Thursday, December 26, 2013

Timor-Leste Institutes Proceedings Against Australia at the ICJ

ICJOn December 17, Timor-Leste brought suit against Australia at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) alleging that Australia has unlawfully seized and detained documents, data and other property that is subject to the protection of Timor-Leste under international law.  More specifically, Timor-Leste alleges that Australian agents seized documentation and other property from the residence of  legal advisor to Timor-Leste in Canberra, Australia that related to a pending arbitration under the 2002 Timor Sea Treaty between Timor-Leste and Australia. Timor-Leste requests that the documents and other property be returned and any copies destroyed and that Australia be ordered not to use any information obtained against Timor-Leste in the pending arbitration.  In an increasingly common move, Timor-Leste requested the indication of provisional measures.  Australia addressed an urgent communication to the Court on Dec. 20, requesting that the ICJ handle the matter with urgency. In response, the ICJ has announced it will hold hearings on the request for provisional measures on Jan. 20-22, 2014. 

The application by Timor-Leste is not yet available on the ICJ website. As a result, the legal basis for Timor-Leste's claims are not entirely clear.  Judging from the ICJ Press Release, it does not appear that Timor-Leste has referred to a particular treaty for the basis of its claim.  There is no mention, for example, of the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations, suggesting that Timor-Leste does not claim the documents are protected by those treaties. It may be claiming instead that there is a general principle of international law that protects privileged communications between attorneys and and their clients as was found by the European Court of Justice in the AM&S case.  More information regarding that case may be found here.


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

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays

From the blog of the Law Library of Congress, we're happy to share this post about "Christmas Movies and the Law."  Happy holidays everyone!


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

Sunday, December 22, 2013


The national legislature of Nigeria has passed new lew legislation that purports to ban same-sex marriage. But reports about the legislation state that it would do much more than that: it would, if signed into law by Nigeria's President, be one of the harshest anti-gay laws in the world.  Even holding hands in public may be punishable by five years in prison, and failing to report someone who is gay would also be illegal.  Human rights activists and international law advocates around the world express shock as they are learning about the legislation.  Click here to read more.



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

Somalia Appoints a Prime Minister

Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed has been appointed as Prime Minister of Somalia, following a vote in the  Federal Parliament.  

Nicholas Kay, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, said that Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed takes office as Somalia approaches 2014, which will be a pivotal year in Somalia's progress towards peace and prosperity.  Mr. Kay said that the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia(UNSOM), which he heads, will continue to support the Federal Government in its peace- and State-building efforts. He also noted outgoing Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon Saaid's commitment to the Provisional Federal Constitution and the constructive manner in which he has handed over his responsibilities to his successor.  Kay urged Parliament, the Government and the Presidency to continue working together constructively in full respect of the Provisional Federal Constitution.  

(mew)(adapted from a UN press release)

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

Thursday, December 12, 2013

AALS Annual Meeting: International Law-Making and the United Nations

For those of you attending the annual meeting of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) in New York City next month, please considering attending the program sponsored by the AALS Section on International Law:


Friday, January 3, 2014, 8:30-10:15 am

This panel will explore contemporary developments, processes and  controversies in international law-making by the United Nations. Speakers  with experience in a range of U.N. bodies will share their observations,  insights and analysis.



 MAHNOUSH   ARSANJANI, who served in the UN Office   of Legal Affairs (OLA) for over three decades, most recently as Director   of the Codification Division.  She   also served as Secretary of the International   Law Commission (ILC) and Secretary of the Committee of the Whole, Rome Conference on   the Establishment of the International Criminal Court.


KRISTEN BOON,   Professor of Law Seton Hall Law School.  Her   scholarship has focused on the legal framework  applicable to the   law-making activities of IOs including the United Nations, the International   Monetary Fund (IMF) and  the World Bank in transitional   situations such as Kosovo and Iraq.  Past UN experience includes International Law Commission sessions   (for Codification Division of OLA), Rome Conference on   the International Criminal Court, UN Mission in Kosovo,   UNHCR Secretariat   in Geneva, UNHCR liaison office in New York. 


