Friday, May 10, 2013
Uruguay Convicts a General
General Miguel Dalmao, who was a 23-year-old lieutenant in 1974, was convicted in Uruguay for human rights violations during the country's dictatorship. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison for the murder of a communist professor. Uruguay: General is Convicted, N.Y. Times, May 10, 2013, at A8.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Optional Protocol to the ICESCR Has Entered into Effect
The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights took effect on May 5, 2013. It will allow individuals or groups to file a complaint with the United Nations if their rights are infringed by a Member State that is party to the Protocol.
In a statement celebrating the occasion as “a major advance,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, voiced hope that the Protocol would finally fill a long-time gap in international law. “Egregious violations of economic, social and cultural rights are occurring, often unnoticed, on a daily basis, which in the area of civil and political rights would have been immediately condemned,” said Ms. Pillay in a news release. “This Protocol will help to address this imbalance.”
According to the Protocol, citizens of signatory nations will be permitted to appeal to the UN’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on specific rights-related cases after they have exhausted all attempts to find justice in their respective country. The Protocol grants the Committee authorization to conduct inquiries if it receives reliable information indicating “grave or systematic violations by a State party of any of the rights covered by the Covenant.”
The Protocol took effect on May 5, 2013, three months after Uruguay became the required tenth country to ratify it. The parties to the Optional Protocol are:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina,
- El Salvador,
- Spain, and
Mark E. Wojcik (mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Carvalho de Azevêdo of Brazil Expected To Be Next WTO Director General
The faciliators tasked with making recommendations regarding the next Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced their recommendation of Ambassador Roberto Carvalho de Azevêdo (Brazil) (pictured to the left) as the candidate who can gain consensus approval of WTO members. The announcement came at a Heads of Delegation meeting yesterday. The facilitators suggested that members approve Amb. Azevêdo as Director-General at the General Council meeting on 14 May 2013. The full statement by the Chair of the General Council regarding the announcement may be found here.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Comments Sought on Federal Student Aid Application
The U.S. Department of Education seeks comments on the Federal Student Aid application. Comments are due by July 5, 2013. Click here for more information.
International Family Law
The U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations will hold a hearing on parental child abduction issues on May 9, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. in Room 2172 Rayburn House Office Building.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office
Liechtenstein First to Ratify New WTO Procurement Agreement
On May 2, Liechtenstein became the first World Trade Organization (WTO) member to ratify the amended version of the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) that was adopted on 30 March 2012. The Protocol of Amendment will come into effect upon its acceptance by two thirds of the 42 Member States party to the GPA. The Chairman of the Committee on Government Procurement, Mr. Bruce Christie of Canada, has urged the Parties to ratify the new agreement in time to be celebrated at the WTO Ministerial Conference to be held in Bali, in December of 2013.
The GPA is a plurilateral agreement within the WTO system which provides a framework for the progressive liberalization of markets for the procurement of goods, services and construction services by governments. Like the other WTO agreements, it is based on principles of non-discrimination, transparency and procedural fairness, and embodies a set of best practices in public procurement based on the experience of the participating governments. The existing version of the Agreement was developed as part of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations. The revised text of the Agreement and expansion of related market access commitments attached to the Protocol were negotiated by the Parties over a period of more than ten years, which was concluded in March 2012.
Chad and Senegal Sign Agreement to Further Investigation and Prosecution of HIssene Habre
As reported earlier on this blog (here and here), Senegal has created a special court called the Extraordinary African Chambers to investigate and try the former President of Chad, Hissene Habre, who is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity during his 8-year reign from 1982-1990. On Friday, Chad and Senegal signed an agreement to allow Senegalese judges to conduct investigations in Chad in furtherance of the work of the Extraordinary Chambers. The agreement will allow the Senegalese judges to travel to Chad, speak with witnesses, visit former prisons and engage in othet activities necessary to investigate charges against Habre. The agreement is another welcome step forward in the long process to bring justice to the victims of Habre's rule.
Monday, May 6, 2013
A United Nations group of independent experts has drawn attention to discrimination against persons with albinism in Tanzania, where they are the victims of ritual attacks and are routinely mistreated. "They are regarded as ghosts and not human beings who can be wiped off the global map," said the group in a message marking Tanzania's National Albinism Day. "People living with albinism [are] the target of many false and harmful myths in several countries, especially in the African region."
Albinism is a rare, non-contagious, genetically inherited condition occurring in both genders regardless of ethnicity, in all countries of the world. It can happen to anyone if both father and mother carry the gene for it even if they do not have albinism themselves. Albinism results in a lack of pigmentation in the hair, skin and eyes, causing vulnerability to sun exposure and bright light.
