Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Calls for All Parties in Syria to Cooperate with U.N. Inspection Team

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) today called on all parties in Syria to extend their full cooperation to the team of United Nations inspectors probing the possible use of chemical weapons.

The inspection team includes staff from the OPCW, which works in cooperation with the UN, along with colleagues from the UN World Health Organization (WHO).

Meeting at its headquarters in The Hague, Mr. Ban and OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü took serious note of the 26 August sniper fire that attacked the UN convoy en route to an inspection site, and stressed that such incidents must not be allowed to happen again. 

The UN is registering a strong complaint with the Government and opposition authorities about the incident.  “The work of the UN investigation team represents an impartial and objective means to establish the facts on the allegations of use in Syria,” Mr. Ban and Mr. Üzümcü noted according to a UN spokesperson.  They urged that the inspectors’ work be treated as “inviolable and all cooperation must be extended to the Mission that includes avoidance of hostilities by all parties.”

The team, led by Swedish scientist Dr. Åke Sellström, is spending up to 14 days, with a possible extension, probing the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Government at Khan al-Asal, as well as other allegations reported by Member States.

Mr. Ban has said that any use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances is a serious violation of international law.

The OPCW, with 189 Member States, is the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which entered into force in 1997. Among its goals, the Convention aims to destroy all existing chemical weapons under international verification, and to assist and protect Member States from chemical weapons threats.  

Click here for more information about the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

(UN press release)

August 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The United Nations-Arab League Envoy for Syria Warns Against Military Intervention in Syria

The joint United Nations-Arab League Envoy for Syria said today that while evidence suggests “some form of substance” was used in an incident that may have killed more than 1,000 people on the outskirts of Damascus last week, any military strike against the country in response must have the backing of the UN Security Council.

Recounting the “dramatic” developments in Syria over the past few days, Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters at a news conference in Geneva that the 21 August incident in the Ghouta suburb – currently being investigated by a team of UN inspectors – “is outrageous…unacceptable.”

“It confirms how dangerous the situation in Syria is and how important it is for the Syrians and the international community to really develop the political will to …look for a solution.”

When asked by reporters about the possibility of outside intervention in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons, Mr. Brahimi underscored: “International law is clear on this. International law says that military action must be taken after a decision by the Security Council.” 

“I think I must say that I do know that President Obama and the American administration are not known to be trigger-happy. What they will decide I don’t know, but certainly international law is very clear, the Security Council has to be brought in,” referring to news reports that the Untied States stated it would be ready to stage a military strike in Syria as early as Thursday. The United Kingdom has also reportedly voiced its support for military intervention.

Mr. Brahimi said it seems that “some form of substance” was used but echoed the call of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the team UN inspectors on the ground must be given the opportunity to undertake their investigations. “[Inspectors] have already spent one day in one area where this substance, whatever it is, has been used,” he said. “They have come back with a lot of samples; they talked also to doctors and witnesses. They are in another area just now, as we speak, and we are waiting to see what they are going to tell us.”

Mr. Brahimi said he was still opposed to military action adding that the war between Government forces and opposition groups has already killed 100,000 people and displaced millions.

The UN-Arab league envoy emphasized that if anything, the 21 August incident makes it even more urgent to create the conditions for a successful Geneva II Conference. “I have spoken to the American and the Russians and both countries tell me that they are still interested and committed to the Geneva II conference,” Mr. Brahimi said. “They both know that what has happened on 21 August will have an effect on how we proceed and how we get to that Conference,” he added.

The Geneva II Conference would seek to achieve a political solution through a comprehensive agreement between the Government and the opposition for the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué of 30 June 2012.

Issued after a meeting of the Action Group for Syria, the document lays out key steps in a process to end the violence. Among others, it calls for the establishment of a transitional governing body, with full executive powers and made up by members of the present Government and the opposition and other groups, as part of agreed principles and guidelines for a Syrian-led political transition.

“Syria is now undoubtedly the most serious crisis facing the international community,” Mr. Brahimi said. “One hundred thousand people have been killed. Quite a few of them have been killed by the regime. So I think, from my point of view, if there is one complaint about the international community it’s that they haven’t done enough before 21 August.”

Since fighting began in March 2011 between the Syrian Government and opposition groups seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad, more than 100,000 people have been killed, almost 2 million have fled to neighbouring countries and a further 4 million have been internally displaced. In addition, at least 6.8 million Syrian require urgent humanitarian assistance.

Mr. Brahimi once again appealed to Syrians and the international community to develop the political will to address the crisis seriously.

