Friday, February 14, 2014
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has announced that it has scheduled an entire month of hearings in the case of the Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Croatia v. Serbia). Hearings will begin on Monday, March 3, 2014 and will continue until April 1. Some seats will be made available for public viewing. For more information or to obtain a seat, read this ICJ Press Release.
In honor of President's Day in the United States (February 17, 2014), LLMinfo.com created a webpage that discusses the impact of several U.S. Presidents on international law from George Washington through Barak Obama. Enjoy!
(cgb) (Hat tip to Julie Sweet)
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Robert J. O'Connell, a professor of international law and contracts for many years at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, has died at the age of 86. He also previously taught at Marquette University and Chicago-Kent Law School. When he was not in the classroom, he might often be found in the air -- he was a recreational pilot who enjoyed flying as much as teaching. He seved in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Many students had their first introduction to international law from Professor O'Connell, including me. Thank you, Professor O'Connell, and rest in peace.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
A couple of interesting pieces of news came out of the European Union (EU) this week relating to the free movement of people, one of the "four freedoms" that forms the basis of the internal market in the EU.
First, Swiss voters narrowly approved a referendum that would limit the number of persons who would be allowed to migrate to Switzerland. The referendum would require the Swiss government to negotiate with the EU over the next three years regarding this cap, which would apply to EU citizens, foreign workers and students and refugees. This new law directly contradicts the concept of free movement of persons and has drawn expressions of regret from many EU leaders. EU Commissioner Oliver Balily has called the issue non-negotiable because free movement of persons is so fundamental to the EU system. It is thought that the Swiss vote reflects concerns of some of the wealthier EU states regarding immigration from some of the poorer EU countries.
Second, Britain released figures showing that just as many Brits live in the EU as EU citizens live in Britain. Popular opinion suggested that Britain was a net receiving state for immigration for the EU, and some political rhetoric suggested that persons from poorer countries in the EU come to Britain to take advantage of its public benefits. Whether these figures change the debate remains to be seen.
These debates regarding immigration policy are heating up in advance of the next European elections, which are scheduled to take place in May.
Friday, February 7, 2014
On February 5, 2014, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child ("Committee") released a highly publicized, scathing report to Vatican City regarding various aspects of allegations of child abuse within the Catholic Church. The Committee expressed concern that the laws of the Church (Canon Law) do not conform with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, “in particular those relating to children‘s rights to be protected against discrimination, violence and all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.” The Committee was “particularly concerned that in dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse, the Holy See has consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the Church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s best interests.” While the Committee does acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of lower-level churches regarding allegations of child abuse, the Committee noted that high level, accused officials never faced any consequences regarding allegations of child abuse.
Regarding investigations of child abuse within the Church, the Committee “expresse[d] its deepest concern about child sexual abuse committed by members of the Catholic churches who operate under the authority of the Holy See, with clerics having been involved in the sexual abuse of tens of thousands of children worldwide. The Committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators.” Such cover-ups include “[w]ell-known child sexual abusers [being] transferred from parish to parish or to other countries in an attempt to cover-up such crimes.” The Committee noted that the Holy See has failed to provide the Committee with its data and research regarding cases of sexual abuse.
As a result of sexual scandals, many children were born of Catholic priests. The Committee voiced its concern about the welfare of these children, noting, “The Committee is concerned about the situation of children born of Catholic priests, who, in many cases, are not aware of the identity of their fathers. The Committee is also concerned that the mothers may obtain a plan for regular payment from the Church until the child is financially independent only if they sign a confidentiality agreement not to disclose any information.” In response to this information, the Committee recommended that the Holy See take all steps necessary to “ensure the rights of these children to know and to be cared for by their fathers.” The Committee further recommended that the Holy See no longer impose confidentiality agreements for mothers seeking financial support.
This report also shed light on the disturbing behavior of the Magdalene laundries of Ireland, which was run by four congregations of Catholic Sisters until 1996. These young girls were placed in these laundries, and many were subjected to slave-like conditions, including degrading treatment, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. They were “deprived of their identity, of education and often of food and essential medicines and were imposed with an obligation of silence and prohibited from having any contact with the outside world.” As of the writing of the report, the Catholic Church failed to ever investigate the conduct of the Sisters who operated these facilities. The Committee urged the Committee Against Torture to the Republic of Ireland to prosecute any and all offenders and to ensure that the victims of these crimes receive justice.
