Saturday, November 24, 2012

A United Nations Action Plan to Protect Journalists

More than 100 journalists have been killed so far this year, making 2012 the deadliest year for media since the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) began keeping records on the issue. 

During a United Nations-led meeting in Vienna, the world body and its partners yesterday renewed their pledge to improve safety for journalists and prosecute those who commit acts against them through a new plan to protect media workers.  The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity follows two days of discussions by UN agencies, independent experts, governments, media houses, and civil society organizations on the most pressing issues facing freedom of expression, during the 2nd UN Inter-Agency Meeting on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

The new action plan outlines more than 100 areas of work that different UN agencies and civil society groups intend to contribute to securing the safety of journalists, and will operate at the national and global level. Activities that will be implemented as a result of the plan include: helping governments develop laws on safeguarding journalists, raising awareness so that citizens understand the damage done when a journalist’s rights to freedom of expression is curtailed, providing training courses for journalists in safety and safety online, establishing real-time emergency response mechanisms and strengthening the safety of journalists in conflict zones, among others. 

The plan also calls for enhancing protection for women journalists in response to the increasing incidence of sexual harassment and rape, decriminalizing defamation offences and encouraging adequate remuneration for full-time and freelance employees.

The Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, emphasized that attacks on media workers have a far-reaching effect on society, threatening to silence all citizens. “These attacks – not only the many murders and physical assaults, but also the countless abductions, the acts of harassment, the illegal arrests, the arbitrary detentions – have an impact that reaches well beyond the personal suffering of the person involved,” he said.  Click here to read more.  “They aim to silence the journalist and, by extension, all of us.”

Civil society delegates issued a statement during the UNESCO-organized meeting welcoming and endorsing the new plan. They also recommended that it be implemented in a comprehensive manner in Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan, South Sudan and Latin America.

The action plan is the result of a process that began in 2010, on the request of the Intergovernmental Council of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC). It was endorsed by the UN Chief Executives Board on 12 April 2012.

(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Human RIghts Abuses in Bahrain

A United Nations assessment team will head to Bahrain in early December, at the invitation of the Government, to discuss the judicial system and accountability for present and past human rights abuses, it was announced this week.   “This is a long-awaited follow-up to a preliminary mission that took place last December,” Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told reporters in Geneva.  As agreed with the Government, the four-member team that will travel to Bahrain from 2 to 6 December will also discuss the measures undertaken by the authorities to implement the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, and those agreed at the recent Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.   

The Commission of Inquiry was established by the King of Bahrain in June 2011 to investigate incidents that occurred during unrest in the country last year.    

The human rights team is scheduled to hold discussions with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, Interior, Human Rights, Health, Labour, and Education, as well as with the National Human Rights Institution and civil society organizations.    

Mr. Colville added that High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay regrets the decision taken by Bahraini authorities on 7 November to revoke the nationality of 31 citizens for ‘having undermined state security,’ which may leave around 16 of them stateless.  “She urges the Government to reconsider this decision, which stands in clear violation of article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that, ‘everyone has the right to a nationality’ and ‘no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality.’”    

States are expected to observe minimum procedural standards to ensure that decisions concerning the deprivation of nationality do not contain any element of arbitrariness, added Mr. Colville.    

Ms. Pillay is also “deeply concerned” about the restrictions on public demonstrations and other public gatherings declared by the Bahraini authorities on 30 October. “Bahrain should fully comply with its international human rights commitments, including respect for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and association,” said Mr. Colville.  “She is also concerned by the sentencing of 23 medical professionals on 21 November, and reiterates her call on the authorities to release all individuals who have been detained or sentenced simply for exercising their right to demonstrate peacefully.” 

(Adapted from a UN press release)

November 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Books Noted: Fundamentals of Transnational Litigation -- The United States, Canada, Japan, and the European Union

Haley BookDerived from materials originally used in an advanced law course on U.S.-Japanese Disputes taught at the University of Washington Asian Law Program, this newly published casebook provides students from diverse legal systems with global perspectives on fundamental issues in transnational litigation.  It's called "Fundamentals of Transnational Litigation: The United States, Canada, Japan, and The European Union," and it has just been published by Lexis Nexis.  

