February 25, 2012
President Obama Extends Order Against Cuba
President Obama has continued the "National Emergency With Respect to Cuba." The order continues the national emergency declared in 1996, when Cuba shot down two unarmed civilian aircraft in international airspace north of Cuba. Click here to read more at FR11379.
Hat tip to the Governmental Affairs Office of the American Bar Association.
February 24, 2012
ICC will Expand Investigations into War Crims in Côte d’Ivoire
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced that it will expand the scope of its investigation into possible war crimes in Côte d’Ivoire, currently limited to the period after contested presidential elections in late 2010, to as far back as the start of the West African country’s civil war in 2002.
In a press release, the ICC said that three judges serving in one of its pre-trial chambers authorized an expansion of the investigation to cover any alleged crimes committed between 19 September 2002 and 28 November 2010, the date of the presidential elections. “The chamber considered that the violent events in Côte d’Ivoire in this period (including the events since 28 November 2010) are to be treated as a single situation, in which an ongoing crisis involving a prolonged political dispute and power struggle culminated in the events in relation to which the chamber earlier authorized an investigation,” the press release stated. “Concentrating on the most significant of the samples of incidents, the chamber concluded that there is reasonable basis to believe that, in the course of these events, acts of murder and rape that could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity were committed.”
Last October, the ICC first authorized prosecutors to investigate alleged abuses committed in the aftermath of the 2010 election, when the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down despite losing the United Nations-certified election to Alassane Ouattara.
Deadly violence followed until Mr. Gbagbo was captured in April last year and in November, after the issuing of an arrest warrant, he was transferred by Ivorian authorities to ICC custody in The Hague in the Netherlands, where the court is based.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
ICTY Sentences Former Serb Official for Refusing to Testify in Karadzic Trial
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) today sentenced a former municipal officer to two months in prison for refusing to testify in the trial of the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžic.
Milan Tupajic, former chief of the crisis staff and war-time president of the municipality of Sokolac in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was found guilty of contempt of court by the ICTY. Announcing its decision, the ICTY trial chamber said that Mr. Tupajic’s failure to comply with an order to appear as a witness in the Karadžic trial had deprived that case of relevant evidence.
Mr. Tupajic had told the court that his main reason for refusing to appear related to health concerns. But the judges found that “his health concerns do not constitute a just excuse for his failure to comply with the orders as contained in the subpoenas.”
The ICTY said Mr. Tupajic, who was arrested in December last year, was entitled to credit for time already served in detention.
Mr. Karadžic is charged with two counts of genocide and a series of other crimes, including murder, extermination, persecution, deportation and hostage taking, related to actions against Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Croats and other non-Serb civilians in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. His trial began in October 2009.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
On the Resignation of Haiti's Prime Minister
The chief of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) expressed his deep concern following the resignation of Prime Minister Garry Conille, just four months after his appointment. Mariano Fernández Amunátegui, who is also the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Haiti, stressed in a statement that “the resignation of Mr. Conille shows, unfortunately, that rifts have taken over reconciliation efforts to the detriment of the country, while the Haitian population are aspiring to initiate a new phase that will lead towards reconstruction, economic growth, and strengthening of the rule of law.”
Mr. Fernández Amunátegui praised the contribution of Mr. Conille in the stabilization of the country, and called on Haitian authorities to focus and maintain a harmonious atmosphere that is conducive to the democratic stabilization and economic recovery of the country. He also urged them to designate a new prime minister as soon as possible to avoid delaying the adoption of elements that form the basis of political stability such as adopting a national budget, developing a consensus agenda, publishing amendments to the constitution and organizing local, municipal and senatorial elections.
Earlier this month, the Security Council called on the Government to implement security and improve the living conditions of thousands of Haitians who remain displaced after the January 2010 earthquake.
MINUSTAH, which has been in place in the country since 2004, is closely working with authorities to achieve progress on reconstruction, job creation and capacity building.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
February 22, 2012
UN Security Council Votes Unanimously to Urge Increase in AU Troops in Somalia
The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously today to call on the African Union (AU) to increase the size of its peacekeeping force in Somalia (AMISOM) from 12,000 to 17,000 troops to deal with continued insecurity in the impoverished country.
Since 2007, AMISOM has been trying to bring peace to a country that has had no functioning central government for the past 20 years, during which to time it has been torn apart by factional fighting and has faced a series of humanitarian crises.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the Council’s decision, stressing the expansion is critical to provide support to the transitional government and degrade the insurgency’s military capabilities across the country.
The London Conference on Somalia will be held tomorrow at which representatives of various Member States will meet to strengthen the international effort to tackle some of the country’s most pressing issues.
Currently, one of the key challenges in Somalia is piracy. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), "in 2011, pirates received about $170 million in ransoms for hijacked vessels and crews. The figure has risen since 2010, when ransoms paid amounted to over $110 million." The Executive Director of UNODC was quoted as saying,“The money is causing steep price rises in the Horn of Africa and is also being used for drugs, weapons and alcohol smuggling, as well as human trafficking." He also expressed concern regarding strong evidence of cooperation between the militant group Al-Shabaab and pirate networks.
The UNSC resolution today also calls on Somali authorities to “take the necessary measures” to prevent the export of charcoal from the country, where the destruction of trees for charcoal has contributed to devastating droughts and served as a significant source of revenue for Al-Shabaab. It also asks other UN Member States to take steps to prevent the direct or indirect import of charcoal.