These laundries were also notorious for forcibly removing babies from their mothers in order to give the children to adoptive parents abroad. Once again, the Committee scolded the Holy See for failing to conduct internal investigations regarding these atrocities, nor did the Holy See provide information on the measures taken to reunite these children with their biological mothers. As such, the Committee urges the Holy See to open an investigation into cases of removal of children, and take all steps necessary to ensure such events never happen again.
While the child abuse scandals were the main focus of the report, other areas of improvement were addressed. Regarding corporal punishment of children in parochial schools, the Committee proposed that all such punishment be banned. Violence against children is unacceptable, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child leaves no exceptions. As a member of the Convention, the Holy See must take appropriate measures to ban corporal punishment, including mental violence. The Committee demanded that both Canon Law and Vatican City State laws be amended to prohibit all corporal punishment of children, including within the family.
Additionally, the Committee recommended that the Holy See replace offensive language with nondiscriminatory language in Canon Law. In particular, the Committee notes that Canon Law frequently refers to “illegitimate children.” The Committee recommended that such discriminatory classification of children born out of wedlock be removed from Canon Law.
Homosexuality was also a topic of concern. The committee encouraged positive statements made by Pope Francis regarding homosexuality, but expressed concern regarding the Catholic “social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] adolescents and children raised by same sex couples.” The Committee urged the Holy See to use his “moral authority to condemn all forms of harassment, discrimination, and violence” against LGBTs.
Much criticism was placed on the Holy See’s views regarding abortion. The Committee urged the Holy See to change its views regarding abortion. While the Church need not approve of abortion, the Committee urged that in instances of risk to the life and health of pregnant girls, access to abortion procedures be permitted. Along with its concerns regarding abortion policy, the Committee urged the Holy See to review its position regarding access to contraception, ensuring the health and safety of adolescents from sexually transmitted diseases and prevention of early pregnancy. As noted by the Committee, information about sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy should be a part of mandatory curriculum in Catholic schools.
This report has received significant media attention since its release. In a statement released by the Vatican in response to the report, a Vatican official stated “[The Holy See] regret[s] to see in some points of the concluding observations an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom.” As a more progressive Pope Francis continues to reign the Catholic Church, we can only hope that the recommendations of the Committee will be taken into consideration.
Guest blogger, Julia Kaye Wykoff, Student, Southern Illinois University School of Law
Proposals are still being accepted for the Global Legal Skills Conference on topics including international and comparative law panels. The conference will be held on May 21-23, 2014 at the Univeristy of Verona Faculty of Law (Italy). Click here to visit the conference website.
More than 120 presenters have already been accepted (the full list or speakers, institutions, and nations represented can be found on the conference website).
Last December, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste instituted proceedings before the International Court of Justice against Australia relating to the seizure by "agents of Australia" of certain "documents, data and other property" beloning to Timor-Leste. It filed a request for the indication of provisional measures to prevent Australia from using the documents and data contrary to the rights of Timor-Leste. The documents reportedly relate in part (but not exclusively) to the conduct of a pending arbitration under the Timor Sea Treaty between Timor-Leste and Australia.
The International Court of Justice has now fixed a briefing schedule for the case. Timor-Leste must file its memorial by the end of April and Australia must reply by the end of July. Click here to read the ICJ press release.
The case is called Questions Relating to the Seizure and Detention of Certain Documents and Data (Timor-Leste v. Australia).
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Inter-American Commission Refers Indigenous Rights Case Against Suriname to the Inter-American Court
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case No. 12.639, Kaliña and Lokono Peoples v. Suriname. According to a press release:
"The facts of this case involve a series of violations of the rights of the members of eight communities of the Kaliña and Lokono indigenous peoples of Suriname’s Lower Marowijne River. Specifically, the violations have to do with an existing legal framework that prevents recognition of the indigenous peoples’ juridical personality, a situation that to this day continues to keep the Kaliña and Lokono peoples from being able to protect their right to collective property. In addition, the State has failed to establish the regulatory foundations that would allow for recognition of the right to collective ownership of the lands, territories, and natural resources of the Kaliña and Lokono indigenous peoples. This lack of recognition has been accompanied by the issuance of individual land titles to non-indigenous persons; the granting of concessions and licenses to carry out mining operations in part of their ancestral territories; and the establishment and operation of three nature reserves in part of their ancestral territories."
There was no consultation with the Kaliña and Lokono peoples prior to the granting of these licenses. According to the Commission, "these developments have occurred in a context devoid of judicial protection, since no effective remedies exist in Suriname by which indigenous peoples can claim their rights."
