Tuesday, August 13, 2013
The American Bar Association House of Delegates yesterday approved resolution 107C, which "affirms that the U.S. common law doctrine of forum non conveniens is not an appropriate basis for refusing to confirm or enforce arbitral awards" under the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards or the Inter-American Convention on International Commercial Arbitration. The ABA Resolution states that invoking the doctrine of forum non conveniens for such arbitration awards is inconsistent with U.S. treaty obligations and federal implementing legislation.
The United Nations committee tasked with combating racial discrimination has opened its latest round of work in Geneva with a focus on stopping the spread of racist hate speech on the Internet and social media networks, as well as the need to use education to prevent racism and xenophobia.
“Where does the right of expression, which we all want to respect, stop and the need to sanction and prevent hate speech begin? What is the point in time when one right has to recognize that it cannot be exercised if it implies the violation of another one,” UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri said in her address to the opening of the 83rd session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). As the world becomes more inter-connected, incidents in numerous countries have drawn attention to the issue of racist hate speech, which today is more easily spread across national borders, she added.
Ms. Pansieri urged the Committee to include in its deliberations the Rabat Plan of Action, adopted by independent UN experts at a meeting in Morocco in October 2012, on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. The Deputy High Commissioner noted that the Committee meets against a backdrop of two landmark events – the annual Nelson Mandela International Day commemoration and the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Washington in which he made his famous “I have a dream” speech.
Fifty years after his famous speech, Mr. King’s vision remained a dream for many people around the world and that was why, to continue to protect those whose human rights were being violated because of their race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, the Committee’s members are here today, said Ms. Pansieri. She also spoke about the recent adoption by the Human Rights Council in June of a resolution on education as a tool to prevent racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, which recognized that quality education could help create more inclusive societies.
Noting continued attacks on people with albinism in Tanzania and in other countries, Ms. Pansieri reiterated the calls of High Commissioner Navi Pillay to halt these crimes and to engage with national authorities to educate people against stereotypes, including the belief that body parts from albinos have magical qualities.
The three-week session of the Committee will review reports submitted by Chile, Chad, Venezuela, Burkina Faso, Belarus, Jamaica, Sweden and Cyprus.
(adapted from a UN press release)
The U.S. State Department has filed its Periodic Report concerning the implementation of its obligations under the Convention Against Torture and has released it publicly here. Article 19 of the Convention Against Torture requires that member states file such periodic reports with the United Nations Committee Against Torture. The U.S. Report responds to 55 questions prepared by the Committee and sent to the U.S. Department of State in 2010.
Sunday, August 11, 2013
The American Bar Association Section of International Law will host a one-day International Legal Education Summit in London, England on Saturday, October 29, 2013.
Registration is FREE but space is limited. (Because of the space limitations, please register ONLY if you are sure you can go.) The International Legal Education Summit is designed to foster innovative exchanges and networking. There will be special programming for students and new lawyers, small group information and innovation exchanges for educators and lawyers, and plenary session roundtables on the changing aspects of international legal practice and the future of international legal education.
Programs will be held at the University of Law in Moorgate (City of London).
Download London Education Summit 2013. The registration link is included in the flier.
Saturday, August 10, 2013
A 27-year-old man was executed on 6 August in Hanoi by lethal injection. The execution is the first in the last 18 months in Viet Nam.
“We are dismayed by the resumption of the death penalty by Viet Nam,” the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Cécile Pouilly, told journalists in Geneva. Ms. Pouilly added that the office is also “deeply concerned” for the lives of some 116 death row prisoners in the country who have exhausted their appeals are now facing imminent execution. “We urge the Government not to carry out further executions and to join the growing number of Member States that have established a moratorium on the death penalty or abolished this practice altogether,” Ms. Pouilly said, noting that 19 States in the Asia-Pacific region have stepped away from the practice. “We also call upon the Government to declassify the data on the use of the death penalty as a state secret, recalling the importance of transparent and effective public debate on the subject ensuring that the public has access to balanced and accurate information,” she added.
Speaking on the subject in June, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed particular concern that the application of the death penalty in countries where it is still practiced “is often cloaked in secrecy,” and that a lack of data on the number of executions or individuals on death row impedes an informed national debate on the issue. He urged Member States to stop the use of “this inhumane practice,” particularly in countries that have resumed executions after a moratorium.
