Tuesday, April 30, 2013
May 1 is Law Day in the United States. The theme of Law Day 2013 is "Realizing the Dream: Equality for All." The American Bar Association (ABA) is urging lawyers to rededicate themselves to one of the fundamental tenets of the profession - justice and equality for all. Here is a description from the ABA Law Day website:
"The promise of equality under the law is what has made America a beacon to other nations. It is a pledge clearly set forth in the Declaration of Independence and in the opening words of the Preamble of the Constitution, “We the People.” It is, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, the proposition to which
our nation is dedicated.
The year 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1963, during the Proclamation’s centennial, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial and called upon our nation to live up to the great promise, enshrined in its founding documents, of equality for all. Five decades later, the inspirational words of Rev. Dr. King’s "I Have a Dream” speech continue to resonate and challenge us to live up to our national ideal of equality under the law. The legacy of the Civil Rights Movement can be seen in the strides that have been made against discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, disability, and sexual orientation.
Law Day, May 1, 2013, will provide an opportunity to explore the movement for civil and human rights in America and the impact it has had in promoting the ideal of equality under the law. It will provide a forum for reflecting on the work that remains to be done in rectifying injustice, eliminating all forms of discrimination, and putting an end to human trafficking and other violations of our basic human rights. As Rev. Dr. King pointed out in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
For more information and resource materials, visit the ABA Law Day website.
Monday, April 29, 2013
The International Law Institute in Washington, DC and the African Center for Legal Excellence (ILI-ACLE) have been working towards building legal infrastructure across the African continent for the past 15 years. ILI-ACLE has assisted in the drafting of laws, strengthening of judicial systems and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to promote good governance and anti-corruption. ILI-ACLE is seeking American Bar Association (ABA) lawyers and judges with at least 10 years of experience to join its efforts to strengthen the capacity of African lawyers and judges and other professionals in areas including the negotiation and drafting of contracts and litigation techniques to improve the competitiveness of the region. Air travel and accomodations to ILI-ACLE's training center in Kampala, Uganda and other global training centers will be arranged by ILI-ACLE. For more information, visit the ILI-ACLE website.
Saturday, April 27, 2013
The World Trade Organization (WTO) has announced two finalists for the next Director General of the organization - Mr. Herminio Blanco of Mexico and Mr. Roberto Carvalho de Azevedo of Brazil. Consultations with the WTO Member States regarding their preferences as between these two candidates will take place the first week of May with the final decision expected on May 8.
More information regarding the selection process may be found here.
Friday, April 26, 2013
As previously reported here, in 2010, the United States filed its first ever dispute settlement proceeding under the U.S.-Central American- Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) against Guatemala. The dispute involved concerns the United States had regarding Guatemala's commitment to enforcement of its labor laws, especially Guatemala's failure to provide adequate protection from violence for labor leaders.
Article 16.2 of CAFTA-DR requires each party to effectively enforce its labor laws. The United States alleged that Guatemala violated Article 16 by failing to effectively enforce Guatemalan labor laws relating to the right of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, and acceptable conditions of work. The United States claimed that the failure to properly enforce labor laws in Guatemala creates an unfair playing field that harms U.S. workers.
As required under CAFTA-DR rules, the parties began a consultation process. When the matter was not resolved within a reasonable time, the United States requested the establishment of a Chapter 20 dispute settlement panel to consider the matter in 2011. Panelists were appointed in the summer of 2012.
Last week, the United States and Guatemala announced a settlement of the matter by way of an 18-point agreement that includes specific actions and time frames for Guatemala to improve its labor law enforcement. Under the agreement, Guatemala is expected to strengthen labor inspections, expedite and streamline the process of sanctioning employers for violations, take steps to increase labor law compliance by exporting companies, improve the monitoring and enforcement of labor court orders, bring more transparency by publishing labor law enforcement information and establish mechanisms to ensure workers receive proper severance pay.
April 27 is a public holiday in South Africa known as Freedom Day. It commemorates the country's first democratic elections in 1994 following the end of apartheid. These were the first national elections where the exercise of the right of franchise did not depend on race.
Divestment and other economic sanctions are widely believed to have contributed to the end of apartheid in South Africa. The United Nations General Assembly called for economic sanctions in Resolution 1761 as early as 1962, but some Western powers, most notably the United Kingdom with support from the United States, lacked the political will to take action at that time. Transnational civil society increased pressure for action, ultimately leading the United States and other governments to impose trade and financial sanctions and divestment measures in the 1980s. These sanctions created economic difficulties for the South African government and have been credited with helping to bring about the democratic transition in South Africa.
The Plurinational State of Bolivia has brought proceedings against the Republic of Chile before the International Court of Justice regarding "Chile's obligation to negotiate in good faith and effectively with Bolivia in order to reach an agreement granting Bolivia a fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean." Read more about the new case by clicking here.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
As if you really needed another reason to to go Amsterdam at the end of May . . . . The Research Project on Shared Responsibility in International Law (SHARES) will host a seminar on Distribution of Responsibilities in International Law in Amsterdam on May 30-31, 2013. This Seminar will consider extra-legal perspectives on how responsibility is distributed when multiple wrongdoing actors contribute to a harmful outcome.