(UN press release)

August 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Renewed Call to End Discrimination

Today is the 50th anniversary of the famous speech by civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King in which he declared that:

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true  meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are  created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former  slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at  the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering  with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be  transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation  where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of  their character."

We have come a long way toward ending discrimination both domestically and internationally, but there is more work to be done.  This day of remembrance is a great opportunity to recommit ourselves to ending discrimination in all its forms.   Let us call on our governments to demonstrate their commitment by ratifying and implementing treaties that end discrimination, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  In the United States, we need the President to sign the Migrant Workers Convention and the Senate to give its consent to the Disabilities Convention and the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.


August 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Holding Assad Accountable Under International Law

This week, there appear to be credible reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad.  Earlier this week, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population in Syria a "crime against humanity."  United States Secretary of State John Kerry called the indiscriminate use of chemical weapons against the Syrian population "a moral obscenity."  

Assuming the evidence continues to show that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, the question is raised - how can Assad be held accountable under international law?  Syria is not a member of the International Criminal Court so that ICC would not have jurisdiction over him unless the matter were referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council.  Such a referral is highly unlikely at the moment given the use or threatened use of the veto power by Russia and China with respect to recent proposed UNSC resolutions regarding Syria.  Syria is also not a party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention) banning the use of such weapons. 

It may be argued that the use of chemical weapons is prohibited by customary international law, thereby binding Syria regardless of its treaty obligations.  Secretary Kennedy suggested as much when he talked "the large-scale, indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilized world long ago decided must never be used at all."  Likewise, UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon's characterization of the use of chemical weapons as a "crime against humanity" suggests the view that Assad's actions violate customary international law.  However, there may be no forum in which to hold the Assad regime accountable.  Hence, the discussions in the international community about military action - both to stop the further large-scale loss of civilian lives as well as to bring accountability to Assad.  No easy answers here.


August 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Forced Evictions of Palestinians in the West Bank

The United Nations human rights office today expressed concern over the forced eviction of Palestinians in the West Bank as a result of recent demolitions carried out by Israeli authorities, and noted this could amount to a violation of international law. The demolitions began on 19 August and have been carried out by Israeli authorities in at least six different locations, including East Jerusalem, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said.

In one incident, Israeli authorities demolished all of the structures in the Bedouin community of Tel al Adassa in East Jerusalem, rendering some 39 people homeless, citing a lack of building permits. "The Israeli authorities ordered the community to evacuate the area permanently or risk high monetary fines and confiscation of livestock," OHCHR spokesperson Cécile Pouilly told reporters in Geneva. "No alternative locations or housing options were offered. Left with no choice, the community has split and moved to two different temporary locations, where they remain vulnerable to further demolitions and repeated displacement due to lack of legal security of tenure and inability to obtain building permits."

Ms. Pouilly said the permanent removal of the families from Tel al Adassa may amount to a violation of the prohibition to forcibly transfer individuals or communities under article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The case also raises concerns regarding the prohibition of forced eviction under international human rights law, and the right to adequate housing and freedom from arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family and home. 

OHCHR also expressed concern over reports of excessive use of force by Israeli security forces against Palestinian civilians in refugee camps in the West Bank. Since 18 August, at least four Palestinian civilians have been killed during search and arrest operations and at least 19 have been injured. "While we do not yet have sufficient information to make an assessment of each of these specific cases, we have raised our concerns several times before, including in our reports, regarding the excessive use of force by Israeli security forces in law enforcement operations in the West Bank," Ms. Pouilly said. She added that the Israeli Government has the obligation to investigate all cases in an independent and impartial manner and hold accountable all those responsible for violations. OHCHR also urged Israeli authorities to publish its findings on the matter.

(UN press release)

August 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 26, 2013

UN Inspectors Reach Site of Suspected Chemical Weapons Attack

The team of United Nations inspectors probing the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria spent its first day in the suburbs of Damascus at the site of the alleged incident, interviewing witnesses, survivors and doctors, and collecting samples, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced today. 

The team returned to the site after its convoy was hit by sniper fire earlier this morning. Though its vehicle was destroyed, the team, led by Swedish scientist Dr. Åke Sellström, was unharmed. The Secretary-General said that the UN will register a strong complaint with the Government and opposition authorities about an attack “so the safety…of the investigation team will be secured.”

“What I am told is that despite the very difficult circumstances, our team replaced their car and returned to the suburbs of Damascus to carry out their investigation,” he said after being briefed by UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane, who is in Damascus meeting with the Syrian Government to facilitate access for the team. 

Mr. Ban said he is now waiting for a fuller report from Dr. Åke Sellström.

