Thursday, October 31, 2013
Two of the surviving former leaders of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime charged with mass killings during the 1970’s requested to be acquitted today, as closing arguments began at the United Nations-backed war crimes tribunal in the south-east Asian country.
Nuon Chea, 87, and Khieu Samphan, 81, are before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), on charges of crimes against humanity for their roles in the regime which ruled from 1975-1979. Nearly 2 million people are thought to have died during that period of forced labour, starvation, torture and execution.
The ECCC is a hybrid court established in 2006 to try senior leaders and those most responsible for the crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime. The UN has deployed international judges, prosecutors and staff to the ECCC through the UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials. More than 100,000 people have attended hearings since the trial began, many of them survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime who travelled far to watch the proceedings.
As for today’s proceedings, Mr. Nuon, also known as ‘Brother Number Two,’ claimed that he was not responsible for any of the crimes alleged by the prosecution although he expressed remorse over moral responsibilities as the deputy secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea.
“I did not plan to commit crimes: I did not encourage anyone to commit crimes, either,” he said. “Nevertheless, I’d like to express my deepest remorse to Cambodian people who suffered during the Democratic Kampuchea.”
For his part Mr. Khieu, said he had lost faith in the tribunal. “I have a strong feeling that no matter how hard I try to explain the truth, they (the Court) will only turn their deaf ears. They will not pay attention to what I have to say and would use it against me.”
The trial of began in November 2011 and concluded today with Mr. Noun and Mr. Khieu’s final statements, following closing submissions by the prosecution and civil parties in the last two weeks. During the course of two years, 92 individuals, including 31 civil parties gave testimony. The ECC is expected to deliver verdicts in the first half of 2014.
Last week, the prosecution called for a life sentence, the maximum penalty available in Cambodia, arguing that the two accused were the mastermind of criminal policies that forced millions of people to march thousands kilometres away from home to unknown places in inhumane conditions and killed hundreds of former Lon Nol officials and soldiers at Tuol Po Chrey in the northwest province of Pursat.
“We do not ask you to condemn these men […] we ask you for justice – justice for the victims who perished, justice for the victims who survive today,” said National Co-Prosecutor Chea Leang.
(UN Press Release)
Click here to download an article on rights of victims before the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia: Mark E. Wojcik, False Hope: The Rights of Victims Before International Criminal Tribunals, L'Observateur des Nations Unies, Vol. 28, 2010
Last year, the U.S. Senate narrowly voted against giving its advice and consent to U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has decided to revive the debate and will hold new hearings on the treaty next Tuesday, November 5.
In an effort to convince wavering Republicans who voted against the treaty the first time around, the first two witnesses scheduled to testify next week are Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). Last year, the treaty fell five votes short of the two-thirds needed for ratification. Advocates hope this time around they can convince enough Republicans to vote yes now that the divisive presidential election is over.
The treaty enjoys broad bipartisan support. Joining will allow the United States to continue its leadership internationally for the protection of disabled persons. Opposition to the treaty comes primarily from conservatives who fear an erosion of American sovereignty with any international commitments and who believe joining the treaty is unncessary because U.S. law already adequate protects disabled persons.
Currently, 138 other nations belong to the Disabilities Treaty.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Save the date!
Sunday, January 5, 2014
9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN LAW SCHOOLS
- SECTION ON ADMIRALTY AND MARITIME LAW
- SECTION ON NORTH AMERICAN COOPERATION
Legal Issues of the Arctic
Papers to be published in Ocean & Coastal Law Journal.
- Betsy Baker, Vermont Law School
- William V. Dunlap, Quinnipiac University School of Law
- Rear Admiral Frederick J. Kenney, Judge Advocate General and Chief Counsel, U.S. Coast Guard, Office of the Judge Advocate General, Washington, DC
- Commander Peter Killaby, Assistant Deputy Judge Advocate General/ Regional Services, Department of National Defence, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
- Commander James Kraska, S.J.D., Howard S. Levie Chair of Operational Law, United States Naval War College, Newport, RI
- Charles Norchi, University of Maine School of Law
- John W. Reifenberg, Jr., Michigan State University College of Law
- Fernando Villarreal-Gonda, Academic Dean, Free Faculty of Law of Monterrey, Santa Catarina, Nuevo León, Mexico
In September 2012, the lowest level of Arctic sea ice in recorded history was measured. As the sea ice recedes, an emerging maritime frontier is expanding. Oil drilling operations are growing; mineral extraction is expanding; increasing numbers of foreign tankers are using the northen sea routes; and small cruise ships are venturing farther into the Arctic Sea. This increasing human activity in the Arctic requires an examination of the legal issues related to its growth. The panel will address some of these issues.
