Friday, March 29, 2013

A Farewell to Arms Trade Treaty?

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said he was deeply disappointed with the failure of the Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to reach an agreement among all 193 Member States on a treaty text during the last day of the conference.  "The treaty had been within reach, thanks to the tireless work and spirit of compromise among Member States," the Secretary-General said in a statement attributable to his spokesperson. "The Secretary-General commends Ambassador Peter Woolcott, President of the Conference, for his leadership in guiding the complex negotiations," according to the statement. Mr. Ban also commended civil society and the majority of States for their active support. 

Some 2,000 representatives of Governments, international and regional organizations and civil society had gathered in New York since 18 March to hammer out the details of what was seen as the most important initiative ever regarding conventional arms regulation within the UN. The draft text which was nearly adopted was considered "balanced" by Mr. Ban, according to his spokesperson, and would have established effective common standards to regulate the international trade in conventional arms.

If passed, the treaty would have applied to all conventional arms within the following categories: battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large-calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms and light weapons, according to the draft text. 

Armed violence kills more than half a million people each year, including 66,000 women and girls. In addition, between 2000 and 2010, almost 800 humanitarian workers were killed in armed attacks and another 689 injured, according to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs. 

Given the importance of the issues involved, Mr. Ban "strongly hopes that Member States will continue exploring ways to bring the Treaty into being," his spokesperson said in the statement. Mr. Ban "is confident" that the Arms Trade Treaty will come to pass and is encouraged by the shared determination "to make this happen as soon as possible," he added. 

The previous attempts to reach a consensus on the treaty ended without success in July 2012. In December, the UN General Assembly agreed to a final conference and set today as the deadline for the two-week negotiations.

(UN Press Release)

March 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

News from the WTO Dispute Settlement Body

The World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) met earlier this week under the leadership of its new chair, Ambassador Fried of Canada. Ambassador Fried began the meeting by urging the members to work harder on implementation of DSB rulings. He lamented the fact that members had fallen into a bad habit of submitting the same reports each month and requested that the members provide more meaningful and up-to-date information in their monthly reports.

Also at the meeting, Indonesia delayed the establishment of a dispute resolution panel requested by the United States to examine Indonesia's use of import licensing measures that restrict imports of horticultural products, animals and animal products. Indonesia said it was not in a position to agree to the establishment of a panel because it was engaged in consultations with the United States to resolve the matter bilaterally. If the matter is not resolved by consultations by the time of the next DSB meeting, the United States will have the right to have the panel established.

In other business, the DSB agreed to reappoint Mr. Richard Ramirez to the Appellate Body for a second four-year term beginning in July 2013.


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

Indonesia Urged to End Death Penalty

An independent United Nations human rights expert today urged the Indonesian Government to restrict the use of the death penalty, following the recent reported execution of a man convicted on drug charges.

“I deeply regret that Indonesia executed Mr. Adami Wilson despite appeals by UN human rights experts and civil society organisations not to carry out executions for drug-related offences,” said Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions. According to reports, Mr. Wilson was executed by firing squad in the capital, Jakarta, on 14 March 2013 – the first execution in the country since November 2008.     
After the execution, Indonesia’s Attorney General announced that 20 prisoners convicted and sentenced to death will be executed later this year, stated a news release issued by the UN human rights office (OHCHR). Reportedly, around 130 people are believed to be on death row in Indonesia and more than half of them have been convicted of drug-related offences. 

“Such a practice is unacceptable,” Mr. Heyns stressed. “Under international law, the death penalty is regarded as an extreme form of punishment which, if it is used at all, should only be imposed for the most serious crimes, that is, those involving intentional killing, and only after a fair trial.” He reiterated that “any death sentence undertaken in contravention of a State’s international human rights obligations is tantamount to an arbitrary execution, and is unlawful.” 
Noting that the death penalty is under review by national courts and that a public debate on the issue is ongoing in Indonesia, Mr. Heyns said he hoped that the Government will consider a moratorium on executions.  

(UN Press Release)

March 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

UN Secretary General Pays Tribute to Those Seeking Truth and Justice for Human Rights Violations

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon honored individuals worldwide who dedicate their lives to seek truth and justice for those who have been victims of gross human rights violations. “The right to the truth is both an individual and a collective right. Each victim has the right to know the truth about violations against them, but the truth also has to be told more widely as a safeguard to prevent violations from happening again,” Mr. Ban said in a message to mark the International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims, observed on 24 March.

The International Day, proclaimed in December 2010 by the General Assembly, honours the memory of victims of gross and systematic human rights violations and promotes the importance of the right to truth and justice. It is also designed to pay tribute to those who have devoted their lives to, and lost their lives in, the struggle to promote and protect human rights for all, particularly Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, who was murdered in El Salvador on this day in 1980 for refusing to be silent in the face of violence, abuse and injustice.

“On this day, let us pledge to help victims, their families and society realize their right to truth and protect those who fight to see the truth prevail,” Mr. Ban said. “The UN supports truth-seeking mechanisms, such as truth commissions, to promote justice, propose reparations and recommend reforms of abusive institutions,” he added, highlighting last year’s appointment by the Human Rights Council of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, which “has contributed to efforts to serve justice, provide remedies to victims, and promote the rule of law.”

