Sunday, June 30, 2013
Earlier this month, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case No. 11.581, Zulema Tarazona Arrieta et al., Perú.
The underlying case involves the murder of Zulema Tarazona Arrieta and Norma Teresa Pérez Chávez, as well as injuries suffered by Mr. Luis Alberto Bejarano Laura, on August 9, 1994, which resulted from a shooting by a member of the Army against a public transportation vehicle where the victims were travelling. The shooting occurred as members of the Army tried to intercept the vehicle. After the shooting, the security officials left the scene without rendering assistance to the victims and without informing their superior about what happened. The Commission found that these facts constituted an arbitrary deprivation of life of the two victims who were killed, and a violation of the right to humane treatment to the detriment of the person injured.
While the case was pending before the IACHR, the Peruvian judicial authorites issued a decision establishing responsibility and awarding partial compensation to the victims' families. Therefore, the Commission determined that the violation was partially repaired. However, the government of Peru has not granted reparation to the families of the victims as a consequence of the situation of impunity in which the facts were kept for an unreasonable time of 14 years. Accordingly, the IACHR decided to send the case to the Inter-American Court to obtain fuller compliance with the Merits Report. For more information, see this IACHR Press Release.
We think this might be of interest to readers of this blog. International Mapping has announced the publication of its new International Maritime Boundaries: 2013 poster map. This map is designed to help users stay abreast of the rapid influx of new boundary delimitations on the continental shelf. This is a topic of immense importance to all coastal States in that it determines their access to the resources of the sea and seabed that lie in close proximity to their coastal baselines. The poster map also identifies specially designated areas that form parts of many maritime boundary agreements. These special areas deal with a variety of topics such as shared fishing rights, joint development of seabed resources, pollution abatement, maritime shipping, enforcement of maritime laws and more.
This new poster map also illustrates delimitations that extend beyond the 200 nautical mile limits of a coastal State’s entitlement to an exclusive economic zone, or EEZ. The recent ITLOS award in the Bangladesh / Myanmar case represented the first time that an outer continental shelf claim had ever been delimited through litigation. While this award represents the first adjudicated maritime boundary to extend beyond the 200 nautical mile juridical shelf established by UNCLOS-III, International Mapping notes that it certainly will not be the last.
This map will be updated on an annual basis so that new boundary agreements, awards, or judgments can be added to the current list of over 220 boundaries already in existence. This year the ICJ is scheduled to hand down its judgment in the Chile/Peru case, while the PCA is scheduled to hear arguments in the Bangladesh/India case. Additionally, eight new multi-lateral boundary agreements in the South Pacific will likely be made public in 2013. As soon as these new boundaries have been officially established they will then be added to the next edition in 2014.
The International Law Prof Blog has no commercial relationship with this provider. We simply think it will be of interest to many readers of this blog.
Hat tip to Dan Przywara, Director, Sales & Marketing at International Mapping
Hissène Habré, the former dictator of Chad, is reportedly now in police custody in Senegal as of June 30, according to a press release from Human Rights Watch. Habré is accused of thousands of political killings and systematic torture during his presidency, from 1982 to 1990, when he was deposed by President Idriss Deby Itno and fled to Senegal. He has been living in exile in Senegal ever since. After a 22-year campaign by his victims, the Extraordinary African Chambers were established in the Senegalese court system in February to prosecute the worst crimes during his rule. The chambers can prosecute “the person or persons most responsible” for international crimes committed in Chad between June 7, 1982, and December 1, 1990.
The chambers’ chief prosecutor, Mbacké Fall, reportedly asked to have Habré taken into police custody (garde à vue). Under Senegalese law, a person may be detained for up to 48 hours for investigation purposes if there is evidence to believe that they have committed an offense. The detention can be extended for another 48 hours with the prosecutor’s permission.
The prosecutor is expected to bring charges (réquisitoire introductif) before the investigating judges of the chambers and request Habré’s indictment before his period of police custody expires. If Habré is indicted by the judges, he could be remanded to custody (mandat de dépôt) while the judges carry out their pretrial investigation.
According to Human RIghts Watch, the pretrial investigation is expected to last 15 months. It will potentially be followed by a trial in late 2014 or 2015.
“I have been waiting more than two decades to see Hissène Habré in court,” said Clément Abaifouta, president of the Association of Victims of the Crimes of Hissène Habré’s Regime (AVCRHH) who as a political prisoner during Habré’s rule was forced to dig mass graves and bury hundreds of other detainees. “We are finally going to be able to confront our tormentor and regain our dignity as human beings.”