Since 2007, the UN General Assembly has adopted four resolutions calling on States to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to abolition. About 150 of the UN’s 193 Member States have either abolished the death penalty or no longer practice it.
Last month, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay wrote to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan advocating for the abolition of the death penalty in Viet Nam. According to her spokesperson, Ms. Pillay noted that Viet Nam still retains the death penalty for several offences that do not meet the threshold of most serious crimes.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Thursday, August 8, 2013
Abstracts are invited for the Edinburgh Postgraduate Law Conference, to be held December 2-3, 2013 at the University of Edinburgh, UK. The conference aims to provide a forum for postgraduate students to present and receive feedback on their work and to network with other researchers working in their area.
The theme of the conference is “Law, Individual, Community.” The organizers invite papers from all areas of law and related fields, including commercial law, constitutional law, criminal law, critical approaches to law, human rights, intellectual property law, international law, legal theory, and medical law. Possible topics of investigation include:
- Liberalism versus communitarianism,
- Problematizing the subject of law (the collective subject, sub-state subjects in international law etc.),
- Rights and responsibilities, including group rights and indigenous peoples’ rights,
- Law and the excluded,
- Community and the welfare state,
- The role and position of shareholders against the corporation,
- Corporate social responsibility and corporate governance,
- The principle of self-determination and sub-state territorial autonomy,
- The rise of global governance,
- Community interests and the protection of the environment,
- Biobanking and participation in medical research,
- Intellectual property rights and access to medicines.
The keynote speakers for this year’s conference will be Martin Loughlin, Professor of Public Law at LSE, and John Harris, Sir David Alliance Professor of Bioethics at the University of Manchester.
The conference will also include three training sessions, seeking to offer participants advice on managing their PhDs, on publishing as early career researchers and on finding their niche in the academic job market. Prizes will be awarded for the best paper submitted and best presentation at the conference.
Abstracts of no more than 300 words and 3-5 keywords are to be submitted to EdLawPhDConference@gmail.com, together with a short biographical note (approximately 100 words) on the author. The deadline for submitting abstracts is August 15, 2013. Selected participants will be notified by early September. More information on the conference can be found by clicking here.
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Ahead of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, the United Nations human rights chief today urged States to do more to honour and strengthen their treaties with indigenous peoples, no matter how long ago they were signed. “Even when signed or otherwise agreed more than a century ago, many treaties remain the cornerstone for the protection of the identity, land and customs of indigenous peoples, determining the relationship they have with the State,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement. She added that treaties are often a decisive step in ending a period of conflict, exploitation and expropriation.
“The honouring of treaties has in many cases been described as a sacred undertaking requiring good faith by each party for their proper enforcement. Yet too often indigenous communities are obliged to go to the courts to force States to live up to their promises,” she added, highlighting the fact that exploitation and expropriation continue today.
The High Commissioner noted the importance of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted in 2007 to protect the rights of the estimated 370 million indigenous peoples worldwide and to promote the recognition, observance and enforcement of treaties and other arrangements concluded with States or their successors.
“I encourage States to take concrete steps to honour and strengthen the treaties they have concluded with indigenous peoples and to cooperate with them in implementing new agreements or other constructive arrangements through transparent, inclusive and participatory negotiations,” Ms. Pillay said.
The theme of this year’s World Indigenous Day – which has been marked annually on 9 August since 1995 – is “Honouring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.” It aims to highlight the importance of honouring arrangements between States, their citizens and indigenous peoples that were designed to recognize indigenous peoples’ rights to their lands and establish a framework for living in proximity and entering into economic relationships. This message underlines the need for States and indigenous peoples to build relationships based on trust, mutual respect, rule of law and the affirmation of indigenous peoples’ culture and customs, Ms. Pillay said.
The UN will mark the Day this year with a special event in New York on Friday, featuring senior UN officials and some 2,000 representatives from indigenous groups from around the world. Also that day, hundreds of indigenous and non-indigenous rowers are scheduled to arrive in Manhattan after having collectively travelled thousands of miles on canoes and horsebacks. The event honours the Two Row Wampum Treaty concluded in 1613 between Dutch immigrants and the Haudenosaunee, a confederacy of six nations, with the capital in the Onondaga nation in New York state.
