Tuesday, May 19, 2015
WTO Appellate Body Again Upholds Panel Decision finding US Not in Compliance in COOL Measures Dispute
Yesterday, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body again upheld the findings of a WTO panel with respect to the United States' failure to properly implement previous decisions relating to certain Country of Origin Labeling Requirements (COOL) provisions maintained by the United States.
Canada initiated this dispute in 2008 complaining that the COOL provisions are inconsistent with Articles III, IX and X of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994, Article 2 of the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement, (or, in the alternative, Articles 2, 5 and 7 of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement), and Article 2 of the Rules on Origin Agreement. The original provisions at issue were contained in the U.S. Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 as amended in 2008. The WTO website describes these measures as "includ[ing] the obligation to inform consumers at the retail level of the country of origin in respect of covered commodities, including beef and pork. The eligibility for a designation of a covered commodity as exclusively having a US origin can only be derived from an animal that was exclusively born, raised and slaughtered in the United States."
The WTO dispute resolution panel determined that the COOL measures are a technical regulation under the TBT Agreement that are inconsistent with the United States' WTO obligations because they provide less favorable treatment to imported Canadian cattle and hogs as compared to like domestic products. The panel also found that the COOL provisions do not fulfill the legitimate objective of providing consumers with information on origin and therefore violate Article 2.2 of the TBT Agreement. The panel further found that the COOL measures violate Article X of GATT. The panel did not consider the other claims.
Both the United States and Canada appealed the panel's findings to the WTO Appellate Body, which issued a decision in 2012 largely upholding the panel's decision, albeit on slightly different grounds. The United States indicated its intention to implement the Appellate Body's decision within a reasonable period of time, but Canada was dissatisfied with the implementation process. Accordingly, Canada requested the establishment of a second panel under Article 21 of the Dispute Settlement Understanding to examine U.S. compliance. Proceedings relating to whether the United States has fully complied have been ongoing since that time. The Appellate Body decision issued yesterday is therefore the last in a series of decisions finding that the United States has not fully complied and requesting further U.S. action to bring its COOL measures into conformity with its WTO obligations.
Saturday, May 16, 2015
May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. We're sharing a press release in German about the event, from the Lesben- und Schwulenverbands (LSVD) in Berlin, Germany.
Akzeptanz ohne Aber - Internationaler Tag gegen Homo- und Transphobie
Politisch und gesellschaftlich für gleiche Rechte, Vielfalt und Respekt eintreten
Am Sonntag, den 17. Mai, begehen wir den Internationalen Tag gegen Homo- und Transphobie. Dazu erklärt Axel Hochrein, Sprecher des Lesben- und Schwulenverbandes (LSVD):
Vor 25 Jahren hat die Weltgesundheitsorganisation Homosexualität aus ihrem Diagnoseschlüssel gestrichen. Homosexualität gilt seitdem offiziell nicht mehr als Krankheit. Trotzdem gehören auch in Deutschland Homo- und Transphobie noch zum Alltag von Lesben, Schwulen, Bisexuellen und Transgender (LSBT). In der vergangenen Woche hat ILGA Europe seine aktualisierte Liste über die rechtliche Situation von LSBT in den einzelnen Ländern Europas vorgelegt. Deutschland fällt jedes Jahr in dieser Liste weiter zurück. Und diese Entwicklung hat einen klaren Grund.
Seitdem die Unionsparteien die Taktgeber in der Bundesregierung sind, erleben wir eine Zeit der politischen Blockade. Zudem erleben wir den Versuch eines gesellschaftlichen Rollbacks. Pegida, „besorgte Eltern“, die AFD, religiöse Fanatiker und Teile der Medien machen offen Front gegen ein selbstbestimmtes und sichtbares Leben von LSBT. Minderheiten werden von ihnen mit minderwertig gleichgesetzt. Gesellschaftliche Vielfalt ist eine gelebte Realität. Sie muss aber auch akzeptierte und sichtbare Realität in unserem Land werden. Allen Menschen und damit auch LSBT sollten ein selbstbestimmtes, gleichberechtigtes Leben in einer vielfältigen, freien, offenen und demokratischen Gesellschaft führen können.
