Saturday, December 1, 2012

December 2 is "International Day for the Abolition of Slavery"

The 21st century has seen the rise of new forms of slavery, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned in a message to mark the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, in which he also urged Member States to increase their efforts in the fight against the dehumanizing scourge. 

In his statement marking the Day, celebrated each year on 2 December, Mr. Ban noted that despite the approval of the Slavery Convention 85 years ago in which signatories vowed to prevent and suppress the slave trade, the practice had acquired new manifestations as it adapted to an ever-changing world. “The movement against slavery brought together the international community to declare that slavery practices constitute an affront to our common humanity and that no human being should be another’s property,” stated Mr. Ban. “Today, governments, civil society and the private sector must unite to eradicate all contemporary forms of slavery,” he added. 

The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery marks the date of the adoption by the General Assembly of the UN Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others on 2 December 1949. The Day’s focus is on eradicating contemporary forms of slavery, such as debt bondage, serfdom and forced labour; trafficking of persons and trafficking for the purpose of organ removal; sexual exploitation, the worst forms of child labour, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict, but also forced marriage, the sale of wives, widow inheritance.

According to the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), some 21 million women, men and children are currently trapped in slavery all over the world.

Pointing to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, the Secretary-General acknowledged that the UN already boasted “important tools” to advance the goal of slavery’s eradication but that maintaining adequate financing was difficult.  “Over the past two decades, the Fund has assisted tens of thousands of victims of slavery in more than 90 countries. Yet the fund is in dire need of funding to fulfil its mandate and respond to the growing need,” Mr. Ban said as he appealed for governments and private enterprises to funnel investments into the Fund’s activities. “Together, let us do our utmost for the millions of victims throughout the world who are held in slavery and deprives of their human rights and dignity,” the UN chief stated.

Drawing a particular emphasis on the nexus between bondage and forced marriage, the UN independent expert on contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinian, also called for greater anti-slavery legislation, including the criminalization of all servile marriages.  “Women and girls who are forced to marry and find themselves in servile marriages for the rest of their lives,” Ms. Shahinian said in a statement for the Day. “Women and girls should not be forced to marry. Women and girls should not be forced to spend their life time in slavery. Nothing can justify that.” 

The UN expert noted that women in servile marriages frequently experience human rights violations, such as domestic servitude and sexual slavery, and often suffer from violations to their right to health, education, non-discrimination and freedom from physical, psychological and sexual violence. She added, however, that solely focusing on the criminalization of servile marriages would not succeed in effectively combating the problem. “Such legislation should go hand in hand with community programmes to help detect, provide advice, rehabilitation, education and shelter where necessary,” the statement continued. “Public awareness raising campaigns should be implemented to highlight the nature and harm caused by forced and early marriages.” 

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs like Ms. Shahinian, are appointed in an honorary capacity by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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December 1 is "World AIDS Day"

World AIDS Day 2012World AIDS Day, marked each year on December 1st, presents an opportunity to bring together people from around the world to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and demonstrate international solidarity in the face of the pandemic. World AIDS Day allows public and private partners to spread awareness about the status of the pandemic and encourage progress in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care in high prevalence countries and around the world.

The World Health Organization has announced that between 2011-2015, World AIDS Days will have the theme of "Getting to zero: zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths."  It says that the World AIDS Campaign focus on "Zero AIDS related deaths" will signify a push towards universal access to treatment. It is also a call to honor promises like the Abuja declaration and for African governments to hit targets for domestic spending on health and HIV.

Click here for more information about World AIDS Day and the World Health Organization's programs on AIDS and HIV.


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Call for Egypt's President to Roll Back Powers Claimed in Recent Decree

The top United Nations human rights official yesterday called on Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to reconsider a Constitutional Declaration he issued last week, saying parts of the measure conflict with international human rights law. Expressing her concerns in a letter to Mr. Morsi, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said that the Declaration put Egypt at risk of reneging on binding principles laid down in two overarching international human rights treaties – the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

“The three slogans of the Egyptian Revolution were liberty, freedom and social justice,” Ms. Pillay wrote in the letter, which she sent to Mr. Morsi on Tuesday, according to a press release from the Geneva-based Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). “These same principles underlie all international human rights law,” Ms. Pillay added.

Mr. Morsi, who became Egypt’s first elected president in June after the 2011 fall from power of President Hosni Mubarak, set off a political crisis in the North African country when he issued the Declaration last Thursday, according to media reports. While Mr. Morsi said the decree would enable him to safeguard the country’s transition to a constitutional democracy, his critics reportedly accuse him of seizing a broad swath of powers that rendered his office free from judicial review. The President later moved to quell the crisis by meeting with senior judges and political parties, reports added. 