Some of the topics that will be discussed by the panel members are: national sovereignty, Arctic governance, new sea lanes, natural resource exploration, Arctic security, and the treatment of Arctic high-seas enclaves as a model for cooperation in other high-seas enclaves. In addition, the United States’ recently released national Arctic Strategy will be presented as will Canada’s perspective on some of these topics.
The program is part of the upcoming annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools, which will meet in New York City in January 2014.
Hat tip to Fernando Villareal Gonda of the Facultad Libre de Derecho de Monterrey (Mexico)
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
For the 22nd consecutive year, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for an end to the economic, commercial, and financial blockade of Cuba imposed by the United States. The resolution passed by a vote of 188 in favour to two against (Israel and the United States) with three abstentions (the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau).
States and corporations need to do more to prevent the violation of indigenous peoples’ rights as a result of business-related activities, a United Nations independent expert body has said. “Indigenous peoples are among the groups most severely affected by the extractive, agro-industrial and energy sectors,” said Pavel Sulyandziga, Chair of the UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. “Negative effects range from indigenous peoples’ right to maintain their chosen traditional way of life, with their distinct cultural identity, to discrimination in employment and in accessing goods and services.”
Other challenges involved land use and ownership, as well as displacement through forced or economic resettlement Mr. Sulyandziga said yesterday in his presentation of the Working Group’s report to the General Assembly’s social, humanitarian and cultural committee (Third Committee) on the adverse effects of business activities on indigenous peoples’ rights. “Such disruption often leads to serious abuses of civil and political rights, with human rights defenders in particular put at risk,” Mr. Sulyandziga said. “Indigenous peoples are also often excluded from agreements and decision-making processes that irrevocably affect their lives.”
The report highlights how the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights can clarify the roles and responsibilities of States, business enterprises and indigenous peoples in addressing these problems. “We call on States and business enterprises to increase their efforts to implement the Guiding Principles. This includes the State’s duty to protect indigenous peoples against business-related human rights abuses and corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and where abuses have occurred, to ensure people can have effective remedy,” said Mr. Sulyandziga, while urging interested parties to register for the second annual Forum on Business and Human Rights to be held in Geneva in December. “It will be an opportunity to discuss challenges in implementing the Guiding Principles, in particular sectors, in operational environments and in relation to specific rights and groups, including indigenous peoples. It will also be a chance to identify good practices and opportunities for dialogue and cooperation toward solutions,” he added.
(adapted from a UN press release)
Israel has agreed to participate in a periodic review by the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) today, ending an 18-month boycott. Pursuant to the Internatioanl Covenant on Civil and Politial Rights, the HRC is to review members states' human rights records every four years. However, Israel refused to participate when its turn came last January, alleging that the HRC has an anti-Israeli bias. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that Israel is willing to go forward with the review, perhaps in response to pressure from international allies who would like to set a postive precedent.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
The European Union (EU) has announced that it will resume accession talks with Turkey in November after a three-year hiatus. Talks were delayed in large part due to concerns over human rights issues and Turkey's troubled relationship with Cyprus. The European Commission issued a report last week concluding that Turkey has made progress in some areas, but expressing continuing concerns, especially with respect to human rights issues. There are 35 chapters involving different policies that must be agreed upon before the talks will be concluded. Only 13 have been opened so far, so there is still a long road ahead.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
The Americas Regional Round of the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition will be held in New York City from January 22-26, 2104. It is an international moot court program sponsored by the University of Oxford’s Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy, the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, and the Annenberg School of Communication. The competition provides a regional forum for dialogue and debate on freedom of expression and media law issues of global importance. This year's case focuses on privacy, surveillance, and data security, issues that are very much relevant to current events as well as the future of international and national media law. Participants will use relevant international case law, including those based on the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and upheld by the Universal Court of Human Rights. Participants will also be encouraged to draw on domestic law when formulating their legal arguments.
Schools from Canada, the United States, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean are invited to participate. The competition will be adjudicated by federal judges and leading media law attorneys from the world’s most reputable institutions. Winning teams will qualify to participate in the International Rounds held at Oxford University, UK.
Travel grants between $1,000- 5,000 USD are available to teams from Latin America.
For more information or to register a team, visit the website here. The registration deadline is October 31, 2013.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Here in the United States, it is National Pro Bono Week. During this week, we celebrate lawyers who provide free legal services to clients who otherwise lack access to justice and encourage more lawyers to participate in pro bono work.
According to the ABA Journal (July 2013), "[l]awyers are the most socially responsible professionals in the United States, donating an estimated 25 hours a year of their time to pro bono services."
