Friday, August 17, 2012
The United Nations has declared August 19 World Humanitarian Day to honor those who face danger and adversity in order to help others. The date was chosen to correspond to the 2003 bombing of the United Nations building in Iraq in memory and honor of humanitarian aid workers around the world. This year’s campaign "I Was Here" is about making your mark by doing something good, somewhere, for someone else.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
News reports this morning state that Ecuador has announced that it will grant political asylum today to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange has been taking refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London since June 19. He is hoping to avoid extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning in connection with alleged sex crimes. Assange also potentially faces extradition to the United States, where Ecuadorian Foreign Miniser Patino believes Assange will not receive a fair trial in connection with his release of thousands of secret documents and diplomatic cables relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as to U.S. foreign relations. It is unclear whether Britian will allow Assange to leave the United Kingdom for Ecuador. Thus far, the British government has taken the position that it has a legal obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Not surprisingly, the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry (CoI) in Syria has determined that both the Syrian Government and opposition forces have perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity during the ongoing conflict in Syria.
The CoI on Syria issued its report under a mandate from the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council. According to a UN press release, "the report states that war crimes, including murder, extrajudicial killings and torture, and gross violations of international human rights, including unlawful killing, attacks against civilians and acts of sexual violence, have been committed in line with State policy, with indications of the involvement at the highest levels of the Government, as well as security and armed forces."
The report further "notes that more “brutal tactics” and new military capabilities have been employed in recent months by both sides to the conflict. It updates earlier findings on the events that took place in the town of Houla on 25 May, concluding that Government forces and Shabiha fighters (the government-controlled militia) were responsible for the killings there of more than 100 civilians – nearly half of whom were children.
While the report states that opposition forces also committed war crimes, it concludes that their violations and abuses were not of the same gravity, frequency and scale as those committed by Government forces and the Shabiha.
The report also "reiterates the need for international consensus to end the violence and pave the way for a political transition process that reflects the aspirations of all segments of Syrian society."
In a news release issued by Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Commission emphasized that its lack of access inside Syria significantly hindered its ability to carry out its work. Most of its information is derived from firsthand accounts of the situation on the ground from people who left the country.
The CoI has conducted over 1,000 interviews since February. Its full report is scheduled to be presented at the 21st session of the Human Rights Council on 17 September.
(cgb) (adapted from a UN press release)
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced the appointment of the Ambassador of Nepal to the United Nations as his top aide dealing with some of the world’s most vulnerable countries. Gyan Chandra Acharya of Nepal will serve as Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, replacing Cheick Sidi Diarra of Mali, who has served in that post since 2007.
According to a media note announcing the appointment, Mr. Acharya’s nearly three decades of diplomatic service have regularly placed him in the frontlines of bilateral, regional and global issues, where he has consistently highlighted and advocated for the interests and concerns of least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing states. Most recently, Mr. Acharya, 52, served as Chair of the Global Coordination Bureau of the Group of Least Developed Countries and was closely involved in the recent UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June.
(UN Press Release)
Monday, August 13, 2012
Violence and the indiscriminate use of heavy weapons by the Government as well as targeted attacks by the opposition are increasing in Syria, the head of the United Nations observer force said today, adding that this is taking a heavy toll on innocent civilians. “It is clear that violence is increasing in many parts of Syria,” said the UN Military Adviser, Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, who is currently serving as the head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS). “Our patrols are monitoring the impact of this violence, visiting internally displaced people and hospitals.”
Syria has been wracked by violence, with an estimated 17,000 people, mostly civilians, killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 17 months ago. In the previous two weeks, there have been reports of an escalation in violence in many towns and villages, as well as the country’s two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, with the latter reportedly the centre of intense combat between Government and opposition forces, involving both aerial bombardments and heavy weaponry.
Addressing a press conference in the Syrian capital, Damascus, Lieutenant General Gaye said that UNSMIS had reoriented its activities to monitor the level of violence and the use of heavy weapons, and had also intensified efforts to facilitate “local pauses” to enable assistance to civilians. The Mission had suspended its regular patrolling and monitoring activities in mid-June due to the escalating violence.