While OHCHR said Ms. Pillay welcomed those efforts, she added they were “not yet sufficient” to prevent the country from missing the mark on its obligations to the two Conventions, which Egypt ratified in 1982.

According to media reports, Mr. Morsi has said he intended the decree to be temporary, and contends that it was mainly aimed at preventing Mubarak-era judges from dissolving the country’s Constituent Assembly, which has been writing a new Egyptian constitution. For her part, Ms. Pillay said that approving a constitution in these circumstances could be a “deeply divisive” move, OHCHR noted. Reports today said the Constituent Assembly had approved a draft, which would be sent to Mr. Morsi, who is expected to call a referendum.

OHCHR highlighted three parts of the Declaration that Ms. Pillay, in her letter to Mr. Morsi, said contravened provisions in the Civil and Political Rights Covenant.

One provides for the re-trial of members of the former regime, while the others bar new legal challenges and annul present ones to Mr. Morsi’s decrees as President – until the approval of the constitution-in-making.

Media reports say that Mr. Mubarak is among those already tried and convicted, and who could face re-trial under the Declaration. While Ms. Pillay said she understood the need to “address past human rights violations and the public dissatisfaction,” she pointed out that the Covenant rejected that an accused person could face re-trial for the same offences.

Ms. Pillay said the Covenant also guaranteed judicial independence and people’s access to courts – both of which would support the right of people to challenge the Egyptian President’s decrees.

“It is within the legal prerogatives and political responsibility of President Morsi to address these concerns in conformity with international human rights principles,” Ms. Pillay said, in addition to questioning the suitability of the Assembly’s composition. “Any proper constitution-making process must include adequate representation of the full political spectrum, men and women, minorities, and civil society,” she noted, adding that was “not seen to be the case” with the present Assembly.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

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UN General Assembly Upgrades Palestine to "Non-Member Observer State Status"

The General Assembly has voted to grant Palestine non-member observer State status at the United Nations, while expressing the urgent need for the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians leading to a permanent two-State solution. The resolution on the status of Palestine in the UN was adopted by a vote of 138 in favour to nine against with 41 abstentions by the 193-member Assembly.

“We did not come here seeking to delegitimize a State established years ago, and that is Israel; rather we came to affirm the legitimacy of the State that must now achieve its independence, and that is Palestine,” the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, told the Assembly before the vote. Mr. Abbas noted that the world was being asked today to undertake a significant step in the process of rectifying the “unprecedented historical injustice” inflicted on the Palestinian people since 1948.

“Your support for our endeavour today,” he said, “will send a promising message – to millions of Palestinians on the land of Palestine, in the refugee camps both in the homeland and the Diaspora, and to the prisoners struggling for freedom in Israel’s prisons – that justice is possible and that there is a reason to be hopeful and that the peoples of the world do not accept the continuation of the occupation.” 

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said his delegation could not accept today’s resolution. “Because this resolution is so one-sided, it doesn’t advance peace, it pushes it backwards,” he stated, adding that peace could only be achieved through negotiations. “There’s only one route to Palestinian statehood and that route does not run through this chamber in New York. That route runs through direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah that will lead to a secure and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” he added. “There are no shortcuts. No quick fixes. No instant solutions.” 

The Israelis and 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.

“Today’s vote underscores the urgency of a resumption of meaningful negotiations,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after the vote was finalized. “We must give new impetus to our collective efforts to ensure that an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine lives side by side with a secure State of Israel. I urge the parties to renew their commitment to a negotiated peace.”

Addressing the same gathering, the President of the General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic, appealed to “my dear friends from Palestine and Israel” to work for peace, to negotiate in good faith, and ultimately, to succeed in reaching the historical settlement. “I have no doubt that history will judge this day to have been fraught with significance – but whether it will come to be looked upon as a step in the right direction on the road to peace will depend on how we bear ourselves in its wake,” he said. “Let us therefore have the wisdom to act in furtherance of the goal I’m sure we all share.”

In the resolution, the Assembly also voiced the hope that the Security Council will “consider favourably” the application submitted in September 2011 by Palestine for full UN membership.

The Palestinian bid for full UN membership stalled last year when the 15-nation Council, which decides whether or not to recommend admission by the Assembly, said it had been “unable to make a unanimous recommendation.”