Special Tribunal for Lebanon Exended
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has extended the mandate by another three years of the United Nations-backed independent tribunal set up to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
Mr. Ban extended the mandate of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which is based in The Hague in the Netherlands, by three years from 1 March this year, according to information released by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson. Mr. Hariri and 22 others were killed on 14 February 2005 after a massive car bomb exploded as his motorcade passed through central Beirut.
Salim Jamil Ayyash, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra, all Lebanese nationals, have been indicted over the killing. They will be tried in absentia after the STL determined earlier this month that all reasonable attempts had been made to inform the four men of the charges they face and to bring them before the court.
Mr. Ban’s spokesperson noted that the Secretary-General reaffirms the UN’s commitment to support the efforts of the STL to uncover the truth behind the bombing so as to bring those responsible to justice and to send a message that impunity for such major crimes will not be tolerated. The tribunal is an independent court created at the request of the Lebanese Government, with a mandate issued by the Security Council.
(UN Press Release)
Viet Nam Seeks Consultations in WTO Dispute Against United States
Viet Nam requested consultations with the United States under the WTO dispute settlement system concerning the latter’s anti-dumping measures on certain frozen warmwater shrimp from Viet Nam. Click here to read more.
February 21, 2012
Global Legal Skills Conference in Costa Rica
The seventh Global Legal Skills Conference will be held in San Jose, Costa Rica, from March 12-14, 2012.
Lawyers and law professors from around the world will gather to discuss the latest ideas in legal skills education, Legal English, Legal Spanish, continuing legal education, skills for mediation and arbitration, contract drafting, publishing, and other topics. Confirmed participants include presenters from Costa Rica, Mexico, the United States, Russia, Singapore, Japan, and other countries.
The conference sessions will be held at the Gran Hotel Costa Rica and at the University of Costa Rica Faculty of Law. The plenary session speakers include a justice from the Supreme Court of Costa Rica.
Click here for the Global Legal Skills website. The website has information on hotels and registration. But even if you're not attending this year's GLS conference, you should still visit the website to join the international community interested in Legal English and other aspects of global legal skills education.
More Arrests of Human Rights Activists in Syria
A group of independent United Nations experts today condemned the arrest of at least 16 people in Syria, including prominent human rights figures, and called for the release of all those arbitrarily detained amid the ongoing Government crackdown on that began nearly a year ago. In a news release issued in Geneva, the experts, who all report to the UN Human Rights Council, stated that it appears the arrests and detention are directly linked to the activities of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression in the defence of human rights. They also voiced their concern that the individuals may be subjected to torture and ill treatment.
“The Syrian authorities should end all acts of harassment against human rights defenders and release all those arbitrarily arrested and detained,” said the UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya; freedom of expression, Frank La Rue; torture, Juan Méndez; and the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, El Hadji Malick Sow. Last Thursday – the same day that the General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning the violent Government crackdown in Syria – security forces raided the offices of the Centre, a prominent human rights organization, according to the news release. Everyone there, including its director, Mazen Darwich, blogger Razan Ghazawi, and at least 14 other people, were reportedly arrested, blindfolded and taken to Al Jawiya in Mezza airport. “The arrest of these persons, including prominent human rights defenders, is emblematic of an alarming and recurrent pattern of arbitrary detention in Syria since March 2011. Detention without legal basis should never be used as a method of repression,” said Mr. Sow.
Ms. Sekaggya underscored that States must ensure that no harm comes either physically or mentally to human rights defenders. “The current situation in Syria does not provide a pretext for Governments to harass and arbitrarily detain human rights defenders,” she said. “On the contrary, they play a crucial role in the protection of human rights in high-risk situations. The Government should work with them, not against them.”
More than 5,400 people are believed to have been killed since the uprising in Syria – part of the broader Arab Spring movement across North Africa and the Middle East – began in March last year, and senior UN officials have repeatedly urged the Government to stop the violence and hold dialogue with opposition groups. In addition, tens of thousands, including children, have been arrested, with more than 18,000 reportedly still arbitrarily held in detention. Thousands more are reported missing amid the crisis, which has sent 25,000 people to neighbouring and other countries to seek refuge and displaced more than 70,000 within Syria.
(From a UN Press Release)
February 20, 2012
World Day of Social Justice
In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly declared February 20 to be the World Day of Social Justice by way of Resolution A/Res/62/10. The Resolution encourages Member States to devote this day to activities that eradicate poverty and promote full and decent employment, gender equity, and social well-being and justice for all.
February 19, 2012
Agreement at National Constitutional Conference for Somalia
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the political agreement reached by Somalis at a national constitutional conference, saying the accord "sets out clear steps for ending the transition and putting in place a constitutional order" in the war-scarred, impoverished country. In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said the stakeholders who took part in the so-called Garowe II conference, which wrapped up on Friday, deserved credit for reaching the agreement. "The Secretary-General applauds the spirit of unity and commitment demonstrated by the Roadmap signatories as well as representatives from the areas recently recovered from Al-Shabaab who participated," the statement noted.
Senior members of Somalia's Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs), parliamentary leaders and representatives of self-declared autonomous regions within Somalia all took part in the conference, which was held in Garowe, Puntland. Augustine Mahiga, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Somalia, also participated in the conference, which took place less than a week before the international community gathers in London for a major conference on the way forward for Somalia.
The TFIs are in the process of implementing a roadmap devised in September last year. That roadmap spells out priority measures to be carried out before the current transitional governing arrangements end in August.
Mr. Ban said in today's statement that he particularly welcomed the commitment to include a minimum of 30 per cent women in the Independent Electoral Commission, the Constituent Assembly and the new Federal Parliament.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)