, under the facilitation of King Abdullah II of Jordan and that country’s Foreign Minister, Nasser Judeh, with a view to a resumption of direct talks.
(UN Press Release)
June 6, 2012
Europe Most Friendly Place for LGBTIs
The EU Observer has a series of interesting articles describing the progress Europe has made towards becoming more friendly to the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) community. Europe is ranked as the most LGBTI-friendly continent in the world, with Latin American making significant progress in this regard. According to the EU Observer, the only place where homosexuality is still criminal in Europe is Northern Cyprus. By contrast, approximately 40% of the world's countries penalize homosexuality. However, the NGO Ilga notes that relatively favorable treatment does not mean full equality in any country in Europe. To read more, click here.
An Understated Reaction to 10,000 Deaths in Syria: "Disappointment"
The President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, today expressed his disappointment over the lack of progress in ending the violence in Syria. “To tell you frankly, I’m very disappointed,” Mr. Al-Nasser said in an interview. “The UN, the General Assembly, [and] the Security Council try very hard to convince the Syrian Government to stop the violence and start listening to their own people and reach out to them and try to come up with a plan.”
The UN estimates that some 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 15 months ago.
Mr. Al-Nasser noted that the General Assembly endorsed, in February, a resolution establishing Kofi Annan as the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League for the Syrian Crisis. In March, Mr. Annan put forward a six-point plan to help bring peace to the Middle Eastern country. The 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. “The Syrians accepted it, but on the other hand we don’t see any implementation except for more bloodshed, more violence, and last week we listened to Mr. Annan, and he is also disappointed,” Mr. Al-Nasser said.
On Thursday, Mr. Annan will brief the General Assembly in person, followed by the Security Council and the media, on the latest developments in Syria. Mr. Al-Nasser will also address the Assembly meeting, as will Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Nabil Al Araby.
“We will see how can we come up together and find a new approach to help the Syrian people,” the General Assembly President said. “We see and hear more killing and that is not acceptable.”
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
New article providing background on Nottebohm case
For those of you international law professors who teach the Nottebohm case from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) involving the issue of nationality, I have recently published an article that provides a much fuller picture of what happened to Frederich Nottebohm and explores some of the legal implications for today. The article is entitled, “Nottebohm’s Nightmare: Have We Exorcised the Ghosts of WWII Detention Programs or Do They Still Haunt Guantanamo?," and may be found here.
Frederich Nottebohm was a wealthy Guatemalan businessman with German ancestry. During WWII, he was arrested in Guatemala and brought to the United States, where he was detained for the remainder of the war, although there was never any real evidence against him that he was a Nazi sympathizer. After WWII, he persuaded the government of Liechtenstein, where he now held nationality, to pursue a case against Guatemala at the ICJ for confiscating virtually all his property and refusing to allow him to return to Guatemala. His case was unsuccessful, but the ICJ’s decision has been much criticized over the years. Most of the past scholarship relating to the Nottebohm case explores the Court’s concept of nationality. My article focuses instead on whether Nottebohm’s arrest and detention were legal at the time, or whether they would be today, and draws some parallels to the arrest and detention of foreign nationals accused of terrorist activities being held at Guantanamo Bay today.
ILO Says 21 Million People May Be Victims of Forced Labor
The International Labor Organization has released a report finding that almost 21 million people worldwide are trapped in jobs into which they were coerced or deceived and which they cannot leave. The 2012 Global Estimate of Forced Labour found that the Asia-Pacific region accounts for the largest number of the 20.9 million forced labourers in the world – 11.7 million, or 56 per cent, of the global total. This is followed by Africa at 3.7 million and Latin America with 1.8 million victims.
According to the ILO, forced labor takes different forms, including debt bondage, trafficking, and other forms of modern slavery. The victims are usually women and girls forced into prostitution, migrants trapped in debt bondage, and sweatshop or farm workers kept by clearly illegal tactics and paid little or nothing.
In the new estimates, 18.7 million people (90 per cent of the total) are exploited in the private economy, by individuals or enterprises. Of these, 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation and 14.2 million are victims of forced labor exploitation in economic activities such as agriculture, construction, domestic work, or manufacturing. Another 2.2 million people are in state-imposed forms of forced labor, such as in prisons under conditions that violate ILO standards, or in work imposed by the state military or by rebel armed forces. The ILO also found that 5.5 million forced laborers (26 percent of the total number) are below 18 years of age.
“We have come a long way over the last seven years since we first put an estimate on how many people were forced into labour or services across the world,” the head of the ILO’s Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour, Beate Andrees, said in a news release. “We have made good progress in ensuring most countries now have legislation in place which criminalises forced labour, human trafficking and slavery-like practices.” She noted that it is now necessary to focus on better identification and prosecution of forced labor and related offenses such as human trafficking.