The action this week came on the same day that the UN observed the annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Established in 1977, the Day marks the date in 1947 when the Assembly adopted a resolution partitioning then-mandated Palestine into two States, one Jewish and one Arab.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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A Two-State Solution

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week stressed the urgency of stepping up efforts to get the Middle East peace process back on track, and urged Israelis and Palestinians to show courageous leadership to reach a two-State solution.  “Achieving the two-State solution, to which both Israel and the Palestinians have committed, is long overdue,” Mr. Ban said in his message marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.  “I call on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to show vision and determination. I also urge the international community to help them forge a credible political path that will meet the legitimate aspirations of both sides,” Mr. Ban added.    

Established in 1977, the Day marks the date in 1947 when the General Assembly adopted a resolution partitioning then-mandated Palestine into two States, one Jewish and one Arab.    

The Israelis and 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.     

Tension in the region increased as violence broke out earlier this month, with rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. The eight days of violence left an estimated 158 Palestinians dead, including 103 civilians, and approximately 1,269 injured. Six Israelis – four civilians and two soldiers – were reportedly killed by Palestinian rocket fire and 224 Israelis were injured, the vast majority civilians.   The violence ended when a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas was declared on 21 November in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.    

In his message, Mr. Ban, who recently met with leaders in the region, underlined the need to sustain the ceasefire and create the conditions that will allow the resumption of direct negotiations.  “The outlines of an agreement have long been clear, laid out in UN Security Council resolutions, the Madrid principles – including land for peace – the Road Map, the 2002 Arab Peace initiative and existing agreements between the parties,” he said. “What is needed now is political will and courage, as well as a sense of historic responsibility and vision for younger generations.”    

The UN chief also called on Israel to cease settlement activity immediately, as this violates agreements and obstructs efforts towards peace. “Continued settlement activity in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is contrary to international law and the Roadmap, and must cease. Unilateral actions on the ground will not be accepted by the international community,” he said.    

Regarding the General Assembly vote later today on a bid by Palestinians for Non-Member Observer State status, Mr. Ban stated that “this is a matter for Member States to decide. It is important for all concerned to approach this responsibly and constructively.”  He added, “The goal remains realizing the just and lasting peace for which generations of Palestinians and Israelis have been longing – a peace that will end the occupation that started in 1967, end the conflict and ensure that an independent, viable and sovereign State of Palestine lives side by side with a secure State of Israel.”     

In her message to mark the Day, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, stated that lasting peace must be built on the basis of dialogue, understanding and reconciliation.    

She also highlighted the agency’s activities supporting education for Palestinian children, helping to support the development and safeguard Palestinian cultural industries, and promoting freedom of expression in the region.     
“These actions reflect UNESCO’s efforts to build peace from the ground up, on the basis of human rights and shared values. Education, culture, communication and freedom of expression are forces for solidarity – they are also the foundations for lasting peace,” Ms. Bokova said. 

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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Security Council Extends Arms Embargo and Other Sanctions Against Rebel Groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

United Nations Security Council LogoThe United Nations Security Council has extended the arms embargo and other sanctions imposed against armed rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), while expressing its intention to consider additional targeted sanctions against the leadership of the M23, the rebel fighters that recently occupied the eastern provincial capital of Goma.

In a unanimously adopted resolution, the Council extended until 1 February 2014, the sanctions that were first introduced in 2003 as the DRC reached the end of a brutal civil war that engulfed the vast country on and off for five years and is estimated to have killed as many as five million people.

The sanctions comprise an arms embargo against armed groups that are not part of the Government’s integrated army or police units following the end of the civil war, and also a travel ban and asset freeze against individuals or entities that have violated the embargo or are otherwise designated.

The Council also requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to renew the mandate of the group of experts monitoring these measures until 1 February 2014.

The resolution also contained strong condemnation of the M23 soldiers, who mutinied from the DRC national army in April, and which occupied Goma, the capital of North Kivu, last week after launching a new wave of attacks that have uprooted more than 140,000 civilians.

The Council demanded that the M23 and other armed groups “cease immediately all forms of violence and other destabilizing activities” and reiterated its demand that any and all outside support to the M23 stop without delay. It also expressed its intention to consider additional targeted sanctions against the M23 leadership, those providing external support to the group, and those who violate the sanctions regime and the arms embargo. 

(Adapted from a UN press release)

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Fun

A long-time favorite video made by some students in Canada . . . 