PABLO CASTILLO   DÍAZ, specialist at UN Women on   sexual violence in conflict and gender-based violence in emergencies; work   focuses on women’s rights protection in conflict and post-conflict   situations, with special attention to training for UN peacekeepers and   support to documentation and investigations of crimes of sexual   violence.  Sample publication in collaboration with the Department of   Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), developed  pursuant to UN Security   Council request, here.


KIMBERLY PROST,   U.N. Security Council Ombudsperson for the Al Qaida   Sanctions Committee, and Head of Legal Advisory Section, Division for   Treaty Affairs, UN Office on   Drugs and Crime.  Previously   a judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former   Yugoslavia (ICTY).


, Vermont Law School; Chair, AALS Section on   International Law


 Business Meeting at Program Conclusion



December 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

India Supreme Court Decision Violates Human Rights

The United Nations human rights chief today voiced her disappointment at the re-criminalization of consensual same-sex relationships in India, calling it “a significant step backwards” for the country. In a decision announced yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld a colonial-era law, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which provides for the punishment of those found guilty of “unnatural offences.” 

“Criminalising private, consensual same-sex sexual conduct violates the rights to privacy and to non-discrimination enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which India has ratified,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. The Supreme Court’s decision, she added in a news release, represents “a significant step backwards for India and a blow for human rights.” 

In 2009, the Delhi High Court struck down Section 377 in so far as it applied to sexual conduct between consenting adults in private, on the basis that criminalising such conduct is incompatible with the fundamental principles of equality, dignity and non-discrimination enshrined in the Indian Constitution. The matter was referred to the Supreme Court on appeal.
India’s top court yesterday declared Section 377 to be constitutionally valid, thereby overturning the 2009 High Court decision and re-instating the law. 

“The Supreme Court of India has a long and proud history of defending and expanding protection of human rights. This decision is a regrettable departure from that tradition,” Ms. Pillay said.  She hoped that the Supreme Court might exercise its review procedure, in effect agreeing to rehear the case before a larger panel of judges, stating that such a review would provide an opportunity for judges to reconsider whether the decision took sufficient account of all relevant arguments. 
More broadly, Ms. Pillay encouraged the Indian Parliament to take definitive action to decriminalise same-sex sexual conduct. She stressed the need to ensure effective protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals from violence and discrimination.

(UN Press Release)

Click here for links to the 98-page decision and for other commentary and reactions to the ruling.


December 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Google Hangout: Going for Gold: Advancing International Disabilities Rights

U.S. State Department Special Advisor for International Rights of Persons with Disabilities Judith Heumann and Senior Advisor and former Olympic athlete Michelle Kwan will participate in a Google+ Hangout on “Going For Gold: Advancing International Disability Rights” at the Department of State at 1:00 p.m. (EST) today, Thursday, December 5.

The Hangout will feature several U.S. Paralympic athletes, who will speak about the opportunities offered by international training and competition for Paralympians, as well as some of the challenges they face. The Hangout can be viewed live on the U.S. Department of State’s Google+ page and You Tube Channel. During the Hangout, live-captioning will be available here.


December 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Turkey Urged Not to Criminalize Emergency Medical Care

A United Nations human rights expert and the World Medical Association (WMA) has urged the Turkish parliament to reconsider a draft law that would criminalize the provision of medical care by qualified independent practitioners during emergencies after the arrival of a state ambulance.  “If adopted, Article 33 will have a chilling effect on the availability and accessibility of emergency medical care in a country prone to natural disasters and a democracy that is not immune from demonstrations,” UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover, said in a news release. “Enacting laws and policies criminalizing provision of medical care to people challenging State authorities, such as political protestors, will certainly deter healthcare workers from providing services due to fear of prosecution,” he warned.   Both Mr. Grover and the WMA have written individually to the Turkish Government expressing their grave concern about the requirements of Article 33 of the draft health bill, and called on parliamentarians to “scrap it.” 

