Wednesday, January 16, 2013
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) today formally opened an investigation into alleged crimes committed in Mali since January 2012 – including murder, torture and rape – with a focus on the northern part of the country.
Fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels broke out in the country’s north last January, following which radical Islamists seized control of the area. The renewed clashes in the north, as well as the proliferation of armed groups in the region, drought and political instability in the wake of a military coup d’état in March have uprooted hundreds of thousands of civilians over the course of 2012. “Since the beginning of the armed conflict in January 2012, the people of Northern Mali have been living in profound turmoil,” said the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda. “At each stage during the conflict, different armed groups have caused havoc and human suffering through a range of alleged acts of extreme violence. I have determined that some of these deeds of brutality and destruction may constitute war crimes as defined by the Rome Statute,” she stated, referring to the treaty that set up the Court.
Ms. Bensouda said that there is “a reasonable basis” to believe that the following crimes were committed: murder; mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; intentionally directing attacks against protected objects; the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court; pillaging; and rape. “My Office will ensure a thorough and impartial investigation and will bring justice to Malian victims by investigating who are the most responsible for these alleged crimes,” she stated in a news release issued by the Court.
Located in The Hague, in the Netherlands, the ICC is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern – namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
(UN Press Release)
Millions of domestic workers around the world are not protected under general labour laws and are highly vulnerable to exploitation, says a United Nations report released last week, which calls on countries to extend social protection to them. “Domestic workers are frequently expected to work longer hours than other workers and in many countries do not have the same rights to weekly rest that are enjoyed by other workers,” said the Deputy Director-General of the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), Sandra Polaski. “Combined with the lack of rights, the extreme dependency on an employer and the isolated and unprotected nature of domestic work can render them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse,” she added.
According to the ILO report, Domestic workers across the world, more than 52 million people worldwide are employed as domestic workers. While a substantial number are men working as gardeners, drivers or butlers, 80 per cent of them are women. Of the 52 million domestic workers, only 10 per cent are covered by labour laws to the same extent as other workers, and more than one quarter are completely excluded from national labour legislation. This disparity in conditions translates in longer, more unpredictable working hours with no appropriate remuneration for domestic workers, rendering them highly vulnerable economically, as well as affecting their health.
The report states that more than half of all domestic workers have no limitation on their weekly normal hours of work and about 45 per cent have no entitlement to weekly rest periods or paid annual leave. In countries such as Qatar, Namibia, Tanzania and Saudi Arabia, the average hours of domestic workers range from 60 to 65 per week, largely surpassing the statutory limits set by virtually all countries of 40 to 48 hours per week. “Long working hours, night working and patterns of shift work that involve an irregular distribution of working hours are among the factors that have the greatest negative effects on workers’ health,” said an ILO domestic work specialist, Amelita King-Dejardin. “They carry especially important risks for women during and after pregnancy and for young workers.”
Long working hours are especially common among live-in workers – many of whom are migrants – who are expected to be available at all times of the night, the report notes. Many migrant workers also lack knowledge of the local language and laws, which makes them especially vulnerable to abusive practices, such as physical and sexual violence, psychological abuse, non-payment of wages, debt bondage and abusive living and working conditions.
“The large disparities between wages and working conditions of domestic workers compared to other workers in the same country underline the need for action at the national level by governments, employers and workers to improve the working lives of these vulnerable but hard-working individuals,” said Ms. Polaski.
The report’s findings are intended to act as a benchmark against which progress in extending legal protection for domestic workers will be measured. It also calls for joint actions taken at a national level by governments, trade unions, employers and domestic workers’ organizations to bring about reform in legislation as well as in practice.
Domestic workers across the world follows the adoption in June 2011 of a new ILO Convention and Recommendation on domestic work which sets a standard for equal treatment between domestic and general workers in relation to working hours, rest periods and annual leave. The Convention will come into force in September this year. So far, it has been ratified only by three countries: Mauritius, Uruguay and the Philippines.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Monday, January 14, 2013
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the response of “bilateral partners” to the plea for assistance from the Government of Mali to counter the troubling push southward by armed rebels, some of which are associated with terrorists groups. “The Secretary-General hopes these actions will help to arrest the latest offensive while efforts continue to fully implement Security Council Resolution 2085 (2012) aimed at the full restoration of Mali’s constitutional order and territorial integrity,” according to a statement released by his spokesperson.