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Thursday, November 29, 2012

ICJ To Hold Public Hearings in Temple Preah Vihear Case

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will hold public hearings from April 15-19, 2013 regarding the request for an interpretation of the 1962 ICJ judgment in the Case Concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear (Cambodia v. Thailand).  Cambodia requested the interpretation of the judgment to confirm its sovereignty over the territory where the Temple is located and asks the Court to declare that Thailand has an ongoing obligation to keep military troops away from vicinity of the Temple.  More information may be found in this ICJ Press Release.


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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

IAHRC Condemns Killing of Journalist in Brazil

The following is from a press release of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR):

"The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the [IACHR] condemns the murder of Eduardo Carvalho, owner and editor of the news website UH News (Última Hora News), which took place on November 21 in Campo Grande, capital of Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil. The Office of the Special Rapporteur expresses its concern and requests that the authorities conduct a prompt and diligent investigation to establish the motive of the crime, identify and appropriately punish the perpetrators.

According to the information received, an unidentified man shot Carvalho to death while he was outside his home in Campo Grande. The information available indicates that the journalist had received serious threats for publishing allegations against the police and local officials of Mato Grosso do Sul.

The ninth principle of the IACHR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression states: “The murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and/or threats to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of communications media violate the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restrict freedom of expression. It is the duty of the state to prevent and investigate such occurrences, to punish their perpetrators and to ensure that victims receive due compensation.”

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to encourage the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system."


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Protecting Minority Rights

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today reaffirmed the commitment of the United Nations to addressing the concerns of minorities worldwide, while noting that many challenges remain in ensuring that their rights are respected. “The United Nations has a crucial role to play in minority protection,” Mr. Ban said in a video message to the UN Forum on Minority Issues, which is meeting in Geneva today and tomorrow. “I am strongly committed to ensuring that concerns of minorities are reflected in our work,” he told representatives of governments, human rights organizations and other groups attending.  Click here to read the text of his message.

The Forum was established in 2007 by the UN Human Rights Council as a “platform for promoting dialogue and cooperation on issues pertaining to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.”

Meeting for its fifth session, the Forum is this year focusing on further implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1992, and celebrating its 20th anniversary.

“The Declaration sets out essential human rights standards for the many millions of people across the world who belong to minority groups,” Mr. Ban said, describing it as a “landmark” initiative. “It underscores the responsibility of States to protect the rights of minorities to enjoy their cultures, use their languages and practice their religions.” 

He described the anniversary as an “opportunity to review the Declaration’s impact on national legislation, policy and practices,” as he noted the common refrain that societies “are judged by how they treat their most vulnerable members.”

“Twenty years on, many challenges remain,” he said. “Too many minorities face discrimination, stereotyping, hatred and violence, solely for being who they are. And at this time of economic distress, minorities often bear the brunt of societal tensions.”

Mr. Ban highlighted that efforts to overcome the remaining challenges got a boost with the launch this year of the UN Network on Racial Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities, which aims to help UN entities work together on minority issues. It also seeks to ensure minority concerns are reflected in the UN’s work, according to the Geneva-based Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which coordinates the initiative.

The Secretary-General also saluted the efforts of the UN Independent Expert on minority issues, Rita Izsák, who reports in an independent and unpaid capacity to the Human Rights Council. 

“This Forum, together with the Independent Expert on minority issues, are crucially important actors, including as platforms for dialogue on implementation of the Declaration,” said Mr. Ban.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

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Chemical Weapons Convention

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged the eight States that have not yet done so to join the Chemical Weapons Convention which aims to eliminate the use, development, production and transfer of these deadly weapons. Those States are:

  • Angola,
  • the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),
  • Egypt,
  • Israel,
  • Myanmar,
  • Somalia,
  • South Sudan and
  • Syria 

In a letter issued jointly with the Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ahmet Üzümcü,Mr. Ban called on the heads of those States to commit to the legally-binding prohibition against chemical weapons to ensure that such weapons are never used again.

The Convention, whose implementation is overseen by the OPCW, currently has 188 States Parties representing more than 98 per cent of the world’s population and chemical industry. On 1 October, the Convention marked its 15th anniversary since entering into force.

The letter states that “the continuing growth in the membership of the (OPCW) […] is evidence that the prohibition against the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons constitutes a universal norm.”

The OPCW stated in a news release that the letters “underscore the importance of achieving the universality of the Convention as a condition necessary to attain a world free from chemical weapons. These States have, therefore, been strongly urged to join the Convention ‘without delay’.”

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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Judicial Independence in El Salvador

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, today urged  El Salvador to ensure the independence of its judicial system and comply with its decisions to avoid a constitutional crisis such as the one it experienced earlier this year.  “Decisions of judicial authorities cannot and should not be interpreted by other organs of the State; they must be complied with,” she said at the end of her visit to the Latin American country.  