Many of those lawyers work on legal issues that relate to international law, such as international human rights and asylum law. So here is a shout out to all those fantastic lawyers who are providing an essential service. Keep up the good work!
Friday, October 18, 2013
Yesterday, five new non-permanent members were elected to the United Nations Security Council: Chad, Chile, Lithuania, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. Non-permanent members hold their seats for two-year terms, in this case from January 1, 2014 through the end of 2015.
Initially, Saudi Arabia's UN Ambassador welcomed the election, stating that it is a recognition of Saudi Arabia's role in peacefully resolving Middle East disputes. Overnight, however, Saudi Arabia changed its position and rejected the seat, accusing the UNSC of double standards, which resulted in its failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
Some human rights advocates are pleased with the Saudi withdrawal. They believe Saudi Arabia should not be on the UNSC because of its own poor human rights record, especially with respect to its treatment of women and homosexuals. Human rights advocates and organizations also opposed other states with poor human rights records, such as Chad, which has a recent history involving the use of child soldiers.
Presumably, the UN will elect a new member to fill the seat vacated by Saudi Arabia.
The International Court of Justice (CJ) has announced it will deliver its judgment in the case of Request for Interpretation of the Judgment of 15 June 1962 in the case concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear (Cambodia v. Thailand) on Monday, November 11 at 10 am. For more information, see the ICJ Press Release here.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
May 21-23, 2014
Call for Proposals
The Global Legal Skills Conference is the leading international gathering for persons interested in global skills education. The Conference has been held four times in the United States, twice in Mexico, and twice in Costa Rica. The next conference (“GLS-9”) will be held at the University of Verona Faculty of Law in Verona, Italy. The conference will begin in the late afternoon of Wednesday, May 21 and continue through Friday, May 23, 2014. After the conference there is an organized optional excursion on Saturday, May 24, 2014 to the city of Vicenza.
This message invites proposals for presentations, including presentations on international and comparative law. Proposals should be for a 25-minute presentation (for one or two people) or a group panel presentation (no more than four panelists) of one hour.
The conference audience will include legal writing professionals, international and comparative law professors, clinical professors, and others involved in skills education, law school administrators, law librarians, and ESL/EFL professors and scholars, and law students from Europe and the United States. Also attending will be faculty members teaching general law subjects with a transnational, comparative, or international component. Attendees have also included judges, lawyers, court translators and others involved in international, comparative, and transnational law. Attendees come from around the world and as many as 35 countries have been represented in past conferences. As the 2014 conference will be in Italy, we anticipate a fair number of attendees from E.U. countries.
Please submit a proposal on any aspect of Global Legal Skills, including experiential learning, distance education, comparative law, international law, course design and materials, teaching methods, and opportunities for teaching abroad and in the United States. Proposals may also present classic and contemporary issues of international and comparative law.
GLS-9 will have a relaxed schedule to enhance professional networking opportunities and development. In addition to the excellent opportunities for networking and professional development, the conference schedule will allow for attendees to take in the historical sites and flavor of Verona, one of the most beautiful cities in Italy famous for the love story of Romeo and Juliette. Located in northern Italy, the city of Verona has a major airport as well as convenient train transportation to Milan, Florence, Rome, Vicenza, and Venice. Other trains can take you north to Innsbruck and Munich. You can plan your trip to arrive in one city and depart from somewhere else in Europe.
This is a self-funded academic conference, and as in past years, presenters will be asked to pay the speakers’ registration fee of $195.00. Ticketed events for family members will also be available, in case your family refuses to let you go to Italy without them.
Please send program proposals to GLS9verona@gmail.com. You can also send a copy to Lurene Contento (co-chair of LWI GLS committee and Program Co-Chair of GLS-9). Her email is 9Content@jmls.edu. Please include “GLS-9 Proposal” in the subject line. Then, set out the title of your presentation, the format you would prefer (25-minutes or 1 hour), the names and institutional affiliations of co-presenters, a brief summary of your presentation, and the target audience. You may submit more than one proposal but because of high demand for speaking slots you will only be allowed to speak on one panel.
The first deadline for submitting a proposal is January 13, 2014. Earlier submissions are encouraged. The program committee will notify presenters of acceptance no later than January 31, 2014 so that you can make appropriate travel and hotel arrangements. We are arranging special discount rates at several different hotels in Verona.
Prof. Mark E. Wojcik
GLS-9 Conference Chair
The John Marshall Law School
315 S. Plymouth Court
Chicago, IL 60604 USA
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
The American Bar Association Section of International Law opens its Fall Meeting in London today with a reception at the House of Lords. Nice.