The Organization of African Unity (OAU)-- known in French as the Organization de l'Unité Africaine (OUA)) was established 50 years ago on May 15, 1963 in Addis Abada with 32 signatory governments. The OAU was disbanded on July 9, 2002 and replaced by the African Union.
Gay pride celebrations in the United States celebrated the two Supreme Court victories this week that declared unconstitutional section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and that allowed same-sex marriages to resume in California.
But in other parts of the world the situation was quite different. Some reports from St. Petersburg Russia are that every one participating in the gay pride parade there was arrested for violating a law promoting homosexuality. Click here for photos of the parade and of the arrests. Other reports say that the number of arrests was only about 60 persons, but of these many were severely beaten. Click here for more information.
The St. Petersburg law setting fines for "gay propaganda" among minors entered into effect on March 30, 2012. It faced strong criticism from rights activists both in Russia and abroad, but the upper house of the Russian Parliament passed a similar federal bill this week banning promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations.”
Thursday, June 27, 2013
U.S. President Barak Obama is expected to announce today that the United States is suspending trade privileges for Bangladesh in response to concerns about safety problems and labor rights violations in that country. The move comes in response to pressure on the administration from labor unions and the U.S. Labor Department to take action to address these issues following the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh in April that killed more than 1,000 persons. Labor officials in the United States claim Bangladesh has dragged its feet in addressing the safety issues. Currently, Bangladesh enjoys trade privileges under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which is designed to give special trade privileges to poor countries to assist with development. In the case of Bangladesh, GSP status allows it to ship more than 5,000 products to the United States duty-free, but does not cover the garment industry. Suspending GSP status may influence Europe to apply more pressure on Bangladesh to improve safety and labor conditions.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland has recently completed a renovation of its building and will open its doors to the public to see the results this Sunday, June 30, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The opening ceremony will begin with a video about the WTO building in the Council Room. The WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy will then launch the Opening Day ceremonies with the participation of Chairman of the General Council Amb. Shahid Bashir, Federal Councillor Johann N.Schneider-Ammann, Chairman of the Council of State Charles Beer and Geneva Mayor Sandrine Salerno. For more information, visit the WTO website here.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Lawyers Without Borders, an international not-for-profit focused on promoting rule of law, announced today the appointment of Anne B. Rudman as chair of the organization’s board of directors. Over the past six years Ms. Rudman has worked with Lawyers Without Borders to implement trial advocacy programs in Liberia, Kenya, and Uganda. In addition, she has conducted legal training with the organization, emphasizing trial advocacy skills for criminal practitioners, judges, and magistrates in Liberia and Ghana.
Founded in 2000, Lawyers Without Borders is a U.S.-based international nonprofit dedicated to preserving the integrity of the legal process and access to justice through training, community outreach, capacity building, neutral observation, and other mechanisms that support rule of law in national contexts consistent with international norms.
Get more information about the organization here (including how to support its important work).(adapted from a press release from Lawyers Without Borders) (mew)
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
It's difficult to keep up with international law developments around the world. That's one reason that we are big fans of AWILD, Anton's Weekly International Law Digest. It is a weekly summary of new scholarly articles, books, court decisions, UN documents (including all the ones we especially like, such as those from the International Law Commission), websites, and other sources. In case you don't know the Anton Weekly International Law Digest, click here. Congratulations to Professor Don Anton at the Australian National University College of Law and his army of researchers who produce this useful weekly contribution to the field of international law.
Mark E. Wojcik (mew)
We received the following press release condeming an attack on the LGBT Centre in Skopje and calling on the Interior Ministry to find and prosecute those who attacked the center and to protect LGBT persons, calling upon the Prime Minister and President to condemn the attack, and calling upon media to report accurately.
Coalition 'Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities' - Skopje
LGBT United - Tetovo
Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia
STOP THE HATE VIOLENCE TOWARDS LGBT PEOPLE
We strongly condemn the hate violence that occurred in front of the
monument "A Warrior on a Horse" and the demolition of the LGBT Centre in
the Old Bazaar (during a projection of a film and the forum for the rights
of transgender people) and the hate speech that provokes violence and
We demand that the Ministry of Interior most urgently identify and arrest
the criminal offenders who assaulted a person in the Centre of Skopje, who
yet again demolished the LGBT Centre in the Old Bazaar, who attacked and
injured a police officer while on duty, and who spread and continue to
spread threats and hate speech that provokes violence and discrimination
on the ground of sexual orientation and gender identity. Unfortunately, in
spite of the undertaken preventive measurements by the Ministry of
Interior, serious criminal acts were committed (violence on the Square,
violence towards the LGBT Centre and the activists inside it, an attack of
a police officer) for which there are numerous indications to have been
criminal acts committed out of hatred on the ground of sexual orientation
and gender identity.
