Friday, February 10, 2012
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced hope that Argentina and the United Kingdom can avoid escalating their dispute over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and resolve their differences through dialogue. Mr. Ban met with Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman in New York this morning, and the two officials discussed recent developments relating to the islands in the South Atlantic Ocean.
Mr. Ban expressed concern about the increasingly strong exchanges between Buenos Aires and London on the issue, according to information released by a spokesperson for the Secretary-General. He called on the two governments to avoid escalating their dispute and to resolve their differences peacefully and through dialogue, stressing that his good offices remain available if requested.
(UN Press Release)
The United Nations human rights office today voiced concern at the trial of Judge Baltasar Garzón for probing alleged atrocities committed during Spain’s civil war, noting that the country is obliged under international law to investigate past serious human rights violations.
“Judges should not be subject to criminal prosecution for doing their job,” Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told reporters in Geneva.
The prominent Spanish judge was reportedly convicted yesterday in a separate trial for authorizing illegal phone-tapping, and suspended from the judiciary for 11 years.
He is also on trial on charges of “knowingly exceeding his jurisdiction” by admitting and investigating complaints related to crimes against humanity regarding allegations of enforced disappearances between 1936 and 1951, during the country’s civil war and then under the regime of Francisco Franco. These cases are allegedly inadmissible because of a Spanish amnesty law introduced after General Franco’s death and the expiration of the statute of limitations.
“Spain is obliged under international law to investigate past serious human rights violations, including those committed during the Franco regime, and to prosecute and punish those responsible,” said Mr. Colville. He recalled that, after reviewing the report presented by Spain, the UN Human Rights Committee in 2009 informed the country that it should repeal its amnesty law, which was not in conformity with international human rights law. In its concluding observations that same year, the Committee also recommended that Spain consider taking the necessary legislative measures to guarantee recognition by the domestic courts of the non-applicability of a statute of limitations to crimes against humanity, he said.
(UN Press Release)
The United Nations General Assembly will meet on Monday to discuss the situation in Syria, where the death toll keeps rising as Government forces continue their bloody crackdown against a pro-democracy uprising.
Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, will brief Member States on the latest developments after a request from General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser.
The 193-member Assembly will also discuss the report of the UN Human Rights Council from December last year in which that body strongly condemned abuses by Syrian authorities carried out as part of the crackdown.
More than 5,000 people have been killed since the uprising – part of the broader Arab Spring movement across North Africa and the Middle East – began in March last year, and senior UN officials have urged the Government to stop the violence and hold dialogue with opposition groups.
Earlier this week Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the UN is considering sending a joint observer mission with the League of Arab States in a bid to resolve the crisis engulfing the country. He also voiced regret that the Security Council was unable to agree on collective action on the issue after Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution endorsing Arab League efforts to end the crisis. “The failure to do so is disastrous for the people of Syria,” he said. “It has encouraged the Syrian Government to step up its war on its own people. Thousands have been killed in cold blood… I fear that the appalling brutality we are witnessing in [the city of] Homs, with heavy weapons firing into civilian neighbourhoods, is a grim harbinger of worse to come.”
Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for Ms. Pillay, told reporters today in Geneva that international law requires that during any armed conflict the wounded and sick must be treated humanely, and the neutrality of medical facilities must be respected.
Fadéla Chaib, a spokesperson for the UN World Health Organization (WHO), also expressed concern about press reports indicating that health-care facilities were not being treated as neutral premises. Ms. Chaib said there has been a massive increase in weapons-related injuries in recent days, and medical staff have also outlined disruptions to the supply of medicines and pharmaceuticals.
(UN Press Release)
Thursday, February 9, 2012
On January 16, 2012, the depositary of the Hague Conventions received the instruments of accession from Montenegro to (1) the Hague Convention of 15 November 1965 on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters and (2) the Hague Convention of 18 March 1970 on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters.
"The world of law is a world of words." So says Stephen Michael Shepard, a professor of International Law, Environmental Law, and several other subjects at the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville. Professor Shepard has lectured or presented in China, England, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, and Sweden. But for the past six or seven years (at least), he's been busy working as the general editor of a new edition of the Bouvier Law Dictionary, recently published by Wolters Kluwer.