The ILO hopes that the availability of more accurate information on the problem will enable the international community to take more effective measures to end forced labor.
(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)
June 5, 2012
The International Law Year in Review
The American Bar Association Section of International Law publishes an annual survey of important developments in international law. It's a great publication (if I do say so myself, which I just did). The 2011 issue has just been mailed to members of the ABA Section of International Law. I had the honor of serving as the editor for 2011. For 2012, my co-blogger Cindy Buys of Southern Illinois University School of Law will join me and Professor Kim Chanbonpin of The John Marshall Law School as co-editors of the entire volume.
A huge number of deputy editors, committee editors, and student editors worked on the issue, as did contributing authors from around the world. This really is a great issue. Get a print copy of it if you can.
ICC Prosecutor Tells Security Council Members to Help Execute Its Arrest Warrants
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo today called on the United Nations Security Council to adopt measures to ensure the arrest of Sudanese leaders indicted for war crimes, stressing that the Government’s refusal to arrest President Omar Al-Bashir constitutes “a direct challenge to the Council’s authority.”
“Those who bear the greatest responsibility have been indicted. The current challenge is their arrest,” Mr. Moreno-Ocampo told a meeting of the Security Council in New York. “It is for the Council to determine the measures to be adopted to ensure the compliance of the Government of the Sudan.”
The Security Council asked the ICC to investigate war crimes in Darfur in 2005 after a UN inquiry found serious violations of international human rights law. On March 2009, ICC judges issued arrest warrants against Sudan’s President Al-Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have died since 2003 due to fighting between Government forces and allied Arab militiamen, known as the Janjaweed. The ICC also issued summonses to appear for rebel leaders Abdallah Banda, Saleh Jerbo and Abu Garda in relation to war crimes. Other officials indicted include government minister Ahmed Harun, militia leader Ali Kushayb and the defence minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein.
“President Al-Bashir is taking advantage of his position of power to continue with his strategy and to ensure his own impunity and the impunity of those who follow his instructions,” Mr. Ocampo told the Council. “There is no information to believe that such crimes against humanity and genocide have stopped.”
Although Sudan is not a State Party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, it must cooperate with and provide any necessary assistance to the Court and the prosecutor in accordance with a Security Council resolution adopted in 2005. However, the ICC Prosecutor cited other options for moving forward.
“The execution of the arrest warrants on the Sudanese territory is the primary responsibility of the Government of Sudan, and UNAMID [the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur] should not be authorized to carry out or assist to secure arrests,” Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said. “The Council can, in due course, evaluate other possibilities including asking UN Member States or regional organizations to execute arrest operations in furtherance of the arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court.”
“The victims will receive a clear message: they are not ignored. And the perpetrators will receive a clear message: there will be no impunity. Time is running out,” he added.
(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)
An Update from the Maldives After Its Regime Change Last February
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all the parties concerned in the Maldives to resolve the current political crisis peacefully and through a national process based on dialogue and consensus. In a statement issued by his spokesperson, he urged "all parties to resume immediately their political dialogue, both within and outside of Parliament, in order to find a mutually agreeable way forward on the basis of the Constitution and without jeopardizing the democratic gains achieved thus far in the Maldives.”
In February 2012, the then-President Mohamed Nasheed resigned after days of protests and tensions between the Government and military and police. He was succeeded by his former deputy, Mohammed Waheed Hassan. The Government has since set up a National Commission of Inquiry to probe the events leading to the regime change, and both the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations have agreed to provide legal advice to the Commission.
According to the statement, Mr. Ban commended President Mohamed Waheed and former President Nasheed for their efforts to make the national inquiry body more independent and credible and to find a resolution to the current political crisis. “He [Mr. Ban] welcomes, in this context, the acceptance by the Government of the Maldives of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s nominee for the Commission of National Inquiry charged to look into the facts and circumstances leading to the transfer of power on 7 February 2012,” the statement said.
(mew) (adapted from a UN press release)
June 4, 2012
Collective Redress in the Cross-Border Context: Arbitration, Litigation and Beyond
The Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law (HiiL) and the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) announce a workshop on the theme 'Collective Redress in the Cross-Border Context: Arbitration, Litigation and Beyond' to be held June 20-22, 2012.
The workshop aims to explore the various means that can be used to resolve collective legal injuries that arise across national borders. The types of dispute resolution mechanisms to be discussed range from class and collective arbitration, mass arbitration and mass claims processes, class and collective litigation, and large-scale settlement and mediation. The workshop will bring together practitioners, academics, and representatives of non-governmental organisations, all of whom have an interest and expertise in public and private resolution of collective redress in the international realm.
For the first time, NIAS and HiiL are offering a works-in-progress conference in association with the Henry G. Schermers Fellowship Programme workshop. This conference is designed to allow practitioners and scholars who are interested in this area of law to discuss their work and ideas in the company of other experts in the field.