Der (wieder) ansteigenden Homo- und Transphobie muss daher politisch und gesellschaftlich wirksam entgegen getreten werden. Dazu muss die Bundesregierung einen nationalen Aktionsplan gegen Homo- und Transphobie erstellen und dessen Umsetzung aktiv vorantreiben. Die schulische Beschäftigung mit LSBT ist ebenfalls ein fundamentaler Bestandteil von Demokratie- und Menschenrechtsbildung. Sowohl in Unterrichtsinhalten, Lernmitteln als auch im Schulalltag muss deutlich werden: LSBT sind Teil der gesellschaftlichen Vielfalt, sie sind gleichwertig und gleichberechtigt. Daher müssen in allen Bundesländern Bildungspläne für eine Pädagogik der Vielfalt verankert werden, die LSBT ausdrücklich benennen.
Die Zwei-Klassen-Gesellschaft bei Ehe und Familie muss beendet werden. Die Liebe zwischen zwei Männern oder zwei Frauen ist nicht weniger Wert als die Liebe zwischen Mann und Frau. Regenbogenfamilien sind nicht weniger Wert als andere Familienformen. Deshalb braucht es keine zwei Gesetze für die gleiche Sache. Die Öffnung der Ehe für gleichgeschlechtliche Paare ist längst überfällig!
Thursday, May 14, 2015
The New York Times and other media outlets report today that the Vatican has announced that it would soon sign a treaty that includes recognition of the "state of Palestine." See Jodi Rudoren & Diaa Hadid, Pope Aids Push for Statehood by Palestinians, N.Y. Times, May 14, 2015, at A1. The Holy See's endorsement of statehood is seen as being particularly significant.
The New York Times reports that an army general in Burundi has announced that the army had ousted President Pierre Nkurunziza.
General Godefroid Niyombare is reported to have said that the President had killed protestors and opponents, overseen a corrupt government, and disregarded a 2000 peace agreement and the 2005 Constitution by seeking a third term. The new Constitution allows only one renewal of a presidential term. Under Article 96 of the Burundi Constitution, "The President of the Republic is elected by universal direct suffrage for a mandate of five years renewable one time." Click here for an English translation of the Burundi Constitution.
Mr. Nkurunizza and his supporters claimed that because he was not directly elected in 2005 when he took power, his first term should not count toward the constitutional limit. Isma'il Kushkush, President Has Been Removed, General Announces, N.Y. Times, May 14, 2015, at A5.
UPDATE: A story today reports that the attempted coup has been quashed and that the country could expect retaliation against the coup leaders and their supporters.
Another refugee crisis at sea has developed - this one involving primarily Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and Bangladesh who have fled poverty, discrimination and persecution in Myanmar. About 1600 persons have been rescued in recent days, but it is feared another 6000 persons are stranded at sea near the Malacca Straights.
Yesterday, Malaysia turned away two boatloads of migrants containing 800 people who had been abandoned at sea by human traffickers fearing arrest. Indonesia and Thailand have not agreed to accept any more migrants as yet, despite pleas from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Indonesia took in 600 migrants this past Sunday, but has since turned away more. According to the UNHCR, there are already approximately 120,000 Rohingya from Myanmar living in camps in Thailand.
Although Malaysia is not a party to the UN Convention on Refugees, it is already hosting 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers, the majority of whom are from Myanmar. More than 45,000 of them are Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. Rohingya are denied citizenship and other basic rights under the law of Myanmar and are effectively stateless.
For more information about the Rohingya refugee crisis, see this Fact Sheet prepared by the European Commission.
The number of refugees worldwide today is at its highest level since World War II. Current funding and mechanisms for assisting refugees are proving inadequate. Accordingly, the international community must come together to find better ways to solve these refugee crises before thousands more lives are lost. The European Union took a step in that direction yesterday when it unveiled a five-year plan to deal with its own refugee crisis in the Mediterranean Sea, in which it proposed a new quota system for accepting refugees to better distribute them throughout the EU, along with greater enforcement measures against human smuggling. The effectiveness of the plan remains to be seen.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Texas A&M University School of Law is seeking to employ an Associate Director for Distance Education Programs.