Even though this is not the first attack of the LGBT Centre, it is the
first one committed in the presence of people and during an event, hence
it is our opinion that the intolerance towards the LGBT community is
increasing. As a result, we call upon the Public Prosecutor's Office to
finally recognize the criminal acts committed out of hate towards people's
characteristics, therefore we demand that the criminal offenders be found
and prosecuted for violence caused from discrimination on the ground of
sexual orientation and gender identity of people. We demand that the
decisions of the European Court of Human Rights be finally applied,
wherein it is stated that "sexual orientation as a fundamental
characteristic of a person, should be treated in the same manner as the
categories race, ethnicity and religion, which are most often covered by
laws for sanctioning hate speech and hate crimes." It is our opinion that
with this the LGBT Community shall receive the protection and support from
the institutions whose obligations is to protect the rights of all
citizens and shall prevent such violence from occurring again in the
We would like to remind the public that as early as 21.06.2012, the
Coalition and the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights reported to the
police that publicly "open violence is encouraged towards LGBT people" and
that "we expect from the Ministry of Interior to undertake the necessary
measurements for protection against violence, discrimination and spread of
hate on the ground of sexual orientation and gender identity and to
provide peaceful and undisturbed proceeding of the planned activities
within the "Pride Week".
We call upon the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic of
Macedonia to condemn such violence, because LGBT people are also citizens
of the Republic of Macedonia and should be respected and protected as the
rest of the citizens of this state.
We demand from the leaders of the political parties, as well as the
religious communities to condemn the violence towards the LGBT people and
the human rights activists and to disassociate themselves from the
hooligans and the neo-Nazi groups who publicly encourage violence and
We demand that the Government and the Members of Parliament prepare
amendments to the laws in order to criminally punish hate speech on the
ground of sexual orientation and gender identity and to foresee more
severe punishments for acts committed due to hate towards sexual
orientation and gender identity.
We make an appeal to the media and the journalists to stop spreading
misinformation (for instance the misinformation regarding the "Gay
Pride"), to refrain themselves from spreading negative stereotypes and
prejudices regarding LGBT people and from publishing contents that
encourage violence and discrimination on any ground.
We call upon the civil and intellectual public of the Republic of
Macedonia to condemn most strenuously the violence towards the LGBT people
(who were attacked by masked hooligans during a tribune in the LGBT
centre), as well as the extremists groups (from neo-Nazis, masked
hooligans to religious fanatics) who have begun to ravage publicly in the
centre of Skopje.
Once more, we demand from the Ministry of Interior to undertake the
necessary measures for protection of the LGBT people and human rights
activists against violence, discrimination and spread of hatred on the
ground of sexual orientation and gender identity, and to provide peaceful
and undisturbed proceeding of the other planned activities within the
(mew) (h/t rw)
The rights of the elderly is fast becoming a new major area of focus in the international human rights community. This week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged greater efforts to support the needs of older people, particularly in developing countries. “People around the world are living longer, healthier lives, thanks to advances in health and well-being,” he said in a video message to the opening on Sunday of the 20th World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics in Seoul, Republic of Korea. Mr. Ban added that more people are living longer means that the world will have more experienced workers and more custodians of culture and heritage, it also puts pressure on national healthcare and pension systems.
By 2050, 80 per cent of the world’s older people will live in developing countries and the population over 60 years old will be larger than the population under the age of 15, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
In a 2012 report, the UNFPA interviewed 1,300 older men and women from 36 countries who highlighted challenges related to continued discrimination, abuse, and violence, underscoring the need for governments, civil society, and the general public to work together to end these destructive practices and invest in older people.
In his message, Mr. Ban called for full implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. The Plan focuses on three priority areas:
- older persons and development;
- advancing health and well-being into old age; and
- ensuring enabling and supportive environments.
The World Congress is held every four years by the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics (IAGG) and the International Congress Organizing Committee. It is the world’s largest international congress, according to its website.