More than one thousand attendees are expected (including me) for the substantive meeting, which continues until Friday. Substantive panels and speakers are, as expected, top notch. And as a special treat: On Saturday there is an International Legal Education Summit at the University of Law.
I hope to see you this week in London!
Mark E. Wojcik (mew)
The American Branch of the International Law Association (ABILA) and the International Law Students Association (ILSA) present “International Law Weekend 2013: Internationalization of Law and Legal Practice”
October 24-26, 2013
New York City
Join hundreds of members of the international legal community at the annual International Law Weekend (ILW) conference in conjunction with the 92nd Annual Meeting of the ABILA, October 24-26, 2013, in New York City. The theme of ILW 2013 is "Internationalization of Law and Legal Practice.” More than 40 expert panels will explore the mechanisms of change in international law. Panels will focus on key regions undergoing particularly dramatic change, and subject matter areas undergoing rapid change, such as tariffs and trade, human rights, immigration, labor, public health, sustainable development and the environment.
ILW begins Thursday evening, October 24, 2013 with a distinguished opening panel at the House of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, 42 W. 44th Street, New York, NY. A reception will follow and is open to all conference attendees. The conference continues Friday, October 25 and Saturday, October 26 at Fordham University School of Law, 140 West 62nd Street, New York City. Friday’s activities feature a keynote address at Fordham University School of Law.
For ILW 2013, a number of ILW panels have been designated for mandatory continuing legal education credit (MCLE). The American Society of International Law has obtained accreditation for a maximum of 12 MCLE credits from Pennsylvania and California and is seeking accreditation from New York and Virginia. An attorney may also count Pennsylvania approved credits towards her or her New York CLE requirement credit through the Approved Jurisdiction policy without notifying the New York CLE Board.
Attendance at ILW is free for members of ABILA, ILSA, and other co-sponsoring organizations, as well as employees of the United Nations and students. For all others, there is a fee of $175.(mew)
Monday, October 14, 2013
At the request of the parties, a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute resolution panel has agreed to show the public a video recording of the non-confidential portions of the hearing in the case of “United States — Measures Affecting Trade in Large Civil Aircraft (Second Complaint) — Recourse to Article 21.5 of the DSU by the European Union” (DS353). The screening will be held at 10 am on October 31, 2013.
The dispute involves allegations by the EU that the United States is providing improper subsidies to certain airline companies. In 2011, a WTO dispute resolution panel found, inter alia, that some of the research and development funds provided by the U.S. government to Boeing were specific subsidies. The EU was disappointed that it did not prevail on other claims and appealed the decision to the WTO Appellate Body (AB). In March 2012, the AB agreed with the panel that actionable subsidies exist, although it disagreed with some of the panel's analysis. The WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) adopted the report of the AB and the US indicated its intention to implement the decision. In September 2012, the United States notified the WTO DSB that it had withdrawn the subsidies and fully implemented the WTO recommendations. The EU took issue with that position and initiated the present proceeding to determine whether the United States has fully complied with its WTO obligations with respect to this dispute.
Seats for the screening are available on a first come, first serve basis. To reserve a seat or for more information, click here.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
The Philippines notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) this week that it has initiated a safeguard investigation on "galvanized iron and pre-painted sheets and coils."
The purpose of a safeguard investigation is to determine whether increased imports of a product are causing, or are threatening to cause, serious injury to a domestic industry. A WTO Member State may take a safeguard action (i.e. restrict imports of a product on a temporary basis) only if the increased imports of the product are found to be causing, or threatening to cause, serious injury.
During a safeguard investigation, importers, exporters and other interested parties may present evidence and views and respond to the presentations of other parties. In its notice to the WTO, the Philippines provided information regarding where interested parties may submit their comments. More informaton is available on the WTO website
This year’s annual opening session of the General Assembly highlighted the centrality of the United Nations, with a breakthrough Security Council resolution on Syria, and Iran and the United States using the world forum for overtures aimed at reversing decades of tension, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, summing up the week-long meeting. “The centrality of the United Nations today reflects the global logic of our times: with our fates ever more entwined, our future must be one of ever deeper and wider cooperation,” he wrote in the article published in newspapers and media outlets around the world.
He called the resolution on Syria, in which the 15-member body called for the elimination of the country’s chemical weapons while endorsing a diplomatic plan for Syrian-led negotiations toward peace “the first hopeful news on the crisis after years of deadlock and inertia.” The UN is now working with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on setting up a joint 100-member-strong mission to oversee the elimination by 30 June, 2014. The Council resolution followed Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention in the wake of a sarin gas attack that killed hundreds in a Damascus suburb in August.