The book includes chapters on these areas:

  • Adjudicatory Jurisdiction
  • Foreign Sovereign Immunity and Related Abstention Doctrines
  • Parallel Litigation (including styas and anti-suit injunctions)
  • Service of Process Abroad
  • Taking of Evidence Abroad
  • Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign-Country Judgments and Arbitral Awards
  • Choice of Forum

The choice of cases and materials is good and worth looking at even if you're happy with whatever book you're now using to teach international litigation.  You've probably never seen as rich a selection of Japanese law cases in English.  I'm also taken by a new format for presenting the questions in each chapter -- they are set off in a box that makes them easy to find and identify in class.  A simple thing, I know, but I like it!  

The publisher highlights the following points:

  • Canadian law provides the perspective of a contrasting common law jurisdiction to the U.S. and thus enables students to appreciate features of U.S. law that are truly exceptional.
  • The Japanese cases and materials are intended to introduce the relevant rules and practices related to transnational litigation in a highly-developed and relatively typical civil law jurisdiction. Japan is also one of the most significant U.S. trading partners and Japanese firms are among the most frequent parties in transnational litigation in the U.S.
  • The European Union adds a dimension of equal significance as a regional system with binding rules on transnational litigation for all member states, which include the civil law jurisdictions of continental Europe as well as the common law systems of the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Professors (and adjunct professors too!) can request complimentary examination copies of LexisNexis law school publications to consider for class adoption or recommendation. Contact LexisNexis directly to do that.  This book also is available in a three-hole punched loose-leaf version with the same pagination as the hardbound book.

Mark E. Wojcik

November 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday Fun: Is there a Difference Between Italy and the Rest of Europe?

We enjoy these cartoons and are happy to share them with you.



November 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

UN General Assembly Third Committee Votes for a Global Moratorium on the Death Penalty

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomes a record vote by a General Assembly committee in favor of the call for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, according to his spokesperson.

“Monday’s vote offers the opportunity to again encourage Member States who still practice the death penalty or retain it in law to follow suit,” the spokesperson added in a news statement, noting that 150 States have either abolished or do not practice the death penalty.  Click here to read a copy of the statement.  

The new resolution calls on all States to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. 

The vote took place on Monday in the Assembly’s Third Committee, which adopted the resolution by 110 votes in favour, with 39 against and 36 abstentions. 

The Third Committee deals with social and humanitarian issues, as well as human rights. It is one of six such bodies, which each deal with a block of issues and themes under discussion by the wider General Assembly, but which lend themselves to more effective discussion in smaller settings before then being forwarded to all UN Member States – in the so-called General Assembly Plenary – for a final decision.

Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said the Committee’s resolution reflects a trend against capital punishment which has grown stronger across regions, legal traditions and customs since a landmark General Assembly resolution on the topic in 2007. 

“The Secretary-General saluted this development at a high-level event on the death penalty in New York this July,” the spokesperson added. “He said then that the taking of life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict on another, even when backed by legal process.”

(Adapted from a UN press release)

November 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

UN Security Council Adopts a Resolution on Goma

United Nations Security Council LogoThe United Nations Security Council has strongly condemned the latest wave of attacks by the 23 March Movement (M23) rebel group and demanded its immediate withdrawal from Goma, a provincial capital in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), that was overrun yesterday.  

In a resolution adopted unanimously last night, the 15-member body also demanded “the cessation of any further advances by the M23 and that its members immediately and permanently disband and lay down their arms.”  

The M23 – composed of soldiers who mutinied from the DRC national army in April – launched new attacks over the weekend in North Kivu province, uprooting some 60,0000 civilians and prompting the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) to deploy attack helicopters in aid of the national army, known by the French acronym FARDC.  

Eastern DRC has been hit this year by massive humanitarian needs triggered by the rise of the M23 and violence by more than two dozen other armed groups across the region, with widespread abuses against civilians including murder, rape and brutal reprisals.   

