Wednesday, April 30, 2014
The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to lift a ban on importing rough diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire and to partially lift the arms embargo, differentiating between lethal and non-lethal arms.
In a resolution adopted at UN Headquarters in New York, the Council extended until 30 April 2015 sanctions first put in place in 2004 against “the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the West African nation, from their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and any related material.”
The Council also decided to exempt from the embargo supplies to the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the French forces who support them.
Supplies of non-lethal equipment which would enable the Ivorian security forces to use “appropriate and proportionate force while maintaining public order” would no longer require notification to the Sanctions Committee. Nor would any technical assistance, training or financial assistance used for the same purpose.
Shipment of heavy weapons will still require advance approval by the Sanctions Committee, while shipment of small calibre lethal equipment simply requires Côte d’Ivoire to notify the Committee.
The Council decided to continue financial and travel measures in place until 30 April 2015.
The changes are the result of a review of the embargo in light of progress made in the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of combatants as well as security sector reform (SSR), national reconciliation and the fight against impunity.
The 15-member Council also unanimously agreed to terminate sanctions imposed in 2005 on diamond imports from Côte d’Ivoire. The decision was made “in light of progress made towards the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) implementation and better governance of the sector.”
The Kimberley Process, established by the UN General Assembly in 2003, aims to prevent so-called “conflict diamonds” from entering the mainstream.
The resolution also requests Côte d’Ivoire to update the Sanctions Committee on its progress in implementing its action plan to develop its diamond sector, including enforcement of illegal smuggling and reporting from financial flows of diamonds.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has strongly condemned the imposition of the death penalty on hundreds of people in Egypt, after mass trials that she said clearly breached international human rights law. “It is outrageous that for the second time in two months, the Sixth Chamber of the Criminal Court in Al-Minya has imposed the death sentence on huge groups of defendants after perfunctory trials,” High Commissioner Navi Pillay said in remarks read out by her spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani in Geneva.
According to information received, some of the 683 defendants sentenced yesterday were charged with killing a policeman and breaking into the Edwa police station in Al-Minya on 14 August 2013.
This legal decision follows the 24 March conviction of 529 defendants on charges that include membership in an unlawful organization (the Muslim Brotherhood), incitement to violence, vandalism, unlawful gathering and the killing of one police officer. All the charges relate to events in August 2013 after the Government of President Mohamed Morsi was ousted.
As in the previous cases, the exact charges against each defendant are not clear, given that they were not individually read out in court.
Ms. Pillay lashed out at the verdicts made “at the hands of a judicial system where international fair trial guarantees appear to be increasingly trampled upon.” She noted that Egypt has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and said that “it is high time that Egypt takes its human rights commitments seriously.”
In a news release from her Office (OHCHR), Ms. Pillay stressed that the death penalty can only be applied for the most serious crimes and after the most stringent trial safeguards. “This has clearly not been the case in these two trials before the Al-Minya criminal court. A mass trial of hundreds of people, rife with procedural irregularities is simply not good enough for imposition of the death penalty,” she reiterated.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
Marking the Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Warfare, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly President John Ashe yesterday urged the six reticent Member States to sign and/or ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention which aims to eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. “Until membership is universal and the last stockpiles of chemical weapons are destroyed, our work will not be done,” Mr. Ban said in reference to Angola, Egypt, Israel, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar and South Sudan.
Mr. Ashe echoed Mr. Ban’s tribute to the victims, adding that chemical weapons “have no place in our world.” He added that the international community’s commitment to eliminating the threat of chemical weapons strengthens one of the core missions of the UN: the promotion of peace, security and stability worldwide.
Observed annually on 29 April, the Day commemorates the date in 1997 on which the Convention entered into force. The treaty prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons by States parties. Seeing first-hand the “horrific use” of chemical weapons in Syria in 2013, Mr. Ban called their use “a deplorable offense against humanity.”