WMA Secretary General Otmar Kloiber pointed out that “in times of urgency, from earthquakes to floods to protests and demonstrations, the international standards for emergency medical care are based on the medical need of the wounded and sick rather than the presence of official medical transport.” 

The two experts noted that international medical and human rights standards make it clear that it is a humanitarian duty of doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other health workers to give emergency care to those in need. “They must be able to carry out their professional responsibilities without interference or fear of reprisal,” they said. 

(adapted from a UN press release)

December 11, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Supreme Disappointment: The Supreme Court of India Affirms its British-Colonial-Era Sodomy Law

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Human Rights Day 2013

Today, Tuesday, December 10, is Human Rights Day.  It is the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and an annual commemoration of those who strive for human rights - for themselves and for others.  Given the recent passing of Nelson Mandela, it seems especially appropriate to take time this year to acknowledge those persons who have fought and continue to fight for human rights.

This year is the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which created a common plan for strengthening human rights work around the world.  It also called for the establishment of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which the UN General Assembly immediately acted upon. The first High Commissioner was installed in 1994.  This year’s Human Rights Day theme is “20 Years Working for Your Rights.”

There are many actions you can take to support human rights.  My local United Nations Association Chapter presents an annual Human Rights Day Award to a person or organization that has done significant work to advance human rights.  This year, the award is being presented to the Marion Medical Mission and its founders for their work constructing tens of thousands of shallow wells to provide access to clean drinking water to persons in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia.  You could also advocate for the adoption of human rights treaties, such as the Disabilities Treaty or the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the strengthening of bodies to implement human rights.  Or you could simply say thank you to someone in your community who works to advance human rights.


December 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 9, 2013

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Child Abduction Case Tomorrow

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on December 11, 2013 in a case concerning international child abduction.  The issue is whether the one-year filing deadline for a petition under the Hague Convention to return an abducted child is tolled when the abducting parent conceals the whereabouts of the child from the other parent.


December 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

International Anti-Corruption Day

Corruption is a barrier to achieving universally accepted development goals, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said, calling on Governments, the private sector and civil society to take a collective stand against this social, political and economic disease affecting all countries. “To achieve an equitable, inclusive and more prosperous future for all, we must foster a culture of integrity, transparency, accountability and good governance,” Mr. Ban said in his message for International Anti-Corruption Day.

He stressed that corruption prevents achievement of the global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and needs to be taken into account in defining and implementing a robust post-2015 development agenda. “Good governance is critical for sustainable development,” Mr. Ban noted, adding that corruption suppresses economic growth by driving up costs, breaches human rights, increases inequality, and undermines the sustainable management of natural resources. 

Corruption has a devastating impact across the world. The World Bank estimates that every year between $20 billion and $40 billion are lost from developing countries due to corruption and bribery, but the scourge also impacts developed economies. 

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) today launched the ‘Zero Corruption – 100% Development’ campaign, designed by young people for young people to raise awareness about corruption.

The campaign focuses on the corrosive effects of corruption on development, highlighting that this crime undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to human rights violations, distorts markets, erodes quality of life and allows organized crime and other threats to security to flourish, according to the joint campaign website. 

To highlight the impact of corruption in the world of sport and business, the UN Global Compact, in collaboration with UNDP, today launched a Call to Action to mobilize private and public partners to engage in transparent procurement.  

The UN has also developed guidelines to help businesses fight corruption in sport sponsorship and hospitality, Mr. Ban noted in his message.

The first global legally binding international anti-corruption instrument was the UN Convention against Corruption, which today marks its tenth anniversary. It was adopted by the General Assembly in 2003, the same year that the body designated 9 December as International Anti-Corruption Day to raise awareness of both corruption and the role of the Convention in combating and preventing it.