The Council “strongly condemns the M23 and all its attacks on the civilian population, MONUSCO peacekeepers and humanitarian actors, as well as its abuses of human rights, including summary executions, sexual and gender-based violence and large scale recruitment and use of child soldiers,” it stated in the resolution.  

It also expressed deep concern at reports indicating that external support continues to be provided to the M23, including through troop reinforcement, tactical advice and the supply of equipment, causing a significant increase of the military abilities of the M23. It demanded that “any and all outside support to the M23 cease immediately.”  

The Council requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report in the coming days, in coordination with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the African Union, on the allegations of external support to the M23 and expressed its readiness to take “further appropriate measures” on the basis of this report.  

It also expressed its intention to consider additional targeted sanctions against the leadership of the M23 and those providing external support to it and those acting in violation of the sanctions regime and the arms embargo imposed by the Council in relation to the DRC.  

The Council requested the Secretary-General to report in the coming days on options for the possible redeployments of MONUSCO contingents and additional force multipliers, observation capabilities and troops that could improve the Mission’s ability to carry out its mandate, including to protect civilians and report on flows of arms and related materiel across the borders of eastern DRC.  

MONUSCO, with 19,000 uniformed personnel, is the latest iteration of UN peacekeeping missions that have helped to bring stability and civilian elections to the vast nation after it was torn apart by civil wars and rebel movements.

(UN Press Release)

November 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Another Journalist Murdered in Mexico

The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today condemned the murder of Mexican crime reporter and called for an investigation into the attacked that killed him and a former municipal police officer.  “I am appalled by the murder of Adrián Silva Moreno and Misray López González,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.  “It is essential that the perpetrators of this crime be brought to justice. Violence against journalists in Mexico has reached an intolerable level,” she added in a news release.  Click here to see the news release.

On 14 November, Mr. Silva Moreno was reportedly shot dead in his car while covering an investigation into the theft of gasoline from Government-owned pipelines in the town of Tehuacán, in central Mexico. His passenger, Misray López González, was killed as he tried to flee the reporter’s car.   

“I call for firm action to enable media workers in Mexico to carry out their professional duties which are essential to democracy and rule of law,” Ms. Bokova said. “The basic human right of freedom of expression must be defended, alongside press freedom, its corollary.”   

Mr. Silva Moreno’s killing brings to seven the number of journalists and media workers murdered in Mexico over the past year, according to UNESCO.    

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bus Attack in Tel Aviv

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemns in the "strongest possible terms" a bomb attack on a bus today in the centre of the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, according to his spokesperson. "The Secretary-General was shocked at the news of the terror attack," the spokesperson added in a statement. "There are no circumstances that justify the targeting of civilians. The Secretary-General is saddened and expresses his sympathy to those injured in the blast."

According to media reports, at least 10 people have been injured in the bus explosion, which comes amidst a wave of renewed violence between Israel and Gaza -- including rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza, and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza -- that began on 14 November. 

A chorus of UN officials, beginning with the Secretary-General, have appealed for an end to the violence and strongly urged the parties to achieve an immediate ceasefire.

The attack took place as the UN chief visits the region in order to help bring about an end to the ongoing violence. He has strongly urged the parties to avoid further escalation and work towards achieving an immediate ceasefire.

The UN chief is scheduled to travel to Ramallah in the West Bank to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Previously, he has met with various leaders in the region, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Mohamed Qandil and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Nabil Elaraby.

(UN Press Release)

November 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Calls for "Maximum Restraint" on the Situation in Gaza

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday called on Israel to exercise “maximum restraint” in its operation focused on Gaza, saying in Jerusalem that the loss of civilian lives was “unacceptable under any circumstances.”  Speaking at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the two held a meeting, Mr. Ban also said he “strongly cautioned against a ground invasion” of the Palestinian enclave.

The latest wave of violence – which includes rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza, and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza – began on 14 November. A chorus of UN officials, beginning with the Secretary-General, have appealed for an end to the violence and strongly urged the parties to achieve an immediate ceasefire.

“Rockets have hit areas just outside of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as well as Israeli towns near Gaza, killing and injuring civilians,” said Mr. Ban, calling the attacks “unacceptable, irresponsible and reckless.”