Mark E. Wojcik (mew) (adapted from a UN press release)
Monday, June 24, 2013
The American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) has announced that the 2013 Rule of Law Award will be presented this year to the Honorable Diego Garcia-Sayan, President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and former Minister of Justice of Peru. The award will be presented in San Francisco as part of the ABA Annual Meeting at a luncheon held from 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 10, at the Moscone Center West.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
A diplomatic conference is currently being held in Marrakesh, Morocco to consider a treaty to faciliate access to published works by visually impaired persons. The treaty negotiations have run into a snag, however. While the goal of increasing access for disabled persons is certainly laudable, some copyright owners are concerned that the treaty would weaken copyright protections and set a bad precedent by allowing the reproduction and distribution of books and other published material in different, more accessible formats, like audio, large print and Braille, without the author's permission. In particular, the motion picture, music and book publishing industries have raised objections to some of the proposed treaty language. The Washington Post today contains an article with more details. Information about the diplomatic conference may also be found on the WIPO website.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
A quick reminder for readers following the Whaling in the Antarctic case between Japan and Australia, the public hearings will begin this week on June 26 in the Peace Palace at The Hague, the seat of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and are scheduled to continue through July 16. For more information or to reserve a seat, visit the ICJ website.
Friday, June 21, 2013
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged governments, civil society, and communities to re-examine their attitudes towards ageing and ensure older persons are protected from all forms of abuse. "Around the world, older persons are tragically subject to psychological, financial or physical abuse," Mr. Ban said in his message marking World Elder Abuse Awareness Day earlier this week. "Unfortunately, too many older persons can be at risk," he said. "Prejudicial attitudes contribute to the problem.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that between four and six per cent of older persons worldwide have suffered from some form of elder abuse. Research also suggests that abuse, neglect and violence against older persons, both at home and in institutions, are much more prevalent than currently acknowledged.
Mr. Ban emphasized that governments in particular, can help by enacting legislation to protect the abused and prosecute the abuser. "We owe it to older persons and societies at large to fight ageism in all its forms and enhance the dignity and human rights of older persons everywhere," he added.
(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)
We received the following press release from Human Rights Watch:
Morocco/Western Sahara: Dubious Confessions, Tainted Trials
No Fair Trials Until Courts Reject Statements Obtained by Torture, Abuse
(Rabat, June 21, 2013) – Morocco's courts are convicting defendants based on confessions they claim were obtained through torture or falsified by police, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The country’s judicial reform agenda needs to include stronger safeguards to ensure that courts discard as evidence any statement made to the police under torture or ill-treatment.
The 100-page report, "Just Sign Here": Unfair Trials Based on Confessions to the Police in Morocco, examined five trials between 2009 and 2013 of a total of 77 people – including protesters seeking reform, Western Sahara activists, and persons accused of plotting terrorism. Human Rights Watch found that in the cases examined, judges failed to investigate seriously contentions by defendants that their confessions were obtained through illegal means and then used as the main, if not the sole, basis for conviction. This failure by the courts effectively encourages the police to use torture, ill-treatment, and falsification to obtain statements, Human Rights Watch said.
“Once the Moroccan police have your statement in hand, you are not at the start of an even-handed process to reach the truth,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch. “You are on an express train to a guilty verdict.”
Moroccan law criminalizes torture and prohibits courts from using statements when obtained under “violence or coercion.” Yet, in the five trials Human Rights Watch examined, the courts did not diligently examine defendants’ claims of police abuse before admitting confessions as the main incriminating evidence. The courts convicted 76 of the 77 defendants, 38 of whom remain in prison.
Human Rights Watch observed trials, examined court documents, interviewed defendants and defense lawyers, and included in the report extensive information received from the Moroccan authorities.
Several defendants described to Human Rights Watch being beaten, kicked, slapped, and threatened by the police during their interrogation, and being forced to sign statements they were not allowed to read and that they later repudiated in court. Others who were able to read and sign their statements said that authorities later doctored them to implicate them in crimes.
Moroccan law provides the right to contact a lawyer while in police custody, but in the vast majority of cases Human Rights Watch examined, defendants had no access to a lawyer before or during their interrogation, or when the police presented them with their statement to sign.
When the defendants later told the investigating or trial judge about physical abuse, the judges opened no inquiry and sometimes dismissed the allegations, saying that they observed no marks on the defendant’s body or that the person should have made the allegations earlier. In the one case where the prosecutor ordered a medical examination of the defendants, all the evidence suggested that the examination was superficial and well below what international standards require.
Moroccan judges should scrutinize police statements more aggressively when defendants repudiate them, and summon all pertinent witnesses, including, where relevant, the police agents who prepared the incriminating statements. Closer scrutiny of police statements would also signal to police that they must collect evidence through lawful means that exclude torture, Human Rights Watch said.