“The Convention is countering corruption in the areas of development, the environment, in the private sector, during major public events, match-fixing, asset recovery, and in many other areas of our lives,” said Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of UNODC, which houses the Convention’s Secretariat.

At least 171 of the UN’s 193 Member States have so far ratified the Convention. It includes a review mechanism enabling countries to review their peers in a partnership process. In its fourth year, the review mechanism has helped 35 States to improve their anti-corruption laws, and led to the training of 1,400 experts, noted Mr. Fedotov. 

(Excerpt from a U.N. press release)

December 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bangladesh Urged to Halt Impending Execution

Two independent United Nations human rights experts today urged the Bangladeshi Government to halt the execution of Abdul Quader Mollah, whose death sentence could be carried out as early as tomorrow, amid concerns that he did not receive a fair trial.  Mr. Mollah was condemned to life imprisonment by the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal, a special domestic court with the jurisdiction and competence to try and punish any person accused of committing atrocities, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, in Bangladesh, including during the country’s 1971 independence war.  After the Prosecution appealed the Tribunal’s decision to sentence him to life imprisonment, the country’s Supreme Court sentenced Mr. Mollah to death on 17 September – a ruling that cannot be appealed. “The right of appeal is of particular importance in death penalty cases,” said the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul. 

“Anyone convicted of a crime has the right to have his or her conviction and sentence reviewed by a higher tribunal, as laid down in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Bangladesh is a party,” she said in a news release. “This provision is violated where a court of final instance imposes a harsher sentence that cannot be reviewed.” Both Ms. Knaul and the Special Rapporteur on summary executions, Christof Heyns, reiterated their concerns that the defendant was not granted a fair trial.  “In countries that have not abolished the death penalty, capital punishment may be imposed only following a trial that complied with fair trial and due process safeguards,” said Mr. Heyns. 

“Any death sentence undertaken in contravention of a Government’s international obligations is tantamount to an arbitrary execution,” he stressed. “Only full respect for stringent due process guarantees distinguishes capital punishment as possibly permitted under international law from a summary execution, which by definition violates human rights standards.”  He also cautioned that “under such circumstances, the execution of Mr. Mollah could trigger further violence and unrest that has been agitating the country in the recent months.”  The experts called for all the defendants whose cases are underway before the Tribunal and the Supreme Court to receive fair trials. 

Independent experts, or 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.

(UN Press Release)

December 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Jordan Elected to U.N. Security Council

The United Nations General Assembly has elected Jordan as a non-permanent member of the Security Council to fill a seat that Saudi Arabia had, in an earlier election, won but declined to accept. Jordan, endorsed by the African and Asian regional group, was elected to serve on the Council for two-years beginning on 1 January 2014. The country will be seated alongside Chad, Chile, Lithuania and Nigeria, which the Assembly elected on 17 October.

Saudi Arabia was also elected in the October vote, but shortly thereafter began to signal it would not accept the position.  In a 12 November statement annexed to a letter from the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Saudi Foreign Ministry formally confirmed that stance. In that statement, the Ministry apologized for its non-acceptance, explaining that the country could not serve on the Council until the body is “reformed and enabled, effectively and practically, to carry out its duties and responsibilities in maintaining international peace and security.” The Kingdom nevertheless reaffirmed its commitment to the UN and the goals of the Organization.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia believes that the manner, mechanisms of action and double standards existing in the [Council] prevent it from performing its duties and assuming its responsibilities towards preserving international peace and security as required, leading to the continued disruption of peace and security, the expansion of the injustices against peoples, the violation of rights and the spread of conflicts and wars around the world,” the statement continues.

The Foreign Ministry cited the situation of the Palestinian cause, lacking a just and lasting solution for 65 years, as “irrefutable evidence and proof of the Security Council’s inability to carry out its duties and assume its responsibilities. It also laments the Council’s “failure …to make the Middle East a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction.”

