Thursday, February 28, 2013
American Bar Association President Laurel Bellows will deliver The John Marshall Law School Herzog Lecture on Monday, April 8, 2013 on the problem of Human Trafficking. The lecture will be held at 3:00 p.m. at the Chicago Bar Association, a co-sponsor of the program, followed by a reception at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. Registration information for the free program will be available soon. Here is a four-minute video with President Bellows' remarks about the problem of Human Trafficking.
As a reminder, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has invited public comment on proposed changes to its rules of procedure, policies and practices. Comments are due tomorrow, March 1, 2013.
The reform program is divided in three parts: a draft reform of the Rules of Procedure, a plan of possible reforms to the Strategic Plan of the Commission, and a program for changes in practices. More information and the substance of the proposals for reform may be found on the IACHR website here.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
As the main United Nations human rights body began its work this week, senior UN officials stressed the importance of strengthening international processes that will monitor and prevent rights violations around the world as well as hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes.
Addressing the opening of the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that despite significant progress over the past two decades on issues such as the elimination of violence against women and tackling impunity for international crimes, there continue to be systematic human rights violations around the world. “The promise of respecting all human rights for all people is still a dream for too many,” Ms. Pillay said. “Hundreds of thousands of people have died in genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia and Herzegovina; the Palestinian territories are still occupied; massive violations have occurred in Iraq and Sri Lanka; and war crimes continue to be committed in numerous internal conflicts, including those continuing in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Sudan and Syria.
Ms. Pillay underlined that while many instances of human rights violations have been referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) – the world’s first permanent tribunal with the powers to prosecute suspected perpetrators of war crimes – this can only happen if the State concerned is among the 122 States Parties of the Rome Statute, or if a situation is referred to it by the Security Council.
In particular, Ms. Pillay said this had not happened in the case of Syria, where there have been constant allegations of human right violations committed by the Government forces and the opposition since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.
“Two important situations – Darfur in 2008 and Libya in 2011 – have been referred, but the Security Council has so far failed with regard to Syria, despite the repeated reports of widespread or systematic crimes and violations by my office, the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, civil society organizations and Special Procedures,” she said.
In September, Ms. Pillay urged the Security Council to refer the case of Syria to the ICC. Since then, the High Commissioner has repeated this call, warning that possibly up to 70,000 people have been killed, hundreds of thousands have been displaced, and over 4 million people have been affected by the violence and are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.
The President of the General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic, told the Council that, like Ms. Pillay, he was gravely concerned with the situation in Syria, and emphasized the need to act immediately to achieve a political solution. “For close to two years, the international community has failed to put a stop to the carnage,” he said. “The immediate cessation of hostilities should be our foremost priority.” Mr. Jeremic appealed to all sides to cease the violence, and warned that without a political solution the consequences would be devastating for the country and the international community as a whole. “There is a manifest danger that the violence will simply be allowed to run its course – a scenario that would continue to disproportionately affect the civilian population.”
In her address to the Council, Ms. Pillay also noted that while the increased involvement of civil society in defending human rights is a welcome development, there have been an alarming number of reports of governments persecuting human rights defenders because of the nature of their work. “I continue to hear of brave human rights defenders, journalists or bloggers who have been threatened, harassed, arrested or killed because of their work on behalf of the human rights of others,” Ms. Pillay said. “Such intimidation has sometimes even occurred during the proceedings of this Council. We must never tolerate such pressure, or reprisals against those who rightly seek to engage the international human rights system.” Ms. Pillay also urged Member States to continue to support the work of her office (OHCHR) by providing the necessary resources it requires to fulfil its mandate “to promote and protect the human rights of everyone everywhere.”
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Federal courts in the United States today issued two decisions which support the federal government's power over foreign affairs and continue the courts' hands off approach when it comes to foreign affairs.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision finding that various news reporters, defense attorneys, human rights organizations and others do not have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the government's warrantless wiretapping program, authorized by the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). In the case of Clapper v. Amnesty International, No. 11-1025, the majority of the Supreme Court held that the plaintiffs' assertions of injury as a result of likely surveillance under the wiretapping program due to the nature of the plaintiffs' activities were too speculative to constitute an "injury".