Seven years of progressively responsible management experience, including three years with Course Management Systems (e.g. Blackboard/Webcourses), webinar systems (e.g. FUZE, WebX, GoToMeeting) and multi-media production (e.g. Echo 360) in an online teaching environment.
Preferred post-graduate degree in law, such as J.D., L.L.M. or equivalent Masters degree in subject matter, such as risk management or wealth management. Licensed attorney.
Hat tip to William Byrnes
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) released its Annual Report for 2014 at the end of last week. The report contains six chapters. The first chapter gives a general overview of the Commission’s activities during the year. Chapter II provides an accounting of how cases, petitions, and precautionary measures have been handled, through a new system of interactive graphs.
Chapter III covers the activities of the Rapporteurships. It provides detailed information concerning the ongoing work carried out by the seven members of the Commission who serve as Rapporteurs. It also covers the thematic and country reports approved in 2014 and information on all the promotional activities carried out by the IACHR.
Chapter IV.A provides an overview of the human rights situation in the hemisphere in 2014, derived from the Commission’s monitoring work. In this context, the IACHR highlights four issues of concern: citizen insecurity, discrimination on the basis of nationality, discrimination on the basis of ethnic and racial origin, and the situation of migrants.
Chapter IV.B includes special reports the Commission considers necessary regarding the human rights situation in the Member States, and in the Annual Report for 2014 analyzes the situation in Cuba and Venezuela. With regard to Cuba, the Inter-American Commission maintains that restrictions on political rights, freedom of association, freedom of expression and dissemination of ideas, the lack of elections, the lack of an independent judiciary, and restrictions on freedom of movement over decades have come to shape a permanent and systematic situation of violation of the human rights of the inhabitants of Cuba and that situation did not change in 2014. With regard to Venezuela, the Commission concluded that throughout 2014 the exercise and enjoyment of human rights was affected by legal and administrative restrictions, as a result of changes in the law in recent years. The Commission also noted the judiciary’s lack of independence and autonomy from the country’s political power; violence and torture in prisons; and acts of violence against protesters, journalists and the media, as well as statements by high-level state officials that have the effect of delegitimizing the work of human rights defenders, and the use of the State’s punitive powers to criminalize human rights defenders and peaceful protest and to criminally prosecute political dissidents.
Chapter V follows up on recommendations made by the IACHR in its Country Reports on Jamaica and Colombia. In the section on Jamaica, the IACHR recognizes that the State has made some notable efforts to address human rights issues, but the Commission continues to observe deficits and pending challenges in the implementation of the recommendations made to the State in the 2012 report. With respect to Colombia, the IACHR reiterates that Colombia must continue efforts to achieve compliance with the recommendations of the report that was adopted after the 2012 on-site visit, and also to strengthen and consolidate advances being made.
Finally, Chapter VI lays out the challenges the Commission faces in terms of human and financial resources. It includes information related to the work carried out by the Executive Secretariat, in consultation with the Commission, to design a new structure to better address, in an equitable manner beneficial to all States and stakeholders, the current challenges, particularly the backlog of cases being processed.
At the latest meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Working Party on Liberia's Accession last week, WTO members agreed that Liberia should be ready to conclude the accession process at the WTO's Tenth Ministerial Meeting scheduled for December in Nairobi, Kenya. Liberia applied for accession in 2007 and hopes that joining the WTO will help its development process following the recent Ebola crisis.
For more information, see the WTO press release.
Monday, May 11, 2015
First ICC Acquitted Defendant Returned to DR Congo; Netherlands Rejected Asylum Claim Over Safety Fears
Mathieu Ngudjolo, the first defendant to be acquitted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), was deported to Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on May 11, 2015, his lawyers said. Following his acquittal by the ICC, Ngudjolo said he feared for his safety if returned to Congo. Netherlands immigration authorities did not find grounds to grant his asylum claim, however.