Finally, the ministry said that “allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill and burn its people with chemical weapons while the world stands idly by, without applying deterrent sanctions against the Damascus regime, is also irrefutable evidence and proof of the inability of the Security Council to carry out its duties and responsibilities.”

In light of those concerns, Saudi Arabia, “on the basis of its historical responsibilities towards its people, Arab and Islamic nations as well as towards the peoples aspiring to peace and stability all over the world, announces its apology for not accepting membership in the Security Council,” the statement concludes.

The five permanent Council members, which each wield the power of veto, are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Non-permanent members Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, the Republic of Korea and Rwanda will remain on the Council until the end of 2014. Under the UN Charter, the 15-member Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and all Member States are obligated to comply with its decisions. The Council also takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression. It calls on the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement. In some cases, it can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

December 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U.N. Tribunals Have Lessons to Offer on Helping States Deliver Justice

As the United Nations tribunals set up in the wake of the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s and the 1994 Rwandan genocide prepare to conclude their work, there are lessons to be learned in terms of building the national capacity of States to deliver justice, officials from the courts told the Security Council last week.  

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the creation by the Council of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which was tasked with trying those responsible for the worst war crimes and other breaches of international humanitarian law committed during the various conflicts in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.  

“What the Tribunal has achieved in the course of two decades has been extraordinary,” Judge Theodor Meron, President of the ICTY, said in his briefing to the Council.  He noted that the Tribunal has accounted for all 162 indicted individuals; given rise to an authoritative and extensive body of procedural and substantive law relating to serious international crimes; assisted national judicial systems in conducting their own trials of such crimes; and helped to end impunity, even for national or military leaders.  These accomplishments, he added, are a reflection not just of the hard work and dedication of the Tribunal’s staff and judges, but also of the key assistance provided to the court by the UN and its Member States.  “Without this support, the success of the bold experiment in international justice initiated by this Council in 1993 would never have been possible.” 

The Prosecutor for the ICTY, Serge Brammertz, told the Council that it is clear that the future of international justice is, increasingly, national justice. “While international courts will always be needed to provide an accountability safety net, building the capacity of national systems to effectively handle crimes under international law is the linchpin of the justice system.”  In this respect, the former Yugoslavia provides an important precedent, he stated. “There are lessons to learn from the different models and structures adopted by countries of the former Yugoslavia who have assumed responsibility for war crimes cases. And there are also lessons to learn from the process by which the Tribunal has transferred expertise and helped to build capacity nationally. This is an ongoing process.”  Mr. Brammertz added that 20 years after the Tribunal opened its doors, “we are yet to fully deliver on our promise of justice for victims and survivors of atrocities in the former Yugoslavia.” 

In December 2010, the Security Council set up the Residual Mechanism to take over and finish the remaining tasks of both the ICTY and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) once their mandates expire. Both branches of the Mechanism, located in The Hague, are now operational.  “As expected, the imminent closure of the ad hoc tribunals has generated broad interest within the international community on the potential for their practices and other aspects of their legacy to contribute to capacity-building of national and other international tribunals in the prosecution of international crimes,” Justice Hassan B. Jallow, ICTR’s Prosecutor, noted in his briefing.  This “impetus” has encouraged his office to share experience with national and international stakeholders on best practices in the fight against impunity, he added. 

The President of the ICTR, Judge Vagn Joensen, outlined various training programmes, workshops and partnerships instituted by the Tribunal over the years on a range of issue to help build capacities and share lessons learned.  “These capacity-building initiatives represent some of the concrete measures that the Tribunal has taken to help to restore peace and reconciliation in the region, and ensure that present and future generations are provided with the necessary tools to continue the fight against impunity long after the Tribunal closes its doors.”