Although various grounds have been advanced to distribute responsibilities in other disciplines, such grounds have only to a limited extent been linked to the international legal discourse. In view of the increasing relevance of questions of distribution of responsibilities and of the paucity of international law on this point, there is much reason for a fundamental inquiry into the bases and justifications for apportionment of responsibilities. Such an inquiry could support an articulation of critique of present international law, and provide a basis for reform. At the seminar, 13 contributions by leading experts from various disciplines will be discussed.
Only limited seats are available. For more information on how to participate, send an email to: email@example.com.
Hat tip to Jessica Schechinger, University of Amsterdam Faculty of Law | Amsterdam Center for International Law Research Project on Shared Responsibility in International Law (SHARES)
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced that it has consolidated two pending cases:
- Certain Activities carried out by Nicaragua in the Border Area (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua), and
- Construction of a Road in Costa Rica along the San Juan River (Nicaragua v. Costa Rica).
The ICJ has joined proceedings in two earlier instances:
- Cases concerning South West Africa (consolidated Ethiopia v. South Africa and Liberia v. South Africa), and
- The North Sea Continental Shelf Cases (consolidated Federal Republic of Germany v. Denmark and Federal Republic of Germany v. The Netherlands).
Those earlier cases were consolidated even though the ICJ rules did not then expressly provide for consolidation. However both of those consolidated cases were heard in a single hearing and decided in a single opinion. Article 47 of the ICJ rules now provide that the ICJ "may at any time direct that the proceedings in two or more cases be joined" and that the Court has "a broad margin of discretion." Exercising that discretion here, the ICJ has joined these two cases involving Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
Mark E. Wojcik (mew)
Monday, April 22, 2013
April 22, 2013 is the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day. This year's theme is "The Face of Climate Change." You are encouraged to share stories regarding the impact of climate change on people, animals and places and what is being done about it.
For more information, visit the Earth Day Network. There, you can register your "act of green", such as planting a tree to help grow Earth's canopy.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Each year, the U.S. State Department compiles a report on human rights practices of countries around the world. On Friday, April 19, the State Department announced the release of the 2012 Country Reports. The following is taken from a US State Department press release summarizing the most noteworthy human rights developments in 2012:
"1. Shrinking Space for Civil Society Activism Around the World: In 2012, certain governments continued to repress or attack the means by which citizens could organize, assemble, or demand better performance from their leaders. Across the globe, crackdowns on civil society included new laws impeding or preventing freedom of expression, assembly, association and religion; heightened restrictions on the ability of organizations to receive funding; and the killing, harassment, and arrest of political, human rights, and labor activists.
2. The Ongoing Struggle in the Middle East for Democratic Change: The hope of the early days of the Arab Awakening ran up against the harsh realities and challenges facing transitions from authoritarian regimes that had systematically repressed the development of civil society and democratic institutions: Bashar Assad’s brutality against his own people in Syria; inter-communal tensions and political violence in Yemen, Bahrain, and Iraq; and serious hurdles to sustainable democracy in Egypt and Libya.
3. Emerging Democracy and Space for Civil Society in Burma: Burma continued its historic transition towards democracy, beginning with the release of more than 300 political prisoners in January 2012. In addition, the Burmese government has opened new space for civil society by relaxing press censorship, permitting more types of uncensored content online, and permitting a number of assemblies and processions throughout the country.
4. Threats to Freedom of Expression in the Changing Media Landscape: Freedom of expression – a crucial element of democracy – faced serious threats around the world. There were also positive strides, however, with social media amplifying voices and allowing ordinary citizens to expose human rights violations or organize collective action even when traditional media was fully controlled by authoritarian regimes, such as Cuba.
5. The Continued Marginalization of Vulnerable Groups: In too many places, governments continued to persecute, or allow the persecution of, religious and ethnic minorities; women; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender LGBT) people; persons with disabilities; migrants; and other vulnerable populations. Additionally, lawful migrant workers across the globe faced mployment and societal discrimination, lack of sufficient legal protections, harassment in the workplace, and, in some cases, severe vulnerabilities to labor exploitation, including forced labor."
The full report may be found here.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
The U.S. Supreme Court issued its much anticipated decision yesterday in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, a case involving a claim under the U.S. Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 USC sec. 1350, that Royal Dutch Petroleum aided and abetted the Nigerian government in certain human rights violations. After two rounds of oral arguments on multiple issues, the Court dismissed the case against Royal Dutch Petroleum on one ground - that there is a presumption against extraterritorial application of U.S. law that was not overcome in this case. All of the revelant conduct in the case occurred in Nigeria. The Court held that there is no textual or other basis to assume that the statute is intended to reach conduct occurring abroad.