This year’s observance comes just days after the Joint Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the UN announced that 92.5 per cent of Syria’s chemical weapons programme has been either removed or destroyed. “The multinational effort to rid Syria of its chemical weapons programme shows what can be done when the international community comes together,” Mr. Ban said.
In the past year, Syria and Somalia joined the Convention, raising its membership to 190 States.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Wednesday launched the first-ever Bollywood-style UN music video at a press conference in Mumbai to promote
its Free & Equal campaign for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.
The two-and-a-half minute video, called "The Welcome", stars actress and former Miss India Celina Jaitly. Jaitly, who was last year nominated by the High Commissioner as a "UN equality champion" in recognition of her support for LGBT equality, makes her musical debut in the video, singing a new version of the 1979 Bollywood classic, Uthe Sab Ke Kadam. The song was recomposed and remixed by Neeraj Shreedhar of the Bombay Vikings, and produced in association with the music company Saregama India. The dance moves in the video were choreographed by Longi -- the choreographer for Slumdog Millionaire -- who worked on the project pro bono, as did the entire cast. The concept for the video was developed by creative agency Curry Nation.
"It is an honour to partner with the United Nations on the incredibly timely and important Free & Equal campaign," said Celina Jaitly. "I have been working for LGBT rights for many years, and I am honoured to contribute my musical debut to such a good cause. Music is a universal language. It can engage people's passion, and that's when good things happen."
Jaitly was joined at the press conference by renowned Indian actor Imran Khan, Humsafar Trust founder Ashok Row Kavi, transgender rights activist Laxmi Tripathi, commentator and comedian Cyrus Broacha, and UN representatives. Speakers discussed the human rights challenges facing LGBT people in India and around the world and the steps needed to combat homophobia and transphobia. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent a special message in which he expressed his support for the campaign and his solidarity with India's LGBT community.
Commenting on the launch, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said she was delighted to see the Free & Equal campaign extended to India.
"LGBT people have historically been marginalized and subjected to discrimination and violence in India, as elsewhere. But change is coming. In the past few months we have seen an unprecedented level of public debate relating to the rights of LGBT people. As awareness grows, attitudes will change. We need to do all we can to hasten change by challenging the myths and misinformation that get in the way of understanding. That is what this campaign is all about."
The video can be viewed with subtitles in English and, if you click on the cc button, subtitles in Russian and other languages.
(Adapted from a UN press release).
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
President Obama Signs Law Banning Iran's UN Ambassador, But With a Signing Statement that the Law is Only "Advisory"
The Islamic Republic of Iran has named as its new Ambassador to the United Nations a man who was involved in the taking of hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The United States, enacting legislation sponsored by Senator Ted Cruz, prohibit entry to the U.S. to anyone who has engaged in terrorist activity against the U.S. or its allies.
Although President Obama signed the law, he noted in a signing statement that he will continue to use “discretion” on its enforcement, citing his Republican predecessor President George H.W. Bush. "[A]s President Bush also observed, ‘curtailing by statute my constitutional discretion to receive or reject ambassadors is neither a permissible nor a practical solution.’ I shall therefore continue to treat section 407, as originally enacted and as amended by S. 2195, as advisory in circumstances in which it would interfere with the exercise of this discretion.”
- It improves and streamlines the registration process;
- It attempts to deter trademark hijacking by imposing principles of good faith on trademark filings;
- It clarifies rules on "well-known trademarks";
- It increases the fines for trademark infringement to six times the previous limits; and
- It increases the kinds of things that can be trademarked, including sounds.
Right now there is only one English translation of the law, and it's available in a new book from Carolina Academic Press. It's called, amazingly enough, Chinese Trademark Law: The New Chinese Trademark Law of 2014. Your local law library may already have a copy or you can order your own from Carolina Academic Press. In addition to an English translation of the new law, the book includes practical advice and helpful tips for anyone wishing to protect their trademarks in the Chinese market.