The new work brings back to life the American law dictionary first published in 1839 by John Bouvier. I'm not a Bouvier scholar by any means, but I can at least let you read part of the wikipedia entry about John Bouvier so that you can appreciate the importance of this law dictionary:
John Bouvier (1787–1851) was born in Codogno, France, but came to the United States at an early age. He became a U.S. citizen in 1812, was admitted to the bar in 1818, and began practicing law in Philadelphia. During his years of practice and study, he noticed the lack of a solid American law dictionary. He decided to fill this need, and worked on a new law dictionary incessantly for 10 years. One of his main goals was to distinguish American law from its Englishantecedent. He finally presented it for publication in 1839. Like many of his generation, Bouvier used his preface to justify his work, stating the irrelevance of English legal dictionaries to the American legal system of the United States. He wanted to create a totally new law dictionary that would address the American legal system, so he derived his definitions almost wholly from customs, court decisions, and statutes of the United States.
So that's the book that Professor Sheppard has now updated. The Bouvier Law Dictionary was the one used by Daniel Webster, Abraham Lincoln, John Marshall, Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes, and all of the other great early American jurists and lawyers.
This new edition of the Bouvier Law Dictionary was well received at the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools, where Professor Sheppard kindly signed a copy for me. Actually the new dictionary is being published in three versions, a desk edition, the compact paperback version, and an electronic version.
John Bouvier drew on material for his first dictionary from all of the sources that influenced American law. This new edition of the Bouvier Law Dictionary "is an entirely new book, with new definitions for every term, based on quotations and entries from tens of thousands of new cases, books, and statutes, as well as on Bouvier's final text and other classic materials." (Preface, at page ix). I had to laugh at Professor Sheppard's acknowledgment page, where he thanked his student research assistants by saying that his "sincere thanks go to each of you, and I remind all of you who haven't returned some of my books that is never too late to do so."
The dictionary entries are easy to read and often provide a little more information about particular legal terms than you might find in other dictionaries. We will still use our other law dictionaries, but we now have a second source that we'll also consult.
The ISBN Number for the Compact Paperback Edition of the Bouvier Law Dictionary is 978-0-7355-6852-5.
Mark E. Wojcik (mew)
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled last Friday that Italy has violated its obligation to respect Germany’s immunity under international law by allowing civil claims seeking reparations for Nazi war crimes to be brought against it in Italian courts.
Germany filed the case in December 2008 after a court in Italy ordered Berlin to compensate an Italian civilian sent to a German labour camp in 1944. Germany had claimed that the ruling failed to respect the jurisdictional immunity that it has a right to under international law. It had also claimed that it had already paid reparations under international treaties with Italy and argued that as a sovereign State it has immunity in Italian courts. At the same time, it fully acknowledged the untold suffering inflicted on Italians during the war.
“The Italian Republic has violated its obligation to respect the immunity which the Federal Republic of Germany enjoys under international law by allowing civil claims to be brought against it based on violations of international humanitarian law committed by the German Reich between 1943 and 1945,” the ICJ, also known as the World Court, stated in its judgment.
Italy has also violated Germany’s immunity by taking measures of constraint against Villa Vigoni, German State property situated in Italian territory, and by declaring enforceable in Italy decisions of Greek civil courts based on violations of international humanitarian law committed in Greece by Nazi Germany. The Court added that Italy must ensure that the decisions of its courts and those of other judicial authorities infringing on Germany’s immunity “cease to have effect.”
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is the court charged with prosecuting cases of mass murder and other crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge regime. Last week, the ECCC Supreme Court Chamber increased the sentence of the former head of Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, and ordered that he be jailed for life, the maximum sentence under the law for crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
In July 2010, the trial chamber had sentenced him to only 35 years in prison for war crime and crimes against humanity.
Last week, the Supreme Court increased that term to life. It also overturned the trial chamber’s decision to grant Mr. Kaing remedy for illegal detention by the Cambodian military court between 1999 and 2007.