Mr. Ban noted that the Security Council also adopted a strong statement on Syria’s humanitarian plight, “and we continue to press for access, an end to arms flows and violations of human rights and, above all, the convening of an international conference to deal with ending this horrendous conflict. “We cannot be satisfied with destroying chemical weapons while the wider war is destroying Syria,” he added on the conflict, which has already killed over 100,000 people and driven some 6.5 million others from their homes since protesters first sought the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad in March, 2011. “Military victory is an illusion; the only answer is a negotiated transition to the new Syria that the country’s people need and deserve. We are determined to bring the parties to the table in mid-November.”
He also noted that the General Debate, opening the annual session, during which scores of presidents, monarchs and prime ministers address the Assembly, provided a UN setting for Iran and the United States to make overtures aimed at reversing decades of tension, while high-level meetings brought progress on the democratic transitions in Myanmar and Yemen, the complex crisis in the Sahel, and implementation of the peace framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the wider Great Lakes region. “Based on the diplomacy that just took place at the United Nations, and fully aware of the steep challenges ahead, I am encouraged about our prospects,” Mr. Ban wrote. “The United Nations is an agile first responder at times of disaster, and often a last resort for problems found too vexing for others. At times, the Organization is in the lead, at others it is among a constellation of actors. At times we reach our goals; sometimes we fall short. But the Organization works every single day, around the clock, around the globe, to advance the goals of humankind in the most trying circumstances.”
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
The Security Council today voted unanimously to extend the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti until mid-October 2014 so it can continue contributing to stability and development in the small Caribbean nation.
In his recent report on the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that while challenges remain, the progress made in the stabilization of Haiti since the initial deployment of the mission in 2004 has been “considerable.” “Given recent achievements and the evolution of the challenges facing Haiti, the ongoing reconfiguration of MINUSTAH should continue. Nine years after its initial deployment, it is worth examining whether a large multidimensional peacekeeping operation is still the most appropriate form of international support to Haiti,” he added.
Today’s resolution decided that MINUSTAH’s overall force levels will consist of up to 5,021 troops and of a police component composed of up to 2,601 personnel. Currently, the mission consists of 6,233 troops and 2,457 police. Mr. Ban said he intends to engage with the Haitian Government and Member States to explore the best way for the UN to continue contributing to the country’s stability and development. As part of that exercise, the option of replacing MINUSTAH with a “smaller, more focused assistance mission” by 2016 will be explored and proposals on the way forward will be included in his next report to the Council March 2014.
The 15-member Council, in its resolution, affirmed that adjustments to the force configuration should be based on the security situation on the ground, “taking into account the importance of maintaining a secure and stable environment and the impact of social and political realities on Haiti’s stability and security.” It also reiterated that building the capacity of the Haitian National Police remains “a most critical task” for MINUSTAH, and requested the mission to continue efforts to strengthen the institutional and operational capacities of the police.
In addition, the Council urged Haiti’s political actors to “work cooperatively” to complete all steps, including an electoral law, required to prepare for and hold long overdue free, fair and transparent senatorial, municipal and local elections in accordance with the Constitution to ensure the continued functioning of the National Assembly and other elected bodies.
(UN Press Release)
Mr. Wallace was released last week when his conviction was overturned on appeal. The day after his release, on 2 October, he died after battling cancer, having spent 41 years in solitary confinement.
“This is a sad case and it is not over,” stressed Mr. Méndez. “The co-accused, Mr. Woodfox, remains in solitary confinement pending an appeal to the federal court and has been kept in isolation in a 8-foot-by-12 foot cell for up to 23 hours per day, with just one hour of exercise or solitary recreation.”
“The circumstances of the incarceration of the so-called Angola Three clearly show that the use of solitary confinement in the US penitentiary system goes far beyond what is acceptable under international human rights law,” he noted.
Mr. Méndez welcomed the federal court ruling of 1 October 2013, but noted that the use of solitary confinement and its negative effects on inmates is widespread throughout the US penitentiary system. “Persons held in solitary confinement should always be allowed to challenge the reasons and the length of the regime, and should always have access to legal counsel and medical assistance.”
He urged the US Government to adopt concrete measures to eliminate the use of prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement under all circumstances. “I call for an absolute ban of solitary confinement of any duration for juveniles, persons with psychosocial disabilities 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,” he said.
Mr. Méndez has repeatedly requested an invitation to carry out a visit to the country, including state prisons in California, but so far has not received a positive answer. “It is about time to provide the opportunity for an in situ assessment of the conditions in US prisons and detention facilities,” Mr. Méndez reiterated.
(adapted from a UN press release) (mew)