In several African countries, it is believed that body parts of persons with albinism possess magical powers capable of bringing riches if used in potions produced by local witchdoctors. Some even believe that the witchcraft is more powerful if the victim screams during the amputation, so body parts are often cut from live victims.
Non-governmental organizations working in the field have documented 186 ritual attacks against people with albinism since 2000. Abductions and killings were recorded in 15 African states. "These are manifestations of the worst forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and can never be justified," the Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, said. "Under international human rights law it is the duty of the State to afford protection to persons with albinism against such barbaric acts."
People with albinism are not only brutally mutilated and tortured, but also killed and often buried alive together with tribal chiefs so as not to leave them in the grave alone. "These acts must be stopped and the perpetrators must be brought to justice without delay," said Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns. "States bear full responsibility to undertake thorough, prompt and impartial investigations of all killings of persons with albinism, as well as to adopt the necessary measures to bring an end to impunity and prevent the recurrence of such killings," he added.
People living with albinism is that they are often rejected and abandoned by their own families due to pressure from society, the UN Independent Expert on minority issues, Rita Izsák, noted. "Their stigma, the lifelong social exclusion and general discrimination they face is a similar experience to those vulnerable racial minorities because of their different skin colour," she said.
While numbers vary, in North America and Europe it is estimated that 1 in every 20,000 people have some form of albinism. In Tanzania, and throughout East Africa, albinism is much more prevalent, with estimates of 1 in 2,000 people being affected. The Special Rapporteur on racism, Mutuma Ruteree underlined that Governments must ensure that persons living with albinism have the same opportunities as everyone else and that they are treated with the same dignity.
Almost all people with albinism are visually impaired. They may also have a shortened life span by lung disease or may develop life-threatening skin cancers. The Special Rapporteur on health, Anand Grover noted that they often do not receive the necessary health care, and urged authorities to assess their needs to increase their life chances. Educating children about albinism is also important to prevent discrimination against them, said the Special Rapporteur on the right to educations, Kishore Singh. "There are now several educational methodologies and guides to teachers that have proved efficient in the course of educating children with albinism. These must be widely promoted and applied."
The experts urged UN bodies such as Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to study the root causes of discrimination and attacks on persons with albinism, and call on world governments to raise awareness and educate the public at large about the true nature of albinism. "Dedicated national days, such as it exists in Tanzania can provide a great opportunity to trigger more attention to and launch discussion on the plight and needs of people living with albinism," they said. "They are not ghosts; they are simply persons like you and us, but living with albinism."
(UN Press Release)
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Law Day 2013
May 1 is Law Day in the United States. The theme of Law Day 2013 is "Realizing the Dream: Equality for All." The American Bar Association (ABA) is urging lawyers to rededicate themselves to one of the fundamental tenets of the profession - justice and equality for all. Here is a description from the ABA Law Day website:
"The promise of equality under the law is what has made America a beacon to other nations. It is a pledge clearly set forth in the Declaration of Independence and in the opening words of the Preamble of the Constitution, “We the People.” It is, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, the proposition to which
our nation is dedicated.
The year 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1963, during the Proclamation’s centennial, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial and called upon our nation to live up to the great promise, enshrined in its founding documents, of equality for all. Five decades later, the inspirational words of Rev. Dr. King’s "I Have a Dream” speech continue to resonate and challenge us to live up to our national ideal of equality under the law. The legacy of the Civil Rights Movement can be seen in the strides that have been made against discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, disability, and sexual orientation.
Law Day, May 1, 2013, will provide an opportunity to explore the movement for civil and human rights in America and the impact it has had in promoting the ideal of equality under the law. It will provide a forum for reflecting on the work that remains to be done in rectifying injustice, eliminating all forms of discrimination, and putting an end to human trafficking and other violations of our basic human rights. As Rev. Dr. King pointed out in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
For more information and resource materials, visit the ABA Law Day website.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Pro Bono Opportunity in Africa
The International Law Institute in Washington, DC and the African Center for Legal Excellence (ILI-ACLE) have been working towards building legal infrastructure across the African continent for the past 15 years. ILI-ACLE has assisted in the drafting of laws, strengthening of judicial systems and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to promote good governance and anti-corruption. ILI-ACLE is seeking American Bar Association (ABA) lawyers and judges with at least 10 years of experience to join its efforts to strengthen the capacity of African lawyers and judges and other professionals in areas including the negotiation and drafting of contracts and litigation techniques to improve the competitiveness of the region. Air travel and accomodations to ILI-ACLE's training center in Kampala, Uganda and other global training centers will be arranged by ILI-ACLE. For more information, visit the ILI-ACLE website.