“I strongly condemn these actions,” he states. “Rocket attacks by Palestinian militants targeting Israel must cease immediately.” He added that any further escalation benefits no one. “I know how difficult the situation is here, but Israel must exercise maximum restraint,” he said, also taking noted of an Israeli statement that Israeli military operations focused on “military facilities.”

“While Israeli rockets may be aimed at military targets inside Gaza, they kill and injure civilians and damage civilian infrastructures,” he said. “The loss of civilian lives is unacceptable under any circumstances. The excessive use of force is unlawful and must be rejected. He added that, in the course of military operations, civilians are “apt to be victimized, as we have seen.”

The Secretary-General said his “paramount immediate concern” was for the safety and well-being of all civilians – in Israel and in Gaza. “Innocent people, including children, are being killed and injured on both sides,” he said. “I appeal to all those commanding, bearing and operating arms – weapons – to respect international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of civilians at all times.”

Mr. Ban made similar points at a press conference with Israeli President Shimon Peres, with whom he also met privately, in addition to holding meetings with several other Israeli leaders.

In the Egyptian capital of Cairo earlier, Mr. Ban held separate meetings there with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Nabil Elaraby, and the Egyptian Prime Minister, Hisham Mohamed Qandil.

At press conferences with the two leaders, Mr. Ban called for an immediate ceasefire by “all sides” involved in the violence in Gaza, echoed previous statements in saying that rocket fire from Gaza into Israel was “unacceptable,” and said publically for the first time that an Israeli ground invasion of the Palestinian enclave would mark a “dangerous escalation” that must be avoided.

He spoke at that time as media reports, citing Egyptian and Palestinian officials, said a ceasefire in the conflict was “imminent,” and that Israel had put its plans for a land invasion on hold, though it had made no official comment.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Calls for a Ceasefire in Gaza

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for an immediate ceasefire by “all sides” involved in the violence in Gaza, saying in Cairo that peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians could not be achieved through more bloodshed. The UN chief echoed previous statements in saying that rocket fire from Gaza into Israel was “unacceptable,” while also noting that an Israeli ground invasion of the Palestinian enclave would mark a “dangerous escalation” that must be avoided.

Mr. Ban delivered his comments at a pair of news conferences in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, following separate meetings there with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Nabil Elaraby, and the Egyptian Prime Minister, Hisham Mohamed Qandil. He spoke as media reports, citing Egyptian and Palestinian officials, said a ceasefire in the conflict was “imminent,” and that Israel had put its plans for a land invasion on hold, though it had made no official comment.

Mr. Ban is currently in Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders.

“My message is clear: all sides must stop fire,” Mr. Ban said during his press conference with Mr. Qandil. “Further escalating the situation will only result in more tragedy, and puts the entire region at risk. That is why a ground operation must be avoided. That is why it is urgent to contain the present crisis.”

In Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, added her concerns about Palestinian and Israeli civilians caught up in the ongoing crisis, which has seen continued rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes on targets in the territory. “She is dismayed by the marked surge in the number of Palestinian civilians, including women and children, killed and injured over the past 48 hours as a result of Israeli military action,” said a spokesperson for Ms. Pillay, according to a press release from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Right (OHCHR).

“According to information gathered by OHCHR monitors on the ground, the civilian death toll has more than doubled during this period,” the spokesperson added, noting that available information on Tuesday morning showed that at least 57 civilians, including 18 children, had been killed, and hundreds injured since Israel launched its military operation on 14 November.

At his joint press encounter with Mr. Elaraby, the UN chief said he and his Arab League counterpart shared a “deep concern” about the “appalling rising cost in human lives.” “A new cycle of bloodshed will make neither Israelis nor Palestinians more secure,” Mr. Ban told reporters.  “Nor will bloodshed open the door to negotiations that could achieve the two-state solution necessary to end the occupation and such violence permanently,” he added, citing an end goal that would see Israel and an independent Palestinian exist peacefully side by side.

Mr. Ban said that when he meets with Israeli leaders, he will “firmly reiterate that Israel must respect its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law.”

While he also highlighted that Israel had “legitimate security concerns that must be respected in accordance with international law,” he added that a “ground invasion would be a dangerous escalation.”