In another case, a U.S. District Court held that President Obama has the authority to require Chinese investors to sell their interests in certain wind turbine farms in the Pacific Northwest because of unspecified national security concerns arising from the proximity to a U.S. Navy installation. The President issued his divestiture order pursuant to Section 721 of the Defense Production Act of 1950. The judge held that the Act prohibits judicial review of the President's order. However, the court will allow Ralls Corporation to continue to pursue its related claim that it is being deprived of property without due process of law because the government did not follow proper procedures under section 721.
Monday, February 25, 2013
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today reiterated his call for a global moratorium on applying the death penalty, stressing the United Nations’ long history of opposing the practice and the growing momentum among the international community to permanently end it.
“A global moratorium is a crucial stepping stone towards full worldwide abolition,” Mr. Ban said in a message delivered by the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang. “Capital punishment is inconsistent with the mission of the United Nations to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights and the dignity and worth of the human person,” Ms. Kang read, during an event at the Human Rights Council in Geneva organized by the International Commission against the Death Penalty, an independent body opposed to capital punishment.
The UN General Assembly first voted on a moratorium in 2007, and again in December 2012 with the support of 111 countries, 41 against and 34 abstentions. The resolution called for a progressive restriction on the use of capital punishment and eliminating it entirely for felons below the age of 18 and pregnant women. Although not legally binding, the UN moratorium on executions carries moral and political weight.
Approximately150 countries have either abolished the death penalty or do not practice it, but Mr. Ban noted that some recently reinstated the practice. Thousands of people are executed each year, “often in violation of international standards, such as the right to fair trial and due process,” Mr. Ban said. He added that the death penalty is still used for a wide range of crimes that do not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes” and based on information that is not transparent. In addition, sometimes “wrongful convictions and miscarriages of justice” can occur in well-functioning legal systems that sentence and execute persons who have been ultimately proven innocent, Mr. Ban said.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Sunday, February 24, 2013
The International Court of Justice has issued a unanimous order allowing New Zealand to intervene in the pending case brought before it by Australia against Japan.
The ICJ found that New Zealand's intervention relates to points of interpretation of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, the treaty at the heart of the case between Australia and Japan. That Convention provides in Article VIII(1) that "any Contracting Goverment may grant to any of its nationals a special permit authorizing it to kill, take, and treat whales for purposes of scientific research . . . ."
Japan did not object as such to the admissibility of New Zealand's intervention, but it stated that "certain serious anomalies" would result from having New Zealand join as an intervenor. In particular, Japan stressed the need to ensure the equality of parties before the ICJ and expressed concern that Australia and New Zealand could "avoid some of the safeguards" of procedural equality under the ICJ's Statute and Rules.
As a particular example, Japan pointed out that Australia had already appointed a judge ad hoc to the case (something countries can do when the bench does not include one of its own nationals), but that there was a judge from New Zealand already on the bench. The ICJ stated that the Japanese concerns did not affect the admissibility of New Zealand's petition to intervene, and that under Article 63 of the ICJ Statute and Rule 82 of the ICJ Rules, intervenors are limited to submitting observations on the construction of the treaty in question and that they do not become a party to the proceedings to deal with any other aspect of the case before the Court.
Click here to read the ICJ Press Release, which contains more details about the issue of Australia's ad hoc judge as well as summaries of the separate opinions and declaration of:
- Judge Owada (who voted in favor of the order to intervene but who expressed his serious reservations that New Zealand's intervention could affect the equality of the parties and thus the fair administration of justice);
- Judge Cancado Trindade (who voted in favor but found -- in a ten-part separate opinion that is sure to be studied carefully -- that a proper understanding of intervention in legal proceedings before the ICJ would contribute to the further development of international legal procedure); and
- Judge Gaja (who voted in favor but wrote in a separate declaration that the ICJ should have specifically considered that the construction of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling would be binding on intervening states).