The three-day event will be held at the NIAS site in Wassenaar, twenty minutes outside of the Hague. The event is free to the public, but registration is required. For more information, including the full programme for both the Schermers workshop and works in progress event, see the HiiL website. Questions may also be directed to Professor S.I. Strong at the University of Missouri.
UN Human Rights Council Calls for Investigation of Syria
The United Nations Human Rights Council has called for “a special inquiry” into the massacre in the Syrian village of Houla last weekend, which resulted in the killings of 108 people, including 49 children. After a Special Session in Geneva last Friday that focused on the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and the killings in Houla, the Council adopted a resolution (by a vote of 41-3 with two abstentions) condemning the use of force against civilians. The resolution deplored the “outrageous killings” in Houla and emphasized the continued failure of the Syrian authorities to protect and promote the rights of all Syrians.
The Council called for the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria to conduct a “transparent, independent and prompt investigation into violations of international law with a view to hold to account those responsible for widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations, including violations that may amount to crimes against humanity.” The Council also asked the Commission of Inquiry to identify those responsible for the atrocities and to submit a report on the results of its investigation at its next session, which will be held from June 18 to July 6, 2012.
The Commission of Inquiry was established at the Council’s second Special Session and it presented its first report on November 28, 2011, concluding that the substantial body of evidence it had gathered indicated that gross violations of human rights had been committed by Syrian military and security forces since the beginning of the protests in March 2011.
In its update to the Council in May, the Commission of Inquiry said that the Syrian Government had not provided it with access to the country. It noted that gross human rights violations continue unabated, amid increasing militarization of the strife there, despite an earlier agreement to halt hostilities. It also said that most of the serious violations were committed by the Syrian army and security services as part of military or search operations in locations thought to host defectors or armed people, and those seen as supporters of anti-government armed groups. It also noted that it had received several reports stating that anti-government armed groups has also committed human rights abuses.
(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)
UN Human Rights Chief Urges End to Impunity for Human Rights Violations in Syria
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called on the international community to end impunity for all perpetrators of atrocities in Syria. She also warned that without immediate investigations the situation would descend into a full-fledged conflict putting the whole region in grave danger.
“There is a need for prompt, independent and impartial international investigations into all serious human rights violations in Syria, including those that have occurred in Houla,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said during a special session of the UN Human Rights Council, which focussed on the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and the recent killings in the village of Houla. “We must make all efforts to end impunity, to ensure accountability for perpetrators, and to provide adequate and effective remedies for the victims,” she added.
The meeting is the Council’s fourth special session on Syria since the crisis in Syria began some 15 months ago. The UN estimates that more than 9,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began. According to preliminary investigations, the massacre in Houla last weekend resulted in the deaths of 108 people, including 49 children and 34 women.
“These acts may amount to crimes against humanity and other international crimes, and may be indicative of a pattern of widespread or systematic attacks against civilian populations that have been perpetrated with impunity,” Ms. Pillay said. Ms. Pillay expressed her regret that despite the Council’s calls on the Government of Syria for cooperation, the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria still had not been granted access to Syria. She called again on “the Government of Syria to grant the Commission of Inquiry full and unimpeded access to the country to carry out investigations into all human rights violations, including the Houla events.”
In its update, based on interviews, to the Human Rights Council in May, the Commission – a UN independent panel probing abuses in Syria – said that the Syrian Government has so far not provided it with access. It noted that gross human rights violations continue unabated in the Middle Eastern country, amid increasing militarization of the strife there, despite an earlier agreement by parties to the conflict to halt hostilities. It also said that most of the serious violations were committed by the Syrian army and security services as part of military or search operations in locations thought to host defectors or armed people, and those seen as supporters of anti-government armed groups. It also noted that it had received several reports stating that anti-government armed groups were committing human rights abuses.
In her remarks to the Council on Friday, Ms. Pillay also called on Syria to assume its responsibility to protect the civilian population in the country. “[T]hose who order, assist, or fail to stop attacks on civilians are individually criminally liable for their actions. Other States have a duty to do all they can to prevent and prosecute perpetrators of international crimes,” she said, urging the Security Council to consider referring the case of Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
She also urged the international community to back the six-point plan put forward by the Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the Arab League of States on the Syrian Crisis, Kofi Annan, and called on the Government to cooperate fully with the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS). Spread out in various locations, the UNSMIS observers are tasked with monitoring the cessation of violence and supporting the full implementation of the six-point plan. The 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.
(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)
ICC Denies an Arrest Warrant
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has dismissed the Prosecutor’s application for an arrest warrant for Sylvestre Mudacumura, a Rwandan rebel leader allegedly responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The ICC found that the application submitted on May 15, 2012 did not provide “proper counts or any other kind of accompanying description of the specific facts underlying the crimes” allegedly committed in the eastern Congolese provinces of North and South Kivu. It failed to “set out the specific references to the alleged crimes” as requested by the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the ICC.