Paul Kossof, "Chinese Trademark Law: The New Chinese Trademark Law of 2014," (Carolina Academic Press, Durham, North Carolina 2014). ISBN 978-1-61163-566-9.
Mr. Kossof has also written a book on Chinese Legal Research. That book will be published in July 2014 and will be particularly useful for legal researchers who do not speak Chinese.
Monday, April 28, 2014
Cuba has partipated as a third party in a number of dispute settlement proceedings at the World Trade Organization (WTO) since it joined in 1995, but it has now assumed a new role as complainant for the first time. Cuba has requested the establishment of a panel to examine certain Australian measures relating to trademarks, geographical indications, and other packaging requirements for tobacco (DS458). Cuba claims these measures violate Australia's obligations under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS), the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Australia claims the measures are intended to discourage smoking and, as such, are legitimate measures designed to protect public health. The Dominican Republic has filed a similar complaint against Australia (DS441). In the interest of efficiency, Australia accepted Cuba's first request for the establishment of a panel so the two matters could be handled together. Several third parties are also participating.
In other WTO news, the WTO also established a panel to examine Argentina's complaint that the European Union is violating its WTO obligations with respect to the imposition of anti-dumping duties on biodiesel from Argentina.
The United States requested the establishment of a dispute settlement panel with respect to India’s domestic content requirements under Phase I and Phase II of a solar energy programme known as the National Solar Mission (NSM). The United States is of the view that the domestic content requirements of the NSM breach India’s obligations under the GATT 1994 and the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs). India did not agree to the establishment of a panel because it believes a settlement of the matter is still possible, so the matter was deferred to the next Dispute Settlement Body meeting.
Sunday, April 27, 2014
Nearly eight per cent of Syria's declared chemical weapons material remains on its territory and should be removed in the shortest possible timeframe, despite the difficult security situation, the head of the Joint Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations today urged.
Briefing journalists in Damascus, the Special Coordinator of the Joint Mission, Sigrid Kaag, called on Syrian partners to complete the removal of the remaining chemical weapons material. "It is the Joint Mission's hope and expectation that - having come this close to meeting the target date for the removal of chemicals weapons material - the Syrian Arab Republic will take the final step very soon," Ms. Kaag said referring to today's deadline for the Government to remove its declared stockpile of chemical weapons material.
The Joint Mission has said 92.5 per cent of the programme has been removed or destroyed in-country, including all declared production, mixing and filling equipment and munitions, as well as some buildings associated with its Chemical Weapons Programme. She added that every effort must be made to achieve the 30 June 2014 deadline set by OPCW Executive Council Decisions and the UN Security Council, by which time the full arsenal is to be destroyed.
A team from the OPCW Technical Secretariat has been working with Syrian officials "to obtain clarifications, and address discrepancies and anomalies" and has reported "fruitful discussions and tangible progress", Ms. Kaag added.
Twelve chemical weapons production facilities are under review by the OPCW Executive Council in The Hague regarding the modalities for their destruction. The removal of the most critical material for destruction began in early January, in line with an agreement brokered by Russia and the United States under which Syria renounced its chemical weapons material and joined 1992 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons. In addition to the removal operations, the Syrian authorities have destroyed buildings, equipment and empty mustard gas containers, and decontaminated other containers in a number of chemical weapons storage and production sites.
Turning to allegations in recent weeks of toxic chlorine gas attacks in several parts of the country, Ms. Kaag urged that all necessary steps be taken to establish the facts surrounding these "unsubstantiated allegations".
"I understand that the OPCW Technical Secretariat has been in touch with the Syrian government in this regard," she said, adding that since Syria is now a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the OPCW is the appropriate body to assess these allegations. The OPCW's probe of these incidents would be conducted outside of the Joint Mission mandate.
(UN press release)
Saturday, April 26, 2014
Here's another photo from the 2014 Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, with teams from Tanzania and Taiwan. The White and Case International Rounds of the Jessup Competition were held in Washington D.C. from April 6-12, 2014.
