Sunday, September 30, 2012

Uzbekistan Stresses Water Conservation as Key to Regional Security

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly last week, the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan, Abdulaziz Kamilov, underlined the commitment of his country - a landlocked nation in Central Asia – to a United Nations convention protecting water resources in his water-scarce region as part of a larger effort to ensure regional peace and stability.  “In the modern world, given climate change and the worsening ecological situation on a global scale, ensuring reasonable and rational use of water resources becomes the most acute problem,” Mr. Kamilov told the 67th Assembly on the fourth day of its annual General Debate, at UN Headquarters in New York.  Click here for a copy of his statement.

A report released last year by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) noted how boosting cooperation between countries sharing the waters of the Amu Darya, Central Asia’s longest river, could be key to the future peace and security of the region and urged the four main nations involved – Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – to ratify the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes.  The report further notes that water resources in the region are already depleted by decades of often-unsustainable development dating back to the Soviet era, when large-scale engineering projects diverted flows from the river into cotton, wheat and fodder farming in arid and desert regions.

In reference to plans by neighbouring Tajikistan to build a major dam – the Rogun hydropower station – Mr. Kamilov urged that the region’s limited water resources be used “first, to meet potable and sanitary needs, and only after that to ensure food security, ecological needs and the needs of industry.” In addition, he stressed that all construction projects of hydropower facilities in the upper stream basins of the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers be subjected to international authoritative appraisal under UN auspices, and be in line with the Convention.

Located on the Vakhsh River in the country’s south, the Rogun project has reportedly caused some regional tensions. According to media reports, Uzbekistan has opposed construction on the basis that it will negatively impact the region’s environment, as well as adversely impact its agricultural sector.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U.S. Supreme Court Hears ATS Case (Kiobel) as it Opens 2012-13 Term

US Supreme Court SealThe U.S. Supreme Court begins its 2012-13 Term tomorrow on October 1, the first Monday in October.  The court will hear two cases tomorrow.  The first is Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., No. 10-1491.  The issue in that case is whether the issue of corporate civil tort liability under the Alien Tort Statute ("ATS"), 28 U.S.C. § 1350, is a merits question or an issue of subject matter jurisdiction.  The Supreme Court must decide whether a federal district court can hear a claim under the ATS when the calim arose out of conduct in a foreign country.

The petitioner, Esther Kiobel, filed a class action under the ATS against the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company (incorporated in the Netherlands), Shell Transport and Trading Company (incorporated in the United Kingdom), and the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (incorporated in Nigeria). The members of the class are individuals from the Ogoni region in Nigeria.  They had organized the "Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People" to protest the detrimental effects that oil exploration had in their homelands.

The petitioners allege that the oil companies assisted the Nigerian government in acts of violence against the Ogoni people who were protesting oil exploration and development in their region of Nigeria. They allege that the Nigerian military used rape, murder, beatings, and unlawful arrests to get them to stop their protests against oil exploration and development.  The petitioners claim that the oil companies provided the Nigerian military with transportation, foot, compensation, and other support that facilitated the attacks against the Ogoni.

The petitioners claim standing under the ATS because the hisotry, text, and purpose of the statute support application of the ATS to actions that arose in foreign countries.  

The oil companies argue that U.S. law does not apply extraterritorially and that the ATS is not an exception to that general rule.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit had dismissed the claim against the oil companies because the ATS had never previously been used as a basis of liability for corporations.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case on February 28, 2012 and on March 5, 2012 ordered re-argument on the question of whether the ATS allows litigation in the United States when the events did not occur within the territory of the United States. 

Tomorrow the U.S. Supreme Court will also hear Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, No. 11-626, where the Court will decide whether an indefinitely moored houseboat is a "vessel" for purporses of federal maritime jurisdicition.


September 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Tells UN that there is "No Alternative to Peace, Stability and Mutually Beneficial Regional Cooperation

Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of the Nagorno-Karabakh region will “one day live shoulder-to-shoulder,” Azerbaijan’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Elmar Mammadyarov, told the United Nations General Assembly Debate last week. “We sincerely believe there is no alternative to peace, stability and mutually beneficial regional cooperation,” the Foreign Affairs Minister told the 67th Assembly’s General Debate, taking place at UN Headquarters in New York. “Azerbaijan is the most interested party in the earliest negotiated settlement of the dispute.” 

In his statement, Mr. Mammadyarov also addressed his country’s participation in the Security Council in the 2012-2013 term, highlighting how his country, which served as President of the 15-member body in May, organizing a meeting under the so-called Arria Formula – a  mechanism that allows Member States greater flexibility in the way they are briefed on a particular issue – to “encourage a frank exchange of views . . . on the role of mediation, judicial settlement and justice in promoting durable and international law-based peace and reconciliation.”

The Foreign Affairs Minister expressed Azerbaijan’s concern over the Middle East peace process, which he said has “been at a standstill,” and called on the parties to create the necessary conditions conducive to the resumption of negotiations. In addition, he said Azerbaijan remained “deeply concerned” over both the violence and the “socio-economic and humanitarian situation” in Syria, and expressed deep concern over the “recent escalation provoked by blasphemy against Islam” – indirectly referring to a recent anti-Islam video made in the US which led to violent reactions in various cities around the world.