The prosecution had argued in its appeal that the earlier judgement gave “insufficient weight to the gravity of Duch’s crimes and his role and his willing participation in those crimes.” The court dismissed Mr. Kaing’s own appeal in which he argued that the ECCC had no jurisdiction over him.
Mr. Kaing headed the S-21 security prison in Phnom Penh, where numerous Cambodians were unlawfully detained, subjected to inhumane conditions and forced labour, tortured and executed in the late 1970s. A minimum of 12,272 people died at S-21 over a period of three years.
“The crimes committed by Kaing Guek Eav were undoubtedly among the worst in recorded human history,” said Judge Kong Srim, the president of the ECCC’S Supreme Court. “They deserve the highest penalty available to provide a fair and adequate response to the outrage these crimes invoked in victims, their families and relatives, the Cambodian people, and all human beings.”
The court rejected claims for reparation either because they would be unenforceable, or due to the fact that implementing them would require Mr. Kaing, who is indigent, to pay, or place the compensation obligation on the State.
The ECCC is a hybrid court set up after a 2003 agreement between the UN and the Cambodian Government with the aim of trying those accused of the worst crimes during the Khmer Rouge regime. As many as 2 million people are thought to have died during the rule of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979, which was then followed by a protracted period of civil war in the South-East Asian country.
(mew) (Adapted from a UN Press Release)
For an article on the rights of victims before international criminal tribunals, including a discussion of the ECCC trial court verdict in the Duch case, click here.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has sentenced a member of a legal team defending a Bosnian Serb to 12 months’ imprisonment for contempt of the court. The sentencing of Jelena Rašic follows her conviction last Tuesday of having knowingly and wilfully interfered with the administration of justice by procuring false witness statements in exchange for money.
Announcing her sentencing, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) stated that “the crimes which Jelena Rašic has admitted to having committed are grave. Procurement of false evidence in any situation amounts to direct interference with the administration of justice. When perpetrated before an international criminal jurisdiction, such as the Tribunal, such interference has far-reaching consequences.”
Ms. Rašic was the case manager on the defence team of Milan Lukic, a Bosnian Serb who was sentenced in 2010 by the trial chamber to life imprisonment for crimes committed in the eastern Bosnian town of Višegrad. Last month she pleaded guilty to five counts of contempt of court, including obtaining a false witness statement from Zuhdija Tabakovic in exchange for €1,000 in cash. Ms. Rašic was also convicted of inciting Mr. Tabakovic to offer bribes and to procure false witness statements from two other individuals. Mr. Tabakovic accepted and on 15 March 2010 was convicted of contempt of the tribunal and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment.
The tribunal said it would give Ms. Rašic credit for the 78 days she has already spent in detention, and also ruled that the remaining eight months of the sentence would be suspended for a period of two years. In a news release, the tribunal stated that the decision to suspend the remaining eight months of Ms. Rašic’s sentence was made taking into account the “difficult circumstances engendered by her being the only female detainee in the United Nations Detention Unit, Rašic’s health condition, her comparably young age and the fact that this is the first time she has received a prison sentence.”
The tribunal stated that Ms. Rašic will not have to serve the last eight months of her sentence unless she is convicted for another crime punishable with imprisonment over the next two years.
(modified from a UN Press Release)
A series of independent United Nations human rights experts today voiced concern about the impact of the trial of a prominent Spanish judge on his independence, particularly his efforts to investigate more than 100,000 allegations of enforced disappearances during the country’s civil war and then under the regime of Francisco Franco.
Judge Baltasar Garzón is currently on trial in Spain, charged with “knowingly exceeding his jurisdiction” by admitting and investigating complaints related to crimes against humanity regarding allegations of enforced disappearances between 1936 and 1951. These cases are allegedly inadmissible because of a Spanish amnesty law introduced after General Franco’s death and the expiration of the statute of limitations, and last week the country’s Supreme Court rejected a prosecution request to dismiss the case against Judge Garzón.