The ABA Section of International Law will co-hosti a program in June with the Association International des Jeunes Avocats - International Association of Young Lawyers (AIJA) on the topic of “Successful Transactions - What In-House Counsel Expect from their M&A & Antitrust Attorneys.”
The conference will be held from June 6-7, 2014 at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Illinois. The conference will consist of two parallel tracks in M&A and Antitrust and will provide a better understanding of the top issues facing general counsel in connection with M&A transactions and related Antitrust issues. The conference will also enable attendees to develop their respective M&A or Antitrust practices to serve their clients and address technical and legal issues in M&A and Antitrust, internal challenges in corporate organizations, and cultural issues in cross-border/cross-continental transactions. One joint session on project management and a joint wrap up will allow attendees in both tracks to exchange their views on these subjects.
Program topics will include:
- Fee Management
- Negotiating, Structuring, and Protecting the Deal
- The Next Wave of M&A in Retail and Fashion Sectors
- Protecting the Deal during Merger Review
- External Counsel’s Role in a Successful M&A Transaction
- Joint Ventures, Minority Investments, Asset Acquisitions and Internal Reorganizations
- The Value in a Red Flag Due Diligence Report
- Transactions Below the Radar
- Beyond the Data Room
- Use of Econometric Data in Merger Review
Register before May 9, 2014 to save on registration with Early Bird Rates. Click here for information on programming, speakers, registration, lodging, and other conference updates. And in case you're wondering, Chicago is lovely in June.
Film tastes are as varied as the people around the world watching them, and as cinematic excellence sprouts up in dozens of countries, the United Nations and the global intellectual property (IP) system are helping to keep the reels rolling by supporting filmmaking through this year's theme for World Intellectual Property Day --"Movies -- A Global Passion."
"Movies have always attracted global audiences…from the very first silent movies," said General Francis Gurry, Director of the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in a message for World IP Day 2014. "We have witnessed the growth not only of global audiences, but also of global production," pointed out Mr. Gurry, noting that while Hollywood was once the dominant player, film industries around the world now flourish. "Be it Bollywood in India, Nollywood in Nigeria, or in Scandinavia, North Africa, China or other parts of Asia -- movies really are a global passion," Mr. Gurry evinced.
To mark the Day, WIPO is helping to facilitate events in dozens of countries. Via the IP Day Facebook page, movie lovers around the world can learn about the history of film, the latest trends and how intellectual property helps to promote creativity and innovation. In a video message, the WIPO chief said movies are a direct product of intellectual property. "You start with a script, which is the intellectual property of an author or screenwriter. Then there are the actors, whose performances are their intellectual property. Then there is music, in which the composers and the performers have intellectual property," he said, adding:" IP underlies the whole film industry."
"On World IP Day this year, I invite movie lovers everywhere, when next you watch a movie, to think for a moment about all the creators and innovators who have had a part in making that movie," said Mr. Gurry in his message. The WIPO Director also urged everyone to think about the digital challenge that the Internet presents for film. "I believe it is the responsibility not just of policy-makers but of each of us to consider this challenge, and to ask ourselves: How can we take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity to democratize culture and to make creative works available at the click of a mouse, while, at the same time, ensuring that the creators can keep on creating, earning their living, and making the films that so enrich our lives?" Mr. Gurry asserted.
In Geneva, WIPO is screening the Swiss premiere of the Nigerian/British co-production of author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "Half of a Yellow Sun," a story of Nigeria's civil war with an international cast featuring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton and others.
World IP Day, 26 April, was initiated in 2000 to raise public awareness on the role of IP in daily life and to celebrate the contributions of innovators and creators in the development of societies worldwide. WIPO is a specialized agency of the United Nations and the leading global forum to promote intellectual property as a force for positive change.
(UN Press Release)
Friday, April 25, 2014
The ninth Global Legal Skills Conference (GLS-9) will be held in Italy at the University of Verona Faculty of Law from May 21-23, 2014.