The Team is spending up to 14 days, with a possible extension, probing the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Government at Khan al-Asal, as well as two other allegations reported by Member States. The team is working in cooperation with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon (OPCW) and the UN World Health Organization (WHO).

Speaking from Seoul where he is on an official visit, the Secretary-General earlier said “every hour counts” and demanded that all parties allow this mission “to conduct a full, thorough and unimpeded investigation.”

He added that this team has his “total confidence in their expertise, professionalism and integrity.”

Mr. Ban also reiterated that any use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances is a serious violation of international law and an outrageous crime. 

“We cannot allow impunity in what appears to be a grave crime against humanity,” he stressed.

The latest allegations of chemical weapons use concern the Ghouta area outside Damascus. The attack, on 21 August, reportedly killed more than 300 civilians including children. 

Citing those figures, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) today added its voice to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and others for all parties in the conflict to stop targeting civilians.

“This atrocity is a gross violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” said Committee Chairperson Kirsten Sandberg. “It is a shocking example of how children’s rights are being violated as the Syrian conflict deepens, first and foremost the right to life.”

“Whoever committed these killings, as well as all those responsible for other crimes committed against Syrian children, should be held accountable,” said Ms. Sandberg on behalf of the Committee.

Since fighting began in March 2011 between the Syrian Government and opposition groups seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad as many as 100,000 people have been killed, including more than 7,000 children.

In addition, almost 2 million have fled to neighbouring countries and a further 4 million have been internally displaced. At least 6.8 million Syrian require urgent humanitarian assistance, half of whom are children.

(UN press release)

August 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

UN Convoy of Chemical Weapons Inspectors Comes Under Sniper Attack in Syria

A team of United Nations inspectors probing the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria will return to the Damascus suburb to which it was headed when its convoy was attacked by snipers, a UN spokesperson confirmed this morning. 

"The first vehicle of the Chemical Weapons Investigation Team was deliberately shot at multiple times by unidentified snipers in the buffer zone area," the spokesperson said in a media note. "As the car was no longer serviceable, the Team returned safely back to the Government check-point. The Team will return to the area after replacing the vehicle," the UN added.
The Team, led by Swedish scientist Dr. Åke Sellström, is spending up to 14 days, with a possible extension, probing the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Government at Khan al-Asal, as well as two other allegations reported by Member States. The team is working in cooperation with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon (OPCW) and the UN World Health Organization (WHO).

(excerpt from a UN press release)

August 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sudan and South Sudan Urged to Implement Security and Economic Agreements

The United Nations Security Council yesterday approved a presidential statement that urged Sudan and South Sudan to immediately implement a series of security and economic agreements and to cooperate with the African Union (AU) to advance towards normalizing the relations between the two countries. The Security Council members expressed grave concern over ongoing challenges to the implementation of the 27 September 2012 Agreements. 

The agreements – signed in the Ethiopian capital under the auspices of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIO) – include provisions on security, the common border and economic relations aimed at enabling the two nations to fulfil their obligations under a so-called roadmap for easing tensions and facilitating the resumption of negotiations on post-secession relations.

Since South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011, the peace between the two countries has been threatened by armed clashes along their common border and outstanding post-independence issues that have yet to be resolved, notably the status of the oil-rich area of Abyei.

In its statement, the Council recalled that Security Council Resolution 2046 (2012) prohibits both States from supporting any rebel groups operating against the other State, following recent accusations by both sides of military support to rebel groups in each other’s territories, and welcomed the establishment and the commencement of work of the Ad Hoc Investigative Mechanism (AIM) which will look into such allegations.

The 15-member body also urged both Governments to maintain dialogue to ensure continued transportation of oil from South Sudan, and called on the Sudanese Government to suspend any actions that would halt the transportation of oil from South Sudan.

Reiterating its concern about the highly volatile situation in the Abyei area, the Council stressed that the parties “must immediately implement pending aspects of the June 20, 2011 Agreement on Temporary Security and Administrative Arrangements for the Abyei Area.” It also called for swift action to disarm communities there in accordance with the decision of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC) to turn Abyei into a weapons-free zone.

In addition, members of the Council urged all parties to refrain from any acts of violence against civilians, expedite safe and unhindered humanitarian access and fully respect international human rights law, emphasizing that “those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of international human rights law must be held accountable.”

(mew)(adapted from a UN press release)

August 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U.S. Urged to Abolish Use of Prolonged or Indefinite Solitary Confinement as Almost 200 California Inmates Enter Fifth Week of Hunger Strike

Nearly 200 inmates in California detention centres are now entering their fifth week of a hunger Juan E. Méndez strike against cruel, inhuman and degrading prison conditions

Juan E. Méndez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, yesterday urged the U.S. Government to abolish the use of prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement. “Even if solitary confinement is applied for short periods of time, it often causes mental and physical suffering or humiliation, amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” Mr. Méndez said in a news release, “and if the resulting pain or sufferings are severe, solitary confinement even amounts to torture.”