Click here to read a copy of his statement.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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ICJ Doubles Workload Since 1990

Last week, the President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Peter Tomka addressed the High Level Meeting on the Rule of Law at the United Nations General Assembly. During his speech, he emphasized that the work pace of the Court has doubled since 1990. In the last 22 years, the Court has issued twice as many judgments as it did in its first 44 years (a rate of 2.72 per year). He also pointed out that approximately one-third of the States in the international community have accepted the Court's compulsory jurisdiction while more than 300 treaties call for dispute resolution to be performed by the Court.


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Omar Kadr Released from Guantanamo and Returned to Canada

According to news reports this weekend, Omar Kadr, the youngest detainee at Guantanamo Bay and a Canadian citizen, has been transferred to Canada to serve out the remainder of his eight-year sentence (in addition to the eight years spent at Guantanamo Bay) pursuant to his plea bargain agreement in which he pled guilty to killing a US soldier.


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United Arab Emirates Calls for Resolution of Dispute with Iran Over Three Islands in the Persian Gulf

The Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, called on the international community to urge Iran to respond to the calls for a just settlement of the dispute over three islands in the Persian Gulf region. Addressing the General Assembly’s high-level debate at UN Headquarters in New York, the Foreign Minister expressed his Government’s regret regarding “the continued Iranian occupation of our three islands: Abu Musa, and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs.” He also voiced the UAE’s demands for the restoration of full sovereignty over these islands.  “We emphasize that all actions and measures taken by the Iranian occupation authorities are null and void, and are contrary to international law and to all norms and common human values,” said the Foreign Minister.  Click here for a full copy of his statement at the United Nations.

He also called on the international community to urge Iran to respond to the UAE’s “repeated peaceful, sincere calls” for a just settlement, either through direct negotiations or by referral to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to settle the dispute. 

“We hope the Iranian Government will deal with this sensitive and important issue in a positive and just manner, in order to establish good neighbourly relations, build bridges of cooperation, preserve the common interests between our two countries, and strengthen security and stability in the region as a whole,” he said.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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Saudi Arabia Calls for Deepening of Dialogue Among Religions to Prevent Conflicts

United Nations Member States must spread a culture of tolerance and understanding and deepen the dialogue among cultures and religions to prevent conflicts, the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, Prince Addulaziz bin Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, said in his statement to the world body’s General Assembly on Friday. “In order to maintain this noble humanitarian requirement promoted by all religions, we must disseminate and deepen the dialogue with a view to achieve peace between human beings, to avoid conflicts, to put an end to acts of aggression and arrogance, to respect religious, cultural, and civilizational particularity of peoples, and to encourage pursuit of positive interaction between civilizations, cultures, and religions,” Mr. Bin Abdulaziz told the gathered delegates at the 67th Assembly’s General Debate at UN Headquarters in New York.  Click here for a copy of his statement.

Saudi Arabia strongly condemns the act of “an irresponsible group who produced an offensive movie about the Prophet Muhammad,” he said – referring to an anti-Islam video produced in the US and which has led to a violent reaction in various cities across the world - and noted that in this context, his country renews its calls to enact laws and regulation that forbid the defamation of religious symbols.  Mr. Bin Abdulaziz stressed that Saudi Arabia also condemns the acts of violence that followed the release of the film against United States foreign missions, and underlined that diplomats around the world must be protected. The US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, along with others, was recently killed in the eastern Libya city of Benghazi in violence believed to be linked to the anti-Islam video.  “Diplomatic envoys are protected by inviolability and immunity that is urged by our noble religion first and international treaties as well, due to the importance of diplomacy in preserving international interests,” the Vice Minister said.

He also urged the international community to act on the Syrian crisis which has reached “exacerbated and complicated limits,” and reiterated that Saudi Arabia stands ready to work through legitimate international frameworks in accordance to humanitarian law. However, he noted with regret that the Security Council has not been able to reach agreement on united action to put a stop to the violence in the Middle Eastern country, in which more than 18,000 people have been killed since an anti-government uprising erupted 18 months ago. “We regret that this regime continues to believe that it can proceed with its suppressive procedures to control the situation without any due regard to the high humanitarian losses,” he said. “The Security Council, which is entrusted with the responsibility of keeping peace and security, has failed so far to take a decision about the Syrian crisis and to stop the bloodshed therein.”   He added that “this matter gave the Syrian regime a green light to proceed with its crimes against the Syrian people, in a race against time, to accomplish its objectives using the most advanced means of killing and destruction.”

A new strategy that aims to achieve a peaceful transition to power and that surpasses the previous plan put forward by the former Joint envoy of the UN and the League of Arab States on the Syrian crisis, Kofi Annan, is vital, the Saudi official said, adding that the current UN-Arab League Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, will not be able to move forward unless the Security Council provides him with the support he needs to deal with the crisis at a political and humanitarian level.

Regarding the Middle East peace process, Mr. Bin Abdulaziz told the General Assembly that his country believes the way this protracted conflict can be solved is by responding to the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, particularly their right to establish an independent State. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which grants the Palestinian issue top priority, urges the international community represented by the United Nations to swiftly put an end to the tragedy of the Palestinian people and to provide its National Authority with all forms of support and assistance,” he said, adding that Saudi Arabia “is sparing no effort to meet all its obligations towards the peace process and towards our Palestinian brothers by the provision of various types of support and assistance.”

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)