Mr. Ban is also scheduled to travel to Ramallah in the West Bank to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He said the Palestinian leader’s efforts at finding a “long-overdue two-state solution” were now “more crucial than ever.”

Gaza is run by the Palestinian group Hamas, which seized control of the territory a year after winning elections there in 2007.

“I am deeply worried that efforts to facilitate renewed negotiations to achieve a two-state solution have failed to produce a breakthrough,” the Secretary-General said about the stalled Middle East peace process in his news conference with Mr. Qandil. “Yet, the present crisis proves again that the status quo is unsustainable and that a negotiated two-state solution ending a prolonged occupation is more urgent than ever.”

In addition, Mr. Ban recalled travelling to the region under “similar circumstances” in early 2009, after Israeli forces entered Gaza amid rocket attacks from the enclave into Israel. “It is extremely painful for me to be back for the same reason, for the same situation, and to see that the parties are no closer to ending their hostilities,” he said.

(adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Belize and Guatemala to Hold Referenda on How to Solve a Territorial Dispute

Under the auspices of the Organization of American States, Belize and Guatemala will see if they can use peaceful means of resolving a territorial dispute by holding simultaneous referenda on whether they should refer the matter to the International Court of Justice.

A spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon says that Mr. Ban “welcomes their decision to hold simultaneous referenda on 6 October 2013 to consult their populations on referring the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).”  Click here to see the text of the statement.  The spokesperson noted that Belize and Guatemala have requested financial support from the international community for the referenda and possible eventual legal proceedings.  He also added that the "Secretary-General believes that this process is in line with the objective of pacific settlement of disputes enshrined in the United Nations Charter and merits international support."

(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The City of Goma Has Fallen (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

I've seen very moving television images from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where thousands of people are fleeing from the city of Goma. Here is a UN Press Release issued yesterday on the situation in Goma:

Rebel fighters with the 23 March Movement (M23) have entered the city of Goma, a provincial capital in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which has suffered mass upheaval over recent days due to the advance of the rebels and their clashes with national army troops, according to a UN spokesperson.

“The situation in and around Goma has reached a critical stage,” added the spokesperson, Eduardo Del Buey. “The M23 military advances have continued despite the demands of the Security Council, the Secretary-General, the African Union and others including countries in the region, for the M23 to immediately stop their attacks.” 

Addressing a news briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, he added, “Reports indicate that the M23 has wounded civilians, continued abductions of children and women, destroyed and looted property, and intimidated journalists and those who have attempted to resist their control.”

Mr. Del Buey noted that the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) is closely monitoring the situation, with its peacekeepers in control of Goma’s airport, and conducing patrols. 

“MONUSCO troops will remain actively present in Goma and will continue all efforts within their capabilities to protect civilians from imminent threat,” the spokesperson said.

The M23 – composed of soldiers who mutinied from the DRC national army in April – launched new attacks over the weekend in North Kivu province, of which Goma is the capital, uprooting some 60,0000 civilians and prompting MONUSCO to deploy attack helicopters in aid of the national army, known by the French acronym FARDC. 

Mr. del Buey said that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterates his strong condemnation of the M23’s violations of international humanitarian and human rights law that have accompanied its military advance. 

“The Secretary-General underlines that those who commit violations will be held responsible for their actions,” he added.

Earlier Tuesday, UN humanitarian agencies expressed concern over the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the affected areas in eastern DRC, while the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, voiced concern over reported human rights violations against civilians there.

(mew) (UN Press Release)


November 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Concern Over the Rights of Gay and Lesbian Persons in Cameroon

The United Nations human rights office has expressed its concern over reports of people in Cameroon being harassed, intimidated, arrested and imprisoned because they were suspected of being lesbian or gay – and called for an end to such practices.

Article 347 of the current penal code in the country criminalizes ‘sexual relations with a person of the same sex’ and provides for a penalty of up to five years imprisonment and a fine, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Addressing a news conference in Geneva, an OHCHR spokesperson, Rupert Colville, said that the law breaches Cameroon’s international human rights commitments and violates rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination. “While the penal code relates specifically to sexual conduct, we are seriously concerned that it is being applied in a broad-brush way to prosecute many individuals on the basis of their appearance, their mannerisms, style of speech or general conduct,” Mr. Colville said.