The conference is co-sponsored by several leading international bar associations and professional organizations, including:
- American Bar Association Section of International Law
- International Bar Association
- Law Society of England and Wales (International Committee)
- Scribes--The American Society of Legal Writers
- Teaching International Law Committee of the American Branch of the International Law Association.
More than 150 speakers and presenters from over 30 countries are expected at the conference. Click here for more information including speakers, panel topics, hotel, and registration information.
The conference was previously held in Chicago (at The John Marshall Law School, where the conference was founded), Washington D.C. (at Georgetown University Law Center), Monterrey Mexico (at the Facultad Libre de Derecho de Monterrey), and in Costa Rica (at the University of Costa Rica Faculty of Law). This year marks the first time that the conference is being held in Europe. In addition to the conference days in Verona, there is also an optional day trip to Vicenza.
Mark E. Wojcik, GLS-9 Conference Co-Chair
Yesterday, April 24, the Republic of the Marshall Islands filed suit at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against nine states for their alleged failure to comply with their obligations with respect to the cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament. The nine states named as respondents are: China, Korea, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Three of the states have accepted the ICJ's compulsory jurisdiction: India, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom For the remaining six states, the Marshall Islands has requested that they consent to ICJ jurisdiciton over this dispute pursuant to Article 38(5) of the ICJ's Rules of Court, which reads:
"When the applicant State proposes to found the jurisdiction of the Court upon a consent thereto yet to be given or manifested by the State against which such application is made, the application shall be transmitted to that State. It shall not however be entered in the General List, nor any action be taken in the proceedings, unless and until the State against which such application is made consents to the Court’s jurisdiction for the purposes of the case."
The U.K. is the only State over which the ICJ currently has jurisdiction that is also a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). (China, France, Russia, and the U.S. are also parties to the NPT.) The Marshall Islands alleges that the U.K. and the other States have violated Article VI of the NPT, which provides that: "Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." With respect to India and Pakistan, the Marshall Islands claims that the principles set out in Article VI of the NPT reflect customary international law and are binding as such on non-treaty parties as well.
By way of relief, the Marshall Islands requests the ICJ to order the Respondents to take all steps necessary to comply with their obligations under international law with respect to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and nuclear disarmament within one year of the Judgment, including the pursuit, by initiation if necessary, of negotiations in good faith aimed at the conclusion of a convention on nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.
More information may be found at the ICJ website.
The Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Subcommittee if the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives will hold a hearing on tiered rankings in human trafficking on April 29, 2014 at 2:00 pm in Room 2200 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office
A new report by the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), Breach of Privilege: Spying on Lawyers in the United States, brings to light the government's long history of covert surveillance of attorneys and their activist clients. The release also marks the launch of a new NLG Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) project that seeks to recover FBI files on individual Guild members as exposed by the 1977 case, National Lawyers Guild v. Attorney General of the United States.
From 1940-1975, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and other government agencies spied on, infiltrated, and disrupted the NLG and its members. Even though no alleged or suspected criminal wrongdoing existed to justify governmental intrusion, the FBI illegally recorded privileged conversations of members, led media smear campaigns against the NLG, and even inserted informants posing as NLG staff -- all resulting in significant financial and organizational damage to the Guild.
In Breach of Privilege, NLG Senior Researcher Traci Yoder gives a comprehensive analysis of covert government spying on the legal profession and its detrimental impact on the attorney-client privilege. A resource for scholars, lawyers, and activists, the report opens with the Guild's own story of surveillance, outlining the tactics developed to undermine zealous lawyering. As Yoder demonstrates, these actions against the Guild marked the precursor to J. Edgar Hoover's notorious COINTELPRO, which NLG members later helped expose during the Church Committee hearings of 1975-76.