“We and others will be looking to the Congolese authorities to ensure Mathieu Ngudjolo’s safety and security once he is back in Congo,” said Géraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, international justice advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “The ICC, which has an office in Kinshasa, and the Dutch embassy should closely monitor Ngudjolo’s situation for as long as necessary.”
Ngudjolo was the former chief of staff of the Front for National Integration (FNI), an armed group involved in the local and regional conflict that ravaged the Ituri province of eastern Congo in the early 2000s. He was arrested in Kinshasa by the Congolese authorities in 2008 pursuant to an ICC arrest warrant on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the village of Bogoro, Ituri, in February 2003. The ICC trial chamber acquitted Ngudjolo of all charges in December 2012. The acquittal was confirmed in appeal on February 27, 2015.
Ngujdolo has filed for compensation at the ICC following his acquittal.
(Adapted from a press release from Human Rights Watch)
The biggest news this past week from Guantanamo Bay is that a court in Alberta, Canada has ruled that detainee, Omar Khadr, may be released on bail while contesting his conviction for war crimes in the United States. Khadr, a Canadian citizen who is now 28, was arrested in Afghanistan in 2002 and taken into custody at the age of 15. He was subjected to "enhanced interrogation" and spent 8 years at Guantanamo Bay before pleading guilty to five counts and being sentenced by a US military commission to eight years in prison. He was transferred to a Canadian prison in 2012. In the meantime, the US Supreme Court has ruled in the Hamden and Bahlul detainee cases that certain activities with which they were charged are not crimes under the laws of war and, thus, are not within the jurisdiction of military commissions to try. These rulings cast doubt on at least some of the charges against Khadr as well.
In other news relating to Guantanamo Bay detainees this past week, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stephens gave a speech in which he suggested that at least some of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay should be entitled to reparations, likening the situation to the reparations for Japanese Americans who were detained during WWII. Britain has already paid reparations to several detainees.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
On April 30, 2015, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) decided to request the adoption of precautionary measures in favor of the Teribe and Bribri of Salitre indigenous peoples, in Costa Rica. The request for precautionary measures alleges that the Teribe and Bribri indigenous peoples are at risk because of the response to actions they have taken to recover their lands in Saltire, in the southern Pacific region of the country. After examining the evidence, the IACHR determined that these indigenous peoples are in a serious and urgent situation, since their lives and personal integrity are allegedly at risk. Consequently, in accordance with Article 25 of its Rules of Procedures, the Commission requested Costa Rica to adopt the necessary measures to guarantee the life and physical integrity of the members of the indigenous peoples of Teribe and Bribri of Salitre; to agree on the measures to be adopted with the beneficiaries and their representatives; and to report on the actions taken to investigate the alleged facts that gave rise to the adoption of this precautionary measure, in order to prevent its repetition.
For more information regarding indigenous land ownership issues in Costa Rica, click here
Monday, May 4, 2015
The American Society of International Law (ASIL) has prepared a briefing sheet on the recent ruling of the European Court of Justice Rules on obesity dicrimination. Click here to view it.
Hat tip to Sheila Ward at the American Society of International Law.
The International Association of Law Schools (IALS) has announced that it will hold its Ninth Annual Meeting in beautiful Segovia, Spain from 27-29 October 2015. The theme of this year's Annual Meeting is "Developing Standards for Global Legal Education." The Instituto Empresa University, Law School in Segovia, Spain will host the meeting, which is open to all law faculty of IALS member law schools as well as non-member law schools.
The conference offers three awards - one for students and two for faculty - related to its theme. Winners of the awards receive funding to attend the conference. Some funds are also available for persons from developing countries who cannot afford to attend on their own. In addition, persons who participate in the study groups are eligible for discounted rates.
To see the full agenda and for more information, visit the IALS website.
Almost six thousand more migrants were rescued from the Mediterrean Sea over the weekend attempting the journey from northern Africa to Europe. Ten bodies were also recovered. The migrants were found in a variety of small crafts described as "rickety" wooden boats and rubber dinghies. The rescue operations were carred out both by vessels operated by European States, including at least one vessel that was part of the former Mare Nostrum operation, as well as private vessels operated by nongovernmental organizations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres and Migrant Offshore Aid Station.