He noted that OHCHR calls for an end to the arbitrary arrest and detention of all persons suspected of homosexual behaviour, as well as access to justice for those already detained. In 2011, according to OHCHR, Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé was convicted of suspected homosexual conduct after the authorities discovered he sent a text message to another man that read ‘I am very much in love with you.’ 

In addition, Jonas Singa Kumie and Franky Djome were convicted last month on the basis of their appearance, which was perceived as effeminate, and the fact that they had been seen drinking Bailey's Irish Cream. All three have an appeal hearing next week.

“It is especially worrying to receive reports of anonymous threats being made against human rights defenders working to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons,” Mr. Colville said, citing the case of a prominent Cameroonian lawyer, Alice Nkom, who has received multiple threats to her life and the well-being of her family because of her work speaking out for LGBT people. “The Government of Cameroon has a duty to end these abuses. It should provide adequate protection to human rights defenders working to protect the rights of LGBT persons,” Mr. Colville said.  He added that Cameroon should also use the ongoing review of its penal code to amend article 347 of the current penal code so that it complies with the country’s international treaty obligations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 

At the moment, according to the UN human rights office, the draft of the revised code would go in the opposite direction: it would strengthen penalties for same-sex relations and conflate homosexuality with non-consensual sexual practices and paedophilia.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fighting Pirates

The United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, has stressed the need to address the causes of piracy with a “multi-dimensional approach” to ensure the safety of seafarers, fishermen and passengers and avoid damage to the fishing and tourism industries.

“Piracy and armed robbery against ships is a global concern,” Mr. Eliasson told the Security Council at UN Headquarters in New York, on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, during a debate on maritime piracy as a threat to international peace and security. “It affects the freedom of shipping and the safety of shipping lanes that carry about 90 per cent of the world’s trade.”

According to the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO), there were 291 attacks against ships in the first ten months of 2012 and pirates are still holding 293 seafarers hostage. The areas most affected are East Africa, West Africa and the Far East. 

Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on piracy off the coast of Somalia to the Council, Mr. Eliasson noted that although there was a sharp decline in pirate attacks in waters off the coast of East Africa this year, compared to 2011, this trend could easily be reversed if the causes of piracy such as instability, lawlessness and ineffective governance are not addressed. “Combating piracy requires a multi-dimensional approach,” Mr. Eliasson said. “In Somalia, this has meant stabilizing the country through a Somali-owned process. The new President of Somalia has made an impressive start, but challenges remain significant. We need to move swiftly to support the Government so that it finally can provide the security and peace dividends that Somalis deserve.”

Measures that are needed in the Horn of Africa country to end piracy include focussing on modernizing counter-piracy laws, strengthening capacities for maritime law enforcement and crime investigation, supporting regional networks, as well as knowledge sharing. To do this, the Deputy Secretary-General stated, Member States, international and regional organizations must continue to build consensus on a joint response. “Piracy is a problem the international community can address successfully if we continue to work together,” Mr. Eliasson said. “The UN remains committed to working with its partners to consolidate international assistance, coordinate our activities, and deliver a comprehensive response to this threat.” The world body is helping States in different capacities, such as through the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) piracy programme, the UN official added.

Last week, UNODC’s Executive Director, Yuri Fedotov, began a ten-day visit counter-piracy mission to the region. In Seychelles on Friday, he stressed the impact of piracy on countries’ economies. “Piracy is immensely damaging to local economies and to local livelihoods,” Mr. Fedotov said. “In the Seychelles, it has prevented ships from fishing; between Kenya and Uganda it is raising transport costs; and from Somalia, some 1,200 fit and able young men have been detained and imprisoned across the world.” 

During his visit, the UNODC chief met with top Government officials to discuss the country’s commitment to addressing piracy and ensuring those suspected of committing the crime are given fair trials according to international standards. 