The Court did not decide the related issue of whether corporations may be held liable for torts in violation of international law under the ATS, leaving that issue for another day. The Court also did not expressly indicate whether a U.S. corporation could be held liable for torts committeed abroad under the ATS. Thus, while the Court's decision will likely reduce the number of ATS cases against corporations, it does not preclude them all together. The Supreme Court's opinion may be found here.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Watch History Being Made: Video of the Moment that New Zealand Passes Legislation for Marriage Equality
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has released its Annual Report for 2012. The Chair of the IACHR, Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, presented the Report to the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the Organization of American States (OAS). The following information is taken from an IACHR press release:
"The [Annual Report] has four chapters. Chapter I refers to the legacy the IACHR has brought to the inter-American community of States and their peoples, and discusses the new human rights demands on the regional agenda and the Commission’s important contribution with respect to those new demands. Chapter II includes an overview of the Commission’s background and legal basis, along with a description of its most important activities in 2012. Chapter III contains the Commission’s decisions concerning allegations of human rights violations in the OAS Member States. This chapter also includes statistics on the Commission’s various tasks; summaries of the precautionary measures it adopted, modified, or expanded in 2012; and a follow-up to recommendations the Commission has made in decisions it has published since the year 2000. Chapter IV contains a specific analysis of the human rights situation in those OAS Member States the Commission has identified as needing particular attention: Cuba, Honduras, and Venezuela.
In 2012, the IACHR received 1,936 new individual petitions and accepted 137 petitions for processing. The Commission received 448 requests for precautionary measures and granted 35. It published 42 reports on admissibility, 17 on petitions found to be inadmissible, 8 on friendly settlements, 42 archive reports, and approved 15 reports on merits. Lastly, it submitted 12 cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
In his remarks to present the report, the IACHR Chair said that the inter-American system’s effectiveness as a supranational mechanism for protecting human rights presupposes that the Member States comply fully and effectively with the decisions of the Court and the Commission. “While important progress has been made in the implementation of the recommendations of the IACHR and in compliance with the decisions of the Court, a level of progress that would guarantee the efficacy of the system’s decisions has yet to be reached,” the Commission Chair said."
The IACHR Annual Report may be found here.
Guatemala formally initiated dispute settlement proceedings against Peru at the World Trade Organization (WTO) this week with respect to additional duties being imposed on certain agricultural products. In accordance with WTO dispute settlement procedures, Guatemala has requested consultations with Peru. If those consultations do not resolve the matter within 60 days, Guatemala will be entitled to request the establishment of a dispute resolution panel. The matter has been assigned case no. WT/DS457/1.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Yesterday, Iceland became the first European nation to sign a free trade agreement with China. The purpose of the agreement is “to enhance their exchange and practical co-operation on the Arctic” and “further deepen their mutually beneficial co-operation in the fields of trade and investment.” Pursuant to the agreement, tariffs are most goods will be eliminated. Currently, trade between the two nations is relatively small, but that could change under the new agreement. Observers suggest that China has an interest in increasing its presence in the Arctic region and pursuant joint oil exploration activities with Iceland.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued its decision today delimiting the frontier between Burkina Faso and Niger. The Court heard the case pursuant to a Special Agreement between the parties which they notified to the Court in 2010. The details of the ICJ's decision may be found here.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is in the process of selecting its next Director General (DG). The Chair of the WTO General Council announced today that after the first round of consulations with the Members, the slate of candidates has been narrowed to five as follows:
Ms Mari Elka Pangestu (Indonesia)
Mr Tim Groser (New Zealand)
Mr Herminio Blanco (Mexico)
Mr Taeho Bark (Republic of Korea)
Mr Roberto Carvalho de Azevêdo (Brazil)
The next step will be to further narrow this list of five down to two final candidates. Consultations with the Member States will begin next week to accomplish this task.
The Chair's full statement on this matter may be found here.
Friday, April 12, 2013
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has announced that it will hold public hearings in the case concerning Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand intervening) from Wednesday 26 June to Tuesday 16 July 2013, at the Peace Palace in The Hague. Each party has been alloted two and a half days of argument in the first round of oral arguments and one and a half days of argument in the second round. Additionally, New Zealand has been alloted one morning of argument time to present its observations.
The ICJ will consider Australia's allegations that "Japan's continued pursuit of a large-scale program of whaling under the Second Phase of its Japanese Whale Research Program under Special Permit in the Antarctic ("JARPA II") is in breach of obligations assumed by Japan under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling ("ICRW"), as well as its other international obligations for the preservation of marine mammals and the marine environment."
More information may be found in the ICJ press release.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
In its fourth annual report on the global use of the death penalty, Amnesty International found progress towards its abolition in all regions of the world.
In 2012, 21 countries carried out executions - the same as 2011, but down from 28 countries a decade ago. The five countries that carried out the most executions are China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
682 known executions were carried out worldwide, 2 more than in 2011. Amnesty International believes more were carried out in China, but said it cannot obtain accurate data.
Amnesty International "opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment."
For more information, see the Amnesty International press release.