February 4, 2012
International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation
February 6 is the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FHM). FGM has been recognized internationally as a harmful practice and a violation of the human rights of women and girls. FGM is defined as the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to female genital organs for no medical reason. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the practice of FGM has no known health benefits. To the contrary, it is associated with both short-term and long-term risks to the physical, mental and sexual well-being of women and girls. WHO estimates that 140 million women and girls are currently affected by FGM and that another 3 million girls are at risk. It advocates an end to this harmful practice.
February 2, 2012
Russia Joins OECD Convention Against Bribery
The BNA WTO Reporter is reporting that on February 1, 2012, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed Federal Law No. 3-FZ to join the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.
International Committee of the ABA Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section
The International Committee of the American Bar Association Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section ("TIPS") will meet in New Orleans this Saturday, February 4, 2012, at 1:00 p.m. in the New Orleans Marriott Hotel, Napoleon Room, 41st Floor. The meeting takes place during the Mid-year Meeting of the American Bar Association.
The ABA Section of International Law and ABA TIPS are also hosting a joint reception on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. at Antoine's Restaurant, 713 Rue Saint Louis. Tickets for that reception are $60.00.
Ethiopia Sentences Journalists Under Anti-Terrorism Laws
A group of independent United Nations human rights experts today spoke out against the ongoing use of anti-terrorism laws to curb freedom of expression in Ethiopia, where several journalists were recently given prison sentences under such legislation. “Journalists play a crucial role in promoting accountability of public officials by investigating and informing the public about human rights violations,” said Frank La Rue, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression. “They should not face criminal proceedings for carrying out their legitimate work, let alone be severely punished.”
A week ago, three journalists and two opposition politicians were given prison sentences ranging from 14 years to life imprisonment under Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism laws. This followed the sentencing of two Swedish journalists to 11 years in prison in December, a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated.
Another 24 defendants are scheduled to appear in court next month, for various charges under the anti-terrorism law, several of whom may face the death sentence if convicted.
Ben Emmerson, the Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, said that “the anti-terrorism provisions should not be abused and need to be clearly defined in Ethiopian criminal law to ensure that they do not go counter to internationally guaranteed human rights.”
The Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, emphasized that “journalists, bloggers and others advocating for increased respect for human rights should not be subject to pressure for the mere fact that their views are not in alignment with those of the Government.” She voiced concern at the case of Eskinder Nega, a blogger and human rights defender who may face the death penalty if convicted. Mr. Nega has been advocating for reform on the issue of the right to assemble peacefully in public.
Similarly, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, cautioned against the ongoing campaign of harassment against associations expressing dissenting views, while Gabriela Knaul, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, deplored the reported failure to ensure the defendants’ right to a fair trial.
The experts called on the Ethiopian Government to respect the concerned individuals’ fundamental rights, especially their right to a fair trial, and reiterated the need to apply anti-terrorism legislation cautiously and in accordance with the country’s international human rights obligations.
(UN Press Release)
Transnational Litigation and Civil Procedure
Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles holds a conference tomorrow on "Our Courts and the World: Transnational Litigation and Civil Procedure." Get more information by clicking here. or call the Southwestern Journal of International Law at 213-738-6857.
To Help Pakistan Recover from Flood, the EU Wants to Temporarily Lift Duties on Products from Pakistan
The World Trade Organization announced that the Council for Trade in Goods has approved a request by the European Union to temporarily lift EU duties on certain products from Pakistan. The proposal was designed to help Pakistan recover from massive floods in 2010. The request for a waiver from its WTO obligations was initially made by the EU on November 30, 2010 and approved yesterday by the Council for Trade in Goods. Click here for more information, including a discussion of the specific measures, reactions of other countries, and information on what happens now with the request.
February 1, 2012
Kenyan Court Sentences Five Men Who Murdered a UN Staff Member
The Kenyan High Court has sentenced five men to 56 years in prison each for the 2008 murder of a United Nations World Food Programme staff member. Silence Chirara, a national of Zimbabwe, was coordinating logistics operations in South Sudan for the United Nations World Food Programme when he was ambushed and killed while driving a UN vehicle in the town of Lokichoggio, in northwest Kenya. He was 37.
“Nothing can be done to replace the life of this dedicated humanitarian and father, but justice has now been allowed to run its course,” WFP said in a statement. “These stiff prison sentences send an important message that those who harm humanitarian workers shall be brought to justice.”