Given the ongoing revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the report shows how the legacy of the government surveillance becomes manifest under the guise of security in today's digital, post-9/11 era - ultimately violating the First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendments; quelling political activism, and undermining the integrity of our legal system.
The Guild continues to work against government secrecy and surveillance.
The 1989 settlement in *NLG v. Attorney General* provided that data collected by the FBI would be turned over to the National Security Archive, under seal until 2025, after which they would be destroyed. NLG member Jeffrey Light in Washington, D.C. has undertaken a project to request the files collected on NLG members from 1940-1975, and described in the NLG/FBI lawsuit Settlement Agreement.
The National Lawyers Guild is also a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) against the NSA's bulk telephone data collection program. Read more about the case, First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA, in this article from the Summer 2013 issue of Guild Notes.
The National Lawyers Guild was formed in 1937 as the nation's first racially integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.
Hat tip to Walter Kendall
21 cases in 8 situations have been brought before the International Criminal Court.
Four of these situations were referred to the ICC by nations that are parties to the Rome Statute which established the court. These four situations are:
- Democratic Repubilc of the Congo,
- Central African Republic, and
In addition to referrals from state parties to the Rome Statute, the U.N. Security Council can also refer situations to the ICC for investigation. The U.N. Security Council has referred two situations to the ICC, both involving countries that are not themselves parties to the Rome Statute. These two situations are:
- Darfur (Sudan)
The Prosecutor of the ICC can also open an investigation proprio motu. The ICC Prosecutor was authorized to open investigations in two countries:
- Kenya (investigation authorized by Pre-Trial Chamber II on March 31, 2010)
- Côte d’Ivoire (investigation authorized by Pre-Trial Chamber III on October 3, 2011)
Additionally, the ICC is conducting preliminary examinations in several other situtations, including:
- Republic of Georgia
More information about cases and investigations pending before the International Criminal Court can by found at this link.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on all parties to seek a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis, warning that the situation could “spin out of control quickly,” while the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that is opening a preliminary probe into alleged crimes of humanity committed in the country.
“It would be a grave mistake, in the Secretary-General’s view, for any party to turn to military means in an attempt to resolve political issues that can and must be addressed by peaceful means,” UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters in New York. “The Secretary-General is deeply troubled by the escalation in rhetoric and hardening of positions. The stakes are extremely high, with potentially negative implications for international peace and security that extend far beyond eastern Ukrainian cities,” Mr. Dujarric added.
Despite an agreement reached last week in Geneva during a meeting between the United States, the European Union, Ukraine, and Russia on a series of steps to de-escalate tensions in eastern Ukraine, the crisis shows no sign of abating. “The Secretary-General cautions all Ukrainians and their partners that the situation could spin out of control quickly, with grave and unpredictable consequences,” said Mr. Dujarric. “He expects all sides to understand that time is of the essence and that they therefore must cease any unhelpful actions and, instead, re-engage diplomatically to ensure full implementation now.”
Meanwhile, the Government of Ukraine, which is not a party to the ICC, has accepted the Court’s jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed on its territory from 21 November 2013 to 22 February 2014. As a result, the Office of the ICC Prosecutor, as a matter of policy, has decided to open a preliminary examination of the situation in Ukraine to establish whether a full investigation is warranted. Located in The Hague, in the Netherlands, the International Criminal Court 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.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
Despite the current unprecedented political will to eliminate sexual violence in conflict, hold perpetrators to account and support victims, the reality is that raping a woman, child or man is still a largely “cost-free” crime, United Nations officials warned today, appealing to all States to strengthen their cooperation to end impunity and protect the vulnerable. “This grave human rights abuse is as destructive as any bomb or bullet,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, opening the Security Council’s day-long debate on sexual violence in conflict, a serious crime, which, he said, inflicts unimaginable suffering on victims, impedes peace and contributes to enduring poverty and insecurity.