In 2014, the UN will hold the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, a high-level plenary meeting with UN Member States. Two hundred indigenous participants from seven regions are to be invited, according to the event’s website.
(UN press release)
Miguel de Serpa Soares of Portugal is the New Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counse
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Miguel de Serpa Soares of Portugal as Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel.
Since 2008, Mr. Serpa Soares has served as the Director General of the Department of Legal Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Portugal. He has “a wide-ranging experience in the legal sector, including a deep understanding of international political sensitivities and innovative negotiation approaches,” stated the announcement of his appointment.
Mr. Serpa Soares, who replaces Patricia O’Brien of Ireland, also served as a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and Judge of the Portuguese University Moot Court of International Law. Earlier in his career, he also acted as Legal Advisor to the Permanent Representation of Portugal to the European Union.
He has also represented his country in various international forums, including the Sixth Committee of the UN General Assembly, the Committee of Public Law Legal Advisers of the Council of Europe and the International Criminal Court’s Assembly of States Parties. Born in Angola in 1967, Mr. Serpa Soares holds a Degree in Law from the University of Lisbon.
(UN press release)
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The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) reported this week that there is reason to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Nigeria, namely murder and persecution by the militant group known as Boko Haram.
A report issued by the Office of the Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, found that the group has, since July 2009, “launched a widespread and systematic attack that has resulted in the killing of more than 1,200 Christian and Muslims civilians in different locations throughout Nigeria. “The scale and intensity of the attacks have increased over time,” adds the report, which is based on preliminary information through December 2012.
The Office stated in a news release that it is now assessing whether the national authorities are conducting genuine proceedings in relation “to those who appear to bear the greatest responsibility for such crimes, and the gravity of such crimes.” It added that the Prosecutor is still assessing three other phases of the situation in Nigeria, and once completed, will decide if a situation meets the legal criteria established by the Rome Statute – the Court’s founding treaty – to warrant an investigation by the ICC.
During the timeframe of the report, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) repeatedly warned Boko Haram against attacks on civilians.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in May to fight Boko Haram. Related anti-insurgent operations and general insecurity have uprooted thousands of people in north-eastern Nigeria, with more than 6,000 of them fleeing to neighbouring Niger for safety, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported in June.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
A United Nations independent expert has urged the Chilean Government to stop applying an anti-terrorism law against its Mapuche indigenous people, who are fighting to recover their ancestral land. “The anti-terrorism law has been used in a manner that discriminates against the Mapuche,” said the Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, at the end of a visit to the country. “It has been applied in a confused and arbitrary fashion that has resulted in real injustice, has undermined the right to a fair trial, and has been perceived as stigmatizing and de-legitimising the Mapuche land claims and protests.”
Mr. Emmerson warned that the situation in the Biobío and Araucanía regions is “extremely volatile” partly due to the misuse of the counter-terrorism legislation within the context of “an inexcusably slow” process of ancestral repatriation. “In the absence of prompt and effective action at a national level, this situation could very quickly escalate into widespread disorder and violence,” he said in a news release.
The Special Rapporteur said that while there should be no impunity for crimes committed during violent land protests, Chilean prosecutors do not need to resort to anti-terror laws and can instead use ordinary criminal laws to investigate, prosecute and punish violence. “The anti-terrorism legislation has been disproportionately and unfairly applied against Mapuche defendants, and has been implemented without a coherent policy for distinguishing those cases that meet the threshold test for an act of terrorism and those that do not,” he said.
The Government must also place the Mapuche question as one of the top priorities of the national political dialogue, and urgently promote the adoption of a national strategy on this issue. “The cornerstone for a national strategy should be the constitutional recognition of the Mapuche’s right to exist as indigenous peoples within the State of Chile, together with the creation by the incoming Government of an adequately staffed and funded ministry for indigenous affairs,” Mr. Emmerson said. “The resolution of this dispute needs to be a political priority for the next incoming Government.”
During his visit, Mr. Emmerson received numerous reports of excessive use of violence by the police against Mapuche communities, some of which had been upheld in judicial proceedings. The allegations included the infliction of gunshot injuries on the elderly, and on women and children. Despite the existence of apparently credible evidence and judicial findings, the expert was informed that no criminal prosecutions had been instituted.