Mr. Mudacumura is the supreme commander of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, also known by its French acronym FDLR, which has been involved in crimes in eastern DRC.
(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)
Life Imprisonment for Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity -- ICTR Convicts Rwanda's Former Youth Minister
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has convicted the country’s former youth minister of genocide and crimes against humanity, and sentenced him to life imprisonment. The ICTR convicted Callixte Nzabonimana of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity.
Mr. Nzabonimana was found to have instigated the killing of Tutsis taking refuge at the Nyabikenke commune office in April 1994, and to have directly and publicly incited the killing of Tutsis in three incidents. He was also found guilty of entering into two separate agreements to kill Tutsis in Gitarama prefecture. He was arrested in February 2008 in Tanzania, and his trial began in November 2009.
(mew) (Adapted from a UN Press Release)
ICC Appeals Chamber Affirms Decision to Drop War Crimes Charges Against Rwandan Rebel Leader
Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) last week dismissed the Prosecution's appeal against the decision to drop war crimes charges against a Rwandan rebel leader for his alleged role in deadly fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2009. The unanimous decision by the Appeals Chamber came more than five months after the Pre-Trial Chamber decided not to confirm the charges against Callixte Mbarushimana and ordered that he be released from custody.
Mr. Mbarushimana, the head of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (known by their French acronym FDLR), was accused of murder, torture, rape, attacks against civilians, the destruction of property, inhuman treatment and persecution. FDLR forces fought against DRC Government forces, Rwandan Government forces and UN peacekeepers in North Kivu and South Kivu throughout 2009.
In the decision handed down last December, ICC judges said there were substantial grounds to believe FDLR soldiers had committed several war crimes in various villages during that period. However, they added that, while acts amounting to war crimes were likely to have been committed on five of the 25 occasions outlined by prosecutors, there was not enough evidence to show that such acts were part of a course of conduct equalling “an attack directed against the civilian population,” as defined under the law for crimes against humanity. The Appeals Chamber further found that Mr. Mbarushimana did not provide any contribution to the commission of the alleged crimes.
The ICC Prosecutor's Office said it was evaluating the Appeals Chamber's decision "to see whether it is possible to present a new case against Mr Mbarushimana presenting additional evidence, in accordance with the Judges' ruling.”
The ICC is an independent, permanent court that investigates and prosecutes persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes if national authorities with jurisdiction are unwilling or unable to do so genuinely. In addition to DRC, the Office of the ICC Prosecutor is currently carrying out investigations in six other situations: northern Uganda, the Darfur region of Sudan, the Central African Republic, Kenya, Libya and Côte d'Ivoire.
(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)
June 3, 2012
Charles Taylor Gets 50 Years
The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) last week sentenced convicted former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 50 years in prison for planning and for aiding and abetting crimes committed by Sierra Leonean rebel forces during the country's decade-long civil war. The SCSL's Trial Chamber unanimously imposed the single global sentence for all 11 counts of the crimes for which Mr. Taylor was found guilty of in April. These included acts of terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery, outrages upon personal dignity, cruel treatment, conscripting or enlisting of child soldiers, enslavement and pillage, related to the civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s.
The Trial Chamber found that Mr. Taylor's abused his position as President of Liberia to aid and abet the commission of crimes in Sierra Leone. It also found that "an aggravating factor of great weight" was the abuse of his position as a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Committee of Five (later Six), which was "part of the process relied on by the international community to bring peace to Sierra Leone."
The Trial Chamber also cited the extra-territoriality of Mr. Taylor's acts, and his exploitation of the Sierra Leone conflict for financial gain, as aggravating factors considered in the sentencing. It took into account the report of his good conduct in detention, but otherwise rejected a number of mitigating factors proposed by his defence lawyers.
While the jurisprudence of the SCSL and other tribunals "holds that aiding and abetting as a mode of liability generally warrants a lesser sentence than that imposed for more direct forms of participation," the presiding judge, Justice Richard Lussick of Samoa, said in a news release, that Mr. Taylor's leadership role "puts him in a class of his own."
At an earlier hearing, Mr. Taylor had told the SCSL that he was saddened by the atrocities and crimes committed in Sierra Leone, but denied that he aided the rebels who committed the abuses. He had asked that "reconciliation and healing and not retribution should be the guiding principles in your honours' task" in determining his sentence. Any intention to appeal the Trial Chamber's decision must be submitted in writing to the SCSL's Appeals Chamber within 14 days of the sentencing judgement, setting forth the grounds of appeal.
The SCSL is an independent tribunal 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 30 November 1996.
(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)