Mark E. Wojcik (mew)
Saturday, February 23, 2013
The Editors of the Melbourne Journal of International Law invite submissions for their second issue of 2013, which will focus on the concepts of the state and sovereignty, with emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches to international legal theory. Here's the idea:
In recent years, legal and political developments in the international arena — Kosovo’s unilateral secession from Serbia; the operation of de facto governments by breakaway states such as Ossetia and Abkhazia within the sovereign territory of Georgia; the recognition of ‘rebel’ governments in Libya and Syria; and the UN General Assembly’s recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state — have posed new challenges to these foundational concepts of international law.
Simultaneously, scholars drawing on diverse theoretical traditions have established a sophisticated literature that reveals some of the many tensions implicit in the history and practice of international law. [Issue] 14(2) will develop this conversation by inviting scholarship — in the form of articles, commentaries, case notes and book reviews — analysing contemporary jurisprudential questions raised by ‘the state’ and ‘sovereignty’.
Articles should be in the vicinity of 8 000 to 20 000 words in length and be an original and detailed contribution to international law scholarship. Commentaries explore recent developments in a specific field of international law and their practical applications, and should be between 5 000 and 8 000 words in length.
The submissions deadline for 14(2) is 1 July 2013, and the Issue will be published in November.
All articles, case notes, commentaries, and review essays published in MJIL are subjected to a double-blind refereeing process, involving at least two specialists in the field. Once accepted for publication, submissions will then be edited for compliance with the Australian Guide to Legal Citation. Authors will have an opportunity to review the final version of the piece prior to publication. More information on the submissions process can be found at their website by clicking here.
Hat tips to Chelsea Driessen, Timothy Gorton and Candice Parr, 2013 Editors of the Melbourne Journal of International Law.
We have received a report that Peter H. Kooijmans died on February 13, 2013, at the age of 79. He was the United Nations' first special rapporteur on torture. He also served as a judge of the International Court of Justice from 1997 to 2006. In 2006, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands appointed him as a Knight of the Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau.
Thank you, Barbara Kwiatkowska, for sharing the news. We celebrate his life and his many contributions to the development of international law and the promotion of international human rights.
(mew) (Photo from the University of Leiden)
Friday, February 22, 2013
The United Nations "Special Committee on Decolonization" is known formally as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, was set up two years after the U.N. General Assembly adopted that Declaration. The Declaration affirmed the right of all people to self-determination and proclaimed that colonialism should be brought to a speedy and unconditional end. It states that the subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, contravenes the UN Charter and impedes the promotion of world peace and cooperation.
More than 80 former colonies, comprising some 750 million people, have gained independence since the creation of the United Nations. There are now only 16 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories. Those Territories are home to nearly two million people. The U.N. Special Committee on Decolonization is starting its annual meeting this week in New York.
The 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories are:
- New Caledonia,
- Western Sahara,
- American Samoa,
- British Virgin Islands,
- Cayman Islands,
- Saint Helena,
- Turks and Caicos Islands,
- United States Virgin Islands,
- Tokelau, and
- the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).
(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)
Yesterday, the United States announced its nomination of Professor James L. Cavallaro of Stanford Law School to serve as a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The elections will be held during the June 2013 General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Antigua, Guatemala. The following information is taken from a U.S. State Department press release:
"Professor Cavallaro is currently Professor of Law and founding director of Stanford Law School’s International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic as well as the Stanford Human Rights Center. Before his appointment at Stanford, Cavallaro was professor of law and executive director of the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School. Highly respected in the areas of human rights and international law, Professor Cavallaro has extensive knowledge of the Inter-American human rights system and the operation of both national and international adjudicatory processes.
The independent and autonomous IACHR promotes and defends human rights in all member states of the OAS. It impacts thousands of lives in the hemisphere through the issuance of reports on petitions and cases, as well as recommendations, to OAS member states to improve the human rights’ conditions in their countries.
Over the last half century, the IACHR has played a critical role in monitoring and supporting OAS member state adherence to human rights commitments. Its seven Commission members are recognized experts in human rights elected in their own right as individuals, not as representatives of governments. Their members’ political autonomy and objectivity distinguish the IACHR as a leading human rights body.
The promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as embodied in the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, is a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. The United States is pleased to be a strong supporter of the IACHR, and is committed to continuing support for the Commission’s work and its independence. Preserving the IACHR’s autonomy is a pillar of our human rights policy in the region."
Congratulations to Professor Cavallaro!
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Former Haitian President Goes on Trial for Corruption but Not Human Rights Violations -- U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Reminds Judges that there is No Statute of Limitation for Serious Abuses of Human Rights
A senior United Nations official today urged Haiti to ensure there is no impunity for human rights violations committed during the presidency of Jean-Claude Duvalier, who is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday. Serious human rights violations, including torture, rape, and extrajudicial killings have been extensively documented by Haitian and international human rights organizations to have occurred in the country during Mr. Duvalier’s 15-year rule, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). “Such systematic violations of rights must not remain unaddressed,” said High Commissioner Navi Pillay. “All those Haitians who suffered such abuses have a right to see justice is done.”
Last month, a judge ruled that Mr. Duvalier would be prosecuted for corruption charges but not for human rights abuses. The decision was appealed, and the court will decide in the next few days whether the decision still holds.
“I encourage the judicial authorities to act on their responsibilities and ensure the victims are provided with the long overdue justice they deserve,” Ms. Pillay said, adding that there is no statute of limitation under international law for serious human rights violations.
Human rights groups have long called for Mr. Duvalier to be arrested in relation to rights abuses carried out during his rule. The former president made a surprise return to Haiti in January 2011, after 25 years of exile in France and amidst a political crisis in his country. Soon after Mr. Duvalier’s return, OHCHR offered Haitian authorities technical assistance for prosecuting crimes committed from 1971 to 1986 when he was in power.
(UN Press Release)
Dr. Tomer Broude, a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Law and Department of International Relations of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, met this morning in Chicago with professors from The John Marshall Law School to discuss Transitional Justice and its role in mitigating conflict. He presented a paper that critically examined the potential capacity of courts to serve as fora for historical reconciliation and transitional justice in the particular context of Israel and Palestine, with extended discussions of situations in Chile, South Africa, Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia.
Pictured here are:
- Ralph Ruebner, Associate Dean of The John Marshall Law School (Chicago)
- Ronald Z. Domsky, Professor of Law at The John Marshall Law School and a Director of the Chicago Chapter of the American Friends of Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- Dr. Tomer Broude, Sylvan M. Cohen Chair in Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- Judith S. Schenkman, Executive Director, American Friends of Hebrew University
Mark E. Wojcik (mew)
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
The American Society of International Law’s International Law and Technology Interest Group (ILTechIG) is holding its inaugural works-in-progress workshop from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, April 8, 2013, at ASIL's Tillar House Headquarters (2223 Massachusetts Avenue, NW) in Washington, D.C. The workshop will follow ASIL’s 107th Annual Meeting, which will take place on April 3-6, 2013.
ILTechIG is seeking papers addressing an issue at the intersection of international law and technology. Possible topics might include, for example, the regulation of data and privacy in trade regimes; the use of new technologies in warfare; technological challenges affecting environmental regulation; the regulation of cyberspace; the role of technology in advancing human rights; or the effect of technology on the practice of international law. Preference will be given to ASIL members.
Those interested in presenting should submit an abstract of not more than one page by March 1, 2013. Proposals should indicate the author’s name, phone number, email address, and institutional affiliation and describe the anticipated state of the paper at the time of the conference (i.e., published or unpublished, complete or incomplete).
Proposals will be reviewed by the ILTechIG leadership: Co-Chairs Anupam Chander (UC Davis) and Molly Land (NYLS), Vice Chair and Co-Chair Elect Paul Schiff Berman (George Washington), and Secretary/Treasurer Greg McNeal (Pepperdine). Individuals whose papers have been selected for the workshop will be notified by March 8, 2013.
To defray the cost of meals during the workshop, participants will be asked to pay a conference fee: $50 for ASIL members and $65 for non-members. A discounted rate of $55 is available for public sector non-member attendees. The ILTechIG cannot fund the cost of travel for participants.
More information is available on the ILTechIG webpage.