In its report on the merits of the case, the Inter-American Commission recommended that Suriname: "adopt any necessary measures for recognition of both the Kaliña and Lokono peoples as legal persons in Suriname’s legal system; eliminate any legal provisions that hamper the protection of the right to property of the Kaliña and Lokono peoples; adopt measures to protect the territory in which both peoples exercise communal ownership, without detriment to other indigenous and tribal communities; refrain from actions that could lead third parties, with the State’s acquiescence or tolerance, to affect the property or territorial integrity of the Kaliña and Lokono peoples; review, through effective and informed consultation with the Kaliña and Lokono peoples, the land titles that have been granted to non-indigenous peoples, the terms of the mining activities, and the establishment of the nature reserves, to determine proper modifications; take steps to delimit, demarcate, and grant both peoples collective title to the lands and territories they have traditionally occupied and used; and adopt measures to ensure the judicial protection that would enable the Kaliña and Lokono peoples to effectively exercise their rights." Suriname has not complied with these recommendations, so the Commission referred the matter to the Inter-American Court.
The Inter-American human rights system has been developing a rich body of case law relating to the rights of indigenous peoples, including at least two other cases against Suriname: Saramaka People v. Suriname (2007) and Aloeboetoe v. Suriname (1993). This case will no doubt add to that body of jurisprudence. For more information regarding the human rights situation of indigenous peoples in the Americas, visit the website of the Organization of American States here.
Monday, February 3, 2014
Malta will sell you a Maltese passport for 1.15 million euros (approximately US$1.55 million). And with that, you're a European citizen and you get to travel, work, and enjoy other privileges in the 27 member states of the European Union. You also get visa-free travel in 69 non-European countries, including the United States. See Dan Bilefsky, Give Malta Your Tired and Huddled, and Rich, N.Y. Times, Feb. 1, 2014, at A4. The program may bring $1.35 billion to Malta over the next five years. Id.
European Union officials in Brussels are not happy about this development, and say that EU citizenship must not be for sale. Id. The ability to buy a passport also stands in marked contrast to the thousands of migrants from Africa who must live in grim detention centers without Maltese citizenship.
The U.S. Department of State has published four new editions to the Limits in the Seas series, a collection of studies that examines the maritime claims and boundaries of selected coastal States from a geographic and legal perspective. The Department of State began these studies in 1970 and has published 131 editions to date.
The four studies published today focus on archipelagic claims made by:
- the Commonwealth of The Bahamas,
- Dominican Republic,
- the Republic of Cabo Verde, and
- the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
Each study analyzes a State’s maritime claims and their conformity with international law, as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention. These studies, and the rest of the series, are available to the public on the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs website by clicking here.
(U.S. State Department Press Release)
Sunday, February 2, 2014
We have readers all over the world, and many are now celebrating 4713, Chinese New Year, Year of the Horse. If you need something to read while traveling to gather for celebrations with family and friends, here's a link to the Law Library of Congress Blog which thoughtfully posted a quick guide to law-making in China.
Happy New Year!
Voicing deep concern about the growing threats and attacks on members of the media in Egypt, the United Nations human rights office has urged Egyptian authorities to investigate reports of violence against journalists and to promptly release all journalists imprisoned for carrying out their legitimate activities.
“We are extremely concerned about the increasingly severe clampdown and physical attacks on media in Egypt, which is hampering their ability to operate freely,” Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told reporters in Geneva. “In recent months, there have been numerous reports of harassment, detention and prosecution of national and international journalists as well as violent attacks, including several that led to injuries to reporters trying to cover last weekend’s third anniversary of the Egyptian revolution,” he stated.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that several journalists were wounded by live fire as well as rubber bullets last Saturday, some of which may have been fired by opponents of the Government as well as by police and other Government forces. “This accentuates the difficult and increasingly dangerous environment for journalists trying to carry out their work in the country,” said Mr. Colville.
A “significant” number of other journalists covering events related to the anniversary were detained by the authorities, although most are reported to have now been released, he said.
Mr. Colville said Wednesday’s announcement that the Egyptian Prosecutor-General intends to bring to trial 16 local and 4 foreign journalists alleged to have worked for international broadcaster Al Jazeera, on “vague” charges including ‘aiding a terrorist group’ and ‘harming the national interest’, is also of great concern.
“It has not only placed a sharp focus on the systematic targeting of Al Jazeera staff – five of whom are actually in custody – since the fall of the previous Government last July, but also led to increased fears among the media in general, both national and international, which is clearly deeply detrimental to freedom of expression and opinion,” he stated.