(UN press release)

December 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

65th Anniversary of the Genocide Convention

Top United Nations officials joined international experts today in New York to mark the 65th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide – referred to as a living symbol of the enduring commitment to ‘never again.’  “The Genocide Convention has at its heart the commitment to protect vulnerable populations from mass violence. We have made significant advances since it was adopted but we have also seen some significant failures,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said, as he addressed the UN Headquarters event on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “We must be vigilant, courageous and persistent,” he stated. “We live in a troubled world, but it is within the power of all of us to make a difference. We must not be passive bystanders. We must always stand up for human rights, the rule of law and a life of dignity for all.”

Adopted on 9 December 1948 during the first session of the UN General Assembly, the Convention is largely an outcome of the world’s response to the crimes committed by the Nazis against Jews and other minority groups during the Second World War.  Drafted by three giants of the human rights field – Raphael Lemkin, Vespasian Pella, and Henry Donnedieu de Vabres – it defines genocide as any act committed with the intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.  Today, more than 140 countries have become parties to the Convention, which declares genocide a crime under international law. Those who commit, conspire to commit, or incite others to commit genocide would be found guilty of the crime.

“Genocide does not happen overnight,” Mr. Eliasson added. “There are almost always many warning signs, usually over a period of years. Very often these are violations of human rights against one particular group or entity within a population. “That means genocide is enabled when we remain silent or are unwilling to act. But – and this is crucial – it also means we can prevent it.”  

Adama Dieng, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, noted that while the Convention makes it clear that the prime duty of the international community is to prevent, too often it has failed in this duty, with devastating consequences for innocent civilians.  “Today we have to move beyond early warning to early action. We have to strengthen the capacity of our institutions to respond in a timely and effective way to potential conflicts and to the threat of grave and massive human rights violations. Even the best system of early warning will be less helpful unless States are able and willing to take action when the warning is received.”  He said the ongoing carnage in Syria and unfolding tragedy in the Central African Republic are “stark reminders of our limitations and our inability to undertake robust, timely action to protect populations from atrocity crimes. “Yet, any inaction is unacceptable, especially for those who endure the suffering resulting from these conflicts. We need to do more and we can do more.”

Mr. Dieng added that whenever civilians are deliberately targeted because they belong to a particular community or ethnic group, it is evident that the international community is confronting potential or indeed actual genocide. “We can no longer afford to be blind to this grim dynamic, nor should we imagine that appeals to morality, without credible threat of action, will have much effect on people who have adopted a deliberate strategy of killing and forcible expulsion.  Anyone who embarks on genocide commits a crime against humanity. It is therefore important that humanity must respond by taking action in its own defence. It is our collective obligation to stand firm and provide a shield to the defenseless.”     

The panel discussion was organized by the Holocaust and the UN Outreach Programme in partnership with the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect.

(UN press release)

December 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Violence Against Women in Afghanistan

Afghan authorities registered an increased number of reported acts of violence against women and girls in the past year, but prosecutions and convictions under a landmark law  remained low with most cases settled by mediation, according to an annual United Nations report released yesterday.  While registration of reported incidents such as forced marriage, domestic violence, and rape increased by 28 per cent in 16 provinces since the previous year, the use of the law on the Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) as a basis for indictment increased by only two per cent, according to 'A Way to Go' co-authored by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).  "Police, prosecutors and courts, in our view, need increased resources and technical and political support and direction from the highest levels of Government to deal adequately with the increase in reporting and registration of cases of violence against women documented in this report," Georgette Gagnon, director of the human rights unit at UNAMA and OHCHR representative, told journalists in the Afghan capital of Kabul at the report launch. 

Women are "coming forward in demanding justice", Ms. Gagnon said flanked by the heads of two key civil society group - Hasina Safi from the Afghan Women's Network, and  the Afghan Women's Skills Development Centre's Mary Akrami. "The Government needs to step up and provide that justice."  Presenting the report findings, Ms. Gagnon said that of an estimated total of 1,669 reported incidents registered throughout the country only 109 cases or seven per cent went through a judicial process using the EVAW law.  "What we found is that, instead, the police and prosecutors were mediating more cases of violence against women," said the UN official, speaking on behalf of Ján Kubiš, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Afghanistan.