Although she welcomed the democratic advances made in recent years, she stressed that the country still faces many challenges regarding the autonomy of the judicial system.  “The institutional crisis between the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice and the Legislative Assembly risks undermining the independence of the judiciary and the principle of separation of powers,” warned Ms. Knaul, recalling that existing international human rights standards require all governmental and other institutions to respect the independence of the judiciary, and that inappropriate or unwarranted interferences with the judicial process are inadmissible.   

According to media reports, on 5 June the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court ruled that two previous elections of Supreme Court magistrates by the National Assembly were unconstitutional and ordered new elections for 15 judges and their alternates. The National Assembly appealed this decision to the Central American Court of Justice, which ruled in the Assembly’s favour, causing the Constitutional Chamber to argue that the multinational court did not have authority over the country’s Government branches and leading to a constitutional crisis.  

Ms. Knaul said the crisis demonstrated that the current procedure for the appointment of magistrates of the Supreme Court did not provide sufficient guarantees to ensure that they are selected on the basis of fair and objective criteria.   “The Legislative Assembly should review the procedure, so as to ensure that judges and magistrates are appointed solely on the basis of their qualification, and not on the basis of their actual or presumed proximity to political parties,” Ms. Knaul said.  

She also expressed concern about the Legislative Assembly’s failure to appoint a new Attorney-General of the Republic and noted he or she would have a crucial role in guaranteeing legality, combating corruption and impunity and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The new Attorney-General should be appointed solely on the basis of his/her integrity, independence, competence and ability and through an open and transparent process,” she added.   

During her eight-day mission, Ms. Knaul held meetings in the capital, San Salvador, and Santa Ana with senior Government officials, the Legislative Assembly, Supreme Court magistrates, judges, prosecutors, international and local non-governmental organizations, and UN agencies.   

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed in an honorary capacity by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. Ms. Knaul is scheduled to present her report on her visit to the Council in June 2013.   

(Adapted from a UN press release)

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Gaza Ceasefire Offers Chance to Address "Root Causes" of Israel-Palestine Conflict

The ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, which controls Gaza, was announced on 21 November, just over a week after the start of the latest wave of deadly violence, which included rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza, and Israeli airstrikes on targets in the Strip.

In his remarks, Mr. Grandi also noted that an Israeli blockade on Gaza, imposed since 2007, was illegal, and the “greatest danger is to return to the status quo ante, and restore the prison-like conditions of Gaza.” He said it would be “only a matter of time (until) violence resumes” if there was such a return.

Mr. Grandi called for the blockade, which Israel has reportedly said it maintains for security reasons, to be “lifted in all its aspects.” He mentioned crossings, fishing zones, imports and exports as aspects of the blockade in need of address, and said there should be “proper guarantees given to – and by – all parties in respect of the security of all civilians.”

Created by the UN General Assembly in 1949, UNWRA is the main provider of education, health, social and other basic services to the five million registered Palestinian refugees in Gaza, West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The refugees trace their roots to those displaced amid the Arab-Israeli hostilities of 1948. The Assembly created the Advisory Commission, which comprises 25 UN Member States and three Observer entities, to “advise and assist” UNWRA.

On Saturday, UNWRA re-opened all but two of its 245 schools in Gaza, according to the agency. It added that all 21 of its health centres resumed operations on Sunday, while it also named three crossings into the Strip that were open.

“The fragile calm in Gaza seems to hold,” UNRWA said in a situation report, while also highlighting that a Palestinian youth was killed and 19 other people injured on Friday by fire from the Israel Defense Forces.

“The people of Gaza used the official holiday on Friday to mourn their beloved ones, to rest, and to somehow find a way back into daily life,” the report noted. “The first heavy winter storms, accompanied by strong winds, rain, and cold temperatures, brought further hardship to all those living in damaged homes.”

Mr. Grandi also briefed the Commission on UNRWA’s work amid the crisis in Syria, where many of UNRWA’s beneficiaries are located and where violence – since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began over 20 months ago – has killed at least 20,000 people, mostly civilians, and spawned more than 440,000 refugees.

“Concerns about the welfare of the half-million Palestine refugees there have grown as they are increasingly affected by the conflict,” the Commissioner-General said. “UNRWA’s strategy in Syria, as in Gaza, is to be there, to maintain services, and to address the growing emergency needs as much as possible.”