To redress this impunity, Mr. Emmerson recommended the creation of a new independent investigation body with the function of inquiring into crimes of excessive violence committed against Mapuche communities by members of the Carabineros and the investigative police. “Such a body should be institutionally independent of both forces, should have the power to investigate and to require the prosecution of criminal and disciplinary proceedings where the evidence justifies this,” he said.
While in Chile, Mr. Emmerson also held meetings with various Government officials, public prosecutors, public defenders and high-level members of the investigative police. In addition, he met with victims of rural violence, representatives of the Mapuche community, local landowners and civil society representatives.
Special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work. Mr. Emmerson will present his findings and recommendations to the Council in 2014.
(UN Press Release)
A group of United Nations independent experts today warned that the rule of law in the Central African Republic (CAR) is "almost non-existent" as abuses of power and human rights violations have become pervasive in the country. "We are seriously concerned over reported acts of killings, torture, arbitrary detention, gender-based violence, enforced disappearances, 'mob justice' and the pervasive climate of insecurity and the absence of the rule of law which have prevailed in the country in the last five months," the human rights experts said, urging authorities to take immediate steps to put an end to all human rights violations and ensure there is no impunity for the perpetrators.
Violence erupted this past December in CAR -- which has been marked by decades of instability and fighting -- when the Séléka rebel coalition launched a series of attacks. A peace agreement was reached in January, but the rebels again seized the capital, Bangui, in March, forcing President François Bozizé to flee. At present, CAR is governed by a National Transitional Council headed by Michel Djotodia and a transitional government formed in June.
"There have been a number of killings, sometimes in retaliation for incidents of 'mob justice' against members of the Séléka coalition. Some 46 cases are allegedly documented," said the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns. "I call for a thorough, transparent and independent investigation of all suspected cases of arbitrary executions to identify and bring to justice those responsible."
The Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, warned that "torture seems to be widespread in the country," and called on authorities to make sure that every allegation of torture or of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is investigated by law enforcement officers.
Rashida Manjoo, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, stressed that there have been numerous cases of sexual abuse and rape reported in all of the localities that Séléka combatants have passed through. "The State has a responsibility to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons," Ms. Manjoo said. "Women and girls must be provided with access to medical, psychological, social and other assistance as well as to effective mechanisms of justice and to just and effective remedies for the harm that they have suffered."
The UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances said it had also received allegations that a number of civilians as well as officers and soldiers of the official army (FACA) had been abducted by armed Séléka groups. On 14 April, a staff sergeant of the amphibious battalion and a first class soldier of the ex-presidential guard were reportedly arrested and brought to an unknown destination. "Any act of enforced disappearance is an offence to human dignity and no circumstances whatsoever may be invoked to justify this heinous crime," the Working Group underscored.
Special rapporteurs are appointed by the Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
(UN Press Release)
Sudan has failed to renew the work permits for the majority of the humanitarian workers from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), seriously hindering the UNHCR's ability to provide assistance to the persons who have been displaced by the conflicts in that country. According to the UN, there are approximately 2 million displaced persons in Sudan, including 300,000 newly displaced persons within the last year. 1.2 million persons live in refugee camps.
Here is a US State Department Press release on the matter:
"The United States joins the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in urging the Government of Sudan to immediately renew the necessary work permits for twenty UNHCR international staff providing humanitarian assistance and protection to hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the conflict in Darfur.
The failure to renew UNHCR staff permits is particularly unfortunate, as it comes in the context of deteriorating security and humanitarian conditions in Darfur and the forcible displacement of over 300,000 persons this year -- more than the total number of displaced persons in Darfur over the past two years. This will affect UNHCR’s ability to conduct its critical, lifesaving programs in several sectors including health, emergency shelter and provision of non-food items.
This recent tightening of restrictions on humanitarian actors in Darfur, including UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations, raises serious concerns about the Government of Sudan’s willingness to uphold the promises it made in the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, and raises questions regarding the viability of this peace accord. We call on the Sudanese Government and all rebel groups to engage without preconditions in an effective and inclusive political process to achieve a peaceful resolution to the conflict. We call on the Government of Sudan to allow UNHCR and all humanitarian actors unfettered humanitarian access to all parts of Darfur to protect and to assist the victims
of the conflict and to support the implementation of the peace agreements. The people of Darfur deserve peace and stability now."