WFP staff members said their thoughts were with Silence’s wife and his two children. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms any attack on humanitarian workers. When action is taken, this serves as a deterrent to groups or individuals who are targeting humanitarian staff in their places of work,” the statement read.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
January 31, 2012
Journalist Assassinated in Somalia
Hassan Osman Abdi, 29, a journalist and director of the Shabelle Media Network, a private radio and television network, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on Saturday at his home in Mogadishu, Somalia, according to local sources cited by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
“The murder of Hassan Osman Abdi is a severe blow to a country where the media have paid a heavy price for exercising the human right to freedom of expression,” said Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director-General, in a press release. “The death of journalists undermines the right of people to be kept informed. Somalia’s reconciliation and reconstruction will not take place without securing respect for these two rights.” She urged the Somali authorities to take urgent measures to improve the safety of journalists and investigate the murder of Mr. Abdi, who was reportedly shot by five gunmen after arriving home from Radio Shabelle, where he worked on political issues.
Some 21 Somali journalists and other media professionals have been listed on UNESCO’s dedicated web page ‘UNESCO Remembers Assassinated Journalists.’
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
UN Security Council Debates Syria
The United Nations Security Council this afternoon began debate on the situation in Syria, where thousands of people have been killed over the past 10 months in a Government crackdown against a popular uprising.
Nabil El Araby, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, briefed the Council on the work of the League’s human rights monitors inside Syria, after which senior representatives of Member States are scheduled to address the 15-member body on the situation in the Middle East country. The UN has repeatedly urged the Syrian leadership to end the violence, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urging President Bashar al-Assad “stop killing his own people” and embark on a path to greater democracy and heed the people’s call for representation and respect of human rights.
During his visit to Jordan today, Mr. Ban stated that “it is more urgent than ever to put an end to this bloodshed and violence, to start a credible political solution that addresses the legitimate aspiration of the Syrian people and to protect their fundamental freedoms.” He voiced his hope that Council will, at today’s meeting, “bear good results, so that they can meet the expectations of the international community.”
A wave of popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, known as the Arab Spring, calling for greater freedoms and reforms has led to the toppling of long-standing regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen since January 2011.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
ICTY Accepts Plea Agreement in Contempt of Court Trial
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) today accepted the plea agreement filed in the contempt of court trial of Jelena Rašic, who was accused of procuring false statements from witnesses in exchange for money.
Ms. Rašic had pleaded guilty to all five counts of contempt of court at her initial appearance before the ICTY in September 2010. She had been granted provisional release in November, pending the start of trial. The date of the judgement hearing in Ms. Rašic’s case will be confirmed in due course.
Ms. Rašic was the case manager on the defence team of Milan Lukic, a Bosnian Serb who was sentenced by the trial chamber to life imprisonment for crimes committed in the eastern Bosnian town of Višegrad. She pleaded guilty to knowingly and willingly interfering with the Tribunal’s administration of justice by procuring a false witness statement from Zuhdija Tabakovic from Višegrad in exchange for €1,000 in cash. She also pleaded guilty to inciting Mr. Tabakovic to offer bribes and to procure false witness statements from two other individuals. Mr. Tabakovic was convicted of contempt in March 2010 and was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
January 30, 2012
Live from "L" - The Arab Spring and International Law
The American Bar Association Section of International Law is sponsoring the second annual "Live from L" - The Office of the Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State on Thursday, February 23rd, 2012 from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM Eastern Time. The topic is "The Arab Spring and International Law."
The program will be webcast with the Office of Legal Adviser from the Jacob Burns Moot Courtroom of the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. Co-sponsors include the American Society of International Law and The George Washington University School of Law.
The program will be moderated by Professor Sean D. Murphy of George Washington University, and speakers will include:
Harold Hongju Koh, Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State
Linda Jacobson, Assistant Legal Adviser for African and Near Eastern Affairs
Emily Kimball, Attorney Adviser, Office of United Nations Affairs
Meg Pickering, Attorney Adviser, Office of Legislation and Foreign Assistance
Margaret Taylor, Attorney Adviser, Office of Economic and Business Affairs
Interested persons may attend the program in person at George Washington University Law School or by webcast or teleconference. For more information, or to register, click here.