Northern Mali was occupied by radical Islamists after fighting broke out in January 2012 between Government forces and Tuareg rebels, after which the country underwent a military coup d'état, in March.
According to media reports, a French air operation began on Friday and continued over the weekend after the armed groups overran the town of Konna, which had been on the de facto dividing line between those areas under Government control and those already occupied by the rebels.
Mr. Ban stressed that the latest events underscore the urgency of implementing all aspects of resolution 2085, including support for Malian defence forces and the deployment of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali, or AFISMA, the Council authorized through that text, according to the statement.
Also urgent were the success of mediation efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the development of a consensual roadmap for a political transition and provision of support, Mr. Ban said.
According to the statement, preparations are also continuing for the deployment soon of a UN multidisciplinary team to the capital, Bamako, to carry forward support requested for both the political and security process.
Mr. Ban spoke on Saturday with the President of Côte d'Ivoire and Chair of ECOWAS, Alassane Ouattara, who briefed him on the ECOWAS summit planned for 19 January in Abuja and the plans of several of its member States to deploy military forces, the spokesperson said.
The Secretary-General was briefed on the French operation yesterday by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. Meanwhile, Mr. Ban’s Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, continues his consultations in the sub-region as part of efforts to speed up implementation of resolution 2085, the spokesman added. Mr. Djinnit met today in Abuja with the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador Kadré Desiré Ouédraogo, and with Foreign Minister Djibrill Bassolé of Burkina Faso. He is expected to travel to Bamako in the coming days, Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said.
Also this afternoon, the delegation of France briefed the Security Council in a closed-door session on the military action conducted by the country after which its Permanent Representative told correspondents that Council members had expressed their support and understanding of the operation in the context of resolution 2085.
The renewed clashes in the north, as well as the proliferation of armed groups in the region, drought and political instability have uprooted hundreds of thousands of civilians in Mali. Over 412,000 people have been forced to flee the north, and an estimated five million people have been affected by the conflict.
(UN Press Release)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon again called on Israel today to withdraw new settlement plans for East Jerusalem while stressing that protests over the plans, as well as reactions to them, must remain peaceful, noting that they had been largely non-violent so far. “The Secretary-General is following with concern developments regarding the announced plans for Israeli settlement construction in the so-called E1 area, on which he expressed his grave disappointment in his statement of 2 December,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.
In the previous statement, released a few days after the E1 plans were announced as part of 3,000 proposed new units, Mr. Ban warned that the proposed settlement could completely cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and would represent an “almost fatal blow” to remaining chances of securing a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“In this particularly difficult period for the region, all concerned should make serious efforts towards creating the conditions for a resumption of meaningful peace negotiations and to protect the future of the peace process, which is in danger,” Mr. Ban said through today’s statement, reiterating as well that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law.
Mr. Ban noted that recent Palestinian demonstrations in the E1 area, as well as the Israeli evacuation of the protesters, were largely non-violent.
“The Secretary-General stresses the importance for protests to continue to remain peaceful and for the right to peaceful protest to be fully respected,” the spokesperson said.
(UN Press Release)
The United States Supreme Court agreed this past week to hear a challenge to a 2003 federal statute that requires groups accepting international aid intended to fight AIDS/HIV and other infectious diseases to adopt explicit policies opposing prostitution and sex trafficking. Some of the groups have challenged the law arguing that it unconstitutionally compels speech in violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the groups that the federal law is unconstitutional.
The federal statute at issue is the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDs, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003. The purpose of the requirement to adopt policies against prostitution and sex trafficking is to reduce behaviors that lead to the spread of HIV/AIDs. While the humanitarian groups receiving the aid recognize the harms of prostitution and sex trafficking, they have argued that the speech restriction can hinder their work with high-risk groups.
The case is the U.S. Agency for International Development v. the Alliance for Open Society International.
Sunday, January 13, 2013
The Villanova Law Review is hosting a the Norman J. Shachoy Symposium this week on "Assessing the CISG and Other International Endeavors to Unify International Contract Law: Has the Time Come for a New Global Initiative to Harmonize and Unify International Trade?" The symposium will be held Friday, January 18 from 8 am to 5 pm at the Villanova School of Law in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The symposium will feature many of the leading authories on the international sale of goods, including the Secretary of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), The Honorable Renaud Sorieul, and the U.S. State Department’s Assistant Legal Adviser for Private International Law, Keith Loken, along with two dozen other speakers. More details and registration information may be found on the Villanova website.