Approximately 80,000 prisoners in the United States are subjected to solitary confinement.  Nearly 12,000 of those are in isolation in the state of California.

“I urge the US Government to adopt concrete measures to eliminate the use of prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement under all circumstances,” Mr. Méndez said. He added that the United States should absolutely ban solitary confinement of any duration for juveniles, persons with psychosocial or other disabilities or health conditions, pregnant women, women with infants and breastfeeding mothers, as well as those serving a life sentence and prisoners on death row.

Since 8 July, thousands of prisoners detained in nine different prisons have gone on hunger strike to peacefully protest prison conditions. They are demanding a change in the state’s excessive use of solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure, and the subjugation of prisoners to solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time by authorities under the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

In California’s maximum security prison in Pelican Bay, more than 400 prisoners have been held in solitary confinement for over a decade, and the average time a prisoner spends in solitary confinement is 7.5 years. Often that time is spent in an 8-foot-by-12 foot cell lacking minimum ventilation and natural light. The prisoners remain in their cells for 22 to 23 hours per day, with one hour of exercise alone in a cement lot.

In the context of reported reprisals against inmates on hunger strike and a District Judge’s approval of Californian authorities’ request to force-feed prisoners under certain circumstances, the U.N. Special Rapporteur reminded the authorities that “it is not acceptable to use threats of forced feeding or other types of physical or psychological coercion against individuals who have opted for the extreme recourse of a hunger strike.”

In March, Mr. Méndez called on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to investigate the practice of solitary confinement and its harmful effects in the Americas and urged stronger regulation of its use. In a 2011 global report to the U.N. General Assembly, Mr. Méndez called solitary confinement a “harsh measure which is contrary to rehabilitation, the aim of the penitentiary system.”

Juan E. Méndez (Argentina) was appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2010 as the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. He is independent from any government and serves in his individual capacity. Mr. Méndez has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights, and has a long and distinguished record of advocacy throughout the Americas. He is a Professor of Law at the American University – Washington College of Law and Co-Chair of the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association. Mr. Méndez has previously served as the President of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) until 2009, and was the U.N. Secretary-General Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide from 2004 to 2007, as well as an advisor on crime prevention to the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court, between 2009 and 2010.

(mew)(adapted from a UN press release) 


August 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Transformative Power of Education

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday highlighted education as a powerful tool to advance development worldwide and encouraged academic institutions to collaborate with the United Nations to accelerate progress.  Speaking at a UN Academic Impact event in Seoul, Republic of Korea (ROK), Mr. Ban said the UN is committed to help children obtain access to quality education. There are currently 57 million children out of school worldwide. “Education will give [children] a better life – and give us all a brighter future,” Mr. Ban said. “This is especially true for girls. For every year that you educate a young woman, her income goes up by as much as 20 per cent. A World Bank study of 100 developing countries found that putting more girls in high school significantly boosts per capita income growth.”

The UN Academic Impact is a global initiative that aligns institutions of higher education with the world body in actively supporting ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, literacy, sustainability and conflict resolution. The Academic Impact also asks each participating college or university to actively demonstrate support of at least one of those principles each year.

“We are drawing on the wisdom of people from around the world – development experts and government officials, but also grassroots groups, ordinary citizens, and students,” Mr. Ban said, calling on members of academia to continue collaborating with the UN. “Around the world, universities are teaming up to support the global mission of the United Nations. I urge you to do more to help the Academic Impact live up to its name and make a real difference in our world.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

August 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria Would Be a Crime Against Humanity

The use of any chemical weapons in Syria would amount to a “crime against humanity” and there would be “serious consequences” for the perpetrators, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, while urging an immediate investigation on this matter.

“Any use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anybody, under any circumstances, would violate international law,” Mr. Ban said ahead of a meeting in Seoul, Republic of Korea (ROK) on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). “Such a crime against humanity should result in serious consequences for the perpetrator. Once again, I call for an immediate investigation of this latest incident.”

A UN team is currently in Syria spending up to 14 days, with a possible extension, probing the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Government at Khan al-Asal, as well as two other allegations reported by Member States.

Yesterday, Mr. Ban called on the Syrian Government to extend its full cooperation so that the team, led by Swedish scientist Åke Sellström, can swiftly investigate the incident, which occurred on the morning of 21 August. Mr. Ban has also instructed the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane, to travel to Damascus.  “I can think of no good reason why any party – either Government or opposition forces – would decline this opportunity to get to the truth of the matter,” Mr. Ban said.