Hat Tip to Molly Land (cgb)
Friday, February 15, 2013
At joint meetings with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica this past week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) made significant progress on proposed changes to its Rules of Procedure, policies and practices. The purpose of the proposed reforms is to strengthen the Inter-American System of Human Rights. The IACHR will now be publishing those proposed changes and seeking public comment over a two-week period. For more information, see this IACHR press release.
Earlier this week, the United States initiated dispute settlement proceedings at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in connection with alleged unfair trade practices involving solar panels from India. Accoding to a WTO press release, the United States alleges that "India requires solar power developers to buy and use domestic solar cells and solar modules in order to benefit from participating in the Jawaharlal Nehru [National Solar Mission] (NSM) programme and to enter into contracts under the NSM programme or with the National Power Company. According to the United States, the benefits for solar power developers, contingent on their purchase and use of domestic solar cells and solar modules, would include subsidies through guaranteed, long-term electricity rates."
As a result, the United States requested consultations with India, the first step in the WTO dispute resolution process. If consulations fail to resolve the matter within 60 days, the United States may request the establishment of a dispute resolution panel. The matter has been assigned number WT/DS456/1.
In other WTO news this past week, Japan and the European Union (EU) both filed cross-appeals of panel decisions. Japan filed a cross appeal in the dispute involving “Canada — Renewable Energy” (WT/DS412) and the EU filed a cross appeal in the dispute involving “Canada — Feed-in Tariff Program” (WT/DS426). Canada had filed appeals of these reports on February 5, 2013.
The former President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, has sought refuge in the Indian High Commission, and is urging all parties to work towards conditions conducive for the upcoming elections in line with the country’s Constitution. Mr. Nasheed has been inside the Indian High Commission in the capital city of Malé since February 13, 2013, when police attempted to arrest him in a case relating to accusations that he illegally detained a judge during the last days of his rule, according to media reports.
The former leader was elected in 2008 in the first multi-party presidential elections in the country in three decades. He resigned in February of last year in contested circumstances, succeeded by his former deputy, Mohammed Waheed Hassan.
The Government set up a National Commission of Inquiry to probe the events leading to the regime change, with the Commission presenting its findings in August. His supporters say the legal case against Mr. Nasheed is meant to bar him from running in the presidential elections, scheduled for September 7, 2013.
Last night, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urged all political actors “to exercise restraint, renew their commitment to the Constitution and work toward creating conducive conditions for fair, peaceful and inclusive elections.” He added that all parties should field the candidates of their choice “in accordance with the rule of law and the Constitution.”
(adapted from a UN Press Release)
A group of United Nations experts has urged Venezuela to immediately release Judge María Lourdes Afiuni, who has been in detention for the past three years and was the victim of sexual violence and aggression during the time she was incarcerated. “It is unacceptable that Venezuelan authorities are not acting with due diligence to investigate the acts perpetrated against Judge Afiuni in an immediate and impartial manner, and severely punish those responsible,” said the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo.
Ms. Afiuni was imprisoned in December 2009 after she allowed the release of a businessman charged with subverting currency controls. She said that the man, Eligio Cedeño, had been held in prison while awaiting trial longer than Venezuelan law generally permitted, and that her ruling complied with a recommendation by a UN human rights organ. Since then, Ms. Afiuni has been held in pre-trial detention. According to her lawyer, Ms. Afiuni was raped while in prison and consequently had an abortion. Last year, she was granted house arrest in Caracas, the capital, due to medical problems.
“Judge Afiuni’s situation is an emblematic case of reprisal for having cooperated with one of the UN’s human rights organs,” said the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya. “Allowing reprisals against a judge for having applied a recommendation by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and keeping her detained awaiting a trial for more than three years has opened the door for many more abuses, and has an effect of intimidation,” stressed the head of the Working Group, Hadji Malick Sow.
In December, Ms. Afiuni’s lawyer requested she be freed, but this was denied by the Government in January.
Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez underlined that the rape and other acts of grave sexual violence by State officials not only amount to torture but also create stigma surrounding the victim. In addition, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, said the decision to release Mr. Cedeño was in accordance with Venezuelan law and under the mandate of Ms. Afiuni.