Journalists working for other media organizations have reported being attacked by Government supporters after being accused of working for Al Jazeera. A video has also emerged which appears to show a police officer threatening a camera crew working for another TV station that, if they did not stop filming, he would tell bystanders they worked for Al Jazeera so that they would be attacked. “If confirmed, this lends credence to allegations that the anti-Al Jazeera campaign in Egypt is, on occasion, amounting to incitement to violence,” the spokesperson noted.
OHCHR has also received numerous reports of intimidation of journalists, who have had their equipment seized, and in some cases of local journalists who have been sacked for reporting on sensitive issues. There are also reports of journalists in detention being subjected to ill-treatment or being held in conditions that are not in line with international human rights standards.
“We urge the Egyptian authorities to promptly release all journalists imprisoned for carrying out legitimate news reporting activities in exercise of their fundamental human rights,” said Mr. Colville. “It is the State’s obligation to ensure that the right to freedom of expression is respected, and that journalists are able to report on diverse views and issues surrounding the current situation in Egypt.
“All reports of violence against journalists, including the attacks on 25 January, must be independently and transparently investigated,” he added.
Egypt has witnessed considerable violence since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak three years ago following mass protests. Last July, renewed protests, in which dozens of people were killed and wounded, led to the military deposing President Mohamed Morsy and the setting up of an interim government. A new constitution was adopted in a referendum earlier this month.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for the observance of the Olympic Truce, calling on everyone engaged in armed hostilities to lay down their weapons and cease hostilities. “The participants in the Sochi Games may carry the flags of many nations, but they come together under the shared banner of equality, fair play, mutual respect and non-discrimination,” Mr. Ban said in his message.
The symbolic Truce starts one week before the XXII Olympic Winter Games, due to take place 7 to 23 February, and will run until a week after the closing of the XI Paralympic Winter Games, to be held 7 to 16 March. The ancient Greek tradition of the ekecheiria, or Olympic Truce, was born in the eighth century BC “to encourage a peaceful environment and ensure safe passage, access and participation for athletes and relevant persons at the Games, thereby mobilizing the youth of the world to the cause of peace.” Making the current appeal, Mr. Ban noted that his thoughts “are with the people of Syria, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan,” as well as the victims of the recent bombings in Volgograd, near Sochi. The Secretary-General noted that the Truce is rooted in the hope that if people and Governments can put aside their differences for one day, they can build on that to establish more lasting cease-fires and “find paths towards durable peace, prosperity and human rights.”
UN General Assembly President John Ashe also issued his own solemn appeal for UN Member States to observe the historic tradition of ceasing hostilities ahead of the Games.
In November, the 193-Member Assembly underlined the importance of cooperating to “collectively implement the values of the Olympic truce around the world.” In a resolution adopted by consensus, Members agreed to “cooperate with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee in their efforts to use sport as a tool to promote peace, dialogue and reconciliation in areas of conflict during and beyond” the holding of the Games. The resolution has itself become a tradition at the UN, being passed every two years preceding the holding of the Winter and Summer Games respectively.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
Thursday, January 30, 2014
A group called Potpourri of Pearls has created a music video to comment on Russia's anti-gay laws. There is no plot to this video, and some of its images are, well, rather rude. Its aim is to draw attention to Russia's anti-gay law by turning the word "Sochi" into neologism for gay sex. Here's the video (below) and here's a link to more background about the video and how it was made.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Kuwait Gets Another Billion Dollars from Iraq's Invasion in 1990 -- Payments Now Total $44.5 Billion
The United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC), which settles the damage claims of those who suffered losses due to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, today made $1.03 billion available to the Government of Kuwait. The latest round of payments brings the total amount of compensation disbursed by the Commission to $44.5 billion for more than 1.5 million successful claims of individuals, corporations, Governments and international organizations, leaving some $7.8 billion remaining to be paid to the only outstanding claim.
The claim by the Kuwaiti Government was submitted on behalf of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and awarded $14.7 billion in 2000 for oil production and sales losses as a result of damages to Kuwait’s oil field assets. It represents the largest award by the Commission.
The Geneva-based UNCC’s Governing Council has identified six categories of claims: four are for individuals’ claims, one for corporations and one for governments and international organizations, which also includes claims for environmental damage. Successful claims are paid monies drawn from the UN Compensation Fund, which is financed by a percentage of the proceeds generated by the export sales of Iraqi petroleum and related products.
The Commission was established in 1991 as a subsidiary organ of the UN Security Council. It has received nearly three million claims, including from nearly 100 governments for themselves, their nationals or their corporations.
(UN press release)
For the first time in its history, the American Society of International Law (ASIL) is partnering with the American Branch of the International Law Association (ILA) to combine each organization's major conference into an extraordinary joint event. This unprecedented ASIL Annual Meeting and ILA Biennial Conference will take place April 7-12, 2014, in Washington, DC, and will represent a unique and historic gathering of the international law community.