Since fighting began in March 2011 between the Syrian Government and opposition groups seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad as many as 100,000 people have been killed, almost 2 million have fled to neighbouring countries and a further 4 million have been internally displaced. In addition, at least 6.8 million Syrian require urgent humanitarian assistance, half of whom are children.

Mr. Ban stressed that “there is no time to waste” given the alarming humanitarian situation, and repeated his call to all parties to come to the negotiating table. “The time has clearly come for the parties to stop shooting, and start talking. I am determined to do everything I can to assist the victims and move towards a political solution. That is the only way this crisis will be resolved.” He added that while a political situation emerges, UN agencies would continue to provide assistance to millions of people inside and outside Syria who are in urgent need. “Our challenge remains: achieving a complete cessation of hostilities, delivering humanitarian assistance and getting the Government and the opposition to the negotiating table in Geneva as soon as possible,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Joint Special Representative of the UN and League of Arab States for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said planning for the so-called “Geneva II” conference is still underway, with the conference tentatively taking place in September.

In June, discussions about the international meeting were held in Geneva with participation from senior United States, Russian and UN officials, led by Mr. Brahimi. 

The goal of the conference would to be to achieve a political solution to the conflict in Syria through a comprehensive agreement between the Government and the opposition for the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué of 30 June 2012. Issued after a meeting of the Action Group for Syria, the document lays out key steps in a process to end the violence. 

In an interview with UNTV, Mr. Brahimi underscored the need to convene the conference, warning that Syria has become “without any doubt, the biggest threat to peace and security in the world today.”

“What has happened, this story, this allegation, that chemical weapons have been used a few kilometres from the heart of Damascus as a matter of fact emphasizes the importance of this crisis and the danger it represents, not only for the Syrian people, not only for the region, but for the world,” he said.

(UN Press Release)


August 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

US State Dept. Releases Foreign Relations of the United States 1977-80

US State DeptYesterday, the U.S. Department of State announced the release of  Foreign Relations of the United States, 1977–1980, Volume II, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs.  Here is a description from the State Department press release:

"This volume is part of a Foreign Relations subseries that documents the most important issues in the foreign policy of the administration of Jimmy Carter. It illustrates the Carter administration’s efforts to define and implement a broad-based human rights policy, including the establishment of the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs within the Department of State, the creation of human rights coordinating and review groups, issuance of a Presidential Directive on human rights, institutionalization and standardization of human rights reporting, and pursuit of human rights within the United Nations and other multilateral venues. The volume also documents steps undertaken by the Carter administration to fight hunger, launch a global health initiative, and advocate for women’s rights."

This volume was compiled and edited by Kristin L. Ahlberg. It is available on the Office of the Historian website.  Copies of the volume will be available for purchase from the U.S. Government Printing Office online (GPO S/N 044-000-02653-8; ISBN 978-0-16-091367-9), or by calling toll-free 1-866-512-1800 (D.C. area 202-512-1800).


August 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

New Maritime Labour Convention Takes Effect

ILOThe International Labor Organization (ILO) has announced that its new convention, the Maritime Labour Convention (text), received enough ratifications to take effect as of August 20, 2013.  To date, 45 ILO members have ratified the Convention, representing 70% of the world's gross shipping tonnage. (Ratificaton information can be found here. According to the ILO press release, the new convention will ensure decent living and working conditions for seafaring workers and fair competition for ship owners.


August 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

International Law Weekend Midwest -- St. Louis -- September 19-21, 2013

The American Branch of the International Law Association (ABILA or AmBranch) will hold a three-day International Law Weekend Midwest at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.  

Panels include:

  • The South China Sea: The Intersection of Politics and Law
  • International Contract Farming (UNIDROIT)
  • The Role of Institutions in Developing and Enforcing International Human Rights Law
  • A Keynote Address by ABILA President Ruth Wedgwood
  • Trends in Private International Law
  • Global Climate Change
  • International Criminal Law
  • Cross-Border Regionalism
  • Human RIghts Litigation in the Wake of Kiobel

Confirmed speakers include:

  • David E. Adelman, University of Texas School of Law
  • Deepa Badrinarayana, Chapman University School of Law
  • Shalanda Baker, University of San Francisco School of Law
  • Andrea Bjorkland, McGill University Faculty of Law
  • Kristen E. Boon, Seton Hall University School of Law
  • Ronald A. Brand, University of Pittsburgh School of Law
  • Bart Brown, IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • Maria-Vittoria "Giugi" Carminati, Berg & Androphy
  • Donald Earl "Trey" Childress, Pepperdine University School of Law
  • Shahram Dana, John Marshall Law School
  • Marcella David, University of Iowa College of Law
  • John N. Drobak, Washington University School of Law
  • Paul Dubinsky, Wayne State University
  • Rebecca Feldman, Immigration Law Project, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri
  • Henry Gabriel, Elon University School of Law
  • Jennifer Green, University of Minnesota Law School
  • James W. Houck, Penn State University, Dickinson School of Law
  • Linda M. Keller, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
  • Michael J. Kelly, Creighton University School of Law
  • M. Imad Khan, Vinson & Elkins LLP
  • Chuck Kotuby, Jones Day
  • Peter Lindstrom, Mayor, Falcon Heights, MN; University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs
  • Richard Longworth, Chicago Council on Global Affairs
  • Lillian A. Miranda, Florida International University School of Law
  • John E. Noyes, California Western School of Law
  • Mary Ellen O'Connell, University of Notre Dame
  • Mark Osiel, University of Iowa College of Law
  • Hari Osofsky, University of Minnesota Law School
  • Jacqueline Peel, University of Melbourne Law School
  • Anjanette Raymond, Indiana University Kelley School of Business
  • J. Ashley Roach, Attorney Adviser, Office of the Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State (retired)
  • Christopher Roberts, University of Minnesota Law School
  • Leila Nadya Sadat, Washington University School of Law
  • Matthew Schaefer, University of Nebraska College of Law
  • Michael P. Scharf, Case Western Reserve University School of Law
  • Jennifer Schwesig, Armstrong Teasdale LLP
  • Abbey Stemler, Indiana University Kelley School of Business
  • Frank L. Steeves, Vice President & General Council, Emerson Electric
  • David Stewart, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Mark Sundahl, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
  • Kent Syverud, Dean, Washington University School of Law
  • Constance Z. Wagner, St. Louis University School of Law
  • Melissa Waters, Washington University School of Law
  • Ruth Wedgwood, Johns Hopkins University
  • Annecoos Wiersema, University of Denver Sturm College of Law
  • David Wippman, Dean, University of Minnesota Law School

ILW-Midwest will be September 19-21, 2013.  Click here for more information about the conference and how to register for it.  The website currently lists the registration deadline as November 6, 2013, but since the conference is in September you might want to register before November!

Student memberships in the American Branch of the International Law Students Association are free.  Visit the ABILA Website for more information.


August 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Homophobic Violence in Haiti

The United Nations in Haiti today called on key political, religious and community leaders to inspire respect for rights and encourage restraint from expressions of hatred and contempt amid increase in homophobic violence in the country.   

“The UN Mission and United Nations agencies and programmes in Haiti are deeply concerned by the recent increase in homophobic violence in the country,” the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) said in a statement. “The UN urges all Haitians to continue working together towards the construction of a state based on the respect for the rule of law, respect for others, tolerance, individual dignity and human rights,” MINUSTAH added. 

The statement follows a weekend attack on the engagement party of a gay couple, with people reportedly throwing stones and setting cars on fires. 

“The UN appreciates the intervention of the national authorities to rescue victims of violence and urges increased efforts to prevent further incidents and to prosecute and hold accountable those responsible for the violence,” according to the statement released by MINUSTAH. 

Echoing a 21 July statement by la Ministre Déléguée auprès du Premier Ministre Chargée des Droits Humains et de la Lutte Contre la Pauvreté Extrême, the UN community in Haiti reiterated that “tolerance, love, solidarity, serenity, and the respect for others, as well as fraternity, and justice for all remain the foundations of a growing democratic society.”

The statement also noted that Article 19 of the Haitian Constitution stipulates the right “to life, health, and respect of the human person for all citizens without distinction, in conformity with the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights.”

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and partners launched in June in Cape Town, South Africa, a year-long effort called ‘Free & Equal’ to raise awareness and respect for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality.

Calling it an “unprecedented” initiative, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended the campaign’s core messages: human rights are universal and we can change attitudes for the better.  “The Secretary-General has consistently called on world leaders to address violence against LGBT members of our human family,” his spokesperson said in a statement, adding that Mr. Ban is personally committed to championing this cause.

(UN Press Release)(mew)

August 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Books Coming Soon: International Law Legal Research

Winer Book PhotoAt the annual meeting of Scribes--The American Society of Legal Writers, a special award was given to Carolina Academic Press for its leadership in legal writing and legal research texts.  I was happy to see Keith Sipe, the publisher, receive that award for his groundbreaking vision in publishing (and for keeping research books and casebooks reasonably priced).