In August 2009, King Mohammed VI announced a major effort to overhaul the judiciary. The 2011 constitution contains a number of articles that are stated as intending to strengthen judicial independence and defendants’ rights and to ban torture and arbitrary detention. Since 2012, a High Commission of National Dialogue on Reforming the Judiciary has been tasked by the king with drafting a charter on judicial reform, scheduled to be released in the coming weeks.
“It is not always easy to determine the truth when a defendant claims that the police coerced him to sign a false confession,” Whitson said. “But only when judges show the will, skill, and courage to do so – and to discard confessions that are suspect – can we say that judicial reform is really under way.”
Human Rights Watch examined the convictions of 25 Sahrawis in February 2013 for attacking security forces who were dismantling a social protest camp in Gdeim Izik, Western Sahara; 6 members of the February 20 social protest movement in September 2012 in connection with a demonstration in Casablanca; 2 union activists and 8 youths in June 2011 in connection with a demonstration in Bouarfa; an outspoken boxer in September 2010 on dubious fraud charges; and 35 men in July 2009 for being part of an alleged terrorist conspiracy known as the “Belliraj” affair.
The boxer, Zakaria Moumni, described how the police presented his statement to him after beating him severely during three days of incommunicado detention:
They put documents in front of me, but they were covering the top part of the page. I said I wanted to read what I was signing. They said, “Just sign here, you’ll get your stuff back and be free to go.” When I insisted on reading it, they put the blindfold back on, stepped on my feet, and threatened to send me back to where I had come from… At that point, I signed many things without knowing what they were.
The police then brought Moumni to court, where he was tried the same day on dubious charges of fraud. Moumni later told Human Rights Watch that he showed the judge bruises and cuts on his shins, explaining that his interrogators had struck him with iron rods. The judge did not respond to this, Moumni said. Sentenced to three years in prison, Moumni discovered only later that the documents he had signed before the police included a detailed confession and a waiver of his right to a lawyer at trial.
The Moroccan authorities should take the following steps to ensure fairer trials and combat torture and ill-treatment:
- Ensure that anyone placed in pre-arraignment detention is informed immediately of the right to a lawyer, including the right to be visited promptly by a lawyer;
- Ensure that the court gives defendants a thorough opportunity to read their police statement and challenge any alleged inaccuracies, and to raise at any point in the investigation and the trial any ill-treatment or torture in police custody;
- Ensure that courts examine all torture allegations by defendants and, when they are credible, discard as evidence any statements made under torture, as required by Moroccan law, and refer the alleged torture, a criminal offense, to the prosecuting authorities;
- Revise article 290 of the Code of Penal Procedure, which gives statements prepared by police inherent credibility in cases involving offenses that incur prison sentences under five years. This law places the burden of proof on the defendant to show that the statement prepared by the police is false; the law should be revised to treat a police statement the same as all other evidence, with no inference about its credibility.
Moroccan authorities should in addition free the 21 defendants in the Gdeim Izik case and the 17 defendants in the Belliraj case currently in prison, or grant them a new and fair trial. For the Gdeim Izik defendants, any retrials should take place before a civilian court rather than in the military court that first convicted them. If they are retried, the courts should examine the defendants’ allegations of torture regardless of whether physical traces of possible torture are visible, and ensure that no statement obtained through violence or coercion is admitted into evidence.
“‘Just Sign Here’: Unfair Trials Based on Confessions to the Police in Morocco” is available by clicking here.
Click here for more Human Rights Watch reporting on Morocco and Western Sahara.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Once again this year, the United Nations will commemorate World Refugee Day on June 20 to bring attention to the plight of the 43.7 refugees and internally displaced persons who have been forced to flee from their homes due to persecution, conflict and violence. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) has chosen to focus on families who have lost their homes due to violence and war with this year's theme, "1 Refugee Family Without Shelter Is Too Many." For more information on UNHCR's work, visit its website here.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Yesterday, Panama filed a request for consulations with Columbia at the World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body. Panama is complaining that certain Columbian customs measures relating to the importation of textiles, apparel and footwear violate Columbia's WTO obligations. The matter has been assinged case number WT/DS461/1.
The request for consultations in the first step in the dispute settlement process. If the parties fail to negotiate a settlement of the matter within 60 days, Panama will be entitled to request the establishment of a dispute settlement panel.
Monday, June 17, 2013
News sources are reporting that that Turkish authorities have widened their crackdown on antigovernment protestors, and that they have begun to target not only demonstrators but also medics who treat their injuries, business owners who shelter protestors, and foreign news media.