The experts called on the Government to investigate the acts of violence and offer adequate compensation to Ms. Afiuni. They also urged authorities to prevent and abstain from any acts of intimidation or reprisals against those who try to cooperate or have cooperated with the UN human rights mechanisms in the past.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
A group of United Nations independent experts has called on the Government of Indonesia to amend a bill that requires new organizations to adhere to the official State philosophy that supports the belief in only one God and imposes restrictions on the types of activities they can carry out.
“The State must ensure that any restriction on the rights to freedom of association, expression, and religion is necessary in a democratic society, proportionate to the aim pursued, and does not harm the principles of pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai.
Under the Bill on Mass Organizations, new associations must not be in contradiction with Pancasila – the official State philosophy that consecrates the belief ‘in the One and Only God’. It also stipulates that organizations have the duty to maintain religious values.
Mr. Kiai noted that the bill runs contrary to the significant progress towards democratization made by Indonesia over the past decade, which has paved the way for a flourishing civil society.
The Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, said the legislation violates these freedoms and clarified that freedom of religion also applies to non-theistic and atheistic convictions.
The bill also restricts the types of activities that associations can carry out, and bans those activities which ‘endanger the unity and safety’ of Indonesia, as well as those which are the duty of law enforcers and Government. This last one could prevent organizations from uncovering instances of bad governance, such as corruption cases.
“Associations should be free to determine their statutes, structures and activities and to make decisions without State interference,” Mr. Kiai pointed out, warning that the bill threatens associations with burdensome administrative requirements.
If the bill is passed, the Government will be able to oversee the administration of associations through an information system. Foreign organizations will face the same restrictions, but will also need to obtain a permit to operate in the country, and foreign nationals who want to start an association will have to have lived in the country for at least seven consecutive years and place over $1 million of their personal wealth in the association.
The bill, which is due to be voted on soon, also stipulates that the Government may suspend associations without obtaining a prior court order. “Let me stress that suspension of associations should only be sanctioned by an impartial and independent court in case of a clear and imminent danger resulting in a flagrant violation of domestic laws, in compliance with international human rights law,” stated Mr. Kiai.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Human Rights in the Transnistrian Region (Between Moldova and Ukraine, it Declared Independence in 1990 but is Politically Unrecognized)
Human rights transcend borders and abuses require swift and effective action, a top United Nations official said yesterday, following the first published report on the situation in the politically unrecognized Transnistrian region.
“Human rights do not have any borders. It is vital to address underlying human rights issues in disputed territories, regardless of the political recognition or the legal status of a territory,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a press release. “We should neither forget nor neglect the human rights of people who live in areas which, for various reasons, are controlled by de facto authorities,” she added, calling on the international community to support the deployment of human rights experts to disputed territories.
The Transnistrian region, settled between Moldova and Ukraine, declared independence in 1990 and witnessed months of fighting in 1992. The region has not been under the effective control of the Government of Moldova since 1992.
“People living in disputed territories, where legitimacy of control over a territory, security, development and humanitarian concerns are frequent, often lack or have very limited access to effective legal remedies,” said Ms. Pillay.
The report’s author – independent expert Thomas Hammarberg – visited the region three times between May and November 2012. He recommended a thorough reform of the penitentiary system in the Transnistrian region, including a review of the number of prisoners and an abolition of inhuman disciplinary measures. “The human rights expert also asked the de facto authorities to give high priority to measures against trafficking of human beings and its root causes,” stated the news release from Ms. Pillay’s office (OHCHR). The report also urges a review of the local laws for consistency with international human rights law and calls on the de facto government to develop a plan of action to address the recommendations.
Ms. Pillay visited Moldova and the Transnistrian region in November 2011. During that time, she held meetings with the de facto authorities on issues concerning violations of minimum international standards relating to conditions in places of detention, as well as persistent allegations of arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment in custody. The High Commissioner praised Mr. Hammarberg’s report for being apolitical. “Mr. Hammarberg’s research in the Transnistrian region clearly demonstrates how the deployment of technical human rights experts can truly benefit people on the ground, without having a bearing on issues of political recognition or the legal status of a territory.”
(adapted from a UN Press Release)