(UN Press Release)

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

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Trial for Congolese Rebel Leader Set for September 23

The International Criminal Court (ICC) set 23 September as the start date for the confirmation of charges hearing for Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda, who made his first appearance before the tribunal today. Mr. Ntaganda faces several counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity – including rape, murder and the recruitment of children – allegedly committed in Ituri province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) between 2002 and 2003.

A confirmation of charges hearing is held to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that the person committed each of the crimes charged, according to a news release issued by the Court, which is based in The Hague. If the charges are confirmed, the Court’s pre-trial chamber commits the case for trial before a trial chamber, which will conduct the subsequent phase of the proceedings, namely the trial.

Mr. Ntaganda surrendered himself voluntarily to the ICC’s custody on 22 March, after turning himself in to the United States Embassy in Rwanda on 18 March.

The ICC is an independent, permanent court that investigates and prosecutes persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes if national authorities with jurisdiction are unwilling or unable to do so genuinely. DRC is one of seven situations currently under investigation by the ICC. The others are northern Uganda, the Darfur region of Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR), Kenya, and Côte d’Ivoire.

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

Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged participants at the United Nations Final Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to show a shared determination to put in place substantial measures that would establish standards for the international trade in conventional weapons. “The negotiations now stand at a critical juncture,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, told reporters in New York. “[Mr. Ban] calls upon Member States to show a shared determination to close the gaps in the poorly regulated international arms trade by agreeing to a set of legally binding global standards that will make a difference.”

Virtually all international trade in goods is regulated, but no globally agreed standards exist for the international arms trade. The result can be the misuse of transferred weaponry by government forces, or diversion of arms into illegal markets, where they end up in the hands of criminals, gangs, war lords and terrorists. The last negotiations on the ATT ended in July of last year without agreement. Mr. Ban has described that outcome as “a disgrace,” and has stressed that reaching consensus through compromise on all sides is long overdue.

Mr. Ban “has consistently said that a strong and robust arms trade treaty will have a real impact on the lives of those millions of people suffering from the consequences of armed conflict, repression and armed violence,” Mr. Nesirky said.

Some 2,000 representatives of Governments, international and regional organizations and civil society have gathered at UN Headquarters to take part in the negotiations and related events. The process is overseen by Ambassador Peter Woolcott of Australia which holds the presidency of the conference. Mr. Nesirky noted that there are a range of views on the scope of the treaty, regarding whether ammunition should fully be a part of it, and the criteria that arms-exporting States will need to use to determine if a particular arms export is warranted. However, he said Mr. Ban has full confidence that Mr. Woolcott will guide the two-week conference to a positive outcome before it comes to a close on Thursday. 

“The Secretary-General has been active in encouraging Member States to reach an agreement. He has been reaching out to some of the key players in this regard,” Mr. Nesirky added.  According to the conference’s website, the proposed treaty will not interfere with the domestic arms trade and the way a country regulates civilian possession; ban, or prohibit the export of, any type of weapons; impair States’ legitimate right to self-defence; or lower arms regulation standards in countries where these are already at a high level.

(UN Press Release)

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

Global Legal Skills Conference a Success

A very informative and successful Eighth Annual Global Legal Skills conference was held in San Jose, Costa Rica 029 Costa Rica earlier this month. Much of the credit must go to my co-blogger, Mark Wojcik, as the principal organizer (pictured here holding the flag of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights).  Featuring two days of presentations by international law scholars and experts on teaching legal skills to students from all over the world, many great ideas were shared. Presentations included ideas for making legal field trips more effective, preparing foreign students for U.S. law schools, the use of elaborate simulations in international law, teaching international human rights online, the incorporation of diversity issues in the curriculum, methods for improving success rates in law school for indigenous students and many others.

Costa Rica 022The highlight of the conference for this author was the day of legal field trips to the Costa Rican Supreme Court (pictured on the left), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (pictured on right below) and the US Embassy. At the Costa Rican Supreme Court, we learned about the incredible access individuals have to the Court if they believe their human rights were violated. We were told that individuals may file a petition (called recursos de amparo) with the Supreme Court as the court of first instance alleging a violation of constitutional or human rights 365 days a year.  At the Inter-American Court, we were reminded of the Court's extraordinary Costa Rica 026 powers to award a wide range of remedies to remediate a harm, including not only an award of monetary damages, but also orders to change domestic laws or constitutions, orders to train police, prosecutors and judges, and the award of various types of satisfaction, including public apologies, the construction of a monument, or establishment of a scholarship.  Finally, at the U.S. Embassy, we learned of cooperative efforts between the United States and Costa Rica to combat problems such as human trafficking, gender-based violence and refugee issues.

Kudos to all who helped to make the conference a success.  Mark your calendars for next year's Global Legal Skills Conference in Verona, Italy in May 2014.


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

Monday, March 25, 2013

Refugee and asylum claims on the rise

Recent data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the European Union (EU) show a sharp rise in refugee and asylum applications, much of it attributable to the on going conflict in Syria.

The UNHCR has reported an 8% rise in asylum applications in industrialized countries in 2012. 479,300 claims were registered last year, the largest number since 2003. The United States received more applications than any other country with 83,400, a significant increase over 2011. France and Germany followed the United States as the most popular destination for asylum seekers.

Eurostat announced that European countries received 330,000 asylum applications in 2012, up from 302,000 in 2011. The largest number of asylum seekers come from Afghanistan, but Syrians have now moved into second place, followed by Russians, Pakistanis and Serbs.


March 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)