The Council, through successive resolutions, has created a strong global framework for prevention. “Grievous violations still occur too often, but we are beginning to make tangible progress,” Mr. Ban said, referring to his latest report on issue, the focus of today’s debate. Covering 21 countries of concern, the report makes concrete recommendations, both to the affected States themselves and to the wider international community.
Compiled by Mr. Ban’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, who also briefed the Council today, the report outlines concerning trends, including the acute vulnerability of refugees and internally displaced persons, and the need for justice and assistance for all victims, regardless of gender. The plight of children born of rape, and the links between sexual violence, displacement and organized crime are also highlighted.
The Secretary-General in his remarks noted the progress made by several countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Somalia, where “just a few years ago, rape in these conflicts seemed intractable and inevitable.” He explained that the DRC is developing new legal structures to end impunity, and Somalia has shown commitment at the highest level to end sexual violence, including signing a joint communique with the UN.
“Every day more countries are building the technical capacity to prevent and redress sexual violence,” said Mr. Ban, adding that another key element in political and peacekeeping missions has been the deployment of Women Protection Advisers. “Their expertise on human rights, gender analysis, and peace and security is helping to mainstream the prevention of conflict-related sexual violence into peacekeeping and special political missions,” he said.
In line with the principle of “Delivering as One,” UN Action against Sexual Violence is an inter-agency network of 13 UN entities. Chaired by Ms. Bangura, this coordination mechanism ensures the Organization’s response avoids duplication, leading to a measured, sustainable and coherent strategy that makes the best use of limited resources and the strengths of each agency.
“Prevention is our collective responsibility. Only through coordination and partnership can we succeed in protecting the most vulnerable,” said the UN chief, underscoring the importance of the Security Council’s continued leadership and support as stakeholders work together to eliminate sexual violence in conflict.
In her remarks, Ms. Bangura presented harrowing reports of wartime rape and other forms of conflict-related sexual violence, labelling such abuse a “great moral issue of our time” and declaring: “This crime, in its utter destruction of the individual and the pervasive way in which it undermines the prospect of peace and development, casts a long shadow over our collective humanity.” Recalling her visit last year to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she witnessed first-hand “the long-term implications of war-time sexual violence left unaddressed,” she said that an estimated 50,000 women were targeted with sexual violence during 4 years of conflict. “But 20 years after the peace was made, impunity for these crimes still reigns. The truth, most likely, is that most of the survivors will see no justice, because the evidence is long lost and the perpetrators have long since 'fled the immediate scene of the crime,’” she said.
Yet, the irony is that those same perpetrators never really went away. “They still walk among the women and their families, occupying positions of authority and power that shield them from justice,” Ms. Bangura said, emphasizing that for those victims, the perpetrators are “a daily reminder of their broken lives.”
“But the impunity that the perpetrators continue to enjoy is also a reminder to all of us – a reminder of our commitment to justice and accountability.”
At the same time, she emphasized that there have also been positive developments. “While the road ahead to eradicate sexual violence in conflict remains long and hard, there is some light on the horizon. Never before in history have we seen such a level of political will and momentum,” she said, echoing the Secretary-General’s acknowledgment of the respective steps taken by the DRC and Somalia to address the issue.
Ms. Bangura stressed however that most perpetrators of wartime rape are never brought to justice, and emphasized that unfortunately, the unacceptable reality is that today it is still largely ‘cost-free’ to rape a woman, child or man in conflict. “Sexual violence has been used through the ages precisely because it is such a cheap and devastating weapon.”
Thirty-four armed groups from countries on the Security Council’s agenda that are credibly suspected of rape and other forms of conflict-related sexual violence are named in the annex of the report. The annex also points to an unknown number of armed elements on all sides of the Syrian conflict. The list includes both government security forces and rebel groups.
Special Representative Bangura ended her statement with a message directly to the perpetrators: “There is no hiding place. If you commit, or command, or condone such crimes against humanity, humanity will pursue you relentlessly, and eventually you will be held to account. This is our solemn promise to the survivors.”