Humanitarian groups continue to critize the European Union for its inadequate response to the migrant crisis. While the EU has pledged more money to deal with the crisis, much of its focus has been on the smugglers rather than on solving the roots of the problem or on how to process legitimate asylum seekers and ultimately integrate them into Europe. European leaders did meet with officals from several African States in late April to discuss human smuggling out of northern Africa, but the efforts thus far do not seem to be making a significant dent in the numbers of persons attempting the sea voyage.
The United States has utilized procedures in the past aimed at stemming the flow of migrants making these types of dangerous journeys, but all have had their problems. For example, the U.S. Coast Guard attempted to conduct asylum screening interviews on board Coast Guard cutters in response to the Haitian boat crisis in the early 1990s. That effort failed partly because the interviews were so cursory and often conducted in a group setting, as well as because the numbers quickly overwhelmed the capacity of the vessels. Another possible solution is in-county processing, which was recently proposed by U.S. President Obama in response to the border crisis involving tens of thousands of unaccompanied children coming from Central America. However, in-country processing may subject legitimate asylum seekers to additional exposure and risk of harm. These solutions also only respond to the problem rather than addressing the underlying factors that drive people to leave their home countries in the first instance. Accordingly, Europe and the larger international community will likely need a mult-pronged approach that includes additional work to stabilize certain African countries and aid in their economic and technical development, increased focus on apprehending and punishing human smugglers, and increased facilities for processing asylum seekers, along with a greater willingness to resettle more legitimate refugees in various European nations.
Sunday, May 3, 2015
The public hearings in the joined cases concerning Certain Activities carried out by Nicaragua in the Border Area (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua) and the Construction of a Road in Costa Rica along the San Juan River (Nicaragua v. Costa Rica) were concluded on May 1st.
The hearings had opened on April 14 2015 at the Peace Palace in the Hague. The delegation of the Republic of Costa Rica was led by H.E. Mr. Edgar Ugalde Álvarez, Ambassador on Special Mission, as Agent. The delegation of the Republic of Nicaragua was led by H.E. Mr. Carlos José Arguello Gómez, Ambassador of Nicaragua to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as Agent and Counsel.
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is currently comprised of 28 judges - one from each member state of the European Union. Due to an increased work load, proposals have been put forward to double the number of judges to 56 - 2 from each member state. The estimated cost of such an increase is 23 million euros annually.
The President of the ECJ, Vassilios Skouris, supports the proposed increase. However, it has been contradicted by other members of the Court, who believe that a smaller increase in judges, from 28 to 40, and an increase in legal assistants, will suffice. Although less costly, one major problem is that it is not clear how the new judges would be allocated among the member states. The court's internal opposition is led by Marc Jaeger, President of the ECJ's General Court. According to news reports, President Skouris has accused Judge Jaeger of lacking respect and damaging the court through his opposition.
Interestingly, the request for additional judges comes at a time when the number of new cases filed with the ECJ fell to its lowest level in the past few years. According to ECJ's 2014 Annual Report, the number of new cases was fell from 699 in 2013 to 622 in 2014.
A hearing is scheduled later today at which several members of the court will answer questions from the Members of the European Parliament regarding the need for the increase in judges. The hearing will not be open to the public.
Monday, April 27, 2015
Civil unrest erupted in Burundi this weekend after the ruling party overwhelmingly elected President Pierre Nkurunziza on Saturday as its candidate for the 26 June presidential election, the humanitarian wing of the United Nations reported today, appealing for $11.6 million dollars to plan a response for the influx of people seeking refuge in neighboring countries.
President Nkurunziza, who was elected by the ruling party¬ CNDD-FDD with 88 per cent of the vote, has been in office for two terms since 2005, and a broad array of actors has warned that an attempt to seek a third term is unconstitutional and contrary to the spirit of the 2000 Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi that ended a decade of civil war in the country.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)