Winer Book CoverCarolina Academic Press will soon be unveiling a new book (expected in November or thereabouts) on international legal research.  It's called, not surprisingly, "International Law Legal Research" and is authored by Prof. Anthony S. Winer (William Mitchell College of Law), Mary Ann E. Archer (former Associate Director for Public Services at the Law Library of William Mitchell College of Law), and Lyonette Louis-Jacques (Foreign and International Law Librarian at the University of Chicago Law School).  It's the first volume of a new international legal research series that Carolina Academic Press will publish.

Here's a link with more information about the International Law Legal Research book (including how to pre-order copies and review copies).  Law schools with classes in international law legal research will greatly appreciate this book and schools without such courses will find that they now have materials that will allow them to offer a new course.  Students competing in international law moot court competitions such as the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition will also find a great many useful tips in this book.

Mark E. Wojcik, Series Editor


August 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Calls for Security Council to Increase Protection of Civilians

The international community must step up efforts to protect civilians in armed conflict, and ensure that those responsible for war crimes are prosecuted, United Nations senior officials told the United Nations Security Council in a meeting that coincides with World Humanitarian Day. “Every day, humanitarian workers protect, feed, shelter, educate, heal and assist millions of people, regardless of who or where they are,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Council’s open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. “It is an outrage that our colleagues and partners should be attacked for providing these essential services.”

The debate was held to mark World Humanitarian Day which aims to honour those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service and those who continue to bring assistance and relief to millions, in addition to drawing attention to humanitarian needs worldwide and the importance of international cooperation in meeting those needs. This year, the Day falls on the 10th anniversary of the 1993 terrorist bombing of the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, which housed the UN headquarters in Iraq. The attack killed 22 people, including Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello and attorney Arthur Helton.   

“On this tragic anniversary, I call again for greater respect and protection for humanitarian workers and assets everywhere,” Mr. Ban said, adding that while there are reminders every day of conflict, violence and terrorism, “we can not become numb to this brutalization.”

Mr. Ban said he was particularly concerned about the use of explosive weapons such as roadside bombs, air strikes and artillery in populated areas, which can kill and maim, having profound humanitarian consequences. In this regard, he reiterated his call to the Council and Member States to work through the UN General Assembly to recognize and act on this critical issue. “We need to better understand the types of explosive weapons that are most problematic. We need to examine how existing international law can help regulate use. And we need to consider the concrete steps that can be taken to reduce the humanitarian impact of explosive weapons in populated areas. ” he said.

Mr. Ban also noted the precarious humanitarian situations in Syria, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Mali, and stressed that international community must increase its relief efforts in these countries.

In her address to the Council, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay echoed Mr. Ban’s call for increased relief efforts, and emphasized the importance of tackling impunity. “Providing humanitarian access and ensuring accountability for violations of global human rights and humanitarian law are not only moral imperatives, but also legal requirements,” Ms. Pillay said.  She added that impunity undermines the fabric of societies and was detrimental to any lasting solution to instability, and stressed that countries must adopt the necessary measures for to address this issue in compliance with global standards.

Ms. Pillay said her Office (OHCHR) is currently supporting commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions on Syria, DRC, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and underlined that these are important to determine whether human rights violations have occurred and inform appropriate responses. 

In addition, Ms. Pillay voiced concern over human rights implications for the protection of civilians of armed drone strikes carried out in the context of counter-terrorism in Gaza, Pakistan and Yemen, among other countries. The current lack of transparency surrounding their use creates an “accountability vacuum” and affects the ability of victims to seek redress, she said, urging all relevant States “to clarify the legal bases for such strikes as well as the safeguards in place to ensure compliance with applicable international law.”

In her remarks to the open debate, delivered via a teleconference from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos highlighted the complex working conditions that humanitarians face every day, and called for increased access so they can increase assistance to those who need it the most. “I am extremely concerned by the failure to protect civilians in flagrant violation of the most basic rules of international humanitarian law and human rights law,” she said, referring to the situation in Syria, where insecurity, coupled with bureaucratic constraints and other limitations, continue to prevent aid from reaching all those in need.  “We need more capacity and humanitarian access must be granted to people trapped in areas under the control of Government forces or opposition groups,” she said. Meanwhile, in Sudan, an estimated 900,000 people remained out of reach in areas controlled by armed groups. “Without access we cannot do more.”