While States have the sovereign right to control their borders, they also have a responsibility for the welfare of their population. The government of Sudan does not have the resources to adequately care for this population at present. Accordingly, Sudan has an obligation to allow humanitarian aid workers to resume work in the country to prevent futher humanitarian disaster.
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
We are sad to report that Renato Ruggiero, the first person to serve as Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), died yesterday at the age of 83 in Milan, Italy. He facilitated the negotiation of important trade agreements and was instrumental in helping the fledging organization to be successful in its early days.
For more information regarding his distinguished career, visit the WTO website here.
Monday, August 5, 2013
The Central States Law School Association (CSLSA) has announced that it will hold its annual conference at the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville, Arkansas on October 4 and 5, 2013. Law faculty from across the United States are invited to submit proposals to present papers or works in progress at the annual meeting.
The conference is a great way to receive cross-disciplinary feedback on legal scholarship and to engage in dialogue with both junior and senior colleagues. The deadline to register is September 2, 2013.
For more information and to register, visit the CSLSA website.
Years ago, being gay was controversial if you were nominated to be a U.S. ambassador. Not so much anymore. The United States Senate last week approved the nominations of four openly gay ambassadors without any opposition:
- John Berry, Ambassador to Australia
- Rufus Gifford, Ambassador to Denmark
- James Costos, Ambassador to Spain
- Daniel Baer, to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Read more here. The Senate has not yet approved the nomination of another openly gay man as Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, but hopefully will do so soon.
Sunday, August 4, 2013
On Friday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presented its Report on the Situation of Persons Deprived of Liberty in Honduras. The IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty, Commissioner Rodrigo Escobar Gil, headed the delegation that presented the report to the President of the Republic, Porfirio Lobo; to family members of the victims of the fire at the National Penitentiary of Comayagua; to other high-level State authorities; and to civil society organizations and the people of Honduras, through the media. The following is taken from an IACHR Press Release.
“The prison system in Honduras is dehumanized, miserly, and corrupt. Living conditions in the prisons are completely contrary to human dignity,” said Rapporteur Escobar Gil. “The authorities of the State of Honduras, in all branches of government, must foster a radical change of attitude toward the prison system and react urgently and forcefully to the profound structural crisis the system is undergoing,” added the Commissioner, who held several meetings with State authorities to analyze the report’s conclusions and recommendations.
“There are measures that were adopted following the tragic fire at Comayagua. However, far from the necessary resources being allocated to implement these measures, the budget for this area has been reduced. The State and society have been insensitive to the needs of persons deprived of liberty,” the Rapporteur said. “It is essential that the State take on this crisis in the prison system as one of its priorities, because the system has totally collapsed and as a result, the fundamental rights of prisoners are being systematically violated,” he added.
The report emphasizes that it is essential for an adequate budget to be allocated so that the prison institutions can operate. Along these lines, Rapporteur Escobar Gil stated, “It is unacceptable for the State authorities to say that these obligations should be funded by private donors or by international cooperation partners. These problems are the responsibility of the State, and it is the State’s duty to
assign sufficient resources.”
The IACHR Rapporteur emphasized that one of the report’s conclusions is that the grave structural crisis in Honduran prisons is the result of the absence, for decades, of comprehensive public policies that would ensure that the corrections system complies with the purposes of the American Convention on Human Rights, namely, the reform and social rehabilitation of convicted prisoners. “The State’s response to problems of crime and citizen insecurity must not consist exclusively of repressive measures, but also of preventive ones. In this category, we should include prison-system improvement programs designed to promote work and education in prisons as an appropriate means to reintegrate prisoners into society,” the Rapporteur said. “These types of programs would reduce the levels of recidivism, and thus crime rates would go down.”
The report ends with a series of general conclusions and recommendations for the State, geared toward overcoming the critical situation of the Honduran prison system. The IACHR recommended, among other things, that the State reduce overcrowding and ensure that inmates are held in decent conditions that are in accordance with the principle of humane treatment. The recommendations include some that demand urgent and immediate implementation, such as the need to put an end to
an aberrant situation such as the lack of effective segregation of male and female prisoners in some facilities, such as the San Pedro Sula National Penitentiary.