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Two Finalists Announced for WTO Director General
The World Trade Organization (WTO) has announced two finalists for the next Director General of the organization - Mr. Herminio Blanco of Mexico and Mr. Roberto Carvalho de Azevedo of Brazil. Consultations with the WTO Member States regarding their preferences as between these two candidates will take place the first week of May with the final decision expected on May 8.
More information regarding the selection process may be found here.
Friday, April 26, 2013
US and Guatemala Settle Labor Dispute under CAFTA-DR
As previously reported here, in 2010, the United States filed its first ever dispute settlement proceeding under the U.S.-Central American- Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) against Guatemala. The dispute involved concerns the United States had regarding Guatemala's commitment to enforcement of its labor laws, especially Guatemala's failure to provide adequate protection from violence for labor leaders.
Article 16.2 of CAFTA-DR requires each party to effectively enforce its labor laws. The United States alleged that Guatemala violated Article 16 by failing to effectively enforce Guatemalan labor laws relating to the right of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, and acceptable conditions of work. The United States claimed that the failure to properly enforce labor laws in Guatemala creates an unfair playing field that harms U.S. workers.
As required under CAFTA-DR rules, the parties began a consultation process. When the matter was not resolved within a reasonable time, the United States requested the establishment of a Chapter 20 dispute settlement panel to consider the matter in 2011. Panelists were appointed in the summer of 2012.
Last week, the United States and Guatemala announced a settlement of the matter by way of an 18-point agreement that includes specific actions and time frames for Guatemala to improve its labor law enforcement. Under the agreement, Guatemala is expected to strengthen labor inspections, expedite and streamline the process of sanctioning employers for violations, take steps to increase labor law compliance by exporting companies, improve the monitoring and enforcement of labor court orders, bring more transparency by publishing labor law enforcement information and establish mechanisms to ensure workers receive proper severance pay.
Freedom Day in South Africa
April 27 is a public holiday in South Africa known as Freedom Day. It commemorates the country's first democratic elections in 1994 following the end of apartheid. These were the first national elections where the exercise of the right of franchise did not depend on race.
Divestment and other economic sanctions are widely believed to have contributed to the end of apartheid in South Africa. The United Nations General Assembly called for economic sanctions in Resolution 1761 as early as 1962, but some Western powers, most notably the United Kingdom with support from the United States, lacked the political will to take action at that time. Transnational civil society increased pressure for action, ultimately leading the United States and other governments to impose trade and financial sanctions and divestment measures in the 1980s. These sanctions created economic difficulties for the South African government and have been credited with helping to bring about the democratic transition in South Africa.
Bolivia Sues Chile for Access to the Pacific Ocean
The Plurinational State of Bolivia has brought proceedings against the Republic of Chile before the International Court of Justice regarding "Chile's obligation to negotiate in good faith and effectively with Bolivia in order to reach an agreement granting Bolivia a fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean." Read more about the new case by clicking here.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Distribution of Responsibilities in International Law, Amsterdam, May 30-31, 2013
As if you really needed another reason to to go Amsterdam at the end of May . . . . The Research Project on Shared Responsibility in International Law (SHARES) will host a seminar on Distribution of Responsibilities in International Law in Amsterdam on May 30-31, 2013. This Seminar will consider extra-legal perspectives on how responsibility is distributed when multiple wrongdoing actors contribute to a harmful outcome.
Although various grounds have been advanced to distribute responsibilities in other disciplines, such grounds have only to a limited extent been linked to the international legal discourse. In view of the increasing relevance of questions of distribution of responsibilities and of the paucity of international law on this point, there is much reason for a fundamental inquiry into the bases and justifications for apportionment of responsibilities. Such an inquiry could support an articulation of critique of present international law, and provide a basis for reform. At the seminar, 13 contributions by leading experts from various disciplines will be discussed.
Only limited seats are available. For more information on how to participate, send an email to: email@example.com.
Hat tip to Jessica Schechinger, University of Amsterdam Faculty of Law | Amsterdam Center for International Law Research Project on Shared Responsibility in International Law (SHARES)
ABA Section of International Law
The Spring Meeting of the American Bar Association Section of International Law is underway in Washington, D.C. We hope you are attending many of the substantive programs, business meetings, and how-to sessions.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
ICJ Consolidates Proceedings in Two Cases (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua and Nicaragua v. Costa Rica)
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced that it has consolidated two pending cases:
- Certain Activities carried out by Nicaragua in the Border Area (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua), and
- Construction of a Road in Costa Rica along the San Juan River (Nicaragua v. Costa Rica).