The mission to East Africa is part of UNODC’s $55 million counter-piracy programme operating in five different locations, and designed to support efforts to detain and prosecute piracy suspects in accordance with human rights and the rule of law.

(adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Civilian Death Toll in Gaza Continues to Rise

The civilian death toll in Gaza has continued to rise since the new wave of violence between the territory and Israel intensified last week, the UN agency assisting Palestinian refugees warned today, reiterating its call for all sides to stop the violence.  

The situation [for civilians] is bad,” said the spokesperson for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Christopher Gunness. “This is a very densely populated place. There are many, many civilians. More than half of Gaza’s 1.7 million people are children, and what we are seeing are rockets flying out of this area, populated largely by civilians, and airstrikes coming in.”

“The civilian death toll is rising and it will continue to rise, unless the words of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are heeded by the parties on the ground,” Mr. Gunness added.

The recent wave of violence – which includes rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza, and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza – have reportedly resulted in more than 90 Palestinians and three Israelis having been killed, with many others wounded.

UNRWA has 1.2 million beneficiaries in Gaza, where, last week, one of its staff members was killed in an Israeli airstrike. “We are echoing the call of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in appealing to all sides to exercise utmost restraint, to de-escalate so that peace can begin to take hold,” Mr. Gunness said. “All sides must honour their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians.”

Mr. Ban, who is currently in Cairo, Egypt, renewed his appeal for an end to the ongoing violence, and strongly urged the parties to achieve an immediate ceasefire.  During a briefing to reporters this afternoon, Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said Mr. Ban will meet with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Nabil El-Araby, and, later this week, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr. Gunness said that UNRWA, which distributes food, provides health services, and operates schools, would continue to carry out its work. He added that while UNRWA’s schools have been forced to close, teachers have been able to establish a distance learning television channel with classes in Arabic, English and mathematics lessons. “Children who cannot make it to UNRWA’s schools have been able to tune in and carry on with their education as best they can under these terrible circumstances,” Mr. Gunness added.

(adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 20, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CFP: Asia-Pacific Research Forum

The Chinese (Taiwan) Society of International Law will hold the International Law Association (ILA) American Society of International Law (ASIL) Asia-Pacific Research Forum on May 15-16, 2013 in Taipei, Taiwan.

The title of the Research Forum is “International Law and Dispute Resolution: Challenges in the Asia Pacific.” The organizing committee welcomes proposals on any topic relating to international law with a focus on the Asia Pacific.

Paper proposals must be submitted electronically by January 20, 2013 to The call for papers is available by clicking here.


November 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 19, 2012

ICJ Determines Caribbean Islands Belong to Colombia

ICJThe International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a decision today in the case concerning the Territorial and Maritime Dispute (Nicaragua v. Colombia).  The ICJ unanimously found that Colombia has sovereignty over the Caribbean islands at Alburquerque, Bajo Nuevo, East-Southeast Cays, Quitasueno, Roncador, Serrana and Serranilla.  The ICJ also set a single maritime boundary delimiting the continental shelf and exclusive economic zones of Nicaragua and Colombia and rejected Nicaragua's claim for an extended continental shelf.  In addition, the ICJ rejected Nicaragua's claims that Colombia had violated international law.  This decision must come as a disappointment to Nicaragua, which initiated the dispute and had argued for greater sovereignty and control over both the land and sea areas.  More information may be found in this ICJ press release.



November 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

ASEAN Adopts Human Rights Declaration

ASEANThe Member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has adopted its first ever Declaration on Human Rights.  While reaffirming the Member States' commitment to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments, the new ASEAN Declaration tends to emphasize a balance of rights and duties and to allow more room for a state to argue that it is necessary to curtail certain rights in the public interest as compared to other international human rights documents.  For this reason, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern (here) that the ASEAN Declaration may not fully comply with international standards.

The Member States of ASEAN include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.  The adoption of the Declaration coincides with a visit to several of these nations by U.S. President Barak Obama, including the first visit ever of a sitting U.S. President to Myanmar.