The report also recommends that the State of Honduras firmly and without delay support the measures necessary to retake internal control of all prison facilities, such that it is the State that exercises internal security over the prisons as well as all of the functions inherent in prison administration—matters that may not be delegated to the prisoners themselves. In this regard, the IACHR strongly called upon the State to eradicate once and for all the practice of ceding disciplinary powers to the prisoners themselves, particularly the possibility of applying sanctions.
For more details regarding the Report, click here.
Demands for the International Olympic Committee, National Governments, Corporate Sponsors, and New Organizations
An open letter from Canada posts a number of demands relating to the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia, which has enacted a new anti-gay propaganda law that violates international human rights laws. The letter here includes specific demands for the Canadian and International Olympic Committees, corporate sponsors of the Olympics, and news organizations covering the Olympics.
The Olympic Committee reportedly said that it received assurances that LGBT athletes and spectators would not be prosecuted during the Olympics, but the Russian Sports Minister has said that the law will be enforced. Some groups are calling for a boycott of the Olympics, some are calling for a boycott of Stolichnaya Vodka (which appears now to be a Latvian rather than Russian company), and many are calling for the Winter Olympics to be used to educate the world (including Russia) about its anti-gay laws.
Here is the text of the open letter:
SPEAK OUT AGAINST HATE, STAND UP FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: AN OPEN LETTER FROM CANADIAN ORGANIZATIONS REGARDING HOMOPHOBIA IN RUSSIA AND THE SOCHI 2014 WINTER OLYMPICS AND PARALYMPICS
CALL FOR ACTION BY THE:
GOVERNMENT OF CANADA
The Right Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
The Hon. John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada
The Hon. Bal Gosal, Minister of State for Sports of Canada
INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE & INTERNATIONAL PARALYMPIC COMMITTEE
Mr. Jacques Rogge, President, International Olympic Committee
Sir Philip Craven, President, International Paralympic Committee
CANADIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE & CANADIAN PARALYMPIC COMMITTEE
Mr. Marcel Aubut, President, Canadian Olympic Committee
Mr. Gaétan Tardif, President, Canadian Paralympic Committee
SOCHI 2014 MEDIA BROADCASTER
Mr. Hubert Lacroix, President, CBC/Radio-Canada
SOCHI 2014 CORPORATE SPONSORS
Mr. Muhtar Kent, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Coca-Cola Company
Mr. Thierry Breton, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Atos
Mr. Andrew N. Liveris, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Dow
Mr. Jeff Immelt, Chief Executive Officer, GE
Mr. Don Thompson, President and CEO, McDonalds
Mr. Stephen Urquhart, President and CEO, Omega
Mr. Kazuhiro Tsuga, President, Panasonic
Mr. A.G. Lafley, Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer, P&G
Mr. Oh-Hyun Kwan, Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Samsung
Mr. Charles Scharf, Chief Executive Officer, VISA
We, the undersigned Canadian civil society organizations, call upon you to stand against the rising tide of hate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Russia, by taking the actions listed below. We are deeply troubled by the ongoing and intensifying attacks against LGBT, not least those led and encouraged by President Vladimir Putin and the Duma. These actions include, most recently, the unanimous adoption on June 29th of a federal law banning the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.”
This law means LGBT people risk prosecution simply for exercising their freedom of expression and association, as does anyone who defends the human rights of LGBT people or even mentions the existence of LGBT people in an approving fashion. Attending an LGBT event could be illegal. Challenging the harassment or assault of LGBT students in a school or declaring that it’s perfectly legitimate to be LGBT could amount to “gay propaganda” under the wording of the law.
Individuals can be fined up to 100,000 rubles (about US$ 3000) for using the media or Internet to “promote non-traditional relations.” Organizations can be fined up to 1 million roubles (US$ 30,000) and closed down for up to 90 days. The law authorizes police officers to arrest tourists and foreign nationals they suspect of being LGBT or “pro-gay” and detain them for up to 15 days before expelling them from the country. Russian officials have already threatened to arrest, and actually arrested, gay tourists.
There have been other recent legislative and physical assaults on LGBT people in Russia. Moscow’s city government has banned Pride parades for 100 years, which the European Court of Human Rights has declared violates the European Convention on Human Rights. The city of St. Petersburg has enacted a ban on “homosexual propaganda." Russia has banned adoption of children by any parents from nations that grant equal marriage rights to same-sex couples.