The ICJ has joined proceedings in two earlier instances:
- Cases concerning South West Africa (consolidated Ethiopia v. South Africa and Liberia v. South Africa), and
- The North Sea Continental Shelf Cases (consolidated Federal Republic of Germany v. Denmark and Federal Republic of Germany v. The Netherlands).
Those earlier cases were consolidated even though the ICJ rules did not then expressly provide for consolidation. However both of those consolidated cases were heard in a single hearing and decided in a single opinion. Article 47 of the ICJ rules now provide that the ICJ "may at any time direct that the proceedings in two or more cases be joined" and that the Court has "a broad margin of discretion." Exercising that discretion here, the ICJ has joined these two cases involving Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
Mark E. Wojcik (mew)
Monday, April 22, 2013
Happy Earth Day!
April 22, 2013 is the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day. This year's theme is "The Face of Climate Change." You are encouraged to share stories regarding the impact of climate change on people, animals and places and what is being done about it.
For more information, visit the Earth Day Network. There, you can register your "act of green", such as planting a tree to help grow Earth's canopy.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
US State Department Releases 2012 Country Reports
Each year, the U.S. State Department compiles a report on human rights practices of countries around the world. On Friday, April 19, the State Department announced the release of the 2012 Country Reports. The following is taken from a US State Department press release summarizing the most noteworthy human rights developments in 2012:
"1. Shrinking Space for Civil Society Activism Around the World: In 2012, certain governments continued to repress or attack the means by which citizens could organize, assemble, or demand better performance from their leaders. Across the globe, crackdowns on civil society included new laws impeding or preventing freedom of expression, assembly, association and religion; heightened restrictions on the ability of organizations to receive funding; and the killing, harassment, and arrest of political, human rights, and labor activists.
2. The Ongoing Struggle in the Middle East for Democratic Change: The hope of the early days of the Arab Awakening ran up against the harsh realities and challenges facing transitions from authoritarian regimes that had systematically repressed the development of civil society and democratic institutions: Bashar Assad’s brutality against his own people in Syria; inter-communal tensions and political violence in Yemen, Bahrain, and Iraq; and serious hurdles to sustainable democracy in Egypt and Libya.
3. Emerging Democracy and Space for Civil Society in Burma: Burma continued its historic transition towards democracy, beginning with the release of more than 300 political prisoners in January 2012. In addition, the Burmese government has opened new space for civil society by relaxing press censorship, permitting more types of uncensored content online, and permitting a number of assemblies and processions throughout the country.
4. Threats to Freedom of Expression in the Changing Media Landscape: Freedom of expression – a crucial element of democracy – faced serious threats around the world. There were also positive strides, however, with social media amplifying voices and allowing ordinary citizens to expose human rights violations or organize collective action even when traditional media was fully controlled by authoritarian regimes, such as Cuba.
5. The Continued Marginalization of Vulnerable Groups: In too many places, governments continued to persecute, or allow the persecution of, religious and ethnic minorities; women; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender LGBT) people; persons with disabilities; migrants; and other vulnerable populations. Additionally, lawful migrant workers across the globe faced mployment and societal discrimination, lack of sufficient legal protections, harassment in the workplace, and, in some cases, severe vulnerabilities to labor exploitation, including forced labor."
The full report may be found here.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
US Supreme Court Holds ATS Does Not Apply Extraterritorially in Kiobel
The U.S. Supreme Court issued its much anticipated decision yesterday in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, a case involving a claim under the U.S. Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 USC sec. 1350, that Royal Dutch Petroleum aided and abetted the Nigerian government in certain human rights violations. After two rounds of oral arguments on multiple issues, the Court dismissed the case against Royal Dutch Petroleum on one ground - that there is a presumption against extraterritorial application of U.S. law that was not overcome in this case. All of the revelant conduct in the case occurred in Nigeria. The Court held that there is no textual or other basis to assume that the statute is intended to reach conduct occurring abroad.
The Court did not decide the related issue of whether corporations may be held liable for torts in violation of international law under the ATS, leaving that issue for another day. The Court also did not expressly indicate whether a U.S. corporation could be held liable for torts committeed abroad under the ATS. Thus, while the Court's decision will likely reduce the number of ATS cases against corporations, it does not preclude them all together. The Supreme Court's opinion may be found here.