2014 JOINT CONFERENCE PROGRAM THEME:The Effectiveness of International Law
"International law today touches on nearly every aspect of our lives, from the price of practically everything we purchase, to the health of the environment that surrounds us, to our ability to communicate seamlessly worldwide. These encounters serve as daily reminders that, as Louis Henkin famously put it, "almost all nations observe almost all principles of international law and almost all of their obligations almost all of the time."
Yet at the same time, there are regular reminders that not all nations, groups, or individuals observe all principles of international law or all of their obligations all of the time. International law violations such as human rights abuses, trade law breaches, and law of armed conflict violations remain all too common.
When, how, and why is international law most effective? Are there greater challenges to effectiveness in some areas of international law practice than in others? If so, what are they, and how can they be addressed? What role do domestic and international courts play in enforcing international law and thus enhancing its effectiveness? Does the increasingly intertwined transnational economy offer tools that may be used to enforce international law against states and individuals, or does it instead make international law more vulnerable by making evasion of national authority simpler? Do the challenges facing international law vary in different parts of the world, and, if so, how might those challenges be met? What role do non-state actors—non-governmental organizations and corporations chief among them—play in making international law more or less effective? And what role should they play?
The 2014 joint ASIL Annual Meeting and ILA Biennial Conference will address these questions."
More information and registration may be found on the ASIL website.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Pavel Lebedev, a Russian teenager attending the Olympic torch relay in his hometown of Voronezh, was detained by police -- and Olympic officials -- after holding up a small rainbow flag to protest Russian's new anti-gay laws. Activists now hail him as having more courage than the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Here's the video of the incident.
Friday, January 17, 2014
Nigeria enacted legislation that makes any expression of support for same-sex relationships a crime punishable by many years in prison. Horrific stories are emerging from Nigeria about the witchhunt for gay persons. Many are being rounded up and reportedly tortured to divulge the names of other gay persons. Not since the Nazis has the world seen such an event where gays are rounded up. The legislation violates international human rights law as well as protections under the Nigerian Constitution.
The United Nations human rights chief has voiced her alarm at a “draconian” new law in Nigeria that further criminalizes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, organizations and activities, as well as people who support them. “Rarely have I seen a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. “Rights to privacy and non-discrimination, rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, rights to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention: this law undermines all of them.”
Nigeria’s Senate approved a revised version of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill in December, and President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Act into law earlier this month, according to a news release issued by the High Commissioner’s Office (OHCHR).
The Act includes a provision for a 14-year prison term for anyone who enters into a same sex union, and a 10-year prison term for anyone who ‘administers, witnesses, abets or aids’ a same sex marriage or civil union ceremony.
The law states that ‘a person or group of persons who . . . supports the registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organizations, processions or meetings in Nigeria commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment.’
“Even before this Act was signed into law, consensual same sex relationships were already criminalized in Nigeria – violating rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination, both of which are protected by the Nigerian Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Nigeria has ratified,” Ms. Pillay stated.
“This draconian new law makes an already bad situation much worse,” she said. “It purports to ban same-sex marriage ceremonies but in reality does much more.
“It turns anyone who takes part in, witnesses or helps organize a same sex marriage into a criminal. It punishes people for displaying any affection in public towards someone of the same sex. And in banning gay organizations it puts at risk the vital work of human rights defenders who speak up for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.”
The High Commissioner warned that the law also risks reinforcing existing prejudices towards members of the LGBT community, and may provoke an upsurge in violence and discrimination. She expressed hope that the Supreme Court of Nigeria would review the constitutionality of the new law as soon as possible.
Voicing similar concerns was the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the UN-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, both of which feared that the new law could prevent access to essential HIV services for LGBT people who may be at high risk of infection.
According to UNAIDS, Nigeria has the second largest HIV epidemic globally – in 2012, there were an estimated 3.4 million people living with HIV in Nigeria. In 2010, national HIV prevalence in the country was estimated at 4 per cent among the general population and 17 per cent among men who have sex with men.
“The provisions of the new law in Nigeria could lead to increased homophobia, discrimination, denial of HIV services and violence based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity,” noted UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. “It could also be used against organizations working to provide HIV prevention and treatment services to LGBT people.”
UNAIDS and the Global Fund urged Nigeria to put comprehensive measures in place to protect the ongoing delivery of HIV services to LGBT people in Nigeria without fear of arrest or other reprisals.
(Adapted from a UN press release)(mew)