(UN Press Release)

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Establishing a Nuclear-Free Zone in the Middle East

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has reaffirmed his support to convene a United Nations-sponsored Conference attended by all the States in the Middle East with the aim of establishing a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The Conference, also backed by Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, would take place next year in Finland, and would be facilitated by the Finnish Under-Secretary of State, Jaakko Laajava.

"I have worked closely with the co-conveners to support the facilitator, Mr. Jaakko Laajava," Mr. Ban said in a statement issued by his spokesperson. "He has conducted intensive consultations with the States of the region to prepare the convening of the conference in 2012. I have also personally engaged with the States of the region at the highest level to underline the importance of the Conference in promoting long-term regional stability, peace and security on the basis of equality." 

Mr. Ban stressed that organizing States have a collective responsibility to make every effort to convene the conference as mandated, and said he would continue to work with them on that basis. He also noted his full support for the proposal put forward by Mr. Laajava to conduct multilateral consultations in the shortest possible time to allow the conference to be held in early 2013.

"I encourage all States of the region to continue their constructive engagement with the facilitator," Mr. Ban said. "I also appeal to them to seize this rare opportunity to initiate a process that entails direct engagement on security issues -- a critical shortcoming at the moment -- and follow-on steps leading to achieving the complete elimination of all weapons of mass destruction in the region, nuclear, chemical and biological and their delivery systems."

The May 2010 review meeting of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) -- which tak
es place every five years -- called for a UN-sponsored conference to establish a nuclear-free Middle East to be attended by all States in the region.

Ahead of the 2010 meeting, Mr. Ban had called for the number of nuclear-weapon-free zones to multiply and ultimately span the globe. "My goal -- our goal -- is to make the whole world a nuclear-weapon-free zone," he stated, calling such zones the "success stories of the disarmament movement."

Currently, there are five such zones:

  • Latin America and the Caribbean;
  • the South Pacific;
  • South-East Asia;
  • Central Asia; and
  • Africa.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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Preventing the Spread of Ballistic Missiles

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has pledged the help of the United Nations to build on the achievements of a widely agreed code of conduct for preventing the spread of ballistic missiles. In a message delivered last week on his behalf, Mr. Ban told a gathering in Vienna commemorating the tenth anniversary of The Hague Code of Conduct to Prevent the Proliferation of Ballistic Missiles that such weapons “destabilize regional and international relations, and jeopardize progress on nuclear disarmament” because of their ability to deliver weapons of mass destruction. “I encourage your efforts to further develop the Code to take into account other types of missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction, such as cruise missiles,” Mr. Ban said in the remarks, delivered by the Deputy Director-General of the UN Office at Vienna, Mazlan Othman.  Click here to see a copy of the Secretary-General's remarks.

“The United Nations stands ready to work with subscribing States and all interested parties to further elaborate the Code and achieve its universality,” added Mr. Ban.

The Code emerged from international efforts to regulate access to ballistic missiles, and calls for restraint in their production, testing and export.

The Code was launched in The Hague, Netherlands, on 25 November 2002. The 193-member UN General Assembly welcomed the measure in a December 2004 resolution, which also called on all States to submit to it. By June of this year, 134 States had subscribed to the instrument.

“The world still lacks a universally accepted norm or instrument specifically governing the development, testing, production, acquisition, transfer, deployment or use of such missiles,” Mr. Ban said. “The Code, therefore, fills a critical void by enhancing transparency and building confidence among States, and by contributing to the peaceful use of outer space.”

Key, said Mr. Ban, was that the Code provided for the exchange of pre-launch notifications and annual declarations on space and ballistic missile policies – measures that he said could “supplant related bilateral and regional efforts.”

Mr. Ban offered his “strong support” for efforts to explore how to deepen the relationship between the Code and the UN. He also praised outreach activities aimed at promoting the Code, and welcomed a joint ministerial statement marking the instrument’s tenth anniversary.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Cyber Monday - ABA Section of International Law Books on Sale

It's "Cyber Monday" in the United States (and elsewhere), a day when many retailers offer generous one-day discounts for electronic shopping.  The American Bar Association Section of International Law has joined in with 40% off of its titles.  Use the code "CYBER12" to Save 40% on International Law Books at the ABA webstore.  You get a further discount if you are a member of the ABA Section of International Law.

New titles of possible interest for you include

  • Careers in International Law (4th edition)
  • The ABA Guide to Internaitonal Bar Admissions
  • The Unofficial Guide to Legal Studies in the U.S. for Foreign Lawyers


November 26, 2012 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)