The latest “anti-propaganda” law is part of a much broader, ongoing attack to shut down civil society, including a series of laws that violate freedoms of assembly, association, expression and information, not just for LGBT people but for a whole range of communities and human rights defenders. Homophobia is another weapon being deployed in a broader effort to stifle a free, open, democratic society. Targeting a group to be scapegoated is aimed at weakening any civil society opposition and maintaining control.
Such legislative hate-mongering does indeed foment further abuses. Anti-LGBT violence is rampant and worsening in Russia. Earlier this summer, a violent mob attacked a small group of LGBT rights demonstrators in St. Petersburg. LGBT youth and adults are being assaulted and tortured by thugs who then broadcast video recordings of these attacks online. So far, Russian authorities have turned a blind eye to such hate crimes, even though some perpetrators are easily identifiable. In a recent incident, two attackers savagely beat a man, crushing his ribs, sodomizing him with beer bottles and attempting to burn him alive, after they learned of his sexual identity. They declared that it was their “patriotic duty to kill a gay man.”
Twenty years ago, at the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, Russia joined with other countries in declaring that the protection and promotion of human rights “is the first responsibility of Governments.” Yet in this climate of state-sponsored hatred and violence, Russia will host the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi in February 2014. The Russian government’s active persecution of LGBT people flies in the face of not just international human rights law but the ostensible spirit of the Olympic Games. The international community, those countries and organizations participating in the Games, and those corporations profiting from the Games, cannot stand idly by in the face of state-sponsored terror against millions of its own people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and against their partners, families, friends and loved ones.
Therefore, in solidarity with our LGBT brothers and sisters in Russia, we call upon theGovernment of Canada, the International and Canadian Olympic Committees, as well as corporate sponsors and media broadcasters of the Sochi Winter Olympics, to take action as follows:
The Government of Canada should:
- continue to speak out publicly against Russia’s anti-gay legislation and homophobic and transphobic violence being visited upon LGBT people in Russia, and continue to communicate its objections directly to Russian authorities at the highest levels;
- add the sponsors of anti-LGBT legislation in Russia to the list of those banned from obtaining visas to enter Canada;
- identify opportunities to proactively support LGBT rights advocates in Russia in defending basic human rights;
- oppose the “traditional values” resolution being advanced by Russia at the UN, which is a patent attempt to cloak bigotry and hate in the legitimacy of a Human Rights Council resolution; and
- use this opportunity to publicly announce its commitment to ongoing support for the UN’s recently- launched “Free and Equal” initiative for LGBT rights.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympic Committee(IPC) should:
- host Pride House in Sochi during the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics;
- speak out during the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games against anti-LGBT violence and against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including legislative discrimination such as Russia’s; and
- include explicit reference in their respective Charters to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity as incompatible with the Olympic and Paralympic Movements, as is already done with grounds such as race, gender and religion. (We note and welcome that the Paralympic Movement has already included sexual orientation.)
The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) have authority over Canada’s representation at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The leadership and athletic delegations of the COC and CPC should:
- publicly and privately support, without reservation, any individual athletes, whether they identify as LGBT or not, who choose to use their opportunities at the Games (e.g., when accepting medals) to display their support for the rights of LGBT people;
- issue a statement condemning homophobic laws and anti-LGBT violence in Russia;
- participate visibly as the Canadian delegation in the Sochi Winter Pride events being organized by Russian LGBT activists;
- offer to join the IOC and IPC in hosting Pride House at the Games; and
- use the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games to visibly support LGBT human rights as a country delegation.
Corporate sponsors of the Sochi Games, including the top 10 sponsors named above, should:
- publicly state their opposition to Russia’s homophobic legislation and anti-LGBT violence in Russia;
- withdraw their sponsorship of the Games unless the Russian government abolishes the “anti-propaganda law” and guarantees freedom of expression, association, assembly and information, including for LGBT people; and
- publicly redirect a significant portion of those sponsorship funds, through independent foundations and multilateral initiatives, to support the defense and promotion of LGBT rights, and human rights more broadly, in Russia.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), as exclusive Canadian broadcaster of the Sochi Games, should:
- commit to reporting, before, during and after the Sochi Games, on human rights abuses in Russia, including against LGBT people, other minorities and political dissidents targeted by the Russian government.
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
AIDS ACTION NOW!