In a joint statement, Gabriela Knaul, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and the five-member UN Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances, said it was “regrettable that Judge Garzón could be punished for opening an investigation which is in line with Spain’s obligations to investigate human rights violations in accordance with international law principles.” Ms. Knaul noted in the statement that “supposed errors in judicial decisions should not be a reason for the removal of a judge and, even less, for a criminal proceeding to be launched,” adding that “autonomy in the interpretation of the law is a fundamental element in the role of a judge and for progress in human rights.”
The Working Group, for its part, underlined that enforced disappearance is a continuing offence and human rights violation as long as the fate or whereabouts of the victim remain unclarified. “Reconciliation between the State and the victims of enforced disappearances cannot happen without the clarification of each individual case, and an amnesty law should not allow an end to a State’s obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for disappearances.” The Working Group, set up in 1980 to help families determine the fate or whereabouts of disappeared relatives, is currently comprised of Jeremy Sarkin (Chair-Rapporteur), Olivier de Frouville (Vice-Chair), Ariel Dulitzky, Jasminka Dzumhur, and Osman El-Hajjé.
(UN Press Release)
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Save the Date -- The U.S. Department of State's Advisory Committee on Private International La (ACPIL) will hold its next general review of the "state of the world" concerning private international law on Thursday, October 11th and Friday, October 12th, 2012 in Washington, D.C. The meeting will be held at the Michael K. Young Faculty Conference Center, George Washington University Law School, 2000 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20052.
Hat tip to Houston Putnam Lowry
The Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold hearings titled “Reflections on the Revolution in Egypt.” The hearings will be held on February 15, 2012, at 2:30 pm, and the next day at 1:00 p.m., in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
The Chicago Bar Association will present a program on Human Rights in Burma on Friday, February 24, 2012. Click here for more information about the program.
Monday, February 6, 2012
The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) has announced its 2012 Student Writing Competition. Here is the announcement (which we are including in three langauges to increase the number of students that this announcement will reach). Click here for more information.
2012 ICSID Review Student Writing Competition
ICSID is pleased to announce the annual ICSID Review—Foreign Investment Law Journal Student Writing Competition. Current law students are invited to submit an article on a procedural or substantive issue in international investment arbitration by May 1, 2012. The author of the winning submission will receive a cash prize of US$1000.00 and will have his or her essay published in a future issue of the ICSID Review. Please see the Student Writing Competition page for the official announcement, detailed contest rules and article submission guidelines.
Concours de rédaction de la Revue du CIRDI pour étudiants – 2012
Le CIRDI a le plaisir d’annoncer le Concours annuel de rédaction de la Revue du CIRDI, ICSID—Foreign Investment Law Journal, pour étudiants. Les étudiants actuellement en faculté de droit sont invités à soumettre un article sur une question de procédure ou de fond dans l'arbitrage international en matière d’investissements d'ici le 1 mai 2012. L'auteur de la soumission gagnante recevra un prix de 1.000 USD en espèces et verra son essai publié dans l’un des prochains numéros de la Revue du CIRDI. Merci de vous référer à la page Concours de rédaction pour étudiants pour l'annonce officielle, le règlement détaillé du concours et les conseils pour la soumission des essais.
Concurso del ICSID Review del 2012 para trabajos escritos de estudiantes
El CIADI se complace en anunciar su Concurso anual del ICSID Review—Foreign Investment Law Journal del 2012 para trabajos escritos de estudiantes. Por la presente se invita a los estudiantes de derecho a presentar un artículo sobre alguna cuestión procesal o sustantiva en materia de arbitraje internacional de inversión. Los artículos deberán presentarse a más tardar el 1 de mayo de 2012. El autor del artículo que resulte ganador recibirá un premio en efectivo de US$ 1.000,00. Además, su ensayo será publicado en un próximo número del ICSID Review. Favor de consultar la página del Concurso de trabajos escritos de estudiantes para mayor información sobre la convocatoria oficial, las reglas del concurso y las directrices para la presentación del artículo.
Hat tip to Mike King, Legal Counsel at ICSID for Institutional Matters
The International Court of Justice announced today that Judge Peter Tomka of Slovakia was elected President of the ICJ and Judge Bernardo Sepúlveda-Amor of Mexico was elected Vice-President. Each will serve a term of three years. More information may be found in the ICJ press release. Congratulations to them both.