While the main responsibility to prosecute human rights violations and ensure accountability lies with national authorities, Ms. Amos said that the UN and its Member States play an important role in providing financial and technical support to conduct investigations and prosecutions. “National accountability mechanisms can also be complemented by the more regular and systematic use of commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions by the Security Council,” she said. “As we have seen in the evolution of situations requiring humanitarian response around the world, it is clear that the concept of arbitrary denial of consent for humanitarian operations requires greater legal development and policy attention, including from this Council,” Ms. Amos concluded.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)(mew)

August 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ITLOS To Hold Public Hearings in the M/V VIRIGINA Case (Panama/Guinea-Bissau)

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has announced that it will hold public hearings beginning on September 2, 2013 to hear oral arguments in the case of the M/V Virginia between Panama and Guinea-Bissau. 

Panama initiated this proceeding pursuant to Annex VII of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The parties subsequently reached a special agreement to submit the matter to the ITLOS in July 2011.  According to Panama, an oil tanker bearing its flag, the M/V Virginia, was carrying out refueling operations in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Guinea Bissau when authorities from Guinea-Bissau boarded the vessel, escorted it to a port in Guinea-Bissau and arrested it.  The vessel was released on October 2010 after 14 months in detention.  Panama claims the actions of Guinea-Bissau were unlawful and caused material damage to the vessel as well as losses to the owner, operator and crew.  It therefore is claiming reparations in the amount of approximately 4 million euro.

For its part, Guinea-Bissau claims that Panama violated article 91 of UNCLOS by allowing a vessel without any genuine connection to Panama to fly its flag and by faciliating the illegal bunkering operations of the vessel in Guinea-Bissau's EEZ.  Guinea-Bissau has counter-claimed for damages.

For more information regarding this case and the public hearings, see this ITLOS press release.




August 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Faroe Islands Brings Claim against EU pursuant to UNCLOS

The Faroe Islands has initiated arbitration against the European Union (EU) pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in connection with a dispute over fishing rights. Earlier this year, the Faroese government decided to increase the amount of herring its fishermen were allowed to take.  In response, the EU Member States voted to impose sanctions against the Faroe Islands for overfishing of herring.  Friday, the Faroe Islands and Iceland charged that the EU actions violate international maritime law as reflected in UNCLOS.  Iceland and the Faroe Islands say the dispute should be resolved through negotiations at meetings scheduled next month with the other coastal states: Russia, Norway and the EU.  The EU sanctions are not yet in effect, and negotiations are scheduled for the first week of September, so stay tuned.


August 17, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Public UN Hearings on Human Rights Violations in North Korea -- August 20 to 24

The United Nations panel set up to investigate human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) will begin a series of public hearings next week in Seoul, Republic of Korea, aimed at gathering information from various witnesses. 

Michael Kirby, the chairman of the three-member Commission of Inquiry, said the panel decided to take public testimony to help raise international awareness of conditions in DPRK and because of a lack of response by Pyongyang to the requests of the UN team to be allowed entry into the country.  “We are approaching this inquiry with impartiality and with no preconceptions,” he stated in a news release. “We have asked to visit the DPRK and we have also taken steps to reach out to the Government to seek their participation in the hearings, so far to no avail.”

Established by the UN Human Rights Council in March for a period of one year, the commission is tasked with investigating the “systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights” in DPRK in order to ensure full accountability, in particular for violations which may amount to crimes against humanity.  In addition to Mr. Kirby, a retired judge from Australia, the commission comprises Sonja Biserko, founder and president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, and Marzuki Darusman, former Attorney General of Indonesia and the current UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in DPRK.

The hearings will be held from 20 to 24 August on the campus of Yonsei University and are expected to involve some 30 witnesses. Members of the commission will also hold meetings with senior Government officials, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and research institutions. A similar round of hearings is also scheduled for Tokyo later in the month. 

“We are determined to shed light on the different aspects of various alleged human rights violations,” Mr. Kirby said. “To the extent that we establish that such violations have occurred, we will also seek to determine whether crimes against humanity have occurred and who bears responsibility among different state institutions and officials. But it is not possible at this moment to envisage the level of detail that the commission will be able to achieve in establishing lines of responsibility, if any.”

Possible violations to be investigated by the commission include those pertaining to the right to food, prison camps, torture and inhuman treatment, arbitrary detention, discrimination, freedom of expression, freedom of movement and enforced disappearances.

The commission is scheduled to present an update to the Geneva-based Council on its findings in September, and to the General Assembly in New York in October. A final written report will be submitted to the Council in March 2014.

Mr. Kirby noted that at this stage, it is not possible to say what follow-up process will unfold. “It will mostly depend on the findings of our investigation, the conclusions and the recommendations that will be reached and the decision of the competent organs of the UN and other international institutions in implementing – or not – our recommendations,” he said.

Next week’s hearings will be accessible to the public through media reports and regular updates on the commission’s website, where video will be posted following the public testimonies.

August 16, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)