(UN press release)
An independent United Nations human rights expert today urged authorities in Belarus, the only European nation that still retains the death penalty, to impose an immediate moratorium on the punishment and refrain from carrying out further executions. The appeal by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Miklós Haraszti, comes after the reported execution of Pavel Sialiun and a Supreme Court ruling last week upholding the death sentence against Eduard Lykau, both convicted for murder.
Mr. Haraszti expressed concern about the way death sentences are carried out in Belarus, and particularly the circumstances of Mr. Sialiun’s execution, including that the date of his execution is not known, and that his mother was not notified and only learned from his lawyer that the sentence had been carried out. “Information on death sentences remains limited for relatives and the general public and there is a lack of transparency about persons held on death row, and an inadequate procedure for appeals,” the expert stated in a news release. “Annual statistics on the use of the death penalty are not available, nor are the names of most of those who have been already executed.” He added that those facing the death penalty, and their relatives, are not informed of the scheduled date of execution, and that following the execution, the relatives are not informed of where the body is buried.
“No reports of executions for a considerable time, despite the imposition of several new death sentences, had filled the international community with the hope that Belarus had started a practical moratorium, which would then lead to a legal moratorium, and finally to the abolition of capital punishment,” Mr. Haraszti said.
An estimated 160 countries have either abolished the death penalty or no longer practice it since the General Assembly’s landmark vote in 2007 calling for a worldwide moratorium on the practice. Most recently, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and the state of Washington in the United States decided to either establish a moratorium or to suspend executions.
While welcoming these developments, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deplored the fact that many States still execute people with little regard to due process. During a panel held yesterday in New York, he also voiced deep concern that some States with long-standing de facto moratoriums have suddenly resumed executions, or are considering reintroduction of the death penalty in their legislation. “The right to life is the most fundamental of all human rights. The taking of life is too irreversible for one human being to inflict it on another,” he told the event, calling for greater efforts to put a final stop to this “cruel and inhumane practice” once and for all.
In the case of Belarus, Mr. Haraszti noted that the establishment in December 2012 of a parliamentary working group on the death penalty was a “promising development,” and called on legislators to begin effective work towards reform.
In an October 2013 statement, he had urged the Government to start an immediate moratorium on executions before the relevant legislation and court system could be reformed and capital punishment removed from the country’s Criminal Code. He had also voiced disappointment that Belarusian courts continued to hand down death sentences.
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)
“This is an opportunity to pay tribute to the emergency workers who responded, remember the more than 330,000 people who were evacuated from contaminated regions, and stand in solidarity with the millions who still live in the affected areas in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine,” said a statement issued by the spokesperson for the Secretary-General. The explosion that occurred at Chernobyl on 26 April, 1986 marked the worst nuclear power plant accident in history. The United Nations has played an important role in addressing the challenges faced by affected communities, and remains committed to the UN Action Plan on Chernobyl until 2016.
The Plan contains a declaration of principles embraced by all UN agencies involved in recovery efforts and emphasizes social and economic development and the promotion of healthy lifestyles and community self-reliance. “Those affected still require targeted yet comprehensive support in creating new livelihoods and restoring self-reliance and self-sufficiency. The Secretary-General applauds the determination of people in affected territories to bring life in the region back to normal,” said the statement.
Mr. Ban noted that Chernobyl recovery has produced new knowledge and experience in addressing the multifaceted consequences of nuclear emergencies. “Over the years, the United Nations and its partners have tackled development challenges that emerged in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster, supported recovery efforts tailored to addressing the fallout, and found practical solutions on the ground,” the statement noted, adding that Mr. Ban welcomes the request of the General Assembly to fully utilize those experiences in development cooperation worldwide.
“On this solemn occasion, the Secretary-General calls upon the international community to further support the process of recovery and sustainable development in the Chernobyl-affected region, to optimize the knowledge gained for the common good, and to do everything possible to prevent any future nuclear disasters.”
(UN press release)