Mediation whether through formal or informal dispute resolution bodies often fails to protect women from further violence by not applying criminal sanctions and legal protections for women, according to the report.   It compares and updates findings from UNAMA's December 2012 report on EVAW law implementation and is based on consultations with 203 judicial, police and Government officials, and monitoring of almost 500 cases of violence against women throughout Afghanistan. The report analyses statistical data on the law's application obtained from police, prosecutors and other judicial officials in 18 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces over the one-year period October 2012 to September 2013.

Enacted in 2009, the EVAW law criminalizes acts of violence against women and harmful practices including child marriage, forced marriage, forced self-immolation, 'baad' (giving away a woman or girl to settle a dispute) and 18 other acts of violence against women including rape and beating. It also specifies punishment for perpetrators."The landmark law on the Elimination of Violence against Women was a huge achievement for all Afghans," the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said in a news release from UNAMA. "But implementation has been slow and uneven, with police still reluctant to enforce the legal prohibition against violence and harmful practices, and prosecutors and courts slow to enforce the legal protections in the law." 

"Afghan authorities need to do much more to build on the gains made so far in protecting women and girls from violence," Ms. Pillay urged.Among its recommendations, the report calls on the Government to put in place a concrete plan, within six months, for the next two-year period for improving implementation of the EVAW law, including measures recommended to Afghanistan by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in August 2013. 

Another recommendation is that major donors establish a joint monitoring framework with specific indicators to measure progress in EVAW law implementation. The release of the report coincides with the global campaign of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence.  The campaign begins annually on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, marked on 25 November, and ends on 10 December Human Rights Day.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

December 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Stanford Journal of International Law Call for Papers

As the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 Commission Report approaches, the recurring dispute over the boundaries of the post-9/11 national security state is once again in full swing.  Governing Intelligence will move beyond the surveillance debate to start an interdisciplinary dialogue about the power and limits of intelligence agencies from a comparative and international perspective.  The Stanford Journal of International Law (SJIL) seeks contributions by academics, practitioners, and policymakers in the form of approx. 10-15,000-word scholarly essays or 5,000-word white papers on either of the following topics: (a) National Intelligence & Transnational Threats; or, (b) Individual Rights & Intelligence Gathering. 

The abstract submission deadline is February 1, 2014.  Decisions will be released on a rolling basis.  The full announcement, along with sub-topics, contact information, and submissions guidelines, can be found here.


December 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mourning the Passing of Nelson Mandela

It would be amiss not to add our condolences to all those mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela. He was truly a modern day hero who did more for peace and reconcilation not only in South Africa, but also in the broader international community, than virtually any other person alive today.  May we continue to learn from and be inspired by his example.


December 6, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

United Nations Office in Burundi Calls for Restraint During Constitutional Review Process

The United Nations Office in Burundi (BNUB) yesterday called on all political parties and actors in Burundi to show restraint as the country carries out its constitutional review process.  BNUB also welcomed the Government’s commitment to promote dialogue before the adoption of important instruments, particularly the constitution and the electoral code.  BNUB called on all Burundian political parties and actors “to be measured and show restraint when addressing these issues” and urged them "to participate effectively in the planned inclusive consultations in order to express their concerns.” 

The small, war-scarred nation in Africa’s Great Lakes region has been undertaking efforts towards peace and stability after decades of factional and ethnic fighting between Hutus and Tutsis killed hundreds of thousands of people.  BNUB, which is currently headed by Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, has been tasked with assisting the country with its peacebuilding efforts, including providing support for elections scheduled for 2015.

(adapted from a UN press release)

December 5, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)