November 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Books Noted: International Trade in Indigenous Cultural Heritage

Graber Book PhotoThree years of thoughtful work have finally culminated in a new book on "International Trade in Idigenous Cultural Hertiage: Legal and Policy Issues."  The book is about to be published by Edward Elgar Publishing (United Kingdom).  The book examines how international law can better contribute to promoting trade and development in indigenous cultural heritage while at the same time respecting indigenous people's values, traditions, and rights. 

The book is edited by Christoph B. Graber, Karolina Kuprecht, and Jessica C. Lai, all members of i-call, the Research Centre for Communication and Art Law at the University of Lucerne (Switzerland). Authors include Christoph Antons, Francesco Bandarin, Catherine Bell, Kathey Bowrey, Duane Champagne, Paul L.A.H. Chartrand, Rosemary Coombe, Susy Frankel, Martin Girsberger, Carole Goldberg, Christoph Graber, Karolina Kuprecht, Jessica C. Lai, Federico Lenzerini, Fiona Macmillan, Benny Müller, John Scott, Kurt Siehr, Rebecca Tsosie, Joseph Turcotte, and Brigtte Vézina. 

Because I have had the chance to hear Professor Graber lecture on the topic, and because of my own personal interest in the protection of traditional knowledge and culture, I have very high expectations for the quality of the book.  And I'm not disappointed with what I've been able to see so far -- this is an outstanding piece of work that is both a useful reference work as well as providing thoughtful commentary on the global difficulties with protecting traditional knowledge.  And it is rare to find a book so deeply devoted to transdisciplinary research methodology.

The 17 chapters in the book includes international law perspectives, methodology, and social context, as well as country reports on the protection of cultural heritage in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.  I'm looking forward to spending some significant time with the book.  The publication launch date is set for January 30, 2013 for the United States and a bit earlier (November 30, 2012) for the United Kingdom and the rest of the world.  You can, of course, pre-order a copy now for your personal or institutional library.  It is 509 pages (including the index).  

Mark E. Wojcik (mew)

November 19, 2012 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Gender and the Law

Gender Conf PhotoThe University of Lucerne Faculty of Law in Switzerland hosted the second workshop on "Global Approaches to Gender and Law" last week.  The workshop was well organized (but really, what else would you expect from Switzerland) and brought together professors and scholars from around the world.  

The workshop organizers were Lauren Fielder, Assistant Director of the Transnational Legal Studies Program, and Dr. Kyriaki Topidi, Assistant Director of the Center for Comparative Law and Religion.  Both are at the University of Lucerne Faculty of Law.  They also were the organizer's of last year's workshop on Religion and the Law.  Alexander Morawa, Professor of Comparative and Anglo-American Law at the University of Lucerne, also gave welcoming remarks to the participants in this year's workshop.  

Speakers and presenters included:

  • Dr. Werner Menski, a Professor of South Asian Laws at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London
  • Atieno Mboya Samandari (Kenya), currently at Emory University School of Law
  • Sharon Bassan (Tel Aviv University, Israel)
  • Dr. Waheeda Amien (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
  • Agustina Ramon Michel (Palermo University, Argentina)
  • Silava Andrea del Valle Bustos (a J.S.D. candidate at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis)
  • Renee Cochard (University of British Columbia, Canada)
  • Prof. Mark E. Wojcik (The John Marshall Law School-Chicago and Permanent Guest Professor, University of Lucerne Faculty of Law)
  • Prof. Sha-Shana Crichton (Howard University, Washington, D.C.)
  • Busingye Kabumba (University of Pretoria, South Africa)
  • Sourav Kargupta (Jadavpur University, India)
  • Maia Araviashvili (Ilia State University, Republic of Georgia)
  • Chadni Basu (India, now at the Univeristy of Freigburg, Germany)

There were also other attendees from South America, Asia, and Europe at the Workshop.  Very few workshops or conferences have the the depth and diversity as these workshops held at the Univeristy of Lucerne.  Papers from the workshops are expected to be published in an edited volume.  (Scholars who write in the areas of gender or religion can contact the conference organizers to discuss publication opportunities.)

Congratulations to the workshop organizers Lauren and Kyriaki.  Your careful work and prepration reflects quite well on the University of Lucerne Faculty of Law.



November 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)