“The fighting continues and I continue to remind the parties of their obligations to respect international humanitarian law and to protect civilians. The conflict has gone on too long and far too many people are suffering,” Lieutenant General Gaye said. “Concerning the future, UNSMIS has six days to go. We will continue to the last minute of our mandate to urge the Parties to move from confrontation to dialogue,” he added.
In separate meetings with Government officials and members of the opposition, UNSMIS officials appealed to the parties to cease military operations and come to the negotiation table, Lieutenant General Gaye said, adding that the UN is ready to support political dialogue among Syrians. Initially set up in April for 90 days, in late July, the Council adopted resolution 2059, which extended the mission’s mandate for another 30 days. The resolution also indicated that further renewals to UNSMIS’ mandate would be possible only if it can be confirmed that the use of heavy weapons has ceased and a reduction in violence by all sides was sufficient to allow the Mission to implement its mandate. With the 30-day extension, the mission’s mandate is set to expire on Sunday.
Meanwhile, various UN agencies continue to provide relief supplies to the three million people in the country who are in need of humanitarian aid. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) today reported that it had sent a convoy of food and medical aid to Damascus for the 2,400 Palestinian refugee families that have been affected by the conflict. The 17-truck convoy carried 360 tons of flour, rice, sugar, lentils, chickpeas, pasta and medicines, worth $650,000. The aid was donated by Palestinian companies, businesspeople, and other individuals, and the shipment was coordinated by the Palestinian Authority with Jordanian and Syrian authorities.
(UN Press Release)
Matthew J. Lister, a former law clerk at the U.S. Court of International Trade and now a visiting assistant professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, has a new paper on refugees. He argues against a more expansive reading of the word, arguing that a narrower reading will help focus resources and assistance to those most in need. Click here to see his paper on SSRN. Professor Lister presented an earlier version of the paper at a "New Voices in Human Rights" Panel at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools.
The International Review of Law Journal is seeking articles for a special issue on domestic violence to be published in Spring 2013. The journal's goal is to showcase papers that address practical and theoretical accomplishments and challenges worldwide in the area of domestic violence. Provided that the focus of the article is law-related, the definition of domestic violence will be construed broadly.
The International Review of Law Journal is a peer-reviewed, bi-lingual (Arabic and English) international law journal at Qatar University College of Law. All content in the journal is 'open access,’ meaning articles are free-to-read on the web and authors retain copyright on the print and electronic versions of their work. From its base in the Middle East, the journal aims to bring perspectives from around the world to developments in the law. Submissions are accepted in both English and Arabic.
The domestic violence special issue will be edited by Professor Mary Pat Treuthart, Gonzaga University School of Law. A section of this issue will be reserved for student submissions. Selected authors will be invited to Qatar University College of Law in Doha to conduct a guest lecture
on their area of research.
Contributors are requested to submit manuscripts of no more than 30 double-spaced pages including footnotes. Shorter pieces are welcome. Manuscripts will be accepted on a rolling basis; however, the final deadline for submissions is December 1, 2012. For more complete information on submission guidelines, please see the journal website.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Last week, the United States Treasury Department announced that it has designated Hezbollah for its support of the Assad regime in Syria in connection with its violent crackdown against protestors. The designation has little practical impact, however. Hezbollah was already on the designated terrorist list, so its assets have been frozen for many years already.
The US Treasury Dept. also announced that it is imposing sanctions on the Syrian state-run oil company Sytrol under the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), as amended by the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA), for conducting business with Iran’s energy sector. According to the US government, in April of this year, Syria and Iran engaged in two-way trade in the energy sector, in which Syria sent 33,000 metric tons of gasoline to Iran. The United States has determined that the value of the gasoline delivered by Sytrol to Iran in April was over $36 million, significantly exceeding the monetary thresholds for triggering sanctions under this law ($1 million threshold for individual transactions and the $5 million threshold for multiple transactions within a twelve-month period under U.S. law). The US government believes that this kind of trade allows Iran to continue developing its nuclear program while providing the Syrian government with resources to oppress its own people.